Am I a food critic yet? Some days it feels like it, but nope, I just know what I like and I can talk about it for days. Maybe that's why Miller & Carter invited me down to dine in one of their newer restaurants last week. I can't be sure, all I know is that I went, ordered whatever I fancied, and I enjoyed every last bite.
The recently opened Marlbrook restaurant is located just outside of Birmingham in neighbouring Bromsgrove. It's situated in a very easy to get to spot and has a large carpark at the front which makes a nice change from over crowed, multi-story parking in the city. 

We arrived pretty much bang on time for our reservation last Thursday night and were promptly greeted and seated. We were offered the choice to sit and have drinks before being shown to our table but our stomachs were empty and we were ready to eat. 

The interiors of the Marlbrook branch were similar to other Miller & Carter restaurants. It had a very familiar feel but with a warm homely touch. This welcoming feeling was one that would not leave us all night, but was especially prominent whilst we were being served by our waitress Kat.

Once we were given our menus there was no rush to order. We were given plenty of time to pick and choose what we wanted and I noticed the same patience was shown to other guests, even the less friendly ones.
After a good few minutes of debating what to order I opted for a bowl of Mediterranean olives as a starter, and a bacon and smoked cheddar burger with more olives as my main (don't judge me). I also decided to push the boat out and ordered myself a little Mojito. 

I took my partner in crime to help me sample the delicious menu, such a tough job I know, but I have to repay him for the hours he spends taking photographs of myself for the gram, am I right? Sean is a huge steak fan so I doubt he even looked at the burgers or any other section of the menu whilst ordering. In fact he opted to order from the Steaks & Dates menu (obviously) in which you can order a 3 course meal for £25.95 per person on Thursday nights after 5pm. 
Sean's not one to stick to budgets when eating out and so he ordered the cluck and duck wings for a starter, the 8oz 30 day aged fillet, which incurred a £5 supplement, and a glass of red wine. I have since been told the supplement was 100% worth it. Our drinks soon arrived and the photoshoot began (sorry Sean).

After a very short wait our starters were brought over to the table. Sean's looked absolutely incredible and I was told the hoisin glazed chicken and duck wings tasted as good as they looked. As I was saving my main tummy space for my burger, I didn't want a large starter and so my mixed olives were the perfect thing to nibble on while I sipped on my Mojito feeling all fancy.
My tasty little cocktail was soon gone and it was time to order another. This time I opted for something a little bit more boozy, a long island ice tea. I had one back in December when we visited another branch of Miller & Carter and it was the perfect drink to accompany my main meal. The designated driver had a coke, poor Sean. 

After another short wait our mains were placed in front of us - cue another unbearably long photoshoot for Sean. He knows the drill by now, I'm sure all 'Instagram boyfriends' do and to be honest it wasn't all that hard to take cracking photos when the food is as well presented as ours was.
We were soon tucking into our meaty meals which were every bit as delicious as we anticipated they were going to be. My bacon and smoked cheddar burger really was something else, it was juicy and full of flavour without being greasy like burgers sometimes can be.

My favourite touch was the cheddar topped bacon which is more like a slab of gammon in my opinion and really does take the burger to the next level. I also think it's priced very reasonably for a steak house, costing just £11.95 including a large side of chips and tasty coleslaw. I know Sean also enjoyed his meal by just how quickly it had found itself into his belly. 
After munching down on our mains we were pretty stuffed. I couldn't even finish my second helping of olives, can you imagine? We asked to take a short break before ordering our desserts and weren't felt rushed at all. 

When we were eventually ready for our sweet treats Sean knew exactly what he wanted and ordered the rich chocolate brownie. It sounded amazing, and was even available on the regular dessert menu however I fancied something much smaller. Although the desserts on offer looked delicious I knew I wouldn't be able to finish an adult sized portion, but I didn't have to fear as Kat was here and ready to recommend a child's ice cream which came with two scoops and a cookie on the side, perfect.
Some restaurants wont let adults order from the child's menu as it's company policy. In my eyes this translates to 'we just want you to spend more money' but this wasn't a problem here at all and my dessert was the perfect size to finish off my delicious meal. 

Sean and I both had such a nice date night, in a lovely setting, served by the friendliest waitress. Miller & Carter is a treat for me as some of the dishes can be on the pricier side but I can honestly say it has left me pining for more. The quality of the food really is worth every penny and I can't wait for my next visit. 

Want a fancy date night of your own? Enter my competition HERE to win a £50 Miller & Carter voucher!

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* Our meal was complimentary however all thoughts and opinions are my own. I would never promote anything I didn't believe in.

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POSH BURGERS AND COCKTAILS - A TASTE OF MILLER & CARTER


As a kid I always loved sport. I could power through a football match, beat many of my peers at the 100 meters race, and I even have medals for both trampolining and horse riding. So why is my body so big? Well the teen years hit, my confidence dropped, and I quickly left anything sporty in the past. 

P.E. at school was mortifying for me. Once puberty hit I started to gain weight, mix that in with my love of quavers and you've got an obese child in the making. Now I don't personally think I've ever been obese, and I think that word in general has such nasty connotations around it, but I was told by a doctor at the impressionable age of 14 that I was just that. According to my BMI I was obese. How do you even begin to get your kit off and go play around on the sports field when you feel like a disgusting fat blob, and the doctor has just confirmed it for you? Looking back I was a very normal weight, slightly over maybe, but I had muscle and I was healthy. 

Fast forward to almost 10 years later and here I am. I'm definitely bigger but still healthy, and actually happy for once. It has taken me years of reversing all the damage done by self hate and vile comments from others for me to be where I am today and I'm quite proud. That being said I could be a lot healthier and I know that.



So now is the time to fix the damage that all those bags of quavers have done over the years. But now I have another challenge to face, I am actually quite large. Sports wear is very difficult to buy, not just because the sizing usually caters to slimmer people but because actually going to buy gym clothes is embarrassing. I know the fitting room assistant is thinking I'm too fat for leggings and I know the cashier is wondering if I've ever been to the gym in my life. I just know it, except I don't. I have no way of knowing what they are actually thinking about. More than likely they are too busy counting down the hours until they can clock off to even look at my body. I have to remember that next time I try to pick up some snazzy sports wear. 

For me, the thought of doing exercise now is still as mortifying as it was back when I was at school. 'Will my legs jiggle?', 'Will I be able to do it without getting sweaty and gross?', 'Will everyone judge me because I'm fat?' Those are just some of the hundreds of unhelpful, unwanted, intrusive thoughts that push themselves into my mind whenever I think about trying something new.

The hard truth is that yeah, maybe people will think nasty thoughts about me, and chances are my legs are going to jiggle, my tummy will too, but that's just life. I can't keep letting other people's thoughts effect me especially when 1. I'm trying to better myself and 2. I will never truly know what they are thinking.



Over the last few months I've been making more of an effort to get back into fitness. I've bought a bike which I occasionally ride to work, gone swimming with my friends, tried my hand at rock climbing, and even managed to get myself to the top of the Malvern Hills. It's not been easy, getting into a swimming costume was especially hard, but I did it.

For me half the challenge with fitness is getting into the right mindset to do it, and once I've overcome that, chances are I'll be able to to the activity I've chosen. I'm not as much of a blob as I sometimes think and I always feel so much better after a good workout. You can get back into fitness no matter your size, but it's always better to start sooner than later. 


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GETTING BACK INTO FITNESS WHEN YOU'RE FAT

Last week I was invited down to Chung Ying, a traditional Cantonese restaurant in Birmingham City Centre, to test out their brand new brunch menu. I'd not been before, and come to think of it, I don't think I'd ever had brunch before either, so I invited a friend and we both jumped at the chance! I'm a big fan of oriental food, but I'd mostly eaten at chain restaurants or nipped up the road for a takeaway, I've never tasted the real deal before.


Location

Chung Ying is located in the heart of Birmingham's China Town directly opposite The Arcadian, and a short distance from The Hippodrome. It can be reached in less than 5 minutes from both the Bullring shopping centre and Grand Central train station. 

Service

When we arrived at Chung Ying we were immediately seated at our reserved table even though we were quite early. We were promptly given our menus and ordered our drinks, which arrived back at our table very quickly.

Our waiter also assisted us with our order, and explained how the brunch menu works. You can order whatever you like but there is a deal on which we were trying to stick to. He also showed us how to actually order from the menu; like some similar restaurants the food items have numbers next to them and to select the item you would like you simply write the amount you want next to the corresponding number on the paper slip you are given. 

Our waiters seemed to change quite regularly throughout our meal, each one stopping occasionally to ask if everything was okay and to top up our tea. At one point it was clear I was having trouble with my chop sticks (honestly what am I like) and so one of the waiters brought over a super easy to use wrapped up pair. I didn't even have to ask but it made eating a lot easier! 

Although the restaurant was very quiet when we first arrived, it soon got incredibly busy coming up to lunchtime, but regardless of the sudden surge in customers the staff were still very attentive and helpful. I honestly couldn't fault the service we were given during our meals.


Food & Drink

So onto the food. There are 5 sections to the brunch menu, which are; Dim Sums, Congee, Claypot Rice, Noodle Soups, and Seasonal Vegetables. On the brunch offer (which we were trying to stick to) you can pick one Dim Sum item and one item from any other section.

Victoria and I both opted for spare ribs in plum sauce for our first item, she then decided to go all out and try something completely new by ordering chicken feet and spare ribs as her rice dish. I on the other hand played it safe and ordered century egg & pork which comes in a rice porridge with a side of noodles - my favourite. For our drinks we both opted for a pot of classic green tea. It was served in traditional handleless tea cups, topped up frequently, and complemented our meals perfectly.

Once our food arrived the portions were much larger than we expected, although we were told by our waiter there would be a lot of food. It's always a nice surprise to be given a good sized meal, especially in a City Centre restaurant. Once our table was filled with an array of colourful food we got stuck in.

Vic was lapping up the brunch like there was no tomorrow, the chicken feet and spare ribs that she ordered at a bit of a risk turned out to be really tasty. I quickly wolfed down the noodles which are always my favourite, and even nicked quite a bit of Victoria's rice which was also delicious. I didn't find all of the meat to be quite to my taste on this occasion, it was very different to what I'm used to and I'm not a huge meat eater at the best of times anyway. 


Price

I can only comment on the brunch menu as I didn't get chance to have a look at the main menu on this occasion but I found the brunch prices to be quite reasonable. Our brunch deal, which included one Dim Sum item and one other item was £9 which considering the size of the dishes, and the fact that it's a City Centre restaurant is pretty good. The dishes are £6 individually which again, I don't think is too bad.

My Verdict

Overall I thought the whole meal was a really fun authentic experience. It's very rare than I come out of my comfort zone and try new things, so although not everything was my cup of tea, it was nice to give something different a go for once. If you are new to traditional cantonese food then this is an exciting experience. If you are used to it however, you can expect to enjoy a selection of rich, tasty, flavourful food with excellent service.

Have you been to Chung Ying Cantonese in Birmingham City Centre?

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* Our meal was complimentary however all thoughts and opinions are my own.



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HONG KONG BRUNCH - FOR ADVENTUROUS FOODIES


Dads are so so hard to buy for! It's literally a fact! Okay it's not but really, what do you buy your Dad? They never want new clothes, you've already bought them socks for Christmas (and every birthday since you were born) and they're not into perfume like Mom is...

Well I've got a rough idea of what I'm going to get my dad this year so I thought I could help the rest of you out by putting together a gift guide of pretty reasonable items! Every item featured in this guide can be bought for £25 or under, so there's something for everyones budget. 


Items featured:
- 50 places to camp before you die book £15.99 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSKb - Bird and Wild Coffee £4.99* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Wild-Fa... - Lapasa Polo Shirt £11.90* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B... - Asos Watch £25 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSJ1 - Lapasa Boxers £19.99* - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B079P1MRF7 - Star Wars Mug £8.99 - http://shopstyle.it/l/LSKf Items marked with an * have been gifted to me.

I really hope this has given some of you a few present ideas for this Fathers Day! If you're still stuck Asos has a small selection of cards and gifts just for dads, and if worst comes to worst, I'm sure he could do with another pair of socks? Right?!

What are you getting your Dad this Fathers Day?


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FATHERS DAY GIFTS ON A BUDGET


Holidays are coming! The Summer kind! I've already posted a huge list of all the summer clothes I wish I could run out and buy, but today I'm talking specifically about swimwear. When its time to start shopping for my summer hols nothing stresses me out more than swimwear. Being a bigger girl I find it really hard to buy cute pieces that also work well for my body shape.

Well I've taken the stress out for all you curvy ladies by putting together a list of my favourite swimwear. I've popped in a selection of 'sculpting' swimwear for if you're not feeling that confident, some teeny weeny bikinis for if you feel banging regardless of your wobbly bits, and a bit of everything else in between. Basically I've included pretty much every type of swimming costume because size doesn't matter and you can wear whatever you feel great in this summer!


Whilst putting this list together I noticed that the 'plus size' swimwear seemed to be very boring and more often than not plain black. Obviously us bigger girls don't want to draw attention to ourselves  by wearing the cute things the 'normal girls' do. Well fuck 'em, when you buy your new swimwear this year buy the most gorgeous & the most colourful items you can and wear them with pride!

Do you have a favourite piece?


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THE BEST SWIMWEAR FOR LARGER LADIES

 I've been in a rut lately, a makeup rut. I rarely bother with makeup on days I go to work and on days I don't I'm usually out and about having fun which leaves little time to play around with new styles in the morning. Its fair to say I got boring. I was wearing the same eyeshadow and the same lipstick in the same way I always had and I was getting a bit fed up about it.


I follow some amazing bloggers who manage to create hugely different makeup looks every single day of the week. I don't know how they have the time/ patience to perfect it every single day but they do, and it looks like they have so much fun playing around with it all too. I wanted a piece of that. I wanted to experiment with colours and feel like a completely different girl every day. I missed using makeup to express myself. 

I've always been a big fan of art and to me makeup is an art. I'm not particularly good at it applying it, and I've only ever worn fake eyelashes once in my life but that doesn't matter. All that matters is that you have fun with what you are doing. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed messing around with new colours and techniques. I'd forgotten that makeup was a way to show my personality. I'd been using makeup to make myself feel pretty and whilst thats not necessarily a bad thing, I started to rely on my mascara's and foundation's a bit too much. 

Even as a teenager I didn't have bad skin. I never felt the need to smother my face in foundation before I left the house, I never really bothered with eyeshadow or liner, and I definitely didn't know what contouring was. I wore makeup as and when I wanted to. But lately I've felt that I kind of need all of that to feel beautiful. I needed to cover my skin and coat my lids in glitter or else I was ugly. I'd not really felt like that before and I think its quite a dangerous mindset to get used to. I needed to remember what makeup was about for me.

- Get The Look -
         

I wanted to be inspired again, I wanted to take myself back to the time when makeup was just for fun and not a necessity. Luckily it wasn't very long before I found my inspiration. Once I'd started looking it was everywhere, from Instagram, to magazines, and huge billboards around my city, there were ideas in every place I looked. One of the major places I gathered my motivation from was my friend Amanda, her Instagram is constantly brimming with unreal new makeup looks. I'd be confronted by an amazing new 'face of the day' look almost every time I scrolled through my feed and to be honest thats when I really started to feel boring. She was doing some incredible things with colours I'd never dare to use and styles that were far from typical, but she looked amazing and she was clearly having a good time.


After a few weeks of watching everyone else try out wild new makeup looks I decided enough was enough. I challenged myself to start using colour. I needed to play around with some new eyeshadows that weren't my usual light sparkly shades. I needed to try something new and so eventually this look was born. Its not a hundred miles away from my every day makeup, the style is basically the same but the colours I have chosen for this look are something I would usually run from! They are so bright and dramatic, and together they even clash a little bit. They are everything that scares me about pretty makeup. But it's not meant to be pretty or flattering, it's meant to be a bit of fun! Its not the best makeup look I've ever created and if I'm honest I was too scared to wear it out of the house because the colours really are just so bright, but its the start of my new outlook on makeup.

I had a lot of fun playing around with this look and I'm determined to try new things more often. Makeup isn't just about looking pretty, at least it shouldn't be, and I need to remember that. 

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FALLING BACK IN LOVE WITH MAKEUP

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