Sunday, 19 March 2017

#mymumandme

My Mum and I dress almost exactly the same.
We both have the same houndstooth Topshop trousers, the same Zara turtlenecks, the same Next polka dot dress, the same Marks and Spencers necklace.
Once I came home from uni for the weekend and we were wearing the exact same outfit.
When we go shopping together, one of us will point something out, and the other will ask, "for you or for me?"
I've lost count of the number of times we've come home with two of something.

Two weeks ago we both went to work in maroon turtlenecks, tartan skirts and maroon ankle boots. We hadn't crossed paths until we were about to leave the house.
I accuse her of copying me all the time (I'm still furious she bought an identical red coat when my red coat has been my signature for the last 4 years), but she's the first to lend me something when I have nothing to wear (I, on the other hand, am a stubborn only child who refuses to share). 

We both love floral tops and skinny jeans, leather jackets, turtlenecks and A-line skirts for work, boucle jackets, stripey jumpers, printed skater dresses and pointed ballet flats. It's hard to know where her style ends and mine begins. We always know exactly what to recommend and she's my perpetual style advisor.
Sometimes it's me inspiring her, when I notice she's layered a sleeveless dress over a turtleneck after seeing me do the same, or other times it's me inspired by her jeans and denim jacket combo, which I'd beeen too scared to try again since the 90s.

So when Moda in Pelle asked me to style up a pair of shoes and talk about how my Mum would style them differently, I laughed, because she wouldn't. 

When I reached for one of my many Oasis floral tops, skinny jeans and a bright cardigan, I knew she would do exactly the same. I bought her a few of my favourite Oasis tops for her birthday a few years ago, and I'm sure she'll get some of these Primark jeans after I've been singing their praises! She'd even wear the same necklace, as she loved my C necklace so much I got her a G for Christmas.
floral top - Oasis
jeans - Primark
cardigan - Debenhams
necklace - Onecklace
My mum would actually love these shoes! A few years ago she would only ever wear heels, but now she loves a pretty ballet flat, and she loves to colour-co-ordinate so I know she'd love these because they go with everything!
Now we live together again there's much more arguing over copying and clothes lending and magically disappearing clothes, but it's also a lot of fun. She gives me tips from the magazine in the paper and I let her borrow my lipstick, and there's always someone to go to for an extra pair of popsocks or an emergency cardigan when none of mine will go. She might ask to borrow my brand new jacket before I'd even worn it out of the house, but I know she'd lend me anything of hers in a heartbeat.

I love that Mum and I dress the same. It's so much fun to go shopping together and find things we both love, and it definitely makes it easier that we always want to go into the same shops! It was fun looking for photos for this post of us dressed similarly, and this is only a small representation! We have so many of the same things - we even have the same pyjamas! 

Moda in Pelle not only sent me these lovely shoes (which I know I'll be living in when Spring finally arrives - my favourite nude ballet flats are falling apart!), they also have a competition for you to win a pair of shoes for you and you Mum! Perect for Mother's Day! You can enter here at Moda in Pelle.

Hope you've had a great weekend! I've been away in Berlin to celebrate Phil's birthday and I'll be back this week with a post on everything I ate there!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Cookbook Review: Flavour

When it comes to buying recipe books, I am rarely impulsive. A recipe book will usually live in my Amazon wishlist for several months. Every now and again I'll click on it and read some reviews, hunt online for blogs and reviews, add it to and from my basket, then back on my wishlist.

I always have an idea of the ones that are next on my list - it's carefully planned out. At this time of year I've usually been carefully considering for months the books I'm going to ask for for my birthday. See, there are the kinds of books I buy for myself and the kind I ask for as a gift. Gift books are the ones I might not use often, but lovingly peruse on a Saturday afternoon. Aspiration books. Ottolenghi. And the ones I buy myself are day-to-day books, the ones I'll reach to for my weekly meal planning.

I didn't know much about Ruby Tandoh until I saw her book, Flavour, was February's book at one of my favourite blogs, Cookbook a month, but realised quickly I did know who she was. I was quite late to the Bake Off party, and I didn't watch the series she was on, but I realised I'd read a few of her brilliant articles in The Guardian. I don't know what made me interested in the book, as the recipes I'd seen on Cookbook a Month were mostly meat-centric, but the reviews were good on Amazon. 
Anyway, after seeing it was the February book, I decided to check if they had it at my local library, which they did. So I picked it off the shelf for an initial flick through and was instantly hooked. I also tend to do extra research for a non-vegetarian book, as I have to be sure I'm not going to find I can't eat most of the recipes so this was a good way to "try before I buy."

First impressions
My first impression was that there was loads of vegetarian and fish dishes, everything sounded delicious and I loved Ruby's writing. I read a lot of recipe books like novels and I can't stand bad writing (although I do own a lot of terribly-written recipe books). There also seemed to be a good mix of recipes I could make midweek, and nice, slow weekend dishes.

So I took it home and wrote up a list of all the recipes I wanted to make, and there were a lot! I immediately started planning all my meals for the next few weeks.

Here's what I tried...

Shakshuka
Like everybody who has ever been on Instagram, I'm a big fan of Shakshuka, so obviously this was going to be a brunch option. I've made Shakshuka a lot of times but admittedly, I've never reall found my "perfect" shakshuka.
This had cumin seeds and paprika in, which was unusual, and was very heavy on the peppers. Ruby recommends serving it with the cornbread pancakes on the opposite page, but we had it alone so I doubled the amount of eggs (one egg per person is never enough!). 
This was really tasty but needed a lot of seasoning and could have done with a splash of something acidic. Maybe some lemon juice or chunks of feta? 
I would make this again but definitely with some feta and nice bread.

Catalan Fish stew
I was so excited to make this because it was fancy! I slipped up on getting the ingredients and ended up getting my fish from Waitrose which cost me £8 (!!!!!!!!) which I definitely wouldn't do again next time. Fish stock isn't something I usually have in, so I don't know if vegetable stock would have suited.
I didn't have blanched almonds so I blanched my own, but in retrospect I think ground almonds would have surficed, as it was hard to grind them down small enough. 
This was delicious and fancy and perfect for a Saturday night.

Red lentil cottage pie
I used sweet potatoes rather than potatoes just because we prefer them. I've made a lot of veggie shepherd's pie but never with red lentils and I wasn't sure it would work texturally as red lentils tend to fall apart, but this was actually really lovely! Porchini mushrooms are a bit extravagant but with the red wine they added a lovely flavour. I would definitely make again but maybe find a sub for the expensive porchini mushrooms.

Roasted broccoli quinoa
I thought this might be a side dish from the photos, so I did some extra eggs and butternut squash. This was a nice, easy dinner but I felt it was lacking... something. It needed a LOT of seasoning, and like the shakshuka, was much improved with some feta!

Maple soy salmon
Now we're back living with my parents we eat salmon once a week or so because it's something all 4 of us will eat. This was a really quick, tasty meal that I'll definitely make again.

Zesty chilli prawn noodles
Another thing that will suit everyone in our house is prawns, so this was another good one. I hate zesting oranges but this was really delicious. Phil and my Dad had this with noodles and Mum and I had courgette noodles. The courgette noodles went a bit watery but that was my fault, not the recipe's, and I would definitely make this again!

All-in-one basil cod with potatoes and green lentils
Ooh this was sooo good! I halved the recipe for just Phil and I. This was utterly delicous, so easy, and I will 100% make it again. I had no idea I could cook lentils like this in the oven!

Cinnamon banana tea loaf
Apart from Phil and I, nobody else in our house really likes banana bread. But last Sunday, I'd finished my coursework earlier than I expected, and I had a couple of bananas lying round that were past my super-yellow threshold (I'm really picky about bananas) so I decided to make this. It was so easy, so tasty and I had all the ingredients in. Plus, everyone loved it! I loved the dense texture which was perfect with a bit of butter! I can't wait to make this again next time I have leftover bananas!

Smoky butternut squash stew with chickpea dumplings
This was AH-MAZING! God I could eat this right now. This was pretty time consuming - it took about an hour and a half from start to finish, but there was lots of down time so it was perfect for a Sunday evening. The chickpea dumplings were the absolute cherry on the top. I didn't use vegetable suet and used butter instead. I realised half way through I hadn't done anything to serve it with, but it was so filling and delicious it didn't need anything with it! 100% making this regularly for an easy Sunday dinner.

Mild coconut fish curry
I love the spice mix for this recipe and I would definitely use it again for other curries. This was quite easy and I already had a lot of the ingredients in, so I would definitely make this again. 

Conclusion
I absolutely loved this book. I would make nearly everything I made again, and I still have a list of at least a dozen more recipes that I want to try. I'm making the enchiladas tonight!

Ruby has spoken out before against the "clean eating" movement, so I loved even more that the sub-title of this book was "eat what you love." The phrase "clean eating" makes me cringe and the whole movement and what it promotes and stands for makes my blood boil, so it was so refreshing to use a book that used butter and flour and jarred pesto, and had delicious cakes in it that weren't shrouded in the idea that they were "naughty" or a "reward" for being "good"..or "healthy" versions because "oh eating refind carbs just makes you SO TIRED RIGHT OMG". Of course, loads of the recipes are "healthy" (depending, obviously, on how you define healthy) with loads of veggie-filled recipes, but I loved that the focus was on being kind to yourself and making yourself delicious food and enjoying it.

I'm a huge fan of this book, and now Ruby herself, and I look forward to making more recipes from this book!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February Life Lately

February has been a busy month with lots of change, but it's been really lovely. We moved out of our flat on the 10th and into my parents' house so there's been a lot of packing, cleaning, trying to find things in boxes and tears, but we're actually really settled now (much more quickly than I expected!) and honestly, I don't even miss our flat, or living in the city, that much at all!

The best news this month has brought is that we've finally, FINALLY, had our mortgage accepted, which is a huge relief for us! It's been really touch a go for the past few months and we were worrying that we might have to start house hunting again, which would have been awful because we were so, so sure our house was "The One"! 

So February has been good. I feel like I've done a lot, but not felt too busy, which was just what I needed in a time of flux! I also like February to be out of the way because March is my favourite month (okay, except December!). Phil's birthday is the 1st and then mine is the 30th, so March always feels like a month of anticipation (although it always sucks at the start of the month to still have 4 whole weeks til my birthday!)

What I've been doing...
Obviously one of the biggest things that happened this week was moving out of our little flat! It was so stressful packing and cleaning and tidying that I didn't even get upset until I looked around to see everything was empty! I'm sad, of course, but I've been weirdly okay about it. We're back living at my parents' now while we wait for everything to get finalised with our house and it's going really well! Obviously everyone involved was a bit worried about the transition after I'd lived away from home for two years, but we're getting into new routines and it's actually really nice!


A few weeks ago we headed over to Heaton Park for Phil to run his 50th parkrun! I'm so proud of him! He wanted to go to Heaton Park because they have vests for special occasions (mile stone runs, birthdays etc.) so he wanted to wear the 50th parkrun vest! I was dreaded it because Heaton Park is hard work, but I actually had a great run, got a PB and missed my 1 mile PB by 2 seconds!
With 12 weeks to go until my next half marathon I'm back in training! I did start 2 weeks ago, but I was starting with a cold so I started again last week. So speed training is back! Right now I'm feeling a long way from full fitness (as in, sub 2 hour half marathon) but I'm hoping to get under 2 hours again next time!

It was my Uncle's 60th a few weeks ago so we had a big family meal which was lovely. I've mentioned before that I have a huge, close family so it's always lovely to see everyone.

Where I've been...
Mixing work and pleasure this month with a blogger event that we put on for work. If you don't already know, I work in marketing for Stagecoach, and last year we launched the Stagecoach Bus App, which you can use to plan your bus journey, track your bus to see exactly when it will arrive and buy and use mobile tickets. So a few weeks ago we had an event with bloggers in the North East, where they had to come to the event on the bus, using the app to plan their journey and buy their tickets. It was great fun and a huge success!
Two of our close friends are getting married in May, so a few weeks ago Phil and I attended the stag and hen dos respectively! Phil went off to Prague with the lads, and I enjoyed a lovely day of afternoon tea at Hotel Gotham.
I've written before about the importance of my university friends, and this last weekend my friend, Ellen, popped up North for a visit. Rather than going into the city, as we normally do, we went to Didsbury so I could take her to the Art of Tea, one of my favourite cafes, and we escaped the rain with some delicious tapas! We had such a lovely day of hopping from cafe to lunch to cafe catching up!

What I've been loving...

February 2nd was Time to Talk day, so I took this as another opportunity to talk about my anxiety and do my best to be as open and honest as possible to open up the conversation with anyone else who is suffering. I've also signed up to be a Time to Change ambassador, so I hope to get more involved in raising awareness of mental illness.

I talked last month about buying some £8 Primark jeans and said I would report back. Well, it's love. They've had a few washes and haven't gone baggy, BUT they bleed like all hell (as in, scratching my leg and coming back with blue nails) so make sure you wash them alone!
February contains one of the best days of the year... Galentine's Day! As you probably know, Parks and Recreation is my favourite TV show, and I am a wannabe Leslie Knope, so of course I celebrate Galentine's Day! This year my friend Riven and I went for dinner (more on our amazing food further down!) and exchanged presents. I got her my favourite Makeup Revolution contour palette, and she got me this mirror and excellent selection of socks.

I've written before about my favourite podcasts, and This American Life is my absolute favourite, but I've always been disappointed that I can't access 500+ old episodes in the Podcasts app. I found out this week, however, that there is a This American Life App where you can stream every old episode and download 5 to listen to offline at a time. Best £3 I've ever spent.

I've also been loving productive, lovely Sundays. This Sunday I got up early and made soup for the week, went for a 5 mile run, finished my coursework, wrote a blog post, made banana bread, read my book, made dinner and went to the cinema and it was glorious.

What I've been eating...
As I mentioned in this post, we finally made it to Rudy's, famed to be the best pizza in Manchester, and it was 1000000% worth the 2 and a half hour wait. Seriously. Just go. Go now actually. 
One of my favourite blogs is Cookbook a Month, where every month they review a different cookbook. This month's was Ruby Tandoh's Flavour. I didn't know much about the book, or Ruby herself (I was quite late to the Bake Off party), but realised I'd read a few of her articles in the Guardian. I found a few of her recipes and was intrigued, so I picked up her book from the library, and decided to give it a try. I knew after an initial flick through I would end up buying it! This book is amazing (review coming soon!) and after borrowing it for 2 weeks I made 10 recipes. Ruby is a brilliant writer and she comes across as absolutely awesome. I can't wait for my own copy to arrive!

I'm kind of a terrible baker and find the whole experience quite stressful, mostly because I usually agree to bake for something or someone and find myself doing it last minute the night before while simulateously cooking dinner after a long day. But a few weeks ago I agreed to bake for my boss' birthday and for once, let myself make dinner and have a break first, and it was much more of a success! I made this sticky ginger cake which even impressed me, and a batch of health berry muffins to use up some of the 14 bags (no joke) of frozen berries we had in the freezer before we moved.
I mentioned before the amazing food I had with Riven for Galentine's, and here is it. We went to Bundobust, which might actually be my new favourite place in Manchester (I'll have to update my blog post!). A blink-and-you'll-miss-it spot in Piccadilly gardens selling the most amazing vegetarian Indian street food. It was my absolute dream. And look, Jay Rayner liked it too!

What I've been watching...
Just three cinema trips this month, after managing 7 last month! We caught the Unlimited Screening of Hidden Figures which I wasn't excited for at all (probably because we'd seen the trailer at least a dozen time) but I absolutely adored. We also saw Lego Batman to cheer us up after a day of cleaning and packing and moving out of our flat, which was hilarious and brilliant. Then on Sunday we succeeded in seeing every Best Picture nominated film this year when we went to see Fences. Viola Davies is incredible.

Things I've bought...
I'm rarely an impulse buyer, but I fell in love with this M&S necklace at first sight and had paid for it before I could even add it to my budgeting list. It's beautiful and wonderful and will go with almost everything. I love it.

Before heading out to meet Ellen last weekend, as I looked outside at the torrential rain, I had the realisation that at almost 27 years old, I did not own a sensible coat. I borrowed my Mum's puffer jacket for protection and posted on Twitter about my lack of practical coat. My friend, Sarah, promptly sent me a link to this beautfiful Seasalt coat and a few days later it was on its way to me. It's gorgeous and fun and most of all, it's utterly practical. It will be perfect for our trip to the Lakes in April.
Oasis tops are my weakness, and once Spring rolls around I live in them. So as I mentioned in How I Shop Now, I decided it was a good idea to buy more, so I welcomed two more into my wardrobe this month (also pictured, my amazing Primark jeans!)

What I've been reading...
I'm mourning my commute at the moment when it comes to time to read (although I love that my Mum can drop me off at work in the morning!), but I've still managed to read more than usual for me this month.

This month I loved Eleanor Morgan's Anxiety: A Beginner's Guide which documents her struggles with anxiety. It made me feel a lot less alone, and gave me hope of being able to manage my anxiety. I really recommend it to anyone suffering, or anyone who wants to understand what it's like to worry all day long.

I also finished The Happiness Project which I've been working through slowly in the mornings. I can't decide how I felt about it! It was a pleasant read and had some nice ideas which I'll consider using in the future, but it was a bit too idealistic for me, particularly as a person for whom "happiness" is a struggle considering my mental health. Some of the ideas were far too twee (sing in the morning), some utterly ridiculous (quit your job and do something you love) but some were actually useful (I particularly liked the chapter on money). I'll probably come back to it every now and again for reference, and it was a nice easy read on quiet mornings.

I also read The Power and Oranges are not the only fruit, neither of which I particularly loved.
I mentioned before a rare impulsive buy, and actually, on reflection, I've had a few this month. Well, one of my goals this year is to be more spontaneous! I also purchased Fearne Cotton's Happy after reading about it on The Pool. This has replaced The Happiness Project as my morning or evening quiet read, and I really love it so far.

What I'm excited for...
Tomorrow is Phil's birthday so I can finally tell him where I'm taking him on his Birthday surprise trip next month! I love creating surprises for other people but I've been so excited it's been hard to keep it in!

It's also my birthday at the end of the month, and I'm always excited for it to be March for that reason!

And maybe, just maybe, we might get the keys to our house this month...

What I've written...
How to get up earlier in the morning
Change
My favourite places in Manchester
How I shop now
My new reading rules
How to study when you work full time

Things I've been trying...

I tried yoga before Christmas but couldn't get into a good routine with it and running, and took a very all-or-nothing approach with Yoga with Adriene's 30 days of yoga. This time I'm doing yoga for my brain, not for fitness, so I'm making time for it on my rest days and in the evenings when I can. Some days I only have 10 minutes, other days I have longer, but I want to find a way of incorporating it into my life every week.
I jumped on the bangwagon this month and started a bullet journal. I wanted a nice, quiet evening hobby that would help me relax at the end of the day. I don't know if I'll stick with it yet, and right now I'm keeping it very simple and using it for fun, not as much for organisation, but I'm enjoying it so far.

One of the biggest life changes this month was I finally organising my inbox. I unsubscribed from the literally hundreds of newsletters I got, and cleared out all my "unread" emails. It was weird for a few days not getting 100+ emails a day, but now it's glorious.

What other people have written...
Vix Meldrew - What I wish my friends knew
A lovely piece on mental health I can hugely relate to
Apartment number 4 -Why it's okay to forget goals and just be
I feel like this a lot at the moment. I'm always trying to do more, we as a soceity are alwayd being told we need to do more, that we're not good enough, that we should be better and always, always be self improving. Why can't we, myself included, just be?
The Pool - If you want to get fit, try channeling Eddie the Eagle
Bon Appetit - Body scrubs, feather robes and other failed attempts at self care
The Pool - How to be a good worrier

Well I'm exhausted after getting home and making Phil's cake for tomorrow. I've mentioned before that I find baking quite stressful, and cake in particular is not my strong point, but several meltdowns and a bit of cleaning up later, I've made something passable. I hope he likes it!
Hope your February has been fabulous!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 26 February 2017

How to study when you work full time


In October, the day after finishing my last half marathon, I started my Diploma in Professional Marketing. I decided to study entirely from home, without any in-person classes to attend, which means I'm entirely responsible for making sure I get all my work done and on time!

It's hard work. It's hard work when you work full time and run a blog and run races and want to spend time with your boyfriend and maybe have a social life and just maybe some time to yourself once in a while. It takes a lot of organisation and a lot of discipline. 

And a lot of the time, I don't enjoy it. I don't like feeling like my evenings and weekends have been "robbed" by coursework, I don't that I think about marketing all day, every day, Monday to Sunday. I resent having to turn down plans to study or miss watching a film with Phil to do work, but like marathon training, it's all about the bigger goal!

I've talked before about trying to make extra time, but it's often easier said than done! Here are the ways I'm making time to study in my free time...
  • Find a space
I found this really hard when we were living in the flat, because the reality was we only had three rooms! I had to put my headphones on and try to not get distracted by whatever Phil was doing (especially when he was doing something more fun than I was!) in the living room. Now I'm back at my parents' I've got a study I can use which is perfect for getting away and focusing,
  • Set your time aside
Sundays are my days for studying so I make sure I give myself at least 4 or 5 hours in the afternoon to get through my work, and if I know I've got a lot on, or a busy weekend, I'll make sure I do some work on a Saturday or during the week. I don't always know how much time I'll need so I always massively overcompensate just to be sure.
  • And think of your future self
Last weekend I did about 6 or 7 hours of coursework that's due tomorrow, which meant I've only had to do a couple of hours this week to have my submission ready for tomorrow. It was such a nice surprise in the week when I sat down to do a few hours to realise how much I'd actually done the weekend before! So by doing loads in advance I'd made it so much easier for myself this week and this weekend to do the final touches.
  • Pomodoro
I have a huge. huge fan of the Pomodoro technique and I don't think I'd get through my course without it! It's a simple technique - 25 minutes of uninterrupted, focused work, followed by a 5 minute break. You'd be surprised how much you can get done in 25 minutes! I also use this at work a lot and I find it really helpful when I need to focus on something for a while. I use the website Tomato-Timer or you can just use the timer on your phone!
  • Remind yourself why you are doing it
There are lot of times, okay most of the time, when I really, really don't want to do my coursework. There are just so many more fun things I want to be doing! But the reality is, I've wanted to do this course for years, it will be incredibly beneficial for my career and I chose to do this! Sometimes you have to take a step back and remember why you chose to do this and how worth it it will all be in the end!
  • Don't do it every day
As I mentioned earlier, I study a few days a week, and the rest of my time is mine. This means I can really focus when I am studying and put aside a few hours at a time, rather than an hour here and an hour there.
  • Create new routines
Finding routine is all about finding what works for you. When I first started my course, I made a quick dinner and went to a Starbucks round the corner. I realised quickly that it was way too noisy in there, and I didn't like having to cart all my stuff. So I started to do most of my studying on a Sunday, which works for me. It means I have Saturday to make plans and do nice things, and Sundays are for getting stuff done!
  • Accept that you can't do everything
I would love, love, love to be training for another marathon right now. I'd love to still be going to choir every week. I'd love to be doing a million other things. But I chose to do this and I've had to make sacrifices. There's no way I'd be able to study on a Sunday after a 15 mile run, and having Mondays with choir would mean one less day for last-minute studying, so I've had to be realistic about what I can and can't do. It's hard, but I have to remember why I'm doing this and know that it will all be done in December and I can go back to doing other things!

I'm very aware that my course is only 4-8 hours a week and it's nothing like people studying for things like Accountancy qualifications which take up almost a full-time job's worth of hours, but it's still hard work to do on top of everything else!

Got any more tips for studying while working full tine? Let me know on Twitter!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 12 February 2017

My new reading rules


I love to read, but I can often forget exactly how much I love to read. When I read on my commute, I feel like I've used the journey much more productively than when I scroll through my phone for 45 minutes, and while I've been living in the flat with Phil it's been hard to find a quiet space to read when we only had 3 rooms. 

Now we're back at my parents I've been determined to not lose my momentum with reading and get back into the habit of finding a quiet space to read for pleasure, so here are my new reading rules and goals to help me to read as much as possible, and find more books that I love...

1. Pick books that sound good, not just the ones with good reviews
I'm really terrible for picking up a book, reading the blurb, then going straight to Goodreads to see whether it's "good" or not. And "good" for me means whether it's got a rating of over 3.8. Under than and I might not bother. Which is ridiculous, because I have read dozens of "good" books with solid 4+ ratings I've hated, and when I look through my favourites list on Goodreads, some of my favourite books would have failed this system (Haunted only has 3.58, The Informers, only 3.38 and my favourite book in the last few months, Olive Kitteridge, only 3.77). So I need to make better decisions myself about what sounds like a good book to me, or maybe read the first few pages to see if I like the writing style (I have an English Lit degree, so I cannot read anything that's badly written), rather than trawling through the reviews of strangers.

2. Use the library
Since moving jobs in April last year, I'm no longer around the corner from Manchester's Central Library, which has an amazing catalogue of books. I am, however, round the corner from Stockport library, and although I have a card, I often don't search for books there because I "assume" they won't have the book I want. Often I'm right, but not always, so I need to get back into the habit of checking there first. Or at least give Phil my library card to get me something from Central on his lunch break!

3. Stop skimming!
Another Goodreads thing I have a love/hate relationship with is setting a reading goal. This gets in my head a bit, and I can find myself rushing through a book just to add it to my "read" list. Again, stupid. 

4. Put down books I don't love
I had an awkward altercation last week when I bemoaned rushing through a book I wasn't loving just to finish it so I could start something else. Everyone on Twitter told me to stop, even the author of the book in hand herself (!!!!). But I stuck with it and finished it and I am glad I did, but I do this far, far too often and you know what, life is too short to read books I don't love.

5. Research the authors I like
As soon as I start to finish a book, if I don't have my next one lined up, I get very panicky. I always worry that with every good book I read that's one less great book left in the world! So I'm going to start being better at researching the authors I love to find other things they've written. This feels like a very easy way to grow my reading list, but something I always forget to do!

6. Donate books I didn't love or won't read again
It's easy to think of my books as a collection, but as I mentioned with clothes, I have hundreds of books and so many of them I know I wouldn't read again. So why not donate them to someone who might be absolutely thrilled to find the book they've been looking for in a charity shop? I love this idea, and I love that it means helping a charity too. I don't need to keep every book I've ever read in my life - I'd rather just keep the ones I love.

7. Pick up a book more than my phone
I've mentioned before that when I'm in Spain, I turn my phone off and put it in a drawer, and spend all the time I'm away reaching for my book instead of yet another scroll through Twitter. I always have a book in my handbag, so I need to get into a better habit of picking it up at the times I'd normally reach for my phone, even if it's only for a couple of pages.

8. Make time to read
With a half-hour commute each way when I was living in Manchester, I got plenty read each week to and from work, and I absolutely loved this time. Now I'm back at my parents, my commute is quite a bit shorter, so I need to make sure I make the time to read. To read well, I need to be on my own and it needs to be quiet, so I need to get into a routine where I can make this happen, whether it's before bed or in the morning. Reading calms me down and makes me happy, so it's important that I make time for it every day.

9. Keep an open mind
As I mentioned before with my degree, I can be pretty judgey when it comes to books (I took an amazing class in my final year called Reading and Popular Culture which had a lot about how we determine "high art" and "low art" when it comes to books), but I really need to keep an open mind more. Not everything I read needs to be the best book ever, and nor does it need to be the best-written book ever. If I can enjoy a chick flick as much as an independent film, I need to learn to be more open to books that are good fun, even if they're not well written.

10. Buy more second hand
I've been buying most of my books lately either from charity shops or from Abe Books, rather than looking straight on Amazon for Kindle books. It's cheaper and I like the idea of my money going to independent bookshops. Simple as that! I've managed to get so many books for under £3 from Abe Books!

11. Visit bookshops more - and buy something!
I am 100% that person who loves a wander around a bookshop but will then see if the book is cheaper on Amazon. I KNOW I'M TERRIBLE. So my plan from now on is to actually buy from bookshops because I know if I don't, they'll die and I'll be devastated, which leads to...

12. Buy more books on a whim
Like I mentioned with clothes shopping in this post, I very rarely buy a book on a whim. I tend to have a list of all the books I want, both on Goodreads and in my phone, and I'll wait til I'm about to finish a book before I buy anything new. But buying books is a wonderful experience, especially when you just pick something up that you fancy, so I want to do more spontaenous book buying, just because.

13. Set a book-buying allowance
I always feel weirdly guilty about buying books, and when I asked on Twitter I found a few people had a dedicated spend each month to buying books, which I love the idea of. So every two months I allow myself a bit of spending on books. This means I feel less guilty about the books I don't finish and I get to enjoy the love that is buying books! Because buying books is buying happiness and knowledge and you just can't put a price on that, you know?

14. It's okay to have a few books on the go
I'm usually a bit rubbish at having a few books on the go, and end up giving up on one and having to start from the beginning again when I realise I can't remember what was going on, but I've recently found I've liked having a fiction and a non-fiction on the go. I've been reading quite a few books to help my anxiety and I can find them a bit overwhelming to read more than a few pages of at a time, so it's nice to have a mix of fiction and non-fiction to work through at once.

Book recommendations for me? Just want to stalk my reading list? Follow me on Goodreads!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 11 February 2017

How I shop now

Moving back to my parents has made me realise one thing - I have an embarrassing amount of stuff. Clothes especially. Bags upon bags upon bags of them. And then getting back home and realising I already have wardrobes full of stuff at my parents that I clearly haven't worn in the two years I lived away.

So obviously, a big cull is in order (I did one a few weeks ago and had to stop myself getting nostalgic about dresses I wore when I first started writing my blog! Fancy some throwbacks? One of them was this dress from my first ever outfit post) but I've been thinking a lot more about how I shop now and how my style has changed over the past few years.

I've been honest time and time again about this no longer being a fashion blog, and that I am no longer a fashion blogger (despite the name - rebranding is far too overwhelming at this point!) and this realisation has definitely been a relief and taken a lot of pressure off me in terms of "being a blogger". I care way less about getting dressed now and my shopping habits have really changed as a result.

I still love to shop, don't get me wrong, but not at the same level as I used to, and I don't buy the same kind of things I would have done five years ago. Here's how I shop now...

1. I buy less
I think my shopping habit got a bit out of control when I was at uni and for the year or so after. I feel like I was buying stuff all.the.time. I was buying magazines on a weekly basis, constantly reading blogs and just being in an environment where I was always seeing new things I wanted to buy! I was blogging a lot and passionate about clothes, and I always wanted to try new trends and new ideas. I always wanted to wear something new and create a new outfit every day. Now I reckon I buy maybe 2 or 3 new things a month, and I wear the same outfits all the time! 

2. I choose quality over quantity
When I do shop now, I shop almost exclusively at ASOS, Oasis and Warehouse, places that I would very rarely shop at a few years ago. I'd rather have a gorgeous top that I'll really love and wear all the time than two cheaper tops that I wouldn't wear as much. Of course, I'll still dither massively, like a few weeks ago when I was reluctant to spend £30 on a ASOS little black dress which I've now realised I'll wear with everything, and I still find it easier to spend £20 than £40, but when I look in my wardrobe, it's the better quality items I love much more than the cheaper ones.

3. Focus on basics
I've recently started to assess where I have gaps in my wardrobe and looked to fill them with basics. Breton tops, a simple black dress for work or play, wear-with-everything ballet flats, simple black heels. These are the kinds of things that will go with everything and will really get worn. In the winter I'll spend a bit more on a decent pair of brown boots and a decent pair of black boots and wear them in a constant rotation, then in the summer I'll have a pair of nude ballet flats that I'll wear with everything, undoubtedly wear out, then I'll buy a similar pair the following year. I used to be all about wearing the pink shoes with the pink dress but now I'd much rather keep it simple and buy things that go with everything!

4. I buy what I will really wear
I love dresses, but if they're not wearable for work, they're probably not worth buying. I rarely go out, and even if I do, I've definitely got enough going-out dresses and I don't go out enough to justify buying more, and at the weekends I tend to reach for jeans anyway. Sometimes it can be a hard realisation when I love something that I really don't have anywhere to wear it! At the weekends I know I live in jeans, so a cosy sweatshirt is a much better investment than a pretty dress.

5. I know my style better
I used to read hundreds of fashion blogs, so I was constantly inspired by different bloggers' styles and always trying new things. Now I know what's me, and what isn't me, so I don't buy things for the style I wish I had. In the winter, that's jeans and jumpers, or a skirt and a jumper, and in the summer it's jeans and pretty tops. I recently got rid of loads of pairs of shorts, which I loved in my early twenties, but know I'll never wear again. I know I'm probably not as "stylish" and "on-trend" as I used to be, but I feel much more comfortable in how I dress now and I think that's something that comes naturally as you get older.

6. Comfort is king
I only wear heels now if I absolutely have to. I'm too impatient to walk slowly, and I like I get everywhere quickly! This means I'll rarely buy something, unless it's for the evening, if it absolutely needs heels. I'm old and boring and I like to be comfortable. I like cosy jumpers and cardigans and sweatshirts. I don't have the energy to be uncomfortable for the sake of looking good anymore.

7. I work 5 days a week
I have only 3 days a week (we have dress down Fridays) where I'm not in workwear, so if I'm going to buy anything new, I should probably spend money on something I can wear for work. Because otherwise there's only so many opportunities I'm going to get to wear something (seriously, I did the maths on this, and there are only 13 weeks in a season, which isn't a lot of outfits when you consider I try to avoid getting dressed after my run on Sundays...)

8. I live in jeans
This goes back to being honest about what I will really wear. On a cold Saturday, I won't be reaching for a dress. I'll be wearing jeans. I live in dresses and skirts at work, so when I get the chance to wear jeans, I'll take it. So I let myself buy as many tops as I like because I know they'll get worn much more than a dress or a skirt. I also have lots of pairs of jeans now. I'm currently in love with Primark's super high waisted skinny jeans, because at £8, they're less than a quarter of the price of my usual Topshop jeans.

9. I look for easy combinations and formulas
In the week, I wear a near-constant rotation of jumpers and skirts for work. I have a few nice jumpers and a few nice skirts that all go together in different combinations, which means I have very little to think about every week. So I try to buy things that already work with the combinations in my wardrobe.

10. I shop almost exclusively online
I very rarely shop unless I need something specific, so I do nearly all my shopping online, and usually through searching, rather than browsing. This means I have less chance of getting distracted by something pretty! Of course, this still happens, both online and offline, but it's much easier to search "tan ballet flats" online than it is to hunt through shops for them! I resent paying for postage (but forever hunt for discount code!), but it usually makes better economic sense than going into town where I'll usually end up buying something else too!

11. I don't accept collaborations that aren't me
I very rarely collaborate with brands any more, but a lot of the clothes in my wardrobe are from collaborations that to be honest weren't very me. As a young fashion blogger I jumped at any chance of free clothes, which means I've ended up with so many things that I probably never wore again after the photos. So now I almost never collaborate, and I have to be sure whatever is offered is something I'd actually buy myself, otherwise it's just a waste of a spot in my wardrobe.

(On a similar topic, I really recommend this blog post from Michelle - Can we still call it fashion blogging when all you write about is shopping? )

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

My favourite places in Manchester

I've written my love letter to Manchester before, time and time again. The truth is, I love this city, and I love it more than any city in the world. Manchester is my home, and moving a handful of miles out of the centre is not going to change that. There are still so many places I'm yet to explore (I have a list of places I haven't yet visited and things I haven't yet done) but I think I've done pretty well over the past few years.

So here are my favourite places in the city. Maybe not the best places, but my favourites. The places I will go to again and again, the places I'll excitedly take people to and be excited to show them off. These are the places that represent my city, and my memories, my experieces of it. Some of them I've only recently discovered, and some I've been going to for years.

I've split them into lunch and coffee places, dinner, drinks, culture and shops, although I admit there's a bit of crossover in a few categories, especially dinner and drinks, but I tried to fit them into the categories that make the most sense to me.

Coffee, lunch and snacks
Our flat is located in a beautiful triangle of burrito places. Within a 5 minute walk, we have three burrito places. Changos is Phil's favourite, and Panchos is mine. In fact, a Panchos burrito bowl was my first meal after my marathon!
There are actually two Panchos branches in the city (I talked about the Arndale market one in this post edit: Unfortunately, Splendid Kitchen has since closed, which is such a shame because it used to be one of my absolute favourite places), but we favour the Quadrangle one, purely because it was just around the corner from our flat.
I love the gigantic portions, and the fact that veggie option isn't just guacamole (looking at you, Chilangos). We always go for bowls because you get more than in a burrito, and I always get the veggie chilli.
My favourite brunch spot, but you've got to be prepared to wait! On a Saturday or Sunday you're looking at a wait of at least 45 minutes to an hour, so get your name on the list and kill some time, it's worth it. Moose is all about American and Canadian-style breakfast, from eggs to waffles. I'm not a fan of a sweet breakfast, so I usually go for the Manolito (my absolute favourite, the Burrito state of mind, has sadly departed the menu) or the Bronx Burnch Green Line.
A blink-and-you'll-miss-it stall just outside the Arndale, this started out as a popup before becoming permanent. The most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches you'll ever have in your life. Choose from loads of fillings or keep it classic with just grilled onions. It's quick and dirty and delicious, and they change their menu every few weeks.
There are lots of places in Manchester for great tea and cake, and Proper Tea is no exception. Not the easier place to find, round the back of the Cathedral, but I love their tea-and-biscuits deal (Morning Tea), which includes a pot of tea and two of the nicest biscuits ever.
Perfect veggie and vegan fare just round the corner from Picadilly Gardens. I get a falafel bowl with everything, and it comes with houmous, tabbouleh and more salads than I can name!
I've written about Ziferblat before because it's just lovely. Pay per minute and enjoy as much tea, coffee, cake and cereal as you like. It's like walking into someone's living room, I just love it.
You'll need your GPS on your phone to find this one, but just down the back of a dodgy-looking alley is one of Manchester hidden gems. This and That cafe is a Manucian institution, and for good reason. It looks absolutely nothing from the outside, but once you go in there is bound to a queue for the caferia-style curries. Get 3 veggie curries and rice for just £3.90, or a maximum of £6.50 for three meat curries. The menu changes every day, so you get something different each time. We got two heaping platefuls (three veg for me, two meat and one veg for Phil), two cans of soft drink, a garlic naan and an onion bhaji for £12. It's both filling and delicious and I cannot wait to go again. Don't judge a book by its cover!
Just on the approach to Oxford Road Station is a lovely little coffee shop called Java. I love it as respite from the two Stabucks' and two Cafe Neros in the surrounding area. It's a bit of a hidden gem and it's a lovely, quiet spot for a coffee and a catch up. They do serve food but I've never eaten in, though the Greek mezze on the menu sounds incredible!
If I'm going to have cake, I'm going to go to Teacup. One of my favourite places for lunch (I love their fish fingers sandwiches), cake and tea in a pot, Teacup is another Northern Quarter institution. Pop in and please get the Rainbow cake because I've always wanted to try it.
Slice does exactly what it says on the tin. Cheap, but great!, slices of pizza, and excellent ice cream. Perfect for when you want a bit of a snack after a hard day's shopping.
Super pretentious hipster heaven, but I kind of like it, Takk could not be more Northern Quarter. I guarantee whoever serves you in here has a beard and is wearing a check shirt. BUT I had an amazing Welsh Rarebit in here once that I'll never forget, so this is one of my favourite places to meet friends, especially as it's super close to Piccadilly.
A sandwich here has been proclaimed by Phil to be "the best sandwich I've ever had in my life" (it was a reuben). I love sitting outside of here in the summer with a latte and some millionaire's shortbread. 

Dinner
I reallu, really, really love the Corn Exchange. It's such a lovely spot in the centre of the city with some of my favourite restaurants, and they've done such a great job of transforming this empty space into something amazing. Mowgli is one of my favourite places. It's all Indian street food, like Indian tapas, and everything is delicious. I really love the Indian chip butty.
Sandinista is a cool little Spanish bar just off St Ann's Square, and I love it for a cocktail or for tapas. It's perfectly located from the Royal Exchange Theatre, and they do a discount if you show them your theatre ticket.
Artisan is pretty much the "fanciest" place on my list. Phil and I went here for our anniversary a few years ago! The food is fab, I love the decor and it's just generally a really cool place for a special occasion.
Okay, I know it's a chain, but we've only had Wahaca in Manchester for a year or so, and I absolutely love it so it deserves to be on the list! Just the best Mexican street food - I especially love the crispy prawn tacos and sweet potato taquitos. Also in the Corn Exchange, like all my favourite places!
  • Curry Mile
You can't visit Manchester without a trip to the curry mile. Mughli is our favourite place. It doesn't have an extensive menu like most curry houses, which put us off at first, but then we realised it's because they have a real expertise in some top dishes. A bus out of the city, or a decent walk, but well worth the trip.
We went here this year for our anniversary, and I love going somewhere with healthy, tasty food. I haven't been for brunch, but it looks fantastic! 
My favourite dark, dingy taco bar for big plates of nachos or tasty Mexican tapas. It's a great little tequila bar - super cool, super dark, great food and drinks. Pop into Kosmonaut next door after for a cocktail!
Rudy has become a bit of an institution. It's made such a name for itself as "the best pizza in Manchester" that they are constantly turning people away or instilling long wait times. Admittedly, we made the mistake of going on a Friday after work, and at 6.45pm were told it was an hour and half wait, so we popped across for a drink at Seven Brothers, then after an hour and a half we nipped back and were told it might be another hour. After half an hour in another bar, we got a call saying it would be another half an hour, and finally, after two and a half hours we got our table. Was it worth the wait? Yes. Would I wait again that long? Probably not. But it is unbelieavale pizza and I have no regrets, but the hanger when you don't have dinner til 9.30pm is real.


Solita serves the kind of food that is dirty and ridiculous and delicious and damn right dirty. Home of the Big Manc, it's a carnivore's dream, but they also have a great selection of veggie and fish options. Solita is the place for a real delicious blow out!


Drinks
I LOVE Crazy Pedros! They have two sites now, the original in Spinningfield and a new one in the Northern Quarter. Only go during happy hour, which is 5-9pm Sunday-Friday. Cocktails are 2 for 1 (and they're delicious and surprisingly strong!) and pizza slices are £2 or pay £10 for a whole 16" pizza. They have a special every month (the Dirty Northener, which came with chips and gravy on top, was a bit weird) but the Nacho Libre is my favourite, due to being a pizza with nachos on.
Font Bar used to be my bar of choice when I was 18 before walking across t0 Fifth Ave in heels I couldn't walk in. But I've recently rediscovered how great it is, because £2 cocktails are great whether you're 18 or 26. Also the food is actually pretty good, and they often have a DJ on at the weekends, so I'm not embarrassed to put this on my list. Okay maybe a little bit.
Hula is a tiki bar in the Northern Quarter, where you can get flaming (literally!) zombies, which I'm not sure pass health and safety in a bar which is covered in straw. But it plays 90% R'n'B and does great cocktails, so what more could you want?
Refuge recently opened just around the corner from us, which is really annoying right before we move out because it's AWESOME. It's part of the fancy-schmancy Principal Hotel, and it's decor reminds me of the Overlook in The Shining. It's a really smart bar, equally great for a latte and also for a gin and tonic. It's the kind of place I need to take my Mum.
Fitzgerald's is a 1920s themed bar, which I think is a bit of a hidden gem, hiding down an alley at the side of Hula. It's all decked out in flapper style, and shows black and white films projected onto the wall. It has an amazing cocktail menu and is just a really unusual spot for drinks. My friends loved it here!
The Alchemist is in no way unique to Manchester - and we have two! - but I love the crazy cocktail concoctions with dry ice and foam and colour-changing madness. Definitely worth a visit if you love cocktails.

Culture
Home is one of my absolute favourite places in Manchester. It's an independent cinema, theatre, restaurant, gallery, bar and cafe all in one. We were pretty gutted when The Cornerhouse closed two years ago, but Home is a brilliant substitution. I love seeing films here because it's such an intimate space, but it's also great for a drink and the restaurant is fantastic (get the veggie burger!). I'll really miss having this around the corner.
Despite having a Cineworld Unlimited card, I have a huge appreciation for the other cinemas in Manchester, and along with Home, I love the Great Northern cinema. You get a proper old-fashioned ticket stub, and it has that quiet, classic cinema vibe that I love. 
Despite living in the city and growing up down the road, I am always trying to learn new things about Manchester. So one of the things I was desperate to do when was a Manchester walking tour - we do them in every city we visit, so why not in our own home? The Manchester walking tour is excellent. It lasts three hours, with a break in the middle, and is "free" and all done on tips (just like the Sandeman tours I love in Europe). It's well worth doing whether you're from Manchester or not - you're bound to find out something new! 

  • Vimto Statue

Did you know Manchester is the birthplace of Vimto? Yep, we have our very own statue dedicated to it too! It's one of my favourite things in the city because I had no idea about it until a few years ago!

  • Alan Turing Memorial

Alan Turing is a hero that Manchester has really adopted as its own, and there are references to him all over the city, especially around the university. On Whitworth street there is a tiny park with a statue of Alan Turning sat on a bench, sitting right between the Gay Village and the University. It's a lovely tribute, and one of my favourite spots. It's well worth a visit if you are in the city.

We do pretty well for theatres in Manchester, with the Palace, Opera House and Lowry, but the Royal Exchange is by far my favourite. It's a very intimate-feeling theatre in the round, so you can see everything and everyone at all times. I've seen some amazing productions here, but the best has got to be Maxine Peake's A Streetcard Named Desire last year. It was also here, three years ago before we went to see Sweeney Todd, that Phil asked me to be his girlfriend.

When I worked in the city centre, I used to go to Central Library to read nearly every lunchtime and I miss it so much. It's recently been renovated and it's absolutely stunning. Plus wikipedia just informed me that is the second largest public lending library in Britain, so that's cool. It's probably my favourite building in the city, and I miss my lunchtime reading sessions there every day!

I ran past John Rylands library for months before I knew what it was, which is strange because it sticks out like a sore thumb! Although a sore thumb it is not. The John Rylands library is the most stunning Victorian gothic building nestled between all the bars and restaurants and pubs of Deansgate. The inside is a oxymoronic mix of classic neo-Gothic and ultra modern. It's free to enter and well worth a look around.
We used to go the Museum of Science and Industry on school trips almost every year when I was at school, and I still haven't lost my love for it. Every time I visit a new memory will pop up and I'm filled with nostalgia. But it's still as amazing a museum now as it was when I was a kid. I always remember the area with the trains and having to sketch them for school, and I recently learned they are on the site of the world's first railway station! It's also free to enter, and it amazing for kids and adults alike.
Shops


When Phil and I first started dating, we had to visit the Richard Goodall gallery every weekend. It's a very contemporary gallery, with all the prints related to pop culture, mostly music and films. We would always pick out things we wanted to one day buy for our own place! For Phil's birthday three years ago I got him the cinema redux of Blade Runner - a print made up of each one-second frame in the film, with each row representing one minute. If you're into films or music, save up your pennies and go in for a visit.
I can't help wandering into Oklahoma whenever I'm in the Northern Quarter. But I don't know how I would describe it. Maybe a novelty gift shop? It sells everything you didn't know you needed. Like a Godzilla lamp.

If you're veggie or vegan in the city, 8th Day is the best place to go to for your veggie needs, from nutritional yeast to vital wheat gluten to dates, nuts, brown rice syrup and vegan cheeses, this is the place to go. It also have a cafe downstairs but I still haven't made it in there for a visit!

Of course, there are still dozens of places I haven't visit yet, including Chethams Library, The Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Gallery and I can't wait to come back into the city and visit even more places. I'm sad to be moving away from the city I love, but I know I'm only around the corner, and all these amazing places will still be there, plus, I'm sure, hundreds more!

Want anymore Manchester recommendations? Hit me up on Twitter!

Charlotte x