Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Red Hot Buffet World Cardiff Review

I was delighted to win a meal for two at Cardiff's Red Hot Buffet World, as part of my runner's up prize from Capital FM at St David's Ladies Night, for not winning the big prize of a trip to New York.  Who needs New York, when you can travel the world's cuisine in one restaurant?

Looking at their website, I was impressed with the range of dishes on offer, with a good offering of vegetarian options, gluten free, halal, etc.  I eat low carb and it seemed from the website that this wasn't going to be a problem at all.

I then read lots of online reviews, and my delight turned to trepidation.  A free meal, is nonetheless a free meal, and so I thought we had better find out for ourselves what the experience was like.

We received a very warm welcome from two smiling staff members and the rest of the staff encountered were also friendly.  No issues there at all.

It's a large restaurant spread over two floors, and the tables are quite close together.  We were at the back on the ground floor, where the ceiling is sort of low and mirrored, so it reminded me of being in some kind of canteen.  It's bustling, so you don't have to worry about whether the people on the next table can hear your conversation, which suits my other half as he is generally mute in restaurants - he was positively talkative!  It seemed clean, (there was someone going around in laps sweeping the floor constantly!) and our empty plates were quickly removed.

We had a really excellent bottle of Californian red, 'Jack Rabbit', which was priced at around £16.  This would turn out to be the best part of the whole experience.

This was a huge disappointment, for many reasons.  Firstly, I was really looking forward to sampling the following dishes from their website menu:

  • Roasted tomato and bocconcini salad with pesto
  • Sweet and sour beetroot with goat’s cheese
  • Pineapple and Avocado salad
  • Caribbean mango and spinach salad
  • Truffled parsnips and parmesan bruschetta
  • Tomato and stilton tart
  • Raw mango avocado and orange with citrus dressing
  • Bruschetta of roasted artichoke
  • Tropical fruit salad with coconut cream
  • Eggplant, tomato and sumac salad
  • Sweet potato

None of them were available.  Not one.  There was something labelled as a 'Greek salad' that actually wasn't a Greek salad, as well as a sprouting bean salad (this was actually ok), and some bowls of limp looking lettuce.  I had really been looking forward to trying different salads, so feeling let down we consoled ourselves with some houmous, olives, cherry tomatoes and cheese.  The selection of cheese was also poor - two different mild cheddars, one white, one orange.  That was it.

For my main course I actually made a complete circuit of the food zone without putting anything on my plate.  That's how appetising everything looked.  The seafood looked like it had been there all day, so I wasn't going to touch that with a barge pole.  Then there were pizzas, which were ok, nothing special.  The 'British' food section just made me want to keep walking.  I lifted up the lid of the vat that said 'vegetables' only to find what looked like one of those frozen value packs you get in Iceland with cauli, carrot and peas.  The colours were muted, as though they'd been overcooked.

The 'Indian' section was quite big, but the Tikka Masala I tried was ready-meal standard.  The 'Chinese' section was my last hope for fresh vegetables, but again on lifting the lid on one of the cauldrons, it was a mush of soggy grey veg.  At the Tex Mex station I tried some peri-peri chicken wings, which were so hot I couldn't taste anything after them, which in retrospect was probably for the best.

Absolutely desperate now for something fresh and vibrant, I looked at the dessert station, hoping for a mound of fresh fruit to save this whole experience.  Alas, a bowl of cubed melon.  That was it.  The other desserts were pretty foul.  I tried the worst creme brulee I've ever had in my life.

Value for Money
They are charging £14.99 for dinner, and £9.99 for lunch.  There are far better places close by where you can fill your boots of much higher quality food for the same price or less.  I really do think this was a case of quantity not quality.

Overall Experience
It certainly seemed popular, with large parties arriving every few minutes on the Friday evening we were there.  I have to say that this is just not my kind of food, I like real, fresh food where you can taste the veggies.  If you like curries that are just meat and sauce, then you may view the place much more favourably than me.  From my perspective, it was how I imagined being trapped on board a budget cruise ship might be. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Dig for Victory!

I do hope you've had a good Easter weekend?  I've been quiet, I know - that's because I've been spending all my time outside, preparing the garden for the months ahead!  It's been challenging at times, especially not knowing what all those plants are popping up everywhere in our new-to-us garden, and on more than one occasion I have dug up a 'weed' only to discover it's some rare and highly prized species of rose!!  It's a steep learning curve and I've never spent so much time on Google searching for things other than clothes.

Here are some pictures of the blooming loveliness that's been surrounding us.  I've spent most days in old jeans and a t-shirt, digging furiously.  We have planted a herb garden, an apple tree, bulbs for next Spring, and have begun work on the veg patch.  It's back-breaking work, but I am enjoying it immensely.  We've never been to bed so early, gosh it's exhausting.

Hurry up little seeds and grow! (old eggboxes make perfect seed trays!), and that's a cut glass dressing table tray underneath catching any water.

Plenty of rhubarb has popped up!

 These pretty yellow flowers appear on this 'Japonica' shrub.  I only know this because I dug up the plastic label.

These turned out to be Bluebells once they opened up - hundreds of them!

How is it going in your garden, do you have it all under control?  Or are you a novice too, blindly digging away?!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Did I Wear It? Was It Worth It?

You may recall that in February I felt I had purchased a few too many things, and felt like a hoarder for not wearing existing things in my wardrobe.  I then read an article in Vogue that tracked a few women and their purchases over a season to see how many times they wore each item.  This inspired me to keep a tally of my own purchases.  You can see the original post here.

Today I'm back with the results!  Below is a list of the items that I had bought back in February, and there's a tally next to each indicating how many times I've actually worn them.

Asda black long sleeve tee, 2
Asda purple long sleeve tee, 3
Clarks grey brogues, 12
Clarks black heeled brogues, 9
Asda thermal socks, 20+
Gold scarf, 8
Vintage black coat, 14
Next red polkadot dress, 1
Men's grey jumper, 18
Matalan rose print underwear set, 1
Matalan monochrome underwear set, 1
Matalan white bra, 4
Matalan stripe bra, 6
Woolovers cerise jumper, 5
Woolovers pastel blue jumper, 4
Woolovers pastel pink jumper, 2
Alice Hannah gloves, 3
Promod mini skirt, 3
Promod flapper dress, 0
Promod white blouse, 2
Promod ivory blouse, 1
Promod red blouse, 0
Ebay kimono jacket, 2

Did I wear it was it worth it

Still With The Tags On
Shamefully, I haven't worn the Promod flapper dress, or one of the Promod blouses.  I can see myself wearing the dress on my birthday perhaps, and the blouse might even get worn to work.

The Versatile Shoes
I knew I would get a lot of wear out of the grey and white brogues, but I was so unsure about the 'boring' black brogues.  Now, I am so glad I bought them!  I'm even thinking that I could just put some coloured laces or ribbons on, if I felt they needed jazzing up a bit.

What I Have Learnt
  1. You can never have enough socks or knitwear.
  2. Comfortable shoes get worn a lot.
  3. I probably have enough party dresses now.
  4. I need to dress smarter for work, to ensure some items get worn.
  5. I must wear my lingerie sets more!
Future Purchases
I am sold on Clarks shoes.  Gone are the nightmares of my school years.  I want to buy more, including a pair of ballet pumps for summer and a pair of heels for work.  Maybe also a 'going out' pair if something suitable is released.  Clarks shoes are comfortable, leather, good quality and they come out with some impressive styles these days.

Have you been keeping track of how much you wear your purchases?  What have you found out?  And how is this going to shape your future purchases?

Lovely Thursdays, with Rekita, Amy and Alisha
What I Wore Wednesday with The Pleated Poppy

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Secret of French Dressing: My Favourite Style Tip

Do you ever wish you could be a little more 'French'?  Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a bit of an obsession with French beauty and style.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that looks at French women and thinks 'why can't I look like that?!'.  Younger French women look chic and trendy but never overblown, whereas older French women look classic, but never outdated.  They move with the times but always remember the core of what good dressing is all about.  French dressing is about the balance of classic elegance and being fashion forward, all fused together with that 'je ne sais quoi'.

My Favourite Style Tip - Their Secret is My Secret!
So, what's the secret?  And yes, there is a secret.  I've read all of the books to find out what it is, from 'French Women Don't Get Fat', to 'Two Lipsticks and a Lover'.  I have an impressive collection of French beauty products.  I've read interviews with French style icons such as Audrey Tatou and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and I've shopped French, buying clothes from affordable retailers available in the UK. So here is my number one style tip, even if you're not trying to be more French, it's a tip to help you be more stylish!

What do I mean by this?  Too often I think in the UK, we start at the outside and work our way in - we choose a dress out of the wardrobe, then we realise that our legs are dry and flaky, find that we haven't got the right underwear to go with it, still feel bloated and hungover from last night's curry and beer, and suddenly feel our confidence sink - quel surprise!  The French woman starts from the inside and works outwards.  She has the confidence, she's had enough sleep and drunk enough water, she has pristine underwear for any occasion, she's exfoliated, cleansed and moisturised.  No wonder she can throw on any garment picked out of her (thoughtfully purchased) wardrobe, apply a slick of lipstick, and leave the house without any 'what to wear' dilemmas!

As there are a few stages to 'dressing from the inside out', I have put together an explanation of how to do it.

How to Dress From the Inside Out

The core layer is attitude.  Confidence can be hard to summon up at times, I know, but you can always fake it!  Your attitude affects your posture and your facial expressions (and therefore wrinkles!).  Stand up straight, smile and go get 'em.

Treat your body well.  Drink lots of water, exercise, get enough sleep, and eat your veggies.  Do things for you mental wellbeing as well as for your body - have time to unwind, get out into the countryside.  French women walk a lot, often combining this with shopping (very wise), so get those trainers on!  Yes, they eat cheese and drink wine - but they don't gorge on food and they don't get drunk.

Good underwear doesn't have to be sexy and uncomfortable, it can be pretty and easy to wear.  Quality hosiery will serve you well.  Wear good underwear everyday, not just for special occasions.  It can really help with step 1, attitude!

Looking after your skin will be helped along immensely by step 2 (drinking water and eating veggies), but don't forget to use SPF, wear a hat or use a pretty parasol - the sun can be strong enough to damage our skin, even in winter.  French women never forget their sunglasses, to keep those eye wrinkles at bay!

Finally, the clothes themselves.  Even though this is the last layer, clothes are never an afterthought.  Stick with the basics first, and get them right - they are the building blocks of your wardrobe and will make it easier to fit other items in around them.  Think of that wonderful Coco Chanel quote, "dress shabbily and they notice the dress.  Dress impeccably, and they notice the woman".  That last bit is the important bit, notice the woman.  If this is where you get stuck then French style giant La Redoute has some sound advice in terms of a list of 7 wardrobe essentials for you to tick off your list on their Secrets to French Style webpage.  The items include: the trench coat, the white shirt, classic knitwear, the Breton stripe, denim, the little black dress, and ballerina pumps.  Do you own them all?  I do!  They are all staples of a vintage lover's wardrobe.  In case you need any further inspiration, below are classic French film stars showing you how to wear them, and illustrating just how these items have stood the test of time.

So there you have the five steps to dressing from the inside out!  I never said it was easy, but it is achievable.  I think that's the point, that regardless of budget, background, or time, all French women see that being stylish is completely within their reach.  They don't make excuses.

I would love to hear your thoughts on dressing from the inside out!  Do you agree that attitude counts for a lot in the way we look?  How important is taking care of yourself compared to your love of fashion?

Le Brand Ambassador
This post is also my entry for a competition that La Redoute is running, to be one of two 'Brand Ambassadors'.  The prize is beyond phenomenal, including a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris, which happens to be on my birthday - is that a sign?!  I would also be lucky enough to have a monthly budget to spend at La Redoute, to review items for this blog.  I already have a wishlist as long as my arm, particularly because their vintage inspired brand Mademoiselle R has some delicious looking garments that I could work into my wardrobe immediately!

I want to be a brand ambassador because I represent the 'average' woman.  I'm in my thirties, work hard at what I love but make time for fun, take care of my body, adore fashion, don't have huge amounts of time or a large budget, but appreciate quality, timeless styling, and trends that make me feel current but not ridiculous.  I love mixing vintage styling with the modern, for a style I feel is my second skin - one that reflects my lifestyle and allows me to express my personality.  That's quite a French attitude, n'est pas?


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Vintage Inspired Bargains: Peacock's

I'm back with more vintage inspired bargains from British shops - this time it's Peacocks' turn!

Poor Peacocks, I really loved the direction they were heading in, with lots of vintage style inspiration since they took Pearl Lowe on board as a designer, but then the company went bust and after a tricky period they were bought out by the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

I wasn't sure if the EWM would try and take Peacocks in a new direction completely, but I popped to a local store recently and was pleasantly surprised - absolutely oodles of vintage style clothes, all at a snip.

I was also super impressed to see many of their garments now proudly showing a 'Made in Britain' tag.  Good for them.

Here again is my experience in the fitting rooms - some of it turned out surprisingly well, others were a poor fit.  Read on to find out which were the winners!

First up was a peachy pink broderie anglaise top, £12, that tied at the front, very cute and quite '50s.  I tried it on with a spot midi pencil skirt, £14, which surprisingly wasn't too bad a fit, but quite a thin fabric so it accentuated my bumps a bit and made it blatant I had the wrong knickers on!  I might have to go back and buy that broderie top, they had it in other colours.

The pale blue capri pants, £12, looked marvellous on the hanger, less so on me.  Again it's that old issue of me being tall, and having a higher hip to waist ratio that the modern figure, which means that trousers don't come up high enough on me, giving me a lovely bit of muffin top, and often I can't zip them up.  I actually think it's my derriere, not my hips, but that's a whole other story.

This fluted hem pencil skirt was awful (not on their website yet, sorry no link) - again the issue of it being a thin fabric, not lined, means all the wrong bits were accentuated and again you can see my VPL.

This was more like it -  Peacocks have a fab range of 1940's inspired tea dresses, £16, in at the moment, in various colours and patterns.  All delightful, but this colour was my fave.  I didn't buy it as I thought the butterflies were slightly juvenile, but if it goes into the sale later on I may swoop.  My last tea dress from Peacocks has lasted years and has taken me from work, to afternoon tea, or to parties.

Peacocks has loads of monochrome, 1960s style garments on offer, so I tried on this little shift (also not yet on their website, check in store).  I think it looks a bit 'maternity' on me, so that one didn't make it home with me either.

Ah ha!  A midi skirt, a proper, below my knees, flowing fabric midi skirt!  I had to have this, it was only £18, which is half the price of the H&M one I'd been eyeing up.  And the top, with its flower embellishment, was just too sweet to leave behind, so I bought that too (£16, check in store as not on website yet).  The sizing is a bit variable between garments - I ended up buying the blouse in a size 12 and the skirt in a size 8.  Odd.

A lace white pencil skirt, £18, that if I didn't have the wrong knickers on, might have been a possibility.  But me, in a white skirt, probably a disaster waiting to happen.  I found this skirt a far superior fit to the New Look lace pencil skirts I tried on recently, that gaped at the waist and were too snug on the hips and rear.

When I got home I tried on the midi skirt and that cute flower top again, and feel that I made a good purchase decision here.  It's still below my knees even when I'm in heels, hurrah!  I can wear the skirt to work, so that guarantees it will get worn.  Excuse the mess, I spent all my time shopping that day, not cleaning the house!

So, does any of this tempt you?  Do you like Peacocks?  What have you bought from there already?

Rachel The Hat and Lena B, #PassionforFashion

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Historic Buildings YOU Could Live In

A couple of comments from readers on my 'Langland Bay' post got me thinking the other day.  We're really spoilt with historic buildings here in the UK, and whilst I think we sometimes take our architectural backdrop for granted, most of us are very curious as to what these buildings look like on the inside, particularly if the novelty is that they've been turned into luxury apartments.

May I present then, a peek inside a selection of historic buildings that now anyone one of us - if we had the budget - could own a slice of!  All of these are in South Wales, but there are certainly very similar buildings across the whole of the UK, you can bet your money on it.

The former 1930s hospital at Hayes Point, Sully has a selection of apartments up for sale, all fairly spacious and with wonderful seaviews.  I've spotted a 2 bed apartment for £199,950.  The grounds are pretty fabulous, and although the complex has been subject to lots of rennovations, there are still some original features around the building if you hunt for them!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Vintage Inspired Bargains: Sainsbury's

Hello vintage lovers!  Have you made any Spring purchases yet?  No?  I am always a bit slow, waiting for the first lot of sales generally before I make any vintage-inspired purchases from the good old British high street.  My guilty pleasure is supermarkets though - their prices make an injection of fashion much more affordable, and more economical time-wise if you can do your weekly food shop at the same time!

I recently popped to Sainsbury's to see what vintage inspiration they might offer.  Here is what I found - from the ill-fitting to the super stylish.  Take heed of my words and you need not do battle with the changing rooms.  Excuse the lighting - I went into a well-lit changing room first, but the door didn't close, so I had to swap!

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