Friday, 29 November 2013

The recipe for a perfect weekend

Last weekend I was ensconced in a gorgeous little cottage in Cambridgeshire with three friends for three days of Christmas frivolities and it was such fun! We arrived on the Friday afternoon and spent the entire time until our departure on Monday lunchtime, eating, chatting, watching Christmas films, reading and relaxing in front of a fire. It really was a blissful weekend. Since leaving university it's so rare for me to spend an entire weekend with good friends doing not a lot. Usually there's an entire itinerary of sights to see, places to visit and restaurants to try, so to be holed up in one place with nothing specific to do makes such a change.

So today I wanted to share my recipe for a brilliant weekend with good friends with minimum effort! To thoroughly enjoy the weekend you will need:
  • three awesome people
  • a whole fridge and larder full of food (enough to ensure you can eat something new every half an hour or so). Essential items include (but are not limited to) all the ingredients for the best roast chicken ever, marshmallows, peanut hottie, pringles, dips, peanut m&m's, a chocolate yule log, croissants, cereal, wine, orange juice, Maryland cookies and pizza (always pizza).
  • the most picturesque cottage you've ever seen
  • a log fire and the knowledge of how to light said fire - trust me it's harder than you think
  • board games
  • Christmas films, including Die Hard, Love Actually, Beauty and the Beast, The Santa Clause and The Holiday
  • a plethora of books and magazines
  • Christmas pyjamas, jumpers and socks
  • brilliant presents and Christmas chocolate for everyone (see some of the things I received below!)

Today is a Good Day print from Steph Says Hello // Teal Sausage Dog Scarf from Lisa Angel 

What's your idea of the ultimate weekend of relaxing, I'd love to know! 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Three lovely new books just for me!

Morning lovely people and how are you today? I'm just popping by to talk books (one of my favourite topics!). 

I work in publishing so it shouldn't come as a surprise if I tell you that I'm obsessed with books. Although you might be a little alarmed to hear that my current to-read pile is well over 100 books (yes really). Despite this fact I jumped at the chance to be involved in the blogger book swap that Rosie over at A Rosie Outlook decided to organise back in October. I thought it would be interesting to find out what another blogger's favourite books are and how similar our tastes would be, but mainly I hoped that I'd be introduced to a whole host of new authors and books. As luck would have it that's exactly what happened, hooray! Yes, amazingly the three books that Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks sent me were all brand new to me. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this! 

It makes such a change to be starting a book that I have no knowledge of or preconceived ideas about. The only thing I know about April Lady by Georgette Heyer, The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin and The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman is that they are books that Alex loves. That's it. So before I start reading the books and I learn more about them I thought I would tell you my initial thoughts about them, purely from the book cover. Now I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but I do this ALL THE TIME after all it's interesting to see if you can work out what the publisher was hoping to portray by their cover choices. So what did I think about the books based on the covers? Well...

The April Lady looks like it would be very similar to Jane Austen's books, so about a women of a certain station in the Regency Period. This intrigued me as I do enjoy Austen's books (although not P&P, I just don't get the hype, sorry!) and I love reading them from a historical perspective too, you always learn so much about the era from such writing. I've heard good things about Heyer's books so I'm really glad to now own one, as I've been meaning to buy a copy for ages!

As for The Case of the Gilded Fly it looks like it'd be a detective novel focused on an upper class gentleman in the early 1900s who's a sort of happier Poirot creature. I'm intrigued by the music notes though - what could that mean? 

For the final book The Grimm Legacy I'm incredibly intrigued as it looks like it's the perfect book for a teenage girl with it's shiny pink cover, tag line and golden key so I'm fairly sure I'd love it! Also it's clearly got something to do with fairy tales, which I can't wait to find out more about as I'm a big fan of Grimm's tales and I love seeing them reworked for the modern world.

So those are my initial thoughts on the books, I'll pop back soon to let you know how right or wrong I was about each and to tell you what I thought of them. Have a lovely day! 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Chicago - Travel Tuesday

Greetings friends, and how are you this morning? I hope you're ready and raring to go for another installment of Travel Tuesday! This week I'm taking a trip across the pond and six years back to one of my favourite cities - the glorious Chicago. I can't quite pinpoint why this place is such a favourite of mine, perhaps it was the wonderful architecture, the brilliant sunshine or the glorious parks, but it's most definitely on my list to visit again one day. So let's jump in to the trip...

Did you know that Chicago actually starts its Independence Day celebrations on July 3rd with the Taste of Chicago and the Independence Day Eve Fireworks display? No I didn't either, and I don't know if they still do but that was the case back in 2007 whilst I was on the last leg of my worldwide post university trip. Whilst in Chicago I was lucky enough to be there to experience the celebrations and they were amazing, the fireworks were some of the best I've ever seen! I was in Chicago for a week in total but I think those 24 hours were my favourite moments from our time their, it was just so interesting to experience another country's biggest holiday, especially when it's one we don't celebrate in the UK.

Below are some snaps from our day where we visited the Taste of Chicago before settling down in Grant Park for the amazing Independence Day firework display and concert. What is the Taste of Chicago I hear you ask, well it's this brilliant food festival where you buy tokens, which you can then switch for different tasters of meals from top Chicago restaurants. It's really a brilliant idea and we had such fun trialing everything - I would definitely recommend you doing the same if you ever have a Taste Festival near you.

The magic silver bean!

Settling down in Grant Park in preparation for the show

In the shadow of Chicago's skyscrapers

Listening to the Grant Park Orchestra as night falls, pre fireworks!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Smiley Happy Things #2

Greeting friends and how are you all this wonderful Monday morning? I trust you all had good weekends? I'm still technically on my weekend as I'm still at our lovely weekend cottage in the countryside and it's tremendously relaxing and super cosy. I'm so pleased we opted to have an extra day here as it really has been a wonderfully wintry weekend, definitely one of my smiley happy things this week. 

As for the other things keeping me happy this week? Well first up, I was sent some lovely books as part of the #bloggerbookswap that Rosie has organised. Alex at Odd Socks and Pretty Frocks chose three of her favourite books and sent them (along with some chocolates) to me to read and I can't wait to get started. It's great that all the books sound intriguing and that I've never read any of them before, so unusual for me! I've also been meaning to read a Georgette Heyer novel for ages and ages, so it's great to finally own one!

Next up on this week's list was giving my first Christmas presents to my lovely friends on Saturday during our cottage weekend. I really love choosing and buying presents and then wrapping them all perfectly but the very best part is when you get to watch someone opening them. Below are a couple of the gifts I gave this weekend, don't you just love the Christmas pudding tissue paper? It really is my favourite part of Christmas. Oh I can't wait to give even more presents over the coming weeks. 

Talking of Christmas it was lovely to start the Christmas celebrations early with our weekend away and it most definitely does feel like Christmas is on the way. Christmas is most definitely a current smiley happy thing, and bound to be for the next few weeks! I'm really enjoying the appearance of all the Christmas stuff at the moment and I'm thoroughly in the festive mood - so much so that I made these reindeer cupcakes, super cute right?! Also when I was wandering around Covent Garden late on Monday night I saw all the gorgeous decorations in Covent Garden, which are always so wonderful. I almost feel that those giant red baubles and the topiary candy canes with red ribbon are a Christmas tradition in themselves as for me they mean that Christmas is on its way!

Another great thing from this past week was meeting up with old friends for pizza and birthday celebrations and of course the weekend in the cottage with other fabulous friends. It was such fun to have a proper catch up after ages apart, not to mention the good food. It makes me realise I need to organise these meet ups far more often, after all friends are so important!

My final Smiley Happy Thing for the week has to do with our lovely countryside cottage. In the lovely house we're staying in there's a wood burning stove which we've had lit the entire weekend and it's just lovely. There's something about a cosy fire warming the house that just makes you instantly happy and relaxed, and not to mention a little bit sleepey! Oh how I wish we had one in our London flat, that would be absolute bliss! 

So what have you been up to over the last seven days that's made you happy? I'd love to hear, so why not share and link up with this post? Oh and don't forget to check out Lau's post too!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

A bit of a moment on all things desky

Happy Saturday my little puffins and how are you this lovely morning? I'm hopefully having a whale of a time in a cottage in the country with my friends to celebrate an early Christmas. I'm thinking I'll still be in my pj's and preparing the roast dinner to the sound of Christmas carols. Perfect! 

For today's post I wanted to touch on one of numerous obsessions. One of the best things about being at school was being given a crisp five pound note and the run of W H Smith near the end of August with just one thing to do: find myself a new pencil case for the new school term. That was one of the high points of the summer as back then W H Smith was an Aladdin’s Cave of shiny, sparkly essential school items. I would spend forever deliberating on my choice worried that I was making the wrong one – I feel sure it must have been exactly how Meryl felt in Sophie’s Choice. And don’t even get me started on the post-Christmas trip when I had a £20 voucher and nothing specific to buy, I was in heaven when I could choose new stationery AND a new book. Absolutely amazing.

Now that I've given you a little glimpse into my stationery obsessed childhood I thought I'd share some of my current stationery obsessions. As you can imagine I don't need much of an excuse to buy new pens or desky bits, so with a new place of work and a new desk to make my own it's basically the perfect excuse to have a browse around and maybe treat myself. So below are some of the bits and pieces I've seen over the last few weeks. 

lovely jubbly desk stuff


I most definitely need the nessie pins in my life and I love the test tubes holding all the pins and paperclips, such a lovely idea!  I like the idea of bulldog clips that are labels too, surely that would make me doubley organised? As for the notebooks, I'm of the opinion that you can't have too many. So I think my desk could do with the city scape pad next to the phone, the to do list for daily tasks and the A4 planner for every day scribblings. That's not overkill is it?

What about you have you seen any super-duper lovely stationery items lately? If so point me in the right direction and I'll get snapping them up to!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Things I've learnt recently

The above saying is one that I hear all the time and I have started to realise it's true. I suppose starting a new job means I am learning more than I would usually as I now know where things are filed, how things are done in a whole new place and I've met a whole new set of people (most of who's names I know) in the last two weeks. But apart from the things I've learnt at my job I've realised a lot of things about myself recently, do you ever have times like that, or is it just me? So in honour of the fact that I've learnt lots recently I thought I'd share some of those things with you right here. If you've learnt something about yourself or just something useful recently I'd love to hear it, after all you might teach me something new!

So here we go, ten things I've learnt recently:
  1. My obsession with the all the Marvel films and TV show knows no bounds! The most recent episodes of Agents of Shield have been pretty awesome and the one where Simmons almost died was pretty stressful stuff. As for the Marvel films, the most recent Thor film (The Dark World) was superb with lots of awesome Loki action and the trailer for next year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier looks AMAZING. I can’t wait for it to hit screens and I'm so glad they've worked out a way to have good character specific films and good ensemble films/shows like The Avengers and Agents of Shield. Go Marvel.
  2. That The Hunger Games trilogy really is pretty awesome and the underlying messages and morals in it are pretty lofty for a YA book. It’s most definitely a great example of why YA books are for ALL adults and not just the younger ones.
  3. How to make chicken liver pate. Yes this sound absolutely absurd and posh but I learnt this recently and it’s soooo much easier than you would anticipate. Also it was tastier when it was home made and not shop bought, as unlikely as that seems!
  4. How awesome it is spending time with my family. From lovely meals out and 10k runs, to walks in the country and days squealing over Christmas items; there’s been a lot of Evans family love recently and it’s been great. My nearest and dearest really are quite awesome.
  5. That I can be easily distracted by a window. Yes another ridiculous thing to say, but it’s true. My new desk at work has its very own window view overlooking lots of buildings and up towards the parks north of London and I keep getting mighty distracted by all the things I see. Including the most stunning sunsets. Just glorious.
  6. That I would almost kill for a peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks. Having only recently tried them I can report that they are simply delicious and need to be sampled by one and all. Possibly better than last year’s praline mocha (yes I really did say that, but they are just that good).
  7. Butternut squash puree on a pizza is pretty awesome, in fact it's so good that it's totally worth an hours wait for a table. 
  8. Picmonkey is changing my blogging life - I'm totally loving it. I like that I can be a little bit creative when I have zero creativity! 
  9. How to spell 'live', 'life' and 'live' and their different meanings. I am aware of how absurd that sentence sounds I promise, it's just I've never got the hang of how you spell each one. Thankfully the sisterlings have been trying to drum this into my recently and I think I'm now there.
  10. I only own two long-sleeved jumpers, yes really! How is that even possible? Of the ten jumpers that I have how can only two of them have warm enough for the current freezingness we're experiencing. That's just craziness, oh and an excuse to go clothes shopping again - right?
Now, what about you? I need to learn a few more things - so hit me with your knowledge!  xxxx

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Adventures in Amsterdam - Travel Tuesday

Morning lovelies, how are you this fine Tuesday? Ready for the day ahead or wishing you could head back to bed with a good book and your favourite pjs? Yeah me too! Anywho as that's not an option I'm off to work (hooray for a day of books and cake, even if I'm not in my bed!) and as is the norm on a Tuesday morning I'm all over the Travel Tuesday link up. After all when you're not having the best day (or wish you could curl back into bed) it's lovely to reminisce over past adventures or plan new ones, which is what I'm doing today. Planning an upcoming trip to Amsterdam – hooray, lucky me!

My friends and I meet up regularly and as we live all over the UK and are fairly busy we like to plan our weekend gatherings quite far in advance to ensure we can all make it. This year we stuck to mainly UK based adventures, apart from a jaunt over to Dublin, but next year is a whole other story as we’re planning Portugal and Amsterdam amongst other places. And Amsterdam, the home of tulips, canals and bikes is what I want to focus on today. I've been researching it recently and I know I need to visit the following places, but where else do I simply have to visit or what needs to be experienced? 

  • Browse the beautiful flower markets
  • Visit the Anne Frank Museum
  • Traverse the bridges crossing the canals and explore all the winding streets and little squares
  • Explore the wonderful museums - the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum are top of my list
  • Head to one of the eight remaining windmills in the city
  • Buy some clogs, some cheese and some Delft china, a cliché I know!
  • Explore the city via bike

So if you've been to this wonderful city, I'd love some suggestions on must visit places and secret wonderful eateries. Thanks!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Smiley Happy Things #1

Greetings little blog readers and how are you this fine Monday morning? I hope you're looking forward to the week ahead. I've got a rather exciting week coming up, starting with a friend's birthday celebrations tonight, then a night of nattering and some serious The Newsroom catch up and then on Thursday I'm off to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire {I'm super duper excited about that film FYI} before a weekend away with friends. So yes rather a marvellous week to come for me - what about you lovely lot, what are you up to this week? 

As it's Monday it's time again to look back over the last seven days and highlight the best bits (both big and small) from them. I love this little tradition I've created for myself as it's a nice reminder that good things will happen even if it might not seem it with a whole week ahead of you. So down to what's made me smiley and happy recently.

First up we have the simple joys of preparing for Christmas, I found the perfect Christmas paper at the weekend and then went home and got started on making my Christmas cards. It really was such fun to get the festivities started. Next up is to get organised on the presents and finalise my Christmas list!

Another thing that made my week was getting paid when I hadn't expected too, such a relief as I was so sure that my new job wouldn't pay me until next month. So hooray that payday did arrive as that makes things a hell of a lot easier what with Christmas coming up! Plus it meant I could treat myself at the weekend with a little online shopping!

Getting paid also meant that I could splurge on Friday night when I met friends for drinks and pizza. When I say pizza I don't just mean the bog standard stuff. This pizza was from Homeslice, which does the most amazing toppings and was the biggest pizza I've ever seen. Check out the picture below (nabbed from Lau's Instagram) if you don't believe me! We shared two pizzas between five of us and each one had a different topping. I think my favourite was the one that had a butternut squash puree topping rather than the usual tomato one. Simply exquisite and such a different type of pizza. 

Over the weekend I went on a bit of a baking blitz, I'm not sure why I baked so much when all I really needed to make was one thing for our work bake off today. Clearly I was in the baking mood as I rustled up a banana and walnut loaf as well as the sticky gingerbread cake for work. Both items smell divine and taste scrumptious, so I'm glad I bothered to get my baking hat on this weekend. Oh and I've just remembered I did some baking in the week too, a four-tied birthday cake for Mum, which was delicious. I may have eaten it for breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday as it was just that good! Sometimes nothing beats a home baked cake does it?

Finally in honour of my new bloglet I've decided to make Smiley Happy Things a link up - so why not join in? You can find the image above at this link, so you can add it to your post and then just comment below with your blog post link so I can have a read of your lovely posts too. Also feel free to grab the button to add to your side bar too (use the code below) - happy linking! I can't wait to see the things that have made your last week awesome. 

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a><

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Welcome to my new blogging abode!

Hello my little porcupines, and welcome to my brand new blog! What do you think, do you like the new look? I'd been wanting to improve the look of my old blog (here) for a while and it was just too tricksy to do whilst it was on WordPress, so I've moved over to Blogger and gone a little crazy with the pink and greens and created a new blog. I'm really rather proud of it, as I'm not techy at all and I'm also not great at designery things. So I'm rather happy to have worked out PicMonkey enough to have created a header image, icons etc. Yes, I know it's not quite rocket science, but it might as well be for me so I'm rather pleased with myself! 

Anywho I suppose I should also natter a bit about what will be on this here blog in the future, well probably very similar things to on my old blog as my interests haven't massively changed! So they'll be the usual (and regular) Travel Tuesday posts and Budgeting Blogger updates as well as LOTS of nattering about my adventures in/with food, London, coffee (my current favourites are the Starbucks Christmas special of a Chocolate Mocha and their Peppermint Hot Chocolate - both are absolutely delicious!), brownies and of course, as it's that time of year, there will be a lot of waffle about Christmas. [After all it is the most magical time of the year, and I may or may not be writing this whilst wearing my Christmas jumper and reindeer patterned pjs - yes I am one of those people. Sorry, no actually not sorry. I love the Christmas festivities like I love chocolate, West Wing and reading, therefore I will always make the most of Christmas time!] So there we have it, that's what you can look forward to on this little corner of the internet. I hope you'll enjoy my random wafflings and mini adventures and of course do let me know what you think by leaving a comment. You'll make my day!