×

Now that Halloween is over the chances are that your mind has heading straight to Christmas and gift buying. I'm told I'm tricky to buy for and boy do I know more than a few others that seem to remain on the gift list for the longest as I just can't decide what they'd like. Although you think someone interested in food would be an easy buy, I know first hand that you can end up with a glut of fancy chocolates and biscuits and wine. While this is a lovely thing to have a stock of I know that I'd much rather receive something unusual that I'm far less likely to have strive. This is where the website Sous Chef steps in to save the day, with one of the best curated collection of food and drink ingredients and items that I've found online.

They also have a section that solves anyone's foodie gifting issues, an idea that I just adore - Cookbook and Ingredient Sets. This amazing collection consists of a beautiful printed canvas bag with a cookery book and an array of ingredients used in the book to create the recipes within. Lots of different cuisines are catered for including Mexican, Italian, Indian, Middle Easter, Japanese and more but when Sous Chef asked if I'd like to choose a set to review I went for the Authentic Korean Cooking Kit (£37.99*). Korean cuisine is one that I love to eat when I'm out but have never really tried making at home, so when I spotted this and the other items in their Korean collection I knew this was the perfect chance to give it a try.

The kit was beautifully packaged in its canvas bag when it arrived and all the bottles were wrapped in protective padding to keep them safe, it was really like eight presents in one and felt like opening a stocking full of treats - how could anyone dislike that? After checking out all the ingredients I curled up with the cookery book and within a few pages was seeing the items in the bag being used in several of the recipes - in fact they were even the same brands as used in the book in a lot of cases!

I honestly think these sets are the perfect present for anyone who enjoys eating and cooking, and if you're not sure what type of cuisine they would like to try there is even a set called The Edible Atlas featuring ingredients from all over the world and a book of the same name.


While looking through the Sous Chef site I also found myself growing all of the beautiful cookware and tableware on offer and soon spotted the Bento Boxes section. Of all cuisines Japanese food sits right up there in my favourites list - I love the flavours but also the thought given to the aesthetics of the food too and bento boxes are a great representation of this. They're basically the Japanese lunchbox and like the western versions they come in plain varieties or beautifully decorated like the one I picked and was kindly given - the Maruko Black Cat 2 Tier Bento Box (£17.50*). Lucky cats have been a love of mine for years and years and this is a really beautiful example of the traditional icon. The box itself is sturdy and has two levels with an interior lid to the second tier that holds a fork for utmost convenience. It's a very lovely piece and I'm actually going to buy a few more to give as gifts myself. I just think it's a lovely thing to find under the tree that can be used every day but is beautiful enough to make it feel special and gift worthy!

I think you can tell I've fallen in love with Sous Chef who kindly gifted these items to me and I highly recommend you give their site a visit, I know I'll be a regular shopper from now on when I need to find a special piece for my kitchen or as a gift, or if I'm just feeling in a cooking rut!




I'm pretty sure it's nurture but could also be in my nature thanks to my family, but for me one of life's great pleasures is sitting down to a lovely meal with your family or friends. Whether it's a cosy meal in the Autumn or an al fresco dinner in the Summer I just adore eating with other people that enjoy and appreciate good food, people you can relax and have a drink with and just chat about nothing and everything. 

While I enjoy cooking for people eating out can also be a great treat and when you pick the right place that's just the right level of formal and relaxed with a menu to suit everyone you know you're onto a winner. For me Marmalade at the REP Theatre in Birmingham is just that - nice decor, a diverse but not overwhelming menu and a friendly atmosphere and I must say it doesn't feel like a theatre restaurant, more of a venue in itself which I say as high praise.

I was recently very kindly asked if I'd like to visit Marmalade to review the restaurant after their refurbishment and menu overhaul; so headed there on a Saturday evening with my parents after enjoying a day at the Jewellery Quarter Museum and spending too much money in The Bullring. 

We had an early table at 5:30pm but this appeared to be perfect timing as Marmalade and the attached bar were wonderfully buzzing and full of happy eaters and theatre goers. The lovely circular restaurant with full glass windows looking out onto the courtyard and fountain outside made it a perfect spot for seeing people queueing up for shows in their glam evening wear which added to the atmosphere brilliantly - I'd definitely recommend this timing if you enjoy dinner with a fashion show!



We of course started our meal with some drinks and I was thrilled to find Martini Fiero on the menu as I can't seem to stop drinking it at the moment, ice cold and in a fifty fifty split with tonic water. My parents both ordered vino and were very pleased with their choices (that I sadly can't recall sorry!) and then our starters arrived.

I shared the Charcuterie Plate with my dad which consisted of fresh bread, chicken liver pate, olives, prosciutto wrapped breadsticks and delicious slivers of bresaola and chorizo with cornichons and onion jam. The quality of all the ingredients was very apparent and I enjoyed the choice of meats especially alongside the rich pate as they were of such varying flavours.

Mum had the same Chicken Liver Pate with Onion Jam and Toasted Bread as her starter and thoroughly enjoyed it too, the texture was nice and smooth with good seasoning avoiding the sticky smoothness that you find in most store bought versions. My only improvement would be adding a little balsamic to the onion jam for more contrast against the rich liver, but then I'm a slave to it's sweet vinegariness and manage to find a place for it in an awful lot of dishes.


Dad chose the Gourmet Stack Burger for his main course which was a towering affair with two beef patties, bacon, cheese, onion jam and gherkins. He's a big burger fan is my Dad and he wolfed this one down with pleasure, also finishing all off his fries which he doesn't often do! To my mind nothing spoils a burger like it being too compressed and solid but this one was shaped perfectly so the meat was tender and almost too easy to devour, with great quality bacon adding another salty edge against the creamy bacon and sweet onions.



Mum went for the Battered Catch of The Day that arrived atop a pile of homemade mushy peas. I have to say I was pretty jealous when it was placed in front of her - the batter was the perfect thickness and clearly crisp and crackly as it should be. The fish was cooked perfectly too and the combination of pea shoots with mushy peas is brilliant, combining fresh pea and the softer cooked pea flavours to great effect.

Served alongside were the fattest chips I've ever seen and a generous dish of delicious tartar sauce which were almost a meal on their own! The chips were so chubby they were more like long fried roast potatoes and they were none the worse for it. I may have stolen one...!


I decided upon the Blade of Beef that came served atop a potato rosti with wilted spinach and peppercorn sauce. The portion size here was incredibly generous and I couldn't finish it all! The meat was flavourful and mostly tender, it could have done with just a little longer cooking I think to really break down the connective tissue but this cut is such a tricky thing to judge and I would imagine especially so on a busy chef line. The taste was grand though especially alongside the rosti with a dab of sauce and a little green bite from the spinach. 




We ended our lovely evening with some puds of course. I get my love of floral flavours from my Mum so I wasn't surprised when she went for the Rosewater Meringue served with Macerated Strawberries and Whipped Cream. A classic flavour combo done very well and presented beautifully, a perfect sweet-fruity-creamy Summer dessert.

I decided on the Mango and Passion Fruit Sundae which I have to say was just gorgeous! The sweet tartness of the passion fruit sorbet tasted divine with the creamy vanilla ice cream and silky mango sauce with the freshly whipped cream, ripe and tender mango chunks and little popping fruity balls taking into the levels of true decadence. I want another one right now!

Dad chose the Lemon Tart to finish served with raspberry sorbet and it was expertly crafted with a beautiful satiny texture and perfect level of tartness finished with a final burnishing of sugar on top that added a gentle caramel flavour. The pastry was just the right thickness and was nice and tender and the contrast between the cold sorbet and silky tart was a grand one.

Our meal at Marmalade was a lovely one and the atmosphere and ambiance of the place makes it even better. This would be a great spot for a ladies lunch with your friends or they also do a nice sounding afternoon tea and Sunday Roasts so I'll definitely keep it in mind for my frequent trips into Brum. Thank you so much to Marmalade and FU Media for asking me along!

To keep up to date with my future posts and other adventures just follow me on
Twitter  -  Bloglovin  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Google+

*This meal was complimentary in exchange for my review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.


JACKET - (Similar) Black Waterfall Jacket by Evans Clothing - £42.00




To keep up to date with my future posts and other adventures just follow me on
Twitter  -  Bloglovin  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Google+

*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.


SHOES - Old Irregular Choice



To keep up to date with my future posts and other adventures just follow me on
Twitter  -  Bloglovin  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Google+

*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.

While it isn't exactly hard to find somewhere to eat in London, if you've not done your research ahead of time it's very easy to find yourself eating a really mundane meal. Being the food fan and obsessive pre-planner that I am I always scout around online and ask my friends in the city where the current best places to grab a bite are and I especially like when a blogger I know can recommend somewhere to try. Balans Soho Society is one such restaurant so when I was in town for a day full of press events and needed a nice dinner and some cocktails to chill out after a hectic eight hours it seemed the perfect spot.

I headed to the Kensington location (they have 8 across the city offering different dining experiences) with my sister and we were welcomed into a cosy front of house and bar that opened out into another dining area with a big skylight allowing light to flood in and highlight all the curiosities and art pieces that fill the place, including a big old spindly tree in the centre of the room decorated with old keys hanging like baubles. It's well known that I'm more maximalist than minimalist and love antiques and old books and curios so I felt very at home in the eccentric interior. We sat in the main dining room with the skylight and it had a nice buzzy atmosphere that felt cosy and brasserie-esque without being cramped and feeling like your table is nearly on top of another.







Like the decor the menu has a great mix of influences so there's going to be a dish for everyone. Naturally we started with a drink and I plumped for the Tiki Daiquiri that blended spiced rum with lime, vanilla, grapefruit and pineapple. It had a good boozy kick and wasn't all juice like you find at some places, with the vanilla rounding off the tartness of the fruits and the gentle cinnamony spice of the rum adding that all important back note - balanced and refreshing and very very drinkable. 

My sister went what I call a 'temperance drink' aka a mocktail, deciding on the really very delicious Grape & Kiwi Kooler. This mixed red grape juice with a little pineapple, lemon and kiwi and a few syrupy drops of agave - definitely one for lovers of American style purple grape drinks like us but a concoction I would have over and over again. Especially with the addition of gin!

While we perused the menu we nibbled on some very good house marinated olives that were room temperature (as they should be, boo to cold olives) and studded every now and again with a heavenly pickled garlic clove. Thankfully there were two so me and my sis didn't have to fight to the death over who got one. We decided to share a selection of small plates mainly so we could try lots of things and eventually chose four with the help of our amazingly wonderful server David who is quite possibly my favourite restaurant employee of all time. We love you David.


First up we tried the Hot Smoked Salmon that was flaked over salad leaves strewn with beetroot kimchi and dressed with black sesame seeds and a creamy miso dressing. The vegetables were lovely with the carrot and what I believe was daikon radish clearly freshly grated to order, their crunch contrasting beautifully with the soft moist fish. The chilli kick to the kimchi was a delight against the rich fattiness of the fish with the gentle earthiness of the beetroot and miso elements bringing everything into balance. A lovely sprightly dish that was as tasty as it was beautiful.


I couldn't resist ordering the Heritage Carrots mainly as they were served with one of my all time favourites baba ghanoush as well as yoghurt and feta cheese. Again the balance of flavours and textures here was a delight, the soft aubergine and yoghurt yielding against perfectly cooked but not a all mushy roasted carrots. The crumbles of feta added the required salty zing against the deliciously bland eggplant and humble flavour of the multi coloured carrots with the garnish of peppery watercress paying an equally important role in the dish.


Next up were two Smoked Trout Tacos, the hero ingredient being the substantial handmade tortillas that had been griddled to perfection and had that unmistakable and utterly lovely flavour of toasted corn. The trout was flaked over the top along with dill, fresh peas and watercress with a generous splodge of horseradish cream. I enjoyed the unabashed heat of the horseradish but it was a bit much for my sister - this of course is entirely down to personal taste but I appreciated its unsubtlety. The menu mentioned pickled spring vegetables which I wasn't able to detect unless perhaps the peas had been given a quick pickle, but the dish didn't suffer for this and the bright green freshness of the peas was lovely against the smoked fish and densely delicious corn tortilla.


Our final small plate was the Asian Pork Cheek which was indeed a delight to the tastebuds, but the texture of the meat was a little surprising as it was like a biltong or jerky with a dry chewiness as opposed to the supreme tenderness I was expecting from cheek meat. Honestly I'm not sure if this was just my expectation being completely wrong or if something wasn't quite right because it wasn't unpleasant, just unexpected. Crisp onion, freshly cut corn and a salad of Asian vegetables offered nice contrast with a kick of chilli, sweet salty sticky soy based sauce and dots of plum ketchup bringing everything together. Like I said not a bad tasting dish by any means but I'd be interested to hear other's reactions to this plate too so I can know if anyone else felt the same way about the meat cooking style.



Despite feeling pretty replete at this point one look at the dessert menu convinced us we had room for sweet treats so we placed our order. Laura picked the Warm Doughnuts, a generous portion of which were served up in hot sugar dusted glory alongside pots of dark chocolate fudge sauce & vanilla chantilly cream. There was a nice denseness to the doughnuts that made them taste comforting and old fashioned, not like the super aerated versions you see most of the time these days (although they do have their own place in my heart ahem stomach) and when dipped in the warm chocolate and topped with a blob of chantilly they were a delight. 

I'm a sucker for a panna cotta and so couldn't resist their version served with mulled winter fruits and an almond crumb. This felt oh so appropriate as it had been chucking it down with rain all day and comfort food was required, making the gently spiced red winey fruit oh so welcome. Personally rather than a crumb I would have served a buttery almondy biscuit as the crumbles got soggy in the wine so quickly, but it was by no means unpleasant especially with the cool creamy panna cotta. I think creme fraiche had been added alongside the normal cream here as there was a lovely tangy finish similar to sour cream and the texture was perfect - soft and yielding without the dreaded over set wobble that can occur if not done correctly. I'm definitely going to experiment with my panna cotta recipe next time to try and get a similar fresh zing to it.


All in all this was a really pleasant meal in nice relaxed surroundings. I'd be more than happy to while away a good few hours of drinks and nibbles with friends at Balans Soho Society and I'll definitely be looking out for their other locations next time I'm in the big city.

Thank you to Balans for gifting us this meal in exchange for my review and all the gratitude to our charming, attentive and funny server David who made our meal even more of a delight, dance and all!

To keep up to date with my future posts and other adventures just follow me on
Twitter  -  Bloglovin  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Google+

*This meal was complimentary in exchange for my review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.

As someone who has never owned a property but feels the need to be surrounded by beautiful and meaningful things at all times I've known the pain of renting and not being able to decorate first hand. This also means however that after 13 years of being a tenant I've realised that you can still bring your passions and personality into your interior decor in a non permanent way. Believe me when I say that art, textiles, books, keepsakes and a little imagination are your very best friends and if you want to create a space that makes you feel comfortable, content and inspired then surrounding yourself with things that make you smile and bring back memories is the best way to do it.


I don't follow interior design trends as you'll see, much like with clothing I just mix together looks that I love to create my dream result. It is however very helpful when things you love just happen to come into style as it makes them much easier (and often much cheaper) to procure. 

A shining example of this is the trend for elaborate lighting such as the brass palm tree light that have been gracing the homes of my favourite interior influencers for a while now but have been way out of my price range (think £600 plus!) then in steps Matalan and makes me dream come true! I think they must have got some new very clever bods into their homewares team recently because boy are there are a lot of gorgeous things on their website right now!



Personally I do think a dog is an essential addition to a home but its actually soft furnishings that I want to talk about here. One thing that can absolutely change a room completely is a sofa and since we got our new giant corner sectional last year our living room has finally become the cosy sanctuary I always wished for.

To up the comfort levels I have of course added some gorgeous cushions and a big faux fur throw that I use far too frequently for sofa naps. I was also thrilled to find a rug that wasn't too expensive in a pattern I actually liked as the wood floors could be a bit chilly in the winter and not very comfortable for Betty the bulldog to snooze on. It also helps with sound in the room giving the tv and hifi system a warmer tone than it had when it was just bouncing around hard walls and a hard floor.

Dillon Sectional Sofa in Raven by DFS - pieces start at £569.00 (purchased)
Faux Wolf Fur Throw by Home Bargains - £35.00 (purchased)
Double Sided Faux Mongolian Fur Cushion by Matalan - £12.00 (* gifted by the brand)
Vintage Look Rug in Graphite from Amazon - £65.00 (purchased)


One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to collect keepsakes and things that I can display in the cottage to remind me of my adventures around the world. Museums are very special places to me and I love the two pieces here from some of my favourite London locations the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Soanes Museum, both of which I collected on trips with my parents and sister. 

Although not purchased on the trip I love my giant fabric wall hanging map of Paris as it brings back memories of the time I spent there but also makes a great focal point for the wall opposite the window in our little living room. I also have lots of trinkets from my Grandparents house in this room that remind me of my beloved Gran and Gramps.

Mexican Tin and Mirror Hand from the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A - £5.99 (purchased)
Paris Fabric Wall Hanging by Collard Manson - £40.00 (purchased, sold out but others here)
Tattooed Vamp Print (part of a Milan tattoo convention poster) - Freebie with an order from Gentlemen's Tattoo Flash
Round Angel Plaque - from my grandparents house


As with my fashion choices I love mixing the old and the new so finding Pop Vinyl characters dotted in amongst antiques is a frequent sight in our house - we've been collecting them for some time now and the latest addition was a Black Phillip from The VVitch that Pete surprised me with. Other new things are the Time Turner that Pete bought me on our honeymoon trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, oyster shells with our names on that were place settings at a friend's wedding and my candleholder friend Oswald the Octopus.

Drawing of our cat Cleo by our mega talented friend Anne
Feathered fascinator hat made by me at a class with Pearls and Swine
Pop Vinyl characters collected from various places like Amazon, eBay and Forbidden Planet
Time Turner Necklace from Harry Potter World at Universal Studios but also available here
Madonna statue and crucifix both from antique shops in Bruges
Jesus statue was a present from my sister


My husband and I are both music obsessed and so bringing this love into our decor came naturally. I mostly collect prints and posters at gigs we go to, but if I spot any online that catch my eye for bands that we love I like to grab them to add to the collection. I recently found an Australia based company called Beyond The Pale and I've become a bit obsessed - if I won the lottery I think I'd buy one of nearly all of their prints!

Also seen here is a print of a piece by one of my all time favourite artists John William Waterhouse and a defaced dollar bill that came with a print I purchased from a current incredible artist Kevin Llewellyn that I mounted on a spare scrap of fabric by the amazing Timorous Beasties. The tin hand was another purchase from the V and A Frida Kahlo exhibition.

Alkaline Trio Tour Poster Print by Beyond The Pale - $30.00 (purchased)


Collecting books is an obsession of mine and every room in our house is 'decorated' with them. I collect anything that interests me but my particular favourites are old ghost stories and historical volumes like the translation of the Egyptian Book of The Dead that fans of The Mummy may be aware of - yes it was an actual thing! I collect my books everywhere - from markets, second hand bookshops, antique warehouses and fairs and various online resources. 

I struck gold recently on eBay winning this antique black corner unit with mirrors for just a tenner and it has pride of place filled with books and being guarded by Shaun the Prawn which was a Valentines Day gift from my husband that he got at Zara Home a few years ago.


More trinkets from my travels live on this shelf including a cuddle bat and old copy of the world of Percey Shelley that I found when we visited gorgeous Gloria and Ali in Glasgow. The ceramic hands were found at various vintage fairs and I painted the lady face plant pot on a trip to Center Parcs one year. The print is by Kevin Llewellyn who is mentioned above and is of my favourite sculpture The Veiled Bride that usually resides at the amazing Chatsworth House.


The kitchen can be a tricky place to personalise if you have limited space but we're fortunate enough to have the original range in our cottage that makes a perfect focal point slash book shelf! Of course I haven't been able to hold back here either and have decorated the chimney breast with an amazing neon light, vintage liquor adverts and postcards that I bought at a concert. My giant Cointreau bottle ice bucket also resides here along with a neon heart light that I got as a secret santa present last year!

Cocktails Neon Light by Prezzybox - £75.00 (* gifted by the brand)
Vintage vermouth ads purchased online
Fake travel postcards bought at a Caro Emerald concert
Vintage Cointreau Ice Bucket - Winged Ape Loughborough (purchased)


I've managed to add a touch of eccentricity to my office too with the addition of a decorative table hanging bar, some shelves and nicnacs and of course more art prints. I also an out of room on my jewelry organiser and so I started hanging light necklaces from my fake trailing plants, but I liked the effect so much I've carried on doing it!

Table Hanger Rack by Clas Ohlson - £14.99 (purchased)
String Bulb Lights by Clas Ohlson - £19.99 (purchased)
Swan Hanging Planters by Flying Tiger Copenhagen (purchased)
Faux Trailing Plant by Ikea - £6.00 (purchased)
Leopard Bauble Decorations were a gift from my Mother in Law


As someone who loves 'pretty stuff' storage is key for me and naturally if the storage itself is decorative all the better! The wall shelf trend has been a big help with this and I have quite a few little display shelves dotted about the cottage now.

Wire Shelf by Matalan - £16.00 (* gifted by the brand)
'N' Book from The National Portrait Gallery (purchased)
Lobster Bottle Opener purchased at a little shop on Spetses island in Greece
Gold pen pot by Primark (purchased)
The Library Scented Candle by True Grace (purchased - my favourite candle of all time!)


The Future Is In Your Hands Print by Oh Deer - £12.95 (purchased)

I hope you've enjoyed this post and that it's given you a few ideas for your own home - I'd love to see photos of anything you add that was inspired by this piece!


To keep up to date with my future posts and other adventures just follow me on
Twitter  -  Bloglovin  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Google+

*This post contains items that were gifted for review. For more information head to my disclaimer page.