Thursday, 29 May 2014

House progress and dreaming

So after a fair few months of complaining and woe is me posts, it feels like we're finally making progress on this house buying malarkey! In the last week alone we've got our mortgage agreement in principle, got our house on the market and seen a few really interesting houses. In fact we're seeing a couple of houses again tonight just to double check we do love them as much as we originally thought! So I feel like the dream of moving and a new home is finally attainable and we're no longer running uphill through knee-deep mud. I think I like this new feeling. 

Now I know that there are still no guarantees and the rest of the journey could still be painful but at least the first few hurdles have been jumped and progress is being made. And now that I know what we can afford and that there are actual houses I like available within our budget, I can start the fun part: the imaginary decoration of the currently non-existent house. Hooray! I've been manically pinning onto our joint Ideas for the new house board on Pinterest over the last few days - as has Lau, so I thought I'd share some of my current thoughts. Although obviously these are all dependent on what we end up moving into!

I want a trunk like this in our new living room to use as a coffee table.

I love the idea of a simple round table and old school chairs with a splash of colour on the legs in a dining room.

Chevron and wood stairs are simply genius and what I want to do if we have stairs for the first time in five years!

This is such a perfect room - squishy sofas, loads of cushions and a beautiful trunk. I want it all.

Bright colours and interesting shaped furniture is most definitely a must in our new house.

If we have a spare room, which we're hoping to, it'll only be a box room, so the idea of a day bed really appeals. Just think of all the cushions we could add to it!

{I found all this images on Pinterest but where possible I've tried to find the original source for each}

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The cushion cover unveiling...

So here it is, the great unveiling of the first project I've completed on my lovely new purple sewing machine. Drumroll please….

(Please excuse the dreadful picture, it's the only one I took before giving it as a present and I had no idea it was that insipid of fuzzy. Talk about a blogger picture fail).

This is the initial cushion that I made for lovely baby Bella a couple of weeks ago and thankfully she loved it – I mean she sort of smiled so she has to have loved it, yes? I mean babies of only a few months old smile if they like things, right? As you can see I went a bit crazy on the patterns but I like it and babies like bright colours so I figure it works.

Amazingly this cushion was super easy to make, not what I imagined when I decided to use different fabrics, but hooray that it was super simple. I didn’t really take pictures as I went along and my process wasn’t the most logical or perhaps sensible so I won’t share a step-by-step tutorial. I thought instead that I’d share my learnings with you, so here goes…

  • I should have measured out my fabric precisely and ensured the fit was perfect. Instead I lay the cushion filler on the floor, wrapped the fabric around it and hoped for the best. There was most certainly a LOT of finger crossing!
  • I should have added the ‘B’ detail before stitching up the cushion case to ensure that I didn’t have to struggle with manhandling the sewn up cover on to the machine. Oops.
  • I should have sewn the material together when it was inside out. Cue lots of unsightly bits of thread.
  • I should have measured my ribbon ties a bit better. They don’t sit in exactly the same place and the ties are a tiny tad too short.
  • I should not have left it to a Friday night to finish, especially when I was getting on the train at 10.30am. What if it had gone wrong?
  • I should have ironed the material before I started and the cover after I started.

 Here’s hoping you don’t make the same mistakes that I did in your future cushion cover projects and fingers crossed I learn from the above mistakes! One good thing to come out of this project (other than the cushion itself) is that I’ve decided to invest in a cutting board, a metal ruler and a rotary cutter. This should rectify a couple of my mistakes and at least give me the tools I need to be a more precise sewer. Presumably that will make me more inclined to not just hope it works…and to actually think about measuring properly and each step! Who knows if this will work?, but I’ll keep you updated!

But to be honest I still love the cushion, it looks fab and I’m never going to be a ‘perfect’ crafter so why sweat the above small things. It worked out in the end after all!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The story of one running picture

So here is one of my favourite pictures of me running. 

I'm sharing it today as part of the monthly runners tell all link up with Amanda and Beka. Yes I would agree it's not the best picture of me, I'm sweaty and my eyes are half closed, but I love it because you can tell I'm really enjoying myself at that one moment in time. 

This was taken at about mile 9 of my one (and only, so far) half marathon and I was amazingly having a ball. I never realised I would enjoy a half marathon as much as I did. I thought it would be horrendous for the entire run, but amazingly I'm still smiling at this point of the race. Yes I may have hated parts of the race - mile 11 I'm looking at you - but I think the fact that I didn't ask too much of myself other than ENJOY IT, really helped. Yes I would have liked to have run the entire race, but I'm not going to let that take away from what I did achieve on that day:

* I became a half marathon runner
* I completed the race in 2 hours and 23 minutes, within the 2 hours 30 minutes I was aiming for
* I didn't expire like so many others on such a hot day
* I had a blast, so much so that I've already signed up for next years race!

So what about you, which is your greatest running picture and why?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Top tips for exploring Amsterdam

Okay I admit it, I'm in absolute love with Amsterdam, that city is wonderful. It's stunningly beautiful - even in torrential rain - the food is delicious, the public transport is easy to use, it's the perfect size for exploring on a weekend and it's jam-packed with cultural bits and bobs. I'm just astounded that it's taken me 29 years to discover this, just think of all the fun trips I've missed - I could have visited ten times and not just once. Epic mistake on my part!

For this post about my trip I thought I'd natter about the useful things I learnt about the city and things to be aware of if you're headed there for the first time. So I hope you find these tips useful. If you've been to Amsterdam let me know if I've missed anything.

I would strongly suggest you invest in an IAmsterdam card. You can get one that last 24, 48 or 72 hours and they are invaluable for anyone visiting the city. Not only does it cover all the trams, buses and tubes during that time it also gives you free entry to a number of attractions and money off at certain shops and restaurants. We definitely got our money's worth whilst we were there and we visited more places as a result of it. We used it at the Pancake House, Rembrandt's House, a canal cruise, the Van Gogh Museum (to get speedy entry) and so much more. 

If you're flying then getting from the airport to the city couldn't be easier. The airport and station are all the same building and it's only 4 Euros for a single to the city. I can't think of any city where it's that cheap - can you?

Really helpfully there are luggage lockers at the station which cost 7 euros (for a massive one) for the entire day. We were able to fit three wheelie suitcases (hand baggage) sized into one and it meant we could get exploring the city straight away.

If you're planning a visit to Anne Frank House, which you must as it's fascinating, make sure you book it about a month in advance. As there is always a queue there. We didn't as we didn't realise it was necessary and ended up queuing for 90 minutes on a Saturday night and that was at 6.30pm. If we'd queued up earlier in the day it would have been much shorter. But hey you live and learn!

Stay out near Vondelpark rather than in the centre of the city. This is what we did and not only was it much cheaper, it was also so quiet and really made you feel like you were living like a proper Amsteram person. Also we were able to walk to key touristy places like the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum.

Beware of cyclists. They definitely rule the roads in Amsterdam. Whilst it's great that the city is so prepared for bikes it's to the detriment of pedestrians, so just beware!

As per usual I'm linking up with Bonnie and the other bloggers in the Travel Tuesday link up, so make sure you check out all those brilliant posts too!

Travel Tuesday

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A cake of epic amounts of light and fluffiness

For Mother’s Day (yes the UK Mother’s Day that was two months ago. Slack? Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about) the sisterlings and I decided to spoil our lovely Mumbles/Mumbelita/The Mothership with homemade cake. After all she’s the one responsible for us all being super keen bakers thanks to years of us all baking together. Plus I happen to think a homemade cake equals love. So it really was the only option.

When it came to choosing the cake to make I confess it was a little tricky, after all The Mothership makes the best EVER Victoria sponge and chocolate cake – her two favourites and there is no way that we could beat them. But we still wanted to make something truly scrumptious for her, otherwise she’d think we don’t love her to the moon and back as, bad cake equals a lack of love! After racking our brains I remembered that I’d once baked a lemon, lime and poppyseed cake from one of my numerous recipe books and I thought she’d love it. She’s a big fan of lemon drizzle cake and this cake has the citrusy, freshness of a lemon drizzle whilst at the same time it’s just that little bit more interesting.

So that’s what we made and thankfully, after a little bit of trepidation: ‘oh well it sounds interesting, as long as you all like it. I can always have ginger biscuits’ (wow thanks Mum reassuring!) she loved it and even went back for seconds. Phew and now she knows we love her thanks to the medium of cake. Job done.

As for the recipe it’s based on a recipe by Lorraine Pascal and comes from Fast, Fresh and Easy. We kept to the recipe as when you have a superbly moist and scrumptious cake, why make any amends? If you fancy making it yourself here's the recipe and all the ingredients.

  • 125g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lemon (finely grated)
  • 1 lime (finely grated)
  • 4 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 50g icing sugar
  1. Grease a loaf tin with butter and parchment paper
  2. Whisk butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add the vanilla essence and eggs and beat into the butter and icing mixture
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, lemon and lime and mix
  5. Stir the poppy seeds in to the cake mixture
  6. Pour into the cake tin and pop in the oven.
  7. Bake on 180⁰C for 30 minutes
  8. Meanwhile make the icing by mixing a tbsp of lemon juice with the icing sugar until it’s a runny drizzly consistency. (ps. make sure you sift the icing sugar - very important or you’ll get lumps…)
  9. Once the cake has cooled pour the icing mixture over the cake and EAT!
Let me know if you give the cake a try, it's the perfect one for spring and summer as it's so light and fresh - enjoy! 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A little life lately update

It feels like a lifetime ago that I sat down to write on this little patch of the internet. It seems very weird to have not popped by for so long when I normally check it on this little corner of the internet every day or so! My little break was not by choice I promise you, as I really enjoy sharing little titbits of my life here. It was enforced after being struck with a stomach bug last Monday and not being in action again until Thursday (it wasn't pretty…). Then super early on Friday I ran away to Amsterdam for the weekend. So you could say it was the very bad followed by the very good! 

Anyway I'm now back into the flow of things so I thought the perfect thing would be to do a bit of a life update. I hope you guys are up for that? So here’s what I've been doing lately – I promise not to share any graphic illness details with you!

Eating. Not much for three days apart from toasted bagels. Rock and roll. Post illness I seem to be eating all the things: chips with every meal, pringles, Easter egg (yes I have some left – how?!), crazy types of Milka, pancakes and the best bagel breakfast in Amsterdam (it included chocolate sprinkles - epic!). Amsterdam clearly do the best pancakes. Fact.

Listening to. I've rediscovered the Once soundtrack and Emile Sande and I've been alternating between the two. I guarantee it’s the perfect commuting playlist, you should really get on that.

Watching. Sherlock series 1 and 2 on Netflix. Who would have guessed it was the perfect accompaniment for two days of non-movement on the sofa. It was just what was needed. So was my mini Disney marathon of Rapunzel and The Princess and the Frog. You've gotta love Disney! On the non-TV front I headed to the National Theatre last night to see A Small Family Business. You all MUST see it, it’s hilarious!

Not enjoying. Illness obviously. And then returning to the office after two days to 177 emails. I'm not even exaggerating. What the actual what. Oh yeah and then this morning we have a potential leak coming through our bathroom from upstairs. Hooray to that.

Reading. Lots of awesome blog posts like Belinda’s natterings about when the definition of home changed for herthrifty holiday tips from A Thrifty Mrs and Lau's newly established quote post. And of course some brilliant food posts. Can someone please make me this vegetarian spicy lentil thing, some brown  butter melting moments and a chickpea and haloumi salad? Thanks.

Loving. Amsterdam. Hands down the best weekend away I've had for ages. The city is stunning. Even in torrential rain – yeah – and with the after effects of illness. I cannot stop gushing about how much I adore it. I also received some more lovely birthday presents and Bella cuddles recently. I have the bestest friends!

What about you, what's been occurring in your life recently - spill the beans. A very nosey me NEEDS to know!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The week when I bought all of the things

Yes so my willpower has been rubbish recently, had you guessed that from the title of this post? I don't know what's wrong with me I just can't seem to keep my credit card in my purse when it comes to pretty things. And when I say pretty things what I  really mean is clothes. And if I'm honest it's mainly all about the clothes in Gap.

I seem to have suddenly become obsessed with all of the things there and so have decided to buy it all! It helps that there have been various sales and offers on (3 for 2 on t shirts online and 30% off EVERYHING in store) over the last week - seriously why would they do this too me?! It's like they know my willpower has deserted me. It's really rather rude of them. you wanna see what I bought? Shall we have a bit of a show and tell, what do you think? Okay then you've twisted my arm, here goes!

So there we go, what do you think of my new spring/summer wardrobe? A little bit awesome, yes? I'm going to try not to buy more clothes for at least the next month, but who knows how that will go! Have you guys been up to any shopping trips recently, any awesome finds to share with me?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The joys of public transport as a tourist

I was pondering what to write for today's Travel Tuesday post when it suddenly came to me in a flash of inspiration. Why not share one of my top travel tips? So here goes... 

It's not really an eye opener, I'm sure most people would agree with me on this but my I honestly maintain that this is the very best plan for exploring a city and here's why:

You get to see huge parts of a new city without ending up with blisters or hobbling for the rest of your holiday. Don't get me wrong I love walking round a city but sometimes that's not the best idea when it's so massive, is it?

You can get the perfect pictures of key touristy spots without people getting in your way. If you're in London make sure you take the 87 bus. If you do you'll spot The Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, The Cenotaph, Whitehall, Westminster Abbey, MI6, Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column and The Tate all on one bus journey. Pretty awesome yes?

You can escape the dawdling crowds on the pavements. Let's be honest we all hate the super slow people don't we? Most especially when we're trying to see everything a city has to offer in just three days!

You can work out how all the different areas fit together not like when you're on the tube or subway. When you're on the top deck of a bus you can see how the city works

You can sit and natter with friends as you see a beautiful city - multitasking is always brilliant! 

You can get pictures of brilliant landmarks without their security guards or gates getting in your way.

You can see a city from a new perspective. For example if you take a Thameslink ferry up the Thames you can see so much of London in one go - The Gherkin, The Shard, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Eye, The Southbank and so much more. It's so much better than just sticking to the pavements.

Public transport has been a lifesaver in past trips to Edinburgh, Paris, New York and Dublin, and not to mention it's how I've seen the majority of London. What's your top travel tip?

Travel Tuesday

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Five enjoyable books from April

Hi guys, how are you? I hope you're enjoying this lovely sunny bank holiday weekend? Hasn't it been glorious? So far I've had a lovely dinner at Bobbins, a day shopping and lunching with friends and the adorable little baby Bella (Bella cuddles are my new favourite) and then a day of fun in Hyde Park with family. Plus there's still a WHOLE day to go - awesome indeed! Anywho back to this post of bookiness, sorry sorry sorry for the delay - I can never seem to post this book posts in the relevant month, lord knows why that is but I do apologise! I had a good bookish month in April, helped by the long weekends and my week in the sun, let's hope it continues (although the fact that I'm only 11% through my most recent book doesn't bode well...). So let's see what wonders got me through the month of April:

This book was more than I imagined it would be when I started. I assumed it was a light easy read and instead I found myself reading about BIG topics. You know life, death and more specifically what makes a good death. Because of the unexpectedness of these big topics, it took me a while to get into this book but thankfully before long I was zooming through the pages. I found I really enjoyed the voice of Alex and the friendship he cultivates with Mr Peterson. The relationship they form and the moral dilemma they face together really had me thinking about my beliefs about this moral dilemma. And I'm glad it got me thinking in this way. This book is definitely worth a read.

I finally read book two in the astonishingly good Game of Thrones series and it was so good. I now get why everyone who reads it loves it. I would definitely agree that the books are better than the TV show as they are packed with far far more action and shenanigans. And reading the books really helped me to finally remember all the names (something I fail at with the TV show)! I obviously knew a lot about what would happen in this book as it's already happened on the show, however I was surprised about the fact that things don't run concurrently as you'd imagine from the show. So there was stuff I was reading that's only just appeared in the book - really weird if you ask me! But good for someone reading the books after seeing the show. Also I'm still not a Danearys fan. Sorry, I just find that whole side of the show super boring!

I love the Women's Murder Club series and the eleventh in the series did not disappoint - it was brilliant! This series is so easy to read and requires very little brain power, just what I need sometimes! Even though it was a super easy read the book was still a twisting and turning page turner as one would expect from a James Patterson novel. So if you love crime books, this one's for you.

Have you read Jenny Han's original series The Summer I Turned Pretty? If not you have to try it, it's such a brilliant summery read that I can't recommend enough (even if I'm still to read the final book - I just need more hours in the day!). And this new book is no different - it really is lovely. It follows the story of Lara Jean who writes secret letters to the boys she's loved. The boys in question have no idea that she had feelings for them, so when the letters get posted without Lara Jean knowing it's not the ideal scenario - as you can imagine! Jenny Han's writing really took me back to when I was a teenager and I totally felt every bit of pain, embarrassment and happiness that Lara Jean did in the story and I couldn't help but route for her. 

Hooray I've finally read the last book in Maggie's brilliant trilogy and it was excellent. My favourite wolf related trilogy by far! These books are so easy to read and the stories are not exactly as you'd imagine them so you are left guessing right to the end. In a way I enjoyed that this book focused more on Isabel and Sam than on Grace although it was good that Grace finally got to be in wolf form. It would have been a shame to get through the series without her experiencing life as a wolf!

So, what about you? What books have you been reading over the last month, any recommendations?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

April in pictures (and a fair few words)!

Welcome to May everyone, where has the time gone?! I'm so excited for May as it means a trip to Amsterdam, visits to lovely friends and much merriment around London. Not to mention (hopefully) brilliant weather and TWO bank holidays. Oh I do love a bank holiday (don't ask me how I'll cope without any until August once May disappears)!

Before I launch myself into May with abandon it's time to reflect on the last month of madness. April really was an epic month for me and I LOVED every minute of it. Not only did I celebrate my 29th (eek) birthday but I also headed to sunnier climbs with a trip to Portugal. Plus I got to spend a couple of weekends back at the parentals for family time and countryside fun. And then there was that thing called Easter and all of the chocolate I could ever dream of. It really was a fairly epic month! So let's dive into my mini recap...


Haribo treats / new bedding / birthday flowers

Treating myself to a night of movies and Haribo, a winning combination. I also welcomed spring in with beautiful bedding, don't you just love the yellow and white combo. I swear I'm not really a yellow fan normally, but this bedding has potentially converted me... As it was my birthday, did I mention that? I was treated to some beautiful purple tulips - so pretty and just what was needed when I returned to work post holiday!

Big Ben / A Southbank mural / The London Eye 

As the weather got nicer I was able to spend more time in London town enjoying the sites. I've been waxing lyrical about the joys of living in London recently and these three pictures sum up why it's so awesome to be a Londoner. I love wandering round the Southbank and happening across awesome things like this black and white mural or The Eye from an odd perspective and touring the Houses of Parliament was one of my highlights of the year so far!


Portugese: sunsets / sunbathing / flowers

I always enjoy my trips to Portugal and consider myself very lucky to be able to visit so often and feel so at home there. This trip was no different and I had a brilliant time touring Tavira, sunbathing, catching up with family and friends, practising my Bananagram skills and just generally relaxing.



Coffee / chevron sewing fun / bowling / iced treats

The other things making my heart sing and keeping me grinning from ear to ear in April were the above. I love nothing more than coffee (hot or cold) and it really is ridiculous how a cup makes me so happy! On top of that I've been getting my sew on with my new sewing machine - how brilliant is this chevron pattern. I want to make all of the things with it! Finally I went bowling for the first time in about three years the other week and it was totally awesome, I really must go more often (and not just for the arty farty Instagram shots!). 

What about you, what have you been up to and how did April treat you? I hope it was kind to you.