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The Martian // A Film Review

20 Oct 2015

I don't understand people who describe themselves as not being 'a film person', or 'not enjoying going to the cinema'. I literally cannot get my head around this idea. To me, there's nothing more relaxing than snuggling into your bed or sofa, fairy lights on, popcorn at the ready and a relaxing movie. The only thing that beats that, depending on what mood you're in, is heading on down to the cinema for some big screen action. It was Saturday night and my friend invited me to see this film I'd never heard of. It was called 'The Martian' and had 93% rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, if you call yourself a film lover then you'll know that 93% positive is pretty freaking amazing. I mean, some of the films I go to see have about 30% positive reviews and I still absolutely love them.

I expected it to be great, but I didn't expect it to be that great. Without meaning to make an awful generalisation, I thought it might be a bit like Gravity (that one with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) and although I did enjoy that film, I didn't think that it lived up to the hype and it did kind of disappoint. 

The Martian is based on a novel by Andy Weir, and is a film based mainly on Mars about a guy who is believed to be dead and is left stranded by his crew on their mission. He is, in fact, alive, and the film follows his personal one-man journey, along with those in NASA who are also involved in the mission. Said guy is played by the ever wonderful Matt Damon, who I have to say looks pretty fine throughout the whole movie. I always find movies that are based solely on one character particularly interesting, because the actor/actress really can make or break the film. In this case, Damon absolutely made it and played the part fantastically. He was lovable, courageous, sexy, funny and everything in between. If you don't already consider yourself to be a Matt Damon fan, then you will after seeing him in The Martian. The other characters were great, and I particularly loved the appearance of Donald Glover from Community as the astrodynamics guy (I think that's what he was...)

In terms of the actual film and plot itself, The Martian is the perfect combination of light-hearted humour, scintillating problem solving and thrilling action. It wasn't too much action for someone who's a massive wimp like me, but plenty enough to get the adrenaline pumping and leave me on the edge of my seat a couple of times. Any film that makes me tear up also gets a gold star from me, especially if it's because of Matt Damon.

Probably my favourite thing about this film is that it is incredibly mentally stimulating. I won't sit here and pretend that I could follow all of the physics talk throughout the film (though there's not that much, don't worry), but I can't remember the last time I was so in awe of the intelligence of movie characters. It was so full of problems that required well thought out solutions, more problems, more solutions, more problems etc that I genuinely thought there was never going to be a happy ending. In fact, maybe there was and maybe there wasn't, I don't want to spoil it for anyone!

All in all, it was one of the best films I've seen in the long time, and this is coming from a self-confessed chick flick addict.

Afternoon Tea at Vintage Salt, Selfridges

11 Oct 2015

Could there be anything better than cake, in my favourite city, with two of my favourite people? 

I briefly spoke about my breakfast at 26 Grains in Neal's Yard the other day, and now it's time to discuss one very yummy afternoon tea. As with everything, I spent a lot of time researching places for Afternoon Tea in London, and I found that most of them were either crazily expensive (er, The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason) or just your typical cute but kind of samey tea rooms. We came across Vintage Salt in our research, which is an adorable little restaurant pop up on the rooftop of Selfridges. Unfortunately, I have just found out that it's closing and being replaced this weekend (!!!) but I thought I'd blog about it anyway.

To get to Vintage Salt you have to take a special lift on the ground floor of Selfridges, walk along a nautical themed corridor and enter the also nautical themed cafe. As you'll see from the photo above, me and Anna embarrassingly fitted in perfectly with the theme and looked like we worked there, damn that stripes trend. 

Inside the café it was classy, cute, and felt more homely than hotel restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go for afternoon tea somewhere seriously fancy like The Ritz, but this place was perfect for us. It wasn't very busy at all when we arrived which was also kind of nice, but I'm really surprised there weren't more people who'd heard of it. 

We were able to choose from tea or coffee (there's also an option of Champagne Afternoon Tea), which arrived in beautiful vintage style cups and saucers and teapots. Anna's cake stand then arrived with her very own treats without chocolate, as she can't eat it. Mine and Rowan's then arrived and boy did it look fantastic! There were some delicious classic finger sandwiches in the middle, scones on the top and an array of beautiful, colourful treats on the bottom. I was excited to see the macarons as they're my absolute favourite, but along with that we also had some kind of a strawberry cream tart, a chocolatey cake burger and my personal favourite - an indulgent brownie topped with golden popcorn. I couldn't fault anything because it was all absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish two scones each but I guess that's just something I'll try to improve upon next time...

The service was also absolutely fantastic and the waiters who served us were all ultra friendly and lovely.

I have of course already blogged about the delights of afternoon tea before, once in the amazing Bill's Restaurant and once in Oakley Hall, a beautiful manor house in Hampshire. Both times for my Mum's birthday (can you tell we like cake in my household?) So have a look at them if you want more pictures of cake.

A Little Note on Breakfast at 26 Grains

7 Oct 2015

I met two of my best friends Anna and Rowan on my year abroad, and within about a day of meeting each other we were making plans for day trips, all of which centred around food. We were lucky enough to be in a fantastic location which was close to the Spanish border and other beautiful surrounding areas such as the Pyrenees and Provence. We managed to travel quite a lot, to places like BarcelonaProvenceAvignon and Perpignan, experiencing lots of interesting sights and interesting people!

Back in England and the summer blues hit hard. We all missed Montpellier but we probably missed each other even more, so a trip to London went straight into the diary, along with afternoon tea and tickets for The Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery (which is just about to finish!).  

First stop when I got off the train was, of course, breakfast. Anna and I met in Neal's Yard which is quite possibly my favourite new place in London. We wanted to check out 26 Grains after seeing a billion and one delicious looking pictures featuring them on Instagram. The fact that they're ultra healthy was an added bonus, especially when an indulgent afternoon tea was booked for later in the day (more on that later!)

We sat down, ordered our breakfast and lo and behold a table of healthy goodness appeared before us. I couldn't order anything but the Banana Cacao Porridge Bowl, which was made up of almond milk oats, coconut yoghurts, banana, cacao nibs and maple. Although I'd be lying if I said that it tasted better than if it was made with slightly less healthy ingredients, it was pretty damn good. I'm always skeptical about how good a substitute these things actually are for the classic ingredients, but 26 Grains has increased my faith! Turns out that Cacao nibs are actually a tasty substitute for chocolate chips, albeit slight more bitter in comparison. I also loved the coconut taste coming from the yoghurt.

Anna had a Raspberry Chia bowl which consisted of a handful of things I've forgotten, but including some delicious apple and blackberry and spiralized apple.

Next up will be afternoon tea at Vintage Salt - an adorable and seemingly inconspicuous little café/restaurant!

I'm A Featured Blogger

4 Oct 2015
I've heard some bloggers say that one of the greatest things about blogging is being able to work with brands and collaborate with other bloggers. I had yet to experience this until an email popped into my inbox in September, asking if I would like to write and shoot pictures for a recipe tutorial. When I was told that it was National Coffee day on the 29th September and that I could do a coffee themed recipe if I wanted, I was completely sold and got planning straight away. The recipe I decided to undertake was for Macarons with a Mocha Ganache, which seemed to me to be the perfect light, but deliciously sweet and elegant dessert. It took me a good few attempts to perfect them because, as with everything it seems the presence of presence and a deadline meant that everything suddenly went wrong!

I hadn't actually heard of the company, Wayfair, before, but when I looked around their site I saw so much cute looking homeware and I will definitely be going back to it! Their prices are incredibly reasonable as well; there are a few pricey items but it is mainly great value.*

*I received some baking goodies in return for the recipe, but this blog post is not sponsored and I genuinely do love the items Wayfair has to offer! The adorable cake stand pictured can be found here on the website!

Speculoos Cupcakes

3 Oct 2015

For those of you thinking 'what the heck is Speculoos?!', it's a delicious biscuit spread that tastes somewhere between gingerbread and digestives and it is heaven. Some people even have it straight on toast (not me, that's too far.)

Also, I'm sure none of you will have noticed but I have been away from blogging for a few weeks. This is down to the fact that since I've started back at uni I have been swamped with social plans and preparation work and to say that I have been feeling overwhelmed would be a massive understatement. Turns out that final year is hectic and I'm struggling to find time for everything right now. Fingers crossed it settles down soon!

You will need:

150g butter
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
Speculoos/biscoff spread

125g butter
250g icing sugar
a few tsp water

Step One: Cream the butter and sugar together.
Step Two: Beat in the eggs and the vanilla essence.
Step Three: Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
Step Four: Fill one third of your cupcakes cases with cake mixture. Add a dollop of speculoos spread in the centre and cover with more mixture.
Step Five: Bake in a preheated oven at 180c for 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Step Six: Beat your butter in a bowl and add the sifted icing sugar. Mix until combined and smooth, adding drops of water as and when needed.
Step Seven: Add streaks of speculoos spread to the inside of your piping bag, followed by the icing mixture. Using a large star nozzle, decorate your completely cooled cupcakes.