Thursday 27 September 2012

Outfit Post: Into The Wild

Last weekend The Soldier and I ventured out to Lyme Park (National Trust FTW) for an afternoon walk and a pot of tea. Given how pretty it is there I thought I'd take the opportunity to actually get some "on location" outfit shots (ugh, worst phrase ever), instead of just standing in my backyard like I normally do. There are deer at Lyme Park but the little swines were clearly feeling shy and didn't want to pose with me. Beasts.

I have to give credit to soldier boy for most of these photographs. Having never picked up a DSLR in his life before, I think he did a pretty good job. There's even one of me doing a full grin. Shock horror. Also, he may look pained in the last photograph but he was having a lovely time. Honest.

Dress - c/o Next
Cardigan - Tesco
Tights & Scarf - M&S
Necklace - Primark
Boots - Dr Martens
Bag - Zara

Disclosure: I was given a voucher by those lovely folks at Next to buy a piece of clothing of my choice

Wednesday 26 September 2012

How To Wear Challenge

Those lovely folks over at VoucherCodes challenged me to create three outfits for the Autumn/Winter season, to represent the berries trend. Rich reds, burgundys and oxbloods have been jumping out at me every time I've been into the high street shops, so I was pretty pleased to be given this trend. I was given an £80 budget to buy shoes, clothes, jewellery or accessories. As I have more than enough shoes (two wardrobes full plus 4 plastic bags, OOPS), jewellery and other bits and bobs I went straight for the clothes. I think I managed to get quite a lot for my money! I bought the skirt and cardigan in Outfit 1, the jumper in Outfit 2 and the dress in Outfit 3.

Cardigan - Tesco
Skirt - River Island
Shoes - Deena & Ozzy
Tights - Pamela Mann
Shirt - ASOS
Bowtie - Primark

I'd most probably wear this for a night out on the town. The shoes, while ridiculously high, are so comfortable and I can dance for hours in them. This cardigan was possibly my best bargain buy. It's cosy, a lovely colour and has gorgeous flecks of yellow and blue running through it. As I don't like taking a coat with me when I head off for a night out, this will be perfect for providing some much needed warmth this season. The polka dot skirt from River Island is pretty much my dream skirt. Patterned, soft and very forgiving on the ol' tummy.

Jumper - ASOS
Dress - Topshop
Converse - Office
Tights - Dorothy Perkins

This outfit is perfect for a lazy weekend of slobbing. The jumper (which, fyi, is AMAZING) brings this floral dress into autumn nicely, bringing out the reds and pink tones in it. I will be wearing this jumper pretty much constantly for the next few months.

Dress - Club L via ASOS
 Tights - M&S
Creepers - ASOS
Cardigan - H&M
Necklace - Unknown

I opted to buy this dress as I thought it would be perfect for work. It's a gorgeous rich deep red and, paired with these grey tights and my beloved creepers, I think it's a perfect Autumn/Winter outfit.

Are you embracing the rich Autumnal colours that are all over the shops at the moment, or are you clinging onto your pastels and summer wardrobe still? Given the weather that we've had in Manchester over the last couple of days, I think it's safe to say that summer is well and truly over. Bring on the crunchy leaves, vibrant colours in the trees and plenty of hot chocolate!

And, because we all love shoes, a little close-up for you...

Monday 24 September 2012

Outfit Post: Alpine

I apologise for looking quite so festive...

BUT... the nights are drawing in, I've had the heating on for the past two days and I've got a Warm Spice Yankee Candle that I'm dying to start burning. All this can mean only one thing... autumn is here. And, at the rate that this year's been flying past, winter won't be far behind.

When SimplyBe contacted me and asked if I'd like to choose an item for review I couldn't resist this Alpine Knit Cardigan. Autumn and winter have always been my favourite seasons of the year. I love the crunch of the leaves underfoot, the smell of bonfires in the air and the fact that I can legitimately eat treacle toffee whenever I like. I love being able to wear layers, boots, faux fur coats and big chunky scarves. Plus, it might have something to do with the fact that my birthday is in November. Oh, and there are the small matters of Hallowe'en, Bonfire Night AND Christmas. BEST. SEASONS.

Aside from the ridiculously cute furry hood, this cardigan is one of the warmest things I own and I can see myself wearing it a lot over the next few months. In fact, I have visions of wearing it while drinking mulled wine at the Christmas Markets in Manchester. Cannot. Wait.

Cardigan - c/o SimplyBe
Skirt - Asos
Top - Jet by John Eshaya
Socks - Topshop
Tights - Dorothy Perkins
Boots - Dr Martens
Umbrella - M&S

Sunday 23 September 2012

Duck & Waffle, London

As mentioned in my last post, when we were in London a couple of weeks ago, The Soldier and I ate at Duck & Waffle. It's not been open that long and I just happened to hear about it when I was doing my usual rounds of the London food blogs. I booked us in for 5.45pm and hoped that we'd 1) get a decent table with a good view and 2) be there for sunset. Check and check.

Now, I'm no restaurant reviewer. I love (LOVE) food and I know what I like and what I don't. But I would never profess to be knowledgeable about it and I don't have the words to explain just why I loved Duck & Waffle so much. So, in my normal style, I'll turn to photographs. Although, given that no "big" cameras are allowed, these were taken with The Soldier's iPhone and, therefore, they're not of the quality that I'd like. But still....


We started with the cods tongues (sound a bit grim, taste like little fishy pieces of heaven) served on a bit of newspaper, with a good ol' bottle of Sarson's and THE BEST tartare sauce I've ever had. The infamous crispy pigs ears followed soon after, served in a brown paper bag and tasting like the best Frazzles you've ever had. Now, The Soldier usually has an aversion to all things pig-fat related. So I was hoping and praying that he'd hate these (Helen doesn't like to share food) but, of course, he bloody loved them. Fuming isn't the word.


Crab on sourdough toast was next to the table and it was glorious. I've read other reviews complaining about the "sparse" amount of crab. Ours was certainly not sparse and we wolfed this down far quicker than is strictly decent in polite society. The burrata, which overall was perhaps the weakest dish, was creamy and chewy and addictive but the salad that came with it was missing something. The pink pickled onions and caper berries were great but.. meh. Something just didn't quite click.

Something that definitely wasn't missing anything was the inimitable haddock scotch egg, served with a curried mayonnaise. We couldn't eat this fast enough. Just. So. Good. The scallops, with apple, black truffle and lime, were served atop a block of pink Himalayan salt, which we were encouraged to use to season them. Genius. These were little pieces of fresh, crunchy, sweet, salty, sour, bivalve heaven.

Then came the signature dish, the majestic duck and waffle. A beautiful fat duck leg, with two waffles,  a perfect fried egg and the most incredibly moreish mustard seed maple syrup. Just wonderful. Every single person that I've told about this dish has pulled a "REALLY?" face but, I promise you, it is magnificent. Despite eating half the menu (I have a tendency to massively over-order), we managed to find a bit of room for dessert...

I'd read VERY good things about the chocolate brownie and that, coupled with the fact that I could never go past peanut butter ice cream on a menu, meant we ordered the brownie plus the peach melba. The brownie was gooey and rich and came with huge hunks of honeycomb. The peanut butter ice cream was, obviously, sublime. The peach melba kind of stole the show for me though. A glorious sweet roasted peach, cake, caramelised almonds and a rasberry sauce. Heaven on a plate. I love chocolate brownies more than pretty much any sweet treat so that should indicate just how good the peach melba was.

The view from Duck & Waffle is incredible. We could see The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, the Olympic Park and numerous other London landmarks from our table. When the sun set on the other side of the building, the whole landscape was swathed in the most glorious reds, oranges and yellows. We sat and finished our wine (a very good Malbec which is also the cheapest on the menu, at £25) and then moved to the bar for one last drink. A Whiskey Sours and an Amaretto Sours went down very well, as we watched London twinkle beneath us. Pretty magical.

Saturday 15 September 2012

In The City

Last weekend The Soldier and I headed off to London for a few days of, quite frankly, sheer gluttony. With a side of watching the Olympic/Paralympic Athletes' Parade, a helping of glorious sunshine and a fair amount of cocktails. We'd originally booked the trip after I managed to secure a much-coveted , rarer-than-gold-dust, Saturday night booking at Dabbous. But, having read a few less than complimentary reviews recently, that plan was scrapped and, instead, I booked us into Duck & Waffle for sunset on the Sunday. But that's another post...

We stayed at the amazing Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, from which we could see and FEEL the fireworks from the Paralympic closing ceremony on Sunday night. We wandered down Brick Lane in the sunshine, ate a rib roll from the famous Rib Man (not pictured but in addition to the pictured beigel - FATTIES!), drank cocktails at Lounge Lover, went to Cybercandy and bought an obscene amount of sugary treats, spotted various Wenlocks and had a lovely stroll down the Southbank. Perfect.

And, of course, there was a little bit of Instagram action...

1)&2) First visit to Wahaca. Amazing food, awful service; 3) Parade flags on The Strand; 4) MEATmarket
5) A sneak peak of the view from Duck & Waffle; 6) Amazing Monmouth coffee; 7) Cocktails at Big Chill Bar
8) View from our hotel room; 9) Wine and NCIS; 10) Creepiest photo I've ever taken

Friday 7 September 2012

Review: LarderBox

Ever since I first read about LarderBox on Rose's blog, The Londoner, I've been dying to try the service out. Who doesn't want to receive lovely, unusual, edible joy through the post on a monthly basis?! As Larderbox themselves say, the boxes are "A monthly delivery of top quality food and drink from talented independent producers, mailed directly to your desk or door."

Now, I must admit that I was slightly disappointed that one of the items contained in my box was a box of 10 "free" Clipper teabags. Clipper tea is lovely (I buy their nettle tea religiously) but I wasn't really expecting to receive something that was so obviously a free sample, rather than a product from one of the many artisan producers that supply Love Your Larder, the parent company of LarderBox. That said, the other four items in the box were lovely. Special mention has to go to the incredible Isles of Scilly peanut butter & sea salt fudge that was so perfect with my morning cup of coffee that I may, just may, have scoffed the whole lot in one go. Oops.

I'm not a fan of all things funghi, so the white truffle oil was swiftly passed over to my parents and I'm told that they're greatly enjoying it. Sometimes I really do feel like I miss out by despising mushrooms and everything even remotely related to them. Then I realise that I'm happy that I don't eat grey food.

The bacon jam, though. OH, THE BACON JAM. This stuff is addictive. Seriously addictive. The combination of the bacon jam, some nice sharp cheddar and some of those beautiful little Peter's Yard Swedish crispbreads was just utterly glorious. I could live on that meal for at least the next month, if not forever.

So, four out of five items ain't bad and I'd much rather receive a box of edible treats through my door each month than a box full of cheap samples and products that aren't suitable for me. Glossybox, I'm looking at you.

You can sign up to Larderbox on a box-by-box basis at a cost of £19.95. Or - and this is what I'm putting on my birthday wishlist - you can sign up for 6 months or 12 months and pay upfront, making each box a bargainous £16.50.

Disclosure: I was provided with a LarderBox for review. I received no monetary compensation for this post.