Sunday, 5 August 2018

REVIEW: Brookmans Pub, Brookman's Park

Review of Brookmans Pub in Brookmans Park by essbeevee Hertfordshire Buckinghamshire Bedfordshire food blogger gastro pub
Review of Brookmans Pub in Brookmans Park by essbeevee Hertfordshire Buckinghamshire Bedfordshire food blogger gastro pub
Review of Brookmans Pub in Brookmans Park by essbeevee Hertfordshire Buckinghamshire Bedfordshire food blogger gastro pub

I had this discussion the other day about whether or not I'm a sweet or savoury person. I said I thought I was 50/50. Matt scoffed at this and said 'Oh, please. You're at least 90% sugar.' But I don't know. I mean, I do love me some sugar, but I could never give up my savoury faves. Chocolate forever, sure, but not without chips. And crisps. And cheese.

My love for cheese has become one of those defining traits that people associate with me, and I'm okay with that. Generally, being open about your love of cheese leads to more cheese, you see. And all of that cheese-related spiel doesn't have a whole lot to do with this blog post, only to lead into the fact that when there's a cheese souffle on a specials board, you'd better believe I'll order it.

So you can probably guess what happened when I popped along to review the new-look Brookmans Pub recently. There was a cheese souffle, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Apart from the part when my husband said 'Can I try some?' *death glare*

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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

TRAVEL: How to spend 24 hours in Rome, Italy

How to spend 24 or 36 hours in Rome, Italy, what to eat, do and where to stay
How to spend 24 or 36 hours in Rome, Italy, what to eat, do and where to stayHow to spend 24 or 36 hours in Rome, Italy, what to eat, do and where to stay
How to spend 24 or 36 hours in Rome, Italy, what to eat, do and where to stay
How to spend 24 or 36 hours in Rome, Italy, what to eat, do and where to stay

Or, more to the point, how *I* spent 24 hours in Rome. Well, more like 36. After our wedding, we knew we wanted to get away as soon as possible, so we both booked the week after off and started looking for breaks from Monday to Sunday. We actually debated getting a relaxing all-inclusive break, and after precisely zero sleep on the night of the wedding, I definitely felt the urge to lie very still for a week, but that urge passed pretty fast. Because Italy is always a good idea.

Besides, we had Avios points to use up and not a lot of other opportunities to use them, which meant our flights cost next to nothing AND we got to fly business class. We had a few options of where to visit, but Italy wasn't a hard decision - we've both been before and both loved it. We decided to fly into Rome, spend a couple nights there then get the train to Naples for the rest of the week.

So... Rome. Rome is somewhere you could cheerfully spend a week - there's so much to see. Culture, history... oh, and amazing food, of course! We wanted to pack as much of that in as possible without feeling completely stressed and exhausted. And the best way to do that is to PLAN, kids.

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Saturday, 28 July 2018

REVIEW: Santi Pizzeria, Watford

Santi Pizzeria review - an authentic Italian Pizzeria in Watford, Hertfordshire with pizza, pasta, mains and calzone
Santi Pizzeria review - an authentic Italian Pizzeria in Watford, Hertfordshire with pizza, pasta, mains and calzone

I haven't talked much yet about our minimoon in Italy, but guys - it was so perfect. An incredible, epic week. We ate fantastic food, we saw absolutely tons and we somehow managed to find the time to relax, too. It was fabulous. We started off with a couple of nights in Rome, then spent the rest of the week in Naples. I have so much to say about it, and I will. But for now, let's talk about the pizza.

Proper Italian pizza is something special. The ingredients used are so fresh, so high-quality that even a simple margherita will blow your mind. And while no pizza I've had in the UK has quite compared to the pizzas I've had in Italy - I blame those epic tomatoes - a few have come close. Because lots of places are springing up to emulate proper, Neopolitan pizzas. Most of the ones I know of are in London, so I was pleasantly surprised to find one round the corner from work, in Watford.

Santi Pizzeria has two restaurants - one in Stratford and one in Watford. The Watford branch has only been open a few months, but is already super popular - the TripAdvisor reviews are absolutely glowing. And good news for locals - they deliver, too!

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

INTERIORS: Living room update

Essbeevee interiors update Victorian terrace house Hertfordshire fireplace yellow blue teal turquoise accents rainbow book shelves

We've been in our house for over a year and a half now, and there's still so much that we haven't got round to doing. It's amazing how long you can live with things when you see them every day. The good news is that there's nothing major - a little bit of peeling paint after a leak that we haven't got round to sorting (we sorted the leaks, we're not animals), a few shelves we want to put up, painting and wallpapering and whatnot.

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Saturday, 21 July 2018

REVIEW: Cinnabar, Hertford

Review of Cinnabar in Hertford, tapas, pizza, burgers and more
Review of Cinnabar in Hertford, tapas, pizza, burgers and more
Review of Cinnabar in Hertford, tapas, pizza, burgers and more

I'm pretty familiar with my part of Hertfordshire, and every now and then I realise that there's a whole chunk of my county that I haven't explored much. Which is something that blogging locally is great for, because sometimes I get invited to review somewhere a little further afield. So when the nice people at Cinnabar Hertford got in touch, asking if I wanted to sample their menu, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to explore Hertford.

Cinnabar is a restaurant and cocktail bar combo, that does great cocktails plus hearty food, including burgers, tapas, pizzas and brunch. We went for lunch, but I imagine it's heaving at night - with the plentiful drinks menu, it's a spot where I could see myself having an excellent night out. There are Cinnabars in Hertford and Old Stevenage - funnily enough, the Old Stevenage one is literally opposite where I stayed at the Cromwell Hotel.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

WEDDING: Getting ready

Essbeevee wedding morning photos by Assassynation chi chi dresses redhead petite bride hampshire tithe barn

I woke up early. Not too early, thankfully – although I had woken up a few hours before at 3am and was terrified that I wouldn’t get back to sleep. I'd popped some earplugs in and counted sheep to clear my mind, and thankfully it worked. The next time I woke, I could hear the house beginning to stir, but I took my time getting up, enjoying being by myself for a few extra minutes. I cleaned my teeth, had a quick shower, popped on the comfortable, soft and silky satin bridal kimono the lovely folk at Hunkemoller had sent me to review especially for the day and wrote out some cards.

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Saturday, 14 July 2018

TRAVEL: It's time to plan our megamoon!


Image from The Blonde Abroad

I've been sulking since we got back from our minimoon in Italy, because it was so wonderful that I wanted a new holiday pretty much immediately. But we haven't been able to squeeze in anything - even a weekend somewhere - and after feeling disappointed, I realised I needed to man the eff up because our megamoon is coming up at the end of next month.

Did you know, by the way, that if you have a minimoon and a longer honeymoon, the longer honeymoon is a megamoon? It's an excellent word, and I plan to use it a LOT.

I've talked on here before about our plans for our megamoon, but now I'm at the point where I actually get to PLAN it. And you guys know I love a plan! I'm ordering packing cubes and eyeing new suitcases (I really want this purple Samsonite one from Spartoo) and spending my lunch hours googling for inspiration.

And, as is tradition, I'm popping down some of my planning here, because hopefully it will help someone else planning a similar route... and if nothing else, it'll be handy for me to refer back to.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2018

REVIEW: Rump and Wade and the Cromwell Hotel, Stevenage

Rump and Wade and Cromwell Hotel review - minibreak gastro staycation in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Rump and Wade and Cromwell Hotel review - minibreak gastro staycation in Stevenage, Hertfordshire
Rump and Wade and Cromwell Hotel review - minibreak gastro staycation in Stevenage, Hertfordshire

After taking so long off, I’ve actually been pretty excited to get back into the habit of blogging regularly again. I always feel like I have room in my life for one other thing aside from work, and for the last year or so, that other thing has been wedding planning. But the planning is completed, so back to blogging I go! I’ve missed it. Hi! How are you all?

I had a few emails about reviews and whatnot before the wedding, and asked very nicely if I could put them off until June. Organising a wedding is kind of crazy, you guys. I felt like it made ME kind of crazy. There’s so much pressure on that one day, and it’s really hard to find space in your brain for anything else. But booking fun stuff in for afterwards has definitely helped me feel more like me – because eating delicious food is a pretty crucial part of what makes me ME.

I was invited to try out the Cromwell Hotel along with its adjoining restaurant, Rump and Wade, and so I trotted off to Stevenage for a little staycation with the husband in tow. I used to work in Stevenage, many years ago, but I’d never actually ventured into the old town. Turns out it’s really nice! Lots of cool bars and shops, and very pretty. We got in a few hours before our dinner reservation, so had a little potter then went upstairs for a nap and a shower.

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Sunday, 17 June 2018

I got married!





I got married! And somehow it was nearly a month ago and I haven't blogged about it yet. There's just so much I'd like to say about it that I didn't know where to start, so every time I sat down to write something I'd get overwhelmed and go on Spartoo to buy shoes instead. There's a sale on right now, did you know?

It was such an amazing day. The sun shone, the booze flowed and I felt loved and happy and wonderful all day. No, not everything went 100% to plan, but so much else completely surpassed our expectations. Our venue looked breathtaking. Our food was incredible. Our photographer was a bloody genius (you can see some more of our photos here). And nothing will top our epic last dance to Meatloaf.

There's so much more I could say, and I will. It was a huge thing to organise, and I learned a lot. It was so much fun though, and at some point I'll impart ALL MY KNOWLEDGE onto you.

But for now, I'll spam you with some pictures. Isn't my husband a dish?








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Saturday, 5 May 2018

REVIEW: Restaurant 23, Tring

Restaurant 23 review in Tring, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire places to eat nearby natural history fine dining fish restaurant
Restaurant 23 review in Tring, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire places to eat nearby natural history fine dining fish restaurant
Restaurant 23 review in Tring, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire places to eat nearby natural history fine dining fish restaurant

Going out for dinner feels like a rare treat these days. We've been saving so hard for so long - first for our house, then for the wedding - that going out to dinner 'just because' is something that doesn't happen much any more. And that's been especially hard to take since moving to Tring, because there are so many amazing restaurants here. So it's taking me a long time to make my way around them all - although being asked to do the occasional review is helping me tick them off.

Restaurant 23 was at the top of our list - it popped up last year in a beautiful building with a great-looking menu, and word of the street was that it was one of the best places to go for a really special meal. Which was totally right - this is fine dining nestled on our sleepy little high street.

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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

LIFE: I’m in the Weight Watchers magazine!

Blogger featuring in the April / May Weight Watchers UK magazine

Super excitingly, I was in the May edition of Weight Watchers magazine! They approached me via my WW Instagram account (always worth using hashtags, chaps) and asked me to attend a shoot to try out three different fashion looks for spring.

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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

FASHION: My minimoon shopping list

Clothes and shoes wishlist for a May minimoon in Italy

I am, obviously, very much looking forward to my wedding. But what I'm almost looking forward to more is the holiday we're going on right afterwards. We're going to Rome for two days and then Napoli for the rest of the week, and I am incredibly excited to eat all the pizza and gelato and be in wonderful Italy.

I'm having to sort out my minimoon planning alongside wedding planning, which has meant ordering sundresses along with potential flat wedding shoes and adding 'buy Euros' to my wedding to do list so we don't forget! I still have a few bits left to buy, though, so here are a few items from my minimoon shopping list...

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

FOOD: The Greggs Balanced Choice breakfast and lunch challenge

Greggs balanced choice food review with comparisons including calories and Weight Watchers smart points for Costa, Caffe Nero, Marks & Spencer and Pret a Manger

So for the last year and a bit, I’ve been… er, healthy? As a lazy, junk-food loving girl it surprised me too when I stuck to it for so long, but it’s all about finding a routine that works for you. I still have junk-food, but a little less of it and a little more of the green stuff. And I actually exercise these days. Yeah, that part’s still weird.

Anyway, Greggs got in touch to ask if I’d like to take part in their Balanced Choice challenge to see how Greggs and their high street competitors fare when trying to eat healthily. Basically, they’ve partnered with Public Health England on their One You campaign, after studies revealed that on average people are eating an extra 200-300 calories a day. Things like that sugary soft drink, that large bag of crisps or that mayonnaise sandwich (or salad!) can all add up, and the new campaign is encouraging adults to follow a simple rule of thumb if they’d like to eat a bit healthily when on the go - 400 calories or under for breakfast, and 600 calories or under for lunch and 600 calories or under for dinner.

So! Armed with some giftcards and a rumbling tummy, I spent the last week eating breakfast and lunch at Caffe Nero, Costa, Pret A Manger, M&S and finally Greggs to see how they measured up. I'm including both calories and Weight Watchers Smart Points (SP) below. So let's see how everyone fared.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

REVIEW: Olive Limes, Tring

Review of Olive Limes, Indian restaurant in Tring, Hertfordshire

A big reason why we loved Tring so much when we chose to buy a house here was because the little high street was packed with intriguing looking independent restaurants. We've managed to try several of them, but almost a year and a half on, there's still several we haven't made it to. One of them, until recently, was Olive Limes, an Indian restaurant on the very end of the high street, which is probably the closest restaurant in Tring to our house. Every time we've walked past, I've said to Matt, 'I want to go there!' but in between saving for a wedding and trying to lose weight, it just hasn't happened.

Luckily then, they took things into their own hands and invited us to an event there this weekend celebrating Bengali New Year. Sadly we couldn't make it as it clashed with my hen do, so instead they invited us in for a meal instead. And let me tell you, I'm now kicking myself for waiting this long. Best Indian meal ever? It's definitely up there.

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Sunday, 8 April 2018

EVENT: The Superfood Curry Company

Superfood curry company - Chilterns catering company for specialist dietary requirements including vegan, keto, paleo, gluten free, fodmap

One of the things I love about blogging on a local level is finding out about businesses that I might not have known about otherwise. And Tring and the surrounding areas have such a sense of community that it really feels like everyone gets behind independent businesses and wants them to succeed, which is lovely.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the launch of the Superfood Curry Company, a catering company set up by Meena and Kim who previously ran the award winning Cinnamon Cafe. They took a break from catering due to family and health issues, and as part of their illnesses realised they couldn't eat their own food any more. And they started to think about all the other people who have really specific dietary needs, and how difficult catering events is for them so started to talk about how they could support them - and the Superfood Curry Company was born.

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Saturday, 31 March 2018

RECIPE: Feijaoda (super healthy and tasty Brazilian stew)

Recipe for Feijaoda a Brazilian stew, vegan, vegetarian and zero 0 smart points on Weight Watchers Flex

Lately, I've been cooking lots more than usual. It's nice - I tend to get into the habit of cooking the same things over and over, and get really lazy about pushing my boundaries. I have stacks of cookbooks that I've never cooked anything from, and it does sadden me a little. I love to cook, and I love to cook new things - there's nothing like that feeling when you take the first taste and it's not like anything you've ever made before. So I'm pushing myself to do that a little more.

Actually, this isn't a bad time of year to do that. Firstly, it's cold (STILL) and cooking is hot work. Secondly, I'm not going out a whole lot right now, so instead I've been picking a nice meal every weekend to make. We've had beef stew and tikka masalas and oh-so-many curries. And one of my favourite recent recipes - that's actually gone into my cooking rotation already - is this Jamie Oliver version of Feijaoda, a Brazilian stew.

I do turn to Jamie's recipes more and more - they're always super easy to follow and he's pretty creative with flavours, and I like how he bounces around between different cuisines, because that's what I do too.

Also, if you're doing Weight Watchers like I am, this recipe is 0SP which is amazing (rice etc would obvs be extra). I've made a few tweaks to the original - I cut back on the oil a little and switched out the okra out for green beans (it's nice either way). Also, I like to pulse the finished stew with a hand blender to thicken it at the end - totally optional, but I think it's good. And if you're NOT doing Weight Watchers, like my fiance isn't, you'll still enjoy it lots. Promise.

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Sunday, 25 March 2018

REVIEW: Bill's, St Albans

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

Although I don't live in St Albans any more, I still find myself back there a lot. I was born and bred in that town, and it'll always have a place in my heart. It's so interesting how much it's changed over the years - it's gone from being a pretty-but-boring place that's a 20 minute train journey to London to a really great destination for a minibreak, and a big part of that is the foodie scene.

I am - as you've probably noticed - very into food, so this is a good thing. But it's definitely weird seeing so many of my teenage drinking haunts becoming restaurants. I think the Fighting Cocks and the Horn are the only ones left! But the place I spent most of my Friday nights in my late teens to my early twenties was the Cross Keys which was the Wetherspoons in town (followed later by Lloyds, which was never so much my scene - not least because I never forgave it for taking over Hot Coles, the best cocktail bar in the WORLD, and turning it into their kitchen). But the Cross Keys, man. It was a total dive, but was the setting of so many great nights. So many not-so-great hangovers.

When it closed, a couple of restaurants tried to take over and didn't do so well, which was a shame as it's a great building. So when Bill's moved in a few years ago, I was really excited because my London-based pals had been raving about it for a while. These days, Bill's is in most towns and it's always one of the first places I choose for a good dinner (I went last week with work). So I was very happy to be asked to review the St Albans one following their awesome renovation - I mean, obviously I was pretty familiar with the menu, so I knew I was in store for a great meal. And I was!

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

WEDDING: Meet my new wedding shoes!

Rainbow Club Marcia wedding shoes - mary jane style with a strap and thick chunky heels

So there's less than two months now until my wedding and the planning is amping up. The dress fittings have begun, the bridesmaids and ushers have their outfits and we're starting to nail down the final details. It's both exciting and scary. I'm excited for the day, and after the day (I am seriously impatient to call Matt my husband) but I'm nervous that I've dropped a ball somewhere or forgotten something, and that's the scary part. The anxiety dreams are pretty much nightly at this point (but I like to think of them as warnings not to forget things!).

One thing I chose fairly early on was my shoes. At 5'1, I knew I'd want to wear heels, and I'm usually more comfortable in those with a strap as I have wide feet so often end up in shoes a size too big, which means they sometimes slip off. It's a lot to consider. So I was after some cute Mary-Jane type shoes, when Matt pointed out that I should look for a wide heel, too. It's a good point, and the reason he makes it is because he's attended several weddings with me where I've clutched frantically at his arm as my stilettos have sunk into the lawn.

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

REVIEW: The Akeman, Tring

Review of The Akeman in Tring, part of the Oakman Inns group - where to eat in Tring, food blogger, gastropub, pizza, burger
Review of The Akeman in Tring, part of the Oakman Inns group - where to eat in Tring, food blogger, gastropub, pizza, burger

One of the things that appealed to us about Tring when we chose to move here was all the awesome independent shops and restaurants around. You can count the chain restaurants on one hand. One hand that's missing three fingers. And that's nice. I'm all for a chain every now and then, but it often means you miss out on discovering new things. And new things are good.

On one of those first visits to Tring, we walked to a few houses we'd seen for sale to see what the area was like, and finished up with a light lunch at The Akeman, which we chose because we were big fans of its sister restaurant, The Beech House, back in St Albans. And actually since we've moved, it's become one of our favourite places. It's a great combination of restaurant and bar - you can go for a great night out and drink all the gins, grab brunch or a quick pizza, or have a slap up three course meal. I was overjoyed a few months ago to be invited to their reopening night after they expanded into the building next door, and it looks great now - there's all these extra little cosy nooks that are just crying out for a date night and a couple of bottles of wine.

At the reopening night, I got the chance to chat to Eamonn Borg-Neal, the general manager of The Akeman. His family owns all the pubs in the Oakman Inns group (there are a few around, including The King's Arms in Berkhamsted which is another favourite of mine) and I discovered that it's a small, beloved family business with their HQ in Tring. And I think that's my point about chains - when I was chatting to Eamonn, it was clear how much he and his family cared about the restaurants and it comes across when you visit them. We even got talking about Eamonn's plans to run a half marathon this month, in aid of Epilepsy Action, which is close to his heart as he's lived with epilepsy for several years.

We popped back a few weeks later to have a proper meal and see how the restaurant had changed since the renovation. Grab a snack - this will make you hungry.

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

WISHLIST: In summer!

Summer 2018 wishlist

The urge to spend money is real right now, which I blame on the sun gracing us with its presence, even if it is f-f-f-freezing. I've booked my holidays (yes! Plural!) for the year now and I want to plan my summer wardrobe nowww. Alarmingly, I'm seriously considering adding trousers to my summer wardrobe as I've been practising in jeans for a few months now. It's new, and it's scary, but I'm kind of into this whole ankle grazer look that the cool kids have been rocking.

Anyway, this is what I'm planning to wear this summer, if we get any sunshine at all. Breton tops and ankle grazers with Converse or ballet pumps and preppy dresses with sandals or wedges... I am here for you, warmth.

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Sunday, 4 February 2018

REVIEW: Wagamama, St Albans

Review of Wagamama in St Albans by Essbeevee, food blogger in Hertfordshire. One of the top places to eat in St Albans
Review of Wagamama in St Albans by Essbeevee, food blogger in Hertfordshire. One of the top places to eat in St Albans
Review of Wagamama in St Albans by Essbeevee, food blogger in Hertfordshire. One of the top places to eat in St Albans
Review of Wagamama in St Albans by Essbeevee, food blogger in Hertfordshire. One of the top places to eat in St Albans

When Matt and I started dating, he immediately got a free pass to all the food reviews I did for the blog. He was pretty happy, but my friends and family were a wee bit put out. These days, I try to share them out - I usually do the local ones with Matt, but tie in the London ones with seeing a London-based pal instead. However, when Wagamama asked me if I wanted to pop along and review the St Albans branch, I decided to break my rules and take my Mum along instead.

It was just before Christmas, so it felt like a nice time to do a treaty meal out. Obviously, I've been to Wagamama countless times, but going for my blog felt rather more exciting. Sure, people stared at me as I took photos of our meals with my giant obnoxious camera while my Mum said proudly, 'It's for a blog! Our meal is free!' (Muuuum...) but it also meant an excuse to order something exciting off the menu and go ALL IN on the sides, rather than my usual go-to of Ginger Chicken Udon and edamame beans.

Sidenote: There was a Buzzfeed quiz recently where it asked what your favourite Wagamama order was, and Ginger Chicken Udon WASN'T ON IT. I know there's a lot of Katsu fans out there (sorry, I just don't really like it) and that's cool, but the amount of times I've been to Wagas and we've all ordered Ginger Chicken Udon. It is a classic, and it deserves respect. And if you've never ordered it, YOU SHOULD.

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Monday, 29 January 2018

WISHLIST: Wedding shoes!

So my wedding is less than four months away and suddenly it feels REALLY SOON. But now is kind of the exciting part after months and months of saving money - we get to spend it! Our honeymoon flights are booked, our catering options are chosen (slow cooked beef, get in my face) and my dress fittings are all booked in. So now, for possibly the first time ever, my to-do list contains the item 'Buy shoes and accessories'. I have permission to buy shoes, you guys! It's on a SPREADSHEET.

Anyway, I've already bought a few bits - I'm a terror for buying and returning all the things - but I keep eyeing new options so I thought I'd share some of my fave pairs of shoes. I know from Twitter that a few of you out there are wedding planning too, so maybe you'll spot something you like here.







I'm also debating headwear options - veils, sparkly hair things, flower crowns. So many options! It's fun, but I'm finding it really hard to choose just ONE.

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