Saturday Style Sessions - Spontaneous Special Treat

Hi guys! This week I had a moment of hedonistic spontaneity and decided on the spot that, for the second time in my life, and for no particular occasion, I wanted to get my nails done.

I tinker with nail polish and love having nicely painted nails but lack the patience and left-handed-control to do a good job. And even when I do it well I still manage to chip it all off in a matter of hours. So in my excitable moment I rang a local beautician up and managed to secure a slot!

I got a Shellac manicure and was all set on getting a nice pale pink that would just look like I had lovely, neat manicured nails. But then I got there and the amazing palette of colours got the better of me! So out I walk with fluorescent, almost neon orange-coral nails....ANDILOVETHEM.


Naked nails.

Uneven, flaky nails and BAD cuticles!



The colour was Shellac Tropix and I think number 17... 

We'll see how long they last, I'm trying to be extra careful and gentle with everything but I can only keep it up so long! Any tips on how to prolong wear? Also, I'm slightly concerned about the whole getting them off situation... Advice VERY welcome!

Enjoying wandering around London today, post on my little adventure to follow :).

Have a lovely weekend and thanks for reading!


Swanky Dinner at Hermitage Rd Restaurant and Bar

We have been wanting to go for ages. And seeing as I have to move away with work soon we needed to get down there pronto. So on Saturday we finally got round to booking a table for two at Hermitage Rd, Hitchin. This trendy, industrial-style restaurant and bar was awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand status this year and the food, drinks and service we experienced were top notch. We arrived slightly before the dinner menu began so took the opportunity to try out went straight to the cocktail bar! Firstly, the venue itself is phenomenal. It used to  be a ballroom, then a nightclub (I believe), before being turned into the bar and restaurant of today. There are super-high ceilings, enormous arched windows and plenty of metal - it has a slight feeling of being in an old warehouse? The zinc bar is a massive feature and above the bottles upon bottles of wine almost become art on the wall. The cocktail menu is extensive, I started with a French Martini - raspberry vodka, Chambord and fresh pineapple juice, whilst J chose the Marmalade Caipiroska - citrus, bitter and sweet although not sure of what actually went in! Both fresh and delicious and a good start so far...!

French Martini
Marmalade Caipiroska
Incredible bar and bar staff with SERIOUS cocktail skills
Stunning windows

We then sat down in the restaurant area, which is again vast, with high ceilings and two more of the incredible windows. It has a good mix of regular dining tables, cosy booths and slightly raised 'decking' areas all with a direct view straight into the kitchen, which sits completely open out onto the restaurant. It was brilliant seeing the chefs at work - contrary to what you see on TV where people are shouting and rushing and sweating, it had a controlled, serene feeling about it. The menu is ALL amazing - check it out here, but we decided to try a couple of oysters and the bruschetta to start (I had had these soda battered oysters before at a sister restaurant and they are to die for). J fancied trying a fresh oyster too, so he went for one prosecco & raspberry vinegar along with a soda battered with sweet chilli sauce. Apparently the fresh one 'tasted like the sea', but in a good way, whereas the soda battered we could eat a whole plate of they were so good. The bruschetta was fresh and tasty, highlight was the artichoke puree it was served on which was delicious!

J perusing the menu - you can see the open kitchen behind him
We were there early hence empty tables but it soon picked up! 
Our selection of starters - the oysters served in shell
Soda battered heaven! The sweet chilli sauce is cleverly underneath them in the shell.
Still not sure I could stomach a fresh one - here served with prosecco & raspberry vinegar
Like a pro!

So as to make an occasion of it (!), we went for a SECOND cocktail - this time I chose a Spritzer which had white wine, various actual sprigs of herbs and other leafy flavours and I guess some soda water and was refreshing and much nicer than I thought it would be when it arrived, and J had the Bergamot Gin Sour. This one was amazing, we both like Earl Grey tea, in which bergamot is obviously the flavour, and the aftertaste of this cocktail was just like that from Earl Grey - floral, citrus-y and with a slight bitterness. I could happily have tried the whole cocktail menu - all the more reason to go back!

Mine literally looked like a small garden in a glass. 

For our mains, I went for the ribs with sweet chilli, ginger and lime and J had the roast fillet of sea trout, broad bean, pea & lemon risotto with a caramelised scallop on top. The presentation at Hermitage Rd throughout was impeccable. J's fish was light with a tasty, crispy skin and the risotto underneath was perfectly summery with lots of mint and broad beans. It didn't last long, which is always a good thing! My ribs were incredibly tasty but - and I'll be honest because what's the point of this otherwise - we were disappointed with the amount of fat on there. I was able to cut off almost a centimetre of fat off all three of the ribs and wasn't left with all that much meat to enjoy. I know that there should be some fat on ribs - rightly so, but this was so much that I really wasn't able to enjoy them all that much which was a shame. The fries and salad that came with them were yum. I did mention to the waitress that I wasn't totally happy with my main though and this was where the really great service came in (n.b. the staff were all brilliant all night, but extra steps to make the customer happy = exceptional service). The waitress took my plate to the chef who explained that due to the cut of pork (belly) there would always be more fat but she/her manager recognised that it was not to my expectations and that I hadn't been able to eat a fair bit of it, so they kindly offered us a complimentary dessert. Much appreciated and I wasn't made to feel like I was moaning, they respected my opinion.

Sea trout with risotto - looks as good as it tastes!
Comparison to earlier - it was packed!

We therefore obviously had to have dessert! Both of us were getting prettyyy full so we shared the raspberry and vanilla crème brulee with pistachio biscotti which had an awesome, thick, crunchy sugar 'roof' and creamy, smooth custard underneath. The biscotti were also delicious!


All in all, we had a superb experience at Hermitage Road and would love to visit again. Amazing cocktails, delicious food and fantastic service - three out of three!


Philosophy Be Your Best BB Cream

Awesome pump-style tube = less mess and easy to get the right amount out
Smooth, soft and flawless-looking skin = happy Mari!

As I discussed in my Saturday Style Sessions post last week, I have been wanting to try out a BB cream for a while for days where I do want a bit more coverage than my usual concealer + bronzer combo. I went for Philosophy's Be Your Best Skin Perfecting BB Cream with SPF 30 pa+++ (what does pa+++ mean, anyone know??). My decision was based on the light texture, mid-range department store price and an investment in the Philosophy ethos (I liked what I saw in the store, but having researched the company more since buying this product, I am sold by their strong scientific/medicinal research behind products yet also the 'live life with wisdom, curiosity and abundant joy' approach). Who wouldn't want abundant joy?!

I still don't choose to wear this daily for work, but for evenings/weekends it has been great so far. I choose to apply with a foundation brush but fingers would also work. The pump packaging is very practical and you only need a pea-sized blob for your whole face. It's incredibly blendable (word?!) and once applied feels like a moisturiser rather than a 'layer' of makeup. Before buying I had read a couple of reviews saying it was sticky but for me that hasn't been the case at all. It leaves my skin feeling hydrated, glowy and soft. I would definitely recommend this BB cream, let me know if you have any questions about it!


Saturday Style Sessions - Outlet Mall Shopping!

Hiii guys! Round two of my Saturday Style Sessions comes to you from an adventure to the outlet mall! I am a massive fan of these malls, where you can often find some great bargains on brands that you would never normally be able to justify as well as general awesome finds. Outfit of the day below followed by my purchases, let me know what you think pleaseee. Also, I wore the BB cream and new lip colours from last week again today and still loving them, so a mini review may well follow this post.

Navy jeans from M&S (hello HIGH WAISTBAND), top from Topshop, blazer from H&M and shoes from Zara - they are SO comfy.
Working on new ways to do my hair - I like the sides of this but the centre parting in the back is NOT fit... Work in progress!
Earrings from New Look, Philosophy BB creamed up and the pink lip colour by Revlon from last week

Gap is one of my favourite shops for basics, work clothes, jeans, scarves, everythingelseIeverwear... They had 50% off the WHOLE store so I was keen to get stuck in. Although I tried on a bazillion things, I left with three useful, easy basics which I know I'll get a lot of wear out of. 

Simple white jersey vest with detail on the front. £6.99

Cream lace detail vest which I'll probably wear mostly under other low-cut tops for work etc. £4.99

Leggings. The comfiest, thickest, leg-squeeziest leggings ever. I think I'll be living in these this autumn and winter. They are even thick enough to wear big jumpers/tops with and not feel like your bum's on show to the world. £9.99

Also had success in Jaeger and French Connection, both stores where at normal prices I have to LOVE something to justify a purchase! Outlet versions = no justification necessary, win!

Terrible angle, but a really nice loose-fitting summer top from Jaeger in mint green (colour in photo also not great - must try harder!). Absolute steal, reduced from £80 to £15!!
Cute button detail on back
Jersey cotton casual dress from French Connection, perfect for work with trousers/leggings or the weekend. I have a similar one with short sleeves and have worn it hundreds of times. Shown here with above Gap leggings, would be cute with long black boots I feel...
Autumnal pattern, cute little leaves and flattering gathering with tie at the waist = yes please. Oh and reduced from £72 to £19 - can it get better?!

Hope you enjoyed this post. After our shopping trip we went for dinner at a restaurant we've both been dying to visit since forever, Hermitage Road in Hitchin. It's Michelin Bib Gourmand 2013 and utterly delicious. I will be doing a whole separate blog post on our experience full of mouth-watering food photos so look out for that in the next couple of days too. Thanks for reading!


Passion[for]fruit Smoothies

For a couple of weeks we have been playing with making the odd juice, both as a healthy start to the day and a fun way to mix flavours and discover new tastes: I tweeted a apple, pear, carrot and beetroot juice the other day which was good but even with one fairly small beetroot was pretty overwhelmingly earthy-flavoured and beetrooty. Think that one was a learning nevertojuicebeetrootagain. We had more success with a carrot, apple and orange number from the Innocent Juice book. Unfortunately however, I don't have a juicer here (J has one his flat so we juice at weekends only...!) so I am getting keen for smoothies instead. Jamie Oliver did an (adorable) video on smoothies and got me down to Tesco to buy some frozen fruit. It really is SUCH an easy way to eat fruit and also to make more exotic smoothies without paying a fortune for fresh ingredients. Tonight I feasted on a gorgeous pink smoothie of frozen mixed berries (cherry, raspberry, strawberry and various colouredcurrants) and fresh banana. Took me three seconds to make and two to devour! All I used were the fruit pieces and semi-skimmed milk, no yogurt or ice cream or juice. Really clean and really healthy. Nom.

I think this whole bag was around £1.50? It will easily make 10 smoothies - take that Innocent £2-a-tiny-bottle!
Handful of frozen mixed berries = cools AND flavours
The smoothie staple - banana
I think fruit + milk came to around 300ml, you can always add more milk if it's too thick (butsmoothiesareneverreallytoothick)
Starting to turn a pretty awesome colour...
Fresh, healthy and so delicious.
Really unattractive photo but it sure was tasty!

You likely cannot see in the above photo but there is one significant downside to these taste sensations - hello raspberry seeds ALL UP IN MY TEETH! Argh.


Saturday Style Sessions - Black and White

Hi guys! These Saturday Style Sessions are going to be a new series that I do here at JAM Diaries and will feature outfits of the day, beauty bits or anything else vaguely relating!

Today we had a slow morning then headed off for lunch and shopping in the city. It's coming to the end of summer in the UK now (sob!) so getting to the point where a vest/t-shirt will no longer suffice!

I am wearing black jeans (from Tesco - don't judge they were a total bargain and for ONCE are long enough for my lanky legs), my grey Converse pumps, an awesome black and white jumper I got in the Zara sale and love - it's cuddly and squishy and yet looks a bit nicer than a plain boring jumper. I have gold earrings and necklace both from Accessorize and a ponytail to try to minimise the effects of the blustery wind on my very flyaway hair...

I was worried about looking too monochrome so added a bit of colour with some turquoise nails - I have worn this colour from Maxfactor on my toenails all summer and think it's fresh and summery. May have to come by Monday for work buttttt who cares.

I wanted to get a few beauty bits whilst out today so below you can see my mini haul.

 I have decided to try out a BB cream - late to the party, as normal. I treated myself to a nice one by Philosophy. It's the 'be your best' skin perfecting b.b. cream with spf 30 (£22.50 at John Lewis). I always try to wear spf throughout the year so this will be an easy way to try and prevent any winter wrinkles in a few years...! I tried out a couple in the shop including ones by Origins, the Body Shop, Bobbi Brown but found this to be the easiest to blend colour-wise and also the lightest. Some felt heavy like a foundation (and fyi, foundations SCARE me - I am so nervous about heavy cover and the horrendous face/neck orange line!) so this one suited my needs more. I don't tend to suffer too much from breakouts - she says with a massive pimple between her eyebrows (ATTRACTIVE) so light coverage is usually enough for me. Truth be told, I generally don't even bother and just use concealer under my eyes and a bronzer but I like the fact that a BB cream will also help moisturise and protect my skin. Once I have tried it out, I'll try and do some kind of review to let you know how I'm getting on with it.

I also went to Boots where I got a foundation brush to apply the above and two of the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable balm stains. I have read that these are a good mix of a lipstick and a gloss and aren't too sticky so wanted to give them a go (also, two for £10 - why wouldn't I?!). I chose 001 'Honey' and 040 'Rendezvous'. You can see  them in the photo too but here's a better shot of the actual colours:

I tried both and love them - the Rendezvous (orange) is more summery and stand out whereas the Honey (pink) I can use more day to day as it's quite natural. I also experimented with putting one colour on my top lip and the other on the bottom and blending and it worked well!

Naturally, all that shopping was hungry work so we FINALLY went to a Mexican place I have fancied for a while called Chilacas and had amazing burritos and refill drinks from jam jars - such a cool idea! Check out my frizz hair too - turns out not even a pony tail could protect me from the gale force winds here today...

Let me know your thoughts on these posts and hopefully you'll be seeing more of them soon!


Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting

Firstly, I am a bad flat mate.

I forgot her birthday and did that awful thing where you only realise you have forgotten by seeing people she hardly knows writing their obliged birthday wishes on her Facebook wall. Gulp. Oops. Eep. Promptly write a text full of animation and affection as if my birthday message wasn't forgotten at all, rather just a little tardy due to work commitments *cough*. The only respite in this guilt was that as she is currently working away from home she doesn't know I haven't also remembered to buy a gift, make a cake etc.

Anyway, she is coming home for the evening tomorrow so tonight I feel I made up for forgetting by purchasing a lovely gift (John Whaite, baker extraordinaire's new cookbook in case you are interested) AND baking some pretty delicious looking cupcakes ifidosaysomyself.

Decorative 'rose' on top.

I had Nutella in the cupboard (this rarely occurs due to my horrendous habit of taking to the jar with a spoon...) but didn't want to make anything too rich and pure chocolatey so plumped for vanilla cupcakes with some pretty special Nutella frosting on top.

I used the Great British Bake Off vanilla cupcake recipe and somehow managed to get a really light, fluffy batter using a hand mixer - I think I really went at it at high speed for a few minutes and it paid off! Loosely, the recipe is 2 eggs, 175g each of SF flour and sugar, 125g butter, milk, vanilla essence and a pinch of salt. Bake for 20 mins or so and makes around 12 - told you it was a loose explanation! Very easy though and if you can mix electronically, will make it much easier and quicker.

The frosting was a JAM-made creation - roughly equal proportions of butter and Nutella, with about twice the amount of icing sugar. Again, a little vanilla essence and a splash of milk make it really light and creamy (I mixed electronically again and it was almost mousse-like, yum!). Extra tip, if you don't like your frosting too sweet, you can add a pinch of salt too which helps balance it - particularly useful if you tend to go nuts on the frosting to cupcake ratio...and who can blame you.

A really easy, quick way to rid myself of forgotten birthday guilt and am looking forward already to tucking in with a glass of milk when my flatmate comes home for the evening tomorrow - happy belated birthday!