Friday, 29 November 2013

Byron Burger (Anti Monday Blues)

This week, I had a Bad Monday Mood. I was tired, and I was grumpy. Black coffee didn’t help. A shower didn’t help. Even a mid morning diet coke at my desk – usually a bit of a cure all – didn’t cheer me up. My boyfriend was off work, which made me even grumpier, until he agreed to take me out for lunch.

I get an hour, so there was no time for fussy dining. Anyway, there was only one thing that was going to cheer me up – Byron Burger.

Byron is no ordinary chain restaurant, at least not in my book. It serves proper, chunky burgers, cooked medium, on soft toasted buns. I went for the cheeseburger with Monterey Jack cheese, perfectly melted.

Ian had the chilli burger with fries.

I prefer the courgette fries. They might sound like vegetables – and you can tell yourself you’re eating something healthy, if it makes you feel better – but these deep fried, crunchy yet soft pieces of deliciousness tastes far from the courgettes your Mum used to put in a roast dinner!

Washing it all down with yet more diet coke (what can I say – it’s an addiction), I finally felt my mood returning to something resembling normal. If only I could do that every Monday! 


Monday, 25 November 2013

Southampton Christmas Market

I love German markets. I’m not sure there’s anything better than the combination of Christmas music, bratwurst and mulled wine, when it’s cold outside and everyone’s in a happy, festive mood. I have a friend who lives in Southampton and we’ve been planning to visit her for ages, so when she said there was a Christmas market on, I thought, who cares if it’s only December? Let’s go!

We were very much planning on going for sausages and mulled wine. However, our night out in Lennon’s involved too many of these ‘special’ vodka cocktails, and we all felt far too worse for wear...

We had to get our strength back up with a Wagamama’s before we were capable of staggering out into the fresh air!

The market was really pretty, and once I felt healthier again I wished I’d saved some appetite for the sausages…

We did manage to fit some candy floss in, and enjoyed wandering up and down the pretty stalls.

Some of them had slightly lost their authenticity… a mobile phone unlocking stall?! Not really in the spirit of Christmas!

There were ice cream stalls, chocolate stalls and just about every type of hot food you could want, from Mexican to Indian. It was just a really nice place to spend a Sunday morning with friends, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re in the area (and want to get into the Christmas spirit early!) It's made me even more excited for Winter Wonderland this year!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Clarins Foundation and Free Gifts!

I’m a very happy girl, and not just because it’s Friday. This week, I realised I’d run out of foundation. That's not the happy bit, that's the bit where I stared in terror at my reflection in the mirror, and immediately ran with a paper bag over my head to the nearest Clarins counter to restock...

Firstly, I don’t think I’ve ever properly raved about my love for this foundation. I have used the Clarins Matte Foundation since I was 19. It’s changed formula several times since then, and the current one is called the Ever Matte Foundation in 112, Amber. Although I’ve flirted with other foundations, this is the one I always come back to. I have oily skin, so I love the matte finish; it’s full coverage, it never breaks me out and it leaves my skin feeling all soft and velvety. The only downside is that the bottle isn’t opaque, so you can’t see how much product you have left – ergo I run out without noticing, leading to paper bag moments.

It costs around £24, which – although not cheap, obviously – isn’t the priciest foundation in the world. However, when I asked the girl behind the Clarins counter for it this week, she asked if I wanted anything else, because if you bought two products (I think any products, but I’m not 100%) you got a free gift.

I’m a sucker for anything free, so obviously I wasn’t going to pass that up! I did think about picking up a treat like a new eyeshadow or lip gloss, but as Christmas is coming, I decided against it. Instead, I just decided to get two foundations… I mean, I wear it every day, so it’s basically an investment. Right?

(Sorry about this photo by the way - I took them in a rush at night, I didn't think 'ooh, a plug, what a lovely back drop.')

When I saw the free gift, I actually couldn’t believe it. I was expecting a couple of little samples, but instead I received:

Full size shea butter body lotion  and body scrub
Full size multi active day cream
Travel size one step cleansing water (which I actually mentioned way back in my April favourites here)
Travel size bath and shower concentrate
Travel size foot beauty treatment cream

I think this is incredible value for a free gift, so if you use Clarins products or you’ve ever fancied trying them out, I’d head down to Boots now! 

I’ve given most of the free products a quick try and I particularly love the day cream, which is specially designed to prevent wrinkles on younger skin, and the bath concentrate, which felt really luxurious on my skin. Let me know if you’d like full reviews on any of the products!


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

York Part 3: All the pretty villages

Saturday was our final full day in Yorkshire, and the first thing we did was head to the York Dungeons. I went to the London Dungeons when I was 13 and was absolutely terrified, so I’m not sure why I thought this was such a great idea! They didn’t allow flash photography so sadly there aren’t any photos of my terrified face, but I will tell you that it was really good fun and that you should go if you’re in the area! We walked out over the river and I took one last photo of the beautiful view.

I needed calming down after my scary morning so we headed to the little village of Helmsley, about an hour from the town centre, driving through the winding countryside.

This was on recommendation from my parents (when did that happen? I’m getting old) but I’m glad we took it.

We wanted to go for lunch and on the way I said to my boyfriend ‘I hope there’s a tea room.’ There were about ten! I was spoilt for choice, and it took ages to choose, looking through all the little windows and staring greedily at piles of cakes and sandwiches. 

In the end, starving and cold, we picked a cute little place called the Creama Coffee House. 

I had a tea and my boyfriend ordered this frankly epic hot chocolate.

I’m going to be honest…I drank quite a lot of it. It was heavenly!

We spent the rest of the afternoon happily wandering around the village. The shops were full of Christmas gifts and little souvenirs. 

There was a little carnival in the centre playing happy music as the sunset.

The ruins of a 900 year old castle look down over the village. We walked up to the castle steps and looked up at it (although it was too late to visit it properly).

All the shops were quaint, independent places. We bought old fashioned sweets and Christmas decorations.

Even the walk back to the car was pretty!

Sunday was our last day and after an epic hotel breakfast, we decided to visit Whitby (which it turned out was going an hour in completely the wrong direction – but never mind).

The harbour is beautiful and we walked along the pier, stopping to look through the pretty shop windows or to play with cute dogs. You can walk up to the cliffs and see the abbey that inspired the book Dracula, but sadly we didn't have time, so we just looked up from below!

My boyfriend annoyed a sea gull, and terrified me, by climbing a giant gun…

We went along the coast, which is such a pretty, typically English seaside. There were even donkeys. Unfortunately they kept pooing all over the place, and the woman with them spent most of the time clearing up after them crossly - it wasn't picturesque, but it was pretty funny!

Ian then decided to scare me further by scrambling up the cliffs! I heard my mother's stern voice in my head and sensibly stayed on the ground.

 The sun was low in the sky by the time I finally accepted my fate and reluctantly got back into the car to start the long, long journey home. 

We just had time for one more stop off at the Hole of Horcum on the way. Legend has it that this valley was made by a giant who scooped up a large chunk of earth and threw it at his wife, creating the nearby hill. There's a boring real life explanation involving water or something but I think the legend version is much better!

Yorkshire is such a lovely place and anyone who lives there is very lucky – I’m hoping to return next year! 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

York Part 2: Bettys Tea Room and a Viking Experience

There’s only one place I would ever go for lunch or afternoon tea in York, and that’s Bettys Café and Tea Rooms.

Established in 1919, Bettys is a Yorkshire institution for a reason. I drank my first hot chocolate in the flagship branch in central York, hungrily ate my first club sandwich in the Harlow Carr café after running round the parks, and bought my Dad tea in the Harrogate shop. I couldn’t wait to take Ian there so, on Friday, we joined the queue (it always looks a bit scarily long, but it moves quite quickly) and waited happily in the cold.

All of the Bettys tea rooms have a shop and acafé, and the shop is well worth a look around even if you don’t want to eat there.

They stock just about every kind of tea or coffee you could want, as well as piles of delicious looking pastries, cakes, macaroons and biscuits.

The Christmas treats were particularly hard to resist as we queued on our way in!

We were seated downstairs in the Oak Room. Some people prefer to eat in the main dining room – I actually don’t mind, although I do recommend that if it’s your first visit, you ask to wait (they’re used to it and don’t mind at all). Downstairs is a big, oak panelled room with cosy corners where we sat and ordered drinks – tea, obviously!

Bettys is great either for a casual snack – they do amazing scones and tea cakes – or for a bigger lunch, which is what we were after. My boyfriend picked a classic macaroni cheese.

I went for chicken Caesar salad with bacon, which I didn’t expect to be so impressive – I loved the touch of having the bacon wrapped around the chicken, and the little pine nuts were great for adding extra flavour!

Oh, and I had a bowl full of completely gorgeous, crunchy yet fluffy chips.

I recommend practically everything on the menu. I go every time I go to Yorkshire and it’s always a treat – the service is impeccable, attentive and friendly, and whilst it is slightly on the pricier side, it’s something everyone can afford once in a while. If you get a chance, go!

To walk off all that food we decided to take a little trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre, which is a reconstructed Viking village, built on the remains of an actual Viking settlement which you can see beneath your feet.

It’s fascinating – and also good for lazy people, as you just hop on a ride, which takes you round the various Viking houses! 

It’s a really fun tour, as well as informative – I’m a bit of a history geek and I found seeing the skeletons of actual Vikings particularly impressive.

Oh, and messing about in the gift shop, obviously...

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the shops, and the little street called the Shambles. I could spend forever (and a fortune) here... 

On the way out, I grabbed a black forest hot chocolate in Costa, which I just had to mention here because it was SO good – next time you see a Costa, go and grab one!

We walked back to the car over the river, enjoying the view.

For dinner, we headed to a little Indian on the outskirts of York which my boyfriend visited as a child – the Taj Mahal. It was really quiet, which is a shame because the ownership has recently changed hands and the food is excellent. Anyone in the York area, I recommend you give it a go!

Last few days in York tomorrow…it already feels like so long ago!
© Cat Cruse. All rights reserved.