Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Gift guide for mums

It is my mum's birthday this Friday (yay, another gift-giving stress) so I thought I'd put together another gift guide - again under £25, £50 and £100 - to give me a way of looking at all my 'research' and to possibly help others who are looking for a little inspiration. My mum is very much interested in beauty and fashion, so these choices do all tend to lean towards that kind of thing...

Under £25

Under £50

Under £100

As much as I am a fan of the birthday list (you get what you want and the present-giver can be happy in the knowledge that you're really going to love what you get - win-win), if you're up against the dreaded 'I don't know, surprise me' response, then I think the best gifts for mums are ones that they might not usually buy for themselves.

Whaddaya think? Would your mum be happy to unwrap one of these bad boys on her birthday?

Sunday, 28 July 2013

It doesn't matter if you're (wearing) black or white

As the weather is cooling down a little again, I'm excited for covering up. As much as I enjoy the sun, I'm much more of a winter-dresser than a summer one. Similarly, I like that it allows me to revert back to my monochrome (ish) ways. So, here are a few ways to wear my favourite colour combination as the weather cools off a little...

Team Miuccia monochrome

(Helmut Lang leggings, LPD New York T-shirt, Vans trainers, Tiffany ring, Vita Fede ringEddie Borgo bracelet, Topshop backpack)

It's not just me that gets really excited about getting to wear black and white without looking 'unseasonal' is it!?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

How to throw the perfect dinner party...NOT

On my 101 list, I challenged myself to throw a dinner party for reasons I'm not entirely be sure... I am pretty awful in the kitchen and have absolutely no confidence in my abilities (due to the fact they are so lacking) and live in constant fear that I am going to give my 'victims' food poisoning. Therefore, I like to seriously overcompensate with decorations and alcohol (I apologise for the differing lighting throughout, they were taken at various points throughout the day):

I picked up the table runner, place mats, napkins and candles from a cracking shop called Butlers that is quite similar to Crate&Barrel but on a much smaller scale; it is the type of place that sells things that you didn't know you needed until you saw them. It's also pretty affordable, the candles were only 99p for instance. I tried to keep costs low as much as possible so, as it was a very informal evening, I just used paper napkins and little plastic kid's bowls as side 'plates' for bread, as my little flat is definitely not well stocked enough with crockery. I realise that the table could be viewed as a little gaudy, but I think that it works well in this sweltering summer heat. I personally really like the colour clash and think the massive white hydrangeas break it up well. As for the bubbles, well, what is life without whimsy. 

I also set up a little 'bar' which later had olives, flowers and prosecco, but unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of that. I tried this funkin' bellini purée as I didn't want to be messing about trying to make my own, but I wasn't impressed really - it took a lot to get any real taste from them. And as for the cocktail shakers, I LOVED them when I got them as they're really bright and fun, but before even using them two of the 'heads' had broken off, which was very upsetting. I picked these up at Butlers, so just as a warning, they aren't the most fantastic quality.

As for food, it was definitely not haute cuisine. The menu consisted of scallops and butternut squash purée (that was it, I forgot to put the other ingredients in), salmon with ratatouille and couscous, Eton mess (which I forgot to get a picture of, but I served them in Kilner jars as I didn't have enough bowls) and my amazing cheese board - this is the bit I'm most proud of, mainly as I wasn't responsible for any of the food. I stuck with the classic rule of one hard, one soft, one blue and one goats with crackers, grapes and chutney and it was pretty darn good. Sadly, though, I had plied my guests with so much food and alcohol that they didn't want any more by the time this came out and so this is now sat in my fridge and stinkin' up the joint. Marvellous.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Mid-year resolution: be a better girl

The weather has been glorious recently, but rather than enjoy the amazingness, I have spent an excessive amount of time watching beauty videos and reading blogs, and they're really making me want to go out and buy every single skincare product and item of makeup mentioned. I have watched HOURS of Zoella and Sprinkle of Glitter videos. And I know what you're thinking: you don't have a job, Lucy, maybe you should focus on that first. Well, I'm sorry, I can't help it, and hey, maybe better skin will help to get me a job...?! (I like to try to rationalise every life decision in such ridiculous ways).

I have been massively neglecting my skin recently and I don't really know why. It's not as if I have a high-powered, stressful job getting in my way or a jam-packed social life that is taking up all my time... Anyway, we're sort of half way through the year and so this seems like a great time for a resolution: I will take better care of my skin and learn how to stick creams and colours on my face in order that they make make it marginally more appealing.

I am very much one of those people that finds a makeup regime and sticks to it: same primer, concealer, foundation, blusher, eye liner and mascara. I don't even wear something on my lips every day as it scares me. I may have mentioned this before, but I have a really bad fear that I am going to look like a drag queen (not that there is anything wrong with that, I - not so secretly - wish I was a drag queen) and so I am not very creative when it comes to colours and fancy makeupin'. BUT, I absolutely love beauty products and have drawers full of unused products and I figure, I'm 22, if ever there were a time for atrocious makeup disasters, it would be now - old enough to half understand how to use everything/enough sense to start again if I look like Marge Simpson post-makeup gun, but young enough that at least I can console myself that I don't look like mutton dressed as lamb.

So, to start things off, I have just purchased my first EVER red lipstick, thus making me a proper grown up. It was this bad boy (only £5.49, as I wanted to make sure that it was going to look RIDICULOUS) and so far, I'm liking it: Rimmel Lasting Finish by Kate Moss 01.

I reckon this is a slippery slope and, if I'm making a video similar to this within a year, please come round to my flat and cut my credit card into tiny pieces and disconnect my internet to prevent me from ever buying a beauty product again!

This has been a bit of a nonsense post really, but essentially, I'm going to be buying more makeup and talking about it. So, there's that to look forward to...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Men's Gift Guide

I have 3 VERY difficult men that I have to buy gifts for at least twice a year: my dad and two brothers. I don't know if all men are like this but they don't want ANYTHING. My dad and eldest brother generally just don't 'use' very many things and my other brother just buys himself anything he likes (and has very expensive taste). With all three birthdays and Fathers' Day within two months of each other, mid June-mid August are particularly stressful shopping times.

So, whilst I'm searching frantically online, I thought I'd create a little guide so I can see everything side by side and maybe even help others who are suffering with the same pain! Here's a selection, depending on your budget...

   Under £25

Gifts for men under £25

1) Jack Daniels  - easy gift that will always go down well.
2) Ted Baker socks - fail-safe option; people need socks and these ones are a party in all the right places.
3) Topman t-shirt - who doesn't want a t-shirt with a French Bulldog on?
4) Book - sure to make any foodies happy.
5) Scratch-off map - a nice way to document where you've been/where you have left to go and it doubles up as a poster!
6) iPad case - this is the ultimate nerd alert! If you know what this is, you should be as embarrassed as I currently am. However, if you have a Back to the Future fan in your life, and you're looking for a fun, thrifty present, then this is an absolute winner.
7) BBQ - all men love to barbecue, and this one folds up to nothing so that they can show these skills off wherever they go. And it's only £24.99. Amazing.

Under £50
Men's gift guide under £50

1) Hand wash and lotion - my brother has just moved into a new flat, and so this is a boring, but useful present.
2) Hip flask - secret drinking, but keepin' it classy.
3) Ted baker swimming shorts - hopefully there is still enough summer left to get your money's worth out of these.
4) Vans - a little bit of a cheat at £52, but it'd be worth skipping that latte for just one day.
5) Chocolates - one of those gifts that is secretly a little bit for yourself too. But hey, if you're spending that much on chocolate, you deserve the treat.
6) Spicebomb - because nobody likes a smelly man.
7) Hamper - who doesn't like a Fortnum's hamper? This is a great selection of condiments, teas and chocolate all for £50.

Under £100
Men's Gift Guide under £100

1) Ralph Lauren polo shirt - the men of my family absolutely bum polo shirts, and this one is fairly safe.
2) iPhone case - a swanky Mulberry case for a swanky phone which would look very smart to take to meetings and generally show off.
3) Cheese gift set - I really love the idea of giving food gifts as you can be pretty sure they will be used and they can be treats that people wouldn't usually buy for themselves. This one is just so amazingly excessive that it's hard not to love. 
4) Card Holder - Zegna is a big winner with my siblings so this is a nice simple gift, that you can't really go wrong with (i.e. no wrong sizing!)
5) Up by Jawbone - I personally REALLY want one of these, although I'm not sure how useful they could actually be. But for men who like gadgets, this one is pretty cool. 
6) Oud and Bergamot cologne - a nice smell in nice packaging = perfect present.
7) Hugo Boss tie - again, a tie is a useful gift and you don't have to worry about sizing. This one is tasteful/muted enough to feel sure that it will be welcomed into their wardrobe.
8) Shaving accessories - I just love how old-school and everyday-indulgent this gift is.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Vine & Bloglovin: make me laugh in six seconds please

I admit it, I can be pretty late to the party when it comes to social media, I mean, who starts a blog in 2013?! BUT, I have sought to resurrect that and, as soon as I sign myself up to something, I quickly become obsessed (I currently have 7 tabs open up on my computer, and each of them is some form of social media - now I just need some friends).

So, in celebration of reaching my first 1000 hits on my blog (woo!), I am happy to announce that I am now on Vine and Bloglovin', and here are my favourite Vines so far:

I LOVE Eric Stonestreet, so no apologies for putting him in twice - there are few characters as perfect as Cameron in Modern Family. I am, however, finding it difficult to create anything so good - there is so much pressure to do something impressive in those six seconds!

Anyway, lemme know if you're on either of these so I can give you a follow. Follow my blog with Bloglovin here, if you are so inclined, or get my Vine through my Twitter: @Lucy_J_Cross orrr, just send me over some recommendations of who to follow.

(Who remembers that Uncle Kracker classic by the way?! Absolute blast from the past)

Friday, 19 July 2013

What to eat/drink/do in London this weekend

I follow a ridiculous number of PR companies, pop-up aficionados and random bars and restaurants on Twitter, that my feed is usually awash with exciting sounding things to do in London. So much so that it can be overwhelming. So, here is my hit-list of things to try out in the capital this weekend:

Street Feast London - Having tried out the food trucks at London Truck Stop already, I'm excited to see what the Dalston Yard sister event has to offer. Opening tonight, and continuing every weekend throughout the summer, this array of street food will be available each Friday and Saturday until midnight. And it looks good! Ranging from the standard (yet delicious looking) fare of hotdogs and tacos, through to the more exotic options of gyoza and dosa wraps (and the infamous Anna-Mae's mac'n'cheese from Truck Stop!), there is something for everyone. What's more, with entertainment on offer for adults (DJs and cocktail masterclasses) and children (workshops) alike AND the amazing weather, Street Feast London feels like a fail-safe option this weekend. @StreetFeastLDN

Pop up Ping Pong - Having grown over the past few months into an incredibly popular event, the PUPP team are taking their fun filled night to the lofty heights of the 29th floor of Millbank Tower (home to Altitude 360). With catering from the 'pop up slider bar' #BRGR and a free cocktail included in the £7 ticket you'd be hard pressed to find something not to like about this night. Ping pong, burgers and booze, oh my! @PingPopPong

The Hangover Club - In this weather, any excuse to be outside is a good one as long as it contains food and drink and no physical activity, obvz. Enter The Hangover Club, a few minutes walk from Tower Bridge - offering up everything you could want after a big night out, whether you're one for hearty breakfast burritos, healthier egg white omelettes, or hair of the dog Bloody Marys. And the Shakshuka sounds AMAZING. Make sure to book a seat if you're keen! @grub_club

B.O.B's Lobster - having visited Burger and Lobster as a pescatarian who didn't think they liked lobster, I was reluctantly drawn to the lobster roll and was an IMMEDIATE convert. So, what better than a roving camper van (although for ease, it is setting up shop this weekend at Borough Market) serving lobster rolls, lobster mac'n'cheese and lobster bisque?? Nothing. Nothing is the answer. @BOBs_Lobster

Crate&Barrel lust-haves

I think one of my favourite things about visiting America is shopping in the 'stores' that we don't have over here. Admittedly, they are slowly migrating over to this side of the pond (Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic, and soon J.Crew (yay!)), but there is one shop that I secretly absolutely love and wish would set up shop in the UK: Crate&Barrel.

I know, I know, my flat is a mess and I'm useless in the kitchen, but I am slightly obsessed with kitchen/tableware. We do have shops like Lakeland and John Lewis over here, but these just don't quite compare to the amazing Crate&Barrel; they seriously have the most ridiculously perfect things that you never knew you needed until you saw them.

For instance:

Crate & Barrel servewear
I mean, seriously, a platter for devilled eggs and a rack for tacos?? So OTT and yet perfect at the same time. And for somebody with a massive 'dip' addiction, that serving dish would be amazing, as would the pretty cocktail dispensers - imagine just setting that up and having mojitos on tap...
Crate & Barrel servewear 2
Seriously though... one gadget to take the top off a boiled egg, one to strip corn of its kernels, a honey dispenser, speech bubble cheese markers, and a little board with a hole for a wine glass so you don't have to worry about carrying it while enjoying canapés...these things should not exist!! But I am incredibly happy that they do... If only there was a Crate&Barrel in London. Boo.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Birthday wish list

It's my birthday next month (bleugh), and usually there isn't anything I particularly want, but since moving into my new flat and realising that 1) I can't just bob into my mum's room when I run out of makeup/toiletries/perfume or go shopping with her on a regular basis and 2) things are EXPENSIVE and I have to spend my money on really boring things like bills/food/transport, I have managed to rack up quite the list of treats.

There seem to be 3 main areas: things I use every day and am now running out of, things for my flat and things that are entirely excessive, but I can dream...
Birthday makeup

Quite simply, I'm coming to the end of a lot of my makeup and I'm trying to hold out so that I don't have to buy them myself. I figure it's helping out as my brothers like to be told what to buy and they can't really go wrong with this stuff.

Birthday home

My flat is lovely, but it isn't particularly home-y, so it definitely needs some scatter cushions to break up the incredibly uncomfortable boring black leather sofas. I also bought some prints online for the walls, but made the mistake of thinking they were framed and then when they did arrive, they were the most bizarre shapes for which, it seems, no frame has ever been made to fit. Therefore, I need to do some fancy mounting apparently. And then I just love Jo Malone and Molton Brown for a bit of everyday indulgence. And finally, my kitchen skills are seriously lacking, and so would like a little help/inspiration from the KitchenAid and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

This is the list for if any of my family/friends wins the lottery between now and the end of August...

So, if you're reading this and wondering what to get me, feel free to pick from any of the above - thaaaanks!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Review: Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter

Today. Was. Amazing. I went to Warner Bros Studio for the Harry Potter tour and it was SO FUN. I will warn you now that this is about the nerdiest thing I will ever admit to, but just look at the excitement:

Anyway, I could fill this whole page with pictures I took of all the things on offer, but I feel like that would bore the pants off you all (and unleash far too much of my inner nerd). Instead, here are a few of the 'best bits':
(Hogwarts Great Hall, Hagrid, Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore's Office)

(Ministry of Magic Floo network, Knight Bus, 4 Privet Drive, The Burrow)

(Zonko's Joke Shop, Hogwarts model, Diagon Alley, Ollivander's)

It really does make for a great day out; plenty to see - particularly the Great Hall and Diagon Alley -, well organised, not too busy (although we may have been lucky with a weekday out of school holidays...) and even if you're not that big of a Harry Potter fan (my sister's knowledge was seriously lacking) it's a great experience to see actual movie sets/props/behind the scenes if you're a bit obsessed with films, like myself. 

The tickets are £29 for an adult and obviously they try and get you to spend money left, right and centre (I definitely didn't buy a photo of myself riding a broomstick...), but considering you can spend as long as you like wandering around the place, it really does seem good value for money. And you get to ride broomsticks in robes. There's also a chance to try Butterbeer (and a number of Starbucks outlets and a £5 hotdog on offer) and you can live out pretty much any Harry Potter fantasy you like in the ridiculously large gift shop at the end - I cannot imagine anywhere else in the world with more owl memorabilia - so you can really let your nerd flag fly.

All in all, I would definitely recommend the Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros. Studio and I'd be more than willing to tag along again.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Review: Truck Stop London

As a self-confessed Americanophile (pretty sure that's not a word, but I couldn't find a Franco/Anglophile alternative...), I couldn't just sit in on '4th of July', and so I decided to try one of the options from my list. As it is a monthly event and, having never experienced the food truck phenomenon, I opted for Truck Stop London at Canary Wharf.

Although I've never been to a food truck site before, I think it's safe to say that the centre of London's financial district is a far cry from the concept's origins. However, the choice of Wood Wharf, a manmade island with a very green feel to it, actually worked pretty well and, if you can ignore all the city guys in suits, you could soon forget where you actually were.

We were some of the first people to arrive and, although that meant that we were the ones to face the few teething problems of the evening (we were feeling indecisive so asked for a description of every drink on offer at the bar until settling on wine and making the poor bar guy search everywhere for a corkscrew), it did also mean that we didn't have to queue for a single truck and didn't have to worry about anything running out.

Seeing as how I massively pigged out and had a carb overload, I won't go into great detail about what I had (vegetarian balls (lol) from The Bowler, mint and courgette arancini and Pimms lemonade from Cheeky Italian, classic mac'n'cheese from Anna-Mae's, and mango frozen yoghurt from The Little Mixing Station), but overall it was pretty good. I do feel like I failed as I had wanted to try out the star of the night, Mother Clucker, and the Taco Shack, but I very much overdid it early on and just had to give up (pretty sure I went into a food coma when I got home...).

Although it doesn't look too appetising, the veggie ball (with marinara sauce, rice, and sides of coleslaw and crispy onions) was really good but so much food! The arancini balls were great too (very minty!) but I did add red pepper sauce to them, which I think they definitely needed. As for the mac'n'cheese, it was definitely very popular (the queue was huge by about 7pm), and it did taste good, but for such a massive bowl, I once again had to add some sauce, this time of the hot variety. I think that this would have been amazing had I chosen a different version with toppings, but it wasn't the most veggie-friendly menu, so this was my only real option. If I ever cross paths with this food truck again though, I will be sure to ask if I can do a 'create your own'.

Desserts were a little bit disappointing, but as they're not really the star attraction of the event, I think this can be forgiven. Both the jelly and the fro yo were ok taste-wise, it was just the consistency that made it a bit difficult as the first was more like a puree and the other was a bit too lumpy, due to the mango bits.

All in all, it was a really fun event that I'm sure will only get better as time goes on and I would be really keen to visit again next month so that I can try the trucks I wasn't hardcore enough to get to!