A New Direction - What Jessica Loves

Running a blog is very much like having a second relationship. You need to invest time, love and passion into your blog in hope you get something in return. There's highs and lows, good days and bad days. Some days where you feel like giving up and others where you fall in love over and over again.  It takes time to build this good relationships, but over time people change. Interests change, circumstances change and you sometimes grow apart.

I started this blog six years ago, six very long years ago when I was a different person to who I am now. For a start I wasn't married and secondly I was going through that period that every eighteen year old girl goes through trying to discover herself through beauty and clothes. I only cared what I looked like and saw the world with my eyes half shut. I do very much still care what I look like and I still love fashion and beauty, but as I've got older my hobbies and the things I love have got broader. 

Writing has always been my passion and my blog is something that I will always love. Sometimes in a relationship though you need to make changes that will satisfy you both and allow your relationship to grow to the next level, so I've made the decision to rebrand my blog. It is not a decision I've made lightly - rebranding will be a challenge, but I feel in order to grow and write about the things I truly love, I need to change direction.

In the next few weeks Forever Miss Vanity will be changing to What Jessica Loves (whatjessicaloves.com). The content will be the same as it has been, but the name change will be more suited to what I would like to write about rather than being typecast into the fashion and beauty realm - something I still want to be part of, but I also what to explore other topics such as travel, lifestyle and generally the things I love.

I hope you will join me on my journey.

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No.88 Walmgate, York Review

No.88 is a uniquely Yorkshire themed restaurant etched onto the Hotel Indigo right in the heart of York. The restaurant boasts an extensive Yorkshire themed menu all using seasonal local ingredients and features an array of locally brewed Yorkshire ale and renowned 'freak-shakes'. According to the website 'the chef describes his menu as a selection of his favourite things from Yorkshire, brought together to refresh, sustain and entertain.'

The interior of No.88 Walmgate is very modern with grey scale tiling, plush leather seating and an extravagant, well stocked bar. Continuing the Yorkshire theming, as you walk in you can see shelves upon shelves proudly displaying all the local Yorkshire ales that the restaurant has to offer as part of the decor.

We arrived at our table at approximately half one on a Sunday afternoon. The guests were checking out of the hotel and the restaurant and bar was rather empty - we had the whole place to ourselves. It was rather nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre where usually at this time the immediately central bars would be rammed. As we were seated I already knew exactly what I wanted - I had spent a good twenty minutes browsing the menu and website prior to arriving, all part of my blog research of course. I opted for the 'Yorkshire Rarebit' for starter and tagliatelle for main, my husband also opted for the Yorkshire rarebit for starter, but chose the herb and garlic marinated chicken for main.

When the Yorkshire rarebit arrived, neither of us were disappointed. It was everything a rarebit should be - a heap of gooey, oozy scrumptious cheese with a not too overpowering hint of Worcestershire sauce. I'm not too sure what made this dish a 'Yorkshire rarebit' apart from the fact that 'us northerners' are rather fond of our cheese on toast, but nevertheless it tasted great and that is all that counts.

After giving us ample time to digest our starters, we were then brought out of our main courses. My tagliatelle was cooked to perfection and tasted heavenly with the lavishing of soft butter coupled with the crunchy pine nuts and fresh as can be vegetables. My husband's chicken again was cooked really well - the chicken was succulent, the corn aioli was a nice touch and the chips were chunky and fulfilling. Our complaint about both meals was the fact that we were given too much of a good thing - the portion sizes were enough to feed a full family and my pasta dish seemed never-ending and like a whole bag of pine nuts had been chucked into it. A little more refinement and small dishes would have been more suited to our tastes.

Determined not to let our main courses defeat us, we left part of it and proceeded to order dessert. We had both heard so much about No.88 Walmgate's freak shakes that we had to leave room to try one for ourselves. Due to dietary issues, much to my resentment I had to forfeit my freak shake and forced my other half to have one. Instead I opted for a lighter dessert option - the almond bakewell tart. The '88 freakshake' was piled high with Kitkat wafers, donuts and raspberries and was filled with a strawberry ice-cream milkshake, it was definitely a showstopper. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his freak shake albeit the sugar coma he experienced a few minutes later and I really enjoyed my almond bakewell tart apart from the apricot compote as it was far too heavy.

Overall we both really enjoyed our meals and the only complaint we had was regarding portion sizes and in fairness it is always better to have too much a good thing than too little. Would I visit No.88 Walmgate again? Of course, but next time I'm hoping to stay in the hotel as I have heard great things about that too.

Have you been to No.88 Walmgate?

*This meal was complimentary in exchange for this review. All views are my own.

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Eight Hours in Bruges

There's nothing I love more than a European mini-break in autumn and for this years November getaway I booked a trip to Bruges. Bruges is a medieval town in Belgium renowned for it's exquisite chocolate, array of beer and traditional historic buildings which makes you feel like you're going back in time. It is a picturesque town with dainty cobbled streets, bustling market squares, horse drawn traditional carts and long windy canals which gives Bruges it's nickname 'the Venice of the north'.

When we arrived in Bruges the weather was a little bit on the brisk side so we donned our hats and scarves, however it wasn't that unbearable that it ruined our day. The first place we headed to was the historic market square (the markt) which features the 12th Century Belfry Tower known for being in the movie 'In Bruges' as well as one hectare of market place filled with gift shops, traditional food stalls, restaurants and bars. It is a tourist hotspot or as the locals like to call it, a tourist trap. Prices for drinks and food are heavily inflated here as it is the prime spot for visitors so it is best to visit this place first and resist the lure of expensive drinks - save your money for the truly authentic bars with are just 10 minutes around the corner.

Once we had checked out The Belfry, our next plan was to sample some Belgian food. Belgian Waffles, Mussels and Frites with mayonnaise are some of the most popular street food in Bruges and stalls and cafes serving these can be found all over the town. Just before lunchtime my husband and I had our Belgium waffles - I opted for the classic combination of strawberries and chocolate while my husband went for a topping of strawberry ice-cream - both of which were very delicious, you cannot not have waffles when in Belgium. Later on in the day, just before we set off to go catch the ferry I grabbed a portion of frites and mayonnaise which was equally as pleasing. The mayonnaise in Bruges isn't like the mayo that you get in England - it is much creamier and has so much more flavour. 

With our bellies full we then decided to go on a canal tour of Bruges. These tours cost approximately 8 euro, they last around 45 minutes and they take you through all the long, winding canals so that you can see all the major sites of the town. I really enjoy boat tours as I feel that you can learn a lot from them and it's great to see the town at a different angle - from the waters edge.

After our boat ride we then tried to hunt down the '2be Beer Wall' bar. The '2be Beer Wall' attracts thousands of visitors annually due to their extensive range of authentic Belgian beer and their beer wall bar entrance that showcases over 1700 beer bottles. I sampled two authentic Belgian beers - Kriek Boon and Mongozo. The Kriek Boon was rather fruity and had a sweet and sour taste, it wasn't that strong compared to my husband's beer, but it still had an intense flavour. The Mongozo was as 'exotic beer' brewed using African recipe but made in Belgium and it had a lovely, smooth rich coconut taste, it was definitely my favourite.

Once we sipped our last beer it was time to return to the ferry port and say 'tot ziens!' to Bruges. It was a short, but sweet trip and although we were only there eight hours we did get a lot done because Bruges itself is only a small town. Would I return again? Definitely.

Have you been to Bruges?

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Maison Margiela Replica Fragrances

Anyone who knows me knows that I love fragrances. I have many perfumes - all of which remind me of special times during my life. My Chanel Coco Mademoiselle perfume is the one I wore on my wedding day, Roberto Cavalli was what I wore when I got engaged and Jimmy Choo was what I wore when I first started dating my husband. I love how fragrances can evoke so many memories.

Maison Margiela Replica fragrances are created to re-transcribe the scents that speak to us all, resonate with our imagination and most importantly awaken our memories. They are fragrances which were created to replicate certain scents all over the world and I was lucky enough to be sent two of them to review - Flower Market and Tea Escape.

Flower Market recreates the scent of a flower market in Paris in 2011. The fragrance is made to evoke memories of freshly cut flowers, wet petals, buckets and vases brimming with water, leaves crushed on the floor and a multitude of floral compositions. Maison Margiela's Flower Market has notes of freesia and Grasse rose petals, Sambac jasmine and tuberose. It has the scent of the freshest bouquet of flowers and it is one of the most wonderful scented eau de toilettes that I have worn in a long time and the scent lingers on your skin for hours.

Tea Escape depicts a scene in Tokyo, 2008. It echoes a secular Japanese tradition of a tea ceremony with notes of green tea, osmanthus flower and jasmine. 'Tea Escape' is a perfume of contrasts which balances the duality between crisp and intoxicating notes of green tea and the softness of puffed rice. For those who like fresh, lighter fragrances Tea Escape is the fragrance for you.

The Maison Margiela Replica Eau de Toilettes are priced at £85 for 100ml, but a little of the fragrance does go a long way and a bottle will last you quite a long time. They are the perfect gift for someone you would like to reminisce about the places you have travelled with or to give inspiration to those looking to go travelling. They would also suit those who have a passion for fine fragrances and enjoy powerful, memory evoking scents.

Maison Margiela Replica is available online at John Lewis and in selected stores.

Have you tried these fragrances before?

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Sukhothai Leeds Restaurant Review

When it comes to Thai food, I would like to think of myself as a little bit of a connoisseur. I have dined at many Thai restaurants from street food style to a la carte and I have also spent time in Thailand sampling local dishes. Thai food is by far my favourite cuisine - it is plentiful in flavour,  it not only looks, but tastes very healthy and there's so many variations of dishes that I could never get bored of it. Over the last few months I have been working my way around my local Thai restaurants in the search to find the most authentic, best value for money and most importantly, the restaurant that offers the best vegetarian thai dishes as these are in the minority as the Thai cuisine is based heavily around fish and meat. My latest venture was to Sukhothai in Leeds City Centre for a date night with my husband- a restaurant known for being one of the premier fine dining Thai restaurants in Yorkshire and a restaurant which boasts critical acclaim and numerous awards.

The vegetarian menu at Sukhothai is vast and has an array of contemporary and also traditional dishes available. Most vegetarian's are used to stepping in a Thai restaurant and only being able to order a Pad Thai, but this isn't the case here, there's a whole separate menu for us herbivores. Having perused the menu for well over fifteen minutes, smiling delightfully at the wide range of options available to me, I proceeded to order the Khanom Jeeb Pak (£5.50) which is steamed vegetable dumplings served with soy sauce and crispy garlic for starter and then the Pad Pak Prik Thai Dam (£8.95) which is stir-fried mixed vegetables with cracked black pepper, shiitake mushrooms, bean curd, garlic, chilli and soy sauce for main, with a side of obligatory steamed jasmine rice.

The starter was impressively presented and tasted juicy and flavoursome. I loved the texture of the dumplings and it really made a lovely change from my usual spring rolls or vegetable tempura, overall it was very filling without being too heavy and was a great start to the meal. It was shortly followed by an equally impressive main that was packed full of flavour with the black pepper and had the most wonderful selection of fresh veggies, all giving the dish a beautiful flush of colour. The meal was faultless.

Overall my experience at Sukhothai was fantastic - the service was impeccable, the staff were all very polite and quick to serve without feeling too rushed and the food was exceptional, especially for us vegetarians who are usually left with not much choice when it comes to Thai food. Would I visit again? Definitely.

Have you been to Sukhothai before?

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