Tuesday, 2 May 2017

April Life Lately

So if you haven't guessed from my lack of blogging over the month, April has been hard bloody work.

It started with my exam on the 4th. The culmination of 6 months of work and 8 weeks of coursework, revision, sitting inside and moaning about revising while it's gorgeous outside, stress and tears.

Fortunately the exam wasn't too bad, 3 hours flew by, and despite some hand cramp and a trip to the bathroom, I survived with a pack of fruit pastilles.

But then a few days later, just when my stress levels were returning from unbelievably high to just normally high, we got some bad news.

I'll spare you the boring details (because god I'm tired of going over it again and again) but after 6 months, our house sale fell through. We're absolutely fine now, but at the time, after 6 months of stress and forms and money and planning, to find out the house we thought was the one wasn't meant to be was heartbreaking.

But the good news is, a week or so later, we went to some viewings, and we've had an offer accepted on another house! It's early days and I don't want to get too excited in case we find ourselves in the same position again, but it's a bit bigger and doesn't need all the work the last house did, so hopefully this time it will be a little smoother.

So all of this combined has meant the last thing I've wanted to do was blog. I didn't want to talk about the house, but I also felt like I couldn't not talk about the house, or houses, or lack thereof. Things are calming down and moving forward so hopefully I can get back into the swing of things now at least!

We've just come back from a wonderfully refreshing weekend in the Lake District, but I already have so much to write about April I think I'll leave that to my May post!

So other than all that, what else has been going in April?

What I've been doing
Obviously I started the month with my marketing exam which was... okay, I think?! To be honest I've barely thought about it since 30 minutes after leaving the room. Considering it was my first exam in 5 years and it was 3 hours long, it was nowhere near as bad as I expected and it being over was a huge relief!

With a half marathon around the corner (less than 4 weeks to go!) I've managed a new parkrun PB which I'm really chuffed about - our local course is tough! This weekend will be my 93rd parkrun and my 10th in a row!

You know what I love? BANK HOLIDAYS. How good are Bank Holidays?! Easter fell just as everything was hitting the fan with our house but we managed to get some relaxation in, thanks to 13 Reasons Why which gave me the excuse I needed to take a few hours away from doing productive things and actually have a break. I didn't get dressed until lunchtime on Good Friday! Friday we had a lovely chilled day, I bought two pairs of trousers in H&M for £10 each, and we spent the evening at my best friend Eve's playing games. Saturday we went to a house viewing and then I met up with two of my uni friends in Birmingham, Sunday was quiet and chocolate-filled (I gave up chocolate for Lent so it was so good to eat Mini Eggs!) and on Monday we went to the Aquarium and to see Phil's grandparents (more on that later!).

Where I've been
My trip to Birmingham was lovely, if shorter than planned! We'd seen a house we loved and Phil insisted that we went to see it, but the only viewing we could get was 1.30pm. It was the first house we'd seen online since our house fell through that we were actually excited about, so we didn't want to miss out on the opportunity. So we saw the house (we did put an offer in, but later realised it wasn't the one), and then I rushed to Birmingham to see my friends for a few hours! It was lovely although brief to see two of my favourite people.
The following day we went to Blue Planet Aquarium which was great fun! Okay, we were pretty much the only adults there who didn't have a child with us, but we had a really great time and went through the tunnel where the sharks swim over you TWICE. Then we went to visit Phil's grandparents which was absolutely lovely - it was such a lovely, fun day.

Remember last month when I mentioned I was obsessed with The Guilty Feminist podcast? Well this month I went to see it recorded live! I went with my best friend, Eve, and we had an amazingly fun, girly night. The podcast was hilarious and it was surreal to be there in the audience while it was recorded - I love the podcast even more now! I can't wait to hear our episodes!

What I've been loving
Amy is one of those people who I just think is incredible and utterly badass, so when she recommended the Moodnotes app, I did a bit of reading into it and was intrigued. Amy has mental health challenges too, and she really recommended this app for trying to keep track of your mood and feelings. I was reluctant to download it as it was £4 but I thought I'd give it a go, and I really like it. I record my mood in the mornings and in the evenings, and at the moment my anxiety has been fairly low level but I like knowing it will be there for challenging times.
In a bizarre coincidence, one of my Birthday presents from work was the exact MAC lipstick I'd actually asked my Auntie for for my Birthday! I managed to get it swapped and I'm now the proud owner of All Fired Up lipstick, which is a lovely corally-red - perfect for Summer!

After receiving my Fitbit for my Birthday, I've become one of those annoying Fitbit-obsessed people who paces around the living room at 10 to the hour because I haven't hit my hourly step goal. I don't even care - I love it! I'm planning a separate post on my Fitbit - or more likely, stupid things I do now I have a Fitbit!

You know what I realised this month? Yoga makes me feel amazing. Yep, I know, not revolutionary at all. Billions of people know that right? But I've kind of being going through the motions with yoga lately and practising one a week as part of my half marathon training, but I've realised it actually makes me feel great and I want to do it more often. It's on my goals for May to do more yoga, and all with Yoga with Adriene, of course!
Are you ready to see the best Birthday present ever? Are you? PHIL'S SISTER CROSS-STITCHED US OH MY GOD IT'S AMAZING JUST LOOK AT IT.

What I've been eating
I got lots of recipe books for my Birthday this year, plus I might have bought a couple of other books last month (I assure you, I'm on a recipe-book-buying ban for the foreseeable future) so I've been working my way through 15 Minute Vegan, Vegetarian Tagines and Cous Cous and Prashad at Home. 
I've already cooked lots of brilliant recipes from Flavour, and this month I tackled the lemon and black pepper cake and the sweet potato, kale and mozzerella pie. I've never really made a pie before (I didn't make my own pastry...) and this took about 2 hours but it was wonderful and I'll definitely make it again.
A few weeks ago when I was all house-sad and ill and grumpy, my friend Kris tagged me in a competition Thaikhun were hosting to win a free takeaway to cheer me up and I won! Because we don't live in town anymore Phil picked it up after work one night and we warmed it up when he got back! I had massaman curry with tofu and it was incredible.
Despite living 200m away for 2 years (no, seriously), I finally made it to Samsi a few weeks ago for amazing sushi and gyoza and lovely company with my friend Riven. I can't believe I hadn't been before! Highly recommend.
Shout out to my colleague, Molly, and these amazing Birthday cupcakes she made for me! Aren't they amazing? If you're in the Manchester area and want a cake made, make sure you check out her Instagram - Mollol Creations!

What I've been reading
I got a bit excited reserving books at the library this month and ended up with three books becoming available at once, which is a lot for me!

This month I read The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson which I absolutely adored. Every story was brilliant - I highly recommend!

I also read A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, a book that I would never have normally chosen, as sci fi really isn't my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed it, and it was good to push myself to read something out of my comfort zone.

Finally, I read the sequel to Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers, which I think I actually enjoyed more than the prequel.

What I've been watching
As I mentioned before, we joined the club and watched 13 Reasons Why, which I simultaneously thought was brilliant but also felt quite conflicted by. It's one of those things I think I need some time to process to decide how I feel, and I've been finding the discourse around it very interesting. I hope they don't make a second series though - I don't think questions always need answering.

We also started Bates Motel last week as Phil is indulging in his love of Hitchcock at the moment (he's out tonight at a 4 week film course on Hitchcock). We've only watched one so far but I'm intrigued to keep going!

What I've been reading online
The Pool - Is fitness fashion creating a barrier to getting exercise?
Food 52 - What Ruby Tandoh wants to tell you about eating well
Rebel Angel - How yoga became a gateway to fitness for me
Yes and Yes - Stop making it so hard
Yes and Yes - 23 Ways to unplug
The Pool - I'm 32, successful and in therapy

What I'm excited for
Lots of exciting things are coming up in May! Two of our best friends are getting married, we have a christening, a trip to the theatre and my next half marathon! I'm also really, really, really hoping things with our house might actually start progressing...

My goals for May are to do more yoga, paint my nails more often, read every day, read more inspiring material and practice my self esteem exercises from my phobia book twice a day.

And here's hoping I get back to some regular programming over here this month!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 1 April 2017

March Life Lately

If you're reading this, it means I finally had some time that wasn't dedicated to working, sleeping or revising this fortnight! I have an exam for my Marketing Diploma on Tuesday, and with the exception of my Birthday on Thursday, I've been working all day, coming home, making dinner and then revising all night, and then spending my weekends sulking about having to revise!

But apart from my exam, March has been busy and lovely. March is pretty much my favourite month of the year because Phil's birthday is the 1st and mine is the 30th, and this month was particularly lovely because I surprised Phil with a trip to Berlin for his Birthday to see Joshua Radin, so we had a great 3 days there this month.

I was planning a separate post on my Birthday because my Birthday is A Very Big Deal (according to me at least!), but I'm still planning to write a post on everything I ate in Berlin (because we pretty much focused the entire trip on food) and I've got a post on sportswear I need to write too, and I think by the time I get another chance to blog it will probably be at least 3 weeks since I got back from Berlin, so I should probably write about that first! So I'll be combining all my Birthday spam into this post, soz.

With being so busy, I don't feel like I've been keeping as good a record this month of what I've been loving and reading and my favourite links online, so I've had to trawl through my Instagram and try to remember where I saved all my favourite links!

So here's what I've been up to in March...

March Goals

  • Single Task
  • Get outside every day
  • Listen to podcasts more
  • Take it slowly
  • Read
  • Practice yoga every week
  • Go to bed earlier

I've started setting myself montly goals in my bullet journal and these were my goals for March. I've noticed that when I go out at lunch time at work I end up feeling exhausted when I get back because I walk so fast, so I set myself the goal of trying to take things a little more slowly. I live my life at 100 miles an hour so it can be a challenge for me to slow down.

I have been listening to podcasts more this month. I have hundreds downloaded onto my phone (one of the reasons I got a new phone was for extra storage for podcasts!) but the majority of the time I only listen to them when I'm running, so I only get through a few every week. But this month saw me discover The Guilty Feminist podcast, and S Town, so I've been making an effort to fit more podcasts into my day when I'm getting ready in the morning or when I'm cooking and it's been really lovely.

I've been trying to find time to read more, but with revising every night after work, I haven't had as much time as I would like, so I'll be adding this to my April goals too. Since we moved back with my parents my commute has been cut down from about 50 minutes each way to 20 each way, and my Mum has been taking me to work in the moring, so my bus time is now only about 15 minutes, and I really miss that reading time! I have been trying to carve myself out some reading space before bed, and I'm getting back into the habit of reaching for a book instead of my phone.

I'm an early bedtime person anyway, but I've been making an effort the last two weeks or so to get to bed by 9.30pm so I can be up at 5.30am and I'm hoping to get more into the habit. My bedtime is usually 10pm, but I've found this can easily slip to 10.15pm or 10.20pm and before I know it it's after 10.30pm and I'm getting less than 7 hours sleep. I'm always the first one up in the house and it can be hard to go to bed instead of spending time with Phil and my family but I have to remember they can stay up later because they get up later than me!

Finally, I have been practising yoga once a week with Yoga with Adrienne on a Monday and sometimes a Friday morning. Some days I just do 10 minutes, other days a full 40 minute session. I do prefer the routine of daily yoga, but with half marathon training this is the best I can manage and it's a nice compromise.

Oh and single tasking? Yeah that needs to go back onto next month's list!

What I've been doing
March 1st is Phil's Birthday which is one of my favourite days of the year because I love any chance to spoil Phil and make him ridiculous Hamilton-themed Birthday cards. I also loved it because I'd been keeping the location of his Birthday surprise quiet for over a month and I was so excited to tell him! It all started in January when he mentioned he'd love to see Joshua Radin, so I thought, great, I'll get him tickets for his Birthday. He was only playing London, though, so I thought I'd check London train prices. Yikes! Then I thought, I wonder where else he's playing, and found it was cheaper for both of us to fly to Berlin than one of us to get a train to London! Thankfully my wonderful friend Kayleigh, and her boyfriend, Alex, who live in Berlin were happy to put us up so I booked the trip! He knew the dates and he knew he was going somewhere for something, so it was great to finally be able to spill the beans!

I wasn't sure I'd stick to it, but I've kept up bullet journalling this month and I really love it. I read up loads before I started, but I've actually ignored all the rules and done things my way and I've been swapping and trying new things as I've gone along. I do mine entirely in pencil, which is perfect for me as I have commitment issues and like that I can rub it out, and I try new things every time and just use it for fun. I'm planning a full post on my bullet journey so look out for that.

Admittedly, I've only done this twice, but after reading Rosie's post on Morning Pages last week I decided to give it a go. It's down on my April goals list to do it every day, so we'll see if I can keep it up!

Where I've been
Phil's brother is an actor, so it was so exciting last month to see him in a production of Dial M for Murder at a local theatre! At first it was super weird to be like, that's Andy! What's Andy doing on the stage?! But he was absolutely brilliant and we loved it. I can't wait to see him in his next production!
I got a chance to be reunited with some of my favourite ladies last month when we headed to Birmingham to celebrate my friend Sarah's birthday. It's always so lovely to catch up with my uni friends. We don't see each other as often as we'd like, so we always need a really good catch up, but it never feels like anything has changed and we have such good memories together. I love them so much. You can read about my university girls in this post - On uni mates.

And obviously, we went to Berlin. I want to save this for a separate post because I just want to talk about all the food we ate. But here's basically the only picture from the trip that isn't of food...
What I've been loving
As I mentioned at the start I have been loving my podcasts lately! I just discovered The Guilty Feminist, thanks to my friend Kimberly, and am I obsessed! I listen to it every morning when I'm getting ready for work, and I feel like I'm friends with Sofie Hagen. It absolutely hits the nail on the head about life and being a woman and feminism, gah, it's just awesome. Download it right now.

Speaking of Sofie Hagen, I love her own podcast, Made of Human, too. Download that while you're there.

And I'm almost done with S Town, which is great because I really want to read Michelle's blog post about it. I've got 2 episodes left, so maybe I'll write about this more next month.

Oh and I downloaded the This American Life app which means I can listen to every episode every of This American Life for £2.99. It's pretty much the buggiest app I've ever used and crashes constantly but it's so worth it.

What I've been eating
Apart from all of the food ever in Berlin, I've also made another Greek Feast.
And I went to Bundobust again because I am obsessed...
What I've been watching
Only two cinema trips this month!
We went to see John Wick Chapter 2, which I thought was good but I would have rather watched it at home whilst also doing something else cause it was a lot of people getting shot in the head to commit to for 2 hours straight. I did think it was better than the first one, though.

And then Get Out which I was desperate to see and thought was excellent. You can read Phil's review of it over at his blog.

What I've bought
I have been pretty good this month, but I did splurge on 2 more pairs of £8 Primark jeans (I KNOW RIGHT?!) and The Dal Cookbook because Dipika is my cookbook enabler, and she bought it so I had to have it.
I got 5 recipe books for my Birthday though so I've told Phil I can't buy any more until we move into our house...

What I've been reading
This month I read The Loney which I'd heard mixed things about but actually mostly really enjoyed. The last 100 or so pages let it down a bit, but for the most part I thought it was very haunting and atmospheric and felt like a real gothic.
I had a bit of a mix up and ended up starting a book this month, only to find two books I'd requested from the library had become available, so I had to put my own book down in order to read my library books. I'm about 100 pages away from finishing Mr Mercedes and I love it and am so glad there are two more in the series to read!

My Birthday
I'm going to dedicate an entire section to my Birthday (hush now, it was nearly a whole blog post!).
I decided at the last minute to take my Birthday off work and I'm so glad I did! The original plan was to go into town to revise in the library, meet Phil for lunch, then revise again, but that sounded like a terrible idea so I decided to take the day off from revision!
So, first up, presents! I was ridiculous spoiled, as always, this year. My highlights being the amazing Fight Club print from Phil, Hamilton: The Revolution book (also from Phil), and a FitBit from my parents!
So after present-opening I went for a run, and then after getting ready I went to see my Nan before meeting Phil for lunch in town.
Then I just took myself out for a lovely day! I went to MAC and tried on the same 4 lipsticks at least 3 times each to find my perfect MLBB lipstick, and came back with Hug Me lipstick and Dervish liner, which was totally worth the sore lips to discover. 
I went to Lush to buy some Vanillary perfume and then after leaving the shop realised I smelled so good I had to go back and buy a bigger bottle. I took myself for a coffee and had a read. I impulse-bought a cute necklace from Oliver Bonas. Then I got bored and lonely and waited for Phil to finish work and make a fuss of me haha.
In the evening we went to The Indian Tiffin Room in Cheadle. They opened one round the corner from our flat when we lived in town but we never had a chance to go, so we decided to get used to living back in Stockport. It was absolutely amazing, my paneeer masala was unbelievable, and they brought me out a surprise dessert with a candle and sang Happy Birthday too me, and the dessert was so good we were licking the sides!
It really was a lovely, lovely Birthday and I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and family!

What I've been reading online
How to overcome a tendancy for "awfulising"
4 Genius Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time and Money
The Pool - My Mum taught me how to relax
My complicated relationship between food and fitness
When we decide to tear women down, we should probably take a closer look at ourselves
How to make fewer decisions (and make your life a lot easier)
Getting stuff done by not being mean to yourself

What I've written
I wrote about dressing like my Mum and a review of Ruby Tandoh's Flavour and erm... lots of notes on strategic marketing!

What I'm excited for
So about two weeks after I became obsessed with The Guilty Feminist, I found out their live recording was touring! And they were doing one in Manchester! And it was in a few weeks' time! So next Saturday I'm going along to the live recording with my best friend, Eve, and I cannot wait!

We're off the to Lake District at the end of the month, and we're taking Phil's parents to where we stayed last time. I am the least outdoorsy person ever, but I had such a great time last time I'm really looking forward to going back!

I won't bore you with the details, but things with our house purchase are still going on (yep, it's been 6 months now), and as you can gather, we didn't get the keys in March so maybe April?! To be honest I think it's going to be May but hey, we're exciting for it eventually happening!

Thanks for bearing with me while I'm up to my eyeballs in revision! Hopefully normal service will resume after Tuesday and I cannot wait to have my life back (until my next lot of coursework is due in June!)

Charlotte xxx

Sunday, 19 March 2017


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...

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. 

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
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