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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Food Review: Bella Italia, Oxford


To celebrate all our recent achievements my (adopted) aunt treated myself, my mother and my (adopted) cousin to a meal. I have recently got a place at Nottingham Trent university, my mum on a new Open University course studying Philosophy and religion, and Nathaniel has just been awarded amazing grades for his GCSE examinations.

Her place of choice? Bella Italia, an Italian food chain both authentic and reasonably priced. We arrived promptly at seven. Sitting down, we were surrounded by delicious smells, homely Italian décor and excitement.

The restaurant was somewhat busy, and it took the waiter some time before he approached us. Not the biggest eaters we ordered mains, neglecting the appetising starters. My mother and aunt had the pollo picante, a spicy chicken pizza garnished with onions and green chillies. It could not have been particularly spicy as the pair dashed for some additional chilli oil. Nathaniel opted for the pesto genovese, consisting of thick pasta tubes, chicken, tomatoes, green beans and basil pesto. The portion large and fragrant, he devoured the lot impressively. I had to ruin all of this Italian splendour with the simplistic pollo ciabatta, a chargrilled chicken, lettuce, red onion and mayonnaise  ciabatta. This was accompanied by thick chips and a smoked tomato and onion relish, although this garnish was not as advertised and I am pretty sure I had Heinz to accompany my meal.

The mains were delicious and flawless. Our only dissapointment came at the blasé attitudes of the staff present, particularly our waiter who seemed content in his own world. It took him an age to ask us what we would like to order, take away our plates and present the bill, leaving us constantly searching for our waiter. The entrance door was left wide open for the majority of the evening, leaving us a tad chilly as we sat underneath the ample air conditioning vents.

However, desert kept the smiles on our faces as we ordered two of the torta limone (my mother and aunt seemed to be mirroring one another this evening), a cookie dough lava cake and a cioccolato diavola (or a brownie with ice cream for those of us who struggle with their Italian). These were all magnificent. The torta limone was presented chilled, garnished with strawberries. Me and Nathaniel's deserts on the other hand were served warm with vanilla pod ice cream. 

The entire meal came to £70 for the four of us, ridiculously cheap in my opinion. We left two hours later, stuffed and smiling. The conversation and fun of the evening making it a great family affair. I would definitely recommend visiting your local Bella Italia restaurant, just be sure to keep your waiters attention, I think all those delicious smells leaves them a tad confused!


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Live Review: Notting Hill Carnival, London


As a first timer, I was a bit dubious about the Notting Hill Carnival after all the scaremongering of parents. As the largest street fair in Europe and at over 3 1/2 miles long this was understandable. However, it turned out to be a very impressive affair and any worrying thoughts were very much ill founded. 

I had the most amazing time with the 500,000 strong crowd out for the 'children's' Sunday. Walking from the Oxford Tube coach stop in Notting Hill gate we found ourselves a little lost. As the sun began to shine, we went on the hunt for some cheap food and alcoholic drinks. My breakfast was a corn-on-the-cob, blackened from the barbecue. My fiancée settled for a simplistic burger amongst the jerk chicken and peas and rice, and Ellie saved herself for the drink. Unlike us, Ellie was sensible, armed with vodka and coke, while me and James hunted for cheap drinks. We settled on £2 a can Stella and a large and fruity Sangria for £5, offered drugs as we did so it was certainly a peculiar experience. 
Following the largest crowd we could see, we turned corners galore until we accidentally came across the carnival. Dancing alongside, we actually ended up within the parade, amidst chocolate covered dancers (whom smothered poor Ellie and her beautiful white blouse) and cutesy birds of paradise costumes. We danced our way past each float and to our horror, both me and Ellie got grabbed by some very energetic men, performing some very dirty dancing.
The Notting Hill carnival is definitely not tame, it is fun, fast-paced and exhilarating. Leaving us pretty saddened as we exited the cultural delight. Overall, everyone seemed happy, the police were delightful as they kept the carnival spirit and attentive eyes.  I witnessed no real issues and it just seemed like everyone was lost in the happiness of the day. We left sucking on sugar cane, reminding us of the fun of our day as we sprawled in the nearby Hyde Park, truly exhausted. I will be back next year without fail and I think everyone should make the effort to visit also! Even those of the strongest will would not be able to resist the charm of this carnival, it is sure to get you on your feet! 


Friday, 24 August 2012

Make Up Review: 'They're Real!' Mascara - Benefit


They're Real! Mascara by Benefit is a miracle worker. Benefit is famous for its flawless array of cosmetics. I myself probably own about a 1/4 of this seasons collection!

They're Real! mascara however, goes way beyond my original expectations. I suffer from ridiculously short lashes, but with the introduction of this little beauty the worry is no more. Just take a peek at the pictures within this post (hey I know my lashes are a tad clumpy but I am a writer, not a make up expert!), I find the results rather amazing!

The mascara is jet black, aiding the brush for a dramatic finish as it lengthens and lifts the lashes. The brush itself is designed with a rounded and larger tip, enabling you to also use it vertically on the individual lashes, adding volume as you go. The strong and spaced bristles separate the lashes as you sweep up to your desired look.
Horizontally, the brush is to be used in a zig-zag motion to aid the final look. I myself find the less traditional vertical method works wonders.

Beware however, that this make up miracle is not entirely waterproof and definitely not something to wear if you plan on seeing a sad movie with the boyfriend.

On the plus If you buy this today from Benefits official website, your They're Real! purchase will be accompanied by a free travel sized version for only £18.50! Although pricier than the average mascara you get guaranteed quality every time. Making They're Real! a must for any make up enthusiast who desires luscious lashes.

Perfume Review: Alien - Thierry Mugler


So I  recently got treated to the gorgeous Alien by Thierry Mugler.

This edition is a gorgeous eau de parfum 15ml refillable stone (and this was still priced at £25.99! Eek!). Amethyst in colour, this jewel inspired bottle is multi faceted and protected by golden claws, looking expensive and luxurious, unique on any perfume lovers dresser.

This perfume is strong, distinctive and rich. The ingredients include jasmine sambac, cashmeran wood and white amber and the combination is bewitchingly exotic. Although floral, the wood and amber scents overpower. The smell is sensual and is more of a evening scent, lasting as long as you do on a night out! For the day time I prefer to stick to something a little less sophisticated and a little more floral and fruity (think CKIN2U for her ).

Alien is a must buy and a classic since its début in 2005. The top note is the sambac jasmine, while its heart is taken by the cashmeran and solar notes. The base is left to the white amber, a mix that is exotic and breathtaking.

Although expensive, Alien is definitely worth it! Buy it here and give in to its charm, you will be the belle of the ball!



Thursday, 23 August 2012

New Website!


So I finally got round to setting up my own website!

Head over to my new website Thoughts of a Wannabe Journalist for all my latest blog posts, reviews and news!

I will be updating it as much as possible, here is hoping you will always find something that catches your interest!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Every cloud has a silver lining


The above phrase could not be more true at the moment. After all the stress of the last few days things are finally sorted.
I am off to study print journalism at Nottingham Trent University and James (my other half) is going to be studying biomedical science at the nearby De Montfort University in Leicester.
Thinking we may have been on other ends of the country, this is the most fabulous outcome. For £6 return we can see each other as much as we would like, and it is only a half hour train journey!
AQA had been late awarding my grades, leaving me waiting four days for my confirmation from Nottingham Trent.
Now all is well again. Although annoyingly late, I do have my place and can make all the final steps before starting my life in Nottingham. I love the city and all the new places I will have to explore. Having James in Leicester adds another day and night-time venue spot, so a lot more writing!
I best start organising my stuff! I need to sort out my student banking and set up a payment plan for my accommodation. May just be able to sneak in a cheeky trip to mainland Europe before I go also!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

My hatred for AQA and the university system in the UK


August the 16th 2012 every person studying A Levels within this country got their grades. I did not.

Why? Because even after getting acceptance for extenuating circumstances with medical proof, AQA did not sort my final grades for my law A2 course.

This is annoying for numerous reasons:

1) I am still holding a conditional offer with my firm choice that will not change until this is resolved

2) I do not know my grades

3) While the rest of the country celebrates I am stuck indoors rather miserable

What shocks me is that my insurance confirmed my place without the third A2, basing it presumably on my array of AS’s. Here is to hoping that my firm do the same and swiftly. This is doubtful however, as it is protocol for them to have my results in their entirety, and I guess rather understandable and unfortunate.

I also have the grueling decision of where to now go. Everything was set up for my firm, my entire life. However, my fiancée just missed his grades for his offer there. He has been offered a place at my insurance or one a short train ride from my firm (we believe; gets confirmed today). As my insurance is a little more quiet, he is not particularly keen to go there.

The issue is our families obsession with our inability to be away from one another. We have seen each other every day for about seven years and have always lived less than two miles away. I understand this is going to be difficult, it is a choice between living in the same city or living half an hour away by train/thirty miles away, but at better universities. We both think the latter is a more sensible choice.

Why is this so difficult?

Our choice must be made by the end of today. Guess we will just have to wait and see what happens…

How-to: Dip dye leggings

 

So I have been intrigued by the dip dye look for a while now. Seeing it constantly featured upon clothing and hair (I too became a victim of this).

Sorting my room out for university and packing my belongings into boxes I came across some very old, well-loved leggings from Topshop. I remembered how much I had adored them and dreaded parting with them. The leggings are black with a half zip down the length of each leg, making any outfit look a bit more edgy, without overdoing it.

The issue came when I remembered how this lovely item came to be at the bottom of my drawer. Looking down once more I was horrified to rediscover a bleach stain courtesy of my over enthusiastic mother.

Hating the thought of parting with them I decided to do a bit of D.I.Y. I knotted the leggings up and placed them into a deep bucket. I then poured a substantial amount of household bleach upon them, watching as they changed into patches of orange within minutes. I quickly removed them so that there would be no damage to the material and rinsed thoroughly. It was then a matter of leaving them to dry!

It is literally that simple. Why not try it yourself with a worn pair? You could also use fabric dyes in the process to get an array of colours, instead of the burnt orange. I will see how daring I become in the future, but right now I am pretty proud of the results. Especially considering It was my first attempt and done on guesswork!

I hope you like them as much as I do!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Girly Sleepover


I spent Thursday evening in the little sleepy village of Stadhampton, Oxford.

Being poor and often busy, me and my best friends find it hard to catch up with one another. This was perfect though, after a bit of drama and food hunting in central Oxford we set off.

The evening was filled with giggles. We arrived to a delicious home cooked meal by our lovely hostess Imogen's mother. This included a yummy tomato and cheese pasta bake and freshly made cheese balls (if you ever have the pleasure of meeting the little blonde pictured named Ellie you will understand how big a deal this was). We sat outdoors, nattering and trying to ignore the randy pigeons near us. Full and happy, we made our way in to watch some of the Olympics. After the excitement of seeing Usain Bolt win (who knew that would happen?) we decided to slink off to Imogen's room.

Once there, we  grabbed some movies. These included the biggest chic flick of all time (if you did not instantly guess it was Mean Girls, then I am ashamed) and the not so pretty Hostel.  Quoting along through Mean Girls was a giggle as we confided and swapped stories. As Hostel came on I think Kiran (the raven haired beauty) actually believed she was going to die, making teasing all the more fun!

All exhausted and desperate for bed; obviously not able for to much heat and excitement, we made our way to bed. Me and Ellie shared the beautiful loft room and Kiran and Imogen shared Imogen's floral palace of a bedroom. I have to say, it was amazing to get get a comfy nights sleep. The only downside was the early rise! Getting up at 9am is not something you will catch me do often in the holidays. Meeting up with your closest girls always guarantees a night of fun. Here is hoping we remain close throughout university! Being spread across the country is difficult but we will make it!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Review: The First Floor Restaurant, Oxford


Yes, you guessed it, another oriental restaurant visited by myself.

This time, me and my mother visited The First Floor. The First Floor is a Thai/Indian/Chinese and Continental restaurant offering a multi-buffet at £13.95/£14.95 a head for an evening meal. Their lunch works out cheaper at £8.50/£9.50 (dependant on the days). They also offer an A La Carte and takeaway menu for those in more of a rush.

Like most buffets I have experienced, drinks are not included in the price. However, they can be rather spectacular. Just take a peek at my Olympic themed layered cocktail! Served with crushed ice in long glasses, this cocktail certainly packed a punch! It was ridiculously strong (and I am a cocktail lover), so definitely worth the price at 2 for £10. As it is a special you will have to be swift if you want to experience it also.

I think what I like the most about The First Floor is the little added touches that make your meal feel special. Firstly, I am always seated by the window overlooking Oxford's Cowley Road. Now, this is not the most spectacular area of Oxford but it is always bustling, full of people rushing about, a nice contrast to The First Floors calm nature.

Secondly, The First Floor looks immaculate inside, with long tables of mahogany and well dressed waiters, giving it a touch of class above (literally) the other restaurants in the area.

Lastly, the food is immaculate! Everything is fresh, the vegetables are crunchy and sweet, the meats halal and ordered in fresh and the naan baked to your preference and delivered within minutes! 

The picture to your left cannot do the food justice (and I am quite frankly the worst photographer and presenter of food I have ever met). Here we have noodles, basmati rice, curried chicken, fresh vegetables, chips, chicken in plum sauce (now this was AMAZING) and onion bajhi. What amazes me is the colours you see here. It is not the same old bland and flavoured produce. Work evidently goes in to making each dish special. 

The First Floor is a lovely place to visit. Be it a nice lunch before shopping or treating someone special. Don't let the higher price put you off, the experience is worth every penny. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Review: Lola Lo, Oxford


My birthday fell on a Sunday this year so not the best day for a wild night on the town. It would have also been without my best friend (she was on holiday in Malta, lucky lady) and that was a big no can do! 
I decided I wanted to try somewhere a bit different. If you have ever been to Oxford before you will have realised there is little choice when it comes to night life. So, I thought it would be fun to try out a new club, Lola Lo on Magdalen Street in the city centre. Lola Lo is a Tiki themed club and bar with a really nice and friendly atmosphere, floral garlands and hula skirts galore. 

As I entered down the dark, dingy and pretty dangerous stairway to the underground club (my dear friend fell down it, ouch), my boyfriend immediately placed a pina colada cocktail into my hand. I have to say that it was the best I have ever had, and was a frozen slush style. It was totally delicious and fantastic after you have had a bit of a frenzied dance. I was later graced with a shark bucket named 'shark on the beach'. A fruity mix of vodka, Archers, orange and cranberry juice, and 'shark'. The amount of ice thrown into it though is always frustrating and at £7.50 it was not the cheapest way to get merry. However, as I was the birthday girl, the pina coladas kept coming and that was not an issue for long!

Dancing the night away, it was pleasant to not have the usually leering guys often associated with big university cities. It was a fun night and refreshing to have some RnB and club music played for once (if you have ever been to Oxford's Purple Turtle you would understand this). It was definitely something us girls had been planning for a while and we were desperate for a proper club night. 

Lola Lo however, is a smaller club, not on par with the likes of Wahoo or The Bridge but its atmosphere and friendliness set it above the rest for me.  The staff were constantly beaming, dancing about to the music with the rest of us. My cocktail was even replaced after a very attentive member of staff mistook it for rubbish! Overall, it was a lovely experience and somewhere I will be spending the remainder of my nights out within Oxford. Not long till Nottingham now (more reviews!) and many new places to explore. Here is to hoping I find a little Hawaiian themed gem similar to Lola Lo! 

Monday, 6 August 2012

My 19th Birthday!


Last year I spent my 18th in Paris and I had the best few days of my life. 
I knew this year would be a bit different in comparison, but it remained perfect. Everyone went to such effort, friends and family alike. I felt so special, especially after all the stress of A Level exams and university applications. 
The day before my fiancée took me out for a meal. He had spent the day with his sister at the Olympic stadium so it was really nice for him to make the effort. He did not let me pay for a thing and took me to one of my favourite restaurants in Oxford, The Pink Giraffe. Afterwards we had some cocktails before a nice walk home.

As I got there, I was welcomed by a happy birthday balloon stuck to my window and an all-beaming-all-singing-mother. The best part was the abundance of gifts though. You can be any age , and you will still get ridiculously excited about your birthday, I guarantee it. My mum goes for the simple option and present me with £300 (I tried to give the majority back, she would not have it) and little bits and bobs for university. 

James got me an array of gifts (plus the delicious meal hehe). The best had to be my red sequinned and black glitter TOMS. These are seriously the most comfortable shoes ever and part of a massive charity organisation! Would recommend them to anyone. I also got some skinny jeans from Jack Wills and two of their bags. 
My aunt bought me this beautiful Pandora bracelet with a four leaf clover charm. I have never bought from Pandora myself and thought this was the most thoughtful gift. She knows I have been stressing lately so got me the charm to help with my luck (university, family and life...) and also because I am 1/2 Irish.

My mum arranged the most lovely party for the actual day. There was drinks and food in abundance and all my close family were there. Unfortunately I had to leave for a family emergency and spent the evening in hospital. Most important thing is, your family come first. All in all, it was fabulous, and spent with those closest to me. Keep your eyes out for my birthday night out, here is hoping it's a good one! 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Book Review: 50 Shades of Grey - E.L James


This adult novel is famous/infamous, whichever way you want to put it really. I go with the latter.
I myself, not an expert in literary technique, found it poorly written and rather repetitive. A lot of sex and phrases: 'He filled me', 'long fingers' and 'fifty shades of ...'.  Saying that however, does not mean I thought the book was horrifically bad. It is a simplistic idea that many would fear to persue and a rather saddening attempt at mainstream erotica.

Many are intrigued by 50 Shades of Grey due to it being dubbed 'mummy porn'. In my opinion it is a book that reawakens awkward memories of youth and the trials and tribulations of developing yourself sexually. As for it being about BDSM (standing for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) I failed to find anything excessively raunchy. Sure there was some spanking and restraints but nothing more than 'kinky' or even ordinary (Christian puts it as 'vanilla') sex.

The novel is concerned with the lovestruck and deranged couple of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.  Actually, scrap that, there is a third character, Anastasia's 'inner goddess'/subconscious. the opposite of her blushing, insecure and virginal self. Oh and she too is rather unbearable at times in her quest of self discovery.  Christian, on the other hand, is a business giant, suave and miserable. Who says money buys happiness eh?

So this British literature loving, poverty stricken graduate falls for the desperately controlling Christian. All in all, the whole affair is a tad unrealistic. He is a billionaire, letting some unknown woman into his 'Red Room of Pain', trusting her and lavishing her in unwanted gifts, as she swiftly adjusts from virgin, to sex goddess. A transformation that takes place all in less than twenty four hours. Every mans fantasy, it would seem.

The plot is also basic. Anastasia finishes college, meets Christians parents, moves home, visits her parents and this is all before the big and disappointing finale. Did I forget to mention the frequent sex at Christians multi-million dollar love pad during it all? All this is constructed around Christians constant nagging of Anastasia to sign his BDSM contract, something she opposes according to her mood of the day.

Overall, 50 Shades of Grey is worth the read if you like simplistic language, mediocre sex scenes or are truly bored. It pens out the tale of two very confused and unhinged characters, seemingly unsure of how to function in ordinary society and I think that is where the majority of the appeal comes from. Everyone loves the unknown, confused and messed up.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Review: Noodle Nation, Oxford


A meal with the girls had been planned for over a week and I arrive 40 minutes late! 
Lucky for us, Noodle Nation of Gloucester Green, Oxford is a FAST food dining experience, so no one was ravenous for to long! We each ordered our mains: seafood soup, Thai green curry and rice and a sweet and sour chicken with yo min noodles for myself. They all came out within five minutes and I have never had to wait more than ten!

I have been to Noodle Nation numerous times and always return. This is because the food is delicious. The main dishes, priced between £5 and £7, are filled with chunky vegetables, fresh and full of crunch. The chicken in my sweet and sour is lightly battered and in wholesome chunks. For a food phobic like myself I have a lot of fun attempting to cut it into smaller, bite size pieces. The starters are around £2 to £4 and also taste superb. Shockingly Noodle Nation does not offer coffee, a major downside to my mother when looking for her fix one summer afternoon. 

Another downside is that Noodle Nation does not offer the most comfortable atmosphere. The canteen (their own words) is dominated by long benches. Quick and convenient yes, but it lacks the relaxing atmosphere associated with restaurants, appealing more to business people and students, as opposed to families. Another bonus for us budding students is the 15% off in student discount offered daily (this even includes takeaway, although not advertised!). 

Overall, Noodle Nation is woking great, the food is cheap, yummy and in large portions, Definitely a place to stop in on a visit to Oxford. You'll get a huge meal that is easy on the pocket as well as the tastebuds!