Ascot Ladies Day 2013

It’s my much-delayed report on Ladies’ Day at Ascot 2013! I had a blast as usual – and we even won big in one race when we bet on the Queen’s horse to win, and also scooped the second and third place runners too – but somehow, the shine is wearing off of this event for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I had my foot crushed by a rather large middle-aged lady who was completely smashed out of her mind during the Bandstand Singalong (and it still hurts now, two months later) or maybe it’s the fact that the dress code standards have slipped again, but there’s just something about Ascot Ladies’ Day that is wearing a little thin on me now. But, this post is to concentrate on the positive!

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The theme this year was floral (my friends and I try to match – last year’s theme was obvious and awesome at the same time!), so I spent a lot of time hunting out the perfect floral dress. It had to be flared and with a ’50s style vest-shaped top. I found the perfect dress in French Connection’s Maggie Lou. However, I had a massive crisis of confidence when my usual dress size didn’t fit me, which prompted me to go on an epic, short-term weight loss plan, which I’m pleased to say was successful. I am certainly not the size I’d like to be, but I did fit into a size 10 again!

Once I found my perfect dress, I needed a hat or fascinator to go with it. I had always planned to get something made, so I commissioned the fabulous Marissa Fleur from Etsy to create a bespoke headpiece based on the colours of the dress.

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Floral Headpiece, commissioned from Marissa Fleur via Etsy / Disc Stud Earrings with Aqua Chalcedony Stones, Azuni / Maggie Lou Dress, French Connection / Wrap, Monsoon / Natalie Clutch, L.K. Bennett / Black Patent Maddox Wedges, L.K. Bennett

Here’s what the headpiece looks like flattened out, and below is the finished product on a headband, which is how I wore it on the day!

We booked afternoon tea at the event and wound up being incredibly late thanks to some atrocious traffic on the way. I think we were stuck for at least an hour and a half. It wasn’t the best of ways to begin, I have to say, although the tea was lovely enough to make it worth the wait:

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At first I was slightly disappointed, as I thought the pork pie, tarts and fondant fancies were shop-bought, but upon thorough investigation, they seemed to have been made by hand – and they were certainly tastier than their supermarket counterparts!

The tearooms were a bit corporate feeling, but the mismatched china gave it a cool look – although, obviously, it’s much cheaper to fill a tearoom with mismatched china sets! At our table there was even a set that matched my colour scheme!

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The afternoon tea cost £24pp and was honestly worth it for not having to go through the drama of fighting for a table at one of the kiosks or in the Bandstand restaurant. The food was very decent, and there was certainly enough! I think we were stuffed by the end! And anywhere with tea on tap is fine with me, of course.

For dinner, we went to Heston’s Hind’s Head in Bray again, but I think I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, here are a few more pictures of the day…

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Next year, I think I’m going to try out a few different race meets. I’m thinking Epsom and Goodwood for 2014!

Graze Nibblebox and Lightbox reviews

I have to say, Graze have really stepped up their game. The company creates boxes of nibbles and snacks that they send to you (postbox friendly!) on a weekly schedule (or daily, depending on how much you like Grazing!) so you can eat healthily at your desk.
Box

Anyone who has ever tried dieting for any length of time will be able to tell you that healthy eating and low calorie eating are not the same thing. Avocados are a case in point. Full of healthy fats and vitamins, these beautiful little fruits will set you back 160 calories for 100g – about double the calorie count of an apple. Thusly, addicted as I was to Graze’s delicious offerings, I eventually had to cancel. The boxes could be as much as 800 calories a time, and although you’re not supposed to eat them all in go, I have to confess there were times when the lot would disappear over the course of a day. At the time, I wrote to the company to tell them that I had to cancel because of the high calorie content of some of their boxes, and although they promised to look into it, I have to confess I didn’t really believe them.

Inside box

So now it’s time to eat my… well, not words – thoughts? Anyway, since I’ve been gone, Graze has been busy, and so when I got an email offering me some half price boxes as a New Year offer, I was bowled over by their new ranges when I actually checked the site out. I think when I had left Graze was introducing breads, but now they have a delicious range of crackers and dips, and delightful looking bakes, including an entire range dedicated to my favourite British institution – high tea!

Afternoon Infusion

Yes, when they say high tea, they mean it quite literally – they even send you the tea bag! And, it comes guilt-free.

Apple and blackcurrant crumble

As you can see from that logo on the packet in the top right, this is from the Graze Light range. When you sign up, you can select a nibblebox (which I tried first) or one of the Graze nutritionboxes, which comes in three types; the eatwell box, boostbox and lightbox. The lightbox has all of the same great goodies as the nibblebox, except no dark chocolate, or flapjacks. You’ll be sent trays that contain between 50 and 150 calories each (and you get four trays in each delivery).

Sticky Chocolate Pudding

Here’s another little treat I had in my last Graze box – sticky chocolate pudding. For 176 calories, you get a mix of milk chocolate drops, jumbo raisins and green raisins – not too naughty at all, in my opinion! I also highly recommend the Korean rice crackers – it was Graze who originally got me addicted to these beauties, and for that I am eternally grateful to them!

I’m delighted with Graze’s new range – but a little bit disappointed that they no longer offer fresh fruit. I can understand why, because there were times when my fruit turned up a little – well, fizzy. And, sometimes it felt a bit ridiculous working from home and eating grapes that had been posted to me when there was a whole bowl of fruit in the kitchen! Still, I hope that they can include the option for fresh fruit at some point in the future when they can source stuff that stays fresher for longer.

If you want to try Graze yourself for free, use my code! Type in 6KDFWFW at Graze.com, or follow this link: http://www.graze.com/uk/p/6KDFWFW. You’ll get a free Graze box when you sign up, and I’ll get £1 off my next order – now there’s incentive for both of us! Each Graze box costs £3.89, and you can cancel any time you like.

If you already get Graze boxes, let me know what you think!

Graze box

Afternoon Tea at The Rubens

At the weekend, my friends and I went to London for afternoon tea at The Rubens At The Palace!

Afternoon Tea at The Rubens

My friend had bought some vouchers so it ended up costing us £16.50 per person, which was pretty reasonable.

The room we ate in was beautiful, and although our table was pretty low, it made it easier to take photos!

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I wore my Hush leopard print scarf, and a wine coloured skater dress from ASOS (saw it on The Lilac Pages and fell in love, it’s such a great shape!).

Afternoon tea at The Rubens

Our sandwiches were delicious – the chicken bun was particularly good, with flaked almonds giving it a great texture. There wasn’t really enough cream to go around on the scones, and the jam was weirdly runny, but to be honest, we enjoyed the scones anyway. They were light inside but slightly crisp on the outside, which was tasty indeed!

Afternoon tea at The Rubens

The cakes were slightly hit or miss – I had a try of everything except the banoffee cupcake, and some of them were very good, but the layer cake was a tiny bit stale… But, hey – there was plenty of tea! I much preferred the Assam to the English blend they had, which is uncharacteristic. Usually I’m completely the opposite of a tea connoisseur.

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The great thing about The Rubens is that it’s so close to Buckingham Palace, so we popped on over when we’d had our fill (and yes, we were stuffed at the end!).

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All in all, I wouldn’t pick The Rubens over the other places I’ve been for afternoon tea in London (hey, The Ritz is pretty darn snazzy, y’hear?) but it was lovely to try somewhere new. The voucher price (through Virgin) was decent enough for four people, although the current deal isn’t too much of a saving on their listed price!

(Psst, don’t forget, UK readers can enter my competition to win 12 share bags of Popchips here!)

A right royal treat: butterfly cakes!

In case you haven’t noticed, around here I’m still gearing up for an epic Royal Wedding Watching Party, which will have an afternoon tea theme. I’m trying to assemble a crack team of really British-themed dishes to go with it, and when it comes to afternoon tea and delicious sweet treats, you can’t get much more nostaglia from your calories than with a butterfly cake.

Butterfly cake on Union Jack napkin

Butterfly cakes have been sadly neglected in recent years for their more ostentatious American cousin, the cupcake. Alas, I am guilty of this as well – you only have to check out the cupcakes section of this blog to see some towering, buttercream topped monstrosities. But here’s the funny thing about me and cupcakes – I love to make them, but I’m not so crazy about eating them. Here’s a frightening confession. I don’t actually really like buttercream all that much.

You forgive me, right? I hope so. But, after all that, some of you are probably thinking – ‘hey, you idiot, fairy cakes are filled with buttercream! That’s the point!’ To you, I say ‘ah hah, I already thought of that.’ So, stay tuned for something that’s going to curl your hair – my recipe for sweet vanilla cream and dulce de leche butterfly cakes, fit for serving at your very own royal wedding watching party!

I’m in Cake Stand Heaven!

If there’s one thing your royal wedding watching party (or afternoon tea) should be, it’s stylish. Think sundappled table settings, gorgeous china sets, dainty cakes and even dantier sandwiches. If you’re like me, you probably only dream of owning a proper tea set, and one look at retailers like John Lewis, where they sell aforementioned ‘proper’ tea services, will probably push that dream even further away. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to find really nice tea sets (unless you have mega bucks, in which case EVERYTHING’S easy) as I discovered once I started actually looking for some. But then, I found it… Cake Stand Heaven

Green and Yellow Art Deco Tea Set

This gorgeous website specialises in selling really beautiful china sets in quirky colour schemes and styles. Last year, I inherited a pretty partial set of glade green china from my nan, and was at a bit of a loss to know what to do with it, until I saw this, a beautiful set of gold and green mismatched china which pulls together the gilt and green elements of my nan’s beautiful set. Alas, that one has already been sold, but here’s a similar one:

Vintage Mixed China Tea Set with Lustreware Teapot

By simply picking a couple of colours out of your favourite china trio, you could built up your own – or purchase one ready made at the reasonable price of around £95 for the entire set.

Whoever styles these and puts them together is my new guru of the art of afternoon tea. Check out this amazing Mad Hatter’s Tea Party set:

Mad Tea Party Vintage Mixed Tea Set

I just love their range of quirky cake stands which come topped with cups, milk jugs and even teapots!

Pale Blue and Gold Vintage Tiered Cake Stand

Can you imagine that top cup filled with some pretty country cottage flowers to compliment the colour scheme? I certainly can…

Cake Stand Heaven even offers a bespoke service to find products in your colour scheme, but there’s so many delightful sets on their site you’ll probably more than enough to browse through… And, if you check out their site and follow them on Facebook, you could even win your own cake stand! Now, that’s pretty neat!

www.cakestandheaven.com