Night in a Cheap Motel

Sorry to disappoint, but this is just a post about a dress. The dress I wore out to dinner with my boyfriend on Saturday night.
It’s the Motel Belinda Dress in Leopard, that I picked up on asos.com while it was on sale with the addition of student discount an free delivery. A very cheap Motel (dress) indeed.
I love the dress in its own right, but love it even more because it’s a Small, it fits me and makes me look super slim (even when I’ve eaten way more than I should have done!).
I didn’t want to over dress it, so just wore it with black tights (thermal as it was a reasonably cold night), my favourite black heels (because they’re versatile and easy to walk in). a black belt and my lovely silver locket (present from the boyfriend).

Motel also do a playsuit in the same fabric, which I really want – hopefully it’ll still be available when I have enough money for it!

Anyone else pick up any bargains lately? Or invest in something not so cheap?

Love,

Turtle Bay: Our 3 Year Anniversary

Saturday was me and my boyfriend’s 3 year anniversary 😀
Unfortunately he had to work during the day, but I booked us a table at Turtle Bay – a Caribbean restaurant in town. I’d heard a lot of things about it – both food and cocktails – but we hadn’t had opportunity to go before. Caribbean food isn’t really something I’ve had a lot of experience of before but I had already looked at the menu online and had some pretty high hopes!

Turtle Bay – complete with optimistic outside seating in March

It was a Saturday night, so the place was pretty busy, but we were seated really quickly, even though we got there early. I liked the interior, it was Caribbean styled, but not themed to the point of being tacky. The bar was set in the middle of the restaurant and styled like a beach front hut type thing. The bar was actually really busy in it’s own right, which isn’t surprising given the great range of cocktails the place offers. In fact, the bar was so busy that our drinks took longer to arrive than our food! Even though it wasn’t happy hour and the cocktails were a little pricey, I had to order myself a Raspberry and Chambord Martini – I love Chambord and Martinis are so elegant. It certainly lived up to expectations, so yummy.

Bar
My Raspberry-Chambord Martini

Even though I had looked at the menu online, I hadn’t managed to choose what I wanted. There were so many options, loads of different and interesting things that I wanted to try – Goat Curry, Jerk Chicken, Marinated Pork, Jerk Ribs, Sweet Potato Fries. In the end I went for Browned Jamaican Chicken and Pete had the Goat Curry. Both came in rustic looking metal pots which I liked, I would love to have pots like that at home. Both were really yummy and came with rice and peas (which are actually beans). My chicken came on the bone, which I loved and Pete’s goat was ridiculously tender. They were both spiced really well, the flavours were great and left you with a warm spicy  feeling in your mouth.
The place had dessert menu, so I couldn’t really say no. I ordered the Dark Chocolate Pie, which was actually just a warm, gooey chocolate brownie and came with ice cream. Warm chocolate cakey things with ice cream are one of my favourite desserts and this was awesome – it was so chocolatey and gooey in the middle. Even though I was immensely full I couldn’t not finish it!

Pete’s Goat Curry with Rice and Peas and flatbread
My Jamaican Browned Chicken with Rice and Peas and a fried dumpling
Dark Chocolate Pie with ice cream

I had a really lovely evening. Turtle Bay is a great restaurant – if you’re ever in Southampton you should check it out, I think they also have one in Milton Keynes. They also have a lighter lunch section on the menu if you’re eating during the day. I will definitely be going back, I’d really like to have lunch there and also maybe go on an evening that isn’t a Saturday to see if the atmosphere is any different when it’s less busy. Plus I have to go back at some point to check out happy hour and try some more of their cocktails 🙂

Hope you all had a good weekend,
Love,

Bargain Hair Recovery

When I keep going on about having no money at the moment, I am really serious. Despite the ever worsening condition on my hair, I can’t even afford to treat it, let alone get it cut! Or at least that’s what I thought.
Earlier this week, I was reminded of a bargain hair solution by @QueenOCuts – Coconut Oil! So yesterday I finally got round to heading out to a shop to pick some up. Unsurprisingly, my local Co-op didn’t have any, but the international food store just down the road did. I picked up a 500ml tub for £2.39!
For those of you that aren’t familiar with coconut oil; it comes in a tub as a solid, but doesn’t smell of coconut – so it might seem like the name is a little misleading.

To use as a hair treatment;

  • Scoop some of the oil out of the tub, I used my fingers, but you could use a spoon or some other implement.
  • The oil will melt pretty quickly with the heat of your hands, then massage into your hair, focusing on particularly dry or damaged areas – that’ll be the ends then – and into your scalp if you feel the need.
  • Next, take a damp towel and microwave for 2 or 4 minutes, then wrap around your hair – do be careful that the towel isn’t too hot though. Once the towel got cold I took it off and just left a shower cap over my hair for about an hour, as I had the time and my hair is a state, but you could leave it for less time if you need.
  • When you’ve left the oil in as long as you want, rinse with warm water and thoroughly shampoo. I also put a basic conditioner through it quickly, just for luck!
After Treatment
My hair looks and feels amazing! It’s shinier, smoother, less frizzy, less brittle, thicker, fuller – basically fully revived! This is even after blow drying and straightening. I’m really impressed
I hardly made a dent in the amount of oil in the tub, so it’s going to last quite a while. Especially as this isn’t an every wash type treatment. I don’t think I’ll need to do this more than once a week, but we’ll see how it goes. Through all my bleaching, colouring and styling my hair is really, really damaged, so will need more treating than most.
It’s also a double bargain, as I believe coconut oil can also be used as an intensive body moisturise.
Even if you can afford ‘proper’ hair treatments, I’d really recommend you give this a go. I plan to keep on using it even after my financial situation improves – who doesn’t want to save money when they can!?
Let me know if you try this out, or if you have any other cheap beauty alternatives!
Love,

Baby’s 0th Birthday

This is the cake I baked for my friends new baby girl, to celebrate her 0th birthday! Although she was due yesterday, she actually arrived seven and a half weeks ago, taking everyone very much by surprise. Her parent decided to throw her a little party on her due date which was handy as little Lois even arrived before we’d managed to throw a baby shower for her mum!
I could have gone with a tried and tested recipe that I knew like the back of my hand, but I came across a recipe for a gorgeous looking Double Chocolate Fudge Cake in the Tesco Real Food online magazine a few days ago that I knew I had to have a go at! It’s the cake on the cover and can be found on page 10.

It wasn’t a particularly hard recipe. The cake itself was really easy and baked really well, even in my rubbish oven. It smelled awesome and was lovely and moist and spongy, like a good cake should be!
The filling and frosting were slightly more tricky.
Inside there is a white chocolate filling, made from white chocolate, butter (I used a dairy free spread), and icing sugar. Making it wasn’t really the problem, but applying it was! As soon as I put it on it just ran everywhere, straight down the sides of the cake and all over the tin lid it was sat on! I did the best I could in scraping it back up and putting in back in the cake. It did begin to set after a while and but there was no where near as much inside as there should have been.
I had exactly the same problem with the chocolate ganache frosting. I made it up fine, then left it to cool, hoping it would thicken up and be spreadable, but even after an hour when it was stone cold, it was still really thin and runny. It may have been partly my fault as I used reduced soy milk instead of cream, I’m not sure. I even tried reheating it to reduce it further, but it was still runny. In the end I bit the bullet and started applying it to the cake really slowly and thinly, in the hope that it would set better that way. As with the white chocolate, it ran a lot. Fortunately applying it slowly did help a bit, a lot did stay on the top, but a fair amount just ran straight down the sides as well. At this point I was getting really pissed off and had to take a break to avoid throwing the whole thing straight in the bin.
However, after my little time out, I came back to it an noticed that the frosting that had collected on the tin around the cake was setting – so I grabbed by spatula and started scraping the frosting off the base and spreading it onto the sides of the cake. I continued pouring the ganache over the cake, letting it run, set, then spreading it back on the cake. It was a long and messy process, but did finally work, as my pictures testify!
I have to say, I was terrified the whole time between finishing it and getting it to the party that I’d open the tin and just find all the ganache had decided not to play ball and run back off the cake. Luckily, it made it there intact and everyone said it was really good. I’ve had a fair few chocolate fudge cakes in my time and I really liked this one, even if I do say so myself!
I’ll still want to use soy milk next time, as my boyfriend doesn’t eat dairy, but I’ll reduce it a lot more before I even start. I think I might also try pouring both the icing mixes onto a baking tray and see if it sets before I try putting them on the cake.

This might make it sound like a nightmare recipe, but, once it was done I wasn’t sorry I’d tried. It definitely tasted like it was worth the effort 🙂

Sorry I’ve been a bit absent lately. I’ve had a pretty epic piece of work to finish, which has sapped all my energy, motivation and inspiration for blogging. I finally submitted it this morning, so I hope to get a few posts in over the weekend 🙂
Thank you all for still reading and hello to all my new followers! I’m at 95 now, which amazes me! I will have to start thinking about a 100 follower giveaway!

Love

Spring: Blossoms and Sunshine

Well, the weather over the weekend was actually quite crazy.
Saturday was a lovely day, despite the weather forecast. I went out walking in the New Forest with my dog and two good friends. There was a bit of a breeze but the sun was out and I didn’t even take a coat!
Sunday, was a completely different story. It was rainy and cold, at one point it even tried snowing, but it was far too wet for anything to come of it. However, by five o’clock it had cleared up so, even though it was still pretty cold, Pete and I decided to take Alf out for a walk and I took my camera along too.
The sun was setting behind a pretty blossomed cherry tree in the graveyard as we walked through which caught my eye.

I’m really enjoying this transition period between winter and spring, and not just because it’s (mostly) getting a bit warmer. I like the lighter evenings, the brighter sunshine, the colours of the sunsets, and the promise of being able to wear shorts and lighter tops, maybe even a dress again!

Hope you had a good weekend, whatever your weather!
Love

My Quest for the Ultimate Carrot Cake; Lola’s Cupcakes, Selfridges

For some reason, I’ve had a pretty big break in my hunt for the perfect carrot cake. So much so that some of you may have not idea what I’m even going on about! Basically, I love carrot cake, it is probably my favourite type of cake, and I decided I would use my blog as a way of documenting every carrot cake I can get my hands on, to try and find the best one! (See my previous posts here and here).

On Tuesday last week I had to head into London for a work event. It was a really, really early start; the event started at 8.30 near Trafalgar Square, and I ended up getting up at 5.30am for a 7am train! As soon as I realised my tube went through Oxford Circus, I knew I’d have to make a stop and treat myself for getting up so early. As any sort of shopping is out of the question in my current financial situation, I settled for heading to Selfridges and indulging in a cupcake from Lola’s! I see so many tweets from people who are eating Lola’s cupcakes I wanted to get in on the action!
As if walking down Oxford Street wasn’t hard enough on it’s own, trying to avoid the temptation to go into the shops, Selfridges was ten times worse! Entering straight into the beauty hall, being lured by sales assistants with perfumes and make up and hair straighteners – Selfridges is not a poor girls friend! I made a quick detour through the Illamasqua stand, fortunately both the ladies working there were busy so I managed to leave with my bank balance intact! Then on to the food hall and Lola’s 😀
Despite the huge and beautiful array of cupcakes in the case, I managed to stick to my quest for carrot cake, although I could have easily bought one (or two) of everything! The staff were all lovely and the shop was so cute; colourful and light and bright.
The carrot cake cupcake isn’t even the prettiest looking cupcake – the brightly frosted vanilla cupcakes are by far more visually appealing – but joy of a carrot cake is much more subtle than that. The Lola’s carrot cake cupcake is filled with pecan nuts and topped with cream cheese frosting and more nuts, presumably also pecans.
There was a lot of anticipation for this cupcake, and I wasn’t disappointed in it, as a cupcake. It was a good size for a cupcake (definitely can’t be accused of being small!) with a good quantity of frosting; the cake was moist and the frosting had a nice flavour (possibly orange?). It wasn’t heavy or sickly and the frosting nicely complimented the cake. However, I am sorry to report, it was not the ultimate carrot cake. I’m not big fan of nuts in carrot cake, and there were quite a lot of nuts. Also, the frosting wasn’t rich enough in my book, a cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake should be amazingly rich and thick and this one just wasn’t. I was a little disappointed, as I had really hoped I would have found my ultimate carrot cake; but, on reflection I it’s actually perfectly ok that Lola’s don’t make the perfect carrot cake; they still make great cupcakes, and asking for a shop to make great cupcakes and great carrot cake might just be a step too far. If anything I’m just disappointed I didn’t let myself have something other than carrot cake! Next time (and there will be a next time, and a time after that…) I will venture outside my carrot cake obsession and try something else; Red Velvet, Cookies and Cream and Rocky Road are definitely high on my list.
If you’re in London then try and work a trip to one of Lola’s stores into your plans; they have stores in Mayfair, Selfridges and Topshop on Oxford Street and one in Harrods. Have a look at their flavour menu on their website here. I’d love to get a load of these cupcakes in for my birthday 🙂
I was so knackered by the end of the day but had such a lovely day. Although I’m pretty sure I could never live there, I really enjoy visiting London and I’m glad I live close enough to do so fairly regularly 🙂
I’m having cake craving pangs now – may have to bake soon!
Love