Blogger Secret Santa with Just My Look

I’m more than slightly obsessed with Christmas, and my favourite part about the season is giving presents. I like to think I’m a pretty good gift-giver – I like to put a lot of thought in all my gifts, and its definitely my favourite part of Christmas day!

JustMyLook Secret Santa, NoelI also love my beauty products, too, so when JustMyLook asked if I’d like to take part in their blogger secret santa challenge I couldn’t resist!

Noel Christmas OrnamentsJustMyLook offer your favourite drugstore makeup products like Revlon, Maybelline, OPI, Rimmel and more at a seriously discounted rate. The best part? They also offer free shipping to UK addresses, too! I’ve found some of my drugstore favourites like the Rimmel Wake Me Up Foundation with up to £2 off, and MaxFactor mascaras up to £4 cheaper than in Boots or Superdrug. Amazing!

Noel Christmas Ornaments, Secret SantaThe team at JustMyLook gave me £20 to play with, and a 10% off code to put together a nice package for my Secret Santa. I was lucky enough to get paired up with someone I know quite well from blogging, and who is really lovely, so I wanted to put an extra nice gift together for her.

JustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder, OPI Pink-Ing of You and Max Factor Glide & Define Eyeliner, W7 Contouring KitIn terms of her look, she’s what I’d call an English Rose – she has a very fair complexion, so I wanted to go for a very simple and classic look. She also mentioned that she has quite sensitive skin, so I didn’t want to go for anything too glittery that might irritate her skin. Wanting to add a personal touch to the gift, I went with a few of my everyday beauty staples.

JustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder, OPI Pink-Ing of You and Max Factor Glide & Define Eyeliner, W7 Contouring KitJustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder, OPI Pink-Ing of You and Max Factor Glide & Define EyelinerI’m a massive fan of liquid eyeliner – my signature look is a cat-eye flick, and I really love using the MaxFactor Glide and Define Eyeliner. My favourite drugstore mascara is the Maybelline Lash Sensational, so those went in the basket – along with the Rimmel Stay Matte Powder.

JustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational MascaraJustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder, OPI Pink-Ing of You and Max Factor Glide & Define EyelinerI find that even higher end setting powders really can’t compete with the Rimmel Stay Matte in terms of quality or value, and I have been through a fair few cakes of this!

I wanted to include something with a little bit of colour, so I added a bottle of OPI’s Pinking of You nail polish. It’s a really pretty pink colour, and with a donation going to breast cancer charities with every purchase, I couldn’t resist!

JustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: OPI Pink-Ing of YouMy Secret Santa mentioned in her note that she hadn’t tried contouring before – and so I included the last item on the list – the W7 Catwalk contour palette. This is the only product that I hadn’t tried before, but I was really keen to get her a cream contour palette, as I think they are much more effective than powder! I bought the Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Contour Kit, and hardly use it, always reaching for my BeautyUK cream-based contour palette – so fingers crossed that the W7 version is a good one!

JustMyLook.Co.UK Secret Santa: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, Rimmel Stay Matte Powder, OPI Pink-Ing of You and Max Factor Glide & Define EyelinerI’ll be away until early January, so I won’t be able to see what I got just yet, but I’m so excited! Something to look forward to when I’m back.

Thanks, JustMyLook, for this opportunity – you’ve got a new fan!

Although I was reimbursed for the cost of the gifts, all opinions are fully my own.

Did you take part in a secret santa this year? What did you get? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Christmas with John Lewis

We are two weeks into December and I am feeling the heat.

That might have something to do with the fact that I’m currently writing this up from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where it is currently 30 degrees! While I am having the most awesome time swimming, relaxing and going for massages, I’m not feeling particularly festive right this second.

John Lewis Christmas: Christmas WreathsHowever, this wasn’t the case two weeks ago when I headed down to The Proud Archivist, to celebrate with the reigning champions of all things Christmas, John Lewis!

John Lewis has always been a firm favourite in my family – our go-to for birthday gifts, anniversary presents, and the Oxford Street cafe is a frequent meeting point when we’re in town.

John Lewis Christmas: NutcrackerWhen it comes to Christmas, John Lewis seem to kill it, every year. The fact that the release of their Christmas ads every year is now (basically) a sacred tradition really tells you something about how they have nailed Christmas.

I was so stoked to get the invite to their Christmas event, particularly as I knew I’d be missing all the usual Christmassy treats this year, due to the heat. Mulled wine in 30 degree heat? I’d rather a sangria, thank you very much.

John Lewis Christmas: Wrapping, Decorations, NutcrackerJohn Lewis Christmas: Mulled WineLuckily, the John Lewis team had me covered on the mulled wine front – in shot form!

I had high expectations for the event, and they were definitely met – the team had decorated the room amazingly (check out the giant nutcracker!). I was definitely feeling extremely festive, with all the edible Christmas treats, holiday tunes and all the free-flowing prosecco!

The evening was filled with crafting. The other bloggers made some seriously amazing things, and I was extremely envious of their skills! I can’t say I’m particularly skilled in that area, but I gave it a good go – and I was really happy with my Christmas wreath, which is proudly hung on the door to my flat.

John Lewis Christmas: Christmas WreathsJohn Lewis Christmas: Christmas WreathsJohn Lewis Christmas: Christmas WreathsWe then had a little gift wrapping masterclass. There, I discovered glue dots –  where have they been all my life? That’s where I’ve been going wrong all along, messing about with tape all these years (always too long, too short, or  stuck to something else). You know those annoying people who always give beautifully wrapped gifts? Yeah. THEY USE GLUE DOTS. Do it – it’s the future!

John Lewis Christmas: Gift WrappingJohn Lewis Christmas: Gift WrappingJohn Lewis Christmas: Gift WrappingSome of the others made some really beautiful place settings, and it was just such a nice evening – lovely canapes, great company, and such a festive Christmas vibe!

John Lewis Christmas: CraftsJohn Lewis Christmas: CraftsJohn Lewis Christmas: Crafts and Gift WrappingJohn Lewis Christmas: WshThe whole event really got me excited about crafting, too – I even made my own hand-sewn Christmas decorations with one of their Christmas sewing kits, and it looks amazing! It’s really got me excited, and I’ve now added their sewing machine to my Christmas wishlist. Fingers crossed!

John Lewis Christmas: NutcrackerAs a social media manager, I couldn’t possibly write this post without mentioning the utter legend that has the @JohnLewis handle on Twitter. He’s made a seriously unfortunate coincidence and is really great about it – and he even redirects tweets to the official Twitter handle, too. Legend!

Many thanks to the John Lewis team for having me – I had such a great time, and it’s got me SO excited for Christmas!

Did you like the John Lewis ad this year? Have you done any Christmas crafting? Let me know by commenting below, or let me knowon TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Sake & Spice

I’m always up for mashups. Food, music, whatever, but it has to be done well.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
So I was extremely intrigued when the team at Moti Mahal invited me down for their Sake & Spice event.

Moti Mahal was founded more than forty years ago in Delhi. Their London branch is located right near Covent Garden, and they specialise in Indian dishes that emphasize traditional techniques – mostly street-style tandoori dishes.

I’m always up for Indian food, but when I found out that every course would be paired with a different sake, I knew this was an event I couldn’t miss.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Despite being Japanese, I know barely anything about sake – luckily, the clever folks at Moti Mahal had a couple of tips and facts to share.

Sake is brewed like a beer, with four ingredients – rice, koji, yeast and water. There is usually no vintage – sake is designed to be drunk within 1 or 2 years of bottling, and should be drunk like a wine. My favourite fact about sake is how it tends to enhance the flavour of food, unlike other forms of alcohol – and we really put that theory to the test at Moti Mahal!

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event

Our first course was the Chukander Ka salad – a roasted beetroot and peanut salad that was served with stuffed peppers, minted potatoes and green peas.

This was served with my favourite sake of the evening – a Kimura Fukukomachi Junmai Daiginjo, a premium sake that had a slightly fruity taste to it.

Our next course was the Barra Peshwari – my favourite dish of the evening. These delicious lamb chops were served with caraway seed, Kashmiri chillies, mooli raita and avocado chutney, and were paired with a Kimura Fukukomachi Daiginjo sake. This sake was also a premium sake, and had a lovely light and subtly fruity flavour – not overly harsh, as I find some sake varieties can be.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Next up was a Murgabi, served with Teetar and a side of stir-fried okra. Murgabi is a pheasant dish that has been stir fried with Malabar spices – this was so exquisite, especially with the sweet and spicy pickled partridge. The partridge Teetar was like nothing I’d never tried before, but the flavours were really wonderful. This was served with a Akita Shurui Seizoh Takashimizu Honjozo – this sake seemed more familiar to me than the others: I must admit, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I did the first two.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
The next dish was the Lahori Macchi Pulao – baby red mullet cooked with basmati rice, curry leaf and pounded spice and served with raita. This was paired with the Gozenshu 9 ‘Mountain Stream’ Junmai Nama Bodaimoto.

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventMoti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
The dessert was a pineapple carpaccio served with plum and port wine sorbet – definitely underwhelming, although the umeshu (plum wine) it was paired with was absolutely divine. I might need to get a bottle of Ume No Yado Aragoshi Umeshu when I’m back in Japan next month!

Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice EventUmeshu, Moti Mahal: Sake and Spice Event
Overall, the experience was absolutely incredible. Barry, the Beverage Manager, is so knowledgable about the topic – it was great to get some tips (as well as try some of the gin he makes himself!) It was unlike any other pairing I’ve tried in the past, and the combination of Indian flavours with Japanese sake was an unusual one – but one I’d definitely try again.

Even if you can’t try one of their Sake & Spice events, Moti Mahal is worth popping into for the food, which is really delicious. I’d definitely recommend the lamb chops – it’s definitely worth popping into (and avoid the chains in Covent Garden)!

Have you ever tried a fusion alcohol pairing? How did it go? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Moti Mahal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What I’ve Learned About Food Photography

I’m the first person to admit that I am not an expert in food photography, but I’d like to think that over the past year I’ve learned a few tips and tricks which have made my food photos a lot better than they used to be.

LiterEATure Series: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Rose and Pistachio Turkish Delight
When the fantastic team at Joe Blogs, along with Currys invited me along to a photography workshop at the Nikon School I was really excited. I own a Nikon DS3300, and wanted to learn a couple of tips from the experts!

Pulled Pork Nachos, Barrelhouse BBQ, Jack Daniels Tour, Lynchburg, Tennessee As all their events are, the evening was a great way to catch up with friends, discover a few tricks and, of course, take hundreds of photos of food.

Jack Daniels Ice Cream, Jack Daniels Tour, Lynchburg, TennesseeCurry's Food Photography
I won’t go in depth about how to use a DSLR, or about aperture/ISO, but I do want to share five things I’ve learned about food photography so far – and one that I learned from the workshop! So without further ado….

Curry's Food PhotographyCurry's Food Photography: Erin from Islandbell
1) Keep it natural

In my experience, nothing beats natural lighting – or at least, nothing affordable. If you can, take your food photos during the day.

Curry's Food Photography: Figs
2) Invest in the best

For the best photos, you need the right tools. There’s very little point in spending time setting up, and dishing up something beautifully if you are going to take it on your camera phone. While there are some amazing phone cameras out there, for amazing and high quality photos you just have to invest in a good camera, and some lenses. When I’m not using my Nikon, I usually carry around my Sony RX1oo II in my handbag, and I swear by it – it’s amazing in low lighting and takes beautiful shots. The quality of the shots has dramatically changed. At the Nikon workshop I was struggling to get the look I wanted until I borrowed one of their 60mm macro lenses – and I fell in love. I’ve added it to my Amazon wishlist – fingers crossed for Christmas!

Curry's Food Photography: Fruit CakeCurry's Food Photography: Fruit CakeCurry's Food Photography: Kiwi
3) Know when to close the deal – and when to back away

For certain dishes, you should go in for the closeup. I’ve generally found anything with cheese on it (like nachos) you should go in close. This rule doesn’t apply to things like meat, or fish – anything with bone in it, really. Something about seeing those things in detail are quite unappealing, generally.

Curry's Food Photography: Fruit Cake
4) Post-production

I used to whack my photos up, completely untouched by editing software. Talk about amateur hour. A few seconds spent adjusting colours, brightness, exposure and contrast makes a world of difference – taking a photo from a 5 to a solid 10.

5) Take as many shots as you can

Almost every single time I take photos, I always end up using the ones I take as an afterthought. I find I take a few, think I’ve nailed it, but the difference from taking a look on your camera screen to your laptop is huge! Take another version of a photo than you think is necessary – it might just be the best. Of course, people might slowly stop inviting you to dinner as a result, but who needs people like that in their lives anyway. I’ve definitely done you a favour.

My favourite tip from the Nikon workshop was about adjusting the white balance on the camera. HOW did I not know about this before? By manually adjusting the white balance on your camera when you’re in a dark place, the camera will then readjust all the colours around it based on your latest reading.

Like this photo below – the first, being very blue, to the second shot. All I did was adjust the white balance – and it’s made such a difference!

Curry's Food Photography: PeppersCurry's Food Photography: Peppers
My photos of these berries went from looking odd, and distinctly yellow, to this. Amazing!

Curry's Food PhotographyCurry's Food Photography: Berries
A massive thank you to the Joe Blogs team for having me – it was such an informative evening! I was invited to attend the event, but all opinions are my own.

What are some of your favourite food photography tips? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

British Street Food Awards (& A Giveaway!)

I absolutely love street food – always have. I’m lucky enough to live and work near some of the best places in London for street food, and I firmly believe that the street food scene in the UK is second to none.

So I am unbelievably excited to be attending the British Street Food Awards at the O2 on the 5th and 6th of December! After four regional heats, the best street food traders will be competing in a massive cook-off. My type of competition!

The British St Food Final HiRes Vertical
It’s going to be a great day out – with live music (including Street Food – The Musical), crazy golf, beer, and food tasting galore! To top it off, Channel 5’s The Gadget Show will be there, setting up a time-traveling food stall showcasing the future of street food.

FB flyerCheeky Italian
Oh, and NAUGHTY BOY is going to be there, too. Standard. Doesn’t it sound amazing?!

I think so. And because I love my readers so much, I’m giving away two tickets! All you have to do is fill in the Rafflecopter below and leave me a comment telling me about your favourite street food!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’m also throwing in a copy of Tom Kime’s Street Food – some simple, easy-to-follow recipes so you can recreate some of your favourite dishes at home. The giveaway ends on the 3rd of December, so make sure you enter well ahead of time – I’ll be checking!

Tom Kine's Street Food
Will you be coming along to the Street Food Awards? What’s your favourite type of street food? 

Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!