Friday 31 January 2014

A few of my favourite things

As I'm currently ensconced in a cottage in the country with two of my favourite people I thought I'd share a few of my favourite things with you guys. These are the things that have kept me going through January when all I've really wanted to do is collapse into bed and keep warm! What are some of your current favourite things?

My recently made homemade granola, which has been keeping my hunger at bay every day this week. It's a peanut, sultana and honey granola that I tried for the first time a week ago, which is based on one of A Girl Called Jack's recipes that Alex mentioned a few weeks ago. It's super-simple to make and scrumptious so everyone should make it!

Peppermint tea, which I've just discovered after long being of the opinion that such 'healthy' teas were all disgusting. I was wrong peppermint tea is scrumptious and is good at preventing a multi-coffee day from occurring!

In just over a month I'll be approaching half marathon day so I'm well into the training right now and weirdly I'm enjoying it much more than I thought I would be! Whilst it is sometimes hard to find the time to fit in five workouts (including one mega run) a week I do feel like it's totally worth it. I can run a lot further and faster than I could when the programme started in January and I don't feel like the run is going to be totally impossible!

I've had quite a few marathons of The Good Wife recently and I'd forgotten how good the show is! I'm only on series two as for some reason I got bored of it a couple of years back. I've no idea what I was thinking when I stopped watching it as the characters and storyline developments are genius. I can't wait to be fully caught up.

I saw Frozen before Christmas and loved every second of it and since early January the soundtrack has been my go-to album on Spotify no matter what I'm doing. I think Let it Go (the Idina Mendel version) is my current favourite song and the lyrics just seem to speak to me at the moment. There are two or three lines that I 100% agree with and can't help but belt out at the top of my lungs.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Forget 'Where's Wally?' this weekend I played 'Where are the butterflies?'

Morning lovelies and welcome to another Travel Tuesday post, today I'm sharing an awesome trip I had at the weekend - I do hope you enjoy!

The view across the pond at Wisley
On Friday night/Saturday I popped back to see my parents for a flying visit, I think I was there for less than 24 hours in total but we still had a lovely time. There was much nattering, eating (including possibly the best steak and ale pie I've ever consumed) and much merriment it was super-lovely! Whilst there we also visited one of my favourite places, Wisley, which is an RHS Garden. Wisley is perfect for an afternoon of nattering as you wander around the beautiful gardens and it also has one of the best shops around - it's always choc-a-block full of brilliant books, great gifts and the most perfect presents. Wisley is so close to my parents house that my Mum has one of their annual passes so when we go with her it's super cheap as two of us get in for free, £11 isn't bad for an afternoon out for three of us!

Just some of the lovely cactus that entertained us as we queued

If you've never been to Wisley and live near to Surrey then now is the time to make your first visit as until March 9th the butterfly exhibit is on in Wisley's beautiful glass house. It's definitely a must see as you spot so many beautiful butterfly species as you wander through the glass house, it really is phenomenal. What was so great about when we went on Saturday is that the butterflies had only just woken up and so they had loads of energy and were flying everywhere. If you leave it until near the end of February they'll be nearing the end of their life and so will be harder to spot and there won't be so many alive.  They were so energetic on Saturday that I'm surprised they didn't land on us at any point! You walk through the glass house at your own pace so you can spend ages taking pictures and spotting all of the different species there - it really is fascinating and such fun! Below are some of my better iPhone pictures from the day and the butterflies are just a fraction of the ones I saw as I wanted to enjoy it and not be stuck behind my camera the entire time.  Aren't they (and the flowers) just stunning?

I think this one is my favourite butterfly - I love how silky the black wings look

Have you ever been to Wisley or been this close to such beautiful butterflies and have I convinced you to go for a visit?

Sunday 26 January 2014

All my book decisions are now sorted!

I've mentioned in the past that I have trillions of books to read, yet I keep buying more and I don't see that changing soon. So I've come to the conclusion that I need to get better and quicker at deciding on which book to read. At the moment it can take me half an hour of pondering and getting overwhelmed before I end up reaching for the book that seems most similar to my last read, has the flashiest cover or is the current most talked about book around. I often find myself forgetting about the 40 odd books on my kindle as well as I can't see their pretty spines or striking typography. This in ability to make a choice and just grabbing something also often means I  ignore the books that have been on my shelf for ages as they're not front and centre in my mind - this is partly why I set myself the 2014 book challenge although so far I seem to be very focused on the recently purchased books and something needs to change.

Anyway with this idea in my head to be better at choosing books I scoured the wonders of Pinterest and happened open the idea of a 'to be read' jar, which is basically the answer to my dilemma - hooray! This genius and incredibly simple jar is now sat on my shelf awaiting it's first use. And it's going to make my book choosing issues so much better - I can't believe I didn't think of it myself! I just need to make sure I stick to the rule of ensuring I read the book I've pulled out of the jar, no returns allowed or else what's the point! If you fancy making your very own jar then just follow the easy steps below.

Find a jar, grab some coloured paper and get writing down all the books you own.

Cut out your little strips of paper and enlist your sister in folding them all up.

Pop them into the jar, give it a shake and pop it on your shelf.

You're now ready to go. Fingers crossed the days of umming and ahhing are over!

What about you, have you done something similar or do you have any brilliant ideas to help you choose your next trip, or do you just grab the first book you find?

Friday 24 January 2014

My weekend plans

The last five days have formed a week that's been one of those weeks, you know the one I mean, the one that's long and stressful, with umpteen twists, turns and surprises. It's weirdly been a good week too, but simply exhausting at the same time. That's why I'm ridiculously pleased that my weekend plans look a little something like this...

Visiting the parental units in the glorious countryside

Eating scrumptious food from the Seahorse Pub for dinner
The Seahorse

A day trip to Wisley to visit the beautiful butterflies

A super-long run on Sunday

and possibly some granola making

I for one can't think of anything better! What about you, what are you up to this weekend?

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Travel Tuesday - Edinburgh Castle

Morning lovelies and happy Tuesday! I hope you have something absolutely awesome planned for today and even if you're at work today hopefully it'll still be a fantastic day. Anyway welcome to another Travel Tuesday link up, today we're off up to the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I hope to make it up to Scotland at some point this year and the reason I really want to return is that I had such a wonderful time on my last trip up there in the Autumn of 2011. That was my first ever trip to Edinburgh and Lau and I had an absolute blast. We did pretty much all the things you're meant to do in Edinburgh. We visited Edinburgh Castle, went to the beautiful Holyrood House, toured the fascinating HMY Britannia, explored the underground tunnels of St Mary's Close, wandered the city, sampled an array of lovely cafes and exclaimed over the stunning architecture of the National Museum of Scotland. 

Of all of these things I think my favourite place was Edinburgh Castle itself, it really is fascinating and I loved exploring all the different parts and hearing about it's history. I've got a History degree so I can't imagine this is a shock for any of you to hear! It really has had the most marvelous history. Below are just some of the pictures I took during our day of exploring the castle - or at least when I wasn't eating the best cream tea I've ever had at the cafe or staring at the beautiful views across the rest of the city. 

The Castle's Entrance

The stunning city below

The City as the Canons see it!

Spying Lau through the Castle walls

The Castle from below

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? If so what was your favourite part about the city?

Monday 20 January 2014

Avocado Brownies, or are they...?

So here's the thing, I happen to have an obsession with brownies, an unhealthy obsession to them if I'm honest. Whenever I spot them in a cafe it's almost impossible to not have one and I've baked so many different variations - let's see there was the scrumptious plain chocolate ones, raspberry and biscuit ones, some featuring butternut squash, ones with mint and then there were the Oreo ones and the marshmallow ones, basically anytime I see an interesting recipe for brownies I have to give them a whirl. This obsession is not always great because of course gooey, chocolate brownies are not altogether good for you now are they? Plus how can anyone have just one homemade brownie? It's basically an impossibility, well for me anyway. If you can do, then yay to you. I would be jealous but you know I'm too busy eating my fourth brownie of the day!

Anyway recently I discovered a recipe on the wondrous Pinterest for brownies that were healthy and only 27 calories a pop! Amazing right? I mean imagine the guilt free brownie scoffing that could ensue at just 27 calories a brownie?!?! It's my ultimate dream! What makes them healthy I hear you say? Well you replace the butter and sugar with other ingredients, namely yogurt, Stevia and avocado. Yes avocado - don't worry you don't get the flavour of the avocado it's purely for texture. Let's be honest that would be a bit weird wouldn't it? Needless to say I had to make them straightaway (or at least once I found all the ingredients, Stevia is not that easy to find FYI). My only issue with these brownies? Well there not really brownies. They're more cakey than that and quite solid - there's none of the gooey middle you get (and want) in a brownie in these. Don't get me wrong they are nice, once heated in the microwave and covered in custard, but they're not really brownies - at least not in my book. You should definitely make them, but treat them like a healthy cake and you'll be much happier!

So here's the recipe, which of course you can find over on the awesome blog Undressed Skeleton, which is chocked full of awesome looking food! 

1 avocado - 3 eggs - 1 cup wholemeal flour - 1/2 cup cocoa powder - 1/3 cup hot water - 1 tbsp vanilla extract - 6oz fat free vanilla yogurt - 5 packets of Stevia - 3 tbsp dark chocolate chips - 3 tbsp agave nectar

Beat the avocado, eggs and yogurt until there are no avocado lumps, next add the vanilla extract and Stevia and beat until fully combined.

In a different bowl combine the water and cocoa together to form a paste (I needed to add a bit more water to get the right consistency). Then add to the avocado mixture and mix well.

Finally add the flour and combine again before pouring into the pre-greased brownie tray

Sprinkle with chocolate chips and cook on 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

If you make them I'd love to hear your thoughts, I'm intrigued to know how you ate them and if you'd class them as a brownie or not...

Saturday 18 January 2014

The most beautiful books I've ever seen

Greetings friends and happy Saturday! I hope you have lovely plans for the day?

Now can we all just take a moment and ponder these gorgeous books? Aren't they just swoon-worthy? These are just three of the six titles in the Penguin Threads range and I want to own them all, especially the Little Women book. They're just beautiful and so individual. If these books were on my bookshelf I would treasure them and smile from ear to ear when ever I saw them.

It's books like these ones that remind me that I'll always own tonnes of books, no matter how convenient my Kindle is. There's just nothing quite like a gorgeous book, especially not a chunk of plastic! What about you, do you have any swoon-worthy books that you own or wish to own?