LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Gift

The lovely peeps at GiftsOnline4U got in touch recently to ask if I’d like to pick something from their site to review. As soon as I saw their Personalised Moet* I knew that engraving one would be a lovely way to commemorate a very special occasion for me: My blog just had it’s birthday and LovedByLaura is now three years old!

LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Champagne

Starting LovedByLaura is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m so grateful for everything wonderful that’s happened to me as a result of the simple act of me sharing things that I love on an internet page.

There are so many marvellous opportunities when you’re a blogger that it’s taught me to enjoy a life less ordinary and seek out new adventures every day. I’ve met some incredible, inspiring and downright hilarious people through blogging, some of whom have become lifelong friends. Through blogging I’ve also had the opportunity to work with amazing brands and companies that I respect and admire and the fact that they enjoy my content and want to collaborate with me still thrills me every single time.

LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Champagne

The GiftsOnline4U website was easy to navigate around other than a persistent pop up box that decided to stalk me around the site after I declined to opt into the mailing list. Ordering was straightforward, I selected my chosen personalised gift and was given an option to fill in up to three lines of text for the engraving as well as being able to select from a number of fonts. In the end I decided on the following:

Loved By Laura is 3 years old.
Let’s drink champagne and
dance on the table!

A few days later as I was getting ready for work there was a knock at the door – a courier with my parcel to sign for. The box was marked ‘fragile’ but the bottle comes encased in sturdy polysterene so it arrived in perfect condition.

LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Gift Champagne

I’m so pleased with how it turned out. The engraving is neat and easy to read, transforming what would already be a lovely gift into a wonderful keepsake. Now every time I see it I’ll have a happy reminder of my blog turning three.

LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Gift Champagne

That’s why I love picking out the right personalised gift for my friends and family when birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries come up. An engraved, meaningful message shows that you’ve put thought into what you’ve chosen and it’s likely to be something that they’ll cherish for a very long time.

…I can’t say the same for the champagne itself however – it’s only survived this long on account of my being away on holiday when my blog birthday happened and is chilling in the fridge as we speak!

LovedByLaura 3rd Birthday Personalised Gift Champagne

To make it even more special you can add a Personalised Champagne Box too, which I’d definitely consider if I was buying this for someone else.

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: The bottle of champagne was kindly gifted to me in return for an honest review. This post is not sponsored and all views are my own, unbiased opinion.

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Let's Talk The Pressures of Blogging

Last week Loved By Laura turned three which blows my mind! Whilst I’m incredibly grateful for all the fantastic things that blogging has brought me, it has made me think back on my blogging journey and it’s fair to say that it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. Over the years I’ve had my fair share of struggles with the immense pressure that comes with running a blog and how obsessive it can all become if you’re not careful.

There’s pressure to succeed (even if you’re not quite sure what that actually means), pressure to keep up with others, pressure to grow a following, deadlines and expectations.

Lots of us don’t get paid to do what we do yet we still treat it like a second job and somehow end up heaping a huge amount of pressure upon ourselves to consistently produce new and exciting and creative content day after day.

In my first year of blogging everyone seemed to be celebrating huge milestones and setting ambitious goals for growth, which made me feel like I needed to focus on my numbers too. People whom I’d started out with were writing posts entitled ‘how I tripled my followers in a month’ and I felt like a big fat failure because despite following all the advice my audience was hardly growing at all. The funny thing is that now looking back on it, I was actually doing quite well. I just couldn’t see it at the time because I was comparing myself to the 1% and thinking that was the norm.

I started to develop a bad habit when shopping. I knew I was doing it, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wouldn’t ask myself ‘Do I need this?’ Instead I’d be thinking ‘This is cute. Could I turn this into a post? Would it make a good Instagram picture? Is this going to get me likes and followers?’ I’d ignore the most practical or affordable options if I spotted a more Instagrammable version available. Have you ever noticed that they charge you more for anything that comes in pink, white or rose gold now whereas pick royal blue or green and it’s a total bargain?! I’m pretty sure my generation of bloggers created that strange economy. Sorry.

In those day I also spent so much time looking through a lens and planning how I’d write about my experiences that sometimes I forgot to actually experience them, or didn’t feel that I had the time to enjoy them because it was more important to get that perfect shot. I was creating 3 blog posts a week for over 2 years and it took non stop effort to be able to generate that much fresh content.

At the start of 2017 it hit me that blogging had taken over my every waking breath and I wasn’t really enjoying doing it any more. I knew it wasn’t the end of LovedByLaura but I needed a break and I took quite a long one to refocus. I wanted to work out what I did and didn’t miss about blogging so that I could change things for the better.

One of the best things during that time was going on days out where I left my camera at home and committed the experiences to memory instead of film. I’d missed days where it was just about going to the beach and enjoying the company around me instead of going to the beach and hunting down the most photogenic beach hut!

Let's Talk The Pressures of Blogging 2

Six months have passed and it’s only now that I’ve got back to posting regularly again, I’m more realistic in what I can and should do with my time and what my limitations are. I allow myself nights off. Sometimes I even eat my food hot even if it would have made a perfect Instagram shot! I’ve saved myself a small fortune by not buying so much new stuff and instead writing and photographing things that I already own and adore.

Sure, I’m never going to be the most successful blogger by doing things this way and it means that some days I go quiet on social media because all I’ve done is eaten a pot noodle and annoyed my cats. That’s okay though. I’m happy with where my blog is right now and I’m just enjoying the process of blogging and what I loved at the beginning before all the pressure piled on.

Let's Talk The Pressures of Blogging 2

So…does this mean I regret the first couple of years? Absolutely not! Whilst I got too consumed by it all for a while, those first few relentless years got my blog to where it is now and I’ve learned from all the experiences – the good and the bad. It really is just one long crazy life lesson being a blogger!

P.s. I still can’t help buying the rose gold option of everything even if it costs more. Nobody’s perfect.

LovedByLaura

If you like this post, you might also want to read this one!
The Curse of the Green Eyed Blog Monster – Dealing with Envy

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Fine Dining for Less Than £20 | Prevost PeterboroughI often joke about having champagne taste and a beer budget, so you can imagine how excited I was to discover that Prévost (the restaurant at the top of my ‘must visit’ wishlist) is offering a set 3 course lunch for just £18.50 during August.

Putting Peterborough Fine Dining on the Map

Prévost has put the Peterborough on the map as a place to experience fine dining at it’s best. Led by the incredibly talented head chef Lee Clarke, its culinary creations have already earned the restaurant inclusion in the prestigious Michelin Guide in it’s first six months as well as being recently announced as a new entry in the Good Food Guide’s Top 50 for 2018.

The restaurant is hidden away down a side street in Priestgate. It’s a mere 2 minute walk from the city centre but if you didn’t know to look for it you’d miss it! If you do know what to look for, however, an unassuming archway leads you through to a courtyard and Prevost’s welcoming entrance.

Inside

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 | Prevost Peterborough

Inside Prévost is intimate and yet spacious all at the same time. The decor is modern with copper lighting and bar equipment, comfy sofas, a welcoming fireplace and a light and spacious dining area looking out onto a herb garden.

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 | Prevost Peterborough

The Lunch For Less menu is a set 3 courses which changes every week. We opted to add on a plate of freshly baked sour dough with cultured homemade butter for an extra £2.50 per head. The bread had a wonderful springy texture and a delicious crust which worked perfectly with a good slathering of the salted butter!

The Menu

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 Prevost Peterborough 10

The starter was described simply as Ham Hock with Spiced Apple and Plum, but this was a dish full of complexity and character. Lee brought the dish to each diner’s table personally, explaining that the accompanying salad was fresh from his mother’s garden which I thought was a lovely touch. The presentation was a joy with vibrant colours bursting off the plate, begging you to get stuck in.

This is the sort of dish where you really need to load your fork with a bit of every single element and then savour it in your mouth, allowing each taste to burst through. Acidity, creaminess, sweetness, salt, it was just perfect.

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 Prevost Peterborough

Our main was Confit Salmon and Fennel. Again, a simple description which didn’t give too much away and I loved the element of surprise that this created for us. We had fun picking out all of the different components – small white drops of sauce turned out to be a delicate horseradish, the fennel was presented 3 ways (I think!) showcasing how versatile it can be in skilled hands. The salmon itself had a delightfully crispy skin and lay on a bed of barley which reminded me of a white wine risotto. It left me craving more even though I knew dessert was still to come.

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 Prevost Peterborough 10

In all honesty I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the dessert because I don’t like banana but the Banana Soufflé with Malt Ice Cream was a sensation and my highlight of the whole meal! The soufflé was perfection – puffed to a great height over the rim of the dish with a crisp top and a light as air centre. The banana flavour definitely came through but in such a sweet subtle way that I enjoyed it without being overwhelmed. The accompanying ice cream rounded the dish off beautifully.

In retrospect we didn’t actually need the extra bread course at the beginning because the other courses were so generously proportioned and satisfyingly filling. Never let it be said again that fine dining means minute portions!

Final Thoughts

 

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 Prevost Peterborough

Overall I can’t fault the experience. To be able to enjoy cooking at this level of detail and care for less than £20 a head is just wonderful and whilst I’d encourage everyone in the area to snap up the offer whilst it lasts, at the same time I don’t want you to because I want to be able to get booked in again without a queue forming around the block!

Lee’s ambition is for Prévost to become the first Michelin starred restaurant in Peterborough and whilst I’m no food critic, I’d like to think that he’s well on his way achieving it.

Prévost

Fine Dining for Less Than £20 Prevost Peterborough

Address: 20 Priestgate, Peterborough PE1 1JA

Type: Restaurant, Fine Dining

Opening times:

Tuesday 6–9pm
Wednesday 12–2pm, 6–9pm
Thursday 12–2pm, 6–9pm
Friday 12–2pm, 6–9pm
Saturday 12–2pm, 6–9pm

Price: Usually starting at £32.50 for a 3 course meal, current Lunch For Less menu is £18.50 throughout August 2017.

Website: www.prevostpeterborough.co.uk

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: This restaurant review is not sponsored and we paid for it in full (well… the fella did – thank you very much for the wonderful treat 🙂 ).

I have met Lee briefly at a photoshoot but we booked under my boyfriend’s name and upon observing the other tables I was assured that they received the same outstanding service as ourselves.

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Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

Despite owning quite a few healthy eating cookery books (click here for a roundup of past favourites) I’ve made the meals so many times that I felt in need of some new inspiration. My search led me to Alice Liveing, formerly known as Clean Eating Alice. The pint sized personal trainer’s Instagram account has built a massive following on Instagram thanks to her inspiring posts on fitness and healthy eating. That success has led to 3 books published so far sharing her favourite recipes and workouts.

I chose to buy her first cookbook Eat Well Everyday as it sounded like a good all rounder. The recipes are split into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snack sections with clear bright photos to give you an idea of how the finished meals should look.

The benefit of buying digital versions of cookery books

Whilst I do love flicking through the pages of a beautifully illustrated cookery book I was such an eager beaver that I decided to purchase the digital version of this one. It meant that I could download the book to my devices straight away using the Kindle App, plus it was cheaper than buying a hard copy.

Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

I’m starting to think that digital recipe books are the way forward as I’ve found it super handy for days when I haven’t planned any meals in advance. I can flick through the recipes on my phone during my lunch break, choose one that I fancy cooking and then pop to the supermarket on the way home to pick up the bits I need. I don’t even need to write a shopping list as I can just bookmark the page.

Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

Overall I’m really pleased that I bought Eat Well Everyday as it’s exactly what I was looking for. The recipes are simple and don’t require too much skill in the kitchen, in most cases just a bit of chopping and food prep. There are lots of exciting ingredients featured in the book such as tahini and ras el hanout which help to pack flavour into the healthy dishes.

Eat Well Everyday Recipes – Tried and Tested

Rather than just telling you that I love this book though (which I do!) I thought I’d show you some of the things I’ve cooked so far and my thoughts on them so that you can get a closer look at the recipes.

Crispy Courgette Fritters with Smoked Salmon

Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

This recipe appealed to me as it takes the humble courgette and gives it an exciting makeover. It’s simple enough to prep and make, just cut the courgette into batons, dip them in egg and oats and then fry them in a little bit of oil in a pan. Nothing else needs any cooking, it’s served with chopped spinach, smoked salmon, wedges of lemon and seasoning, so it’s quick to whip up at any time of day.

I found that the courgette fritters were actually rather filling and it looked really healthy which made me FEEL healthier for eating it!

LovedByLaura? Yes I give this a solid 7.5 out of 10!

Roasted Aubergine with Feta, Tahini, Pomegranate and Yoghurt

Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

This one split opinions! I really enjoyed the flavour combinations with a burst of tangy feta offset by sweet pomegranate, complimented by a nutty tahini dressing. When I then cooked it a second time for the fella however he said, I quote: “It’s a bit too healthy for my liking!” The abundance of aubergine wasn’t a winner for him.

It took all of 5 minutes to prepare but does take about 40 minutes to bake in the oven so it’s not as quick to whip up as some of the others, but once it’s cooking you can leave it so that’s 40 minutes that you can use to do something productive. Or you can watch Netflix. Both valid choices.

LovedByLaura? Yes – I give this one a tasty 7 out of 10.

LovedByLaura’s Fella? Not so much.

Creamy Puy Lentils with Peas, Feta and Bacon

You might notice that there’s no picture accompanying this one – that’s because I didn’t want to put you off your dinner! It did not turn out like picture…

The problem was that it required 200g Puy lentils which are cooked with other ingredients in a saucepan for 20 minutes and I couldn’t find them at the supermarket so I used red lentils instead. BIG mistake. Huge.

It turns out that whilst Puy lentils keep their form when cooked, red lentils break down. When I lifted the saucepan lid after the allotted time I found that my lentils had turned to mush and looked like a very dodgy coloured mashed potato. Mmm appetising! When I finally plucked up the courage to try the mess I’d created it tasted really good, but I just couldn’t get over the appearance.

LovedByLaura? Not so much, because the main ingredient wasn’t easily found and I had to use a substitute which didn’t work as well. I’ve given it 4 out of 10 because the flavour was good and it showed promise but I wouldn’t attempt it again in a hurry.

Mushroom and Mozzarella Shakshuka

Clean Eating Alice Eat Well Everyday Recipe Book Tried and Tested

This is like a healthy version of a fry up with gooey bits of cheese in it – sold!

I’ll be honest, it’s definitely not in the same league of deliciousness as an actual fry up, but it’s a good enough substitute if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Smoked paprika and cumin give the tomato base more depth and the eggs are an energy boosting source of protein.

LovedByLaura? Yes – another solid 7 out of 10 for easiness to cook and a full up feeling that lasts until your next meal.

My Overall Verdict on Eat Well Everyday by Clean Eating Alice

Overall the recipes in this book are not going to win awards for being the most flavoursome and complex things you’ll ever eat, but if you’re looking for healthy meal inspiration and want to keep your recipes quick, simple and tasty this book is a great place to start!

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Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

TV shows and movies alike are filmed in such high quality now that they cry out to be appreciated in all their cinematic glory. Last Christmas I treated myself to a curved screen Ultra HD 4K Smart TV to do just that and despite it being painfully expensive I can say without hesitation that it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made!

I hardly ever go to the cinema now because I prefer watching movies at home. I can put on a big spread, pause the show if I need a loo break and once I’m done I can flick over to Netflix or Youtube to watch things in beautiful high definition at the click of my remote.

The picture quality blows my mind – it’s so crisp and clear that sometimes I get distracted from the show I’m watching because I’m too busy admiring the fact that I can see such minute details! Then something like Planet Earth comes on and the colours are so vivid that I feel like I’m right there in the middle of the scene!

An Invite to an #ImmersiveNightIn

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

I therefore got very excited when Sony invited me to an event in London to promote their latest range of Sony Bravia Smart 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs. Details of the evening were kept under wraps – they promised an immersive night in bringing classic movies to life through the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and sound but didn’t give any more away, leaving me full of intrigue for the night ahead.

As it turned out, the night was full of fun surprises!

Clues…

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

We gathered at the gorgeous venue, Lumiere London, sipping on bubbly and eating dainty canapes whilst speculating as to what was in store for us. Before long we were handed a quiz sheet containing lines from famous movies and had to guess what they were.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

Various numbered objects, pictures and movie quotes were dotted around the room to help us solve the puzzles.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

I found a rosy red apple in a bell jar with a bite taken out of it which represented Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, then another clue labelled ‘touch’ required me to reach my hand into a covered box. I prayed that I wouldn’t put my hand on something alive and was relieved to feel a pendant, so it had to be the Jewel in the Ocean from Titanic.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

The scent of chocolate led me to a tray piled high with chocolates, so I guessed the film ‘Chocolat’ as I got stuck in, crossing ‘smell and taste’ off my list.

Surprises!

That left us with a few movies left to guess labelled ‘sound’. We were gathered together to listen to music from movie soundtracks which would give us our final clues. As an 80’s classic began belting out (clearly from the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy) we got our first surprise: two girls walked into the room and started performing amazing acrobatic feats of strength and balance right in front of us.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

…suddenly this was much more than an average Wednesday night!

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

After a jaw dropping performance and a round of rapturous applause they took a final bow and we were told to wait for another surprise. At this point I’m pretty sure everyone was thinking: What can possibly follow that?!

The TV (and Chris Pratt)

As we pondered this, Sony’s marketing director introduced himself and treated us to a demo of the Sony Bravia Smart 4k Ultra HD OLED TV in action. Four minutes of Chris Pratt followed in glorious high def. The picture quality was so good that I was convinced that if I reached out I could stroke his beautiful face. This is due to the TV’s ability to display true colours and pure blacks. On most TVs the colour black isn’t really black at all, so when you see it displayed properly it gives a whole new depth to images.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

Another cool feature of the Bravia is it’s Acoustic Surface Technology which basically means that the speaker is built in behind the screen and projects the sound through it and out into room. This did give it a really good clear sound, but personally I’d still connect the TV up to some external speakers at home to get the full surround sound experience that I love.

Murder!

The final surprise turned out to be a big one! A rather eccentric looking group suddenly appeared in the centre of the room and began loudly acting out a scene…

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

It turned out that we were in the middle of a murder mystery! Before long I was interrogating suspects and doing my best to solve a truly bizarre whodunnit. I got it completely wrong of course, but it was fun all the same!

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

“Did you get up to anything exciting yesterday?” My boss asked the next day. I told him all about the acrobats and the murder mystery.

“But what’s that got to do with TVs?” He asked, bemused.

I still have no idea!

Thanks go to Sony and the Joe Blogs Blogger Network for organising such a fun and surreal night out, it certainly lived up to it’s hashtag #ImmersiveNightIn.

Sony Bravia OLED 4k Smart TV #ImmersiveNightIn

If you’d like to create a movie night at home the Tech Talk team at Currys PC World have put together some ideas which you can check out here.

LovedByLaura

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