Thursday, 27 June 2013

A Game Of Thrones – A Song Of Ice And Fire, Book 1, Review

Somehow, some way, I always seem to miss popular new TV fads. I only hear of them when they’re in their fifth season or something, and then even if I think they sound amazing, five series’ worth of box set watching just seems like a big investment of time! That’s exactly what happened with Game Of Thrones.

Game Of Thrones TV ShowI noticed a slowly mounting hype surrounding the new series, a growing number of Facebook statuses and Tweets…and eventually I found myself inclined to ask a friend what all the fuss was about.

‘You mean you haven’t watched it?’

He looked at me as though I’d said I didn’t have a head, and proceeded to tell me that it was a bit like a newer, better Lord of The Rings (a big claim) and that I absolutely had to watch it or die and I should go and lock myself in a room and watch it all right now and so on. Which I’m sure, at some point, I will. But then he said these fateful words:

‘Of course…the books are better.’

Now, I find it hard to invest my time watching television, but reading books? That’s another matter. Reading on the train, reading in the bath, reading for 15 minutes before bed - it's so easy to fit in. I downloaded the sample to my Kindle that evening. My advice to you? Don’t bother with the sample, just download the book. It’s not expensive (I think I paid just over £3) and you’ll want to read it, because it’s brilliant.

For the 5 people left in the world that don’t know, Game Of Thrones concerns a medieval world in which the honourable Stark family attempt to live alongside the scheming Lannisters. It’s not a nice world – George R R Martin is a big fan of killing off his characters, but while the book is shocking at times, it is never gory for the sake of it. The book moves at a deliberately slow pace, all the while building up suspense, threats looming from the very beginning – ‘Winter is coming.

If you’re looking for a novel that can take you into a different world, I couldn’t recommend this more. It’s not always the easiest book to read – you often know more than the characters do, and try to will them into making different decisions to the ones they make; the good guys do not always win, and the bad guys aren’t always so bad as to become thoroughly unsympathetic. But that’s what makes it human, and  - despite being set in another time – suprisingly easy to relate to. Also, you've got to get to grips with quite a few different characters and names - don't worry about it too much. The important people become clear, and there will always be a reminder of who someone is if they re enter the plot. You'd need to draw a family tree if you wanted to really keep track (and I'm sure, if you Google it, someone probably has!) 

I'm half way through the second book now and really enjoying that too. I know I will be finishing the book series and – okay – I might admit defeat and watch the TV show too. This is one fad that I thoroughly recommend buying into!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Instagram A Week In My Life #2

I thought I'd give you all another little snapshot into what I've been up to lately. As you can see, I've mostly been eating and drinking - as ever! I've been getting ready for a festival and my up coming holiday, so expect some posts on those soon! Until then - enjoy!
1. Lazy Sunday riverside walk 2. Lamb chops 3. Ready for an evening wedding
4. Mini macaroons, chocolates & marshmallows 2. Mercedes Car Show, Canary Wharf
5. Eel and salad 6. Hers and his drinks with my boyfriend!
1. The best way to drink wine - from a plastic cup on the train! 2. Gorgeous flowers 3. Starbucksing
4. Hotel room life 5. Travel essentials
6. Chocolate souffle, popcorn ice cream and chocolate sauce 7. A little bit of Mexican - chicken tortilla and green rice


Monday, 24 June 2013

What's On My Face? - Travel Edition

I went away for a wedding this weekend, and thought I'd give you a quick glimpse into the make up I took away with me. For some reason, I forgot to add to my photo the Urban Decay Naked palette, which I used for my eyes (I just have the original palette as I prefer it's golden tones to the Naked 2 palette's silvers!) 

Travel Make Up
From left to right: Sleek blush in Rose Gold, Revlon lip butter in Strawberry Shortcake, Max Factor Masterpiece mascara, Clarins Matte Foundation in Amber, Rimmel Hide the Blemish concealer, Essie nail polish in Fiji
L'Oreal Glam Bronze trio, Benefit moon beam highlighter, Too Faced blush brush,  Bourjous Paris blush in Lilas D'Or, Max Factor Colour Elixir lip pen in Foxy Amber, Benefit Erase Paste

I know there's quite a lot here, but these are all products I really love and wanted to share! Do any of you use any of these products?

Friday, 21 June 2013

A happy quote, because it's Friday and I have a diet coke

And don't be sorry.'

 - Jack Kerouac

He didn't say 'and even if it's overcast, always be the one in the sea', but I think he would have agreed if you asked!


Thursday, 20 June 2013

A little bit of chick lit loving...

Firstly, my 100 follower give away ends tomorrow! Go enter to win products from Lush, Soap & Glory, Essie and Urban Decay!

OK, I'm not normally a massive fan of chic lit (chick? Like a baby chick? Or chic, as in 'she's so chic'? I can't decide...) but over the last week my job has been incredibly busy and stressful, and on my way home I've just wanted to dive into another world - a frothier, easier world, where true love always finds its way and everything has a happy ending!

In case any of you were feeling the same, I thought I'd share my top 3 chick lit books, great to chuck in your suitcase for a summer read!

1. Sophie Kinsella - I've Got Your Number

chick lit chick lit chick lit

This is the book I've just finished reading, and I really enjoyed it. Author of the 'Shopaholic' series (which is absolutely fantastic - read that too, if you haven't already), Sophie Kinsella's writing is bubbly and funny to the point where it genuinely made me laugh out loud on several occasions! I've Got Your Number concerns Poppy, a physiotherapist who loses her engagement ring and consequently becomes embroiled in a series of turbulent events. It's genuinely well written, absorbing and full of clever little plot twists - I for one had no idea what was going to happen. Poppy is likable and you can relate to her as a real person - not like some of the beautiful, unrealistic heroines in other novels I've read! Pick it up now, you won't regret it!

2. Long Time Coming - Edie Clare

chick lit chick lit chick lit

My mum actually suggested this to me, and as it was free to download onto my Kindle (have a look - it may well still be!) I agreed to give it a go, not really expecting much. Since then, I've downloaded several more Edie Clare books to read - I loved it! Joy has moved back to the town where she lived as a child, and hasn't returned to since her childhood best friend, Jenny, was killed in a car crash. This book entwines mystery and even an element of the supernatural, which makes it sound like it would be far fetched rubbish, but it's actually a complete page turner and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of Edie Clare's books. 

3. I Don't Know How She Does It - Allison Pearson

chick lit chick lit chick lit

This is now more famous as the film starring Sarah Jessica Parker, which I haven't seen so can't comment on - but the book is definitely worth a read. I wasn't overwhelmed by the concept - a working woman with children and her struggles in life? How un-fun. But it's the complete opposite - it's a whirlwind book that constantly changes direction, and you won't be able to put it down until you know how it ends (unless, I guess, seen the film and already know!) 

Has anyone read any of these books? What are your top 3 chick lit suggestions? 


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

A Coconut Affair...

If you live in the UK then I'm pretty sure, like me, you've spent the last few weeks dreaming of summer. I sit staring out of the window at the predictably dreary sky, picturing tropical beaches and sparkling sea and white sand. If there's one scent that really encapsulates the smell of summer for me, then it's coconut, so maybe that's why I've been gravitating towards so many coconut products over the last couple of weeks!

coconut body products
Vaseline cocoa body oil & body butter, Boots coconut body wash
The Body Shop coconut butter, Nip & Fab Coconut Latte body butter

As I seem to be somewhat building a collection, I thought I'd do a quick review of my favourites!

The Vaseline cocoa oil and butter have been my favourites for years. I've got two oils - one of them is the new packaging and one is the old, and I can't remember which! The oil is great for wearing on a summer night out because it leaves a real sheen to the skin without being sticky, whereas the butter is a lovely light formula which I enjoy putting on in the morning - it sinks in faster than the oil, but still smells gorgeous.

Vaseline cocoa body oil coconut body products

The Boots coconut body wash is a new purchase; I bought it because I wanted to feel like I'd come straight off the beach when I got out of the shower! Maybe that was a bit unrealistic, but I'm still slightly disappointed with this product - it just doesn't have much of a scent to me, and the gel doesn't lather up particularly well. I remain in the market for a better coconut shower gel or body wash, if anyone knows of one!

nip fab body shop body butter coconut products

Last but not least - Nip Fab v.s. The Body Shop! The Body Shop coconut butter is becoming a bit of a cult product and I can see why. The smell is lovely and the butter is moisturising without being too heavy. However, for me, the Nip Fab butter just has to be the winner here. It's one of my favourite products of the moment - I'm constantly smelling it! Maybe it doesn't quite give me the satisfaction of being on a sunny beach, but it'll do till I get there! 

Do any of you have any coconut recommendations? Don't forget to enter my 100 follower give away - only a few days to go! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Bubbledogs – Hotdogs & Champagne?

When I first heard of Bubbledogs – a restaurant serving hot dogs alongside champagne – I knew I had to go! It took me a while to get around to it, but finally last night I grabbed my friend Simon – a chef who cooks at a Mitchelin star restaurant, so knows his stuff – and excitedly headed over to Charlotte Street (Goodge Street is the nearest tube).


We arrived at ten past six, and although I did expect a brief wait, I was quite surprised to be told it was 45 minutes. I dread to think how long you’d wait if you went at a peak time! There’s no bar to wait at – you have to stand in the corridor, so it can be a bit tedious. At least, unlike some unlucky people behind us, we didn’t have to stand in the rain!


When we got in we were given seats at the bar, which was okay, although again I’d really prefer to be seated at a proper table. Having said that, the waitresses and barmaids were so lovely and helpful that it wasn’t really a problem. We were brought menus, brown paper on little wooden clipboards, and selected a bottle of champagne. There’s a really good selection covering all price ranges from around £35 up to £250!


The waitress kept all the bottles in ice and poured our glasses. She was brilliantly attentive, making sure we were always topped up, and the champagne was gorgeous – crisp, clean and fresh.


Time to pick our hot dogs!


I went for the New Yorker, a pork frankfurter with onions, and Simon chose the Fourth Of July, with bacon, barbecue sauce and coleslaw.



We had a side of sweet potato fries – I didn’t like the sound of any of the other sides, but later wished I’d gone for some cheesy tots – the people next to us had some and they looked great!


My hot dog was okay. I don’t know if I’ve been spoilt by bratwurst in German restaurants and from markets, but I felt it was a bit lacking in flavour. I also wasn’t expecting a tomato-based sauce with the onions (maybe this is because I don’t know how they serve them in New York!) It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t set my world on fire. The sweet potato fries, on the other hand, were truly amazing!


Like I said the waitress service was exemplary, down to the little note they wrote us when leaving the bill…

In all, it was a fun evening, and I would thoroughly recommend going once just for the champagne itself, but it’s not somewhere I can see becoming a new regular. Maybe if they open a few more and I didn’t have to queue as long! Have any of you been to Bubbledogs? Would you go?


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Welcome To Liverpool!

As I mentioned in my last post, my boyfriend and I travelled up to Liverpool this weekend to go on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour! As it was part of my birthday present, he decided we would make a weekend of it and spend some time in the city.

View across the river from our hotel

I’ve never been to Liverpool before and had just heard stories of a run down industrial town, with closed docks and boarded-up houses, but the city has undergone a massive regeneration over the last couple of years. As we pulled up to our hotel right in the city centre, the sun was setting over the docks, and I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty it looked.
View from our hotel room!

We were shown up to our room on the top floor and looked out over the view. I didn’t realise Liverpool had a big wheel and decided we definitely had to go on it! The next day we went straight to the Beatles’ tour. After spending an hour or so in the Cavern, we emerged blinking into the sunlight. It was a beautiful afternoon for wandering around the docks. Red Bull were running a wake boarding competition so we stopped for a while to watch it.
Red Bull Wakeboarding

Finally we went back to the hotel for a quick swim and visit to the steam room. Then at sunset, we headed for the big wheel! You get a little pod to yourself and swing away into the air. It would’ve been really romantic if my boyfriend hadn’t kept making our pod rock precariously, terrifying me!

Big wheel
Wheel across the river
Bit nervous?!
Incredible views from the top

After the wheel we headed for dinner, which I was really excited for. My boyfriend had booked us a table at the Liverpool bar and grill and I couldn’t wait for my steak! First, we shared an Asian platter to start. Duck spring rolls, Thai fish cakes, chicken skewers, chilli squid and more, topped off with chilli and hoisin dipping sauces – I didn’t want it to end!
Asian platter


Luckily it did, and the waiter brought our steaks. I went for a classic ribeye with garlic butter and I have to say that it was one of the nicest steaks I’ve ever eaten. When I order rare I often find that waiters are over cautious and cook it a little too well for me, but this was perfect.

We shared a banoffee Eton Mess for dessert, which was incredible, and apparently so appetising to look at that I forgot to photograph it! Happy and satiated, we explored some of the Liverpool nightlife. There are some really gorgeous little bars along the dock, which had their windows open so it felt like we were sitting right at the water’s edge.

The next day on our way home we stopped off at Knowsley Safari Park. I love safari parks – I like zoos, but I do always feel that the safari parks are kinder to animals. I took loads of photos, but sadly I don’t think I’m cut out to be a nature photographer – most of them were of the backs of monkeys/elephants stalking away etc – so here are just a few of my slightly better ones!
A very pensive lion

Cheeky monkey!
Are you having a giraffe?

We drove home and were back on Sunday night in time for a big roast and some drinks. I had a really lovely weekend and from being a bit wary, would now thoroughly recommend Liverpool to anyone looking for a city break in the UK! 



Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Beatlemania – The Magical Mystery Tour!

I’m not sure I’ve actually mentioned my love for the Beatles in my blog yet, but if you follow me on Twitter you’ll probably know about it from my background picture! My Dad was a big fan of the Beatles when he was younger and, growing up, he’d play me and my sister some of their music – the more accessible, child-friendly songs like ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Octopus’s Garden’. As I grew up and became more interested in music I began listening to more and more of the Beatles’ back catalogue, and over time they became without a doubt my favourite band of all time – I know it’s an obvious answer, but it’s obvious for a reason!

In 2011 for a surprise birthday present I took my boyfriend, who is luckily as big a fan as I am, to see Paul McCartney play the 02 arena. It was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to with so many standout moments – I can’t do it justice with words. Anyway, this year for my birthday my boyfriend surprised me back with tickets for the Beatles Magical Mystery tour in Liverpool!
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour Bus
Roll up for the Mystery Tour!
This tour takes you by coach round the sites of Liverpool that were important to the Beatles lives – their childhood homes and schools, as well as places from their songs, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. We went down to Liverpool on Friday night and were up bright and early on Saturday to get on board!
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
Excited and ready to go!

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus

The whole time the tour guide played Beatles songs and told us some really good stories about Paul, John, George and Ringo. The entire coach, which comprised of several different nationalities including Spanish and Japanese, knew all the words to every song – imagine leaving that kind of legacy behind. It was incredible to see all the places that had been so important to the Beatles lives.
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
Penny Lane
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
On the road where George Harrison was born
The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
Strawberry Fields Forever

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
John Lennon's house

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus
Outside Paul McCartney's house

The tour wound up at The Cavern, the legendary club that launched the Beatles’ careers along with countless others. We gained free entry and spent a happy half hour inside among drinkers and music lovers alike.

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus

The tour was an amazing experience and one I would thoroughly recommend to any true Beatles fan! 

© Cat Cruse. All rights reserved.