Scones at Patisserie Valerie Oxford, Afternoon Tea at Patisserie Valerie review

A Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea review

Afternoon tea is one of the numerous pastimes that makes me rather proud to be British – it is a fabulous tradition. After a busy week at work, what better way to unwind than with good company, deliciously quaint sandwiches, and a selection of delicious treats?

The best thing about Patisserie Valerie is that it offers quality afternoon tea for two, nationwide –¬†they are literally everywhere.¬†Being my thrifty self, I indulged in a Groupon voucher (please, stop presenting me with so many good offers) and saved myself over 20% off the original price!

What is included in the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea?

So, what did we get in our Patisserie Valerie afternoon tea for two? Check out the menu below:

  • A selection of finger sandwiches: cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise and cress, ham, spinach and mustard and chicken, pesto and sunblazed tomatoes
  • Two mini vegetable quiches
  • A selection of mini cakes: mini Victoria sponge, 2 mini chocolate √©clairs, mini carrot and walnut cake, mini mixed berry mousse slice and mini chocolate mousse slice
  • Four homemade scones (two plain and two fruit), clotted cream and a selection of preserves
  • A pot of tea or two hot drinks of your choice

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So, what did I think of the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea?

My initial reaction was how wonderfully it was all presented, there is such an array of food on offer so it is all pretty indulgent. A nice touch is that sandwiches are made to order and there is also vegetarian options available.

However, I will truly be impressed if you manage to finish it all. There was far too much there for us to eat, and our lovely selection of mini pastries were beautifully packaged and taken home with us to indulge in later.

I found the staff to be a little brash, but this may have just been the Oxford branch. Some venues even cater to bubbly-fanatics and offer a glass of prosecco alongside your afternoon tea – go on, treat yourself.

Have you tried the Patisserie Valerie Afternoon Tea? Where is your favourite place to have afternoon tea?

Stephanie xox

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Ghibli by hyung86

The great animation debate: Studio Ghibli versus Disney

Disney is a universal brand, a timeless reflection back to our youth. It is brimming with fond memories of cinema trips and cosy nights in with the family. Tales of traditionally ‘perfect’ Princesses, talking animals and sing-along-songs. The companies ability to hold a special place in the hearts of each generation for almost a century is admirable. So, why is Studio Ghibli, the Japanese counterpart for the East, so much more?

For those who do not know of Studio Ghibli, it was founded in 1985, around 62 years after its fair-to-say rival, Disney. The Japanese company has created over 20 beautiful animated feature films to date, with their own array of wonderfully crafted heroes and heroines.

The two animation giants undoubtedly share similar traits, their work is utterly timeless and adored globally. However, it is a belief shared by many that the East began to take over the West when it came to quality animation, and there are a fair few reasons why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Growing up, I watched both Disney and Studio Ghibli films, and the latter continues to move me as I edge towards my mid-twenties (a scary prospect). The heart of Studio Ghibli stems from its animation team, especially from the creative brain of the former lead director, Hayao Miyazaki, who created something with a far deeper moralistic and feminist meaning.

Japanese Studio Ghibli Posters - Ghibli versus Disney - The LDN Gal

Why are strong female leads so important in animation?

Like many, I found myself learning far more from Studio Ghibli, with their tales of female struggle and empowerment (most films tend to have a strong female lead). Unlike the Disney Princesses, the heroines are relatable without the patronising undertone and the magic and depth of their fantasy tales awakens the attention of adults, as well as presenting important moral dilemmas and messages for children watching.

Looking at the female leads in Disney films (predominantly the Disney Princesses) in comparison to those in Studio Ghibli, a striking difference will continuously manifest itself. Time and time again in Disney, it will be seen that these princesses are overtly defenseless without the men in their lives to rescue them (Mulan, Merida and the new Princess Moana being the few exceptions).

Compare this to Studio Ghibli, and you will find feminist icons in abundance,  the majority of Ghibli films have an admirable and strong female lead. Miyazaki says:

“Many of my movies have strong female leads – brave, self-sufficient girls that don’t think twice about fighting for what they believe in with all their heart. They’ll need a friend, or a supporter, but never a savior. Any woman is just as capable of being a hero as any man.”

Not relying on a man (or anyone for that matter) is a recurring theme, everyone is seen as equal in the gender Olympic’s and this is just wonderful for the self-esteem of a small child, who doesn’t love feeling empowered and equal?

Why is female empowerment needed in animation?

An example of utter reliance on men is presented to us in The Little Mermaid (Disney). Our leading mermaid, Ariel, plays centre-stage under the sea, she is beautiful, feisty and terribly naive. Of course, she falls head-over-heels for the ‘wrong’ guy in the opinion of her father, whom she then desperately seeks out upon the land in exchange for her voice. He notices her, but not enough to avoid being bewitched and ensnared by a witch. Says it all but a happy ending is guaranteed, this is Disney.

Old Sophie Howls Moving Castle - Ghibli versus Disney - The LDN Gal

Compare this with female protagonist Sophie of Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli), and you are presented with a self-conscious wallflower. Sophie is plain and unnoticed, obviously reinforced as viewers see that even her own mother fails to realise her transformation from a young girl into a twisted hag. This ordinary girl, no ‘beauty’ on her side, must seek out a wizard whose attention she had caught in her youthful state. The issue being that she cannot speak a word to anyone about the curse and therefore must lurk around until she can figure out how to break it herself, while her wizarding companion is on a quest to find himself also.

There is far more depth to Sophie, she’s opinionated, brash and stern (probably something to do with the aged state and being utterly fed up). Whereas Ariel¬†is presented as emotionally motivated and stroppy, only seeking her happiness as an end goal and caring little for the loss of those around her (particularly her somewhat overbearing father who is terrified about her disappearance). On the other hand, Sophie seeks to help all those around her, she is a complex character whose love and compassion motivates her throughout, perhaps even at her own expense and happiness at times.

The problem with Disney is that helplessness, ‘love’ and beauty define the Princesses. With Studio Ghibli, beauty isn’t key, the female leads are admired for their strength, journey, and powerful hearts. It is a stark and reoccurring difference, just select any Disney or Studio Ghibli film.

Some critics argue that Studio Ghibli films exploit these young heroines. However, It would seem that the consensus argues that Ghibli, in fact, challenges girls to solve their own problems. Saying this, modern Disney appears to have approached this too with ‘stronger’ characters such as Mulan and Merida, to name a few. In contrast, Studio Ghibli has been doing this with his characters since day one, in a culture often perplexed by such dominating female empowerment.

Another perk is that Studio Ghibli animations provide far more cultural exploration for us Westerners and prove themselves to be culturally apt. Whereas Disney often fails to truly embrace the cultures of their Princesses in their locality.

Often you will hear of Disneyland being the ‘most magical place on earth’, its stories the basis for this magic. I argue that Studio Ghibli offers far more magic, it teaches us to be kind, to not judge, to respect and cherish our environment (nature being of great religious importance to the Japanese), that pacifism can work and childhood transitioning is tough, no one can save you from it but you.

Their stories are creative, with complex and challenging storylines, developed and iconic characters, heartwarming and meaningful messages, embellished with beautiful animation. Studio Ghibli will remain timeless to its audience, holding many an animated heart for a lifetime with their emotion invoking work. The core and important message will stay the same, despite your gender, appearance, size or background, you can achieve anything you want to, and this is why Studio Ghibli will always surpass Disney.

Does your heart remain with Disney or Studio Ghibli? What is your favourite Ghibli film?

Stephanie xox

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Bridget Jones Baby

Bridget Jones Baby Film Review

Who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? Even when you enter the cinema full well knowing that said rom-com is going to be both a charming and chaotic nightmare. You would not expect anything less from Miss Jones.

Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger), first stole our hearts with her relatable and ditzy ways back in 2001 in Bridget Jones Diary, a single woman in her early 30s searching for love in all the wrong places. The first movie beautifully playing out the yearning for the notorious bad boy (Daniel Cleaver, as played by Hugh Grant) versus the oh-so-conservative, Mr. Nice (Mark Darcy, as played by Colin Firth). During which time, the leading lady relentlessly strived towards being the epitome of feminine beauty and health, of course.

After we presumed a happy-ever-after upon the closing scenes of Bridget Jones Diary: The Edge of Reason of 2004, the emotionally-constipated Mark Darcy is no more, the engagement has been called off and he has married another woman. The callous cad!

We’ve skipped forward more than a decade with the belated Bridget Jones Baby, the teenagers, and adults of the noughties filled with wonderful nostalgia and optimism for Bridget as she celebrates her 43rd birthday. The diary is long gone (hello subtle Apple promotion of the iPad), Bridget is a ‘respected’ career woman, still single (WHAT? Yes, you heard it. Single!) and secretly yearning for a future of motherhood. The ‘normality’ she sees in her friends who surround her with busy family schedules is a perpetual reminder of where she should be in life, the heart of a nuclear family.

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On the verge of breaking point, she is tricked into a rambunctious trip to Bestival, meeting a somewhat narcissistic American (Patrick Dempsey as Jack Qwant, a multi-millionaire mogul Рwhere on earth does she meet these men?!) for a night of no-strings-attached fun in an attempt to lessen her woes. This is shortly followed by an intoxicated rendezvous at a baptism after-party with a devilishly handsome (if I do say so myself) old flame (Hello again, Firth). With these fleeting and haphazardous intimate moments, the damage is done.

Obviously, there is a baby involved somewhere in all this madness, and the now pregnant Bridget must determine the father, having got herself in said pickle with some out-of-date vegan condoms (now there is a lesson to play responsibly, kids).

Going through the pregnancy the two men fight for her affection, doing so in a verging on patronising fashion, both desperate to be the father. Unlike the previous films, genuine heart touching moments are plentiful and you really do see the maturity and vulnerability of the characters throughout the film.

‘Sometimes you love a person because of all the reasons they’re not like you. Sometimes you love a person because they feel like home.’

Without risking spoilers, Bridget Jones Baby is a wonderful film in its own right and should be praised as the concluding chapter of the wonderful Miss. Jones life. It was not nearly as Mamma Mia as I presumed and was a touching reflection on the life of a modern day heroine/hot mess. If you are a fan, Bridget Jones Baby is definitely worth a watch.

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Spinach, Chickpea and sweet potato curry recipe

Ingredients:

‚ô• One sweet potato

♥ 1/2 tin of chickpeas

♥ 1/2 tin of spinach

‚ô• 1 tin of chopped tomatoes

‚ô• Half an onion diced

♥ 3 spoonfuls of curry paste

♥ Two tablespoons of olive oil

‚ô• Cup of wholegrain or white rice

The perfect simple vegetarian curry

Dice your sweet potato and onions and place the two tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan at a moderate heat. Add the curry powder and the drained chickpeas, spinach, and chopped tomatoes, stirring the contents before leaving it to heat and simmer for up to 30 minutes (ensuring your sweet potato is cooked through).
Place a cup of your desired rice to boil for 10 minutes and voila chickpea, sweet potato and spinach vegetarian curry with rice!

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Total cooking time: 30 minutes

What do you think of this simple curry recipe? Do you enjoy vegetarian curries?

Stephanie xox

 

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Hopkinson Vintage Antiques and Art Centre in Nottingham do vintage clothing, accessories and homeware like no other. Beautifully filled to the brim with four floors to explore, each visit you are guaranteed to find something you will fall in love with.

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However, on a quest for somewhere new to enjoy lunch, me and Lauren of The Original Blonde Journalist, decided to take a bite at their Tea Bar. Which is situated at the entrance to Hopkinson’s vintage haven (we managed to eat before exploring, you should be proud of us).

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The interior of Hopkinson’s is just beautiful. Quaint with mis-matched vintage chairs and cutlery. It is very relaxed, very charming and very vintage. ¬†The menu is simplistic, a brunch (beans on toast will set you back ¬£3), lunch and swift bite place. It includes pita bread pizzas, light bites (Antipasti Platter or cakes, depending on whether you are feeling savoury or sweet), jacket potatoes, soups, sandwiches/toasties and afternoon tea (always a good shout in my opinion).

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We were greeted by a cheery and lovely floral dressed waitress. Who quickly took our order and chatted away merrily to other customers. Service was slow but the atmosphere was so nice it did not matter to me and Lauren. If you are hoping for a swift service though you may have to opt for fast food, in Nottingham that is never an issue.

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I ordered a mozeralla, chicken and pesto toastie and diet coke and Lauren a ham and cheddar (it was not) sandwich and sprite. ¬†Lauren was very disappointed on discovering her order was wrong and instead of her beloved cheddar she was greeted with large slices of mozzarella. She spent a solid minute convincing me that it ‘tastes like egg’ before I eventually sampled and unfortunately had to agree – it was bad.

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Overall, the Hopkinson Tea Bar was a disappointment and it truly saddens me to say so. It was nice but nothing spectacular considering the inflated price. The ingredients seemed cheaply sourced, even the granary bread failed to impress. Sorry Hopkinson but I shall only be returning for your non-edible and vintage items, which you do oh so perfectly.

Where do you head for your lunch and vintage?

Stephanie xox

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How to make a skinny pizza recipe

The ‘skinny’ pizza is a low-fat, healthy and delicious alternative to the usual cheese and dough loaded affair ¬†– and it is made with just a few simple ingredients!

Gather the following together:

  • White or whole grain tortilla (depending on ¬†your preference)
  • Tomato pur√©e
  • Low-fat soft cream cheese
  • Your choice of toppings (I opt for vegetarian such as sweetcorn, pepper, and onion but the possibilities are endless, get imaginative)

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Skinny pizza recipe instructions

  1. Place your tortilla on a baking tray and smooth over a tablespoon of purée and follow with the cream cheese. Spread these evenly.
  2. Add your toppings as desired. If you are using meats, then be sure to have them cooked if required beforehand Рvegetarian skinny pizza gets my vote every time. 
  3. Simply pop into your preheated oven at 200 degrees for a couple of minutes.
  4. Voila, you have a skinny pizza, low in calories, which is swiftly made and very filling. Plus, there is no guilt if you eat the entire thing!

See this recipe in The Currys Student cookbook, which is available to download for free here.¬†It is packed with delicious, easy to make and nutritious recipes –¬†not just for students!

What do you think of this healthy alternative to pizza? Would you try it?

Stephanie xox

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