Lifestyle: Tea & Cake at Beckworth Emporium

Or rather, hot chocolate and cake…

 photo cca63e43-51cc-429b-a5fd-cd1a150c39bd_zps797b6b1b.jpgTrying to make the post of our weekends together is getting a little more difficult for myself and boyfriend. He’s entering a busy period at university, lots of project deadlines, lots of group meetings, and I’m undergoing a relatively large project at work. If we know we’ve got a busy weekend, we’ll agree to go out for just a few hours with no distractions. The time means we focus on each other rather than anything else (an important thing in a long distance relationship!), and generally pack those hours with fun and (usually) yummy food.

 photo 2014-11-08170536_zpsca28f49e.jpgLast time I saw him we decided to head into the countryside (along with our good friend Howard) for a little afternoon snack at a local ‘garden centre.’ Beckworth Emporium is so much more than a typical garden centre, with a pretty cool farm shop, lots of gifts, the usual plants, and an impressive eating area. I’m desperate to go for afternoon tea one day, but they look huge. I struggled with the relatively small one I had earlier in the year, so I reckon this would defeat me!

 photo 2014-11-08170436_zps7dead638.jpgI ordered their Ultimate Hot Chocolate with Cream and Marshmallows, alongside their Chocolate & Salted Caramel cake. It might have been chocolate overload, and I might have been on a sugar high for the next few hours, but I have no regrets. Their hot chocolates is one of the best around. Not too rich, but chocolatey and none of the powdery nonsense in the bottom of the cup. The cake was pretty special too. Moist, rich, with a sweet icing just offset enough by the saltiness of the caramel. A huge and generous slice too, you certainly get your monies worth at Beckworth!

 photo 2014-11-08170502_zpsc394d724.jpgThe boys had tea and scones. I’m not really a scone person, but they had no complaints. There was the usual debate over whether to jam them cream, or cream then jam – any advice on this?!

 photo 2014-11-08170747_zpsdfe810c4.jpgI’m hoping to head back to Beckworth Emporium closer to Christmas – they have an ice rink, with incredibly pricing skating lessons. I’ve always loved ice skating, but have next to no confidence, so I’m thinking of going for a lesson or two in the hope of stopping me from holding onto the side. Ice skating followed by hot chocolate, sounds good to me!
 photo 2014-11-08170736_zps9e8a1a45.jpgNow a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! And if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… ;)

Where’s your favourite place to go for ‘tea’ and cake? 

What’s Occurring Wednesday: Body Image

Sunday night’s #lbloggers chat topic set my spark off, and I couldn’t help but write this post. It was all about body image, about how blogger shouldn’t be “thin and pretty.” And to an extent it was lovely, it wasn’t judgmental. I find the girls who take part of these chats are genuinely lovely girls, I’ve made some great friends who I hope to meet in person, and I love my cosy Sundays/Wednesdays taking part.

 photo 2014-09-13150145_zps6a3c57b6.jpgHowever it is true there are bloggers out there who do judge. But even worse are the people who you know in real life, you know, those “friends” who you just know talk about you behind your back? I’m luckily (I hope!) shot of people like that now, but I will admit much of my teenage years was pretty much ruined by behaviour like that.

 photo 10464251_10201833358628057_7137741447011300528_n_zpsda2dc99f.jpgI went to an all-girls school until I finished my GCSE’s. There was the general nastiness all the way through, but a couple of horrendous incidents still make me want to cry even now. The time when one of my best friends accused me of something I didn’t do when we were thirteen? We haven’t spoken since, though luckily the friends she tried to steal away mostly came back. The time I was rather ill, and off school for week? Yep, you guessed it, the rumours flying around were unreal. Pregnancy, drug use, suicidal, and then the backlash of ‘faking it.’ They were my major incidents, but there were so, so, so many others in my form group. I’m not going to go into details, but there was a lot of bullying. I’d say I suffered every single school year from bullying of some kind, some years worse than others, and I’m sure I probably hurt people too, in an effort to fit it (and I’m sorry if I did). Sure, we all had a laugh some of the time, but in reality I’m in regular contact with one, perhaps two, out of these thirty girls. I saw an old classmate on the train a few weeks ago and felt physically sick. It was then that I knew how much those years had affected me.

 photo 2014-09-13150222_zpscf8356a1.jpgYes, I was bullied some of the time. It wasn’t particularly bad bullying, but it was enough to knock my confidence, enough to make me doubt myself. I straightened my hair until it fell out as I wanted to fit in. I hid my (curvy but slim size 10) body in baggy clothes. I started refusing to go out. More than a few lunches went uneaten. Even now I can feel extremely self-conscious around a group of girls. Living with my amazing housemates last year helped loads, as did my lovely maths friends, but I sometimes wonder if I will ever not feel a little bit of regret over my school years.

 photo 2014-11-09162706-1_zps6fa069e9.jpgI was lucky enough to move schools, get great A-levels, meet my soulmate, and make some amazing guy friends (and they do wonders for your confidence – 8 dates to the prom?! Hell yeah!). I went to university and made friends for life on the first night, then again in the first lecture. I have the confidence to wear the clothes I like, slick on a bold lipstick and head out in public. I even (finally) had the confidence to post a full picture of myself on here last week, and that was terrifying! Yes, some of the time I get anxious, but at the moment I’m strong enough to overcome it. I know some people aren’t as lucky, and still struggle now. But I want to tell you this; it will get better. You are lovely just the way you are, so please don’t let those people get you down!

And that is my little rant over. Now look in the mirror and repeat five times ‘I am beautiful’, then head out with a smile on your face. And let it all out – has anyone ever damaged your confidence?

Beauty: Benefit Concealer Dupe

A scary four years ago, Glamour (I think!) ran an issue which included a free Benefit stick. There were 3 offers; Bad Gal liner, Eye Bright and It Stick. I’m not too sure which of these are sold anymore, but I’m pretty sure It Stick isn’t. And that’s the one I’m going to talk about today.

 photo 0d6575df-7ab4-4a4d-8737-d7f5e25d2c59_zpsc687ad71.jpgIt Stick was my first experience with a concealer, and I loved it. Pale enough for me (how rare), cream and easily blended, and it stayed put pretty well. Used on top of a more liquid concealer (Seventeen Stay Time is the only one pale enough so far) it virtually cancels out my under-eye shadows. I’ve used it well, and still have it now (every few months I sharpen well to get rid of germs). I knew it was coming to an end so started looking for an alternative.

 photo 4d3f2a98-198d-40ee-973b-d4020038b7fd_zps29ea003d.jpgI honestly didn’t expect to find one so quickly, or so cheaply. I was just browsing the MUA stand, trying to find a free third product (I do love 3 for 2 deals) and noticed this. Swatched and was surprised on two counts. It was pale enough. It was extremely creamy and easy to blend. Sold, it came home with me. Since then it has replaced my It Stick for daily use. It has perhaps slightly less coverage, but sticks around for most of the day. Neutralises dark shadows relatively well, and all in all is a damn good bargain. I just hate the packaging (it looks so cheap!) and the product itself appears to be smashed inside as it keeps falling out.

 photo 25b4b024-6832-43c9-b4e6-d085fc873098_zpsffbee396.jpgIf you’re looking for a creamy stick-based concealer (ideal for travelling!) then I’d highly recommend MUA’s Pro-Based Argan Plush Concealer. The shade ‘fair’ is incredibly pale, and the stick is fool-proof. If I can apply it in the dark, pre-morning cup of tea, then anyone can!

Now a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories!

What’s your favourite concealing product?

Lifestyle: Autumn Walk

I don’t think there’s anything better to do than head out for a countryside walk. Fresh air, exercise and time with some of my favourite people (and dog!) – I can’t honestly think of anything I’d rather do. My family came to visit a few weeks ago (bringing winter clothes – my coat is still unworn, though it will be firmly glued on when I head up to Edinburgh next week!) so I took the opportunity to explore Surrey a little. I’ve lived here since July, but not driving means I’ve seen very little. So the first chance I got, I went exploring and took my camera along with me.

 photo 8d2bceb9-5ad0-4b4d-8ce9-893aac71a1c5_zpsaa14fe7d.jpg photo 76ee5c17-8ba9-486e-ad80-3988a44f27f4_zps601be003.jpgWe headed over to Reigate first, a lovely little village with a ridiculous amount of both restaurants and banks. A lovely bagel shop too – I thoroughly enjoy their New Yorker, a mix of mayonnaise, mustard, pastrami and cheese. Unbelievably good. Moving out of Reigate we parked by the golf course and walked around the area there. It’s a mix of forest and field, criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways. You have to dodge golf balls, but its a lovely place, very quiet.

There’s also a hidden gem. The Skimmington Castle (photograph from their site - camera ran out of battery!) is hidden down a pretty tiny lane. Its actually quite a large pub, extremely popular, and serve damn good sandwiches. Their ham and mustard was wonderful, although huge. Sunday lunches looked pretty amazing too.

 photo 7c473de1-1e53-465f-826d-7967faddefac_zpsb5be1793.jpgThe pub is also very dog friendly, even serving doggy biscuits. Someone was pleased!

 photo f2ff963a-5d7d-4bf1-81ec-7bc3093f20d6_zps3244c171.jpg photo d2cc6570-bcbb-433d-ab7a-451a99d20aa7_zps283098d4.jpgI’m feeling a little lonely this weekend, it being one of the only weekends I’ve spent completely on my own here. I’ve made plans to do plenty of baking and cooking – I have 5kg of carrots to dispose of, so carrot cake and carrot soup is on the menu! I’m going to go for a run, I’m going to work on a project for the office. But I can’t help feeling that the weekends are so much better when I get out and about. I’m definitely looking forward to adventures with W next weekend!
 photo 3096585b-ec64-426d-ab58-0620daac8dea_zpsf5775eb0.jpg

What are you up to this weekend? Have you voted in the UK 2015 Blog Awards yet? Any recommended carrot recipes?!

Savvy Spending: House of Fraser Black Friday Deals & £30 GIVEAWAY

It’s coming up to the time of year where deals and sales are everywhere. Black Friday deals might be an American thing, but I’m more than happy to see pre-Christmas sales. Not only is it a chance to stock up on Christmas presents cheap, there’s often more electrical items on sale making it the perfect time to invest in anything you need. I’m keeping my eyes out for a new mini-chopper, though I’m desperate for an air-fryer too!


House of Fraser have kindly offered to give one of my lucky readers a £30 voucher to spend online with House of Fraser. Just enter using the giveaway app below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now for a few general nit-picking rules. I will be verifying entries, so please be honest. Also please not serial competition entries, this is for genuine readers and I will be checking. The winner will be notified on Thursday and will need to respond ASAP as the voucher will be sent on Thursday evening. I will make all reasonable attempts to contact you, but no response will mean me picking another winner. And UK entries only please – sorry!

Now back to the fun…what are you hoping to pick up in the sales? How’s your Christmas shopping going – I’m hoping to really kick start mine this weekend! 

Recipe: Supergreen Soup

Autumn is the perfect weather for soups. Its not so cold that I’m craving spicy chillis, toad in the hole or stew and dumplings, but its cold enough to want warm and comforting. I try to avoid too much heavy food pre-December (I have a gorgeous 21st dress to squeeze into!) so soups are perfect. They’re also great for two things;

  • Getting loads of veg into my diet.
  • Using up odds and ends in my fridge that my meal plan means would otherwise go to waste.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgThis soup is super-easy, super-green and super-healthy. It’s also pretty much ready in thirty minutes – although you will have to be careful if you blend it with a hand blender straight away, as if the liquid is too hot it will burn. I found this out the hard way! My amounts also made six really generous servings. I’ve eaten this as it is for lunch, topped with bacon and served with cheese-on-toast for dinner, and have also added blue cheese to add a little naughtiness. Any leftover creme fraiche or cream mixed in doesn’t go amiss. And it freeze super well too, reheating from frozen in the microwave. Strong in flavour but not overwhelmingly green (my biggest tip is to avoid overcooking the broccoli!), this is a soup which has firmly pushed itself into my rotation. I highly suggest you try it!

 photo 45e91254-37e2-43b4-ab13-16d9451a0750_zpsfe0fd83f.jpgIngredients

  • 1 whole head of brocoli. Florets in big chunks, all of the stalk into finer chunks
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 a bag of kale
  • 1 pint of veg stock
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper, a few herbs if you have any (I added a teeny bit of thyme)

 photo d6e8e6e2-19b0-41be-8c85-78fd4aaaac9a_zpse66987b3.jpg photo 2014-10-25134734_zpsa75c8c31.jpgStart by frying the onion and celery in a little oil. You don’t need to soften it too much, just a little. You can do this whilst you prep the brocoli. Add the broccoli and the kale, top with the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Don’t boil vigorous or you’ll have a horrible veg smell filling the kitchen.

 photo 2014-10-25141106_zps30ffab7d.jpgLeave to cool for as long as you possibly can, then blender to a smooth consistency. Reheat and season to taste. Portion out, freeze, or eat. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days too, especially if you don’t add cream.

 photo 2014-10-25141934_zps3226af23.jpgServe with some good bread. And any other toppings that take your fancy. I highly recommend a crumble of blue cheese!
Now a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! Now, if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… ;)

What’s your favourite soup?