Monday, 21 May 2018

Baking Lately

My new (well not entirely new) favourite thing is to bake. I love trying new things, and baking things other than standard cupcakes or lemon drizzle cakes gets me really excited. I have been looking through so many recipe blogs and websites looking for things to try, as well as finding inspiration from The Great British Bakeoff which I watch pretty much every morning whilst I am getting ready for work. My favourite thing that I have tried so far is definitely macarons, but I have made some pretty tasty things in the last few weeks.

Something I made last weekend was a carrot cake. I wasn't actually sure I had ever had carrot cake before, but I bought too many carrots in my weekly shop and thought I should use them up - and of course vegetables taste a lot better in cake.

I used this recipe from BBC Good Food - it is actually for a loaf, but I decided to go for a round cake - which I topped with a cream cheese icing. The icing on the recipe was actually way too much, so I froze some in the hope to use it again for the next carrot cake I make (hopefully it will defrost okay!). Because of using oil instead of a lot of butter (something I also had never tried), it took an age to cook, but came out so so moist, and stayed soft for a few days in the fridge which is an absolute winner.

Because I used Sainsbury's basic soft cheese, the icing wasn't as thick as expected, but it tasted great all the same. I used a tip from Cupcake Jemma for the topping as I didn't have any decoration. I evened the top of the cake with a knife and crushed up what I had just cut off to put on top for a little added something. Voila. I can now say I am a definite fan of carrot cake.

Yesterday, I tried out a Babka for the first time too. Again, I hadn't tasted it before, but what I could gather was that it would be a brioche like consistency. I used this recipe from Good Housekeeping, but replaced the filling with Nutella. I am keen to make more bread, so making this sweet dough was a little different from normal white bread I had made before, but I was so happy with how it came out. The bread is soft, but I don't think I put enough chocoalte spread in to be honest, either that or it has all cooked away. Nevertheless, it tastes great with a cup of tea, or a scoop of ice cream which will last my housemates and I quite a while.

What should I try next?

Carrot Cake Recipe: BBC Good Food

Chocolate Babka Recipe: Good Housekeeping 


Monday, 30 April 2018

10 Lovely Things Last Week

> Picking up a £11 Kanken rucksack (pretty sure it's fake, but I absolutely love it) that will be perfect for the summer.

> Seeing ENO's Chess - a musical I have loved for so long but have never seen live. It was amazing and I shared the experience with two of my favourite people.

> Treating myself to a new Penguin English Library book - reading the classics is so much nicer when it has a beautiful cover.

> Receiving a bursary to attend a conference that will be amazing for my career. I definitely didn't expect to get it and when I got the e-mail, I couldn't stop smiling. Role on July.

> My sourdough starter being ready and my first attempt at making a sourdough loaf was a small success. It was a little flatter than hoped, but it tasted so good. I will definitely not be buying bread ever again.

> Doing more social things with work colleagues -  Last week we had Friday night drinks and this Friday we went to a pub quiz after work, but we came 4th out of 5 teams.

> Hitting my 5 a day of fruit and veg most days last week - it's the little things.

> Going for a run with my housemates - sometimes it is better to do things with other people.

> The weather last week - it was hot enough to go to the beach in a t-shirt last Saturday and I went with a friend I didn't know hugely well. We ate fish and chips, talked for hours and finished off getting ice cream and playing table football in a cafe garden.

> Moving to a temporary open plan office for the week and having a giggle at work.


Saturday, 28 April 2018

Shit Happens... let's play a game about it

I love moaning about adult life, and when I'm not moaning about adult life, I do love a night in with a few drinks playing a board game. Now, I do enjoy a good game of Cards Against Humanity, especially with a few drinks involved with my house mates, or even my family, so when I was asked to try this new game, Shit Happens, I was instantly intrigued.

The game has 200 cards, or Shitty Situation Cards which each has an event that could happen. They rank from something minor like stepping on lego or your mum complaining about her sex life, to more problematic scenarios like learning your partner is your first cousin and being buried alive.

They are apparently ranked by a panel of 'qualified grown ups'. I can't say I agree with all of the rankings, personally I think losing my laptop or a partner screaming an ex's name during sex would be disastrous, but that's kind of the fun of it too.

To start the game, you pick three cards randomly to start off your 'Lane Of Pain' in numerical order. One player picks up a card, reads the shitty situation and the player to your right has to guess where the card will go in their lane of pain lineup. Guess it right you win the card, guess it wrong and it goes to the next person and so on. If you win a card, you add it to your line up and the game ends when someone gets 10 cards in their lineup.

It actually took us a while for anyone to win any cards as some cards were surprising with their scoring, but maybe I am not a totally qualified adult like the ones who picked the ratings! The game got a lot harder with the more cards you win, as trying to predict where they would come up in your lineup was difficult when some ratings were so close together. We did actually have quite a giggle with some of the scenarios which were totally bonkers.

This is a fun idea for a game, and a great starter to a pre drinks (or a night in like us!) in a house share or university halls. If you're looking for a new card game to add to your growing stash, this is a good one to try, and you can realise, or reaffirm, how shitty adult life is at the same time.

Thank you Cheatwell games for providing me with the game to play and try out - you can buy the game here.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Improve Your Meal Plan Game

If anything makes me feel adult, it's making a meal plan, and actually sticking to it. I love that I can come in from work and know exactly what I am going to eat, and usually put it in the microwave to heat up. It means no food wastage, I'm spending less money in my weekly shop, and I know that I am getting some pretty good healthy meals. I have also started eating veggie which is a total game changer and makes me cook more things from scratch rather than reaching for a jar of sauce.

1. Plan ahead and research
Spend Friday night researching and planning for the week - obviously unless you have a much ore active social life than I do. I usually head over to Pinterest, BBC Good Food, or browse some supermarket websites (thrilling Friday night activities, I know), to think of inspiration and what kind of products are out there. Factor in cooking time, whether you'll make it in advance and freeze, or cook when you get in from work. A lot of the things I have are made in advance and frozen.

2. Write a shopping list and stick to it!
After planning lunch and dinners for each day, I write a shopping list and head off to Lidl early on a Saturday morning. I try to stick to it as much as I can, grabbing the occasional things if they are on offer, but I try and stick as much as I can to my list.

3. Make batches in advance
Especially if your meals include a lot of vegetables and to stop them from going off very quickly, I will make my meals in advance, probably on the Sunday afternoon or evening. Therefore, the vegetables won't go to waste before you get to use them, plus all you have to do when it's done is freeze it in freezer bags or pots, and put in the fridge before you go to work.

4. Have a few easy good recipes up your sleeve and basic ingredients in your cupboard
Know how to make recipes like a simple carbonara, a jacket potato or sweet potato fries. You can slot these into your week so you don't end up eating the same thing every night. I also make sure I always have chopped tomatoes or pasatta, oil, garlic (I use lazy garlic), pasta, pesto, and more recently, chickpeas in my cupboard.

My Go To Make Ahead And Freeze Meals
- Vegetable fajitas 
- Vegetable curry
- Enchiladas
- Chilli Con Carne

Go out and smash that adulting.


Monday, 9 April 2018

The Graduate Diaries | Two Years On...

Maybe I should start calling The Graduate Diaries, The Adulting Diaries, but I still feel like I am trying to navigate life after university, even though it has almost been two years.

This stage of life is very strange, and no one really prepares you for it at all. There are some friends who are moving in with their boyfriends / girlfriends, some married, some pregnant, some still in university, some in amazing jobs and some who are still struggling two years on to find something permanent.

I have to remember that everyone has different timelines and everyone wants different things. There is no one size fits all for life after university. Not only are you adjusting to moving back home, or moving somewhere completely new, you're losing the safety university life. For me, adapting to the working world, was a massive step and is much harder than it is given credit for.

The last seven months in my second job have been an eye opening experience. I've had to grow up, take risks and speak up more than I have ever had to do before. I'm given real responsibility and have to bear the consequences if things go wrong. I have to balance working professional relationships, personal relationships whilst trying to eat healthily, fit in some form of exercise (because that's what adults seem to be able to do) and resist the urge to buy homeware I definitely don't need. So things could be a lot worse, I don't have a romantic relationship, a family or kids to have to think about, but even then, the thing with different time lines is that I see other people achieving different things.

Now, let's move onto social media in this life post-university. During university, posting selfies, pre-drink poses and club photos was seen as the done thing, to show everyone what an amazing time you are having. You don't post about all the times you were in the library, stressing over an essay or dissertation. I feel that with a lot of my friends, and even my self, you have to show yourself in working life that you can have it all, a relationship, friendships, eat healthily and have a job. Bonus points if your job is something really exciting. It's like we're all trying to prove that we can do it and function. It isn't until you see those people in real life where you realise that things aren't all as they seem. They're having problems living at home, they hate their job or they just broke up with someone and not taking it well.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, but talking to a lot of my friends who are graduating this summer and friends who I haven't seen for a long time, that there is no one way to navigate life after university. It's hard, you'll feel lonely, you'll feel like you're falling behind whilst simultaneously feeling ahead.  You'll sometimes crumble under the pressure of adult life and adult responsibilities, but you'll also thrive and grow more as a person. Start focusing on yourself - self care is so important in whichever way you find best, surround yourself with supportive people, but come out of your comfort zone every once in a while. Everyone's still learning. We can do it.


Thursday, 5 April 2018

8 Happy Things This Week

I love reading posts like this. It always makes me feel happy seeing other people's good things that have happened to them lately. So here are some of mine - it really has been a brilliant Easter weekend.

1. Catching Up With Old Friends

For the long Easter weekend, I went to see some friends from university who I hadn't seen since I graduated a year and a half ago. It was such a lovely weekend filled with singing, laughing, walking and cooking. It was utterly perfect.

2. Hamilton Lottery

To top off my awesome Easter weekend, I won the Hamilton lottery on the app for Easter Monday. If you win, you have the chance to buy up to two tickets for £10 each. I jumped at the chance having already seen it in January (review here) and took a work colleague who really wanted to see it but couldn't get tickets. We ended up sitting in the front row which was incredible. I laughed and cried all over again and got the chance to see some of the alternate cast members (who were insane). It was the perfect weekend and I feel very very lucky to have seen Hamilton twice!

3. Baking Macarons

My latest baking attempt has been macarons. It has taken a few tries, but I think I have now figured out how to get them with feet - the crinkly bit around the bottom - and with flat tops. Watch this space for recipe and tips.

4. Work

Work is finally getting busy, I actually came home and caught up with some things which is so unlike me. I am also feeling crazy inspired at the moment having met some great people in the industry and generally getting excited for the future.

5. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

This book is something I wasn't expecting to like so much. The character and story was not hugely relate able and I didn't really like Eleanor as a character at the beginning, but the story was so cleverly written, covering aspects of living alone, navigating work and relationships, mental health and childhood. Definitely check it out if you fancy something a little different.

6. Light Evenings

Thank goodness Winter is over and Spring is here (well, except with the amount of rain we are having at the moment!). Light evenings make me want to be a lot more productive, which will hopefully mean I will start doing productive things - well, a girl can dream.

7. Netflix Binging

I am currently watching A Series Of Unfortunate Events, Ru Paul's Drag Race and of course, my favourite show, The Great British Bake Off - and I'm going to join in with all the internet by saying, how strange is the first series! I have actually been following Ed Kimble, who won the series, on Instagram for ages and din't realise he won the Bake-Off (sorry Ed), I clearly wasn't a huge fan of the show back when it started. It however is giving me a lot of inspiration for my next baking project, which I think is going to be bread.

8. 4 Day Working Weeks

Two in a row... fantastic.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Books I've Read In March

With my aim to read 20 books in 2018, I slacked in February and turned my hand to listening to podcasts. But with the recent realisation that my local Oxfam Bookshop is actually great (nothing can beat the one in Leamington Spa which had so many new books in every time I went in), I have been reading quite a few this month. 

I bought Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty to fill up an Amazon order - because I can't afford that Amazon Prime life, but I am willing to spend £20 a time to get free delivery... Anyway, I didn't know much about it as a story, but I heard about the TV show. This was different than some of the other  chick lit books I usually find myself reading - not usually on purpose but because I don't know what else to try. It's a really good read, with flawed, but great characters and a gritty story. 

Back to chick lit, I picked up My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. I actually read this in only three sittings which is so unlike me, partly because I thought the story was good, but also because my house mate was keeping me up by being loud in the kitchen, but I digress. Without sounding like a cliche, this book was really relatable as Katie (or Cat as she tries to reinvent herself when she moves from Sommerset to London), who wants to live the perfect London life, is working in a low paid job and spending all of her wages on rent. I always used to think that having a job in London was the dream, but now, I'm not so sure. The stories flirts some romance, which was actually my least favourite part of the story, but it shows that not everyone's life is how it appears on social media, which is a good message to shout about. 

Wonder by R.J Palacio is also an Oxfam Bookshop find. Having seen the trailer for the film that has come out, I grabbed the book. It tells the story of August - a young boy with facial deformities - go to school for the first time. August is pretty inspiring as a character as he makes jokes and doesn't always feel sorry for himself. The friendships he finds are also lovely to read, realising that there are good people in the world. The book also had chapters from other members of his family and children at the school who Auggie does, or doesn't, make friends with. It was a very lovely read.

I have just started The Keeper Of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan and looking for the next few books to get going on, especially as I have a 3 hour train journey to see Friends on Easter weekend.

Are there any books you would recommend?


Monday, 12 March 2018

Two Ingredient Flatbread

I have actually been doing pretty good this year with making more food from scratch. I am also trying to eat less meat, especially on the weekdays (I think my nan would have a freak out if I turned up to Sunday roast declaring I was vegetarian). My friend sent me this Buzzfeed article about two ingredient bagels and I was instantly intrigued. I then saw that it could also be used for flatbread and decided to give it a try.

You literally need equal amounts of Greek yogurt and Self raising flour, and that's it (although I found I needed to add a little more flour to make it dough like). Knead it together and roll out on a flowered surface. I then used a pastry brush to put oil on the outside and fried them until they looked like tortilla wraps.

I used 100g of each to make two flatbreads, and you know what, they didn't turn out too bad at all. I could have added a bit of seasoning into the dough as they were a little bland. But as an alternative to pitta, smothered in hummus, or to eat with a curry instead of naan bread, these will be perfect. My friend also said she has used it as a pizza base.

I recommend getting them quite thin as they can become brown on the outside and not cooked on the inside if they are too thick.

On this occasion, I made a tuna and greek yogurt salad to eat with them, and it was pretty yummy. Obviously they take longer than grabbing bread from the packet, but it made me feel pretty good that I knew exactly what I was eating, and at the weekend, it was quite nice to try something a bit different.

Do you think you'll try this?

Saturday, 3 March 2018

This Week (03/03/18)

It has currently just starting raining. Goodbye snow and ice (hopefully!). After 5 days of icey, snowy weather, I hate to say it, but I'm pretty glad that the end is in sight. Maybe I'm just bitter than I live in walking distance to work, so no snow days or working from home for me. I made the half an hour walk every morning and evening in my chocolate pattern wellies trying not to slip over.

It has been a magical week though. I've secretly loved the office being quiet. It's done wonders for my confidence. I had to run an event alone and generally making more decisions as other people aren't around. Plus, no one could judge me for the amount of tea I was drinking, or that I devoured two tubs of M&S double chocolate mini rolls. 

I love that snow can make anything look beautiful. I did however not make it to my mum's on Friday night as I didn't want to risk driving, and missed a theatre show with my friends. But that's life isn't it. Instead, my housemates and I had tons of mexican food and drank beer that we stuck in the snow. So not all bad.
I've loved seeing everyone's beautiful snow pictures too, so here are a few of mine. Not perfect, but a nice memory. Who knows when we'll see snow like this again.

Here are also a few things I have been doing this week:
  • I'm currently reading Big Little Lies - I haven't seen the TV program yet, but I am really enjoying the book so far. 
  • I'm watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend and I must stop humming and singing the songs in public. 
  • I've been listening to a lot of Dua Lipa - a quiet office means blasting music during the day.
  • I watched the tour of The Sound Of Music that was at work this week and it was beautiful. I cried, I laughed and remembered why I loved it so much. I am very lucky to be able to work in an industry that I loved, and this week reminded me of that.
  • I'm very grateful for great housemates who I enjoy hanging out with - maybe my expectations of FRIENDS isn't too different from real life. 


Sunday, 25 February 2018

4 Podcasts I Have Listened To In February

Podcasts have definitely replaced reading this month. After feeling uninspired with my walk to work playlist, I decided to get back into podcasts, and I turn up to work feeling so inspired every time. I love the idea of women, talking about things that concern them, having interesting conversations, and realising that you can't all agree on everything.

There are also some brilliant ones out there for blogging and generally business and careers. Working in a creative industry, I feel so inspired by super creative people talking about their experiences. Here are a few I have been listening to this month:

1. The Fringe Of It

Hosted by Liv Purvis and Charlotte Jacklin, they're on podcast chemistry is so great, it's like listening to two friends having a lovely conversation over a cup of tea, nattering about what TV they are watching and what they have bought recently. I think I also loved it so much because the first episode was all about Friendship and being lonely as an adult, ideas of what to do and how to get out there. Of course, this is highly relevant to my life right now. The second episode was equally as good and I can't wait for more!

2. Blogtacular

This one is more career focused, not only to bloggers but also for people in creative industries. Hosted by Kat Molesworth, the podcast covers things from branding, creativity, careers and interviews with bloggers. This is the perfect podcast if you're feeling uninspired creatively and to hear about the amazing things that people are doing and achieving. The most recent episode I listened to was one about GDPR which was so helpful and useful, especially in my job as I work with customer data on a regular basis.

3. Get It Off Your Breasts

I have been a fan of Emma Gannon's for a while - I love her writing style and her own podcast Ctrl Alt Delete. Co-hosted by Lliana Bird, the first series of this podcast has amazing interviews with brilliant women about issues that are 'on their breasts' with topics relevant in the media, online and general feminism. I can't wait for the next series, that is apparently coming soon! I loved the episode with Konnie Huq, talking parenthood, millennials and sleep(!). It felt like a proper conversation, with each having their own views and experiences which made it very interesting listening.

4. Courage Makers

I have listened to a few of these episodes and it is so positive and inspiring. Hosted by Meg Kissack, I've also been exploring her site thathummingbirdlife which is also equally as positivity filled. The latest one I listened to was with Amy Parker where they talked about her word of the year, 'Joy', and documenting your life. It was just wonderful to listen to, and Meg seems equally as lovely and gave me a lovely tweet back when I let her know how much I loved the podcast.


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

2 No Lettuce Salad Lunches

Let's just take a moment to look at my new insanely cute lunch box. If this doesn't scream 'adult' in the fridge at work, I don't know what does.

In an attempt to switch up my lunch away from boring sandwiches, I've taken to the internet to find some healthy alternatives that pack in some fruit and veg (which I was seriously lacking). And the best part is, they don't require any watery iceberg lettuce or dark leaves, which I find too strong, making them actually enjoyable to eat and will fill you up.

Chickpea & Feta

This first one was a result of a Pinterest search after looking for a use for a tin of chickpeas I picked up and didn't know what to do with them.

I usually have a third or half a tin per serving, and mix with cucumber cubes, plum tomatoes and feta (lots!). I then added some Caesar dressing and some salt and pepper and left it in the fridge overnight to let it soak in some juices as it definitely tastes better after being left overnight. Sometimes I will add avacado if I have one or I have been also taking a flatbread so that it keeps me fuller.

Tuna & Greek Yogurt

This one is a little more creamy and filling than the last. To a tin of tuna, I'll add cucumber, plum tomatoes and - my housemates find this quite controversial - chopped apple and raisins. I then add a few spoonfuls of low fat greek yoghurt, which I bought in this massive tub from Lidl, just enough to make it stick together.

I have been having this in wraps, but I have also taken it to work by itself. The apples and raisins give it a sweetness which I love, and the greek yogurt is a great alternative for mayo, which I would usually have with tuna.

I have been rotating the two since January, and I feel so damn good knowing that I have got quite a few of my five a day out of the way. Yes, it requires a little more effort than chucking a piece of ham on some bread and cutting it in half, but I look forward to lunch times now - aka the best part of the working day other than home time. The key is definitely taking 10 minutes to make them the night before, making your mornings a dream.


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Meals For One: Spaghetti Carbonara

I am actually pretty happy with how things are going, food wise that is, this year. I love making things from scratch whenever I can find the time and knowing exactly what is going into the food I am eating. Of course, this definitely does not happen all the time, but trying little things like making my own bolognase sauce rather than grabbing a jar from the cupboard or making my own sweet potato fries is making my food times a little more enjoyable.

This recipe is perfect if, like me, you've run out of food and only have a few things in the fridge. Instead of having to come in from work and then go back out again to the shops, I whipped this up with only a few ingredients.

1 beaten egg
Salt & Pepper
2/3 tbsp Double Cream / milk (optional)
Grated Parmesan
Bacon (optional)
1 Clove of Garlic - crushed

Okay, so not everyone may have Parmesan, but I had some left over from my latest risotto (check out the recipe here). I also don't use fresh garlic, but use Lidl's equivalent of Lazy Garlic which my dad encouraged me to always have in my cupboard. It is so useful and you don't have to faff around with a garlic crusher. It is also very quick to make, perfect for a midweek dinner.

1. Mix the beaten egg and double cream together with a bit of salt and pepper. Add as much Parmesan as you feel, and mix.
2. Put your pasta on to cook.
3. Meanwhile, fry the bacon and once cooked, chop into smaller pieces. Add garlic to the frying pan, as well as the chopped bacon back in and fry until the garlic has cooked - a few minutes will do the trick.
4. Add the drained pasta to the frying pan and stir into the garlic and that the bacon is distributed evenly. If you manage it, grab a tbsp of the pasta water and add to the frying pan.
5. Take off the hob and pour the egg mixture and stir.
6. Keep stirring until the egg turns into a somewhat silky sauce. Top with parmesan and you're ready. 

The Parmesan combined with the egg mixture can make it look lumpy or that the egg has scrambled. It is completely fine and I don't really mind, as long as the egg doesn't fry completely, you're good to go, but I'm not very fussy, just more amazed that I managed to make a pasta dish with only a few ingredients that tastes pretty good.

I've also made this with mushrooms instead of bacon (which I only had because my house mate was going to throw it away!) and can also be used with just an egg instead of double cream or milk. And there definitely isn't enough for anyone else! 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

F.R.I.E.N.D.S Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations Of Adult Life

So no one told you life was gonna be this way.

I am starting to feel pretty lonely. I've always been a homebody, when I am very rarely out, I desperately want to make my excuses to get back home. But then when I'm home I want to be around people again.

This isn't always the case. I love being by myself, doing things for me, and not having to deal with other people, but sometimes, I wish I had my support network with me. In my post about the life lessons my friends taught me, it made me realise how much I value, cherish and love my friends. But living miles away from them is pretty tough.

And that's where Friends comes into all of this. Watching it as a 13/14 year old who definitely didn't understand a lot of the jokes, I couldn't wait for adult life. Living out your twenties with a group of friends who hung around in coffee shops, had dinner together, who went out on new dates every week and gossiping about it afterwards was what I always wanted.

I'm at a point now where I have come to terms with life definitely not being like that. And sometimes, actually most of the time, I'm okay with it, but sometimes I'm not.

Whilst I have great and lovely housemates, we rarely spend a weekend together. We value each other's alone time, and many of them have partners or work colleagues they see. I don't have those other people outside the house to hang out with. That's the problem with moving somewhere new, or even moving home after university.

And how do you even make friends as an adult anyway? I tried going into the staff room at work today in the hope to meet some new people. It was a total fail. There wasn't many people coming in or out, and if they did, we sat, in silence on our phones. I'm desperately looking for an activity to get involved with, hopefully things will get easier when it stops being so dark after work.

Yes, my life's a joke, I'm broke, and my love life's DOA, but I'm finding adult life to be a little lonely.


Sunday, 4 February 2018

What I Read In January

In my 18 things for 2018, I said that I wanted to read 20 books. It doesn't sound like a lot, but for someone who hasn't read books for pleasure for quite a while, it seemed like a mammoth task. However, 1 month in, I am on book 4, and absolutely loving having a little bit of time each day (well I try) to get lost in a book.

The first book I read, actually on the train journey back from a New Years Eve with my university pals, was The Note by Zoe Folbigg. This was the perfect book to start with, it was light, cheesy, romantic and easy to read. Unfortunately, there was no 'train guy' on my way home, but hey, one can only wish. I also loved that it was based loosely on Zoe's own experience giving her 'train man' a note with her e-mail address. Spoiler alert, Zoe ended up marrying the guy and they now have two children. Cute.

I only got into reading some of the classic books last year when a production of Pride And Prejudice came to the theatre I was working in. And let's say I have been hooked ever since. I received a beautiful copy of North And South by Elizabeth Gaskell was a secret santa present and having watched the adaptation on Netflix on a period drama binge, this was the perfect read. It look a little longer and a lot more concentration than the last one, but I made it through and fell in love with Margaret Hale and John Thornton all over again.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig was a supermarket purchase one Sunday morning. I had read Reasons To Stay Alive, which I think is a beautiful book, so was intrigued at Haig's fiction work. This was quite a nice, light and easy read, but nevertheless it was a lovely read. It tells the story of Tom, a man who has lived for centuries and ages incredibly slowly. With slight Age Of Adeline vibes, I loved how it interwove Tom's modern day life into events that happened in earlier time periods.

Next on my list to read is Emma, by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre and Big Little Lies. I'm loving carving out time to read and get lost in another world for a little while.

Any book recommendations for me?


Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Life Lessons From My Friends

 I may no longer live with or near some of my best friends, but I like to think that we are still as close as ever. If anything, it makes me love them even more.

Most of my closest friends I met at University, all from different circles, but each have taught me and encouraged me to do things differently and become a better person. I am so grateful to have met each and every one of the them and so glad I have a solid support group, even though we still don't see each other every day.

1. A Problem Shared Is A Problem Halved
Never underestimate the power of sharing your problems. A true friend will listen, and make sure they help. I can't tell the amount of times that we would often have a little cry about life, and know that it is totally okay. They have made me a more caring person with dealing with other people's problems too. Friendship is a two way street.

2. Build Each other Up, Not Down
There is nothing more uplifting than a simple compliment from one of your pals. From 'your skin looks great', to a group chat dedicated to someone's night out outfit. Even though we are in different parts of the country, we still give each other so much encouragement and I know that if I'm feeling low, they will always pick me up.

3. Be Creative
My friends are amazingly creative. Two of my friends are amazing at photography, another is a great cook and is always making something out of the box. Another is an amazing singer songwriter and draws brilliantly. They inspire me to do something different and creative. 

4. A Small Token Goes A  Long Way
From making someone a cup of tea, sharing a portion of your dinner, or receiving a letter out of the blue, you realise it's the little things that really put a smile on your face. 

5. There Really Is Nothing Better Than Sticking On Relaxing Music And Drinking Tea
My friends made me realise something can be so simple as to putting on relaxing music can make you feel relaxed. My favourite evenings used to be us sitting in a room with some candles, doing each others nails or studying. Even doing the same activities by myself make me think of those times and I feel instantly relaxed.


Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hamilton Review

I am still shook. 

Having bought tickets a year ago last January, and having the date moved as the show started previews later than expected, I finally got to see Hamilton last Thursday afternoon, and my goodness, was it worth the wait.

I went with my best friend from uni who was obsessed with Hamilton and we used to try and nail the Schuyler Sisters harmonies, as well as my favourite work friend from my previous job. It was the most perfect day, seeing old friends and watching a show that we all loved.

What got me the most about going to see Hamilton was the buzz and excitement from the audience even before the show. Knowing that everyone in the auditorium was there because they had bought tickets a year in advance and was a genuine fan felt incredible.

How amazing must that be for the cast members, knowing that everyone there is behind you 100%. 

We clapped when the first few notes were played and we cheered when the line "Immigrants, we get the job done" was said. It was like seeing a show with hundreds of your Hamilton obsessed best friends, all seeing the soundtrack that you've listened to come to life for the first time. Without too many spoilers, you could hear the sniffles and watch almost all members of the audience wipe their eyes during "It's Quiet Uptown" and "Who Lives Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story". It really was something magical.

Jamael Westman as Alexander Hamilton, a recent RADA graduate, had big shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda, absolutely killed it, rapping seamlessly and filling the whole stage. Michael Jibson as King George has the best job in the world, only being in the show for the few odd scenes, got a laugh and a cheer every time. The Schuyler Sisters, Rachel John (Angelica), Rachelle Ann Go (Eliza) and Christine Allado (Peggy, and also incredible as Maria Reynolds) were perfect, and a shout out to Jason Pennycooke as Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson.

What I also loved about Hamilton was the ensemble. No scene felt flat, as the choreography and the ensemble cast didn't look out of place with some incredible contemporary dance moves. The bows at the end were also something special. There was no playing around with the audience, ending with a big song and dance with each character getting a cheer. The cast simply stood at the front and bowed together as one. It was incredible moving and a special moment.

I'm sure if you're reading this, you don't need any encouragement to try and get tickets, but listen to the soundtrack if you haven't already. You'll be obsessed.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

5 Little Changes For The Week Ahead

Last week, I hit a bit of a low point on my New Year's resolution. I wanted to try and eat a bit healthier, which I know is easier said than done, but Thursday night saw my dinner being two Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls and a bowl of chocolate cereal.

After getting over the initial shock of going back to work after the festive period, and now that we are already more than half way through January, it's time to change a few of my habits, and I'm pretty excited about it. I want to start thinking of every week as a new start, the time to make changes and try something different. Hopefully this will last, so not all my weeks feel like they are rolling into one.

1. Make Lunch The Night Before
It may only save me 10 minutes, but I would much rather have that extra 10 minutes in the morning! I've been scouring Pinterest for some interesting lunches that don't include sandwiches. So, I have planned for a week of salad / chicken wraps and chickpea and feta salads.. let's see how this goes. If anyone is interested in a meal plan / lunch ideas post, let me know. I love looking for food inspiration!

2. Get Out of the Office For Lunch
With the above in mind, I'm determined to actually take a lunch break every day and take those 35 minutes. I usually will open up my food at my desk, but feel guilty if I am not working, and no one else seems to take a proper lunch break. That's why, this week, I'm going to venture to the staff room. Who knows, it may be a good way to meet people too. 

3. Drink At Least Two Bottles Of Water 
I have a lovely water bottle (here), that keeps cold water really cold. It's perfect for the office, however, I forget to take it to meetings, or forget it is there during the day. So more water throughout the work day is definitely needed. 

4. Start Exercising After Work
I finally have enough room in my bedroom to roll out a yoga mat without hitting a piece of furniture . For the last few months, I have started to take my walk to and from work for granted, however, I feel it's time (especially as the evenings are starting to get lighter) to not rush home into my pyjamas, but go home, whip out the yoga mat and the Kettlebell that is sitting at my mums house, and actually do something. I've been researching some Youtube videos and I think I'm ready!

5. Read For Half An Hour Before Bed
One of my resolutions was to read 20 books this year. I'm already on book 3, but some nights I forget to read and just try to fall asleep after screen time. I want to definitely take half an hour out every day to put my laptop to one side and read. I'm currently on  How To Stop Time by Matt Haig, but I have a few classics (Jane Eyre & Emma) to read next. 


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Meals For One: Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is a great comfort meal to make. Once you have the ingredients, they will last you for quite a while, and are great to have in your food cupboard as a just in case! It isn't actually that hard to make either and there is very little that can actually go wrong. You just have to keep stirring!

This recipe serves one, so no need to worry about what to do with the rest. Of course, just double it for two, whatever floats your boat.

You Will Need...
75g Arborio Rice
3-4 Mushrooms
2 Vegetable stock cubes mixed with about 600ml hot water
1/2 Onion
Parmesan cheese
1 Clove of Garlic

1. Fry the diced onion and cut garlic in butter for about 10 minutes in a non-stick saucepan.

2. Add the rice into the saucepan and let it fry for about 1 minute. Then add the mushrooms. 

3. Pour in the stock bit by bit, waiting for it to be absorbed by the rice before adding any more in. If you run out of stock, either make some more or switch to hot water by the end.You can also add white wine. 

4. It will take up to 20 minutes until the rice is tender. I like mine with a little bite, but keep going if this is not how you like it. Keep adding more stock/water and season with salt and pepper. 

5. Just before the end, add in some parmesan cheese and a little bit of butter and mix in. This is up to you how much to put it, in just makes it a bit more cheesy. I also like some on top. 
The risotto should now be creamy, gloopy and smell lush. 

Serve immediately. I add parmesan on top too because there can never be too much cheese. 

Voila, looks like you made an effort, when really it was just stirring a lot. Whilst not as quick as my previous tortilla wrap pizza, this is perfect for weekends, or mid weeks when you want to treat yourself. 


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Meals For One: Tortilla Wrap Pizza

I'm all about the quick meals, especially on a week night. I also find it super hard to find recipes that cater for one person. So here is a new blog series, if you like, with some of my favourite week night recipes, for a little inspiration.

My new favourite meal (perfect for dinner, or lunch) at the moment is a tortilla wrap pizza. No, this is nothing new or revolutionary, but it tastes so so good.

All my ingredients were from Lidl, but this is still a super cheap and quick meal that you could have with garlic bread, salad and not feel bad about having dessert later (not that you should ever feel bad about having dessert whatever meal precedes it).

Simply set your oven to 180 degrees and dig out a pizza tray. It's super handy if you have spray oil to grease the tray as you don't want the pizza to stick. 

Lay out the tortilla and add passata to the base leaving a 'crust' around it. I read recipes that use tomato puree, which I find a bit too strong tasting, or even chopped tomatoes.  

Next, add your toppings. This one had tomatoes, peppers and cheddar cheese, but I've also done it with cooked chicken, feta, red onions etc. Whatever you fancy, bung it on top (although I would suggest frying the peppers or onions a little bit before putting them on top so they aren't too crunchy.

Cook in the oven for about 5-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and voila, instant pizza that tastes miles better than rubbish shop bought.

You can thank me later.

Tortilla Wrap
Cheddar Cheese


Thursday, 4 January 2018

Winter Skincare Staples Under £10

Lush Jelly Face Masks - FOMO
I have tried Lush's fresh face masks before (see my review of Cosmetic Warrior) and I did really like using it, but putting it in the fridge and having to use it within a month was not really ideal.

The jelly face masks are so much easier to use, last a lot longer and don't need to be kept in the fridge. Plus, mine is lasting a very long time which is always a bonus. I picked FOMO as it is apparently good for problem skin, but it is very moisturising too which was just what I needed.

Boots Tea Tree &Witch Hazel Shine Control Daily Moisturiser
I used to use the whole range in the warmer months, but having switched things up to combat my dry winter skin, I am still using the moisturiser and I love it. Other moisturisers break me out and feel tacky on my face. This one, which is more like a gel than a cream, makes my face feel moisturised, but also matte and oil free, perfect for my oily t-zone and chin. It is so cheap too, I don't think I'll be switching in a hurry.

Superdrug Naturally Radiant Brightening Hot Cloth Cleanser
To tackle the dryness further, I stopped using a foam face wash and went back to using a creamy cleanser. I was considering trying Liz Earle Cleanse And Polish again, but when I saw this on offer in Superdrug for £3, I knew this would do the trick.

It comes with a cloth, but I prefer to use my own flannel, but it is creamy, easy to use and really does get all my makeup off, whilst not dring out my skin and making it feel tight. For the price (it is really often on offer), you can't really go wrong.

Acnecide 5% Benzoyl Peroxide gel
Last year when I went to my GP for my acne and I was perscribed Acnecide 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Gel. It worked fantastically when I first used it and it cleared up my skin so much, but it did dry it out. It is actually available from Superdrug Pharmacy, so when I ran out of my prescription, I ordered another one.

I think my skin may have got used to it now as my spots have come back - but no where near as bad as it was - so I use this once every two days to clear up my spots and scaring. It's definitely one to try if you are struggling with bad skin.

I have been struggling for weeks now with excema and very dry skin around my eyes and cheeks. I tried Oilatum with not a lot of luck and didn't know what else to try. Someone on twitter recommended Vaseline which I hadn't thought of at all, and my goodness is it a lifesaver.

I slather on a load at night onto the really dry areas like my eye lids and tops of my cheeks, and by the morning it is smooth and moisturised with the redness and soreness gone. Not too bad for a £2 tub.

What are your skincare stapes this winter?


Monday, 1 January 2018

18 Things For 2018

1. Go on a graphic design / photoshop / photography course
2. Catch up with friends who I haven't seen for a very long time
3. Find an activity to do after work once a week
4. Run a Race For Life
5. Drink more water
6. Stop buying pointless things
7. Actually keep a diary
8. Read 20 books
9. Travel abroad
10. Drive on the motorway for the first time
11. Be more adventurous with cooking
12. Listen to podcasts on the walk to work (recommendations please)
13. Finally invest in a good summer wardrobe
14. Put down my phone more often
15. Write a sponsored blog post
16. Learn how to draw
17. Learn the harmonies in Abba songs
18. Buy a new blog layout

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