Sunday, 15 July 2018

Cookbook review - Bosh!

It's not often that a vegan cookbook gets genuine hype in the mainstream. 

I was on a book-buying ban when I first started hearing about this (doesn't this always happen? It was the same thing with The Roasting Tin last year which ended up being my cookbook of the year). My friend Sophie had made a few recipes from it and posted about them on Instagram and told me I'd love the book, and then it was the book of May at Cookbookamonth. I don't watch videos online much, so I'd never heard of the "Bosh boys", but I started to noticed their names popping up more and more, and hearing about the popularity of this book and their recipes.

So, one day after work, after finding out it was on offer in Waterstones, I caved.

First Impressions

This book gives a brilliant first impression. It makes vegan food so accessible and easy and importantly, fun. While I have no problem ordering nutritional yeast or vital wheat gluten online, I like that it doesn't include a lot of "obscure" ingredients which can put people off, and instead focuses on plants, pulses, nuts and the occasional bit of tofu.

I don't think if this is the intention or how it's marketed, but I feel as though it's a book for meat-eaters intrigued to try vegan food. It makes everything seem quite easy and it's not preachy at all about the benefits of vegan food of a vegan diet. It also, thankfully, doesn't preach a "clean" agenda, but there are a few comments about "healthy" (which I personally dislike only because it's so subjective). However one recipe shout about how it's "healthier" than a takeaway, yet includes half a bottle of sweet chilli sauce. BUT I would rather it be this way - desserts and chocolate and pizza and burgers - with no "healthy" or "clean" agenda.

From an initial flick through there are a lot of the standard fayre you expect from a vegan book - a veggie chilli, curries, tofu scramble, stir fry, salads, veggie burgers, lasagne - but there are a lot of interesting twists on these recipes (more on this below).

Finally, if you haven't been able to tell from the exclamation mark in the title, the language is a bit Jamie-Oliver-circa-2004/Joe Wicks in terms of over-the-top enthusiasm. I've learned to ignore it because it's pretty grating but you do get used to it.

Recipes I tried

I tried 7 recipes from this book. I usually like to try 10, but I ran out of time with going on holiday. However there are still loads of recipes I want to try, so maybe I'll do an update in a few months. It's also not helped that it's been roasting while I've been using this book, so Mushroom Wellington and Rich and Creamy Lasagne were not the kinds of things I wanted to be eating! I still have about another 20 recipes I was intrigued by.

edit: As I've mentioned in previous posts, I haven't been as active on Instagram over the past few months, so as a result I don't have photos on all the recipes I made. Apologies for that.

Sticky Shiitake Mushrooms

I shop at Aldi so I couldn't get shiitake mushrooms, so I just used portabellos, but next time I'd probably use regular mushrooms, as Phil later dropped the bombshell that he doesn't like "big mushrooms".

This was super quick and easy and so so delicious that I kept saying "do you like it? Do you like it? I love it - what do you think?". Also a great storecupboard recipe - all I needed was the mushrooms.

Recipe here.

Veggie kebabs with spicy shashlik marinade

As a veggie in the summer, you eat a lot of veggie skewers (and grilled halloumi, but I will never complain about that. Keep bringing the grilled halloumi!). I love a veggie skewer, but I especially love the different marinade options the book provides (side note: are these marinades if they don't marinate? They just kind of get tossed in and then cooked - do you need some rest time to be a true marinade? Anyway....)

I found the instructions here didn't make loads of sense (covering the veg in the sauce first then threading sounded messy to me), so I threaded them first then poured the marinade over them, but oh my god the marinade. There are a lot of ingredients in this (18!), but they all get thrown into a blender and whizzed up to make the most divine spicy, yoghurt-y sauce (oh confession, I used regular greek yoghurt).

This made A LOT. I used a few fewer tomatoes and still ended up with 13 skewers. I was eating this for days, which was fine. 

I really liked that you baked them, so you can have a BBQ without actually owning a BBQ (something we do at least once a fortnight and still call it BBQ cause there are things on sticks). 

So this was a hit, so much so that I made them again with a different marinade - see further down...

Creamy Korma


Okay it was a bit of a faff. Roasting the veg, toasting seeds, frying things off and then blending them up (you definitely need a blender for this book), and it takes about an hour, but oh my god so good!

I added chickpeas for some extra protein, and got 5 portions. Some of the serving sizes are a range (eg. 2-4) in this book which can be confusing, but saying that a lot of my books suggest child-sized portions so it was quite nice to not feel judged if your portions were towards the lower end of the number of people it suggests.

This was just amazing. The lime and salt really help cut through that creaminess and I would definitely make this again and experiment with different vegetables or pulses in the sauce.

Sweet and sour tofu
We love tofu in our house and I'm always trying to find new and exciting ways to cook it.

Sweet and sour prawns used to be my takeaway staple (I do still eat fish but very rarely these days), so I was really excited to make a vegan version.

It was quite hands-on and intense - if you've ever done a Jamie Oliver 15 Minute Meal you'll know what I mean. However I was making rice, cauliflower rice and warming spring rolls at the same time. It took about half an hour in total.

Bloody hell this was good. It tasted EXACTLY like my favourite takeaway prawns - so sweet and sticky and tangy - and the texture on the tofu was so crispy on the outside - exactly how I like it. I think this would be a great gateway for people who want to try tofu but don't know where to start.

Rogan Bosh
One thing I like about this book is it makes the idea of making your own curry pastes much less intimidating. The paste here is a blend of chillies, garlic, ginger, tomato puree and water, but along with the spice mix, both tastes and smells exactly like a jarred curry paste.

Like making a curry from a jarred paste, this is a really easy recipe once you've completed those initial steps.  It's another 15-minute-meal-esque speedy rampage, which meant I did misread a few steps and found myself confused at why I was frying the aubergine first when it wasn't going into the pan til the onions had cooked for 15 minutes. 

The sauce is quite dry, and it encourages you to add as much water as you need to get it to a "thick, gravy-like consistency", but my addition of spinach, and the water it needed to get it to wilt, along with the water it releases, ended up making the finished dish a little watery. Next time I would consider cooking the spinach separately or adding it in earlier, as it was a nice addition.

Considering the easy of the curry paste here, I'm really keen to give this another go with different vegetables, maybe with some tinned tomatoes for a more curry-like texture, but the flavours are completely spot on.

Recipe here.

Veggie kebabs with Asian BBQ marinade
As mentioned earlier, I decided to give the veggie kebabs another go with a different marinade, and settled for the Asian BBQ marinade, which was a mix of chillies, garlic, coriander, ginger, agave syrup, vinegar and soy sauce. 

I didn't agave syrup (though maple would, I'm sure, have been a fine substitute), so being a non-vegan I used honey.

Having already done the spicy shashlik marinade, I knew what I was doing a bit more here, so I used a lot less veg (eschewing the aubergine which had remained a bit spongey last time) and brushing the marinade on. This was really, really good and I loved how easy to was to make what felt like a completely different dish from just a different marinade.

I'm keen to try the rich satay sauce next and really feel as though my summer BBQ game has been upped thanks to these kebabs!

Ultimate chilli

On my original list of "recipes I want to cook from this book", this didn't make the cut.

I make vegetarian chilli at least once a month, maybe even once a fortnight, and I have a few favourite go-to recipes - Cookie and Kate's Butternut Squash chilli from Love Real Food and the Super-thick Three Bean Chilli from Minimalist Baker. Both of these are delicious, made of storecupboard ingredients and can be made in the slow cooker or in my Instant Pot.

So I'm not sure what made me revisit this, but upon another look I was intrigued by the unusual ingredients list - red wine and chocolate are fairly common in chilli, but also maple syrup, soy sauce and cinnamon? I was curious.

Another thing I loved was the idea of making "mushroom mince". This isn't a new idea - I've seen Jack Monroe do it months ago, but I'd never done it myself. 

Like my previous comment, the order of instructions was odd - mincing the mushrooms is the first step although you don't add them til the last 10 minutes, although doing them first does mean you only need one pan (edit: The recipe does say you need two pans though so maybe not?)

Anyway, this was super super super delicious. For a house that eats veggie chilli often, Phil declared this his favourite chilli, and I really loved it too. The only downside, for me, is with the red wine needing to be cooked off, it's not really an option for the slow cooker (however I wonder if I could make it in my Instant Pot? One to look into), and it's a good 45 minutes from start to finish, and even then I would have preferred a longer simmer.

Recipe here.


In conclusion, I absolutely loved this book. There are still loads of things I haven't gotten around to making yet - giant burrito cake, Thai red curry paste, homemade naan, onion fried rice, vegan sticky toffee pudding, hash browns, so I know this is a book I'll keep going back to.

For me, the sweet and sour tofu and korma recipes were as close as I've ever tasted to takeaway and a complete revelation, and the marinades for the skewers were so simple, but have really given me great ideas for my next BBQ.

I think this is the perfect introduction to vegan food for those transitioning into eating less meat, or curious carnivores. It makes vegan food fun and exciting and interesting, and not just salads and meat substitutes (although I do love both of these things!). 

It's vegan without too much of a health agenda, and it's not preachy or judgemental. I love the emphasis at the start of the book on how well-tested all the recipes are, and there's a great section about learning to cook and how to continuously improve which is really inspiring and helpful. 

The whole thing is very positive and inspirational, without being unattainable, and I really like how easy and accessible they make vegan cooking - they talk about opportunities to try new things and develop new skills, not about anything being missing from their lives without meat or dairy.

I'm excited to see more from Henry and Ian and I'm sure another Bosh book won't be far away, and if it's a good as this one, I'll be sure to buy it!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 5 July 2018

June Life Lately

And somehow, it's July! June was a brilliant month - here's what I've been up to..

What I've been doing

At the start of the year, I had only driven a car twice since 2011. I just wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to take our car out when I was on my own, or get myself from A to B. I've spent the last few months driving a lot more, forcing myself to drive to my parents or BMF or to parkrun even when I really, really didn't want to. And this month I drove on my own for the second time and I finally don't feel nervous at all about driving anywhere and I finally feel confident driving on my own. At the moment I've only driven to my parents and back on my own, but now I'm over the initial oh-my-god-I-have-to-make-all-my-own-decisions I feel totally fine about driving on my own, which is huge for me!

Wedding-wise, it's seems to come in bursts, and after a few months of being pretty chill and not crossing things off (except my dress!) I suddenly panicked so we ticked a few things off this month! We've booked our florist, booked the amazing Amy for our photography, got an outfit for my Mum (and a hat!) and started to look at suits for Phil (though we were laughed out of the shop and told to come back in January!). There are a few more things I want to tick off over the next few months but we've still got plenty of time so I'm trying to take each task one thing at a time!

Where I've been
Ooh I've done some lovely things this month! For my Birthday my Auntie bought Phil and I a voucher for Afternoon Tea at the Radisson Blu and we decided to do this while we were suit shopping for Phil. We went for the Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea and they did a great job of making everything vegetarian for me, and it was a gorgeous hotel and a brilliant experience I'd definitely recommend!
Last month brought Phil's Dad's 60th Birthday, and as a surprise, Phil booked for us all to do the Crystal Maze Experience. Phil's Dad had no idea, and when Phil's Mum brought him into Manchester on a Friday afternoon he thought he was just going shopping - til he walked into Debenhams to find Phil, his two siblings and me waiting for him! He was completely shocked but excited - he'd applied to go on the tv show back in the 90s so it was the perfect  gift. I don't want to say too much because honestly, it's one of the best things I've ever done in my entire life, and I cannot recommend it more. It's exactly like being on TV, and I loved every minute. A must-do for any fans of the TV show!
June also brought the wedding of one of Phil's oldest friends, which was the most beautiful day. Mike and Hannah got married at the most beautiful little church in the most gorgeous village, with an incredible reception at the bride's parents' house. Everything about it was absolutely beautiful, and I had the best time dancing along to the amazing band with great company, great food and a few glasses of fizz! 
And this week I just got back from the best weekend away in Center Parcs with Phil's family for further 60th Birthday celebrations for his dad. I'd never been before but absolutely loved it! I did yoga and pilates, played badminton, we had two BBQs, watched every World Cup match, played board games and just had so much fun. Oh and of course Phil and I found a parkrun to tick off our list! What we didn't realise at the time was it was over an hour's walk away, and we totally misjudged it and ended up having to run the last 15 minutes and arrived at 8.58am! It was one of the most beautiful parkruns we'd been to, though, and well worth the walk!

What I've bought
I got a great stack of books from a charity bookshop, although a few weeks ago while scanning my Goodreads realised I'd already read The Shaking Woman! I read A Little Life a few years ago and it's one of my favourite books, so I had to it in paperback as I read it on Kindle.

I also bought the Bosh! book which I'll be reviewing at some point in the next few weeks! It's a really great intro to vegan cooking and everything I've made so far has been amazing so watch this space for that!

I treated myself to some gorgeous dresses from Warehouse this month too which unfortunately I don't have any photos of, and a couple of swimming costumes for my holiday this month (including this one from Sainsburys with toucans on!)
Oh and Phil bought me these pyjamas after I found them in Primark - Aladdin is both mine and Phil's favourite Disney film so I had to have them.

Finally, not bought, but a gift - this month I finally got an Instant Pot! I asked for it for Christmas and for my Birthday but it's been out of stock since October, and this month it finally came! I've joined a few Facebook groups which motivated me to give it a try from day one so it didn't stay in the box for months, and so far I've done the water test, made boiled eggs (the shells literally slipped off! Gamechanger!), adapted my favourite chilli recipe for it, made butter chickpeas (with dried chickpeas in 45 minutes!) and made a pasta dish. Next stop is egg bites and yoghurt. It's taking a bit of getting used to but I really love it - I'll write a full post once I've had a bit more practice!

What I've been reading
Five books this month, as I didn't realise The Crimson Petal and the White was 900 pages long! I absolutely loved it though and devoured it in a few days. I also read When I hit you for the What Page Are You On? bookclub and fell head over heels with Maggie O Farrell when I read After You'd Gone - I cannot wait to read more of hers!

I also read The Little Stranger ahead of the film coming out, and I just finished Based on a True Story which I absolutely loved and was definitely my favourite book of the month.

What I've been watching
Football, football and football. God I LOVE THE WORLD CUP. I've watched every game possible, listened to many while at work, read dozens of articles, oh and this was where I watched England's opening game (I found myself knocked onto my back lying on the floor when the winning goal went in).

We also managed two cinema trips for Solo and squeezed in during one game we weren't as interested in, Hereditary, which I absolutely loved for it's callbacks to some of my favourite horror films (Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, anyone?). A lot of people in my cinema were not into it and it was ruined a bit by laughing at the end, but as someone who doesn't like jump-scare horror, I thought it was excellent.

What I've been reading online
Guardian - How do you make friends as an adult?
The Pool - On anxiety and saying yes
What Olivia Did - Lessons I learned at 24
Guardian - The processed food debate is a class war
Miss Pond - Some things I learned in my twenties

What I'm excited for
We're off to Spain this month for our annual trip with my parents and I've got 17 books ready for an 8 day trip. I'm also into London for some training courses for work which I'm really looking forward to, and obviously, more football! 

Hope your June was great!

Charlotte x

Monday, 4 June 2018

I found my wedding dress! (And here's what I learned)

As I mentioned in my May roundup post, two weeks ago I found my wedding dress!

It was an incredibly intense emotional experience, and over the following few days my emotions veered more towards extremely sad than extremely happy.

I'm not a Bridezilla by any stretch the imagination (I also really hate that word and concept!). Phil and I have made every decision together, and he's been more involved in many things than I have, and I've been quick to correct people constantly when they assume wedding planning is "all the bride's job" and the groom "just turns up". And I think (or I hope!) we've been pretty laid back about the whole thing. There are a few things we care about, and many, many, many things we don't. We don't want to spend out life savings on one day, but we also have big families and we want it to be nice. 

But obviously the dress is a big one. The dress is something people judge you on, it's the outfit you are remembered for, immortalised on your parents' walls and in albums and in photo frames. And it's one of the few things that are a surprise. Your guests will know the venue, they might have asked you about colours, bridesmaids dresses, centrepieces, flowers, but they won't know about your dress.

Coincidentally, the day we found my dress was the day of the Royal Wedding, when everyone was waiting for that big reveal - Meghan's dress - and quickly formed opinions. While I know I'm not expected as big of an audience on our big day, it did make me realise how big of a decision it was!

It's weird now seeing recommended pins on Pinterest or looking through bridal magazines or going past dress shops and no longer wondering what my dress will be like. It's strange to think that this is the dress I'll be remembered for more than any other dress I'll ever wear. And this was why I found the decision so upsetting.

Everyone has told me over and over how quickly the time you are engaged goes, and I hate it so much. As excited as I am about getting married, I don't want to rush away this time. I want to preserve it forever and I want it to go as slowly as possible. We've already been engaged 5 months, and it's just over 10 months now til our wedding day. So realising I'd found my wedding dress - despite how tiring and draining and decision-fatigued dress hunting was - made me realise I'd never go wedding dress shopping again.

And I've found that really hard. I remember a moment putting on a dress - looking back, I think it was the one, and thinking to myself, remember this, remember this moment. And I really forced myself to stay in that moment and luckily I have so many amazing memories of that day I revisit nearly every day!

So while I'm relieved and excited, I am sad. I had a dress appointment booked for a shop I was sure I'd find my dress at, that I go past every day on the bus to work, and when we found the one we had to cancel it, and even though I knew I'd found the one, it made it really hit home that the search was over.

But I loved wedding dress shopping! I had lots of advice and so many tips that really helped me that I wanted to share all the things I learned finding my wedding dress...

  • I was naked more than I expected

I'm not sure why I didn't expect this, but in my head I would get into a dress and then someone would help zip me up and that would be it, but no, I clearly had not imagined the size and scale of most wedding dresses. I was stripped down to my knickers and bra and had dresses put onto me. Some places had a dressing gown for you to put on, but I was in and out of dresses so much there wasn't much point.

After a while you do get used to it, and you know they've seen it all before, and by the end I was fine with them taking my bra off too, but it does take a while to get over the initial embarrassment, but they're professionals so any anxiety is all from you!

  • Wear good underwear
I wore plain nude underwear and brought a strapless bra in my bag which I didn't end up needing, but is a good idea if you know you want to try some unusual styles. 

  • You have to say "no" a lot
I absolutely hate negativity and I hate being negative, so I found it hard to say "no" to so many dresses on the journey to finding mine. Sometimes you know what you don't like, other times it's hard to articulate what you don't like, but you have to remember you're probably going to say "no" a lot as you only need one dress!

  • Try everything on
I think everyone goes into wedding dress shopping with an idea of what they want to wear to walk down the aisle in, but I heard so many stories from people saying they ended up with something they had never imagined wearing, so I made sure I tried on anything and everything. Try on that awful dress you Mum likes (I did, sorry Mum), try on the silly dress that isn't your style. Be open to anything and you might surprise yourself.

  • You have to be honest

The one person who has to be happy is you, so even if your entourage and everyone in the shop loves a certain dress, if you're not feeling it, you have to be honest. Plus it helps the people in the shop choose other styles for you if they know what you do and don't want.

  • Give yourself plenty of time
At first, I was really against doing more than one shop in one day, and the first day we did just one shop, which was really good fun but did leave us desperate for more. The second trip we had three dress shops planned, and we spaced them out with at least two hours in between to allow for travel. Most appointments take about an hour and a half and you don't want to rush!

  • Pick your entourage well
I took my Mum and my Maid of Honour and it was perfect. Not too many people's opinions, but enough to make sure I didn't get swayed by something just people one person loved it. 

  • Know your budget
This is an obvious one, but find out what the range of prices are in the shops you want to visit, and be sure to allow for alterations, veil, underwear and any adjustments. You don't want to try on your dream dress and find out it's three times your budget!

  • Every shop is different
We had two really good experiences and one not-so-good experience, and each shop had a different way of doing things. In the end, we absolutely loved the shop I got my dress from so I'm extra glad we found my dress in there! Ask for recommendations from married and engaged friends, and make a spreadsheet of all the ones you want to go to, look at their website and reviews and then pick the top 3 or 4 you want to visit and start from there.

  • The bride doesn't get to enjoy the treats as much!

Two of the shops we visited gave everyone a prosecco but when you're trying on dresses you don't get much of a chance to sit down and enjoy it! In one shop I was offered a cup of tea but I had to wait til we were done to drink it!

  • It's really tiring
Dress shopping is exhausting! You're on your feet in swathes of fabric takings things on and off, and the decision fatigue is absolutely draining!

  • It's not always fun
When you've tried on 25 dresses and still don't feel remotely close to what you want, it can be disappointing and stressful, so don't feel as though you have to have a smile on your face the whole time!

  • You have to suspend your disbelief a lot
They might only have the dress you love in a size much too big or much too small, or you might decide on changing some details which you might have to imagine. You're quite unlikely to have a complete picture of what your dress will be like on the day, but that makes it even more exciting!

  • You don't always know, but sometimes you do
I'd been told by some people "when you know, you know" and by others "it's not always like that", so I didn't know what to expect, but with mine it was the first one where I came out saying, yep, I love this, and everyone could tell by the way I moved and smiled and touched the fabric. As soon as I came out, the lady who owned the shop said "I think you're going to get married in that dress". My maid of honour started crying, then I started crying and my Mum started crying and then we knew it was the one. They offered me one more dress to try on and they knew when I didn't want to take the dress off it was the one, and as soon as I tried on something else I just wanted it back on again!

  • Try not to take photos
After I'd said yes to the dress (or in my case, sobbed, when they asked me "are you saying yes to the dress?") we asked if we could take photos and we were advised not to, which I'm quite glad about. I'd read before you should try to remember how to felt in the dress, as photos can really throw you off, so I made a real effort to process that memory and remember how amazing I felt, though it is hard to not have a photo to reassure you!

I did write a list in my phone a few hours later of all the details of the dress and I do sometimes reread that list to remind myself which really helps!

  • You will doubt yourself
Ever since I left the shop I've been doubting myself and constantly going back to my maid of honour and Mum for reassurance which is totally normal! It's a big decision so you just have to trust yourself that you loved the dress!

  • Stop looking when you've found the one
I was still quite keen to go to the final shop, my logic being that it might reinforce me that I was happy with my decision, but I'm so indecisive than I'm glad I didn't. I didn't want to waste anyone's time so my maid of honour cancelled the appointment for me, and I'm glad it means that another woman might have had my spot and hopefully found her dress!

  • You will forget what your dress looks like
I have a list in my phone of the details, but honestly, I can't really remember what it looks like! I think this is pretty normal though, and goes back to remembering how happy I was wearing it!

  • It's a real catalyst for making other decisions
I didn't realise how much finding your dress influences other parts of your day. It can change how you'd planned to have your hair, your makeup, your bridesmaid dress styles, your veil... And sometimes this can mean changing a decision you've already made.

  • Wedding dresses take AGES to make!
Considering we don't get married for 10 months, I thought we were quite ahead of the game wedding dress shopping in May, but I actually won't get my dress back til December, and with alterations, it's probably about right for our April wedding. Most places can fast-track for you if you have a short engagement, but 6-8 months is usually how long a dress takes to make!

  • It's an emotional ride
I know I've mentioned this but honestly, I did not expect to cry as much as I did. I was emotional I'd found my wedding dress, but also that dress shopping was over and I was never going to do it again. I cried all that evening and into the next day, and I've nearly cried a few things writing this! I've found being engaged really difficult purely for the reason that every decision I make is one less thing I ever get to decide about ever again and it was a lot more traumatic than I expected. I'm not one of those people who has spent my whole life dreaming and imaging my wedding day, but it is still weird to now know what I'll be wearing and know I can't change my mind. What I mean is, bring your tissues! You might cry because you're happy, but you might cry because you're tired and overwhelmed and decision fatigued and also a bit sad too.

  • Not telling your fiance is the hardest thing!
I tell Phil everything so I'm finding it really hard not to be able to say anything to him and a few times I've nearly slipped out a detail of my dress! I haven't even told him about the terrible things I tried on because I don't want to give away what I have chosen, and I've been finding that really difficult! I've had to remind myself that I want him to be completely surprised when he sees me walking down the aisle!

  • It's nice to have a secret
I thought I was going to tell my bridesmaids and maybe close family and friends what my dress looks like, but when it came down to it I decided I want to keep it a secret that only myself, my Mum and my Maid of Honour knows so it's a surprise to everyone on the day and I'm really glad I have. It's nice to have a secret only a few people know!

Obviously this is all just my experience and if you are dress shopping I recommend Googling "things to know before wedding dress shopping" and ask around, because I got great advice that way.

I hope to have more wedding posts soon!
Charlotte x

Friday, 1 June 2018

May Life Lately

May has been... weirdly quiet! Considering how busy our months are it's been quite nice to have a quiet one. 

I've also disconnected myself from social media quite a lot this month, with the Twitter, Instagram and Facebook apps all deleted from my phone currently, which has been really nice but has made this blog post harder than usual to write seeing as I usually look through my Instagram to remind me what I've done all month! It's been nice to disconnect a bit though and I've been having my phone turned off a lot more and spent more time reading instead of mindlessly scrolling through other people's highlights!

But it hasn't been a completely quiet month! Here's what I've been doing this month...

What I've been doing
The two biggest things that happened this month happened two days in a row! On the Sunday I ran my 6th half marathon. It was hot and sweaty and gross and I've been injured throughout pretty much all of my training and I completely fell of a cliff at mile 12 and I was dying by the time I got to that uphill finish, but I did it! I'm looking forward to working on my injuries and coming back (hopefully!) with a PB at my next race in October.
But more excitingly, I GOT MY WEDDING DRESS! I am planning a proper blog post on everything I learned wedding dress shopping, and I can't say a lot because I'm keeping everything between myself, my maid of honour and my Mum, but the whole thing was much more emotional than I expected (I cried the entire night afterwards I was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the decision) and I'm so excited and thrilled and nervous and trying to field every question and I HATE having to keep it from Phil, but obviously I am so so happy and excited!

We've been so lucky with the weather over the two Bank Holidays this month that Phil and I went full British cliche and instantly went to Homebase and bought garden furniture and ate every meal outside and abandoned our responsibilities and got sunburned at a beer festival and went to the pub and stroked all the dogs and it's just been the best.
 So we've had a couple of exciting parkrun milestones in the Crowley-Cantillon household! This month Phil hit a huge milestone in running his 100 parkrun! I'm so glad I've been getting him up and dragging him out of the house on a Saturday morning for four years! parkrun is such a huge part of our lives - I can't imagine starting a weekend at home any other way (we even do it whenever we're away in the UK if we can find one nearby!) and I'm so glad Phil loves it as much as I do!
So as well as Phil running his 100th parkrun, my 100 parkruns tshirt came this month! I ran my 100th parkrun back in July but there's been a huge wait on tshirts so I was thrilled to find mine was finally available! I even got to debut it last weekend!
I also had the best time volunteering at parkrun as always the day before my race. I love cheering on the runners, I made friends with a lovely slobbery dog called Winston and I helped out a little boy with his Duke of Edinburgh award!
And finally, I've had some brilliant times with my favourite people this month. Vintage fairs and ice cream with Riven, and a gym class and health dinner and Diet Coke with two of my bridesmaids which was a welcome but very different change to the nights we had as teenager, and dinner at one of my favourite places with my new friend, Ali. I'm so lucky to have so many awesome ladies in my life.
Where I've been
We've spent the bank holiday just gone with both of our families which has been lovely! Last Saturday we went to a party to celebrate my Auntie and Uncle's 40th wedding anniversary and on Sunday we went out with Phil's family. It's made me so excited to have everyone in the same room at our wedding!

What I've been reading
Some excellent books this month! 

  • The Hours
  • The Wonder
  • Fire Sermon
  • Marlena
  • The Heart's Invisible Furies

My favourites were The Hours and Marlena, and The Heart's Invisible Furies, which I absolutely adored.

What I've been watching
Only one trip to the cinema this month to see Deadpool 2,  and at home we've watched All The President's Men, The Fog and we re-watched Rogue Nation in preparation for the new Mission Impossible film.

We are also getting quite into Westworld, and The Handmaid's Tale is back for our daily dose of "oh wow this is really depressing and a bit too close to home."

What I've been reading online
Cooking on a Bootstrap - The Only Way is Ethics?
The Pool - On Loneliness
Shortlist - How movies cast ugly characters
NY Times - How an Italian disco hit because Liverpool's Champion's League anthem

What I've been excited for
Ooh lots to look forward to in June! Phil and I are going looking for his suit for the wedding next weekend and we're going to go out for afternoon tea afterwards which I'm really looking forward to! We also have the wedding of one of Phil's oldest friends this month, and my first trip to Centre Parcs at the end of the month!

I have lots of blog post ideas (including that wedding dress shopping one!) to get written this month so I'm hoping to be back soon!

Charlotte x

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

April Life Lately

I can't believe it's May already! April has gone so quickly - my last April as a single woman! I can't believe this time next year we'll be married! Here's what I've been up to in April

What I've been doing
So speaking on getting married, we've made some good progress on the ol' wedmin (urgh, I know. I started using the term ironically and now I can't stop). We've just sent out our save the dates and I LOVE them (thanks Mum! Never been a better time to have a Mum who works in printing!) and we've had a meeting with our photographer this month who I'm really excited to book.
Ready dress shopping ready with my Mum and maid of honour!

And most excitingly, I had my trip to a wedding dress shop!! I obviously can't say much at all (not being able to tell Phil stuff is KILLING me because I usually tell him everything!) but I can say I have not yet said yes to the dress, but I have definitely gotten a lot closer to what I do and don't want, and I think my next trip dress shopping - which is in a couple of weeks - I'll find the one! I made some notes afterwards for a blog post because despite reading up a LOT before I went, there are a few things I didn't expect, so we'll see how my next shops go and I'll try to write up a post.
I've played some excellent board games this month - 221B Baker Street which I bought for Phil's sister Suzie for Christmas, and Telestrations which I got for my Birthday. 221B Baker Street is like Cluedo times ten and is really good fun, and Telestrations is such a fun party game. I can't wait to play both of these again!

I've also had some really good nights this month catching up with my best friends. I've had bao in the sun with one of my best friends, and beer garden catch ups and hen party chat with two of my others. 

And despite injuries and challenges and niggles, I've been running. I ran 12 miles this weekend, painfully and slowly, but it means I'm feeling confident I can run 13.1 in two weeks - my sixth half marathon and my fifth Great Manchester Run. I've struggled through training so this will not be a PB, but I'm looking forward to getting to the physio to get sorted and hopefully running a strong sub 2 hour PB in my October half.

Where I've been
For Christmas, I bought Phil tickets for us to see Jaws at the Bridewater Hall with a live orchestra, as we went to see La la Land last year and it was amazing. Jaws was as incredible as you can imagine - and I jumped out of my skin at "the" jumpy bit!
And along the same theme of "buying people Christmas presents you also get to enjoy", I got my Mum a spa day voucher which we redeemed this month. We had a massage, facial, head massage, hand massage and foot massage, plus afternoon tea, and we followed it up with a lovely day shopping and for dinner and drinks afterwards. It was such a lovely day!
One thing I was most excited for in April was it being one year til our wedding! Our gorgeous wedding reception venue, Mottram Hall, invited us to enjoy our "ante-versary" with a complimentary overnight stay, dinner and breakfast on what will be our wedding date! Phil and I don't really do fancy hotels - when we're away we just tend to choose something cheap and local and usually plan to spend as little time there as possible, so this as a real treat! We had such a lovely time and it's made us super super excited for our wedding!

And this last weekend I went to Stafford to catch up with my friend, Ellen. We had lunch and hung out at her house and drank mugs of hot drinks and it was perfect!

What I've been reading

I've read more books this year already than I read in the whole of 2014! I'm currently on 26 books read this year, with seven read in April. Here's what I read this month:

Desperation Road
Dark Pines
The Hate U Give
Sing Unburied Sing
Little Fires Everywhere
This is How it Always Is
I'll Be Gone in the Dark

This has been a great month for reading - I think my favourites were Little Fires Everywhere, This is How it Always Is and, like everyone I know on Twitter, I'll Be Gone In the Dark, which I started the day before they caught the Golden State Killer. What a time to read this book!

What I've been watching
Three cinema trips this month - Ready Player One and a creepy double-bill of Ghost Stories followed by A Quiet Place for a spooky Sunday evening. I absolutely LOVED A Quiet Place and I think it will make it into my favourite films of the year.

We haven't watched loads at home this month, but we have watched The Omen as Phil continues my horror film education, and Magnolia, finally, when we finally had a Sunday afternoon with time for a three hour film!

TV-wise, we finished The Assassination of Gianni Versace which I know I've been banging on about for months but I absolutely loved (more on this below) and I'm kind of bereft it's over. We've also really enjoyed Clunk on Britain which has been absolutely cracking me up, and we've just started Westworld after hearing everyone praising it!

What I've bought
More than I thought this month!
This is Cosmo, the lipstick I've been waiting for all my life

I got two new perfect nude MAC lipsticks in Cosmo (which is exactly what I want Mehr to look like on me) and Nicky's Nude. 

I also got the most beautiful Oasis dress for a wedding I have coming up.

One recipe book this month (whoops!) in the form of On the Side which is my new absolute favourite recipe book. The whole book is side dishes, which I felt sounded a bit dull, but the indexes in the back help you to find the perfect side dish for whatever your main dish is, and this is amazing! I've only made the spiced carrots so far, which I've made twice alongside different curries (we eat a lot of curries so this is a great back-pocket recipe!) but I've already convinced my Mum to get a copy. I'm really excited to explore this further and review it over here soon.

I also bought a copy of Vulgar Favours, the book that The Assasination of Gianni Versace is based on, which I can't wait to read, but I need to read something less-murdery-y after I'll Be Gone in the Dark.

Finally, two things bought for nostalgia. I bought a nude faux leather jacket almost identical to one I had in my early twenties (blog proof!) and I got some Tigi honey and oatmeal shampoo which I loved as a teenager because once someone reminded me of how good it smelled I couldn't resist!

What I've been loving

My friend Riven is an excellent present buyer, and this time I think she excelled herself. Look at those Fight Club tshirts! And a Parks and Rec/Jurassic World crossover tshirt! And a Charlie and the Chocolate factory makeup pallete! I'm in love!

One more Gianni-Versace-related thing - if you're as obsessed as I am you have to listen to the Vanity Fair Podcast - Now watching: Versace.

What I've been eating

So last week I read an article that said that my favourite Liverpool player, Mo Salah's, favourite food was an Egyptian street food called Kushari. So yes, I found a recipe for it and made it. It's the weirdest combo of rice, lentils, chickpeas, pasta (!), tomato sauce and cripsy onions and it's bloody amazing (and, as you might expect, crazy filling, which was perfect after a 12 mile run on Sunday!). Here's the recipe I followed.

What I've been reading online
The Pool - How would you look through the eyes of a terrible male author?
A Rosie Outlook - Be A Dead Fish
Norwegian gender pay gap video
Two Bossy Dames - We self-care too much
Virgin - Embracing Failure
The Pool - How to can help repeal the 8th
Self - I have depression and anxiety. Stop telling me to go for a run

What I'm excited for
I've got a really quiet May which I'm pretty excited for because March and April have been pretty exhausting (if fun!). I'm looking forward to my fifth Great Manchester Run because it's always an amazing atmosphere, and this year I'm running the half and Phil is running the 10K so it's going to be fun to be supporting each other.

And I also have a day of wedding dress appointments this month - fingers crossed I find "the one"!

Charlotte x