Monday, 26 January 2015

Dinner at Raja Monkey Indian Street Food Cafe

Birmingham is the Balti Capital, home of the Balti Triangle and to some of the best restaurants serving authentic Indian cuisine. Last night Harry and I went to check out Raja Monkey, an authentic Indian Street Food cafe in Hall Green, just outside central Birmingham. Although not quite within the Balti Triangle, Raja Monkey is a vibrant little road side cafe, and is definitely one of those places you sometimes stumble upon and think, yep, we've found a hidden gem. They serve classic Indian dishes from curries to biryanis to authentic thalis, all cooked fresh within view. Obviously, the most important thing is the food, so warning: following photos may induce hunger...

To start, we shared poppadoms, mango chutney and pickles. I could live off poppadoms so, y'know I was good with this. The mango chutney was amazing. It had different spices in it which gave it a real kick! The mint sauce was lovely too, very refreshing. Harry found the pickles a little bit spicy but said they were really tasty. We also shared a chicken mix starter which consisted of tandoor grilled chicken niblet, tandoor roasted chicken thighs in a North Indian marinade and crunchy fried chicken pakora. This was so tasty, the chicken was really succulent. I loved the pakora, which was quite spicy but really good dipped in the damson chutney it came with! Both were well priced especially as we shared. I could have easily eaten all this myself...

For the main course, we decided to go for different things. Harry went for a Rajasthani Thali. A Thali is a traditional way of serving food and is a complete meal on a platter. The main component was a smokey mutton dish cooked in tomato, ground red chilli and cardamon. It was served with rice, dhal, bread and a little chickpea dish. The mutton was really tasty, though I found it a little too smokey for my taste. It had a bit of a kick to it which is always good! I loved the chickpea dish that came with it; they were in a kind of spicy tomato sauce that was full of flavour. My main course was (maybe a little boring...) a Rogan Josh and steamed rice. Hands down the nicest Rogan Josh I've ever tasted. It was delicately flavoured but still managed to leave my mouth tingling from the spice and the lamb literally melted in my mouth. It was a really tasty curry. Harry's dish cost around £13 which is good value considering you have a whole meal. Mine came to around £10 as the curry and rice come separately which I would be happy to pay seeing as it was so nice!

I'd definitely recommend heading to Raja Monkey if you have the chance. The street food scene is becoming really big in Birmingham recently and I love that this demonstrates that Indian cuisine isn't just curry and rice. It was a lovely restaurant with a really cosy atmosphere. It wasn't very busy when we went but I can imagine it it buzzing at the end of the week. The staff were incredibly friendly and more than happy to offer recommendations. The menu isn't extensive but there is definitely something for everyone and you can go crazy and try something new. At such great value for money, it's a great place to discover something that will get your taste buds tingling. (Check out the menu here) I'm also pleased to find out they also have a take away menu! The meal for us both was under £40, and considering we had starters, mains, beer and wine, that's pretty damn good. It's about a fifteen minute drive from where I live but Harry and I both said we would be happy to go there again. Sometimes the nicer restaurants are that little bit further out and are really worth it!

Will you be heading here soon? Have you sampled some of Birmingham's finest Indian restaurants?

*This meal was complimentary for review purposes.
This did not affect mine (or Harry's!) point of view!


Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Sleep Easy Edit

I've never been a good sleeper. I go through phases where I constantly wake up in the night and can't get back to sleep, or I find myself tossing and turning trying to drop off in the first place. I'm not a particularly heavy sleeper either and never seem to feel like I need more sleep. Lack of sleep plays havoc with my mood and focus during the day. Being a student doesn't help this - my sleeping pattern went completely haywire in first year... Staying up chatting until 5am and going out three nights in a row doesn't exactly do wonders for it! Fast forward to second year and I'm more (ahem) sensible when it comes to sleep. It helps that I don't go out as much but I've tried to get myself back into a regular sleeping pattern, along with the assistance of a few things in my routine before bed, so I thought I'd share these with any fellow insomniacs!

Sitting down with a cup of Twinings Camomile & Spearmint tea is a great way to begin my evening unwind. It's got a lovely relaxing scent and as it's caffeine free, it won't keep you buzzing like some green teas or normal tea! The spearmint takes off the bitterness of the camomile and makes for a lovely warming drink to help you drift off. Whilst sipping my tea, I either grab something to read that won't keep me awake - basically anything that isn't course reading! At the moment I'm enjoying the February issue of Vogue! I recently bought a One Line A Day Five Year Memory Book which is a sweet little way to reflect on your day. Each page has five sections on it for the next five years and you write a few lines about all the good things that happened! It's much easier to commit to than a journal and it's a nice way to remember all the important things. I like to write anything that's my mind down before I sleep so I don't wake up in a panic remembering I need to buy milk the next day!

I don't use these all the time but when I find myself not being able to stay asleep all night for consecutive nights, I use Kalms One-a-Night tablets. They're a herbal tablet containing valerian root extract and I've found that just using them for a few nights helps me to get out of the habit of waking up. If I'm feeling a little tense, I use this Neck & Shoulder Heat Pack to ease anything. It's heated by popping it in the microwave and it is scented with lavender which aids relaxation. It's great because you can hang it over your neck as you're doing other things so if you suffer with neck pain it can be used whenever!

My go to 'sleepy' music is definitely 'Islands' by Ludovico Einaudi. It's such a gorgeous album and I can feel myself drifting off within the first track. I now associate this album with good sleep so I always find it works! I use The Body Shop Deep Sleep Dreamy Body Mist before I sleep too. It's a camomile scented spray along with a few other relaxing scents and you simply spray it on yourself and around your bedding. It just helps to set the sleepy mood! I've made sure to stay away from technology before I go to bed too. I find that if I've looked at my phone or tablet before sleep, I end up with a disturbed night and I feel groggy the next day. I read an article which said that it actually puts your body clock back by an hour and a half the next day which heavily impacts your focus and concentration. (So if you're reading this before bed put it down and read a book!) I also wear a pair of ear plugs which help me have a most restful night, especially as the guy next door enjoys singing Taylor Swift late into the night... 

What are your top tips for getting a good nights sleep? 


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

DIY: Dip Dye T-Shirts

There are so many easy, cheap ways to refresh your wardrobe. One of the simplest ways is to use fabric dye to renew or completely change the colour of your once-loved pieces. There are a plethora of effects you can create with fabric dye from colouring the whole thing to tie-dying a rainbow of colours! I'm going to show you a wonderful way to use your dye - creating a gorgeous dip dye effect reminiscent of the ombre trend we've recently seen. I bought two fairly unexciting tops from Primark to dye and dyed a jumper for me and a T-shirt for Harry (who was fairly chuffed with it, I think!) I'm so please with the result and was surprised at how easy it was to do something that looks fairly complicated.

You will need:
- A sachet of dye* (I'm using Dylon Dyes in Flamingo Pink for my jumper and Bahama Blue for Harry's T-shirt!)
- A T-Shirt (Needs to be 100% Cotton, Linen or Viscose for a truer colour) 
- 5 tablespoons of salt
- A bowl
- Measuring jug
- Rubber gloves
- Coat hanger and drying rack


1. Wash your T-shirt and leave it damp. Fill a bowl with 6 litres of warm water and stir in the salt.
2. In the jug, dissolve the sachet of dye in 500ml of warm water and add to the bowl. 
3. Decide where you want the ombre effect to be - it can be top to bottom or vice versa, it will look cool either way! (Spend a good few hours on Pinterest for this...) Put the T-shirt on a coat hanger and hang on the side of a drying rack. Submerge the bottom section of the fabric in the dye and leave for fifteen minutes. (If you're dying downward from the shoulders, hang it on a skirt hanger!)

4. After the time is up, move the T-shirt to a lower rail on the rack and submerge the next section for 7 minutes. Do the same for each section, gradually lowering more into the dye. The third section should be held in for 4 minutes and the fourth section for 2 minutes. If you want your ombre to go higher up, simply increase these timings a little and if you want the effect for the whole thing, submerge larger parts of the T-shirt until you get to the shoulders.

5. The final section needs to be held in for just 30 seconds. After time is up, remove from the solution and without dripping it all over your bathroom, rinse under cold water until the water runs relatively clear. Then, rinse with warm water, wring out and hang to dry. (Be careful when washing as the dye may run. Make sure you wash it separately a few times!)
6. Admire your DIY skillz and take numerous Instagrams. 

How amazing is the effect!? I love how easy this was and it took me maybe an hour tops to do both T-shirts. Our T-shirts were both from Primark but you can easily do it with whatever old things you have lying around. I have a collared shirt I really want to dye next, I think it would look so pretty with the powder pink dye I also have! My jumper is a viscose mix and Harry's is 100% cotton. I was a bit worried mine wouldn't be true to colour but it is. Just beware when washing as the dye may run - wash separately a few times. The possibilities of what you can do with dye are endless. Wouldn't a pair of jeans look awesome dip dyed? They're a great option for festivals too and you can customise even further with studs or patchwork. Dylon Dyes are available from most places in a huge range of colours and are around £3 each. What are you waiting for? Get your colour on... 

Will you be giving this a go? How do you revamp your old clothes?

*The dyes were provided for this feature.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Spring Shirt

New Look blouse / TK Maxx Trousers / Missguided Boots
New Look necklace / Topshop hat

It's been freeeeezing here in Brum and I'm so done with the long, dark nights and freezing walks home from late lectures. In spite of the weather and in prep for spring, I picked up this gorgeous sheer blouse with the most beautiful print on it! I don't wear blue very often and I'm channelling it again in this sweet statement necklace that brings the outfit together. The trousers were a find in TK Maxx and are a weird cross between disco pants, jeans and leggings. They're skin tight, high waisted and stretchy with a relatively thick material making them an idea choice for the cooler weather. I thought I'd throw on my snazzy hat too, despite Harry's dislike of it! It's coming into it's own for disguising frizzy hair days. 

If you haven't noticed, I've had my blog redesigned by the pros at Pipdig - I hope you like it! I decided it was time for a total overhaul. Sophie etc has been going in a different direction since I started University and has become a lot more me and documents what I'm interested in. I want to include more lifestyle and student-y type posts as well as photography and branching out into food! This is why it's suddenly grown up a lot! I still want it to be me (hence the little cat icon...) and I'm super excited as to where 2015 is gonna take it!
I've had an insane first week back at uni... I had three assignments due in on Wednesday, which was the equivalent of about 8,000 words! I've been sorting out lots of bloggy things and I'm now a Music writer for the University Newspaper, Redbrick, which is also very exciting and means I get to review and interviews lots of cool people. 

I hope you all have a lovely week! Thank you to Harry for taking the photos, I'm sorry for making you stand out in the cold... and I did wear a winter coat and scarf when I went out properly in this, don't worry Mum! 



Friday, 16 January 2015

The Uncomplicated Skincare Edit

I've made my way through a fair few skincare products, finding out what works for me and what doesn't. It's a wide world out there, with so many brands and products that all claim to give you amazing skin. Without realising, I've slipped into a routine that really works for me - and it ain't all that complicated. A stripped down, essentials-only routine has done wonders for my skin and my combination skin feels more balanced and breakouts are at an all time low. My advice would be to strip down your skincare routine to products you know really work for you then gradually introduce new ones. Take advantage of samples and don't be disheartened if it doesn't seem to work in the first few weeks. I've been using this routine for a good two months I think persevering with it was a good plan!

My cleaning routine is super simple and has been energised by the Magnitone Lucid Cleansing brush*which is the latest addition to the growing range of cleansing brushes out there. I thought it was a hype not worth joining, but I'm holding this responsible for my clearer complexion. It makes whatever cleanser you use work twice as harder and deep cleanses whilst exfoliating, eliminating the need for a scrub in my routine. In the morning, I use my beloved Body Shop Seaweed Deep Cleansing Wash which is a must for anyone with combination skin that's on the oily side. It leaves my skin feeling so fresh! In the evenings, I use Una Brennan's Superfacialist Vitamin C Cleansing oil. I recently repurchased this and I've fallen right back in love with it. I massage this all over my face then run the Magnitone under hot water and use for one minute. I find it works just as well with oil as with a foamier cleanser. Read my initial thoughts on the Magnitone Lucid

These are the liquids in my life right now - Lush Tea Tree Toner Water is a staple in my routine. This is maybe my fourth bottle? I use it after cleansing and before moisturising to refresh my skin and remove any extra grime that may have settled on my skin. It's super gentle and Tea Tree is renowned for it's anti-bacterial properties, helping to minimise blackheads. Garnier's Micellar Water is my favourite magic water on the high street. It is unscented and does an amazing job of removing all my face make up. If I'm feeling lazy (which hasn't been often, yet) I just soak two cotton pads in this and use them to take off al my make up. There's no need to cleanse after! It's not quite hard working enough for eye make up, especially waterproof mascara, so I use a separate product for this, also by Garnier. Their Fresh Eye Make-up Remover is formulated for sensitive eyes and doesn't burn or sting when I use it (yes, I'm looking at you Nivea...) I soak two cotton wool pads in this and gently wipe my eyes. There's no rubbing involved! 

Finally, the moisturisers. I keep things super simple and use the same one both morning and night, which some people may disagree with but it's working for me (plus, it's saving me money) I love the Clinique Dramatically Different Lotion + as it does exactly what I need it to. It moisturises but doesn't grease up my skin and since using it I've noticed a reduction in spots. It's pricey but the pump means I use minimal amounts and a little goes a long way. I use The Body Shop Vitamin E eye cream morning and evening too. I don't know if it makes a difference, but I enjoy having a targeted cream for my often tired eyes! My favourite lip balm is the Nuxe Reve De Miel balm. This is a real indulging balm and moisturises my lips so well. The weather is so cold at the moment so chapped lips are a thing but I smother this on at night after a lip scrub and everything is smooth again. Again, more than your average Carmex, but definitely worth it.

Have you changed your skin care routine at all?

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