Monday, 30 November 2020

November Life Lately

If October was my month of DIY and horror films, November was a month of erm... reading and yoga?

November had some lovely moments but it's also been a really tough one. While we haven't been able to see people inside since September due to local restrictions, second lockdown has meant the same, and in fact, probably worse, anxieties that I had in the first lockdown, bringing with it the same bad sleep and nightmares I was having back in March and April (I'm normally a very good sleeper!) and we've had some other stuff going on as well which made the month particularly rough (spot Bobby limping in my one second video - his first panicked trip to the vets (he's fine) being one of the many tough points in the month).

But we're in December now, my tree is already up and I'm trying to enjoy the wintertime with candles and hot chocolate and the occasional Baileys. I'm looking forward to wrapping presents, and our first Christmas with Bobby, and even though Christmas is going to be a lot different this year, I'm still looking forward to giving gifts, even if it's virtually.

So here's what I got up to in November, and here's my One Second Every Day of the Month.

What I did

I sometimes joke that I'm too good at sleeping. I wake up in the most uncomfortable positions that I have no idea how my body is able to sleep in. As a result I have near-constant backache, especially at the moment when it seems my body is only able to settle when it's positioned like a pretzel.

I used to do Yoga with Adriene at least a couple of times a week when I wasn't running but it's fallen by the wayside over the last few months (especially now we have a dog to walk in the morning!). With bad sleep and anxiety and back pain, plus a disinterest in running in the dark in the mornings, I decided to do another 30 days of yoga and followed Adriene's November calendar, Ground.

I've been joking to Phil that Adriene is somehow psychic and every day the practice for the day has been exactly what I needed.

I've enjoyed it so much and it's amazing how much it helps calm me down. In the mornings I can sometimes be a bit too tired to enjoy it, but I've found it so helpful on weekend afternoons in particular, so I think I'm going to carry on every day through December, and then do the January 30 days that I do every year. 3 months of yoga every day!


On the 8th November, Phil and I celebrated 7 years together. We had originally planned to go out for dinner in Manchester, then our backup plan was a meal nearer home, and in the end we weren't able to do that either, so we got a takeaway from a restaurant we'd wanted to try for a while, got dressed up, drank a bottle of champagne left over from our wedding and watched La La Land. It was really lovely but I hope after not being able to go out for my 30th Birthday, our wedding anniversary or our 7 year anniversary we'll get a chance to properly celebrate our next milestone!


House-wise, we are really getting there! We got new floor and carpets fitted last month which have made a huge difference. We got a radiator cover for our bedroom and changed the knobs on the dressing table and we just need a few more extra bits and I think our bedroom will be nearly there! We also caved at the weekend and put up our Christmas tree and have moved into the front room for the winter.

Of all the weekly Zoom calls we had during early lockdown, there is only one we still have going, our weekly Mariokart night on a Thursday. One of our Mariokart team decided if we went into second lockdown we should do a Friday night Mariokart session and turn it into a drinking game. So we ordered a takeaway from our favourite local pizza place (Pickle Rick's, if you're in Stockport) and let the games begin. It's very hard to drink while controlling your cart, especially when one of the rules is "drink whenever you're paragliding" or "drink whenever you get hit with a shell". I managed to take a lot of baby sips and my second "gin and tonic" was water with a slice of lemon in it so I fared okay, but there were definitely some sore heads the next day!


On games, we've had a resurgence of board games in our house, our current favourite being Monopoly Deal which has made me threaten divorce on multiple occasion. Codenames Duet is also as much fun as the original Codenames, but perfect for 2 players.


I'm currently part-furloughed, which means I get Fridays off and I've now deemed it "bread Friday". I've made Nigella's sandwich loaf from Cook Eat Repeat twice (it's soooo good!), and last weekend I made naan bread. Next week is bagels!


Speaking of naan, I made them as I've seen so many people get a Dishoom breakfast naan box delivered that I decided to make them myself, especially as I've owned the Dishoom book over a year and never cooked anything from it! I made my own chilli jam, own naan and used Richmond veggie sausages, but the pièce de résistance was the unbelievable homemade chai, which is basically all I want to drink now. You can find the recipe here.

What I read

I genuinely feel like all I did in November was read. Fourteen books read last month:

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Whites by Otegha Uwagba
Please Read this Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin
Gratitude by Delphine de Vigan
Consent by Annabel Lyon
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd
The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean
So Much Blue by Percival Everett
The Smash-Up by Ali Benjamin
Sabotage by Emma Gannon

There were a lot of books here which have been hanging around on my Kindle for months - The Life and Death of Sophie Stark, So Much Blue, Please Read this Leaflet Carefully and A Kind of Intimacy, all of which I really really loved.

A few Advanced Reader Copies from Netgalley here too - You Exist too Much, The Death of Vivek Oji, Consent, The Apparition Phase, Whites, Gratitude, The Smash-Up, People Like Her and Sabotage, which I listened to on audio.

People Like Her was a huge surprise and one of my favourite books of the month. I had no recollection of requesting it until I got an email saying I'd been approved, and it was the kind of thriller I wouldn't normally pick up, but I absolutely devoured it in a day and couldn't put down. It's a perfect book for reigniting you after a reading slump.

I also loved Sabotage, which is a short but punchy book, only a couple of hours on audio. I do like a bit of self-help every now and again, and this was a nice balance of kick up the arse as well as insightful help, not just fluffy self-care.

I finally caved and bought Exciting Times after accepting that after being closed since March, it was getting less and less likely I was going to be able to collect the copy of it I've had reserved at the library for the last 8 months.

What I watched

Quite a lot of films this month (mostly because of the football international break! We watched 3 films in one day one Sunday purely because there was no football on):

First time watches:
Citizen Kane
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Krampus
His House

Rewatches:
La La Land
Into the Spider-verse
Monsters Inc
Elf 
Black Christmas

We watched La La Land on our anniversary because it's one of our favourite films (we had the soundtrack playing at our drinks reception at our wedding, and loads of the songs are on our wedding video), and in our three-films-in-one-day we watched Into the Spider-verse (maybe one of my top 10 favourite films?!), Monsters Inc and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.

We also watched Elf while we put up the tree, and had a festive horror double-bill with Krampus and the incredible Black Christmas last weekend.

We watched Citizen Kane to prepare for David Fincher's Mank coming out this week (Fincher is my favourite director) and planned to have a classic film month but this kind of fell off a cliff after Citizen Kane.

Finally, we watched His House at the weekend which I highly, highly recommend. I genuinely can't stop thinking about it.

TV-wise, like everyone else we've started The Queen's Gambit. We've watched about 4 episodes so far. We also found ourselves hooked into The Undoing and I adore Nigella's new tv series, Cook, Eat, Repeat.

What I loved



One of my best friends, Meg, has an Etsy store making seasonal decorations and she has made me THE MOST AMAZING FELT VERSION OF BOBBY. Look how thrilled he is!

Seriously my dog has a problem with resting-unimpressed-face.

Anyway, if you want a felt version of your furry pal, or an adorable smiley sprout, or a felt Father Christmas for your tree, head over to Sleighed on Etsy, and use the code SLEIGHGNDF for 10% off when you spend £5.



Speaking of Etsy, my other friend, Kris is making amazing homemade earrings and I got 2 pairs this week which I am veryyyyy excited about! You can visit her store here.

And finally, Christmas came early for me last month with the news that my favourite podcast, What Page Are You On?, is back! WPAYO in the reason I read so many books, that I'm so excited about books and that I follow so many cool ladies on Twitter these days. Even better, the podcast is now weekly. It's my favourite thing to remember on my Furlough Friday that there's a new episode to listen to!

What I wrote



What I read online

Alicia Kennedy - On "health"
New York Times - How to worry mindfully
Writing Between Pauses - 4 Ideas for holiday self care
The Aesthetics of Joy - How to make chores more joyful
Writing Between Pauses - 3 Things to do when you feel anxious

Wishing you a cosy December!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Essential Tools for my Daily Routine - HappyFeed

My friend Michelle has been doing a really interesting series on her blog around her daily routine and other people's daily routines and I've been finding it absolutely fascinating. I love hearing about how other people plan their days, and I particularly love hearing about the tools and techniques they use to manage them.

Now I'm going to be honest, it feels like a pretty weird time to be writing about something like this when my daily routine is an absolute million miles away from the usual at the moment, so I'm going to focus instead on the things I use day in, day out, whether it's a normal (or "normal") day, a weekend, a day off, a holiday.

These aren't expensive products or time-consuming tips, and it's worth saying here that just because these are the things I enjoy, doesn't mean they will work for everyone. Furthermore, I am always trying new things, changing my routines up, looking for new things that might work better (one of the apps I want to talk about in a later post I've only been using for a few weeks!).

When I started this idea for a blog post, I focused first on apps, as I ticked something off my Productive app and went to track my mood in Daylio, but I soon found myself wanting to add my iPhone Notes onto the list and my bullet journal, and before I knew it I had a whole list of tools beyond just apps, and across multiple categories.

So in the interest in this not being the longest and most in-depth blog post of all time, I decided to split this idea into a couple of blog posts, and into a few categories. They are:

- Memories, gratitude and mood
- Organisation
- Productivity

I originally wrote this as 3 blog posts, but they were so enormous they've been sat in my drafts for literally months because I was too overwhelmed to edit them, so instead I've split them into mini posts.

First up, in the category of "memories, gratitude and mood" is one of my absolute favourite and post-used apps, HappyFeed.

The alternative title for this post is, How HappyFeed forces me to be grateful even when I don't want to be!

The HappyFeed app is a digital gratitude journal - every single day you have to list three things you are grateful for, or three things that made you happy today. 

(Just to add, like my post on Eat Your Books, this is not sponsored - it's just an app I really love!)

Some days are great. Remember those days when we used to be able to, you know, do stuff? Go to places? Some days it's hard to narrow my happy things down to just 3, or I bunch them up into long sprawling sentences of gratitude.

More often than not at the moment, thinking of 3 things to be happy about is hard.

Some days the best I can come up with is "I'm enjoying my book" or "dinner tonight was good" or "my dog is nice" but that's okay. Forcing me to think of 3 things that were positive, even on the worst days, really helps you to be grateful and look around a little bit more.

I've been using HappyFeed now for nearly 3 years (I specifically remember I'd only been using it a few weeks when I got the add the entry "WE GOT ENGAGED TODAY!" on Boxing Day 2017) and one of my favourite features is its "memories" feature, where you can see your 3 happy things from 3 months ago, 6 months ago, 12 months ago etc. Sometimes just remembering something from 6 months ago is enough to make you smile all over again!

Another feature I like is tagging your "best days" with a representative emoji. Obviously some days are super special but other days are just really good days I want to remember, like our anniversary this month. It wasn't exactly our wedding day but we got a lovely takeaway and watched one of our favourite films and got dressed up for the occasion. I love tagging these days to remember for the future.

At the end of each month you also get an email with a review of the month - some of your photos and most-used words, plus a few random memories from the month. This is such a nice reminder of the nice things you did.

Finally, there's a really nice random-generator feature where you can "shake the jar" for a happy memory which can give you a boost when you need one!

I currently use the free version of HappyFeed but in the paid version you can add up to 10 happy things, use offline mode, search your moments and download. I think eventually I'll upgrade to support the developers, but for now I have everything I need in the free version.

I'm currently on 1048 days and a streak of 538 days (luckily you can go back up to 3 days if you forget a day which I sometimes do!) and I love having older memories to look back on (especially now when time makes no sense!).

HappyFeed is available for iOS and Android.

Charlotte x

Monday, 9 November 2020

How Eat Your Books helps me to actually use all my recipe books

I'm not sure if you know this, but I am obsessed with recipe books.

Oh, okay, you do know that do you? 

Right.

I get asked quite a lot how many I have, and you'd expect someone like me to umm and ahh and not be sure of the number.

But no, I know it. It's 98.

And how do I know it's 98?

It's thanks to the wonder that is Eat Your Books.

(I want to make it clear here this is not sponsored - I really love Eat Your Books and have been paying myself for my membership for many years!)

What is Eat Your Books?

Eat Your Books is a website which allows you to organise and search through your recipe books.

I originally stumbled across it a few years ago because, well, I'm obsessed with recipe books. And sometimes I like to look up recipe books to see what recipes they have before I buy them. Or what reviews they have. Or sometimes I find myself in the supermarket googling what I'm planning to make for dinner to see if the recipe is online because I've forgotten if I need courgettes or not.

And Eat Your Books would always come up. And to be honest, for years I didn't get it. 

You couldn't see the quantities of each ingredient, or the recipe itself. Just the ingredients it needed, and sometimes some reviews. I couldn't see how it would be useful.

But after coming across it over and over again, I decided to give a free trial a go. And I completely fell in love.

How I use Eat Your Books

The first thing you do when you sign up is add all the books you own to your library (you can also add 5 books in the free version), as well as any blogs you want to follow. You can do this by search, or you can also add by ISBN.

Now one thing to add here - not all books are indexed, but of course the more popular your book, the more likely it is to be indexed. Of my 98 books, 84 are indexed, 3 are indexing now and 1 is yet to be released (but I think will be indexed pretty quickly after release). You can request books be indexed, or, if you're super keen, you can offer to index them yourself.

Once a book is indexed, you can search all the recipes in it, and this goes for all books, whether they're on your shelf or not.

At a recipe level, you can see all the ingredients, though not the quantities, and some tags eg. vegetarian, main courses, Mexican. You can also see any reviews or notes that other users have added to the recipe (I find these incredibly useful!).

One of my favourite features is the ability to add bookmarks to recipes. I have loads of bookmarks, for example "weekend favourites", "storecupboard recipes", "autumn/winter" ,"BBQ", "salads", "brunch to try", "convert to veggie" and "instant pot". I find bookmarks really helpful when meal planning, or for saving recipes I want to remember to make later.

But by far, the best feature is the search. If it's the end of the week and I haven't been food shopping, I can search my library by ingredients I have in. So I can search "eggs, kale, tomatoes" and find an Eggs in Purgatory dish from EllyPear, or maybe I also have some cheese, so I can search "eggs, cheese" and Eat Your Books reminds me of a mac and cheese recipe I've been meaning to try. 

You can filter by loads of factors too - for me, it's always "vegetarian" but I can also search only book recipes (so no blogs or websites - I do this quite often if I want to really make sure I'm using my books). You can also search by course, ingredient, ethnicity, occasion and recipe types.

I find this is a great way to reduce food waste, by searching for ingredients I have on hand. For example this week I had to buy oranges for one recipe, but I knew I wouldn't use them all. I know I always have tofu in the freezer, so I searched "orange tofu" in my books and found 32 recipes in my books for orange tofu.

How much is it?

Eat Your Books is $3 a month or you can pay $30 for a year. For me, personally, less than £3 a month is more than worth it considering the amount I spend on recipe books.

Final thoughts

I've been using Eat Your Books now for about 3 years and it has absolutely transformed how I use my recipe books. I try so many more recipes now and get loads of helpful tips from the notes of other users.

It's annoying sometimes when a book you really want to be indexed isn't yet (still waiting on The Roasting Tin Around the World) but considering how many of my books are indexed I don't miss my newer or more-obscure ones not being on the site yet.

If like me you have so many recipe books you find yourself overwhelmed, Eat Your Books is a great way of feeling as though you can really use them and it makes me so excited about my book collection!

Let me know if you give it a try!

Charlotte x

Friday, 6 November 2020

October Life Lately

October was a month of scary films, spooky books and DIY. Here's what I got up to (and here's my One Second Every Day for the month).

What I did

If I had to sum up October in one word, or three letters, it would be DIY. Nearly all of my One Second Every Day clips are of one of us pushing a roller over a wall or touching up a skirting board.

We've been working on the house near-constantly since August and we are getting there, albeit very slowly! In October we finally got our bedroom, office room and hall plastered (after weeks of bare plaster in our bedroom, and worse, bare dusty brick in the hall and office room as they both needed completely new walls!). And once all the plaster was dry, we could paint!


Our bedroom is now Timeless white with a soothing green feature wall, our office room is Chic Shadow (the most gorgeous shade of is-it-grey-is-it-blue-is-it-lilac - see above) and our small dark hallway is now the brightest pure brilliant white. It's been a lot of work - every single weekend and most evenings have been spent covered in paint, but we've managed to get so much done.

I'm not a fan of sharing my journey part-way through and we have a long way to go, but there are a few sneak peeks in my seconds video. Our bedroom is definitely coming along the quickest (and by that I mean, Phil ripped off the horrible old textured wallpaper in there back in July!) and it's the room where we had the clearest vision about what we wanted, which meant we could actually get some accessories this month too!

With the room being green and white, we've gone for blush pink for everything else which I absolutely love. Our bedding is pure white (omg Dunelm's soft touch bedding is amazing), with a pink throw and the most perfect pink-and-green cushions from Matalan which go perfectly. We've also got pink curtains, a pink lampshade and pink lamps. 

But my favourite thing in the room right now is some prints we got from Desenio. I didn't even know where to start with buying art but wanted something a bit more grown up. A lot of the prints in our house are of our favourite places (our little feature wall in the living room has prints of Duluth (where I lived on my year abroad), Manchester city centre (where we first lived together), Lyme Park (where we got engaged) and Banff (where we spent our honeymoon)), and the landing has 2 prints of Stockport (where we live). We also have lots of photos and film and book-themed prints, but nothing just, art.


So I hit my usual resource for all things house - Kimberley's blog - and discovered Desenio. The prints we found are absolutely stunning. One is of blue and pink mountains, and the other gold-and-pink hills. They go perfectly together and really make the room. They also sell frames, which is amazing because buying frames is the bane of my life. We got 2 prints and 2 frames, and because we bought 4 or more items, we got 30% off, so the whole order was £70! They look fantastic.

I'm so glad we got all the painting done before the DIY shops close. We have a few more bits to order online but I don't think we'll make much progress in November, but hopefully I'll have something properly to show you in the new year!

What I read


(I've never done this before, but I've become an affiliate with Bookshop.org which supports independent bookshops, so if you buy anything from any of the links to books I've shared I'll get a small commission).

Not a massive book-reading month last month - likely because of spending all my evenings and weekends painting!

Here's what I read:


I first encountered Marilynne Robinson when I was at university when I read Gilead, and I think this was my first introduction to my favourite genre, which I call "beautifully written character studies where nothing happens". 

Years later I read the second book in the Gilead series, Homegoing, and up until recently I didn't even know there were more books in the series.

It was only when I was browsing NetGalley to look for something new to request when I noticed Jack, and saw it was the fourth book in the series. I requested it, then promptly downloaded Lila, the third book in the series, which I read last month.

While I loved Lila, I just didn't love Jack quite as much. Jack is the story of the titular Jack, who is abandoned by his family due to his checkered past, and falls in love with Della, a black woman, in a time in which these relationships are illegal.

I really like the way Marilynne Robinson's Gilead series keeps us closely tied to different characters and how each book focuses on a character who might have been minor or barely mentioned in the other books. I expected to really love this but actually I much preferred Lila, even though it had much less in the way of plot.


I wanted a couple of spooky books for October and had had this on my wishlist for a while, so when it was discounted on Kindle I bought it and read it almost straight away. I was hooked so quickly that I ended up buying another Simone St James book after a few pages.

The Sun Down Motel is a character in itself. Carly finds herself working in the motel while investigating her aunt's disappearance in the 80s. Her aunt also worked at the motel and it was the last place she was seen before she disappeared. The book takes turns between their perspectives, both working at the motel, Carly in the present and her Aunt Viv in the past.

This is a pacey, spooky and fun read which I really enjoyed, and it was perfect for October. I really loved it.


When it comes to spooky books, there is one man we always come back to, and Salem's Lot is one of the classics I hadn't read. It's actually Phil's copy and he described it as "basically every vampire story but it's good fun."

One of the reasons I didn't read as much last month is because Salem's Lot is long, man. It took me way over a week to read.

It's a classic Stephen King - small town in Maine, lots of characters and lots of names to remember, spooky stuff going on. It's great fun, and exactly as Phil described with lots of classic vampire tropes. I'm glad I've finally read it.


This had been on my to-read list for a while so I finally caved last month. I really loved this.

An unnamed narrator (I love an unnamed narrator) is living illegally in an apartment owned by his Aunt in the late 90s while he studies for his MFA writing programme at Colombia, and feels guilty about his living situation and family wealth compared to his peers. He becomes friends with a fellow classmate, Billy, who is a brilliant but struggling writer, and invites him to move in.

I loved so much about this - the story of class and friendship and politics and masculinity in 90s New York. The Apartment is sad and funny and brilliant and tragic and compelling. I highly recommend it.


Another spooky book for October. This is one of those books that I was suuuuuper into, until I wasn't. With horror I can easily get bored once the creepy goings-on start to get explained and this one kind of lost me in the last 100 or so pages. 

I know lots of people who really love this though, so if you want a creepy book with lots of spooky goings-on set in Mexico, it's worth a read.


This was I heard about months ago, added to my wishlist, bought for 99p then promptly forgot about. If I remember correctly I first heard about it through Blair (who I get most of my book recommendations from to be honest) who compared it to Otessa Mosfegh's Death in Her Hands - an old woman in a cold, wild location, trying to solve a mystery. 

I absolutely loved this. I loved being in Mrs Duszejko's head, I loved her weird thoughts, her obsessions with animals and horoscopes and William Blake and solving the mystery, her funny nicknames for her neighbours. It's quirky and weird and dark and brilliant and perfect for a cold winter evening. Translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones.


I know it seems strange to list a recipe book in my What I Read section, but Cook Eat Repeat is much more a collection of essays than it is a recipe book, and I read it from cover to cover. Including all the recipe intros. Even those containing meat.

It's a lovely little book. I can see people who were expecting a classic Nigella recipe book to be disappointed - there are only a handful of "real recipes", instead it features more inspiration and ideas and recommendations, suggestions for recipes within the text, without exact measurements or timings. It's a love letter to food and cooking and the joys of eating. I adored it.

What I watched


October is for horror films, so we had a horror-film-only month. Here's what we watched:

First time watches for me:
Friday the 13th
Candyman
Lake Mungo
The Woman in Black

Rewatches:
American Werewolf in London
Scream
Don't Look Now

The rewatches this month were a real highlight - I love both American Werewolf in London (as mentioned here) and Don't Look Now, but I hadn't seen Scream since I was a teenager and I cannot believe how brilliant it is! Maybe one to watch every year from now on?

We also loved The Haunting of Bly Manor. Like a lot of people, it was completely different to what we expected but by the end I was completely captivated (and in floods of tears).

What I loved


I've been using an app called HappyFeed for a few years now (I actually have a blog post planned about it). It's a really simple concept - every day you have to list 3 happy things for the day. Some days are really hard, some days you have way more than 3. And last month I hit a total of 1000 days on HappyFeed. I love looking back on what my happy things were a year ago, 2 years ago, 6 months or 3 months ago.



To cheer myself up last month I treated myself to 3 jumpers from Sugarhill Boutique. Sugarhill Boutique is my absolute favourite independent online shop - I love their cute, quirky designs. I've managed to get a few other people to buy from them lately after me being such a cheerleader! I got this pink stripe jumper, a navy striped one and this adorable dinosaur one. They make me smile whenever I see them in the wardrobe!

I've been hitting the podcasts pretty hard lately too. I'm currently working through the whole back catalogue of You're Wrong About and I'm utterly obsessed. My favourite episodes have been the OJ Simpson series (which I'm still working through), Human Trafficking (very relevant at the moment), Yoko Ono, Kitty Genovese (especially as I did a social psychology course a few weeks ago where there was a whole section on the bystander effect!), Anna Nicole Smith, Columbine and the Quarantine Deep Dive episodes into both Michelle Remembers and Jessica Simpson's autobiography.

Related to You're Wrong About - I've been enjoying Maintenance Phase, which is also hosted by Michael Hobbes of You're Wrong About. Maintenance Phase is a deep dive into the misconceptions and general rubbish of the diet and wellness industry.

And finally, I love having a series I can savour which I can only listen to when I'm running, and currently that is the satanic panic series of Uncovered. I love anything about the satanic panic thanks to the Michelle Remember deep dive on You're Wrong About and American Hysteria, and this is such a fantastic and well-researched investigation.

What I wrote


The return of this section! I actually wrote something last month that wasn't just a round up post! I wrote four posts in October:


What I read online


Writing Between Pauses - Making Magic
Writing Between Pauses - How to become a better writer

I've got loads of blog posts in drafts at the moment so hopefully I'll catch up with you before December!

Charlotte x

Monday, 26 October 2020

6 Scary films (and one scary TV show) for October


Following on from my post on
spooky books for October, I thought I'd write about a couple of my favourite scary films too.

I used to HATE horror films, though like I said in this post I loved a horror book. I'd quite often read a scary book then be too scared to watch the adaptation!

Now I enjoy horror films much more, but I have very specific requirements. I hate gore. I can't even watch injections, so I am behind a blanket for anything gory. I also hate anything overly jumpy. And I'm good at knowing what is, as we call it "too scary for Charlotte" (it took me a loooooong time to watch The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre terrified me, and there are a lot of films I know I'll never watch). Basically, I'm still a bit of a wuss, but I'm trying.

So while I'm quite new to the genre (and there are sooooo many classic horror films I'm yet to see) I definitely have a few favourites. Like with the scary books, there are so many I wanted to include on this list but I've tried to keep it short, and to keep it to films I've seen more than once (with one notable exception) and one TV series.

Also, scary is completely subjective. And like I said, I'm a bit of a wuss.

So here are some of my favourite scary things to watch this October...

The Shining

I was 16 the first time I saw The Shining and it terrified me. Then at university I read the book (my first Stephen King) and loved it so much I found the adaptation disappointing. Now it's one of my favourite ever films. It was one of the first films I ever saw with Phil and last October we went to see it on the big screen which was incredible. I've watched the documentary Room 237 about it. I have a tshirt with the carpet pattern on, and socks with the Grady twins on (thanks Riven!). I love it. It's one of my favourite films which still manages to scare me every time.

The Thing

I only saw The Thing for the first time about 5 years ago, but it instantly became one of my favourites. I love the atmosphere, I love the tension, I love the practical effects (so many incredible moments!) and most of all I love the ending (no spoilers here I promise!). It's one of those films I think about a lot.

Cabin in the Woods

I watched Cabin in the Woods for the first time last October and it's now one of my absolute favourite films. I love everything from the opening scene to the way it subverts the genre to the final horrible climax. I love the little Easter Eggs in the background and I get something different out of it every time. Oh and it's really funny (you'll see from my next few entries I love a comedy horror). One of those films I could watch at the drop of a hat - October or not.

Scream

Until this weekend I hadn't seen Scream since I was a teenager and I have such bad movie memory that it was like watching a film for the first time. 

Scream is absolutely genius, and definitely enjoyed it even more now I can really understand a lot of the references to other horror movies and the rules of horror. I found it absolutely great fun, hilarious and utterly meta. I can't wait to watch it again next October.

American Werewolf in London

American Werewolf in London is a "Phil's family" film. I never get tired of the story of Phil's Mum going to see it when she was at uni in London and her friends having to walk her home because she was too scared (on the Underground particularly I think!).

We rewatched this last week and it's just utterly perfect. As I mentioned before I love a blend of horror and comedy and this film is just so iconic. Plus also, practical effects! I love them! I love learning about how they were done! Another of my favourites.

Host

Okay I broke my own rule for this one, as I've only seen it once, but if I had £1 for every person I've recommend this film to during lockdown I'd be able to buy Bobby even more treats.

The first time we heard about this it was from Phil's brother, Andy, who knew a lot of the cast and crew from his Master's course. It sounded really fun - a horror film set, and filmed, during lockdown. But then we started to hear more and more people talking about it and knew we had to watch it.

One downside, it's currently only available on Shudder (we got a free 1 week trial to watch it), but I believe it is getting a theatrical release.

I cannot recommend this film more right now. As it's not only set during lockdown but filmed during it, it captures everything about this time perfectly, from the boredom to the struggling relationships to the endless Zoom calls.

If you watch one film from this list this year make it this.


The Haunting of Hill House

I'm sure I'm preaching to the converted here because I'm not sure I know one horror fan who isn't completely obsessed with this masterpiece, but I couldn't write a list without including it.

The Haunting of Hill House is one of my top 5 favourite TV shows of all time, and maybe my absolute favourite horror watch. I really enjoyed The Haunting of Bly Manor, but it was nothing like Hill House for its scares, its perfect editing and its haunting sadness.

I'm simultaneously still reeling from some of the scares (the car! The entirety of episode 5!) but also desperate to give it a rewatch (the genius of episode 6!). It's one of the best things I've ever watched (but watch out for those hidden ghosties!).

Hope you're having a spooky October!

Charlotte 

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Cookbook Review: Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage - Part 2

This is part 2 of my review of Flavour - part 1 has my first impressions and the first 9 recipes I tried. You can find it here


So here we are, part 2! In my last post I wrote about the first 9 recipes I made from this book, as well as my first impressions, so in this post I'm going to cover the second 10 recipes I cooked and my final thoughts.

What I made (part two)

Tofu meatball korma

I knew this was going to take a while so I set a timer for how long it took - 1 hour 40 in total. It's pretty intense too - maybe 25 minutes of that is hands-off - but it's perfect for a Saturday night, and I made the full portion to serve 4 so we could eat it for 2 days.

Unsuprisingly, the tofu balls completely fell apart and by the second day this was more ground tofu curry. It was tasty but needed an extra squeeze of lemon to bring out the flavours, and with the time it took I'm not sure I'd make it again.

Lime and coconut potato gratin


For day two of the tofu korma, I made the lime and coconut gratin as a side.

My first note is "no way am I going to do a spiral pattern with my potatoes", and this was true.

You definitely need a food processor for this, especially if, like me, you cut the end of your finger off with a mandolin once and can barely read the word without feeling ill. 

I did manage to somehow burn the aromatics and had to start again (10 minutes feel a long time to be frying garlic for!) and I didn't have spring onions so used shallots.

This takes a while so it's definitely a Sunday dish. It takes a good 2 hours in total, but the second hour is pretty much entirely hands off.

And it's worth it. I love a gratin anyway but this is so fresh-tasting with the lime juice. I would definitely make this again for a Sunday lunch. My only changes would be to halve it, as I ended up with loads for two of us and it was a bit of a strange for lunch leftovers on its own, and I'd maybe omit the coconut cream because it's expensive and I could barely taste it. I'm definitely making this again though.

Cucumber salad à la Xi'an Impression


I made this as a bit of an afterthought to go along with the tofu korma and potato gratin. I tried to halve it for just me and also because I didn't have as much cucumber as I thought. 

I liked the cucumber but didn't love the dressing so I probably wouldn't bother with this again.

Giant couscous and pumpkin in tomato and star anise sauce



I made this for a midweek dinner and it was just about do-able. I used a butternut squash as I'm saving my pumpkins for my favourite pumpkin curry.

This is another one where the order of the instructions doesn't quite make sense - you cut up all the pumpkin first even though you don't need it til later, so you could easily save some time and chop it up while something else is cooking.

I had a bit of a panic at the start that this was a bit too big of an undertaking for a Monday night, but after the first half an hour this is mostly hands-off.

I found the onions a bit overdone after 18 minutes so I'd cut that down to 15 next time, and also for me the squash was  a bit bland (probably why you're meant to use pumpkin!).

This was nice (Phil particularly loved it) but not my favourite and after taking an hour and a half in total I think it was a bit much for midweek. I liked a lot of the flavours (and like a lot of recipes in this book, it was better as leftovers as the flavours intensified) but I don't think I'd make it again.

Mafalda and roasted butternut in warm yoghurt sauce



Another butternut squash recipe! I wasn't sure about this at first as pasta in creamy sauces is very much not my thing, but it caught my eye and looked pretty quick so I thought I'd give it a go.

There's a lot going on at once here - squash in the oven, garlic cooking, pasta cooking, stirring the sauce - it felt very intense!

However it was really nice and Phil really loved it. The hot sauce really cuts through the rich yoghurt and it's such a delicious combination. It also made 3 portions which meant I could have a lunchbox too which was great. There's a lot of washing up after but I would make it 
again.

Roasted carrot salad with chamoy



This was part of another multi-meal dinner, with the tomato salad and roasted cauliflower (plus chicken for Phil and some nice bread). 

I have a few issues with my oven and the heat not circulating very well when there's more than one tray in it, so my carrots ended up more steamed than crispy which was a bit of a shame.

It's pretty straightforward to make and there's a lot of flavours going on, but I found it a little bit too sweet and it needed some more salt for balance.

Cauliflower roasted in chilli butter



This didn't make my original list of recipes to make, but I read a few reviews saying it was great so I thought I'd give it a go. Phil isn't a massive cauliflower fan so I halved it and ate it for 2 days (it serves 4). 

It seemed like a lot of chillies (8, on top of the harissa) so I decided to reduce it down to 2 in the tray, and I skipped the additional chill flakes. 

It's another Sunday dinner as it takes just over an hour, however it is pretty straight forward.

It's nice - the leaves especially! - but I found with the amount of butter it got very rich very quickly and needed a bit more seasoning. I'm not sure I'd make it again but I did enjoy it.

Tomato salad with lime and cardamom yoghurt



I made this because someone recommended it to go with the roasted cauliflower and they were not wrong - the rich, spicy cauliflower is really complemented by the creamy, sharpness of this salad.

I'm not entirely sure why you make one part of the salad in one bowl and then the other part in another, but it comes together quickly despite that. In my multi-dish dinner this was by far the best thing I made - it was absolutely beautiful.

I had some goat's cheese leftover so I made this again a few days later with a few adaptations (ground cardamom rather than grinding the seeds, no fresh herbs as I didn't have any) and it was so so delicious again. I always have cherry tomatoes and yoghurt in the house and I'm wondering if it would work with feta (which I also always have in) so we could have this more often. One of my favourite recipes from this book.

Miso butter onions



I'd heard a lot about these and I was intrigued although not entirely sure what to do with them!

I had quite small onions so I halved the quantities of everything (it's handy the weight of the onions is included). It's a pretty storecupboard, using only onions, miso and butter.

They take a while, but apart from the odd basting, it's all hands off.

We had these alongside a roast and they were lovely, but I wasn't sure how to handle the lefovers. They were a bit too liquidy for on toast (and don't even ask about the omelette I tried to make with them!) so while they were delicious I'm not sure I'd have a reason to make them again.

Pappa al pomodoro with lime and mustard seeds



Our final dish from this book!

This is meant to be a side dish to serve 4, so I thought it might work out about right quantity wise as a main for 2 and it was about right for that!

I didn't have any curry leaves but Ottolenghi said you can just leave them out (thank you!), and I didn't use quite as much oil as it stated (as my final recipe I'd just started to get a bit sick of all the oil in this book!). I also used some leftover tiger bread as the bread element.

This takes about 40 minutes to prep and then you just leave it to rest for a bit for the flavours to intensify.

It was quite intense as a main course but I would definitely make it again in the summer as a side dish or part of a multi-dish meal.

Conclusion

If it's not clear here, I loved this book.

It's been a long lockdown and I've only eaten out 3 times since March so I was starting to feel very sick of cooking and food shopping and meal planning.

This book completely reignited my love of cooking. I loved the experimental flavours and the unusual techniques and ending up with something unlike anything I'd eaten before. Because that's why we eat out isn't it? To try something new.

Nothing was a complete disaster, nothing took hours and hours and made me scream, nothing made me take multiple trips to the supermarket. Ottolenghi has listened to feedback and he's made a book where it's clear how long everything takes, there are suggestions as alternatives if you can't find certain ingredients, everything is vegetarian (anything with say, fish sauce or anchovies in has an alternative), everything has a  serving suggestion and everything is delicious.

Yes, I've never zested more limes in my life. I've never used so much oil. I've never filled the dishwasher so quickly. I've never had to buy two jars of rose harissa at a time. But it was all so so worth it.

This is one of the best books I own. I hope I continue to flick through it for weekend inspiration for multi-meal dishes as well as for midweek cooking. I never thought I'd be cooking Ottolengho midweek!

If you're prepared to invest some time in getting your initial set up (you definitely need harissa, miso and tahini, so if those are unusual ingredients to you, you might need a trip to Sainsburys) and you definitely need to invest some time, but if you want to be able to make restaurant quality meals at home, this is the book you need.

This the perfect book to reignite your love of cooking, to help you discover flavour combinations you'd never even imagined and to help you expand your repertoire.

It might have saved my lockdown cooking. And I can't praise it more highly than that!

Charlotte x