Saturday, 31 May 2014

Delicious Moroccan Feast!

For my mum's birthday I decided to make her a Moroccan feast!  We usually have the same old things- spag bol, sausage casserole, chilli- and as delicious as they are, I thought it was time to branch out and make something new. I'd never made any of these dishes before (well, I'd made cous cous before, but not like this) and was really happy with how they turned out.

Delicious Moroccan Feast
The Moroccan Feast!

I used the following recipes: 

Lamb Tagine with Apricots - delicious! Didn't make any substitutions, except that I used lemon paste instead of a whole lemon because I couldn't find one in Tesco
Moroccan Carrot Salad - Really zingy and refreshing. I also added sultanas for an extra texture
Tzatziki - I know this is technically Greek but it was so. good. Seriously. Make this from scratch and you'll never go back. The only annoying thing was draining the cucumber!
Flatbreads - Really good! I think they taste best if you serve them as soon as you cook them
Cous cous - Tasted so much better than just boiling it to death in a saucepan. Although, a word of warning, it takes forever!

All of this took me pretty much a whole day to make, on and off, with a lot of waiting in between. It was obviously worth it though, because it tasted delicious, but I would seriously set aside about 7 hours to get it all done in. I was going to make a pudding as well, but was so knackered, I didn't get round to it.

The important thing was that my mum enjoyed it and that the food tasted good, so overall I was really happy with the meal. I only wish it had taken a little less time to make. I've got knitting to do, after all!

Delicious Moroccan Feast
Authentic cous cous

Delicious Moroccan Feast
Lamb Tagine with Apricots

Delicious Moroccan Feast
Moroccan Carrot Salad

Delicious Moroccan Feast
Moroccan Flatbreads

Delicious Moroccan Feast
Home-made Tzatziki

Delicious Moroccan Feast
The tablecloth is Tanzanian fabric

Delicious Moroccan Feast
My favourite- olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip

Beautiful Flowers
And some beautiful flowers!

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Friday, 30 May 2014

My Trip To Paris (Day 2)

I write this with my feet in the bath because I have walked 34000 steps today and they actually feel like they're going to fall off. I bought a fizzing bath cube from Sephora today (woo I did buy something from there in the end) but I don't know how much difference it makes. I do know that it feels better than standing!

Today has been a bit of a crazy day! I don't even know if I want to write it all down... 

I visited:
Moulin Rouge
Pere Lachaise cemetery
Pompidou Centre
Lots of shops including Sephora! (A different one)
The Bastille
Louvre (again)
Palais Royal area
Musee D'Orsay
The Eiffel Tower
And a few other places inbetween that I can't remember the names of off the top of my head. I also bought some truly hideous sunglasses as you can see below. Mmm fashion.

I started off the day at the Moulin Rouge (because I thought it would be safer to visit during the daytime ) and by visit I mean I got off the metro, took a picture and got back on it haha. On the metro, three guys got on with a cello, a clarinet and a guitar and started playing La Bamba. It was amazing! I generally don't like buskers on the tube, but because I'm on holiday, it was charming! They were so jolly and enthusiastic, it was impossible not to get swept up in it.

The next stop on my journey was Pere Lachaise cemetery. This actually ended up being my favourite place of the whole trip. It was so peaceful and beautiful. The main reason I went was to see Oscar Wilde's grave, but it was really thought provoking to see the different tombs and final resting places. I felt very calm there and very serene. 

The next part of the day was a big lot of (you guessed it) getting lost. I seriously have a special talent for it. Although, in my defence, I don't think that Paris is particularly well sign posted. At least, it doesn't have those helpful street maps that London has, which are a complete lifesaver. 

So, basically I was trying to find the Pompidou centre and ended up wandering around some random side streets. It actually turned out quite well because I found some lovely little shops and had a good browse. There was one really cool shop called Fleux, which was like a cooler version of Tiger, which I really liked. However, all the stuff I liked, I couldn't take home on the flight with me, so there were no ridiculously overpriced designer scissors for me. Boo.

Eventually I got to the Pompidou centre, but there was a huge queue. An hour plus and I just thought, forget it. I'm not that into modern art (I much prefer the older stuff) and I had other things to do. So I wandered round a bit more and looked in some shops. I then saw on the map that the Bastille was nearby and I got that annoying Bastille song stuck in my head (but if you close your eyes eh eh eh eh oh eh eh eh eh oh etc etc) so I decided, well, since it's in my head, I might as well go there. Turns out, there's nothing to see. Well, there's a big column, but you know, I was expecting a Les Mis style garrison. Unless I completely missed it that is. I was a little miffed, but felt better once I had that song out of my system.

Now, here's where the day took an unexpected turn. I decided to go back to the Louvre to take some selfies by the pyramid (lol get me) and rest my feet. I was attempting to take selfies with my dslr and failing (obvs) and this French guy came up to me and made some joke about whether I take pictures of the scenery or just of myself (ha ha very funny) and then offered to take one of me. I agreed, since I had been struggling for the best part of half an hour. I really need to step up my selfie game, yo. So then we got chatting about cameras and Paris and whatever and he offered to show me the Palais Royal and I said yes because, you know, it's nice to see somewhere that isn't on the tourist route. 

We were wandering round and having a chat and then suddenly (sorry about this mum and dad if you're reading) he turned around and asked me if I would like to come back to his hotel room and "make love" errrrrrr what?!?!?!?! I was more than a bit shocked and of course said no. I couldn't believe that it was actually happening. It's like the plot to some cheesy rom com from the bargain bin. He was quite persistent, and ahem descriptive, but I declined and we parted ways. He did offer to wait outside my hotel if I changed my mind... Hmm #yesallwomen

Anyway, so I was a bit shaken by this experience, and sought refuge in the Musee D'Orsay, where I was approached my another middle aged French man! Did I have a sign on my back or something? I think this one was just being friendly, but I wasn't taking any chances. I had a wander around the gallery and I have to say I much prefer it to the Louvre. It's airier, less busy and has better works, in my opinion. I know it's not very fashionable, but I loved the baroque section and am secretly hoping it makes a comeback because I'm tacky at heart. They also had an absolutely stunning ball room on display and although it said no photos I snuck a few! 

Once I'd suitably recovered from all my potential suitors haha, I made my way to the Eiffel Tower because it was the last big monument on my list. I didn't end up going up it, not because of the queue this time, but because it was really high! I always think I don't have a problem with heights, but I think I actually do. The Arc du Triomphe made me very nervous and that was a sandcastle compared to the Eiffel Tower. Maybe I should have asked that French bloke to hold my hand haha. I did sit in the gardens around the tower and did some people watching. There were some girls shooting a music video, a bride and groom having a picnic (still in wedding outfits) and lots of loved up couples. Aww. 

I feel like that's hardly anything, but I did spend a long time in each of these places, well, except for the Moulin Rouge haha. Today has been a bit mental, but I have enjoyed it. Well, parts of it..! It's my last day tomorrow and I think I'm just going to take it easy and go for a bit of a wander around Montmatre or something. My flight is in the middle of the day, so I can't see too much, but it'll be good to see something that's not so crammed with tourists. But for now- sleep!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

My Trip To Paris (Day 1)

Bonjour! Today was my first full day in Paris and I am completely knackered! I've been wearing my
Pedometer and today I walked 28000 steps and my feet feel like they're going to fall off!

I forgot to take my iPad with me, so I only have photos on my dslr, so rather than take photos of my viewfinder, here's a terrible photo of some of the stuff I got/did:

Today I visited:

Place de la Republique
Notre Dame
The Seine
Jardin Des Tuileries
Place de la Concorde
Champs Elysses
Arc Du Triomphe 
A Pharmacie
And miles and miles of Paris backstreets

See, I would have done more, but I decided (in my great wisdom) to try to walk from my hotel to the Notre Dame. Without a map. Unsurprisingly, I got hideously lost and ended up in Place de la Republique. Nice as it was, it was in completely the wrong direction. Oops. However, instead of just getting on the Metro like any sane person would, I decided to keep walking in the hope that I would magically end up in the right place. No dice. I walked in a gigantic circle and ended up having to get on the Metro anyway, just half an hour after I should have. Oops.

So then I decided to actually go to Notre Dame and did eventually find it because the bells were ringing! This got me singing "the bells, bells, bells bells, beeeeeeells oooof Nooootre Daaaaaaaaame" from Hunchback for pretty much the rest of the day, so that was fun for all involved (ie me) 

I didn't actually end up going into Notre Dame because the queue was at least an hour and I had other things to see. I probably would have waited if I hadn't wasted so much time wandering around dodgy back alleys... Maybe tomorrow. Notre Dame that is, not the back alleys.

Since I was in the area, I thought I'd pop by and see my good friend Mary Magdalane's remains under the Louvre pyramid. Just kidding! You joker, Dan Brown, you. The Louvre itself was housed in a beautiful building but it was so busy and so hot I have to admit that it wasn't an enjoyable viewing experience. The crowd around the Mona Lisa was especially stressful and the painting itself distinctly underwhelming. The highlight of the Louvre for me was Michelangelo's dying slave. I love love love Michelangelo and it was a real privilege to see one of his sculptures in person. I'm looking forward to going to the Musee D'Orsay tomorrow and seeing how it compares to the madness of the Louvre.

The next stop on my whistle stop tour of Paris was the Champs Elysses and to get there, you had to walk through the beautiful Tuileries gardens. I got a great photo of a pigeon sitting on the head of a statue (exciting stuff) and got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. But I'm saving that for tomorrow. 

The main motivation for going to the Champs Elysses was, to be honest, to go to Sephora. Lots and lots of people love Sephora and there are some brands you can't easily get in the UK there, so I gave it a look. To be honest, I was disappointed that I didn't like anything! I wanted to try the Make Up Forever HD foundation but the shop assistant insisted on putting such a dark colour on me and I really didn't like it. I think I came over a bit shy because I should have just asked for a different colour, but it was crowded and I didn't really like the texture. I also spied the Marc Jacobs range and had a quick swatch of that. So many people love the Lolita palette, but it is literally the same as every other neutral eyeshadow palette. I don't get the fuss. Some of the other palettes were gorgeous, but I didn't end up getting anything. Mainly because I'm hand luggage only.

I ended up going into a Pharmacie (not City Pharma because goodness knows how lost I would have been trying to find it, but a random one- they are literally everywhere) and picked up a mini Bioderma (so cute!) and a La Roche Posay BB Cream, which I liked much better than any of the foundations I tried in Sephora. I haven't actually bought any foundation with me, and actually, I think BB cream, or tinted moisturiser is all I need. It's much less stuffy than cakey foundation. Anyway, so I'll try the BB cream out tomorrow and report back. I know you can get La Roche Posay in Boots, so it was mildly strategic on my part, so that if I liked it, I could get it again!

The last big monument I saw today was the Arc du Triomphe. It's great because under 25s get free entry to everything except the Eiffel Tower, so more money for make up haha. I really liked the Arc du Triomphe. Although I didn't like the spiral staircases you had to climb to get up and down. Although at least they were fortified and had proper railings, unlike the ones in some English castles. Medieval people must have had tiny feet because I don't have particularly huge feet and mine always hang off the stairs. (What a bizarre tangent)

Once I'd come down from the Arc du Triomphe I realised that I was very very tired, so ended up getting room service haha. So lazy but so worth it. Tomorrow I'm hoping to see all the stuff I didn't get to today and the big lessons learnt are:

1. Get the Metro
2. Bring a map
3. Get the Metro


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

My Trip To Paris! (Day 0)

Bonjour! I'm in Paris and I'm so excited to be here! I haven't had much of a chance to explore the city yet because all I've done is check into the hotel and get some dinner, but I'm excited to explore Paris tomorrow!

I've been to Paris once before, about 7 years ago, but that was only for the day, so I can't wait to see more of the city of love.

My plans are to visit:

The famous three art galleries (Louvre, D'Orsay and Pompidou)
Quasimodo's crib, the Notre Dame
Sephora and City Pharma
The Eiffel Tower, obvs
Sacre Coeur and Arc du Triomphe
Oscar Wilde's grave
And more!

I don't know if I'll have time to visit them all, and maybe I'll have to be a bit more realistic with my plans, but I'll give it a good go. I've got my proper camera with me, but not my laptop, so the real photos will have to wait!

In the meantime, these pictures pretty much sum up my experience so far. The flight over was fine, except it was delayed because there was a fire (!!!) in the terminal. Luckily I only heard about it when I was on board or I would've been a little worried. I got to the airport obscenely early, as you do, and had some sushi and did a little shopping. I actually wanted to try Jamie's Italian but the queue was ridic. Boo.

I picked up a bit of mac from duty free, but couldn't get too much because I'm hand luggage only and won't be able to get it all back home if I'm not careful! I went for the Peaches blush and a 217 (not to be used together of course...) and I'm happy with my choices. I was going to get some eyeshadow as well, but maybe that's for the journey home... I switched some other makeup and was sorely tempted by some Jo Malone perfume, but I want to see what the pharmacies have to offer.

In the short time I've been here, I've found the people very polite and kind, the atmosphere welcoming and the food excellent. The only grumble I have is with the trains. They are so grim. I thought tfl trains were grotty and my god they're nothing compared to the state of the metro! I'll never complain about the tube again. (Well......maybe that's not strictly true) 

Anyway, I'm excited to see the sights and especially the art tomorrow! I'll keep you updated on what I get up to. A bientot! 

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Simplicity 2906 Easy Skirt Pattern Review

I made a skirt! I actually sewed my own skirt! I'm amazed and giddy and proud of myself! It's the Simplicity 2906 Easy Skirt Pattern and it was actually not that hard. It's my first venture into dressmaking and I have to declare it a success! I mean, it's not perfect- but it fits and it hasn't fallen apart, so I am over the moon.

Simplicity 2906 East Skirt Pattern
Awkward Pose 1 

I made the A variation, since summer is coming and I needed a light summer skirt. In the Autumn I will definitely make the B variation, which is a pencil skirt. The pattern also comes with a purse, which I might make with some leftover fabric when I get the chance. 

I bought the fabric from a market near where I work for just £2 a metre! Crazy! I don't know what fabric it is, but I liked the print and it draped really well. I had a bit of trouble cutting it out because it was so slippery. Cutting this fabric was probably the hardest part of making this skirt. It just did not want to be cut in a straight line! I managed to cope quite well, but it made the hem slightly uneven. But you can't see it from a distance, so it's ok!

Simplicity 2906 East Skirt Pattern
Awkward Pose 2

The skirt itself was pretty easy to make. It has three pattern pieces and comes with detailed instructions. Although sometimes I did deviate from the instructions because for one thing, it doesn't  actually tell you to hem your skirt! I didn't know how to insert a zip and the instructions weren't enlightening me, so I looked on youtube and found this amazing zip tutorial on youtube, which made the process completely painless. 

I think that this pattern is really easy to make and follow, but I did need to look up some of the terms online and watch some youtube videos to understand the process. I learnt a lot making this skirt- the most important lesson being patience! It's so important to take your time to pre-wash the fabric, iron it, iron the pattern, cut it out properly and stick to the seam allowances! The actual sewing took no time at all, but it was the preparation that really took time. I'm glad that I did it properly though, because it really does make all the difference!

Simplicity 2906 East Skirt Pattern
My zip! It's there to stay
For my first ever dressmaking project I am very happy with the results. I mean, the hem is a bit wonky and the waistband twists a bit and the inside of the skirt is a bit messy, but you know what? I don't care! I'm really proud of my skirt and I can't wait to make more items for my wardrobe!

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Mac So Chaud and Crosswires Lipstick Review

I caved! I did it. I finally bought some Mac lipsticks. So Chaud and Crosswires to be exact. This is a purchase that was a long time coming. It was influenced in part by the fact that I had my make up done professionally and these were the colours that the make up artist used on me and I fell in love with them instantly. Well, to be more specific, they came from the Mac Pro Editorial Oranges palette and I ummed and ahhed about buying that instead, but in the end just bought the lipsticks separately because a) I didn't like the other colours in the palette and b) I would have then had to spend a similar amount on a lip brush and I can't be bothered with that.

So I went and bought So Chaud and Crosswires and I have to say, I'm very glad that I did. When I had my make up done, I was chatting with the make up artist for a while and she said that, with make up, if you buy cheap, then you buy twice. Thinking about it, she's right. I've got loads of stuff that I've bought because it was a "bargain" and actually, I should have just got the high end product. This is not true in all cases, but where I really think it makes a difference is foundation. (Not that I've bought any foundation this time, but that's next on my list!) 

Basically, with these two lipsticks, I've bought a day and night lipstick. Crosswires is a cremesheen and is a great day time neutral. I think it's a very pretty spring-summer colour and is very natural. So Chaud has more impact, and as I've learnt, orange toned reds are better for me than blue toned reds! This lipstick is a matte and has excellent lasting power. I wore it all day, ate two meals with it on, and it didn't budge! Amazing. Overall, I really like the quality of these, but wish they were a teeny bit cheaper.

I'm really happy with my Mac lipstick purchases, but I think I'll stick to these for now. I think it's very easy to get swept up in the beauty guru craze and buy the popular lipsticks- Shy Girl, Ruby Woo, Creme Cup, Rebel etc etc but I think I will stick to these two that I know suit me and that I like. Having just spent £30 on lipstick, I think I'll give myself a bit of a rest!

Mac So Chaud Lipstick Swatch
So Chaud is an orangey red

Mac So Chaud Lipstick Swatch
So Chaud, the matte lipstick

Mac So Chaud Lipstick Swatch
So Chaud in the tube

Mac Crosswires Lipstick Swatch
Crosswires on the lips, a lovely pink

Mac Crosswires Lipstick Swatch
Crosswires is a cremesheen lipstick

Mac Crosswires Lipstick Swatch
Crosswires in the tube

Mac Crosswires And So Chaud Lipstick Swatch
So Chaud on the left and Crosswires on the right

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Saturday, 17 May 2014

DIY Doughnut Pincushion

This is just about the most precious thing I have ever made- a DIY doughnut pincushion! I found this very helpful tutorial on The World of Pipinopolis and decided to make one of my own. I didn't write a tutorial, because there's no point in reproducing the fantastic one I have linked above. I was in need of a pincushion and I decided to make one, rather than buy one, and I'm very happy with my decision.

DIY Doughnut Pincushion
This doughnut is giving me serious Simpsons vibes

The pincushion was really quick and easy to make and took me less than an hour. The only trouble I had was finding a needle thin enough to thread the beads through! It was also really cheap, since I only needed to buy 4 things (well, 5 if you count the needles).

DIY Doughnut Pincushion
Pretty happy with my hand sewing efforts

I got the felt from Hobbycraft for 50p a sheet, the beads on eBay for £1.99 for 50g of beads (I have so many left), £1 for the stuffing, which I bought as part of a make your own Easter bunny kit from Poundland and £1 for the needles from the local market. So a fiver for the pincushion, with lots left over for other projects!

DIY Doughnut Pincushion
Although I did cheat and glue the icing on...

All in all, it was a quick, cheap and easy project that is very satisfying and brings a smile to my face when I use it. In fact, I might just have to make some more. Who knows, I could expand the range to include all sorts of baked goods. Watch this space...

DIY Doughnut Pincushion
A no calorie sweet treat!
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Thursday, 8 May 2014

#LoveAtFirstStitch Brigitte Headscarf By Tilly & The Buttons | Hester Lierre

To celebrate the launch of her book, Tilly, from Tilly and the Buttons, invited everyone to join in the fun and make a Brigitte Scarf! I thought I'd jump in on the action and make a headscarf, since it's an easy pattern for a beginner like me, and Tilly provided a really helpful step by step picture guide. 

I wanted to join in the fun because I really like Tilly's blog and am thrilled that she's getting published. She definitely deserves it, after all the hard work she's put in and it's good to see someone so talented be rewarded and have their dreams come true. 

#loveatfirststitch brigitte scarf tilly buttons hester lierre
Enjoying the Great British sunshine while I can

For the Brigitte headscarf, I had to join two pieces of material together, because I didn't have a piece 150cm wide, but you can't tell, since I used a matching red thread. I did make the headband quite wide, but I've folded it over in these pictures because I prefer a smaller band on my head! 

As for the fabric itself, I've had it since uni and I think I bought it in the Victoria Centre Market for a ridiculously cheap price- something like £4 a metre. What a bargain. I can't remember what I did with the rest of it (it obviously didn't survive university) but I had some scraps that were perfect for this project.

#loveatfirststitch brigitte scarf tilly buttons hester lierre
Trying to channel the 1950s

In total, it probably took me about 30 minutes to make my Brigitte. I think I could have sped it up a bit, but I am terrible at accurately cutting out patterns, and I also had to rummage for red thread, but aside from that it was really easy to make and I'd recommend anyone give it a go.
I matched the scarf with my Rimmel Colour Rush Balm in the Redder the Better, which I have reviewed. I don't often get to wear it, so it's good to find an excuse! 

#loveatfirststitch brigitte scarf tilly buttons hester lierre
Not pictured: my hay fever

I'm excited to see everyone else's Brigittes and for me, it is truly #loveatfirststitch :)

#loveatfirststitch brigitte scarf tilly buttons hester lierre
Even the tulips got in on the action

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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Essie In Stitches Nail Varnish Review

I'd fallen out of love with painting my nails recently, but thanks to Essie's In Stitches that has all changed. Essie describes it as a cheeky blush pink and I think that about sums it up. I like this particular pink because it doesn't have any blue in it. I've learnt that blue tones do not suit my colouring and I should go for more autumnal colours instead- including dusky pinks, terracottas and greens.

This is the perfect neutral pink for me because it's suitable for work and doesn't clash with any other colours. Well, so long as I stick to my flattering palette. I'm not a fan of bright pinks, so this muted tone is much better for me. I have a few Essie nail varnishes and I really like them. The brush is wide enough for one stroke per nail and the formulas are really long lasting. I wore this last week and it stayed on for a whole week without chipping. This is a miracle when you consider that I spend all day typing. 

At £7.99 you can't really go too wrong with In Stitches. I think that Essie can't be beaten for their range of colours and I'm definitely keeping my eyes open for my next purchase. I'll just be sure to stay away from the blues.

Essie In Stitches Nail Varnish 

Essie In Stitches Nail Varnish

Essie In Stitches Nail Varnish

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