Sugarhill Boutique

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I’m definitely getting to that age. As I write this my beloved cousin is in a very protracted labour with her first child, and I am flicking through a summer schedule of hen do’s, weddings, 30th’s, 40th’s and baby showers. It feels like suddenly life has shifted slightly and VERY BIG THINGS are beginning to happen to my nearest and dearest! This weekend was no different. I met my friend Jenny when I worked a part-time job at Cineworld when I was 18. We instantly clicked, and spent a long sticky summer working away in our unflattering baseball caps serving popcorn and cleaning up movie mess. The job didn’t last long, but our friendship has been a permanent fixture and she’s been one of those friends who’ll drop anything if I need her. This weekend was her hen do, as she is getting married to an amazing guy in August. I can confirm he is amazing because he bought me Ghostbusters 2 on DVD for Christmas.

Jenny’s hen do took place in York, so on Saturday we went to the races! I’ve never been to the races before and was so excited to try something new. I’m sure some of you have views on the animal rights side of horse racing, which I completely respect. I exist in an ignorant bliss that the horses are treated like treasures and given a wonderful life outside of the racing element (cynically, because they are worth so much money if nothing else) but for all I know this could be woefully wrong. However, York Races is a flat run, so no jumps and no injuries occurred the whole time I was there. After a week of doom, gloom and grim rainy weather, we were incredibly lucky to have a day of blazing sunshine and balmy heat. I can imagine the event isn’t such a fun affair if you’re cowering under a Racing Post and shivering in your gladrags!

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We had opted for the champagne garden pass, which meant as well as being able to head down and watch the horses in action, we could take a seat and sup bubbles in the sunshine. I actually enjoyed this part as much as the racing itself. I’m not really one for a decadent lifestlyle, this much is obvious by the fact I still consider Nandos a real treat, so the opportunity to people-watch swarms of ladies and gents  in their finery and drink champagne at 2pm in the afternoon was really novel! I had a new frock to début for the occasion. I mentioned in my last post the Love Birds blouse from Sugarhill Boutique which I bought last month. They kindly offered me another item from their haven of print gorgeousness to review on here, so after ages umming and ahhing I thought it would be nice to pick something I could wear for the hen do. My eyes and heart immediately set on this Butterfly dress. As well as the really unusual butterfly shape for the back and front, I adore the heart print and scalloped edges. The dress is hand-crafted in Bali with intricate cutwork, butterfly embroidery and heart print batik. The hand crafting means all the hearts are slightly different shapes and sizes and it has a real one-of-a-kind feeling to it. I paired it with some cream wedges and a pearl 1920s headpiece (no hats, sorry!) and felt brilliant all day. The light cotton kept me cool as I sweated it out roaring at the horses, and it didn’t have a single crease despite me being up and down like a yoyo topping up my champagne glass. Thank you Sugarhill Boutique for giving me the opportunity to shine in one of your designs, and if you fancy treating yourself to something from their website you can bag 10% off by signing up to their newsletter.

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The dress has a real playful element to it, so in-keeping with that I took it one step further with my handbag choice. Last week I met my BBFF (blogging best friend forever. sorry, we are twee!) for a cheap and cheerful Zizzi’s in central London. Kate was carrying this little beauty around with her. Cue lots of silly photo opportunities, where we pretended to be the feline Daft Punk. In my usual style thievery fashion I demanded to know where it was from! Kate let me into a little secret which was… it is a £4 Primark special. The nugget of thrifty wisdom Kate imparted on me is that in Primark (and other highstreet shops) you have to check out their “Tablet Case” section. This “clutch bag” is actually a tablet case.  It functions perfectly as a clutch and the wide design has plenty of space for cameras/phone/giant purse etc!

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Back to sunny York! Apart from a yearly flutter on the Grand National, where I learn all the terminology and jargon and then entirely forget it again by the next year, I don’t have a clue what I am doing when it comes to bets. This was quite obvious by the fact I accidentally bet £20 on my first trip to the bookie stand, when I meant to bet £10 (I forgot that each-way costs twice as much). One of the hens had an uncle who rang in with some last minute tips, so I used a mixture of these and then the standard “who has the nicest outfit colours / which name is funny” method of selection.

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For race one I had a case of beginners luck. My pick (who I betted each-way on – meaning you win if they place first or second) came in second place. He had been a total outsider so the odds were in my favour and my £2 turned into a very nice £7.90. This soon vanished back into the bookies pocket though and for the next four races my horses went from bad to worse, to the point where my pick didn’t even make it out of the traps! Just turned around and wandered off for a munch on some grass instead. I can’t say I blame him. After drinking an entire bottle of champers to myself, I decided to take a new, bolder approach on horse selection. I thought perhaps I should watch the jockey parade and pick the scrappiest looking jockey. So I opted for this guy.

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Unfortunately I still didn’t win big so decided I should retire early, because you know you’re in trouble when you start putting £2 bets on your credit card. Although the betting made each race extra exciting, I still enjoyed watching the races that I hadn’t taken a flutter on. The atmosphere at the races is electric, the air filled with shouting and cheering and that feeling that anything could happen. There are obviously people who attend every weekend and take it all extremely seriously, and I think it’s always nice to submerse yourself in a culture that you know nothing about.

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We were at the races from midday until 6pm, so needed some mid afternoon nourishment. And lets be honest, something to soak up all that flowing alcohol! There was tons of choice for cuisine, but we stumbled across a huge grand dining room with walls adorned in oil painted horses, gold prize cups and rosettes. They had an amazing offer of all-you-can-eat afternoon tea for £7 (yes, you can tell I was not in London any more! Add a 2 to the front of that for a London price of the same offer!) so we took a seat and gorged on endless mini sandwiches, sausage rolls, tiny fish shaped salmon en croute and all the chocolate eclairs we could stuff in our cheeks. It’s hard to believe as I sit her typing and listening to the rain beat down outside, but it was also nice to take a break and sit in the shade at this point of the long hot day. The rest of the hen do was just as fantastic as my first ever Races experience. I think any night that ends in you enthusiastically dancing and singing along to Ghetto Superstar at 2am is a winner.

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After my discovery that Chelsea isn’t in fact just for people named Binky or owners of miniature dogs, I’ve been branching out and exploring more of this London gem. A few weeks ago my friend Phil aka Chime Hours told me about Big Easy and more importantly, it’s all-you-can-eat FAJITA WEDNESDAY! Big Easy is a short stroll from Sloane Square station and describes itself as deluxe crabshack dining which already had me sold. The decor & atmosphere is worth a visit in itself, let alone the fact the food is sensational. Feeling as if you’ve just left Chelsea stiffness and entered the deep south, Big Easy is adorned with crabs, fishing nets, amazing artwork and kitsch quotes.

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I usually have Spanish evening class on a Wednesday so this was an extra special treat because I skived my lesson (then had to make up for it with the Que Horror! of double spanish the next week) as the lure of all you can eat sizzling meat was too high. You pay a really reasonable £14.95 and this includes as many fajitas as you can scoff PLUS an icy beer or a frozen margarita. Guess what I opted for…

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I just want to take a moment to pay tribute to my beautiful Sugarhill Boutique Love Birds blouse. I was in the market for a birthday-present to myself when I saw lovely Rosie’s post with her wearing it and I was a style thief and instantly ordered myself one! Luckily we live hundreds of miles apart so I felt safe in the knowledge that she wouldn’t trot in at any moment wearing it too, phew. Since buying this blouse I’ve been obsessed with Sugarhill Boutique. I’m a sucker for prints and they have such a beautiful selection, I’ll be writing more about them next week as I am wearing this little number to the York Races tomorrow so I’ll be reporting back on the day and the dress! SO, back to the fajitas…

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The fajita goodness comes out on a huge sizzling platter. You can choose chicken, steak, shrimp or vegetable. Or you can be a greedy guts and choose all four, which is what we did. It sizzles away on a hot plate, whilst you are also bought baskets of hot fajita wraps and plates of salsa/lime/cheese/guac/sour cream. After feasting your way through the lot, you can ask for as MANY refills of everything as you can possibly muster. All of the food is delicious but as a surf & turf freak I stuck mostly to shrimpy steak combos. I intentionally arrived with a huge appetite but as usual was quite lame once under the pressure of you can eat as MUCH as you like! I managed 4 fajitas, but my three dates for the night fared better. Phil & Craig both managed 5 fajitas but Nick was crowned fajita champion by chomping 6 (and his were all stuffed so full they basically exploded). I don’t think Nick felt like the winner as he groaned his way up the Northern line home and had to be rolled into bed though.

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A nice added bonus was that Big Easy also have nightly music. We were sat next to the stage and a group of guys & guitars serenaded us with sweet covers and tropical tunes as we ate. It did mean conversation was a little SHOUTY and getting waiter/waitresses attention for refills and new drinks could be a challenge, but the pros outweigh the cons and I really enjoyed the buzzy, hectic, friendly feasting atmosphere. The Big Easy has a huge standard menu of BBQ, shrimp, steaks and seafood. They also do various other offers similar to this during the week including all-you-can-eat Shrimp on Tuesdays and an annual rib-eating contest on 4th July. I basically am already dreaming of when I can next go back there and want to take all my friends there to experience the fiesta vibe. Who’s in?

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Our smug not-as-full-as-Nick faces! I realised that when you live in London you NEVER take photographs on the tube, so thought I’d go rogue and actually the lighting and colours are quite fetching. In-real-life friends will recognise this shearling collar, as I am wearing it every day at the moment. This nightmare May weather means I want to wear my leather jacket or parka but never know when I’ll get an attack of the chills and need something toasty. I down-right refuse to wear a scarf in Spring so this is the next best thing, it also adds a nice furry lapel to any jacket you are getting a bit bored with. In fact I love it so much, I just ordered myself another one from ASOS in cream. I guess it’s just my big collar addiction hitting a new level of over-size!

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