Claire Clark Academy Grand Opening

Tho who’s who of the chef world joined the pastry queen Claire Clark MBE to open the first of it’s kind Claire Clark Academy at Milton Keynes College last month…

WHAT’S ON: CHRISTMAS LIGHT SWITCH ON DETAILS FOR MILTON KEYNES

With November now in full swing, the impending arrival of Christmas and all it ensures is hard to ignore. This week I drove down Stony Stratford High Street to witness a big group of people erecting the Christmas lights high above the pavements of one of MK’s beloved market towns and it did give me a little buzz of excitement. What is prettier on a dark winters night than seeing your local high street alight with the colours from strings of lights and decorations? How about witnessing the official switch on? When hundreds upon thousands of local people flock out in the cold, with smiles from ear to ear  to countdown a very traditional starting point for the festive season.

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Here is my guide to the Christmas Light Switch On events in Milton Keynes for 2016:

The AW16 #SelfieFashion Event at MK1 Shopping

#SelfieFashion is a real thing!

If you were anywhere near MK1 Shopping park last week you might’ve wondered what was going on with the flash mobs that kept popping up on the main concourse.

It was the MK1 Selfie Fashion Event showcasing some of the hottest outfits available at MK1 Shopping Park for autumn/winter 2016/2017. I can’t wait to show you some of my favourite outfits from the #SelfieFashion event but first, let me take a (mirror) selfie.

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“Does my baby bump look big in this?!”

A shopping spree, one unicorn and New Years in September

When I was young there was nothing more exciting than preparing for the new school year every summer. A new pencil case, new shiny pens to put inside it and fresh notepads with no graffiti or scribbles in sight.

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Now I’m an adult, the focus is more on the New Year celebrations BUT it’s harder to turn over a new leaf and get lots of new things when you’re only a week past Christmas. Money is usually sparse and morale is low for the dark month of January.

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So why not keep the bonus fresh start that existed as a child anticipating a new beginning every September? It’s sunny outside, we have lots more energy and we aren’t paying off hundreds of gifts to relatives we barely see.

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But I have no need for a new pencil case these days. At the ripe old age of 33, I have more free pens than I can seem to use up and I still don’t have use for a compass (what was the point in that?). I’m currently pregnant and with my size is changing, clothes shopping is a chore for me. So what then?

M&S CAFÉ: AFTERNOON TEA

Just past the knicker aisle then turn right at the gentleman’s slacks and you’ll find a place for tea

I am being completely serious. M&S are renowned for many things including tasty premade sandwiches and good quality food products. So if you happen to be in the throes of an intense shopping spree and acquire a craving for Afternoon Tea, then an M&S Café is sure to be something worth considering.

Arriving in the café it was easy to see the poster advertising the Afternoon Tea. Giving it a quick glance over and then heading straight to the till and ordering. “Plain or cheese scone?” I was asked and also “Classic or vegetarian sandwich selection?”

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Questions answered, I was given a hot pot of tea with cup, saucer and milk jug to take with me immediately and also a table number to display when I choose where to sit.

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Sugars, cutlery and napkins are something you have to pick up yourself but hey, it’s no biggie really, is it?

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When the tea stand arrived (which it did promptly) it was perfectly pretty and elegant to look at. Sandwiches on the top tier, scones in the middle and cakes on the bottom.

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Sandwich selection came in four varieties:

Egg and cress

Beef and horseradish

Ham and cheese

Smoked salmon and cream cheese

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Although they looked different in shape from the classic triangle M&S sandwiches you pick up in the lunch section of the food hall, they were undoubtedly M&S sandwiches. Fresh, tasty enough and very pleasant chunky oblongs to eat.

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For the scones I chose plain. I am not a huge cheese scone lover and not sure if it’s something I’ve ever seen on an Afternoon Tea menu before, but worth noting that M&S offer those if that tickles your fancy (and they’ve run out of fruit). 

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With the scones came an individual mini jar of M&S strawberry jam and a pot of clotted cream. I’m not sure if it’s the regular way of presenting the clotted cream but my cream pot was still in a cling film wrap with a food dating sticker on it. Not that it took much effort to unpeel but it did look a bit unappetising and made me feel like I was unwrapping airplane food.

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Aside from that though, the portion of cream and jam was generous for the scone and made for a very extravagant affair. Scone was nice, a little crumbly but still buttery and definitely no nasty surprises. The M&S strawberry jam was lovely. 

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The cake selection came as a selection of three minis:

Strawberry macaron
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Chocolate profiterole
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Mini cupcake
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These could have been (and probably were) just unpacked from the M&S food hall. In fact I recognised all three as things I’ve eaten before at home. That’s not a slight though. M&S produce great food for a great price. The Strawberry macaron was lovely as was the super moist mini cupcake. The profiterole was just that. Neither wow nor disappointment, just a lovely single profiterole filled with cream. 

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So there’s no frills, fancy table linens or famous chefs behind the scenes but there’s a casual café ease that you could visit in any given mood and feel comfortable. The kind of place you could take your Mum or Nan and earn sure fire brownie points with very little legwork or purse damage.

Something to note. As most eateries require at least 24 hour notice for an Afternoon Tea booking, perhaps M&S café has got itself the perfect niche. You can walk in on any given day and order an Afternoon Tea at the till which will be presented to your table within minutes, pretty three tiered tea stand and all. Fast, efficient and for £12.95 for two, that’s brilliant value for the savvy tea lover.

M&S CAFÉ Afternoon Tea is £6.95 per person or £12.95 for two.
Date of visit: 08.08.16
M&S Café Stadium MK
Unit A Retail Development
Milton Keynes
MK1 1ST
01908 368 545

 

HOW LOUBOU GETS HER SPARKLE

When there’s a big event coming up like all girls I just love the excuse to shop for a new outfit and then enjoy every minute of the beauty prep to look fabulous and ready to enjoy it.

I’ve been looking forward to the Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards for weeks and now the weekend has finally arrived.

For my outfit I knew early on that I wanted to wear something red and after I fell in love with a red Lindy Bop skirt it was decided. The top I chose to go with it is from Monsoon and is an off-white sleeveless top with a diamante neck detail. Shoes are my beloved Red or Dead black glitter heels and an extra pop of colour was courtesy of a purple wrap I was going to wear around my shoulders.

Outfit sorted. All that was left was the beauty prep.

I was excited to be invited to check out Project Sparkle MK, a beauty salon based in the home of Kym Carter, a beautician with 9 years professional experience.

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Kym works by day in a professional beauty salon but with her own wedding looming she has set up at home and now offers her skills for clients to visit with perhaps more convenient out of work appointment times.

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Personally for me I think I am more suited to the home beauty set ups. Not only is it supporting local talent who are so obviously committed to their craft but also when I look after a toddler full time, it’s much easier for me to visit someone later on in the evening when Mr LouBou can take the reins or a Grandparent can babysit.

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Once I turned up at the cute house on Emerson Valley, I received a warm welcome from Kym and then was invited upstairs into her beauty room. It’s beautifully pink. Pink towels, pretty pink flower storage boxes and curtains. A girlie haven. As it was a warm evening the window was open and the relaxing sound of birds tweeting right outside gave me instant calm.

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Down to business. Nails first.

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Kym is a CND Brand Specialist which in layman terms means she’s fab with applying Shellac gel nails. Shellac are the first and foremost brand when it comes to gel nails. I trust them and even had Shellac on my wedding day. What draws me to them is that they don’t chip and they last in a perfect finish until they grow out enough that you need to replace or fancy a change in colour.

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An absolutely perfect choice for a busy Mum like me that simply doesn’t have the time to be fixing chipped nail varnish every few days!

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I chose to have a French manicure shellac with added glitter tip for sparkle. I felt my outfit for the awards was loud enough and didn’t want to add even more colour with a bold nail colour. Demure? Sophisticated? Maybe… but I can never refuse a touch of glitter. My inner magpie is always drawn to what sparkles.

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After my nails were beautiful it was time for another essential beauty treatment. A good old leg wax! Do I really need to say how waxing is the best method for keeping legs super smooth and ready to go? Super good value for money and keeps you smooth for weeks. Perfect. This is what Kym specialises in and you can tell. To the point, fast and tons of confidence, she made short work of my legs with no fuss and no after problems.

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Then it was time to leave. I could’ve stayed the night! I much enjoyed the pampering, the setting and the good girlie company and recommend you check out Kym at Project Sparkle MK. A pro with a relaxed attitude, no frills and no air of grace that some salons can intimidate with. A little bird told me if you mention my blog to her you’ll get 10% off not only your first treatment but your second one too! WINNING!

Beautiful and ready for the MKFLA 2016. Happy LouBou.

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PERCYS EXPANSION: BBQ FOR ONE AND ALL

For the past five years Percys has been a breath of fresh air for food takeaways in Milton Keynes. A BBQ food company who have had thousands and thousands of people fall in love with their take on American takeout food.

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As they operated out of a small unit in Crownhill, they could only offer delivery to half of Milton Keynes. I’ve never lived in that delivery catchment so we always had to collect our orders. To be honest, not a  huge deal but after having a child and bearing in mind they go to bed at 7pm, collecting a last minute decision Percys in the evening was just not possible anymore. I dreamed of Percys being able to expand their delivery area.

In early 2016 that dream became real. A post on their social media confirmed that Percys were opening a second unit to cover even more of MK. It quickly and excitedly unravelled that the unit was going to be at Willen and they were going to be able to deliver to me!

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I was stoked. This excitement reached fever pitch when I was approached by Percys to help them test drive their new kitchen equipment, chefs and staff for my very first Percys delivery before they go live to the public. Of course I was never going to say no!

So, on a very rainy and windy Easter Saturday, I placed our order on the phone to the Willen branch. We ordered a California burger, a Pastrami lamb flatbread and of course, two portions of my most favourite, dreamy home fries and a side of BBQ beans to dunk them in.

A short while later when I heard a light knock at the front door and a man standing their holding out a Percys bag to me, I could’ve kissed him.

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The California burger and in fact all the burgers at Percys have now had a burger bun adjustment. In my opinion this soft, seeded brioche sourdough bun is a big improvement on the sourdough predecessor. The burger, which was destined for my husband actually got shared with me because it tasted so damn good. Pink beef (the only way it should be, in my opinion) Swiss cheese, hickory smoked bacon and BBQ sauce. NOM!

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My go-to Percys staple, the lamb flatbread hit the spot. I can’t believe they were delivering Percys quality BBQ meat when only a few days ago they were having the kitchen equipment delivered and installed, the staff freshly trained and working on such new premises. 

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Now, no meal from Percys is complete without one of their puddings. Double chocolate chip cookies to be precise. They were delivered warm from the oven and still the best American inspired cookies you can get in Milton Keynes. The right amount of chewiness, lots of chocolate and BIG!

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So, what a Saturday night takeaway. There is no official date on when Percys at Willen is opening, but please be assured with them at this stage a full opening must be happening very soon.

Are you on the East side of MK? Your prayers are about to be answered. PERCYS AT WILLEN OPENING SOON!