Lifestyle: Saying Goodbye to Summer at Castle Ashby Gardens

Whilst the weather is still rather scorching, the sun is still shining, and it’s the Bank Holiday weekend, I’m slowly coming to the realisation that my summer is coming to an end. In just over a week I’ll be trading lie-ins for tube journeys, lazy days with office days, PJs with suits, bare feet with heels.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 16_zps0kuqj756.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 18_zpshrcd954v.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 19_zpsxk3imgkl.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 21_zpskifczuqu.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 20_zpsvrrsx5yj.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 26_zpsk1mnd7ed.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 24_zpstaqobzew.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 27_zps5jjhqmfi.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 12_zps2cfwoynh.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 22_zpsquvhfvpy.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 10_zpshhsjgk4t.jpgI mean, I’m excited to start work. If I’m honest waking up knowing I have nothing to do fills me with dread, and I’ve begun to feel like my brain is melting through lack of activity. I’ll be glad to get some kind of daily routine going, I’ll be challenging myself, learning new things and keeping busy. But it will be hard to let go of the laziness. I’ve had longer off this summer than I have since the summer of 2009. I’ve always, always worked through summers, and this one has been the exception.

To make the most of the gorgeous sunshine Northamptonshire has been basking in lately, and to make the most of the countryside whilst we still can, we headed out to Castle Ashby a few weeks ago. A teeny-tiny village, it features a rural shopping yard of galleries and delicatessens, gorgeous houses, and a stately-home with it’s gardens open to the public. The gardens were the reason for our visit, despite costing £5.50 to enter they really are an oasis of calm. Plenty of dappled shade on a hot day, lots of lawn to lay a picnic blanket down and laze about, plenty of flowers to practice setting up my camera manually.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 1_zpsvmyd57d1.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 5_zps4ck8jq7o.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 3_zpsw9aa5dqz.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 2_zps0aawyabo.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 4_zpso84oiqxh.jpgAnd the best bit? The meerkats! If I’m completely honest they were my main reason for suggesting a visit to Castle Ashby. I love them! So comical and mischievous, I could (and did) watch them for hours. Our visit was even more special as, wandering around the sides of their enclosure, we noticed a mummy-meerkat bring her babies out of the den for what was apparently the first time. If there’s anything cuter than a meerkat, it’s a meerkat baby!

We found a shaded bench to sit and chat, down by a small lily-pond with a view of their gorgeous terracotta bridge to our right. We watched as fish jumped out of the pond to catch flies, as swallows dived in for a drink. It was the perfect spot for a bit of peace and quiet ahead of our busy week moving our bits and bobs to London.

 photo Castle Ashby Gardens 6_zpspy7b5bnm.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 7_zpskfbiys6p.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 11_zps74ggug2h.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 14_zpsp282azp3.jpg photo Castle Ashby Gardens 15_zpsxnzianew.jpgI tried using the opportunity of the gorgeous backgrounds to take a couple of outfit photos. This failed on several accounts. Firstly, the sun was so bright that looking towards the camera without squinting was difficult – especially in front of the very fashion-blogger-esque distressed brick walls. Secondly, I realised I was wearing a rather old dress. And by old, I mean I bought it five years ago. So some very nice photos of me, wearing a Dorothy Perkins dress you’d be lucky to find anywhere. Oops…

Fashion blogger failure aside, it was lovely to wander through the gardens, stroll through the greenhouses (including one filled with chillis – I was more apprehensive about the tomato filled one!) and learn more about the estate. I loved how well maintained the gardens were, without seeing teams of gardeners around every corner, and agree the funds raised from entry charges was clearly being well used. If only we’d had time to stop in the tea rooms!

Thank you summer’16 – it’s been glorious, but I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Until next year, though I’d welcome the warmth and sunshine for a little longer.

How has your summer been? 

Recipe: Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

What do you cook when you’re fed up of salads, still want something light, and it’s too warm to bear several pans boiling on the hob? These are certainly a good suggestion!

 photo Sweetcorn Pancakes_zpsmrt4uypq.jpgGetting fed up with the usual carby-sides of potatoes, wanting something a little lighter than rice and pasta, we thought up these whilst wanting something to go with some Bacon & Maple Syrup Sausages from Tesco (which, FYI, were yum!). I’d made a few fritter-type things before (Courgette & Feta being my favourite) but for these we spiced things up a bit. Sweetcorn can be, well, sweet and the spices help to counteract this.

Super quick to make, needing only one bowl and one pan, these seem bound to become a favourite with us. The perfect mix of spicy and sweet, these sweetcorn pancakes felt light and healthy, but were substantial enough to satisfy even W. A slightly long ingredients list, but things we always have in the cupboard, I’m planning on trying a brunch recipe using these very soon!

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 4_zps0s9uyi2b.jpgIngredients for Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes

  • 150g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder – or 1 small red chill, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 350g/1 tin sweetcorn
  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil

Pop the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add the egg, lemon juice and 125ml of water, before beating to a smooth pancake-style batter. Add the corn and spring onion; stir to combine. Heat the oil in a frying pan and spoon in 2 heaped tbsp of the mixture for each fritter. Flatten slightly and cook for around 2 minutes each side until golden, cooked through and slightly crispy. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven whilst repeating with the remaining mixture.

 photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 8_zpscbhcvl8h.jpg photo Spiced Sweetcorn Pancakes 9_zpsif2nynuo.jpgThese sweetcorn pancakes were definitely lighter than some of our usual sides, and went perfectly with the sausages. I can imagine them being lovely alongside chicken (especially Southern Fried), but also delicious served on their own with a poached egg. The combination of spices gave them a great kick, though next time I’d definitely think about adding some fresh herbs for a bit of green – and I’d definitely fry them for longer/over a higher heat so they are a bit crispier. Other than that, they were yum!

What’s your favourite carby side dish?

Fashion: Floral Maxi OOTD

As I mentioned last week, I’ve finally got up the courage to buy and (more importantly) wear a few maxi-length pieces. I’ve bought a few before, and they’ve remained unworn and neglected in my wardrobe, before eventually making their way onto Ebay or to a charity shop. Oops. Now I’m wondering why I have waited so long.

 photo New Look Floral Maxi Dress 2_zpswowk3zyv.jpg photo New Look Floral Maxi Dress 3_zpsi0lr670g.jpgIn my defence, I still struggle to find items I would actually wear. I have an inbuilt opinion that they make me look a lot bigger than I am, and that translates to what I see in the mirror. Then there’s the height issue. I’m too tall for the petite range, with them ending just above my ankle bone. The standard range drag on the floor. But once I fell in love with this dress, once I didn’t feel like a blue blob, I popped along to a seamstress and for £10 got 3 inches chopped off the bottom.

From New Look, the size 8 fits well (if slightly snug around the top department, if you get what I mean!). Once chopped it’s the right length, sitting just right with flat sandals. The slit up the side stops the floral print from becoming too mumsy, the belt stops me from appearing too short. Styled up with a hot pink cardigan (which I couldn’t bear to wear in the heatwave in Brighton!), this is becoming my favourite date night outfit. It also made the perfect thing to wear at my engagement party a few weeks ago – just right for a traditional English garden party. Lets hope the weather remains warm enough to wear it for a bit longer!

 photo New Look Floral Maxi Dress 1_zps3vwqc2w9.jpgNow all I need to do is remember to let my hair dry before taking outfit photos in the future…

Are you a fan of maxi dresses? Do you have types of clothing you avoid?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #2

Happy Monday everyone! These past two weeks have been pretty stressful for me – complications with the estate agent, packing, repacking, SD card failures and a bad IBS episode to top things off. Fingers crossed we manage to pick up our keys without a hitch today, get all our things in tomorrow without breaking anything, and can start settling in!

 photo Happy Things_zpsmx5jxxb8.jpgHere’s the highlights…

  1. Attempting to watch all of the Harry Potters in one weekend. Whilst we failed, we had a damn good time trying.
  2. Evening walks in the park. One of my favourite places in Northampton is down the road from W’s parents, so we’ve been trying to take a stroll as often as possible. We make sure to avoid it during the day though, far too many children and football games to dodge!
  3. The. Best. White. Pizza. Yet. Black pudding is a total game changer when paired with goats cheese.
  4. Being really proud of my Instagram feed – and getting to 500 followers. I’ve really been working hard on it the past few months and it feels like it’s finally paying off!
  5. A trip up North. Me and W stayed with some family friends and explored Bolton, Manchester and Salford. It was lovely to see a place of the country I’d never experienced before – and I managed to get a fair few Carr’s Pasties in!
  6. Picking up a gorgeous pair of black brogue heels. I’ve spent years hunting for the perfect pair, then found a bargain in the Clark’s outlet.
  7. Taking W to some of my favourite places from my childhood. We made the most of our last week having a car by getting out and about – it’s been years since I visited the Peak District, but it was just as beautiful as I remembered.
  8. Meercats! We took a trip to some local gardens and discovered they’ve put together a small animal area. Sometime about meercats never fails to make me smile…
  9. Finding an exercise regime I’m actually enjoying. I’ve always, always had to force myself before, but something about my Results With Lucy regime is really spurring me on. I’m loving it, and whilst I might be kidding myself, I’m sure I can see some physical changes.
  10. The most gorgeous little cafe. We popped in for a quick cuppa and it was delightful. An Instagrammer’s delight, pretty tiles and very good tea to boot.

What’s made you happy recently? Any positive experiences of London estate agents to cheer me up?!

Wedding Planning: An Update

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything wedding-y. Unfortunately exams got in the way, I don’t think either of us had room in our brains for churches-and-white-dresses alongside toaster projects and engineering drawings (W) and mortality, mean variance portfolio theory and financial derivatives (me). Then university was over and the planning could start!

 photo Wedding Planning Update 1_zpsyh8qdn2g.jpgIt kicked off with me ordering my dress. Yep, the first thing we did was order the wedding dress, despite having not set a date (other than in our heads), despite not having a church, not having a venue, not having a clue what kind of day we were really having. Ooops. I’m obviously not saying too much about the dress, mainly to keep it from W, but also because I want it to be a surprise to virtually everyone. In fact, only my mum will be coming to fittings from now on, so my lips are sealed! I will be doing a few ‘Dress Shopping’ posts though, so there may well be a few sneaky details slip out there…

Then we had a serious week of wed-min (that’s wedding admin, according to the numerous bridal Facebook groups I’m part of). We picked a week where both sets of parents were away, not because we don’t want to include them, but because we wanted to make sure the big decisions were made just by us. And then we got on with it. We booked up a busy week; three venues and a meeting with the vicar.

It was all surprisingly easy!

 photo Wedding Planning Update 4_zpsyhna7gzm.jpgWe have a strong connection to the church we wanted to get married in through W, so it really was just a case of chatting with the vicar briefly, picking our date, popping it in the diary and filing in a quick form. The most difficult part was me signing it – as a left-hander a fountain pen is pretty alien to me! Apparently that’s something I have to practice before the big day…

I’ll be talking more about the venues we visited in a few weeks, as essentially we visited three very different venues, at very different price-points. I was originally worried that we wouldn’t be able to choose between the three, but there was one which was clearly our favourite. The venue we picked is stunning, but perhaps even more importantly the service we received was fabulous. From quick email replies to genuine interest in ourselves as a couple, we were completely sold.

So, now we have a dress, a church ceremony and a reception venue. And a date of course! The next step will be to look at caterers and photographers (any Midlands-based recommendations would be hugely appreciated!), but with over 25 months to go, we’re lucky we don’t have to rush into any decision making. I’m making the most of all the excitement! We celebrated with an engagement party at the beginning of the month where we announced our date – so the countdown is on until 6 October 2018 – eek!

 photo Wedding Planning Update 3_zpsogx41eb3.jpgOh, and our countdown sign? It makes me cry everytime I look at it – for some reason seeing it in “real life” makes it all the more real. We’re actually getting married!

Do you have anything exciting to look forward to? Any recommendations for wedding planning? 

Lifestyle: Hidden Corners of Canterbury

It’s really hard to believe that after four years, my time in Canterbury is over. Whilst I’m lucky in that it’s easy enough to get to over the next few years (though I’d like to think I’ve spent enough time on the High Speed line!), I can’t imagine myself visiting all too often. With that in mind, I spent some of my last days in city exploring, finding hidden gems I had no clue were there.

 photo Canterbury Historic Riverboat Tour 11_zpsoxfru9cm.jpgI’ve already written about our trip on the river, one of Canterbury’s Historic Riverboat Tours, and that was the perfect was to start finding some of the hidden gems. It introduced us to a gorgeous, completed secluded area of the city that I won’t share on here (for fear of spoiling the secret – and my camera battery ran out!), however there are some easier to find, just as lovely areas of Canterbury.

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 24_zpsn154drhs.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 1_zpsjn1dncd7.jpgThough of course, I couldn’t not get a few shots of my favourite view. Looking over the cathedral from the university campus was (perhaps a little shamefully!) one of the reasons why I chose Kent University – it’s a stunning view over the city. For students at UKC, the best view is from a stair window inside Rutherford College, but there are so many. It always irked me that sunset was the other side of the hill – could you imagine it behind the cathedral?!

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 4_zpsvv5j9xud.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 5_zpsdm3ninpg.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 2_zpsnqc3d1yd.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 3_zpsxuu5ieol.jpgAbbotts Mill in the city centre quickly became one of my favourite spots – quiet, yet just a two-minute walk away from the crammed main street. Plenty of green space to sit and listen to the crashing water, it felt like a millon miles away from the busy shopping area.

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 6_zpsrhasjbfj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 8_zpsayycut4a.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 13_zpsjwoj41mp.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 11_zpswnsn02og.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 12_zps62ybqjjy.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 9_zpsxdtx5jix.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 7_zpsluzoqa3k.jpgAround the corner is a few statues and sculptures, there’s gorgeous little cottages and terraced houses. Part of me wishes I’d lived closer to the city centre in one of my later years at university; some of these houses are student lets. How lovely do they look?!

 photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 20_zpsepy31i3k.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 19_zpsyycy6snu.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 17_zpshugkt2lf.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 16_zpsi1hnpctj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 18_zpsqpkvwudu.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 22_zpsmcbxnjku.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 15_zps9qr2osdj.jpg photo Hidden Corners of Canterbury Kent 14_zps7qgdcg7t.jpgThen there’s Westgate Gardens. Stunning flower beds, punting boats bobbing in the river, historical buildings popping up seemingly out of nowhere. Again, it’s hard to imagine you are pretty much in the middle of a (admittedly very small) city.

If I am at all honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Canterbury City in general. I hated how busy it always was, how I was always having to dodge groups of tourists. I found the shops to be a weird mix – with no Primark up until a couple of years ago, and perhaps the smallest New Look in existence. But I did love the little hidden gems I found. I loved the Cathedral adding something special. I loved the little side streets filled with independent shops. And I know that, despite its frustrating popularity, I will miss Canterbury.

Have you ever been to Canterbury? What’s your favourite UK city?

Recipe: Jerk Chicken, Rice & Beans, Zingy Chopped Salad

A.K.A a delicious meal.

In fact, one of the nicest meals I’ve cooked in a long time. And, amazingly, one of the first meals I’ve cooked entirely by myself for W ever. In the whole almost-six years we’ve been together, I’ve rarely cooked solo for him. He’s always helped out, chopping things, cooking an element, with me being more the sous chef. I’m a lucky girl really!

 photo Jerk Chicken Dinner_zpsiqbauwv4.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 3_zpso2ziiiep.jpgThe entire meal here was influenced by one of Jamie’s Thirty Minute Meals. Let me tell you this, half an hour is a lie. This took me well over an hour, although having said that it was relatively stress free, didn’t take too much washing up, and I reckon with practice should be easily done on a work night. And it was certainly special enough to make for guests too – it looked great, and it was damn yummy.

This does have, however, one of the longest ingredient lists of any of my recipes. Generally I’m not hugely comfortable with such meals, as I find them expensive and fiddly. This one isn’t too bad as there’s no specialty ingredients, and we actually had everything minus the chilli and fresh salad ingredients. If you don’t have everything, particularly the spices, do what I did during my first year of university – build up my spice cupboard gradually by buying one with each (or every other) shop.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 5_zpsmnxh10eo.jpgIngredients for 2 (Chicken & Rice)

  • Two skin-on boneless chicken breasts – or thighs to make it cheaper, as I will be doing next time!
  • 1 tbsp runny honey – or a big squeeze from a squeeze tub
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 150g rice, we used Basmati
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tin black beans

Ingredients for 2 (Sauce)

  • 4 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh thyme (use some for the chicken)
  • 1tsp each of ground cloves nutmeg and allspice
  • 2 tablespoons golden rum
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chilli
  • 3 cloves of garlic

Ingredients for Lots (Salad & Yoghurt, served 2 for dinner, then lunch the next day)

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red chicory
  • 1 romaine lettuce
  • 1.5 limes
  • 2-3 spring onions
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 250g natural yoghurt
  • few sprigs of fresh coriander
  • Half a lime

 

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 6_zpsnbdu4rve.jpg photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 1_zpsjyl9bmkl.jpgMAKE THE JERK SAUCE Trim and roughly chop the onions and put into a mini chopper with the leaves from most of the bunch of thyme. Add the spices, rum, vinegar, honey and 2 teaspoons of salt. Remove the stalks and seeds from the Scotch bonnet chilli and add to the chopper with the garlic and blitz to a smooth paste. Mine was more liquid than paste, so I have reduced the liquid quantities in my recipe.

FRY THE CHICKEN Meanwhile put the chicken breasts on a plastic board and halve each one, leaving them joined at the top of the breast. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, then rub all over both sides of the chicken. Put into the hot griddle pan, skin side down, and leave to cook. Once the undersides are golden, turn the chicken over. Pour the jerk sauce into a  baking dish and lay the chicken on top, skin side up. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of runny honey and scatter over  the remaining thyme sprigs. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 15minutes, at 220C.

RICE & BEANS Put a saucepan with a lid on a medium heat. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and put in the saucepan with the cinnamon stick, a good tbsp of olive oil and a big pinch of salt & pepper. Stir and let soften for a minute or so, then add the rice and stock. Drain and rinse the beans, add to the pan and stir gently. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat. Pop the lid on and leave for 12 minutes.

YOGHURT Tip the yoghurt into a small serving bowl. Finely chop a few sprigs of coriander and add to the bowl with a pinch of salt and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Finely grate over the zest of 1/2 the lime and squeeze in the juice. Stir in.

SALAD Deseed and roughly chop the red pepper. Pop the chicory and lettuce on top and keep chopping until everything is fairly fine.  Pour in a few lugs of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of the limes. Finely slice the onions, season to taste, then toss everything together. Tear over the coriander to finish.

 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 4_zps2s5wxjvi.jpgTO SERVE Take the lid off the rice after 12 minutes and give it a stir. All the liquid should have been absorbed. Taste and season if necessary. Take the chicken out of the oven, and sprinkle over some coriander if there’s any left. Plate up, spoon over the jerk sauce from the bottom of the baking dish.

The chicken was tender, the skin crisp, coated in the most delicious sauce. Said sauce was spicy, spicy enough to make your nose run, but not inedible, and combined with complex flavours and a good whack of herbs. The rice and beans were so, so simple, yet we both loved them. Such an easy was to add plenty of flavour to a side of rice, I’ll definitely be making them again. And the salad was also lovely, zingy, hot from fresh chilli, sharp from coriander, crunchy with pepper. All finished off with a lime and coriander yoghurt (gratefully received to take away some of the heat), this was a dinner I was proud of.
 photo Jerk Chicken Recipe 2_zpslriujq3e.jpg

Have you cooked anything particularly good lately?

Beauty: Dressing Table Dreaming

One of the things I have always, always wanted, ever since I was a little girl, was a grown-up dressing table. When I was younger there was something so impossibly glamorous about the idea, even though no-one I knew had one. Somewhere to sit and get ready for the day, somewhere to display my perfume, and the pretty bits of my makeup collection.

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 1_zpscbjysfmu.jpg photo Room Tour Summer 2016 3_zpsmd7mskvu.jpgWhen showing you my ‘summer room‘ (i.e. how I’d done up my old childhood room for the last few months I’d be spending in it, post-university and pre-graduate job), I introduced my mini-dressing table. Made up of my fold-up desk (Argos), and wicker drawers (similar in Wilkinson), and then my makeup storage, this fits in perfectly next to my sofa bed and lets me have all my bits and bobs to hand – so useful as I’m here, there and everywhere this summer. I’m not too sure that, other than Brighton, I’ve spent more than two nights in the same place since the beginning of July!

Unfortunately I’m not to sure whether Ian bring this set-up with me when I move – whilst it isn’t overly big, and our flat isn’t ridiculously small, I know I’d sooner use any spare space to set up a little desk. After-all, when working full-time I know damn well I’ll be running around in the morning, throwing makeup on whilst eating my breakfast, so someone dedicated to sitting and getting ready just isn’t worth it.

All above photographs taken, in order, from the blog posts linked below.

That hasn’t, however, stopped me lusting after other bloggers’ dressing table set-ups though! One of my favourite type of posts to read is room tours (what can I say, I’m nosey!). Jasmine has given me some major goals with the products she has on hers, plus I have major respect for this girl – so much stuff, yet it all looks so tidy. I don’t know how she does it! I adore Kate’s interior style, and have done for years, and her dressing table is no exception. I love how modern it looks, whilst still being luxurious. If my flat looks half as lovely as hers does, I’ll be one happy girly! Sticking with the more modern look, I love how Kerry has combined a dressing table with a workspace, this is definitely something I’ll have to see if I can squeeze into the flat. I’m loving the motivational quotes too! Belle’s dressing table is a lot more traditional, a lot more like my childhood dreams and I’m definitely in love. One thing I’ll definitely be doing in my new flat is adding a bit of greenery to the space; I’ve been desperate for some catci/succulents for a while now, so this is the perfect time. I love how Rebecca has mixed cacti onto her dressing table, giving the feminine beauty products a more masculine background!

 photo Room Tour Summer 2016 2_zpsipxjbxzi.jpgSo many gorgeous dressing tables out there, the blogging world is full of inspiration. And don’t get me started on Pinterest, I may as well have my own ‘dressing table dream’ board on there. In fact, I may just create one right now…

Are you a fan of dressing tables? If you’ve posted a room tour post, please send over the link!

University: 10 Things To Keep With You

I’ve done quite a few of the “What’s in my Bag” posts before; I love writing them, I love reading them (it’s my nosiness!), and in fact there will be another heading your way soon. However when Stagecoach offered to send me over their guest post listing “top 10 things every new student needs in their purse” I decided it would be a great way to show off what the essentials are, minus all the unnecessary rubbish I carted around…

 photo 10 Things To Carry_zps54hnoupw.jpgHeading off to uni? With the rush of socialising, studying and general shenanigans you’re about to undertake, it’s easy to forget the little essentials. From what you’ll need in your bag to what you should pack in your purse, this is a list of the top ten items to carry with you at all times.

Student Bus Pass – sure, you’ll probably walk around campus. But, unless you’ve paid extra for student accommodation right near your university, you’ll generally be placed in halls that are a few miles away. Grab a student bus pass from a company like Stagecoach – sure beats walking through the rain.

Cash – the universal way to engage in pint-drinking, snack-eating or stationary panic-buying. Make sure you’ve got some on you.

Bank Card – cash always runs out, so it’s handy to have a backup on you at all times. Debit cards are a great way to keep cash nearby – especially after loan day.

 photo Whats In My Handbag - Intern Edition - 6_zps8ky5beln.jpg photo Whats In My Handbag - Intern Edition - 4_zpsrtuffmze.jpgDriving Licence/ID – unless you’re (un)lucky enough to look 25+, you’ll need a valid form of ID to get into clubs. Nobody wants to be turned back at the door when you’re with a group. A driving licence is the best type of ID, as it fits into your purse.

NUS Card – you’ve heard about a student discount, hit the shops and then suddenly you’re out of luck. How do you get all these great deals? A NUS card! Despite the fact you’ve got to pay a fee, they’re great to have and the savings outweigh the price.

Student ID – if you need an ID card to get into the library or other campus facilities, you should carry it at all times. After all, you never know when the need to study will strike.

Pens – okay, so these won’t fit in your purse – but you will need them. Don’t be the girl in lectures who has to ask to borrow one.

 photo 2016-08-01 14.50.47_zpsmjw4h7ke.jpgChewing Gum – heading out after a day in class? You’ll need a way to perk yourself up. Chewing gum helps keep your breath fresh and it’s easy to carry with you.

Railcard – if you’re heading back home and need to hop on a train, a railcard is a great little extra to buy that helps you save. National Rail do lots of student discounts and you’d be mad not to cash in on them.

Condoms – nobody wants to be captain safety, but carrying some kind of protection on nights out is handy so you can avoid any potential disasters.

 photo 2016-08-01 14.51.47_zps29wwbwq9.jpgI have to admit, not too sure about the last one – carrying the same one around in a wallet feels a bit unsafe to me (surely the constant friction wouldn’t be good?!) but other than that, some pretty good advice from Stagecoach here. I always used to carry some sort of snack on me too, usually a Nakd bar or similar, just in case of any sudden hunger pains!

*Post in collaboration with Stagecoach.

What do you always carry with you?

Review: Handmade Burger Co, Leicester

I have a few major loves in my life. Family and friends, obviously. My dog. Burgers come very close behind.

I’ve talked about my love of burgers before, I’ve moaned about how difficult it is to find a good one. I’ve since made it my mission to try as many burgers as possible (hell, it’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to move to London later this month!), to try and find my ultimate burger.

 photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 5_zps1hrdwp51.jpgIf I’m honest, my American Cheese from Handmade Burger Co came close. Their beef patty was definitely one of the best flavoured beef patties I’ve eaten. Properly meaty, a good beefy taste, an almost crunchy outer and soft inner – but it was served well-done, with no option for to-order cooking. A medium patty would have had this burger at near perfection for me.

The restaurant itself is huge, and located around the corner from Highcross it needs to be. It has been rammed full on each of our visits, though the service has always been quick and, if not friendly, very efficient. Modern, clean, it’s perfect for a quick pit-stop when shopping. We ordered a lot, making the most of my student discount before (sob) it ended. Luckily W’s will start again relatively soon, and once I begin studying professionally I’ll be back in possession of an NUS. But for now? I’m missing it. On our table we had four very different burgers, and three very different portions of fries.

 photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 6_zpsowjnnzsk.jpg photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 3_zpst6h14wwg.jpg photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 2_zpsgxyhxbxr.jpgMy American Cheese burger was slathered in plenty of cheese, topped with a couple of gloriously crispy onion rings. With the burger being well-done it was a little dry, though nothing that wasn’t solved by a quick drizzle of mustard. I’d recommend adding bacon to this, and certainly will be doing next time. The Peppered Beef (Onion rings, flat mushroom, caramelised red onion relish, peppercorn sauce, mayo, rocket & red onion) was loved by my cheese-hating mum, the first time she’s had plenty of choice from a burger menu. My sister’s chicken burger (I forget whether it was Peri Peri or Cajun) look delicious and certainly disappeared quickly. Dad made short work of his Mexican (Handmade Mexican salsa, hand crushed avocado, fresh tortilla chips, jalapenos, chipotle sauce, lettuce, tomato & red onion) and I have to say, it gave me huge food envy. Damn allergy.

 photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 4_zpsxb3ebxnb.jpg photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 1_zpssvmuwpek.jpg photo Handmade Burger Co Leicester 7_zpsxkggapdd.jpgThe fries were also good. Their standard fries come with a moreish and rather addictive rosemary salt. The sweet potato fries, once seasoned to taste, were crispy without being burnt. And the best? The Hipster Chips (handmade chips topped with jalapeño slaw, finished with Sriracha mayo & fresh spring onions). A great combo of spicy, crunchy, salty. Just yum. And so, yep, I highly recommend the Handmade Burger Co. Let’s just hope they offer medium-cooked burgers soon!

Burger time!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

UPDATE: We visited a few weekends ago, after penning this post. We found the service to be terribly slow, with a milkshake arriving after the burgers. All five burgers were overcooked and dry, though not inedibly so, but it was definitely a bit more disappointing! Having said that, apparently the Peanut Butter burger was pretty yummy, and I loved the Rosemary Salted Fries…

I do, however, highly recommend the Oreo milkshake. Just don’t order if you have to have a quick meal. Or tell my wedding-dress-maker…

What’s the best burger you’ve ever eaten? What are you favourite burger toppings?