You Had me at Macaroni. Sketch London.

My boyfriend is training to be a chef and I am a slightly fussy eater.  I say slightly because I don’t think I’m that fussy, it is more that I like my food nice and simple.  However Matt likes what I call posh food, he has dined at some of the best restaurants in the world and I am happy with a good mac and cheese.  This is where Sketch comes into play, they have two Michelin stars and have macaroni on the menu. They had me at macaroni.   
Sketch was conceived: by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz – “sketch is a complex and unique site. Conceived by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz, it has attracted unprecedented media reaction for its myriad food, drink and entertainment styles since it opened in December 2002. Gagnaire’s culinary genius has inspired the menus throughout sketch. His eponymous Michelin three-starred Paris restaurant has a distinctive menu style, which Gagnaire had adapted for sketch”.
Umbrella Rack

Sketch is composed of different restaurants within the one restaurant this is Sketch, you can view the different menu’s on their site.  To my joy the macaroni was in the less expensive of the restaurants, it’s not cheap though and it is good value for money considering you could easily spend the same money for frozen crap at Frankie and Benny’s. Our aim is to work our way up the restaurant, I don’t know how I’ll cope with the fancier menu but I’ll try.  You cannot book The Parlour but we only waited for 15 minutes at a push and the front of house staff were lovely.  Very good customer service. The décor of The Parlour is very chic, and a little odd.  It appears to be somewhat modelled on a kitchen (with kitchen cupboards where the teapots are kept) but at the same time it is like being in your Granny’s living room. When I say ‘Granny’s living room’ I refer to the that homely feeling you get when there and the vintage furnishings, actual furniture not a reference to your Granny.

The wine is good, as you can see.  If I am being honest I was a little but apprehensive about the night because it is a ‘posh London restaurant’.   After visiting Sketch I take that back, it is a fancy and artfully tasteful restaurant with electricity eccentricity. The atmosphere was comforting and everyone was chilled out, unlike another expensive restaurant I had visited the previous night – which had a terrible atmosphere and Matt and I both agreed it had been a waste of money. His choice of restaurant, obviously.  Sketch was mine. 
The food was also a lot better, I got the Macaroni gratinated with Emmenthal cheese, celeriac rémoulade salad and Matt got the Beef burger – which I initially thought was a really boring choice but I should have known better judging from the umbrella holder that it wouldn’t be your average beef on a bun burger.  I didn’t take any photo’s of the food (which I regret) because I didn’t want to be that twat taking photo’s of their food, why I cared I don’t know. Both meals were delicious, and whatever the secret of Sketchup is I’d like to know.  It will be hard for me not to order the macaroni again on my return to Sketch in the future.  Maybe we will go for lunch before dinner. 
The waitresses wore pink converse, which gave me envy at the murky pink colour mines are these days, but I loved this touch.  I have been labelled the quirky one of my friends and this is the kind of quirky touch that I appreciate.  
Talking about quirky, check out these toilets! I am still in awe about these toilets and I feel the food aside the amazement you’ll feel at these toilets are worth the visit. We reached the bottom of the stairs and I had to ask somewhere where the toilets were for them to be like ‘I think its those white things up there’.  
Amazing, right?  Well, strange but amazing.  It felt like being in a living Dali painting – with a French maid. Or really posh portaloo’s. I saw some more of the restaurant on my way there and it is beautiful.  Visiting Sketch is an experience rather than somewhere just to go for dinner.  It is the kind of place you’ll talk about in years to come and you will return to.  If I lived in London I would make here a regular spot.  Obviously if I lived in London I’d also have some money and I’d go through the entire cocktail menu but we shall see…

“I want a room,” thought he, ” to rest.” “Certainly my dear,” he was told, “you have a choice of eight.” “You lie,” said he… on counting he saw only six. “Ah yes, but eight rhymes with cake.” “Okay,” said he, “what shall I find?” “Well,” said the voice, “if you are very hungry and have coins in your pocket, ascend the stairs and you will find a dining hall of such magnificence, it will so take your breath away that your face will be a certain hue.” “Gosh,” thought he, checking his pockets and his complexion in a mirror, “what else do you have?” “There is a bar ranked with chairs of every discernible shape… one is bound to suit… and gentlemen behind the bar who will mix a beverage so fair to help sooth the most pained head”.


Harry Potter Studio Tour, London

A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday and my lovely boyfriend decided to treat me and take me to London for it and then surprised me further by booking the Harry Potter Studio Tour.  It was magical (sorry I had to).  It was really great though and strangely we picked a really good time to go – when it was snowing.  The snow meant that it wasn’t very busy at all and it made it even more wonderful as I associate Harry Potter with Christmas and it made the outside exhibits even more special.  The season certainly added an atmosphere to the tour, although it would be great to comfortably ponder the outdoor exhibits and chill out drinking butter beer. Ah, butter beer.  Most people I have spoke to have wanted to know about this, there are only two places in the world you can get the Harry Potter butter beer, one is in London and the other is in Florida.  I imagine for most of you London is closer.  The taste?  The easiest way I have found to describe it is that it is like a fizzy liquid werthers originals with mallow on top of it – it doesn’t taste like beer, so don’t worry. It is also not alcoholic, I don’t know why I ever thought it was (ditzy moment).  I feel the photo’s can explain the tour a lot better than I can but if there is anything you want to ask about the tour just as me. I’ll also note that even though it is called a tour, it isn’t really a tour.  It does start as a tour in the great hall but then you are left to look round the exhibits at your own leisure. 
P:S Take lots of money for the gift shop is amaaaaaaaazing. 
You’re not a massive Harry Potter fan?
You don’t need to be a massive Harry Potter fan to enjoy the tour.  My boyfriend isn’t the biggest of fans (being more of a Lord of the Rings fanatic) and he thoroughly enjoyed it and now wants to go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, maybe instead of Wrestle Mania – I am pretty sure he will change his mind about this forfeit but we will see. Hardcore fans will spend hours here (I didn’t note how long we spent there but they said it takes between 3-4 hours) but those that simply enjoy watching the films occasionally will have plenty to scan over also. 

You’re planning to go?
  • Make sure you note the times of the shuttle bus. £2 return. 
  • If travelling from London – train from Euston to Watford Junction. (about £8 return).
  • Arrive 20 minutes before you’re time slot. The bus takes 15 minutes and you are advised to be at Waford Junction 45 minutes before you’re allocated time. 
(I only spotted this info on the day we were going, in case any one thinks I’m being patronising). 

The Wah Nails Book of Nail Art

An inspirational birthday present from the ‘other Victoria’ of Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding – check her blog out.  She makes fabulous cakes.  I miss her cakes…pfft, and her face.  She lives in Aberdeen so I don’t see her half as much as I would like to but an adventure to Granite City is definitely on the cards in the near future.  
What in the wah is Wah?

Wah nails started as an independent nail art boutique in London with a blog dedicated to all the different nail designs created in the store, but it has now branched out into Topshop on Oxford Street.  If only I had realised when I was visiting London last week.  I love nail art, and loathe the original french manicure or more so plain nails.  Nail art gives us a means of expressing our individuality and style, and unlike fashion it doesn’t matter what size you are or where you bought your clothes.  
Although I have just stated that I love nail art, which would suggest that I am a practiser of this art – I am not.  Well, not regularly.  I have attempted glitter, two tone, the odd kitch design but only when I have been granted the patience to do so.  I am not a patient person, waiting for my nails to dry can be a chore for me.  However this year I am going to branch out and try new designs – we will see if my nail art techniques progress with practice or if I am best sticking to getting my nails done professionally.

The book gives step by step instructions, information on tools, and tips as to how to get your nails in the perfect condition before and after. WAH have also teamed up with Models Own with their own range of tools –  There are 25 different examples of nail art for you to attempt at home.   Illustrated below is the candy stripes design which I attempted.  The book is beautifully illustrated and each model comes with a personal story.  Hip is how I would describe this book, hip and professionally cool.

Here is my first attempt at the simple striped look and due to the stripes slightly warped nature I have named them ‘Burtonesque Stripes’.  I know they are far from perfect, and I didn’t pick the easiest of colours to attempt stripes with.  Next time I will be using a darker base colour for the stripes and trying to draw the stripes with the nail brush rather than the pen. Leopard print next?  I have been meaning to try them for a while…

Lush Feet

This post is long over due but since I was working as a Christmas temp I did not have much time for blogging but Lush really did help me those first couple of weeks.  Anyone who has went from being unemployed back to working in retail will know how bloody sore your feet can get, mines were in agony.  I’d find myself hobbling out of work.  Good shoes are key (something with a wedge preferably to support the feet) but good food care is also vital.

After hearing my complain night after night my manfriend went to Lush and picked up The Fair Trade Foot Lotion and Volcano Foot Mask for me.  Lush is where I run to in most emergency if I am being honest – their products always make me a little bit happier. Lush products should be on prescription instead of prozac.

The Fair Trade Foot Lotion does resemble pepto but it smells gorgeous. It is a hard scent to pin down but trust me that it is great.

“A whole foot-locker of ingredients to treat and soothe tired, sore and unsightly feet. Peppermint and spearmint stimulate the circulation, bring blood to the surface of the skin and give a cool feeling. With arnica to help with bruising and swelling and cocoa butter and almond oil to help soften the skin and prevent cracks”.

Ugh, it is such a great feeling to come home after a hard day and cake your feet in this (or to have someone cake your feet in it). It cures horrible throbbing feet and achy ankles.

This is a little stranger, the manfriend was told by the sales assistant in Lush that it smelt a bit funky and he was certainly right.  It contains tomato and that is what I’d say it comes closest to smelling like – it is not very pleasant at all but it is pleasant on the feet.  It is the non icy equivalent of sticking your feet in to an icy bucket – bliss.  What I done was coat my feet in Volcano and then soak them in a basin of hot water.

It is a bit like plastering your feet but it is worth it.  My only other complaint besides the smell is that it is quite messy, obviously putting a foot mask on yourself can be rather tricky in not getting it all over the furniture.  I tried doing it in the bath once but it ended up being a bit of a hassle.  I would suggest having someone to help you out with this one.

Hotel Chocolat – Cocoa Juvenate – The Beauty of Cocoa

This is one of my favourite Christmas gifts as it was completely unexpected and it is so wonderful.  I am a fan of Hotel Chocolat’s confectionery treats but I had no idea they done a small range of beauty products.  The range has yet to actually be launched in stores, the launch is happening on the 17th of this month.  Most of the events are already sold out…gutted.

The Revive Hand and Body Lotion retails at £18.00 and it is worth every penny spent.  It smells so fresh.  When I seen it was made by Hotel Chocolat I assumed it was going to very sweet smelling but the mango seed oil makes it citrous scented.   One of my other favourite body moisturisers is The Body Shops mango body butter which also contains mango oil – if you have dry skin this is what you need in your moisturiser.

Any one who reads my blog regularly will note that a couple of months back I wrote a post about how I do not favour body lotion, Cocoa Juvenate has completely changed my perspective on this.  Like all the other body lotions I have tried Revive Hand and Body Lotion dries really quick and does not leave the skin sticky feeling. The skin is almost velvety feeling afterwards.  You’ll see in the below photo that I have already  used a fair amount of it.  I just really hope I have a job by the time that it runs out.  The pump bottle does help to not use too much of it though.  

I have also noticed that it has been really good for my stretch marks, the cocoa in the cocoa butter is obviously high quality being produced by a chocolate company.  I cannot recommend this enough and once I have a job I will be trying the body butter and the lip balm.

Let The Good Times Roll

In case you haven’t heard the Lush Christmas cleanser Let The Good Times Roll is being continued by Lush into the New Year.  Out of fear that it wasn’t being continued I stocked up on it in the Lush sale though, but I am so happy to hear that is is staying.  It is without a doubt my favourite cleanser from Lush.  I liked Angels on Bare Skin, Ultra Butter and Aquamarina but this is the superstar cleanser. 
It looks like cookie dough and it smells like popcorn, a lovely morning treat.  The maize ex-foliates the skin and the corn oil leaves the skin beautifully soft.  It is not the best cleanser for taking make-up off unless it is used with a muslin cloth but it is nice to use before bed in replacement of a moisturiser,
I was given a handy little tip by one of the men who work in Lush also, a really obvious one.  You can stock up on cleanser and freeze it, because Lush use natural ingredients they do go out of date pretty quickly.  I had that problem with the moisturiser because I would never use it all by the sell by date but now I am considering in the future decanting it into smaller tubs and freezing the rest.
I also picked up some shower gel in the sale, as much as I love lush paying £8.00 for some shower gel seems a bit crazy but I didn’t mind paying the sale price.  Orange and tequila scented it is a acquired taste but I quite like it, its unusualness attracted me.  I really did not like the Twilight gel they had out this year though, as another woman in the shop said ‘it smells like bleach’.  Snow Fairy was naturally sold out.
Did anyone try the other Lush Christmas cleanser?  I was told that it was very good for eczema.

Belle De Jour Interview

Belle De Jour Interview

Victoria McEwan
Twitter is a wonderful platform when it comes to casually striking up a conversation with ‘famous people’. Even more wonderful when someone actually responds and you can run off and tell your friends about it; as if to say that person is now a close friend.
Having chatted to Brooke Magnanti (more commonly known as Belle De Jour) on twitter a couple of times, like a complete groupie, I almost squealed like a little girl when I found out Magnanti was talking at the Wigtown Book Festival.

The fact that Magnanti has previously been an escort, is a well-educated woman and was anonymous for a long time, gives us a lot to talk about, but what I really wanted to know was if she is prepared for a zombie apocalypse.

How have people who were fans of the Belle Due Jour books responded to the very factual The Sex Myth?

The reactions have been very different and it has been really mixed. As you can see they have put a sticker on the cover for people that didn’t already know. I don’t know how effective that particularly is.  I think there is going to be an overlap of people who liked the Belle books, being interested in these topics generally, but then there are going to be a lot of people who don’t read non-fiction.  The response and the reviews have been really mixed and I guess in a way that actually surprised me. I expected it to be a lot more negative than it was. So to get any positive reviews was like ‘yeeeeess get in’.

Did anything shock you during your research for The Sex Myth?

I don’t shock too easily (she laughs). I suppose in part it was more thinking about the people who conducted the research and wondering if it shocked them than the results that they found. My science research has always been very well…not sexy.  I sometimes think ‘someone out there is a research assistant to someone whose job it is to put bands around men’s penises whilst they watch porn and measure whether they are getting engorged or what. That’s just a normal day at the office for them’

How does academic writing differ from writing a novel?

It is totally just getting into a different way of doing things. I think what really helped was the original books were structured like diaries so I could take each piece a bit at a time, rather like you would in any kind of writing of a scientific experiment.   
The diaries were written in that style, they did have almost a clinical edge to them and that is why I think (when I was still anonymous) people thought I must be a man. People thought I was Toby Young. There were people who said they ran my work through the gender genie software and that it must be by a man. I think what people were actually picking up on is that I write like a scientist writing a memoir.

So why did it take them so long to find you?

The media wanted very much for it to be one of their own. They were working on the assumption that whoever wrote the book had never been a call girl and so once you have made that assumption it is equally reasonable to say it could be a man as well. So that is why they could not find me for so long. For a long time they were only looking within their own media circle. In 2004 the Times got a forensic linguist from the states to try and work out who Iam.

Have you ever had a misconception about someone?

I agreed to do the interview with Julie Bindel simply because I wanted to meet her. You know, it’s like here’s this person whose articles I have been reading. To meet her in person Bindel is actually really nice although she tears you apart in print.

How important do you think education is in modern day Britain?

I think it is enormously important and I am very aware of the fact that a lot of the advantages I have had in my adult life have come from having had a very good education and having gone to a good school and gone to a decent university.
I do worry sometimes on some level that there is a part of me that knows that maybe people would count me as a sexual phenomenon and some people thinking they don’t have to work hard, they just have to look sexy. It is a little bit depressing sometimes when you hear statistics that 30% of girls want to be glamour models. I have no problem with people being glamour models but do we need so many? It sounds silly but it’s the whole voice in the back of your head that says ‘always have something to fall back on’ and for me that was very much computer programming.
I had intended to quit escorting when I got a ‘real job’ but the computer programming was so boring I kept being an escort because that was something more interesting to do with my time. I couldn’t live the life of going on the tube, sitting in the office, ‘tick tock tick tock’.

What are your thoughts on tuition fees?

When I heard that tuition fees were going up I thought  that’s the kind of money I was paying and you do kind of think to yourself there’s going to be a lot of people thinking oh maybe if I just strip for a summer I can pay that off.  Nobody wants to come out of university in debt if they don’t have to. If you leave university with that level of debt you just have to take what job is offered.

What bugs you the most about the current education system?

I was only ever here as a post-graduate in this country and seeing the debates that go on especially around sex education; this is one that absolutely gets me. A year or two ago when you had people wanting to be able to opt out of sex education in schools but have to accept the fact that media has changed a lot and our kids are wearing various sexualised things. It makes sense that there should be good comprehensive sexual education in schools and people seem to just want to sweep that under the rug.
I have this guest lecture for forensic statistics that I love, love, love and give in a lot of places because I love it. You sort of think the enthusiasm for things like that is missing from a lot of places. I feel lucky that when I was at school our science and maths teachers were just fantastic. They loved it.

What made you move from somewhere like London to Lochaber?
It is beautiful. Wigtown is massive compared to the village I live in. It has about 300 people. There is one shop and then there’s the post office and everybody knows everybody. But I do realise that I am in quite the privileged position to have a career in writing that I can take with me anywhere.

And what about London…

London is a very interesting place to go to but I don’t think I could have lived there much longer than I did. I don’t suit cities at all; I found myself becoming very unfriendly towards the end because everyone has their London face on. 

Really, I always viewed you as a city-loving-girl.

I didn’t make it easy on myself for one thing.  Working as a programmer was very antisocial; sometimes everyone I worked with just didn’t talk to me. You know there was no chummy hanging out in the coffee room kind of thing. I can be antisocial at times but I had days where I would realise if I didn’t have a client the only person I spoke to was the bus conductor.

What do you think of books like Fifty Shades of Grey?

My first book now has a new cover to make it look like fifty shades of grey…
I have read them because I went on a Channel 4 documentary to talk about them. It wasn’t to my taste. 
My mother e-mailed me with just the subject ‘50 shades’. I knew what the e-mail was going to be. ‘She’s going to ask me if I have read it and if she should read it – I said it’s a bit mechanical, you might enjoy it, but I think your taste is better than that’.

Did your Mum read your books?
She read all my books and then she gave them to my granny. Embarrassment!  My face must have registered the shock when she told me she had given them to my grandmother. ‘Your grandmother knows what’s what, she’s had five kids. She knows where everything goes’.
I had such a fear for so long that if my family found out they would never speak to me again.  There have been some members of my family that have got upset with me over it, but they were the ones that knew would, but my mother has been great. She is coming with me to a festival in Chicago in a couple of weeks; sometimes I get questions from the audience asking ‘what would your mother say’ and I’ll be able to say ‘she’s right here’.

After talking about Magnanti’s cousin abroad being kidnapped and held hostage, around the time of Belle’s identity being made public, we get on to the topic of survival and whether surviving a horror film would be possible.

My husband and I sit around and assess our chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Our house is kind of on the side of a hill and I we wonder ‘how could we block off the roads to make sure the zombies don’t come in and we need to alert everybody in the area’. We need a look out party and you know we have taken up the hobby of making our own wine and cider because in the zombie apocalypse there are not going to be any off-licenses. So, you need to have a drink.

As Magnanti left the interview room to return to her husband, who must be feeling rather impatient by now given that we had been chatting for over an hour. I thought that I had expected Magnanti to be a little controversial given the sexual context of her work but what did shock me was how different she was to the audacious character I had imagined. She comes across as quite shy but also content with her life in the country nowadays.  I felt comfortable talking with her.  To feel so at ease with a stranger signifies why Magnanti is so popular with the press and public.

What makes Magnanti popular is not only that she was an anonymous call-girl but that she has experienced the feeling of alienation and being scrutinised by the media. Most people, while not being hounded by the press, experience that same feeling of alienation and shame at some time in our lives.  

We can relate to her.

Presents From Tokyo and Rococo Nails

Once upon a time I had a Japanese flatmate,from Tokyo, named Urara (I am pretty sure Rachel and I pronounced the name wrong the whole time she stayed with us).  Urara was only here for six months on foreign exchange and then she returned home, I miss her a lot but I  look forward to adventures to Tokyo one day.  I have promised her that I will try genuine fish sushi when I visit, that will be a laugh. I have a slight fish phobia.
This Christmas Urara sent a lovely package from Tokyo, I had forgot she had sent it so I was super excited when it arrived. 
Hello Kitty toiletries bag, mirror, nail accessories and curry cubes.
How damn cute is the mirror? I love furry things and Hello Kitty. Knowing that this Hello Kitty merchandise is from her home of Japan makes me happy. When Urara was here in Scotland she made us Japanese curry and my love affair with Japanese curry began there.  I love these cubes as they make a lovely katsu sauce.  I have four cubes left so you can expect a Japanese curry post in the near future.
Now on to Rococo Nail Apparel which I received from my Dad and his partner for Christmas.  I had never heard of Rococo before but I have been told, off Lorna the fashionista, that their range is available at Space NK.
The nail sets come in beautiful little boxes, which adds to the charm.  As much as I love Nails Inc their packaging does not have a patch on Rococo. From doing some research the range seems to be around the same price as other high-end brands like Nails Inc and OPI.
Pictured above is ‘V.I.P Creme’ with some added stars from Tokyo, topped off with the Rococo ‘Super Gloss.  Super Gloss is amazing.  I have never been a fan of top coats – viewing them as a waste of time as they have never sustained my nailpolish substancially but the super gloss is a whole other class.  It brings out the shininess of the polish and acts as a barrier against anything that may chip your nails.  These nails lasted me through New Year.  The stars did fall off but the polish itself lasted greatly.
The blue polish you see below is ‘Deadly Nightshade’ – what a fantastic name?  The Rococo polishes are thick and glide on the nail smoothly but not gloopy like the Chanel Vernis polishes are.  Next to Deadly Nightshade is the highly acclaimed Super Gloss.
This set is called the ‘swarovski nail set’ – it comes with little swarovski’s to glue on to your nails with the help of the super gloss.  I find the decision of having the crystals the same colour as the polish  a little odd as I feel the crystals blend in to the polish too much, and therefore I do not see the point in them if you cannot see them.  But I am going to experiment with the crystals on a different base.
Has anyone else tried Rococo Nail Apparel? 

Rosy Cheeks – Liz Earle Natural Glow

This was another lovely freebie from the ever wonderful Liz Earle PR team, and it is something that I completely would not have chosen for myself.  However, I love it.  I always stick to bright pink blushers of the powder variety.  Cream blush is a product I have always struggled a little with applying – especially when it is bright pink and just looks clown like on the cheeks.  The more natural shade of this cream blush makes it both easier to apply and is a lot more subtle than my usual doll look. 

The shade is Nude 03: ‘Subtle rosy apricot. Brings a warm, delicate flush of colour to light-to-medium skin tones’.

I probably still wear far more of the product than what is needed but I will ‘forever be that girl that wears too much blusher’, I’m cool with that. Although I demonstrate the use of a lot of product the cream blush looks lovely when just a smudge is applied to the cheeks.  The colour really brightens up the face and gives a healthy look.  My paper white complexion can leave me looking rather unhealthy and therefore I need blush to stop me look so ashen.  

This is the perfect blush for every day wear as it is subtle enough for work and is easy touched up later in the day due to the compact it comes in.  As it is cream based it does not call for a bulky blusher brush but ensure that your hands are clean before you apply.

Once I have a job again I will be investing in some more shades of this blush – perhaps my usual pink tone.