Thursday, 10 December 2015

Beauty | Space NK Arrives in York

Well it's been been a pretty exciting day for my fair little city; today we finally have a Space NK Apothecary in York city centre!  If you're not familiar with this brand you probably have no idea why I'm so very pleased, but let me give you a quick run down...

Space NK opened its first boutique in Covent Garden over 20 years ago, it originally sold designer clothing, accessories and beauty products and even had a juice bar, over time however it became more focused on an offering of carefully curated, quality skincare, makeup and general wellness products.  To date Space NK has 63 stores throughout the UK and Ireland.

Space NK York | Space NK on Davygate in York

I got a tour of the brand new store on Davygate today, and got a chance to speak to the very friendly and knowledgeable PR team about the general ethos of Space NK and the many amazing brands they have on offer.  If you've been to a Space NK anywhere in the UK before you'll know that they all have a very familiar feel, very serene, bright and premium, but incredibly appealing and welcoming at the same time; this latest boutique is no different.

Perhaps one of the best things about having a Space NK open in York is the sheer number of makeup and skincare ranges on offer.  You can, of course find some of them in the city's department stores, but many of brands are completely exclusive.  For makeup, I was particularly pleased to find Chantecaille, Becca, By Terry, Nudestix and Kevyn Aucoin, to name just a few.  The abundance of skincare was fantastic too and I can't wait to get my hands on some lotions and potions from names such as Ren, Oskia, Nude, Radical Skincare, Sunday Riley and Sarah Chapman.  What's also great, is that each of the members of staff is fully trained on each brand and can help you choose the best products for your needs.

Space NK York | Chantecaille, By Terry, Becca and Kevyn Aucoin
Space NK York | Sunday Riley, Sarah Chapman, Radical Skincare and Nude

I must have spent a good hour in the store, getting to know everything, speaking with the PR team and staff and generally playing with lots of products.  It was kind of sad when I had to be on my way but I didn't leave empty handed, in fact I left with a fabulous bag of treats to try out from Oribe, Ren, Eve Lom, Aromatherapy Associates, Diptyque and Smith & Cult.  You can see exactly what I got pictured below, and you can bet you'll see reviews of these products appearing on my blog in the very near future.

Space NK York | Oribe, Ren, Eve Lom, Aromatherapy Associates, Diptyque and Smith & Cult

The only minor negative about a having a Space NK apothecary in York?  Why, the effect on my bank balance of course.  I wonder if I should just set up a standing order to them now in exchange for regular product deliveries and be done with it?

Join me, find your nearest Space NK and spend all of your money too!  Until next time...

SHARON

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Work It Out Wednesday #5 | Being a lazy b*stard

Work It Out Wednesday #5 | Being a lazy b*stard
 
The last post I wrote in this series feels like it was forever ago, I was all motivated to get on with my 90 Day SSS Plan and was feeling like things could be starting to look up.

Fast forward a few months though and I'm now deep in the realisation that the thyroid issues I have are a bit more serious than I first thought and that it's going to take more time to get myself back to where I was even a year ago.  We're not talking dire in terms of the seriousness, but I'm still in a situation where no matter what exercise I do and what changes I make to my diet, my weight stays the same.  Another lovely side effect is that I'm bloody knackered all the time.

It's been an incredibly frustrating situation to be in; for the last year I've really prided myself on my active lifestyle, but getting nowhere has made me act like a right lazy b*stard for these last couple of months.

So what's changed, and why am I writing this series again?  Well for the simple reason that I don't want to start the festive season in a negative frame of mind and when the doctors and I do get my thyroid meds right and this god-awful tiredness lifts, I want to be doing everything I can to keep my metabolism up and to keep me in good health.

I think I remember reading somewhere that it takes 21 days to make a habit, so I figure if I can eat well and keep doing some light exercise every day for at least that period to begin with, I'll be in a good position again in a short while.  And who knows when I've got more energy I might be ready to start the 90 Day SSS Plan again (with a few tweaks since I'm now vegan).

Wish me luck!  Until next time...

SHARON

Monday, 7 December 2015

Christmas Gift Ideas | Men's Gifts from The Body Shop

Well this is a first, I've got stuff for boy's on my blog... weird eh?!  It's all for a good cause though, finding some great gifts for the men in my life.  The opposite sex, can be tricky to buy for but The Body Shop have some great gift options this year and they're not too expensive either.

To tell you a little bit about some potential gifts The Body Shop have on offer I've enlisted the help of my husband Gaz...

The Body Shop | Modern Gent's Shaving Kit

Modern Gent's Shaving Kit*


Containing a shaving brush, Maca Root Shave Cream and Maca Root Razor Relief, all presented in a cool little tin, this kit seems to have covered all of the extra products a man might need to have a good shave (with the exception of a razor of course).  It's a great little gift as far as I'm concerned.

The Body Shop | Modern Gent's Shaving Kit

Gaz's thoughts: "I don't shave very often, but when I want to, this is a handy kit to have, it reminds me of one my grandad used when I was little.  The brush and the Maca Root Shave Cream work together with a bit of water to lift up and soften the hair on my face making it easier to get a close shave.

My skin can get a bit irritated by the whole shaving thing so the Maca Root Razor Relief was good to soothe my face and neck afterwards.  The smell of the cream and moisturiser is clean and fresh and overall my skin feels softer from using these things during my shave.

Aside from the products, I can tell you I'll definitely be using the tin when I've used everything up.  I just haven't decided what I'll put in it yet."

The Body Shop | White Musk Sport Eau de Toilette Pour Homme


White Must Sport Eau de Toilette*


I always think it's nice buying a man a fragrance, they never usually think to buy scents themselves so Christmas is a great time to stock up for them.  I personally liked this eau de toilette because it's not a heavy, cloying, overtly masculine scent, instead it's a little bit crisp and zesty.

The Body Shop | White Musk Sport Eau de Toilette Pour Homme

Gaz's thoughts: "Sharon is right that I wouldn't normally buy aftershave for myself, but I'd probably buy this one again since I've tried it.  I really like the smell, at first it's fresh and you can definitely get citrus in it, when it dies down it gets really mellow which I like.  I've been using the eau de toilette every day since Sharon asked me to try it, so it's been used at work and when I've been on the odd night out, I've had a few compliments on how I smell too which is always good."

I'm really pleased that Gaz has liked these little gifts, it's given me a few ideas for presents that I could buy for the other gents in my life and I hope it might inspire you too.

I'd love to hear about the presents you have planned for your boyfriend, husband, dad, brother, etc. - leave me a comment below.

Until next time...

*Products provided for review purposes.  All thoughts and general ramblings are honest opinions from myself and my husband Gaz.

SHARON & GAZ

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Vegan Eats | Café Rouge, York

Since I decided to switch to a vegan diet at the beginning of November (there were all sorts of ethical and health related reasons for this which I’ll save for a future post) I only had one real concern.  Would I still be able to indulge my love of trying out new restaurants whilst eating vegan?

I could have let this worry stop me, but instead I’ve set myself a challenge, to eat at and review lots of different restaurants for their ability and willingness to adapt their food to a different way of eating.

Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York

The first restaurant I had the pleasure of trying as part of this new challenge was Café Rouge on Low Petergate in York.  Now let’s face it, being a French restaurant chain that’s pretty famous for its menu of steak, duck, chicken, fish, etc. you perhaps wouldn’t expect to find much vegan food, but it can be done.  I went along with an omnivorous friend, by the name of Lisa, to sample the menu.

It was a horrible night when we went to the restaurant, it was cold, raining, the wind was blowing and I couldn’t wait to get inside.  The surroundings were warm and comfortable, it was pretty busy for a weeknight evening, but we were seated very quickly and ordered our drinks.  Café Rouge has a great wine list, but neither of us were drinking, so just went for soft drinks.

The menu at Café Rouge is pretty extensive but with lots of meat and fish and with sauces made with milk, butter and cheese, there wasn’t anything at first glance that was vegan.  I’d thought ahead though and before going had talked with the team about some options that could be ‘veganised’.

Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York


Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York

For a starter I had seriously considered going for the Champignons À L'ail, a concoction of mushrooms and garlic on grilled rye bread (the version on the menu has cream, but this could easily be left out), but as I was having a fairly carb-heavy main I opted for the Rouge Olives instead.  I wasn’t disappointed, the mix of olives, cornichons, capers and roquito chillies was a great little starter.  I really loved the chillies especially, they were sweet at first, but then hit you with just a little bit of heat, yum!  Lisa went for Champignons À L'ail and was very appreciative that the chef hadn’t skimped on the garlic, cream and herbs to complement the mushrooms.


Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York



Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York

When it came to mains there was one choice I really wanted, the Risotto Aux Champignons, it was really easy for them to make vegan too, simply removing the butter, cheese and crème fraiche that the dish would have had on the standard menu.  I adore a good risotto, this was the first one I’d had since deciding to go vegan, and I needn’t have worried that I’d miss the cheese, it was tasty as hell, really savoury thanks to the mushrooms but with a light/fresh flavour from the lemon and herbs.  I had no trouble at all finishing my plateful.

Similarly, Lisa really enjoyed her Demi Poulet, a half roast chicken with thyme, black pepper, serves with frites and a thyme jus.  She described the chicken as succulent and herby and the frites were perfectly crisp and were delicious with the jus.

Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York


Vegan Food at Café Rouge, York

By the end of both of those mains we were absolutely stuffed and couldn’t face desserts, we did want a little something though so Lisa had a hot chocolate and I chose a peppermint tea, it was a great end to a really tasty meal for both of us.

So my first test of eating vegan in a not traditionally vegan restaurant was a success!  With a little forewarning the chefs were more than happy to tweak food to suit me, hopefully in the future I’ll see vegan options appearing on the Café Rouge menu too.

Now I’ve just got to decide where to try next.  If you’ve got any suggestions I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time…

SHARON

Monday, 30 November 2015

Christmas Gift Ideas | #GeorgeSecretSanta

"Bleedin heck, is it time to buy Christmas presents again already?!"

You can often hear me exclaiming something of that ilk when this time of year rolls around, seriously I'm usually rubbish at remembering to buy presents for my nearest and dearest any earlier than about a week before the big day.  Terrible, I know!

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta

Anyway this year I feel a little bit more prepared for the festive season thanks to my involvement in a special blogger Secret Santa from George.  The premise was like any other Secret Santa; I'd choose some pressies for a fellow blogger who wouldn't know my identity and another blogger would reciprocate.  With the awesome gift finder from George it was easy as pie finding suitable gifts for the blogger I was assigned and I got some amazingly thoughtful presents in return.  Obviously the advice from the Christmas Elves at Talented Talkers to stalk Instagram, Twitter and blog posts for gift inspiration worked well!  Keep on a-reading to see what I got...

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta

The first item to tumble out of my parcel when it arrived was this fabulously fluffy bathrobe.  Oh how I love a good bathrobe; in the winter I often get home from work, feed both the humans and the felines in the house then get straight into my robe... so comfy and cosy!

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta
 
Next up I couldn't help but reach for this great little Red Siren gift set from Maybelline.  It contains the Colossal Go Extreme Mascara, Superstay 24 hour Lip in Red Alert and the Superstay Nail Varnish in Deep Red.  I haven't tried any of these products but I'm excited to give them a go for a Christmas party in the near future.

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta

Wrapped up in a parcel, and tied with festive string, were these stylise espresso cups.  My husband Gaz was particularly happy to see these, he's a big fan of a strong coffee on a morning.

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta

The penultimate gifts!  A pair of gloves and a woolly beret to keep me warm over the winter.  Did I mention I hate being cold?  You can see these will come in handy then, and being black and grey, they'll go with everything in my wardrobe too!

Christmas Gifts | #GeorgeSecretSanta

If my squeal of delight is anything to go by, I think it's safe to say that the last gift in my parcel was my favourite.  My obsession with Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures is relatively new but well documented on my blog and all over my social media.  I've always felt there was a big Iron Man shaped hole in my collection, so I'm glad to have this little guy take the spot.

So I think you can agree that the gifts I received were pretty perfect for me, and I genuinely hope the person I was assigned has enjoyed their pressies too.

I was pleasantly surprised by the range of gifts on offer with the gift finder from George too, I can definitely see myself taking advantage of this to find presents for my own family.


Look out for more Christmas content coming from me in the next week or so, with perhaps even a few gifts for the men included.  Until next time...

SHARON

Sunday, 15 November 2015

DIY Beauty | #MiraMessMakers

There's no doubt about it, in my lifetime I've spent an absolute fortune on beauty products.  It's a shameful amount really, particularly when you consider how much of the stuff you buy in Boots and Superdrug, [particularly when it comes to bodycare) doesn't seem to have a lot to it.

You can probably see then why I was intrigued when Mira Showers and Midas Touch Crafts challenged me to whip up some beauty products of my very own as part of their #MiraMessMakers campaign?


A quick Google of DIY beauty made it obvious there were so many different things I could make, but I decided to start simple and stick with some favourites product types, and those that I could make with just a few ingredients...


VANILLA AND COCONUT BODY MOISTURISER

The ingredients: Coconut oil, vitamin e tablet, vanilla extract or vanilla essential oil, cocoa powder.

The method: Add a couple of generous spoons of coconut oil to a bowl, squeeze in a vitamin c tablet, a couple of drops of vanilla extract and follow with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.  Give everything a vigorous stir to incorporate and decant into whatever storage you fancy.  I bought a little kilner jar especially for the occasion, if I was feeling fancy I might even have decorated it.

The result: Oh em gee, this stuff smells good, and it works pretty nicely too.  I get a bit dry on my upper arms and elbows and the combination of the coconut oil and vitamin E is rich and soothing, great on damp skin just after a shower.  I'll definitely make something like this again on occasion, but might mix up the scented ingredients a bit.


CHOCOLATE AND CINNAMON LIP SCRUB

The ingredients: Brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon and coconut oil

The method: I used a heaped tablespoon of brown sugar and added a large pinch of cocoa powder and a smaller pinch of cinnamon.  Finally I used a heaped teapspoon of coconut oil and stirred my concoction well until everything was mixed.  I put my final product into an old lip scrub container from Lush, appropriate I thought!

The result: Ok, I definitely used entirely too much cocoa powder, resulting in a very dark lip scrub.  The colour hasn't changed the efficacy though, the sugar was just the right amount of scrubby and the coconut oil left my lips feeling lovely and nourished.  The chocolate and cinnamon were lovely flavours but I'd really like to try and recreate my favourite Lush lip scrub (Mint Julips if you're wondering) next time so will probably remove the cinnamon and add some mint essential oil. Yum!


OVERALL VERDICT

Although I can't say I'll be cooking up new beauty products every week, I will definitely keep making my own lip scrub and might even venture into making some face masks with products from my kitchen.

Have you made your own beauty products before?  I'd love to hear about your favourite recipes!

SHARON

Friday, 13 November 2015

My fave places in York | #ShopInYork

When Rodgers of York got in touch with me recently to ask if I fancied joining in their #ShopInYork campaign and writing about my favourite shopping haunts, I couldn't help but say yes.  You could call me a little biased, but my home city of York, however small, is perfectly formed when it comes to spending your hard earned cash

My fave places in York | #ShopInYork

The city centre is the obvious main attraction for visitors to the area.  The place is practically dripping in history, and down each of the cobbled streets you'll find a treasure trove of historic buildings and attractions sitting comfortably alongside restaurants, big name brands stores and smaller independent shops.

Of course our shopping in York is not limited to the city centre; only 5 or 10 minutes drive, or a short bus journey away, you'll find Monks Cross and the Vangarde Shopping Park.  There's a huge range here, from restaurants and coffee shops to furniture stores, beauty and fashion; literally something for everyone.

With so much variety, it proved a difficult task choosing some of my favourite places to shop and eat in York, but I gave it a good shot.  They're in no particular order, but if I'm out and about shopping on a weekend you can guarantee I'll hit up at least one of these places...

#ShopInYork | Neal's Yard Remedies, Give The Dog A Bone, John Lewis, Shared Earth

Neal's Yard Remedies (Low Petergate) - This little shop has a great apothecary vibe going on.  You can find the expected skincare, bodycare and makeup, but you can also get some health foods and supplements, the ethos being that it'll get you glowing inside and out.

Give The Dog A Bone (Fossgate) - Oh how I love this place.  Have a geeky passion that you need to represent in your home or wardrobe?  Or want to buy a card with an off-colour joke for that special someone with a great sense of humour?  Give The Dog A Bone will have something for you; their signage puts it perfectly: "Two floors of things you don't need but really really want!"

John Lewis (Vangarde Shopping Park) - A fabulous addition to York and so many great things under one roof.  I visit John Lewis for beauty products (like Nars and Hourglass) that I can't get anywhere else in the city.  Outside of that I love John Lewis for furniture, kitchen supplies and stationery.

Shared Earth (Minster Yard) - This is one of those cool little places that feels like a mini bazaar and sells all sorts of fair trade gifts and homewares from all over the world.  You can find me here when I want to stock up on funky candle holders, incense (yep I burn incense now and then) and dreamcatchers.

#ShopInYork | El Piano, Shambles Kitchen, Turtle Bay, Nando's

El Piano (Grape Lane) - For those in the know, I feel like El Piano is a bit of a York institution, although I only discovered it a few years ago, it's been around since 1997, and all the while has been serving up delicious vegan and gluten free food to locals and visitors alike.  With influences from India, Mexico, Spain and the US, there's always something tasty to eat here, I definitely don't visit often enough.

Shambles Kitchen (The Shambles) - I just hear the name of this little eaterie and my mouth waters.  It's fast food, no doubt about it, but healthy too.  They do wickedly tasty wraps, street food bowls and burritos (for meat eaters and vegetarians/vegans alike).  Fancy something lighter?  Their smoothie and juice menu is pretty epic too.

Turtle Bay (Stonegate) - Probably one of the newest bars and resturants in York, Turtle Bay arrived on the scene with a bang - obviously they serve some great Caribbean food, but my favourite thing about Turtle Bay is the drinks menu; on a night out and with happy hour in full swing, I'm all about the rum cocktails!

Nando's (Vangarde Shopping Park) - Sometimes you just need your food quick and dirty, and that's what Nando's is all sbout.  Admittedly, since I started eating a plant-based diet there are limited options on the menu, but give me a mushroom burger, some macho peas and fries with peri peri salt and I'm one happy camper.

Phew, that's a fair few places in York that I love and believe me when I tell you, there's so much more to discover here.

Visiting the city for the first time?  Catch me on Twitter and I'll happily give you more recommendations.  Until next time...

*This post was written in collaboration with Rodgers of York

SHARON

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Cheap Eats in York #TravelodgeTourist

Last week I was set a rather interesting challenge by Travelodge.  The brief: find lunch and dinner in my home city, for myself and Gaz for £50 or under - oh and no cheating by hitting up the fast food outlets.

Being a bit of a tourist trap, York isn't exactly known for mega cheap food and drink establishments, but I felt that as a proud York native, I could definitely rise to the occasion and find some interesting places to eat within the budget.  After canvassing the opinions of my friends and doing no small amount of research I think I made some pretty good picks too!

LUNCH: MANNION & CO, BLAKE STREET

#TravelodgeTourist - Mannion & Co York

Mannion & Co is a bit of a hybrid deli, bakery and bistro, it's one of those places that all my friends have been raving about for lunch and brunch in the last year or two, but for some reason I just hadn't made it there.  Seeing the regular queues out of the door though, I couldn't wait to give it a try.
#TravelodgeTourist - Mannion & Co York

Despite the queues, Gaz and I were seated within 10 minutes at the social/sharing table and relaxing in the chilled atmosphere whilst having a leisurely read of the menu.  There were so many tasty looking things to choose from but after much deliberation we decided on china jasmine tea and mushrooms on toast (for me) and mojito mint tea with a smoked salmon sandwich (for him).
#TravelodgeTourist - Mannion & Co York

I loved that the tea was served in these cute cast iron teapots and was pleasantly surprised that the portions were generous and filling.  My mushrooms on toast were delicious, really savoury and buttery, just what I wanted and Gaz said that his smoked salmon was some of the best he's had.  He particularly liked the herby mascarpone that it was served with.
#TravelodgeTourist - Mannion & Co York

Lunch total:
£19.50
Final verdict: It was a little on the pricey side for lunch, but all in all we left Mannion & Co feeling very satisfied.  They don't let you book a table, but the turnaround is pretty quick - join the queue and the mega friendly staff will have you seated in no time.

DINNER: KHAO SAN RD THAI BISTRO, WALMGATE

#TravelodgeTourist - Khao San Rd Thai Bistro

For those in the know, Khao San Rd Thai Bistro (still within York's city walls but definitely off the beaten tourist track) is a firm favourite.  It specialises in authentic Thai food, it doesn't skimp on the spice and flavour, and you can get a great meal there for not too much money.
#TravelodgeTourist - Khao San Rd Thai Bistro

Having become a bit of a regular in the last year I know the menu like the back of my hand and went for a tried and tested favourite, Pad Thai with tofu vegetables.  As always it was colourful, packed full of veg, a bit of welcome heat and was really tasty.  Of course I had to try a little bit of Gaz's main too, he went for a Pad Kee Mow (a noodle dish with vegetables and a hot, spicy sauce) with crispy belly pork.  I must admit I got a little food envy after tasting his but with the addition of the spicy potatoes as a side dish (seriously, please try these) I was a happy camper.
#TravelodgeTourist - Khao San Rd Thai Bistro

After having a couple of nights out early in the week Gaz and I were only drinking cokes, but Khao San Rd have a good drinks/wine menu if you're feeling that way inclined.
#TravelodgeTourist - Khao San Rd Thai Bistro

Dinner total:
£27.40
Final verdict: Khao San Rd has a great reputation in York and because of that it gets booked up quick; the ever-accommodating staff will do their best to fit you in where they can though.

FINAL TOTAL SPENT: £46.90

I had so much fun with this challenge so I've got to thank Travelodge for that - I didn't think I did too bad in York for under £50 either!  If you would have tried some different places, or even if you've tried Mannion & Co or Khao San Rd I'd love to hear from you.

Until next time...

SHARON

Post written in collboration with Travelodge

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Work It Out Wednesday #4 | Keeping Myself Motivated


Woo, it's the return of Work It Out Wednesday!  It's been a shamefully long time since my last WIOW post, but honestly there hasn't been a whole lot to update on.

Towards the end of June my energy reached the lowest point it had been in forever, I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and it felt like my epilepsy was just totally kicking my arse.  Obviously not the best state to be working out in.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that after a good few weeks on new meds and taking care of myself a little better my energy is slowly getting back to where it used to be.  Great news for me, because it means I can get back on with the 90 Day SSS Plan.  You might remember I started the plan from The Body Coach a few weeks ago, but only got about 10 days in when my health took a nosedive.

I've been back on it again for just over two weeks now so am half way through cycle one, and although I'm not sure my weight is changing drastically yet, I'm loving the food (there's loads of it) and getting back into the swing of exercising.  My HIIT training has been surprisingly fun, I stuck to the treadmill for the most part the first time around, but am trying to mix it up with different equipment now, just to keep my interest up.

In the spirit of keeping my motivation going I've been keeping a quick daily diary to document how I'm finding the plan, this way I can look back on good days to give me some inspiration and maybe even post the highlights on here when I reach the end of each cycle.

As you can possibly tell I'm raring to go and I'd love to hear how you're getting on with your health and fitness goals.  Until next time...

SHARON

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Food | Review of Winner Winner, York

Winner Winner in York is bloody awesome!  I know I'm supposed to be all balanced and stuff in my reviews, but sometimes you just can't hold back, and this is definitely one of those occasions.

I'm kind of ashamed to admit that I didn't find this little gem of a restaurant sooner, I mean it has everything I like, great food, quality cocktails and it's location on King's Staith (right on the riverside in York if you're not sure) is ideal!

Winner Winner Restaurant, York
Winner Winner Restaurant, York
 
At less than a year old, Winner Winner is doing brilliantly in the York restaurant scene, it has many a regular customer amongst my friends, and that number is only growing.  It's easy to see why too, from the all-American menu to the decor (seriously you could totally see Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives rocking up to do some filming) and everything in between, you can tell that the owners Jayne and Michael have loads of restaurant experience and a real passion for what they do.

The menu at this place is a bit of a revelation for York, it's the kind of American soul food that can often come out a bit sad and greasy when it's attempted, but here it's impeccable.  Each of the recipes was designed by Michael, inspired by a road trip he did in America; everything is made from scratch and most importantly its frickin tasty!

Winner Winner Restaurant, York
Winner Winner Restaurant, York

Gaz and I visited Winner Winner for the first time on a really sunny afternoon and despite how busy it was, we were seated and furnished with drinks really quickly; there was an abundance of great looking cocktails to choose from but for some reason we were being tee total, Gaz went for an iced vanilla latte and I had a raspberry iced tea, both drinks were really refreshing in the hot summer sun.

Thirst quenched, we hastily moved onto the food menu, and damn was there a lot to choose from!  There were breakfast dishes, salads, BBQ, seafood, burgers, honestly just every taste seems to be catered for.  Understandably I think, we took a while to choose what we wanted to try, but eventually went for hushpuppies to start (we shared) and for the main the rather intriguingly named Famous Porker (for Gaz) and the Winner Winner Chicken Dinner (for me). 

Winner Winner Restaurant, York
Winner Winner Restaurant, York

You can probably see from the picture that the portion of hushpuppies when it arrived was ginormous, so kind of anticipating the size of the mains I left most of them to Gaz.  The one I did try was delicous though.  Hushpuppies are kind of like deep fried balls of cornbread so they carry flavour well; these ones were a little bit cheesy and spicy and dipped in the 'gringo sauce', a really mild salsa, they were tasty as hell.

Not long after finishing the hushpuppies, the mains arrived!  I was assured by Gaz that the Famous Porker was delicious, it was a double cheeseburger, topped with pulled pork and served with fries.  I did try a little bit of the pulled pork, which was easily some of the best I've had (sorry Red's True BBQ) and his fries were perfect.

Winner Winner Restaurant, York

The Famous Porker couldn't compare to my Winner Winner Chicken Dinner though.  It combined two really fluffy delicious waffles with the most incredible fried chicken; all breast meat, skin off, coated in a really well-seasoned batter.  To top it off it came with a couple of slices of bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup.  There's a reason this savoury and sweet combo is a classic in parts of America, it was about as epic as food can get.

I really wish I'd have been able to sample more from Winner Winner on this first visit but I was so stuffed I couldn't if I tried.  Rest assured I'll be back though, probably lots, and in the very near future.

Haven't been to Winner Winner yet?  Check them out in all there awesomeness here, then jump in your car or get a taxi/bus/train, quick!  Don't worry, I'm sure they'll save you a table!
SHARON

Monday, 27 July 2015

Food | Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

It's been a hell of a long time since I did any cooking posts on my blog (way back in 2013 was the last time I think).  I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like post more recipes, and an opportune moment to jump back into it came when I heard about Age UK's campaign focusing on cooking healthy and nutritious meals for one.

Now obviously I'm married, but Gaz and I both lead such busy lives that each of us ends up cooking our own meals from time to time.  Age UK's advice got me thinking about the types of food I try to cook when I'm home alone and I want something fast, nutritious and versatile.  Of course it got me thinking about my tomato sauce...  I cook up big batches of it, use it as a base for loads of meals and it's damn tasty.  Read on if you'd like to know how to cook it...

Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

1. An onion
2. Garlic
3. 1 tin/carton of chopped tomatoes
4. Oregano
5. A chili pepper (optional)
6. Oil (for cooking)
7. Salt and pepper, to taste


Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce


GET YOUR COOK ON

Chop your onions and garlic however you like, it doesn't have to be neat, you're just cooking for yourself here, who've you got to impress?  I always like to throw a chilli in my tomato sauce so I chop that up too.

Soften the onions and garlic for a few minutes in your oil (your chili pepper too if you're using it), until they're just translucent then add in your tinned tomatoes, a good sprinkle of the dried oregano (try 1/4 of a teaspoon to start) and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Leave it to cook for 5 minutes and hey presto in less time than it takes to cook up some pasta to enjoy it with, you've got a basic tomato sauce.  

It's a really easy recipe to double so you can cook up big batches and freeze it, but what's really great about it, is how versatile it is...

Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce
Cooking for one, my fave tomato sauce

MIX IT UP!

Here are just a few of the ways I transform this basic recipe to be used for lots different meals.

Arrabiata: Add some extra chopped chilis, a pinch of mixed herbs and some chopped ham to create a really delicious meaty sauce, serve with penne or rigatoni.  A sprinkle of parmesan cheese finishes this one off nicely.
Huevos Rancheros: This one has been a favourite recipe of mine for a long time.  I add some chopped bell peppers and some extra oregano, the warmed up sauce is served on poached eggs on top of toasted tortillas.  Sounds weird I know, but it's really delicious!
Baked white fish: I add some chopped olives, capers and basil to the sauce and bake it in the oven on top of some fish fillets.  It's a beautiful light meal, and goes really nicely with a simple salad and some bread.

There are so many other meals I create using this tomato sauce as a starting point.  What sorts of things do you cook when you're just cooking for one?

To read more about the great work that Age UK do, click here.

SHARON

Friday, 17 July 2015

Blogging | The D*cks and the Cliques


 
Disclaimer: This post might be a little long, a little swear-y, it's full of my opinions and I have a tendency to sound like a thesaurus at times.  If any of those things are likely to offend you then it might not be a good idea to read on...

Blogging is very much a hobby for me; I'm not out there competing for views, comments and shares.  If I get an opportunity or two through my blog, that's awesome but if not it's no skin off my nose.  Perhaps because I don't give two fucks about becoming established as a superior being in the blogger hierarchy I don't find myself embroiled in the melodramas I see happening in the community on a regular basis.  Don't get me wrong, I put myself firmly in the category of someone that is a bit of a dick at times but there are certain types of behaviour I see happening again and again in the world of blogging, and particularly on Twitter, that just go too far.

Differences of opinion 
On more than a few occasions in recent weeks, I've checked my Twitter feed after a long day at work only to find that some drama or other has kicked off.  This would be all well and good should everyone express their opinions like adults, but more often than not, some unsuspecting twitterer, whose only crime is to express an opinion that differs from the masses, is summarily ridiculed and torn apart.

We've all seen it happen, but should we put up with a person or people who find it necessary to treat someone else's opinions with scorn and derision just to assert their own?  Absolutely not!  And lets's not beat around the bush shall we?  These people are not only dicks, but they're bullies, plain and simple.  If we wouldn't put up with it any other walk of life why should we in our community?  I know I won't again if I see this type of shit happening in the future.

Just plain passive aggressive 
When the dust inevitably settles after conflicts of any sort it would be lovely if everyone could agree to disagree and go their separate ways.  Whilst this happens for the most part, there are always a few exceptions, many of which tend to take on a particular form - the passive aggressive tweet.  You know the type I mean, they're dripping in sarcasm, heavily hinting they're not happy about someone or something and are just generally hoping to cause a ruckus.  It's always the same type of people that post and react to these tweets too, you can see them circling like carrion birds.  But you know what?  If you don't have the cojones to come out and say what you mean, or address the people who are bothering you in an up front manner, keep it to your bloody self!

You can keep your clique
Hand in hand with the passive aggressive bullshit comes the cliques.  It's an inevitability that when you get large groups of people together cliques will form.  That's fine if the clique is just a group of people with similar thoughts and opinions and it's all kept friendly, but when they're gathering together to purposefully cause drama I take major issue.  From what I can see that kind of negative crap isn't wanted or needed by the vast majority of bloggers so let's just be buddies shall we?  If you decide you can't play nice, then you know where you can go...

The upside
I'm aware this post sounds pretty negative, but none of us would carry on blogging if it was all bad.  Most people I talk to and meet because of my hobby are genuinely nice and I've been lucky enough to make some true friends in my time in the blogosphere.

There will always be a few people who bring a bad attitude and try to ruin the good vibes, but it's great to see that it doesn't put off a lot of the good folks.  If blogging is what you love then keep on keeping on people!

What do you think? 
Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one!  But unlike the aforementioned sphincter, I'd welcome your opinion in the comments below.

SHARON

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Life | When It All Gets A Bit Sh*t...

I try not to get massively negative about things, but sometimes life just gets a bit shit, you know what I mean?

Between my house getting burgled in February, my energy hitting rock bottom and getting diagnosed with hypothyroidism and then a family member ending up in court (for something that wasn't their fault) it's all felt like a bit much to take!


But not for me the furrowed brow (as my favourite vampire slayer once said).  I figure life is all about how you decide to deal with things and so I've got myself a new-found determination to keep being my usual chilled self and to make sure I'm doing things, however little, to make my life happier.

So far that's meant taking some time off work, having a weekend away with my husband, indulging in a bit of pampering, and even writing on StargazyEyes again.

Here's hoping a positive attitude can help my life turn a corner eh?  Until next time...

SHARON

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Work It Out Wednesday #3 | My Training Regime

Can you believe it's time for another Work It Out Wednesday already?  It seems like only 5 minutes since I wrote the last one, but you know what they say, time flies when you're having fun... or something!

As I mentioned in my first post, exercising has become a massive part of my life in the last year, and despite my struggles to lose weight, I've still had some success in building my strength and stamina, using a range of methods.

Work It Out Wednesday #3 | How I've Been Training

Personal Training
When I first started working out in a gym I really had no idea what I was doing, so working with a personal trainer seemed like a good place to start.  My initial thought was that I'd just use a PT for a month or two, enough time to learn the right form in exercises and how to structure a workout for myself.  As time went on however, working with a PT became much more, it motivated me when I otherwise might not have exercised, helped me to identify and set myself goals, and more importantly made me want to keep up with my new regime in the long term.  I know it's a pricey option, but if you can afford to see a personal trainer I think it's definitely worth it.

Strength/Weight Training
Not too long ago I would have counted myself amongst the scores of women who think that lifting weights makes you bulky or overly muscular, but oh how wrong I was!  I've found that performing strengh training, either with weights or just with my body weight, is great at keeping my heart rate going whilst improving my strength and it definitely hasn't made me bulk up, but rather tone up.  My favourite way of exercising with weights is to superset certain exercises.  As an example I might do a set of 12-15 squats, followed immediately by a set of walking lunges (15 on each leg), rest for a minute or 2 then do the same again for another 2 or 3 sets.  For a complete training session I'll do a range of supersets encompassing as many large muscle groups as possible, it definitely gets me working!

HIIT Training
HIIT (or high intensity interval training) is the most recent addition to my exercise routine, it's without a doubt the hardest form of exercise I do, but it's over pretty quickly, and the rewards certainly make it worthwhile.  I started my HIIT training just over 2 weeks ago, I use the treadmill for the most part, running as fast as I can for 30-45 seconds (admittedly not very fast right now) before having a rest interval of a minute to catch my breath.  I'll repeat this process around 12 times, and let me tell you, by the end of it I'm absolutely knackered.  Why do I do HIIT training?  Well, it's a brilliant fat burner, and already in two weeks I'm able to run faster and for far longer.  I can't wait to see what I can do as my training progresses.

I do feel like my training schedule is pretty full, but I love it and would still like to include more variety, potentially to include some classes like boxercise or circuits and maybe some yoga to improve my flexibility.

I'd love to hear about any training that you do, leave me a comment below.

SHARON

Monday, 8 June 2015

Event | BSN and Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Last month I was pretty excited to get to go to my first ever fitness event, at Predator Nutrition in Leeds, and even better, I got to go with one of my favourite bloggers, Corinne.

The reason for this particular event was two-fold.  First, it was the latest stop on the UK tour for the BSN sponsorted bodybuilder, Flex Lewis and second it introduced a new protein supplement from BSN to the UK.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds
 
When we arrived at the Predator Nutrition store, it seemed like it was full to the brim with BSN products and athletes, but not only that it was full of people waiting to meet Flex Lewis.  Before we met with the man himself we spoke a bit with staff at the store and also to one of the other BSN athletes in attendance, Carly Tierney.  She was genuinely lovely (and so pretty) and answered all of our questions about training and nutrition, no matter how daft I felt mine were.  The key thing I took away from meeting Carly was that it's all in the attitude, if you're focussed, you'll get to your goals.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Next up we checked out BSN's new product, Syntha-6 Edge.  I was aware of the original Syntha-6 protein as it's a brand that my own PT recommends so I was really interested to learn that Syntha-6 Edge not only has more protein at around 24g per serving, but is lower in calories, fat, sugar and carbs than the original version too.  Sounds perfect for someone like me who is trying to lose weight.

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Last but not least, we got the chance to meet Flex Lewis.  He's a huge deal in bodybuilding circles (my personal trainer was so excited I was meeting him) and amongst many other titles is the three-time winner of the 212 Olympia Showdown, a bodybuiding contest for professional athletes weighing 212lbs or less.  I expected to be hugely intimidated by Flex (especially after researching him a bit the night before) but he came across as a really nice guy and was sharing stories about how he got his start in bodybuilding.  Such an inspiring bloke!

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Before I left Predator Nutrition for the afternoon, I had to have a good nosy around too, they stock a great range of supplements of every type and some great food.  I stocked up on some Walden Farms sauces and my new favourite thing, the MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bars.  The chocolate chip cookie dough flavour is a serious life changer, I might have to buy myself a whole case from soon!

Flex Lewis at Predator Nutrition Leeds

Finally I left the store, armed with my purchases and a BSN goodie bag including some sample supplements (the strawberry milkshade protein is delicious), a protein shaker, iPhone case, earphones and a t-shirt (mine had some big holes in it so I can't wear it, but it's the thought that counts).

SHARON
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