All content and photos property of Charlie Elliott (unless otherwise stated). Powered by Blogger.

2014 Review: Culture

2014 cultural highlights

I started compiling the list of cultural things I've done this year and was really surprised by how much I've done. As with my 2014 Review: Eating and Drinking post, living in London makes it really easy to take advantage of new shows and exhibitions frequently, and you can guarantee that any band that tours will always drop into the city for at least one night.

[Food] 2014 Review: Eating and Drinking

food blogger 2014 favourites

I've made a few updates to this blog this year but one of the biggest is the overwhelming inclusion of food on these pages. I've realised that food is more than a mere interest to me, it is a real passion; I love making it, eating it, and it would appear, writing about it! I now go above and beyond to find new places to eat and drink (living in London makes that pretty easy) and 2014 has seen me discover lots of new favourites as well as some truly bizarre experiences as well. You can see all of my food posts here, but here's a low down of my highlights this year:

Weird and wonderful

The two most bizarre eating experiences I've had this year easily go to Dans le Noir and Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium. The former involves a completely secret menu served up in pitch black by an entirely visually impaired staff, the latter is a cafe where pet free Londoners can go and stroke kitties while scoffing cake. Neither win the prize for best food, but the experience of both was something to really revel in. 

dans le noir exterior shot london

inside london cat cafe

Meat sweats

There's been a couple of meals this year where I have fully understood the term 'meat sweats'. The first was a Bank Holiday feast with my cousin at Big Easy in Covent Garden. The sheer amount of food on my plate was verging on overwhelming, but the cocktails did well to help it all go down! There's also been the insane burgers from Mother Flipper at Wapping Market, and fried chicken on waffles at Home Sweet Home in Manchester - both of which have clogged my arteries and cut off the oxygen to my brain so much that I've HAD to join a gym. 

big easy meat and seafood platter

mother flipper burgers

fried chicken waffles

Lunchtime explorations

I've also really enjoyed finding new places to grab some quick lunch close to the office. Until very recently I worked just off Tottenham Court Road, and I highly recommend veering away from Oxford Street to explore the area. Some of my favourite places I've found this year have included Boopshi's (schnitzel and spritz), Barnyard (from the brain of Ollie Dabbous), and Heal's Quarter Cafe (hidden at the back of the TCR store and is perfectly serene ona day's shopping). 

schnitzel capers fried egg

gourmet sausage roll

Going out for drinks

As well as places to eat, I've found three firm new favourites in the shape of bars. I'm very much of the age where I like to be able to sit down and have a conversation with whoever I'm with. The French House in Soho is an old school type pub which actually specialises more in wine, and it's history of clientele is a who's who of mega famous literati. For cocktails I'll be spending more time at Happiness Forgets on Hoxton Square for an intimate setting and wickedly strong drinks, and moving to Earlham Street Clubhouse for those nights when I need themed drinks, massive pizzas and a quality jukebox. 

happiness forgets sign hoxton

As for 2015, my list of where I want to try is already enormous but I'm looking forward to seeing a London branch of the Parisian legend, Le Chateaubriand, exploring more of London's food markets and specialist shops, and attempting to tick off more visits in the book '1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die'. Watch out world, I'm still hungry. 

Follow me on Twitter / Facebook Instagram / Pinterest

Getting the Travel Bug

I love a holiday as much as the next person, but I've never been the type of person to go 'travelling'. I associate the word with gap years, rucksacks and Thailand; a rite of passage that people aged 19 - 24 go through to put off being a proper adult. I've always enjoyed my European beach holidays once a year, where I can read, drink and sleep for a whole week and come back with a mega tan and some dodgy biscuits for the office, but 2014 has really changed my whole perspective on the idea of travel.

Five Signs You Should Quit Your Job

how to know when to quit your job
Image source
It's that time of year where everyone contemplates the months just gone, and the year coming up. 2015 has lots of exciting things in store for me, but the biggest change is that I'm starting a new job in January! Handing in your notice is a pretty daunting prospect, and it's by far an easy process. Well before accepting another job and moving forwards in your career you have to first establish if leaving your current job is actually a good idea. There's conflicting feelings flying all over the place. 

What I've Been Eating #3

There's a pretty easy answer to the question 'What have I been eating?' According to the photos below, it's basically chocolate and burgers, and I'm definitely not complaining!

American candy

peanut butter mms, peanut butter cups, christmas oreos

There's a good tradition in my office that when you go on holiday, you bring back something delicious for the rest of the team. My colleague went to America and brought back a selection of extremely popular sweet treats which were devoured in a matter of minutes! I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter, so I went straight in with the E number fuelled Oreos and didn't regret a bite.

[Fashion] My Christmas Wardrobe

santa claus tshirt and gold midi skirt
I'm wearing:
Santa t-shirt - Primark
Gold skirt - vintage eBay find
Everyone owns a Christmas jumper. I'm not going to harp on about the best ones to find on the high street as there's plenty of blog posts out there that can do that better than me. What I did want to show you though, is how you can wear something Christmassy without it just being in knitted form.

[Lifestyle] How to Survive an All Night Movie Marathon

Selfies after each film at the Prince Charles Cinema's Christmas Movie Pyjama Party

All film lovers at some point in their fandom have embraced an all-nighter. I myself frequently put on sequel after sequel, especially when I'm sick; there is nothing that can cheer me up more than watching the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy in one sitting. 

Visiting Frankfurt's Christmas Markets

frankfurt christmas market at night

A couple of weekends ago, I treated my mum to a delayed birthday present of a weekend trip to Frankfurt to see the Christmas markets. I was super excited to spend a whole weekend with my mum and have some quality bonding time for a couple of days. I'm the type of daughter that you really can't shake; I moved out of home seven years ago (with a brief return after uni), but I speak to her on the phone a couple of times a week and I go back to my family home at least once every two months.

Degusta Box: The Monthly Food Box

If you're a regular visitor to the world of blogging, you'll have no doubt read about or ordered some kind of monthly delivery box. It's a pretty saturated market, especially in the beauty field, but there's never been one that's taken my fancy enough to actually hand over my money. I spotted Degusta Box on a few other blogs and when they offered to send me their November box to try I was so excited! I'd pick food over make-up any day, and a monthly box delivered to my flat full of new and delicious things for me to try appeals massively. So what's in the November Degusta Box?

[Fashion] Quilted Jumper, Delicate Jewellery

Quilted blue jumper, gold necklace, tweed coat
I'm wearing:
Coat: Warehouse (old - similar from River Island here)
Hoody: H&M
Jumper: Primark
Necklace: Susan Caplan x ASOS*
Handbag: Mulberry (bag not available but purse version here)
Jeans: J Brand (from TK Maxx)
Boots: Miu Miu (old - similar here)
One thing to keep in mind if you're planning to go to Frankfurt in Winter: it's bloody cold. At the very last minute I packed an extra hoody in case it was chilly in the hotel, but I ended up wearing it over every jumper I wore during our quick two day trip. To brave the outside I wore a t-shirt, jumper, hoody, coat, leggings, jeans, two pairs of socks, a huge scarf, gloves and boots. Most of the time this was all zipped up with just the top of my face peeking out, and these photos were taken very quickly 54 storeys up the Main Tower, so it was pretty nippy!

Head shot of blogger in quilted blue jumper

Gold chain with clasping hands

I love me some quilted tops. My favourite t-shirt is a quilted grey number from ASOS about two years ago, but I still get compliments on it even though I wear it probably once a week. This pale blue jumper gets a big tick for its texture, but also because of the colour. I'm loving the trend of pastel coats right now, but have yet to find one that suits me, so this bargain from Primark does the job for now. Chucked over my favourite jeans and boots, I was super cosy, and although it's a lot of blue, the fact that its varying shades doesn't make me look too much like a smurf.

My gorgeous necklace is from the Susan Caplan for ASOS* range. It comes in a set with matching clip-on earrings which I completely adore. I'm one for big statement necklaces, however this is small and delicate yet goes beyond a standard chain by having the clasping hands in the middle. This is definitely a new favourite to my collection.

Mulberry Kensal bag black

Can we also take a quick moment to look at my handbag? I got this beauty at the recent Mulberry sample sale at the Music Rooms, and although still pretty punchy in price, I couldn't resist and I don't regret a thing. It is a style I wasn't familiar with previously called the Kensal and it is the perfect small bag with so much storage and a long strap which helps with my dodgy back. I'm so in love!

Keep an eye open for my post on my trip to the Frankfurt Christmas Markets coming up soon!

[Lifestyle] Christmas Homewares Wish List

Christmas is a big deal in my family. My mum has boxes upon boxes in the loft full of Christmas paraphenalia ranging from bottle openers, napkins and the same bizarre glittery decoration that she always hangs from the downstairs toilet ceiling (not the prettiest thing in the world, but it wouldn't be Christmas without it!). I love that the whole house is Chrismas-fied; you want a satsuma? It's in the Christmas bowl. You want to crack a nut? Use the Christmas nutcracker? You need the toilet? Make sure you use the Christmas loo roll! I've compiled my favourite items for you to make every inch of your home as Christmassy as possible. After all, it's only 31 days to go!

Christmas tree chopping board
£4 George at Asda
Cocktail napkin
£6 Anthropologie
Christmas dessert plate
£14 Anthropologie
Christmas pudding serving platter
£14 Matalan

Christmas tea towel
£11.99 Mollie and Fred

Fairy light teapot
£30 Hunky Dory

Emma Bridgewater Mince Pie Plate
£19.95 Exclusively for Fortnum & Mason
 And finally, the favourite piece in my family that will come out again this year...

Merry Christmas Bitches pint glass
£8 Urban Outfitters
How do you decorate your house for Christmas?

[Life] November, 2014

November has been an extremely busy month! I've travelled up to Lancaster to see my little sister, went to a couple of gigs and attended loads of press days and met lots of lovely bloggers. But the best bits of the month were a quick weekend trip to Frankfurt with my mum (blog post to come soon!) and the exciting news that I quit my job! And now it's December which means it's almost Christmas, and I will become unbearable in approximately three days through an overdose of tinsel and carols.

Anya Hindmarch x Kellogg's rock my breakfast this month
Shopping in Primark and working in social media go hand in hand!
A sneak peek at the Gwen Stefani x Zalando range coming out next year
The gorgeous poppy display at the Tower of London

Mother/daughter selfie at the top of the Main Tower in Frankfurt
So addicted to Serial podcast!
Fireworks at Lancaster Castle
At the tills at the Mulberry sample sale, indulging a little bit too much!

Making homemade smoothies for breakfast!
Meeting some other lovely bloggers at the Mishanto jewellery launch
Attending the Universal Studios 2015 previews
Sitting in the loveseats at Curzon Victoria to watch Interstellar

Follow me on Twitter / Facebook Instagram / Pinterest

[Opinion] I'm Old Enough to Be in 'Friends'

On my recent annual pilgrimage to the Friends box set a horrific realisation hit me: I’m now the same age as the main characters in series one. I’ve watched this programme for over a decade, and I’m not ashamed to say I still find it hilarious. I cried at every wedding, child birth, and was verging on hysterical during the final ever episode (SHE GOT OFF THE PLANE!).
It’s just that everything they do now is both completely relatable and unbelievably unrealistic. They've set up more expectations about life than a Richard Curtis marathon and a Disney princess rolled into one. Here's the real life lessons I've gained from the world's most loved sitcom:
- I spend too much money on clothes I can’t afford but not enough to terrify me as I do NOT have parents or friends that can bail me out of a situation I get myself into.
- I love to cook, but if my friends constantly came over to my flat and raided my fridge, I would kick their arses OUT quicker than they could find the dodgy Philadephia on the bottom shelf.
- NOBODY can afford that apartment. Rent control or not, that place is obscenely big. It’s only now that I live away from home in a big city myself and consider my flat a reasonable size that I’ve realised how absolutely obscene Monica’s place is.
- The men in my life don’t seem to crawl back apologetically, they definitely do not put up with any hissy fits I have, and don’t do that stupid head tilt/smile/say something lovely thing that Chandler always does after reassuring Monica that her frankly alarming OCD level of cleaning is actually cute and then follows it up with a kiss.
- I worry about my career path and my relationship (despite them both being absolutely fine), and they both consume the vast majority of the conversations I have with my friends. This really is enough to fill 10 series, so it makes sense to me now. In fact now I think of it, that’s all I ever talk about.
- Eating ice cream straight from the tub and making tiki death punch to cure any woe is also a thing.
- Dates with people you think could only possibly exist in a sitcom actually happen (thanks to my wonderful girl friends for updating me on these bizarre situations!)
- People really do spend that much money on coffee
So which 'friend' am I? I have moments of being as clueless as Rachel, quite a few times where I'm as obsessive as Monica, and I'm probably as 'head-'in-the-clouds' as Phoebe at least four days a week. But it all worked out for them; I just need a signature haircut, rent-controlled apartment, and an acoustic guitar. Easy peasy!
Follow me on Twitter / Facebook Instagram / Pinterest

[Lifestyle] BBC Good Food Show 2014

The BBC Good Food Show is a foodie's dream. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, the place is stuffed with stalls selling and sampling the widest variety of delicious things. I didn't go along with the intention of buying anything, but it's amazing what a breakfast of cheese and gin samples can do to a girl's willpower.

And oh my there was a lot of cheese. A couple of my favourites were the Snowdonia Cheese Company's Amber Mist, a mature cheddar made with whisky, and the Them Krystal six month mature from Danish company Jutland Highland Cheese. Just as I did at Wapping Market, I was pulled into the stand selling a range of obscure herbs and spices. The habanero chillies I bought there have gone down very well in my flat, so this time around I bought Naga Ghost Chillies. Dizzy on the excitement I stupidly tried one tiny spot of Juju sauce from Mushemi Fire. Good God. It is a heat that builds until my nose ran, my eyes were watering and I was unwittingly producing an abnormal amount of saliva. And I can't emphasise this enough, it was literally ONE tiny drop on a strip of flour tortilla. Thankfully there was a delicious apple juice sample next door to help me recover a bit quicker!

three types of cheddar cheese

danish cheese sample packet

herbs and spices

naga ghost chillies

hot sauce sample bottle

Speaking of drinks, there were some cracking choices to be had. I've seen Belvoir cordials before, but the apple, plum and cinnamon variety was served up with hot water instead and was amazing. I snapped up a bottle all ready for cold Winter evenings when I don't want all the sugar in a hot chocolate or the caffeine in a cup of tea. I also tried Rebel Kitchen's dairy free chocolate milks, which I've actually had before. Made with coconut milk and flavoured with cocoa, matcha green tea or chai, they are a great adult lunch box alternative, but they're not quite a tasty as a regular milkshake; my friends loved them though - I think it's because I don't like coconut.

belvoir apple plum cinnamon cordial

rebel kitchen dairy free chocolate milk

On the upper floor of Olympia centre there were a lot of booze brands, including London's first winery, London Cru and some gorgeous packaging on numerous bottles. It was also packed with sweets and chocolates and cakes, but the stall that excited me the most was Spice Drops. This company creates concentrated extracts of spices from the real product, taking actual flavour not just creating an essence. I was intrigued and tried a few, sniffed many, and bought two: saffron and nutmeg. I'll report back here when I've used them.

portobello road gin

london cru winery review

pinkster gin fountain

cake display food show

liquid spice drops review

The pièce de résistance though was a live cooking demonstration with the Great British Bake Off legends Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. When there was an opportunity to get up on stage with them I practically pimped out my friend to get a chance, but to no avail. It was really exciting to see them in person though, and their chemistry together on stage was great. Lots of taking the mick out of each other and lots of great tips on how to get a great bake. Paul Hollywood even went into detail about why they picked Nancy as this year's winner as he's clearly been on the negative end of the whole 'Richard should have won' camp.

paul hollywood baking demonstration

mary berry paul hollywood cooking demonstration

All filled up on samples, star struck by my favourite TV chefs and lugging bags full of my own lack of willpower, I left the Show a very happy foodie indeed!

Follow me on Twitter / Facebook Instagram / Pinterest

[Opinion] Top Blogging Tips: Everyone's (Apparently) an Expert

original ideas for blog posts
Image source
I can't help but notice that there's an awful lot of people out there offering blogging advice. I'm not talking about cold-callers and spam emails, I'm referring to actual bloggers all giving their two cents on how to make it big in the blogging world. As we all know, blogging can indeed be a lucrative business, but let's make it clear, that's very much for the minority. The posts that keep appearing in my Bloglovin' feed can be incredibly helpful and very insightful, particularly when they come from bloggers who have made a lifestyle out of their hobby, but why are these posts being written by seemingly everyone? When does someone have the 'authority' to give this information? In most cases it's not the high ranking of the blogger, instead I think the answer lies in SEO. It certainly makes great search engine collateral for the writer as it's clearly a much talked about topic. However, I believe these posts, as much as they may intend to help, are increasingly making bloggers focused on the science of optimisation and encouraging unhealthy competition between fledgling sites. Why aren't we all just satisfied with reading and writing great content?

Readers. Subscribers. Unique views. Followers. Blogging is increasingly becoming about numbers, but where is the value in that? Ask yourself: why do you want the numbers? Is it so you can be seen by brands, or meet new people, or beat your friends? Is it because you don't feel like a real blogger if you have less than 100 people subscribed to you?

I've started to realise that the people who regularly visit this blog comment on posts, chat to me on Twitter and Like my updates on Facebook. They're not one time visitors; they return because they like what I'm writing about and that is so, so important to me. I changed the name of this blog recently because I rarely write about fashion and I wanted to have the freedom to say whatever the hell I wanted, whenever it suited me. I had fallen into the trap a while back of writing what I thought people wanted to read, but my heart wasn't in it. Yes, it may have drawn in a crowd, but they were just observers.

I work in social media and regularly work with bloggers on behalf of my clients. I love working with these influencers because they have integrity and honesty. We all read their sites because we trust what they say, more so than a magazine in a lot of cases, and believe me, if they don't think a brand is right for them and their site they will turn it down. I respect and appreciate that a huge amount. From a professional and personal point of view, what I crave most from a blogger is originality; whether that's a unique sense of style, a cheeky tone of voice or a new perspective on an old subject. Not only do I want to read that elsewhere but that's what I strive to write here too. 

Of course I'm not trying to dampen your dreams of being the next big blogging star or telling you not to strive for the best. Knowing someone is interacting with your hard work feels amazing, and I'll promote myself as much as the next person. After all the internet is a big place and I am one tiny voice trying to be heard. But think about what you're trying to achieve; remember that truth trumps numbers every time. And next time you ask somebody for a follow back or for some help to reach your next follower goal, ask yourself if you'd prefer true engagement with a dedicated, likeminded reader or another number that is using you for their own statistics. 

Follow me on Twitter / Facebook Instagram / Pinterest

[Fashion] Russell and Bromley Black Patent Loafers

When Winter kicks in, all brands talk about are boots. I get this; they're cosy and warm and waterproof, but sometimes I just want a pair of flats. The thing is, it rains a lot in London and the puddles are plenty. My favourite pair of studded Jeffrey Campbell flats are starting to come to the end of their life, as I found out on the way to a job interview and turned up feeling like I'd just waded through the Thames to get there.

I spent half an hour in Russell & Bromley trying on just two pairs of shoes. I could not make up my mind between the black patent loafers and the oxblood chelsea boots. I can't help but be drawn to anything in oxblood, maroon, burgundy or anything along that part of the colour spectrum - it's my Autumn/Winter shade that goes perfectly with my grey and black staples. But NO! I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO BUY BOOTS! This was not the plan and I must stick to the plan! I wanted flats so I was buying flats.

So I bought flats.

Russell and Bromley Keeler Tassel Loafers £165
Shiny, shiny patent leather with the cutest secretarial style tassels on the front. Simple, elegant and a shoe that literally will go with anything. So far I've worn them with jeans, skirts and dresses; with tights and without, with sparkly socks and nay. They have an androgynous feel that leans towards prim and proper office-wear, but when I wear them they feel so luxurious. 

As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review