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#HollysMustHaves: Winter Edit

16/12/2018


Photography by Sophie Lobban



Winter seems to add an extra element of complexity to looking good. On the one hand, you can play with layers, textures and contrasting colours. Yet on the other, you have to dress warm enough to walk from one place to another but not so warm that you find yourself completely undressing every time you walk into a heated room. But you can be both stylish and comfortable during the winter. That doesn't mean going bare-legged or refusing to bundle up — It just takes a little creativity.

Your clothing and outfit choices can affect your personality, mood, and emotions. In winter it can become our natural instinct go grab the darkest pieces in our wardrobe, in an attempt to absorb heat and keep warm. However, subconsciously over time, it can become quite a depressive colour to wear, and I think as the colder months already can be more difficult on peoples moods due to the dark nights I think we all need to inject a little colour into our winter wardrobe! I love wearing colourful clothing because it either lifts the mood or expresses a mood that I am feeling that day.

Marks and Spencer create some amazing trend-led pieces and their latest collection with Holly Willoughby is no exception. Her winter launch reflects her signature style, comprising of 14 versatile pieces; jam-packed with colour, that if you were to add to your wardrobe would be guaranteed to last the whole holiday season and beyond. With prices starting from just £17.50, if anything that has caught your eye I'd recommend acting fast.

As I've always been a huge fan of a jumper and skirt combo I was immediately drawn to this pairing and had to have it. I decided to pair it with a leopard print faux jacket to add another layer to the look, playing with contrasting prints and textures. Which is your favourite item from the collection? Let me know in the comments.

SHOP THE LOOK





This post is in collaboration with Marks and Spencer - all words are my own.

Let's bake: Toffee Apple Cake

28/10/2018



Autumn is finally here. The nights are becoming darker, leaves are turning crisp and the air is slightly colder. So, as the nights draw in lets retreat to the warmth of the kitchen and bake treats with all the flavours of the season.

This Toffee Apple Cake is perfect for any part over the Autumn season; whether you're hosting a frightful feast for Halloween or a banging showstopper on Bonfire Night. This show-stopping bake is a marriage of flavours of classic apple desserts with spiced sponge, vanilla icing and a sticky caramel icing. If you bake only thing this autumn, let it be this cake.

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Ingredients
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For the cake:

- 400g bramley apples peeled and roughly chopped
- 250g light muscovado sugar 
- 225g softened salted butter
- 375g self-raising flour 
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 3 medium eggs, beaten

For the buttercream:

- 70g softened salted butter
- 250g sifted icing sugar

For the toffee icing and decoration:

- 3 small apples
- 50g salted butter
- 100g dark muscovado sugar
- 3/4 tbsp milk
- 100g sifted icing sugar
- 5 bay leaves to decorate

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What To Do
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1. To begin with grease and line 3 x 18cm round sponge tins and pre heat your oven to 200°C or 180°C if you're using a fan-assisted oven.

2. Place your chopped apples (no additional water needed) into a microwaveable dish and heat up for five to six minutes or until the apples are well-cooked and softened.

3. Mash the apples to a coarse puree and set aside to cool slightly.

4. Sieve the self-raising flour into a large mixing bowl and add all of the remaining cake ingredients together. For the apple puree, it doesn’t matter if it is slightly warm, but should not be hot or the baking powder will work before the cake mixture is in the tin.

5. Beat the mixture together until it is just starting to come together and then divide the batter between the three tins ensuring they are levelled out before placing in the oven. Bake the cakes between 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, risen and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then turn the cakes out to cool on a wire rack.

6. Once the cakes are completely cool, make your buttercream ensuring the consistency is creamy and thick enough to spread. Sometimes it may be beneficial to place your buttercream in the fridge to completely cool if your kitchen is quite warm.

7. Weigh your buttercream mixture and divide by two, using a palette knife to spread the mixture into each layer of bottom two layers of cake.

8. For the toffee apples, put the apples in a heatproof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Swirl around to remove any wax, then drain. Once they are completely dry, insert lolly sticks into the stalk end and set the apples on a sheet of baking paper.

9. Weigh and sift the icing sugar, and get the cake out of the fridge. It’s important to get the apples and icing sugar ready now, as you need to work quickly with the toffee icing.

10. Put the butter into a small saucepan with the muscovado sugar and 2 tablespoons milk. Heat gently until the butter has melted and sugar dissolved, then bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes (it’s best to use a timer) or until it reaches about 113-116°C on a thermo-pen or sugar thermometer (although it’s not essential to be completely accurate).

11. Remove from the heat and quickly dip the apples into the toffee, rolling them around in the toffee to coat. Place on baking paper to set. Immediately add the sifted icing sugar plus 1 tablespoon milk to the pan, whisk until smooth (you may need to add another 1 tablespoon milk), then immediately pour the icing over the chilled cake, spreading it to the edge to allow it to drip over the sides. Allow to set.

12. Make a small hole with a skewer near each apple stalk and poke in a bay leaf. Place the apples on top of the cake to serve and once cooled grab a knife, cut into your servings and tuck in! 

Recommended servings | 12-14




Giraffe World Kitchen | intu Eldon Square, Newcastle

30/07/2017


Sitting in a prime location of Newcastles City Centre, on the top level of intu Eldon Squares new dining quarter you will find Giraffe World Kitchen. Giraffe World Kitchens motto is "Exploring the world of food is our passion. Our obsession. It gets us up in the morning and into the kitchen, never knowing exactly what we'll come across next." As the name suggests, Giraffe sells itself as something of a global affair. Take a quick glance at its extensive offerings and you’ll find everything from American short ribs to Japanese Katsu and spicy Mexican burritos. It’s rare to find such a celebration of different cultures and flavours all within one menu! Both brilliant for those who are considered fussy eaters or, like me, want to try a little bit of everything.   

First Impressions 

The restaurant’s interior evokes far flung corners of the world with an artwork feature wall inspired by India and Thailand, a chefs table covered with Moroccan pendants, global inspired patterned tiles and furniture upholstered in a range of colourful fabrics and leathers. We were greeted by friendly, happy staff and were shown to our table. Even though there was a heatwave on the day we visited and the waitresses suggestions (due to it being like a sun trap) against my better judgement, for the need to be seated somewhere photogenic I chose one of their corner booths. The overall atmosphere was a more informal vibe, however, for mid-day dining, this is absolutely perfect for our day date after a long afternoon of shopping. We were handed over our menus and offered table water, with well-informed staff willing to help you through your choice. With such a diverse selection of delicious cuisines deciding was really difficult so I took all the advice the staff offered. It was great to be able to try some foods I’d never had before, that world kitchen status is no lie!


What We Ate

To start we couldn't choose just one, so decided to share both the Shredded Chicken Tacos and Salt & Pepper Squid. The shredded chicken was incredibly juicy and flavourful. Just like you would get at an authentic Mexican restaurant. Accompanied with guacamole, sour cream and chipotle, what more could you possibly ask for? I won't lie, I was a little bit disappointed when I realised I could only have the one as Liam had tucked into the other. Needless to say, all was not lost as we still had our Salt & Pepper Squid to enjoy. Already a firm favourite of ours when we dine at Asian restaurants, these small fried balls of squid are simply delicious. Crispy yet tender squid served with a sweet chilli jam and fresh lime for an extra kick of flavour.

After tough deliberation and a gentle nudge from the waiter, for my main I opted for the Spicy Rice Bowl and Liam ordered the Ranch Steak & Eggs. Liam's meal only lasted 0.05 seconds as amongst me taking photos he had managed to almost eat all of his as he was so famished (blogger boyfriend problems) so sadly I can't really explain what his tasted like. However, I assume from the speed it was consumed it must have been pretty tasty. However, I can honestly say the Spicy Rice Bowl is the perfect way to make your mouth sing with joy. Understandably a firm favourite on the menu at Giraffe, the whole bowl is full of good-for-you things; nourishing brown rice with perfectly cooked chicken, sugar snaps, red peppers, crispy onions, chilli and soy sauce and topped with a fried egg. The entire bowl was dressed in a variety of different spices, but so well balanced I just couldn't stop myself from going back for more.

Even though our stomachs were practically bursting at the seams we knew we had to order dessert. The Churros arrived hot and crispy, rolled in sugar and cinnamon, and served with a warm dulce de leche dipping sauce and the Rocky Road Sundae was just what I needed to cool down as the heat had started to get to me. Delicious layers of vanilla and salted caramel ice cream, with chocolate brownie chunks, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and mini marshmallows. Need I say more, they were both the perfect sweet treat to round off our meal.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, if you’re looking for a relaxed dining experience with happy, friendly staff, a great variety of food; with a lean to the healthier side that gives you value for money then I’d totally recommend dining with Giraffe World Kitchen. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and I look forward to going back very soon! 




This post is in collaboration with Giraffe World Kitchen, all words are my own.

Those Three Words

08/01/2017


Those three words... Is it cancer? From the moment you find that lump in the shower. The second before you make that call to the doctors. The days that follow before your appointment. To being referred to a specialised unit. Those three words compacted into one question have the ability to change everything. 

The month of December, in the run-up to Christmas started perfectly normal. Stressful, yes. But normal. I had a little bit of last minute shopping to do, a few more gifts to wrap and was working my arse off at work so I could enjoy the festive break. There was nothing I couldn't cope with... Then it happened. I found a breast lump. An innocent check in the shower; which I'll be the first to admit I did not do half as often I should have been doing, turned quite quickly into "WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO?!" Apologies for the language. But I think eloquent thinking kind of goes out of the window in situations like these. So there I was, trying to make the decision of whether to ignore it and just hope that it was hormones doing their thing; after all, I am only 23 and still developing (right?!) or admit to myself I knew it was weird and it needed checking. I knew I had to go for the latter.

There is no way to really sugarcoat the whole experience that followed. I haven't cried as much as I had over those two weeks in a really, really long time. I genuinely thought I'd make the appointment with my GP, I'd be seen and be told it was nothing to worry about it and be sent on my way. I mean what do I know about what is normal and what's not when it comes to boobs? For crying out loud, I'm the girl with no boobs. But that didn't happen. He confirmed there was a 2cm stationary lump and it needed to be investigated further. The unit I was being referred to was described as a one-stop clinic; meaning they would go through all stages of what they needed to check there and then and you would receive all your results within a day. And, it was only a two week referral time. Why do some complain about the NHS again?!

So as I stood at the reception desk, with the referral slip in hand waiting to book my appointment, those three words popped up again. This time, I couldn't stop the tears I'd manage to hold together when I was in the GP's office. On my own, overwhelmed with the idea that in less than two weeks time there is a small chance I might be told I have the big C and there's nothing I could do about it. Those who I told offered to come with me, but I refused all offers. To take someone with me would suggest there was something I needed to be supported for and I was sure I would be in and out and it would all be over as quick as it had begun. But of course, those two weeks from the first appointment to your referral begin to take its toll. When you suffer from anxiety, giving you time to overthink is never going to be a good thing. Those three words. When I was in my car on my way to work. Having a laugh with friends. Watching the TV. Before I went to sleep. Those three words just wouldn't leave me alone. When you receive the letter in the post with the date of your appointment the word cancer is sprawled across the pages. I understand it's to prepare you for the worst; because there is a possibility of that being the final result from the checks you receive on the day, but it's still an unbelievably scary prospect to be faced with on paper. I had been holding it together in front of everyone, projecting the attitude of "it is what it is, I'll take it as it comes" and I just couldn't do it anymore. The night before my appointment I had completely unraveled. It was a week before Christmas, I wanted to be happy and looking forward to spending time with loved ones and instead, I was consumed with fear. I didn't want to be strong anymore, I just wanted the problem to kindly fuck off. I would cry and then stop. Then those three words would come back and I would cry again. It was time to let someone come with me. Regardless of the outcome, you need someone for support.

My GP had given me the impression that the first stage they would take would be to attempt to drain the lump; as it may be a cyst, and if it was to disappear immediately then I would be done and could be on my way. So after waiting an hour with posters plastered around the room with the word cancer screaming at you from every angle, to be seen and told I needed to be a radiographer when I returned I was a little overwhelmed and had another breakdown. By this stage, the waiting room was filled with women of all ages; some who evidently had cancer, those coming for further scans after beating cancer and individuals like myself, waiting to find out what the hell was going on. Needless to say, it's a place I never ever want to find myself sitting in again. Even talking about it now is making me feel nauseous. Four hours went by, I had my scan and luckily my lump wasn't anything that needed further investigation and I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Now, you might be thinking after all of this why would you waste time writing this post? And you're somewhat right. I'll be honest, I didn't really know if I was ever going to find the words to write this post. I mean really, how do you explain to the worldwide web that you had a cancer scare? I know I'm not the first person to go through this process and I certainly won't be the last. But awareness is everything. What if I hadn't been so lucky and had just left it? Then what? When it comes to cancer, your age is just a number. The importance of checking your body regularly is just so important. It can save your life. 

Sleep well with Leesa

20/11/2016


Photography by Sophie Lobban



When you are a self-confessed workaholic, like myself, a good night’s sleep is positively crucial. If I’m running short on rest you will definitely know about it, and not in a good way. When you are out the house twelve hours a day, there is nothing I enjoy more than getting home and welcoming my bed with open arms. My bedroom is my safe place. It is where I feel most relaxed and I can begin to unwind. However recently I found myself waking up several times in the middle of the night, and despite getting my full eight hours of sleep I would still feel tired for the rest of the day.

So when Leesa offered me the opportunity to try out one of their mattresses, I could not accept quick enough. If you haven’t heard of them before, Leesa is a mattress brand that was created with one simple task; to help people sleep better. You place your order online as quick and easy as ordering from your favourite clothes store and the mattress is delivered right to your house. I don’t want to spend hours (that I don't have to begin with) searching for a mattress, testing out different thickness, hardness, softness and everything else in a store. I want to be able to go online and with a click of a button place an order, with the peace of mind I won't be waiting weeks on end for my delivery. And with Leesa I was able to do all of this with ease. Within five minutes of heading to the website, I had selected my mattress, added it to my basket, filled in my shipping details and checked out. With a scheduled arrival date of within the week. It felt as though Christmas would be coming early this year!

What first struck me was how small the box was when the postman arrived with the KING sized mattress I was waiting to be delivered. I had ordered a king size mattress, yet what was delivered was a small box that stood to be around the height of my shoulders. How does that work?! The mattress was completely compressed inside; making it easier to carry and unpack simply and efficiently. For the post, I had every intention of photographing stills showing how easy it was to do, but I have recently pulled a muscle in my shoulder so I had to leave it to Liam's parents to take over and do the unpacking process for me and feedback. Luckily for them it was incredibly easy and took them only a matter of minutes to do. You just unroll it, unwrap it and watch it expand to a real mattress size within hours. What a treat!

After working a twelve hour shift, throwing my body onto the bed and sinking into my Leesa mattress was an incredible experience. I was snugger than a bug in a rug. The mattress is so, so comfortable – super soft, but still firm and supportive. And it’s a shame it has to get covered up with bedding – the mattress itself is gorgeous. Not only is it the most aesthetically pleasing mattress I have ever seen, but also the softest too! I had to call for Liam to come and try it too, which he couldn't believe how comfortable it was either. I guess we both didn't know what to expect as for years now we had just become accustomed to springs digging in to our backs. I think Leesa’s aim has been achieved 100%. The main goal is the customer's comfort and this is exactly what you receive, from start to finish. It's scary how I didn't even recognise that my previous mattress was clearly doing so much damage to my back.

Overall, my experience with the Leesa mattress is 100% positive. Not only was the order process efficient and easy to work through. But the speed, convenient, and compact nature of its packaging and delivery methods had completely won me over. Every purchaser can try and test the mattress with a 100-night risk free trial, safe in the knowledge that they can return it and receive a refund if they aren’t happy with it. Any returned mattress will then be donated to charity. Pretty amazing, right?! If you are interested you can read more about Leesa's story here and about the ethos of the brand. Leesa have been kind enough to offer my readers a £50 discount through this link, so if you're on the hunt for a new mattress; or after reading this post are questioning whether your current choice is the best for you, I'd wholly recommend at least checking out Leesa's site and the mattresses they have on offer.

Happy sleeping!



This post is in collaboration with Leesa, all words are my own.

Suit Up And Look Sharp With SuitsMen

09/11/2016

Wedding season may be drawing to a close, but there will always be an occasion a gentleman will need a suit. Looking great in a suit is no mean menswear feat. With ill-fitting attire, colour combinations and an endless array of ties to contend with, it’s a wonder anyone pulls it off at all. And while a great suit will make you feel (and look) sharp, world-wise, and sophisticated, a bad one will make you look like a hack, a ninny, or a man-child who still gets dressed by his mother. So it helps to know a thing or two about buying, wearing, and caring for the one you choose.

Here are some great tips to go by when you are shopping for your next suit which may help guide you through the process:

- The width of the tie should match the width of the lapel.
- In general, thin lapels are more modern. Wide lapels are more old-school, Mad Men style.
- A pocket square is a great way of adding a level of polish, but make sure it doesn’t match your tie in pattern/fabric choice.
- A collar gap between your jacket’s lapels and your shirt’s collar can signify an ill-fitting jacket.
- Your belt should be fairly thin and the same colour as your shoes.
- Make sure you smartly match your shoes to your suit.
- Double vents in the back are more modern and fashionable.
- For a more casual, trendy look, opt for a single-button peak-lapel jacket.
- You should be able to place your hand between your chest and buttoned jacket such that it feels snug, but with room to move.
- Always unbutton your suit before sitting down, or you risk ruining it.
- Sleeve cuffs should be exposed about half an inch.
- If you sweat a lot, wear an undershirt.

If you need a little more guidance take a visit to SuitsMen and they will be able to to easily navigate the many choices of suits and formal attire from masonic suits and men’s waistcoats to men’s jackets and much more in between. Their suits are handpicked to represent what they feel are the best choices for the modern man, however this still leaves room for a lot of choice and have a dedicated number that you can call and speak to one of our friendly team should you have any questions or need some help choosing. What are you waiting for, get suited up and looking sharp today!


This post is in collaboration with SuitsMen, all words are my own.

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