Thursday, 27 February 2014

Flamingos, flowers, books and stubborness

Guys can we just take a moment and focus on the fact that the last few days have included sunshine - I mean wow spring has officially poked it's head out. I feel like it's surely only a matter of time until we're walking around without our gloves or woolly hats and then surely pumps without tights will be a thing again. Oh I can't wait! I mean I even saw crocuses poking up in the park at the weekend. Hooray indeed! On the subject of happy things... today's blog post is all about that. Obviously the reappearance of spring is up there but what else is making me smile right now...

Well first up we have the lovely new books that I got recently from my lovely publishing friends. What a great selection hey? It really is pretty awesome knowing so many people in the world of books. I can't wait to tuck into them all - I think Eleanor and Park will be my next read as I've heard such good things about it. Although I am torn between that and Bombs on Aunt Daisy, as I had no idea there existed a sequel to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit in the universe. That book was one of my favourite books as a child, so it may have to be that one.

Next up on my favourites list right now is fresh flowers. We bought some for just £2 in Lidl over two weeks ago and they're still looking lovely and smelling divine. There's something about fresh flowers that just makes my heart sing, which is possibly why I love spring so much.

Another good thing that happened this week is this following story of when my stubbornness ended in good things! Last week I was all set to leave a certain TV provider as we were paying an exorbitant amount of money to them for a relatively small return, but then a good thing happened. I was so stubborn about leaving that they offered to undercut the other supplier and by a ridiculous amount just so that I'd stay. So I of course said yes and felt like I'd achieved a huge victory. We're now paying 50% less for the same package and less than we would have done anywhere else. I'm so impressed that I managed to beat them down by so much - I mean I'm usually rubbish at such things. I think because I was just so stubborn and set in leaving and because we've been with them for so long they caved. But it was a totally unexpected (and lovely) surprise! So of course now I'm set on working out what else we can save money on - next up is the gas and electricity. I'll keep you posted!

The final lovely thing in my life right now is this super-cute flamingo notebook. Don't you just love it? It was a present from a lovely friend when I started my new job three months ago and I've finally had the chance to start it. It's just the perfect size and manages to make me smile whenever I go to use it - just what you want on a really busy work day, right?!

So what are the things keeping you happy right now? Please share. I love hearing the smaller things cheering people up!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Travel Tuesday - the current dream

For today's Travel Tuesday link up I thought I'd share one of my current travelling dreams, so here goes... 

Recently I've been watching a fair bit of the Winter Olympics - hasn't it been wonderful? I basically wasted the whole of Saturday morning when I got sucked in to the parallel slalom finals. It was just fascinating to watch! Whilst I've been watching these amazing athletes I've started to get a bit of a yearning for snow myself, more specifically I want to go skiing.

Now I'm most definitely not a skier, in fact I've only been once in my life, when I was about 16. Not really the ideal age to learn to ski if you ask me as I was a little bit too scared and didn't allow myself to get stuck in to it as I probably should have done. However I absolutely loved skiing and even made it up some of the red runs whilst I was there, but I've just not gone back, which now I think about it is quite a shame! I love the idea of days spent on the slopes or sat drinking hot chocolates halfway down and just imagining the beautiful snowy vistas has me green with envy as I hear of yet more friends heading to the slopes. The problem is it's quite expensive and I feel like I really need to go with people that are a similar standard (basically a newbie) to me - so I can't imagine myself going for at least another few years. So for now the dream of looking awesome on the slopes will have to wait for a while yet. Sad times indeed.

Where do you long to go that you can't imagine you will do for a while yet?

Travel Tuesday

Saturday, 22 February 2014

It's recipe time again, scrumptious pulled pork!

A couple of weeks back it was Super Bowl Sunday and this just happened to coincide with our trip to the Peak District to see the littlest Evans. We decided to celebrate this serendipitous event by having a US themed dinner of pulled pork wraps and rice, followed by the American wonder that is the humble m&m. Before I go any further can I just say: bloody genius idea right there! That menu is basically heaven on a plate, well two plates.

Now pulled pork is a new thing for me, not eating it – I'm well practiced at eating it and find it delicious. But when it comes to cooking pulled pork, actually creating that wonder from scratch well that’s another matter. Thankfully the wonderful internet saved my bacon and after a few clicks we had a plethora of information at our disposal. Which we promptly ignored as we came up with our own way that didn't include twenty seven different utensils or six hours of cooking time – I’m sorry but I’m not well known for my patience so that would never happen. Anyway our recipe is below, but before you get started just two useful bits of information you might want to bear in mind…
  1. Aldi sell pork shoulder for just £3.50 and it’s enough to feed three VERY hungry sisters, so you should most definitely check that out.
  2. When cooking in a new oven it’s probably best to check that you've turned it on properly and that it is not in fact cold 50 minutes after you start. Just a thought as that moment when you realise dinner will be a whole extra hour away is not the best moment of your life. Also the wisecracks and teasing for the rest of the night – also not fun.
  • One pork shoulder
  • One onion (cut into eighths)
  • A bottle of Paul Newman’s BBQ sauce AKA the best BBQ sauce ever invented
  • 1 pack of wraps
  • 1 box of left over takeaway rice
And the method….
  • Preheat the oven as per the instructions on your pork (ours said 200°C)
  • Rub your pork shoulder with a spoon of BBQ sauce and place on the roasting tin surrounded by the onion
  • Cook the meat until it’s cooked as per the instructions (ours took two and a half hours)
  • Remove the pork and break it apart with two forks, it should pull apart really easily
  • Throw the meat back into the roasting tin and add half a bottle or so of the BBQ sauce and give it a good old mix
  • Bung (yes a technical term used by Michel Roux et al) it in the oven for another half an hour until it smells divine
  • Serve in wraps or on top of the rice and enjoy

So tell me have you ever tried making pulled pork and was it a success? Don’t you just want to eat it everyday for the rest of your life?!

This recipe was first published on Cook, Bake and Eat here.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Why did I decide to become a runner?

So last month I stumbled across a brand new link up - all about running. It's being run by Amanda and Beka, so why not jump on to the band  wagon too? Considering I'm in the process of half marathon training - kill me now - I knew I had to get involved as running is such a HUGE part of my life at the moment. So it only seems right to natter away about it on here! Today is the first of the monthly link ups and the topic today is: how and why you started running. Oh and the kicker, for a waffler like me? You've got to use 250 words or less. EEK! So here goes, here is my running story...

On January 10th 2012 I made the decision to change my life. To eat less. To eat better. To exercise more. To be healthier. I don't know why it was that date or why, after so many years of being unhealthy, I decided at the age of 26 that I needed to change my life. But I did. 

Then two weeks later I made the decision to take a step further and download the Couch to 5k app. Thereby becoming a runner. I've always been sporty, I loved playing hockey, netball and rounders but running without a stick or ball? No, that I loathed. And I'm pretty sure that at that time I hadn't run, not even for a bus, for six years. 

I may have found the first few 'runs' absolutely horrendous and wondered how I'd ever enjoy it but I kept going and going and going...and finally something clicked. Now two years, three stone, a 5k, three 10ks and six weeks of a half marathon training plan later I am proud to say I am a runner. 

No matter how fast or far you go you are always doing laps round the sofa surfers - run fat girl run

So what's your running story, I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A weekend in the Peak District (part two)

So today let's jump feet first into day three of my recent long weekend in the Peak District. Last week's post ended with us having eaten copious amounts of food and watching some hilarious films! On our lovely sunshiney Sunday we got up nice and early, for a holiday at least, and headed to the nearby village of Castleton, which is considered to be one of the 'gems' of the Peak District. 

It boasts the famous Peveril Castle which we wanted to see as well as being surrounded by caverns. Lau vetoed the idea of any of the caves, as she's a little scared of them, so instead we settled on a walk around the village, before heading up one of the paths leading from the village. We went for the one that ran below Peveril Castle so that we'd get to see it in all it's glory, and it was quite a site! You can certainly see why they chose to build it where they did, at the top of a very sheer cliff face. It really would have been imposing for the enemy and it's absolutely stunning. 

We made the most of our wellies on our walk and splashed in all the muddy puddles before climbing up a bit of the cliff to perch on the rocks for some lovely picture taking (equal parts of us and equal parts the castle!). It was lovely to just sit and enjoy the quiet of the peaks on such a beautifully sunny winter's day.

After our hunger-inducing walk we hunted down some food. After a lot of indecision and faffing we settled on a cute little cafe which had handmade veggie soup and the best cheese and ham doorstop sandwiches ever - delicious!

We headed back to the flat via Bakewell, one of our favourite Peak District villages, for a wander, more food and hot drinks, before settling in for an American themed evening. It was Superbowl Sunday so we made pulled pork wraps, at copious amounts of m&m's and tried to watch the entire game. We failed and headed to bed at half time, but it was such a fun evening!

Monday was all about the drive home, except for a glorious brunch in Sheffield first. We stopped at the amazing Mud Crab Diner for another American inspired meal and I (finally) chose the breakfast bun which consisted of a sausage patty, crispy bacon, tomato sauce and fried eggs! It was truly the most divine breakfast food I've had for ages and if you're ever near one of these (there are three I think) you MUST go in - it's brilliant and I loved the d├ęcor.

Phew that's it, that's our amazing weekend in the Peaks. I really had the most brilliant time and I love that I'm exploring more of the gems of England after so many years not visiting any of them. I will definitely be heading back to the Peak District in the not too distant future, I just need to decide where...!

Travel Tuesday

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Sunday morning house buying rant - I'm sorry

First off sorry for the upcoming moan, but this is my space for whatever I need it to be and today it needs to be for this rant…

Why is the ‘to move or not to move’ decision so bloody difficult? Why can’t the right answer just be obvious and the perfect flat/house/shed just appear as if by magic? Why can’t estate agents be decent human beings and leave you voice mails, listen to what you’re saying, only show you flats/houses/sheds you can afford and stop ringing you at 2.30 pm when you've expressly said you work until 5.30?

I fear these things are never going to happen or be easy if they ever do come to pass and I know in the grand scheme of things these are good problems to have - I have friends who would give anything to be in the position of selling or buying a flat/house/shed but the reality isn't all that awesome either. It’s the whole not knowing of this buying/selling malarkey that I can’t stand. The fact that I could sell my house and then three weeks later it could all fall through and I’d be back to the beginning again. It’s also the taking a risk on house prices – are they going to keep increasing in London or are they plateauing, when is the right time and am I greedy for holding in a little longer or will karma come round and bite me on my house buying arse?

This is basically what my life is right now, working out the best way and not knowing what will work. It’s really rather stressful and I don’t like it. I know worrying won't help and actually it makes the stress worse but that doesn't mean you can switch it off does it? I just want the decisions to be made and a beautiful new blank canvas of a flat to get decorating and making mine. 

Right rant over. I know I'm lucky I do, in the grand scheme of things this stress and indecision is comparatively nothing to over think. After all I'm not affected by the dreadful floods currently occurring, I'm healthy and happy and I have a brilliant family. I must remember to just breathe, see what happens and trust that everything will be okay.

Please tell me happy things to make me smile and remind me that there is goodness out there and that this house pain will disappear. I need to hear such nice things, please. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

That time I made Kedgeree

Hooray for Thursday - anyone else VERY pleased that the weekend is within reach? Today I'm sharing a recipe that is sure to be a firm fave of mine for years to come. It's the perfect thing for this miserable weather and sure to warm you once you return home looking like a drowned rat!

A month or so ago, whilst curled up on the sofa under my favourite patchwork quilt, I spotted an illustrated recipe for kedgeree in the January issue of Jamie’s magazine. I've never had kedgeree, in fact I can’t even say it properly (it’s ked-j-ree not ked-e-gree – who knew!), but it’s been something I've always wanted to embrace as I just knew I’d love it. I mean rice, egg and fish – what’s not to love?
Anywho after reading just how simple it was I added it to January’s food list and we set about making it and obviously it was a bloody triumph! Not only is it easy-peasy, but it’s also cheap as chips (thanks to discounted fish) and unbelievably tasty. Kedgeree is now on my easy to do and to impress-people-with-list, so I'm going to share the recipe we used.
We didn't follow Jamie’s recipe religiously (as we didn't have all the ingredients) so we just used it as a guide. Annoyingly I can’t find Jamie’s original recipe online, but the one here is very similar if you want to get it straight from the horse’s mouth!
You will need:
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • Two eggs (hard-boiled)
  • Lemon juice
  • 160 g of Smoked herring
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 Fish stock cube
  • Onion
And then follow these super simple instructions…
  1. Make up 340 ml of fish stock
  2. Fry the onions with a little garam masala and oil
  3. Add the stock, a few drops of lemon juice and the rice and simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked
  4. Remove the skin and bones from the fish and chop up and add to the cooked rice mixture
  5. Add the two eggs and mush *technical term* into the mixture
  6. Mix everything together and EAT!
One thing I would say is that it could have been improved by the addition of some veggies. We were feeling lazy and couldn't be bothered to go and buy anything, so just used what was in our cupboards – an onion – but I would definitely add spinach, mushrooms, peppers, etc in the future. Not just for flavour but so that it’s a smidge more filling. Not essential but worth bearing in mind.

Kedgeree was first published on Cook, Bake and Eat.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A weekend in the Peak District (part one)

Happy Tuesday everyone and welcome to another installment of the Travel Tuesday link up with Bonnie and Co. I hope your bags are packed and ready to head off on another adventure? Today we're off for to the wonderful Peak District to relive my recent trip up there with my sisters at the end of January. The three of us decided on a four day weekend adventure to celebrate the end of youngest sisterling's (Bex) university exams. None of us have spent a lot of time in the Peak District and it's not far from where Bex is at university, so we thought it was the perfect time to explore this wonderful part of the UK. so without further ado, here's what we got up to...

We started with a bit of food and a shop in Sheffield on Friday as it's what sisters have to do when they meet up after a couple of months - it's basically the law! Wagamama's, Starbucks and Primark were in order and they were delicious, warming and lacking in purchases respectively! Once we had some sustenance in us we headed to the spa town of Buxton. It was not the nicest car journey mainly due to the fact it was absolutely torrential rain and high winds. Not ideal when one is driving up steep hills and along windy roads.

Thankfully we arrived safely and still in the light and were won over by gorgeous Buxton and our even more wonderful flat for the next three nights. The flat consisted of the most gorgeous kitchen and bathroom, a snuggley living room and two gorgeous bedrooms. The decor was stunning and I loved this little spot in the master bedroom - if I could have gotten away with stealing the chair I would have snuck it back to London!

On our first night there we did the food shop, played multiple board games and nattered constantly. It was complete and utter bliss!

The weather on the Saturday was absolutely dismal (torrential rain, high winds and snow!) so we didn't want to stray too far from the flat, so instead we donned our wellies and strode into Buxton (5 minutes walk) to explore. We discovered the beautiful Cavendish Arcade, which is full of beautiful boutiques and is where the original springs (that makes Buxton famous) were situated. What makes the Cavendish Arcade so beautiful is that a lot of those elements still exist - the beautiful blue titles, the glorious vaulted ceiling of blue and green glass and one of the original chairs for lowering people into the baths. It really is rather wonderful!

After rummaging in numerous charity shops we stopped off for coffee and cake before heading back to the flat, via the famous Buxton Dome. The Dome is a stunning building and the name refers to the magnificent domed ceiling in the University of Derby building - the Dome itself is the largest unsupported Dome in all of Europe! Sadly I only managed to get one rubbish picture of the Dome as there was a university open day going on but it was a truly stunning site!

After a day of exploration we spent yet another evening eating, chatting and game playing - plus the addition of a couple of films. I finally watched Despicable Me 2 and, of course, I adored it. The minions were even more irresistible this time round!

Right I think that's where I'll leave you for today, as otherwise this post will be LONG! Check back next week to find out what we got up to on our final two days in the Peak District, including the wonderful village of Castleton and the most scrumptious brunch!

Travel Tuesday