Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Diner Southampton - Review

The Diner Southampton

southampton soton blogger

West Quay food review

American Diner Southampton




The Diner
West Quay Watermark

Southampton has recently stepped up its game in terms of food – the new Watermark West Quay opened late last year and the introduction of plenty new restaurants has made a world of difference. I am a huge foodie and the sheer amount of choice we have now means the new development is basically heaven! We’ve had a lot of mainly London based restaurants opening which is great and I’ve frequented Byron far too many times I’d like to admit. Franco Manca is also a firm favourite and, if you’re after great American food, ‘The Diner’ is where you’ll want to visit.

Tucked away at the end of the strip of restaurants on the terrace, and below the West Quay North entrance, The Diner sits proudly and the glowing neon signs mean you can’t miss it. It’s a lot bigger than it looks from the outside and the seating is ample – with the choice of booths as well as tables. Graham and I attended their press night last week and the food went down very well indeed.

The restaurant feels like a very trendy bar, with neon lights inside and beautiful coloured tiles. The ambient lighting and pipes and tubes that line the ceiling give a really modern, industrial feel. There is a huge amount of choice on the menu, from burgers and hotdogs, to chili, ribs and sandwiches. We had all the starters very kindly delivered to our table, with my personal favourites being the classic American tater tots and the buttermilk chicken strips. For the mains, our table was full of burgers, a side of mac n cheese, sweet potato fries and I had a ‘BCC Dog’ – a beef frankfurter topped with their chili con carne, cheese and bacon. The portion sizes are extremely generous and everything is served in those classic plastic baskets you see in the movies.

I also met Lana that night, who was there with her brother Max, and we had a great night chatting and talking blogging. It’s always so nice to meet someone new and gel instantly! We were served by Callum who was wonderful – he let us take our time when ordering and was attentive and polite. A big thumbs up to all of the staff, who were extremely friendly and helpful all evening.

We popped behind the bar at one point and made our milkshakes which was so much fun! Rebecca helped us out here, and we could make any concoction we liked. The Diner uses ice cream made in Italy and have so many flavours available, including Hazelnut, NY Cheesecake, banana and peanut butter. We made our shake with vanilla, banana and strawberry, mixed with malt and it was the perfect finish to our meal. I also may have had a chocolate milkshake during the meal which I can confirm was delicious too!

I’d definitely recommend The Diner if you’re after some classic American grub with a huge amount of choice – perfect for families and foodies alike. The prices are very reasonable, especially as the portions are massive. I’m looking forward to heading back and trying the pancakes I spied on the menu!

A huge thanks to the PR team for organising and inviting us along.




the diner

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the diner milkshakes

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the diner review

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Current favourites

top_5_illustration_books



It’s been a good while since I shared some of my favourite things here on the blog, so I thought I’d share some on this dull Sunday. I always struggle a bit in February so here I am focusing on some of the good stuff.




Stephen Toeking
ChattyFeet

I know socks probably aren’t high on the agenda of most people’s favourites list, but this pair is particularly special. I have a little giggle every time I wear these and they honestly brighten my morning when I put them on. I love the constellation print and the pun, as well as being in total awe of the great Stephen Hawking – wearing these don’t fail to put a smile on my face. ChattyFeet have a huge range of hilarious pun-based socks and socks make a great add-on present – worth a look if you fancy treating someone or yourself.




A Man called Ove
Fredrik Blackman

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. I thought it might be a quick, light-hearted read that was funny and not much else. But boy, did this take me by surprise. It took me a little while to get into the book but once I did, I was hooked. It is both heartbreaking and funny – it is such a sweet story and I so recommend adding it to your reading list. I cried my eyes out when I finished reading it and if you’ve just started, I recommend persevering. Ove is a character that you’ll dislike but you’ll understand his reasoning as you get through his story. I love that you find out about his past and it definitely made me wonder about other people – why they are the way they are and the past experiences you don’t see.




Becoming a Successful Illustrator
Derek Brazell & Jo Davies

2017 is the year I really want to focus on my illustration, and it’s something I talked about in depth in my resolutions post at the beginning of the year. I had this on my Christmas list after hearing Holly Exley talking about it in one of her Youtube videos. It is full of so much knowledge and a definite must have if you’d like to become a professional illustrator, or even if you are one already but want to expand your knowledge base. It covers the nitty-gritty things like contracts and terms, as well as the ‘taboo’ topics like pricing. It contains a lot of case studies and thoughts from artists who have just started out, or those who’ve been in the game for years. I love this book - it provides practical knowledge while still giving offering endless inspiration.




Chloe
Eau de Parfum

Another Christmas present and my new favourite perfume – the classic ‘Chloe’. This one is in a different vein to the mostly creative things I share on my blog, but a favourite none-the-less. I find wearing this soothes me and helps to calm me down – a must if I’m feeling particularly anxious or stressed. I love that scents can do that and, though this one is on the pricy side of perfume, I know it’s a classic and one I’ll wear for years to come.




Art Journaling
and being creative

Finally, a not so surprising favourite if you’ve been reading the blog lately. If you read my last post on how to create an art journal, you’ll know I LOVE art journaling, though had fallen off the wagon in recent years. The great news is; I’m back on it and absolutely loving it. I’ve been gluing and collaging in this yellow book like mad recently and have been trying something new – more like mini scrapbook layouts without the pressure of filling a large 12x12 sheet. It’s so relaxing for me to vent and fill these pages with random thoughts that might not make any sense, but is good to get out anyway. I’m sure I’ll share some spreads soon, but if you’d like to look at all the journals I’ve created in the past, here’s a link for you to have a look at all my journaling posts.




If you’ve shared some recent favourites on your blog, please share them in the comments below! I love discovering new reads and being nosy about other people’s likes – even better if it’s something I’ve been wanting to buy and basically need the enabling. Have a great week! xo

Sunday, 29 January 2017

how to art journal

how to creative journal


I’ve written about my journals and scrapbooks quite a few times on this blog. I used to keep an art journal religiously, and diaries were a big thing for me when I was growing up (even convinced that those tiny little padlocks will keep any trespassers out, let alone the fact they’d even want to read a pre-teen’s diary!)

Anyway, recently I’ve been thinking of starting one again. I’ve actually thought about this quite a lot since I stopped after university, and even did a few pages, but it was never a habit like it once was. I love to write and be creative, and I also think it’s a great place for me to vent. It’s almost like therapy and I think it’s a good habit to get back in to. I have a terrible habit of overthinking and I’ve always found writing, just the process of getting thoughts out of my head and onto paper, helps a huge amount.

Seeing as I’ve made art journals before, and am currently back at square one, I thought I’d share my process with you. I’m feeling the exactly same daunting feeling of starting something new and not knowing how to begin, so I’m going back to basics.


art journal tutorial



Choose your journal

I guess the first thing to decide is your journal itself. There is so much choice out there and sometimes it’s just a case of trial and error over time to see what you prefer. You can get soft or hard covers, perfect or ring bound, lined or blank pages which are coloured or plain. In terms of sizes, I find a5 to be a good size, and it’s not too cumbersome to carry around either. You could go for a larger book, like an A4, if you want to get creative, though sometimes the size can be a little intimidating. Smaller ones are good if you plan on travelling carrying it about with you, but can be tricky to work on.



art journal backgrounds



Backgrounds

Most of the time, when I think of something that I want to write down or these little thoughts I have that I plan on putting in my journal – there won’t be at a time where I’ll be able to sit down and create a masterpiece with it. With that in mind I’ve started with backgrounds. These will be a good base, and take away from the boring white page that always feels scary to write on. Then, if I do have some extra time to embellish and decorate, I’ll be able to do so on top, without having to start from scratch.

I have a box that is full of pieces that are perfect to collage. I keep brown envelopes, menus and business cards that have a nice design, pages ripped from magazines, postcards and stamps. Sometimes art journal ‘backgrounds’ can be art in themselves, and don’t even need any thoughts or writing added. Even the process of collaging and sticking can be good creative therapy.

Not only is collage good for blank spreads, but simply playing with mixed media and having coloured backgrounds give a nice smooth surface if you’re planning on writing a lot on top. Acrylic paint, gesso, watercolours or coloured pencils are a great shout. Be aware that some may be harder to write on than others, depending on what you’re using.

Once we’ve got the background sorted (I make several backgrounds in one sitting when the mood strikes me), we’re good to go. The background step isn’t even necessary if you’re happy to have plain pages – this is your journal and everything can be done to your preference!

uk creative art blog



Decoration and embellishment

In terms of decorating, you can use anything – stickers, found ephemera, washi tape, stamping and even just simple doodling. It will depend on what your journaling about at the time as to what you add. Just create whatever you feel you want to do, or whatever comes naturally.


art design blog uk



Writing

If you’re struggling to know what to write, I usually start with lists. Simple things like what you’re loving right now, what’s going on in your life or just lists of your favourite songs out at the moment can still be good to look back on. There are also plenty of journal prompts out on the internet if you want to write about something with a bit more depth but are unsure on where to start.


uk blogger art journaling




Do it for you

Often, the hardest part about journaling, is starting. There is so much inspiration out there, in magazines, Pinterest and YouTube, that it can be overwhelming. You have an idea in your head about how you want your journal to look, and sometimes it isn’t easy to translate on to the page. It’s more about changing you mindset when it comes to this – your journal doesn’t have to look nice. The joy is in creating it, and often it’s like therapy. If you enjoy spending the time gluing and decorating and stamping and colouring, then that’s the whole point. You don’t have to take pictures and share it on the internet unless you want to! A journal isn’t for judging, so just do you.

uk art journaling how to

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The best chocolate chip cookie recipe

banana_loaf_recipe


Cookies are a weakness. Even more so if they’re chocolate chip. It’s rare that I ever find a biscuit that I don’t actually like, but this cookie recipe really is in a class of its own. They are both chewy and crunchy, with a very good ratio of chocolate to biscuit that makes it perfect with a cup of tea.


This recipe
is taken from one of my go-to sites for recipes, BBC goodfood. They claim to be ‘vintage’ though I’m not sure why – classic would probably suit these better. They are exactly what you’d hope for – no frills, no fancy ingredients – just pure, delicious biscuits. They’re also really easy to make and take no time at all, so pretty perfect for a Sunday afternoon activity.

Begin by pre-heating your oven to 190C (170C fan) and line your trays with baking paper. Combine your sugars and butter in a bowl, then add the vanilla extract and beaten egg. Sieve in your flour, bicarb and salt. Once that’s been stirred through, add in your chocolate chips. I don’t like buying these pre-made (for some reason they’re extremely expensive) and the cheaper option is to simply buy a couple 100g value chocolate bar for 30p and chop it yourself. It takes a little more time but I definitely recommend this tip if you want to save some pennies.

Using a spoon, take small mounds of the dough and add them on to your baking sheets, before baking the cookies for 8-10 minutes and golden brown on the edges.

Let cool, then devour!

I took these into work and they were a big hit, as well as being a perfect stopgap for when you get home from work and have to wait those excruciating few hours before you start cooking dinner. A definite staple in any recipe book.



blog_banana_cake


Recipe slightly adapted from
BBC goodfood

Pre-heat oven to 160C
2 eggs
150g unsalted butter
80g light brown sugar
80g golden granulated sugar
225g plain flour
2tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
200g milk choc chips
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