Wednesday, 7 August 2019

July Life Lately

It's August! Which means we go to Canada NEXT MONTH!!!!! We booked our honeymoon to Canada nearly a year ago and I can't believe it's nearly here! We'd better get planning what we're going to go (eg. where we're going to eat).

July has been busy but fun - we've been away two weekends out of four, and Phil was away all four weekends, so we've not had loads of time at home together in July. I'm looking forward to some time together this month!

It has been quite nice though so have a few weekends on my own though - sunny Friday evenings with one of my closet friends eating vegan fried chicken at Manchester International Festival, tapas lunch with my cousin, a party for my friend's Dad, dinner with my parents, showing our wedding video and photos to my Nan, watching lots of Parks and Rec and making things for dinner Phil doesn't like!

Here's what I got up to in July, and here's my One Second Every Day of the month...

Where I've been

Lots of long drives this month! At the start of the month we spent the weekend in Norfolk for one of Phil's friend's 30th Birthdays. We stayed with his parents in their beautiful house in the countryside, squeezed in some parkrun tourism at Thetford and had a lovely time catching up with Phil's friends from university.

Then two weeks later we headed back to the East of the country for a wedding! Another of Phil's friends from university had the most beautiful wedding in Hitchin, with a gorgeous marquee at Shortmead House. I absolutely love a wedding in a marquee! We squeezed in some more parkrun tourism in the morning, got dressed up and had the best day, and then danced all night. It was such a lovely day for an amazing couple.

On the way back from the wedding we stopped off at Bletchley Park. I've wanted to go for absolutely years and we always said if we were ever in the area we'd pay a visit. It was absolutely brilliant. There's just so much to see! We spent a good few hours there and didn't get close to seeing everything, but your ticket is an annual pass so you can come back any time in the year, so I'm hoping we get a chance to go again. Most of what I knew was from The Imitation Game, so there was so much I didn't know, and it's an incredible interesting, moving and interactive museum that I can't recommend more!

What I've been doing
This month, I finally had the chop! I've been talking about cutting my hair for years but every time I've bottled it. I love my long hair and it's become my signature style, but it was also getting a bit boring, not to mention hot in the summer! I was going to do it a few years ago, but then we got engaged and I wanted it long for the wedding. I spent weeks before my appointment dithering, and in the end I just went for it. I absolutely love it! It took me a while to get used to, but now I love it and I'm so glad I did it!

I set my reading challenge at a fairly achieveable 52 books this year (I read 94 last year) with the wedding and the honeymoon, but it turns out I've been reading just as much as ever. So this month, 6 months early, I hit my reading goal of 52 books! I have no idea what my aim is now for the next of the year but it's nice to not have one! I've read some brilliant books this year so I might do a mid-year review of my favourites.

Phil and I love dogs. Love them. We tell each other about dogs we've seen during the day, we will both stop mid-sentence to point out dogs, we watch dog videos to cheer ourselves up, we stalk other people's dogs on Instagram. We love them. We talk about getting a dog a lot, but we don't have a lot of experience in actually looking after them, so a few months ago we signed up to Borrow my Doggy. Reader, it's been a rollercoaster. We've had people cancel on us the day of the meet up, people cancel the day before, we've been completely ghosted. We were starting to give up, and then one day I decided to check, and there was a beautiful golden retriever in our area. I sent over my standard message but I wasn't feeling hopeful, but then we got a reply. And then she was free to meet up. And before we knew it we had a date.  Even half an hour before we still thought we were going to get stood up, but nope, we arrived at the house and knocked on the door.

And that's where we met Benji! He is the most beautiful puppy, incredibly exciteable and social and loves to play! We've taken him out twice now and have a great relationship with his owner who is happy for us to let her kno when we want to borrow him. He's hard work but it's good practice and it's great to have the option of playing with a dog whenever we like! It took us a long time to find a good match but I'm so glad we stuck it out!

What I've read
Eight books this month:

Salt Slow
The Red Word
Let the Great World Spin
Three Women
The Ecliptic
The Interestings

My favourite was The Interestings which I absolutely loved and was a bit bereft when it was over! I also really loved Lanny which is being talked about a lot at the moment for good reason.

What I've been watching
Two cinema trips this month! Midsommar which I loved except for that one bit and I knew about it and looked away but then it was in a flashback?! It was one of those that I can't stop thinking about and I just want to read everything about! If you've seen it and loved it, this episode of The Evolution of Horror podcast is well worth a listen.

We alsowent to see Spider-man: Far from home which I really enjoyed, maybe even more than the first one?!

What I've read online
Lithub - Free to be you and me and childfree
Grazia - I don't feel smart enough for 2019
Stylist - I had a miscarriage at Disney World
Vox - Why is everyone on Tinder obsessed with tacos?
A Rosie Outlook - Out of alignment
The New Yorker - The kiss that changed video games
Yes and Yes - How to use envy as a tool
Plus Size - A Love Letter to Beth Ditto
The Guardian - I learned I could do my job and not be ashamed of having a baby
The Times - When Harry met Sally - 30 years on
The Metro - How to be happy for your friends when you are jealous of their achievements
Prospect Magazine - The battle over bread
Huffington Post - The moment I knew I wanted kids (as told by 5 women)
Refinery 29 - I'm the only queer person in my friendship group and it's really lonely
Design Sponge - Simple tips for success
The Guardian - Why we can't get enough of audiobooks
Grazia - Things you only know if you don't have a girl gang
Food 52 - The truth about caramelising onions
The Guardian - Top chefs share their simple recipes
Writing between pauses - 6 lessons from 6 years of marriage
Stylist - I didn't know I was suffering from burnout, until I was made redundant
Medium - The secret to getting ahead is doing the work others don't
Plus size - What shame can't achieve
The Midult - Do you "save for best"?
The Guardian - Where's the advice for men on how to propose?

Hope you're having a lovely August so far!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Cookbook review: The Quick Roasting Tin

Damn, Charlotte. Back at it again with the roasting tins.

Basically as soon as I knew there was going to be a third roasting tin book in the series I was absolutely buzzing, and a quick one at that! (There's also going to be a fourth one next year!). It's hard to explain the love of these books. This thread of Bert's gives you an indication of why we're all obsessed with them (and it looks like a couple of journalists have gotten on board and are going to write about the phenomenom!). They're easy, they're accessible, they make it easy to riff on your favourites and they're endlessly customisable. Plus, in a world where everyone is "sooooo bussssssy" (my hatred of "busyness as achievement" is for another day) they do genuinely mean you can bung your dinner in the oven and go back to reading/spending time with your husband/playing Tetris, at least in my case.

Anyway, I was absolutely thrilled to receive a copy of this straight from Rukmini herself (I'd obviously already preordered it so this was a nice surprise!). Here's what I thought...

First Impressions

Unsurprisingly, I absolutely adored The Green Roasting Tin with everything being vegetarian and half the recipes being vegan, but this is a return to meat and fish based recipes. With it being a quick book, meat probably cooks quicker in the oven than a potato or carrot! At first I was disappointed in the number of veggie recipes, but I found they're more towards the middle of the book, particularly in the lunchbox section.

Speaking of the lunchbox section - I love this! I take leftovers a lot of the time to work so this is perfect for me.

From an initial flick through I found 33 veggie recipes out of 64, with 11 being desserts. 

Here's what I made...

Salted chocolate peanut butter brownies
These appealed to me right away but I knew they wouldn't be Phil's thing so I halved the recipe. They were very easy and the only thing I needed to buy was chocolate (albeit, very dark, expensive chocolate). I think I undercooked them as they were very gooey. Definitely a grown-up brownie - I really liked them but I'm not sure I'd make them again as they weren't very popular!

Roasted Aubgerine courgette and macaroni bake
My Mum gave me a courgette and an aubergine as she was going away, so it made sense to give this recipe a go. I feel like a bastardised it a bit - I couldn't get boursin so I used goats cheese and added mixed herbs, basil and garlic powder. I also only had 100g rather than the requisite 150g so I threw in some cheddar.
Super easy if lacking in complex flavour from the tinned tomatoes straight into the oven, but Phil, who usually hates courgette and aubergine, liked it, so I guess that's a win!
I'd maybe make this again with a few adaptations.

Weekend breakfast traybake
One of my pet peeves is people complaining in the Guardian Food comments section that the recipe didn't work. Then it turned out they swapped the pasta for rice, the tofu for chicken, the soy sauce for ketchup... you get my drift. I think in this recipe I made too many changes and that was why it didn't work.

I used veggie sausages with added fennel and smoked paprika to make them taste more "meaty", but I think there was something fundamental about the chorizo that I just couldn't replace. The whole thing was a bit bland, but I think this is my fault for making the change. I imagine chorizo imparts a smoky, fatty deliciousness which veggie sausages... do not. Bit disappointing but I bet this is great if you do eat meat!

Quick cook cauliflower curry with peas and spinach
I love cauliflower, I love peas, I love spinach, I love curry. I did not love this. And I have no idea why! Maybe my cauliflower was a little underripe. Maybe I don't like mustard seeds as much as I first thought. I did forget the lime which may have been more up my street, but I found the cauliflower flavour completely overwhelming. I kind of want to try it again to see what I did wrong, but something you have to call it loss and maybe this wasn't for me!

Spiced sweet poato curry with peas and coconut milk
After not liking the cauliflower curry, this was a perfect return to form. Really easy and tasty - I'd up the chilli next time. The serving size was "2 adults and 2 children" which doesn't really work for us, but with a side of Meera Sodha's insane green beans (seriously I could eat a bucket full - if you haven't tried them you really need to, pictured in the image above) and some pitta, we got 2 portions.

Cinnamon spiced aubergine with feta, olives and herbed bulghur wheat
So much going on here - olives! Feta! Pomegranate seeds! but it was soooooo good. An absolutely treat in your lunchbox. Definitely making again!

All in one nigella spiced whole tomato dal
In every Roasting Tin there is one recipe that does not work for me. Unfortunately, as a person who loves dal almost more than any other food, it was this one.
I bought a lidded dish especially and followed all the instructions to the letter. It seemed a lot of liquid, but in Rukmini we trust.
After 30 minutes it was still really watery and bland so I gave it another 10 minutes without the lid before I gave up. 
I used a mix of tomatoes which I think could have been too big and released too much liquid, or it could have been old lentils or my oven, but it just did not work. I kind of want to try it again, but I also know the dal in The Green Roasting Tin is one of my favourites so perhaps I just stick to that!

Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons
I mean, "Tikka-spiced paneer salad with chickpeas, mint and naan croutons". It had me at "hello". This is so flipping great. I overcooked the naans a bit and they were a tad crunchy, but that is all on me. My only disappointment is that I had a busy week and I was out for lunch for the next few days so I halved it! What a travesty! I can't wait to make this again.

Lightly roasted chickpea, halloumi and red onion salad with coriander and giant cous cous
Quite often with these books, it's the recipes I don't expect to love that become my favourites.
The flavour profile here is very simple - only smoked paprika, salt and lemon - but it really allows the rest of the flavours to shine. I absolutely loved it.
There was very little chopping involved, which as a veggie, is a rare and beautiful thing, so it was super quick to get in the oven.
I already can't wait to make this again - especially for my lunchbox!

Roasted halloumi and bulghur wheat salad with avocado, mango and coriander
Is this my favourite recipe in the book? Again, I didn't imagine I'd be saying that when I read this recipe. It's so fresh-tasting and summery and delicious. AND it's even better hot and totally worth going down to the kitchen at work to warm up so that halloumi is all hot and melty. I'm genuinely considering making this every weekend for my lunchbox.

Orzo giadineiera: Baked orzo with courgette chilli and lemon
I keep hearing a lot about the orzo recipes in these books but I'd been yet to try them. This was my first foray and I was really, really excited about it. I knew we had a tight turnaround time the evening I made this, so I grated the courgette in advance and left it in the fridge. 
In the end, it came out a tad watery so I wonder if my courgette released too much liquid while it was in the fridge. I think it needed a tad less liquid, extra salt and extra lemon. I also ended up having to used dried chillies as I didn't have fresh, so that might have made a big difference.
It just feels like it needed "something" but I would give this another go with a few tweaks.

Honey roasted butternut squash salad with chickpeas, goats cheese and rocket
This was lovely, quick and refreshing - perfect for a lunchbox! I love the combination of goats cheese and butternut squash anyway and this was lovely with the cumin and honey. I halved this as we were going away and didn't need leftovers, but I'd definitely bulk it out with the bulghur option next time as it wasn't quite enough for dinner with a pitta. I was hesitant to try to do the bulghur addition when halving it in case it dried up. Also, cutting up a butternut squash takes FOREVERRRRRRR. But we know that.

Pomegranate yoghurt cake
This was a bit of an unplanned bonus. I'm not much of a baker but whenever Phil is away I find myself baking out of boredom. On this particular solo Sunday I had already planned to make two recipes from the Quick Roasting Tin (the two below) but I had everything in to make this, thanks to buying pomegranate seeds for another Roasting Tin recipe this week (I'm going to attempt to sub the chicken for halloumi in the brown rice and avocado salad in the first book).

Rukmini notes that this cake is best eaten on the day of baking, and seeing as I was baking out of boredom and had nobody around to help eat 8 servings of cake, I decided to halve the recipe.

The method is easy peasy - mix everything up, put it in a tin, put pomegranate seeds on top. Can confirm, it works fine with self raising flour with a best before date of 9 months ago, and also when you're trying to guess how many seeds the average pomegranate has because you're using prepackaged pomegranate seeds.

I was struggling to find the right sized tin based on the recommendations but in the end I just made it in a loaf tin. I did 20 minutes in the oven and it was perfect. 

Really easy and tasty. Next time I'll add more icing!

Charred tenderstem broccoli with black beans, avocado and peanuts and sesame and thyme roasted cauliflower pilaf with feta cheese and watercress
Both these dishes sounded really good but they were both described as side dishes and I didn't want to make a really elaborate side dish as well as something else, so I took Rukmini's advice and combined these into a "vegetarian sharing feast", well, except I didn't share!

It took me about an hour and 20 to make both of these, but only because my oven really doesn't like having more than one thing in it at once! I did the broccoli for 20 minutes but the cauliflower had barely cooked in that time so I had to take the broccoli out and wait another 2o minutes!

Both these dishes are lovely and work really well together. The combination of avocado, black beans and smoky chipotle flakes with the lime juice in the broccoli dish makes it feel mexican and I loved the addition of the peanuts. It actually worked really well with the pilaf - next time I would serve this alongside bulghur and feta.

I've recently discovered za'tar and now I just want to use it in everything, so I really like it in the pilaf. The cauliflower itself wasn't my favourite (have I gone off cauliflower?!  What is going on with me?) but I loved the flavours in the bulghur and the addition of the feta.
I'm not sure what I'd serve either of these on the side of, but I like the idea of making them together again, or bulking one of them out into a full meal.


Maybe my favourite? No wait the green one is my favourite. But this one is really great. And I also love the first one. Basically, you need all 3.

I really love how each book builds on the previous - for me, a whole book of veggie recipes was the perfect follow up to the original, and here, a whole book of quick recipes is the next step in making Roasting Tin recipes even more accesible.

I remember cooking from the first book (over 2 years ago!) and going out for a walk while everything cooked, and the second needing "emergency crackers" to keep us going til dinner, but this is absolutely perfect. We've had a hectic few weeks so it's been great to know I can put something in the oven at 6 and still make it to the cinema for 7!

Shout out in particular to the lunchbox section, which I absolutely love! I bring leftovers to work most days for lunch, but I can't have hot food at my desk - this book allows me a fresh, delicious lunch and means I can still spend my lunch break reading outside, not queuing for a microwave!

While I feel I've made pretty much every recipe I wanted to make from this book (with the exception of a couple I want to veggie-ize) I know there will be so many I'm going to make and adapt and recreate again and again.

These book just keep getting better, and I cannot wait for the next one!! Thank you again to Rukmini for my copy, and for these amazing books!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Cookbook Review - Bish Bash Bosh

The original Bosh! (exclamation mark theirs, not mine) was one of my favourite books of 2018. I love their modern, fun take on plant-based food where there are just as many recipes for burgers and curries as there are for salads and smoothies. I found it one of the most accessible of all my vegan books and would definitely recommend it as an "entry-level" plant based book. I still cook from it regularly, with the BBQ kebabs, sweet potato korma and sweet and sour tofu being my faves.

I pre-ordered Bish Bash Bosh as soon as I knew about it and couldn't wait to cook from it. The only downside was, it came out the week before we got married, so with the stress of the final details, the wedding itself and then our minimoon, it was actually a couple of weeks before I got to properly cook from it!

First Impressions
Obviously my expectations on this one were super high, and I was not disappointed from my first few flicks. There were so many recipes I wanted to make!
I also got my copy from Waterstones so I got bonus recipes and it was signed both by Ian and Henry, so that was nice!

It's not completely clear if this is a "themed" book, but mostly feels like a traditional sequel to the original, rather than having a focus on specific types of recipes, but as I loved the original so much that was fine.

Here's what I made...

Bang Bang Noodle Salad
Remember that very brief warm period a few weeks ago? Yeah no me neither. But once upon a time it was warm and I made this salad for tea. It was super easy and tasty, with a delicious peanutty dressing (I'm a sucker for any kind of peanut butter sauce). I swapped out a few veg but I like that it's the kind of recipe where you can just swap in whatever you have and smother it in delicious sauce.

Piri Piri Bake
This was a bit of a manic and long cook, despite the intro describing it as quick and easy. It took about an hour, and that was including microwaving the sweet potatoes (just to add, I love that it recommended this as an option. It's just such a quick fix, especially if you don't know you can do it, and it's perfect in a recipe like there where there's a lot going on). There's a lot to do and there isn't an awful lot of down time. For a "roasting-tin-esque" recipe I found it quite intense!

You have your sweet potatoes, then you have to roast some veg, then you make some veggie "chorizo" and then you make homemade Piri Piri sauce. Phew! 

I really liked it and the idea, but I'm not sure the end result was quite worth the effort but I could definitely adapt it with plain veggie sausages and a bottle of Nando's sauce!

Sweet potato tagine
I love a tagine and this was super easy. It took about 45 minutes but never felt manic, and it relied on Ras el hanout and harissa which mean once you've bought those you can easily throw this together with whatever other veg you have to use up. Next time I'd definitely mix it up as the sweet potato got a bit boring after a while, and I think some peppers and mushrooms would be a great addition.

Aubergine Katsu
I made this when a friend came over for dinner as Phil isn't a huge aubergine fan. I'm a bit nervous about shallow frying but it seemed to go okay. The sauce was delicious but I should have used double the amount for two of us as I found it a bit dry. I would make this again but probably with tofu.

Shepherd's Pie
This is classic Sunday food - something comforting that takes longer than I'd bother with on a weekday. It was quite faffy, and there's quite a lot going on, but I was interested in the combo of red wine, sundried tomatoes and Marmite. In the end the red wine seemed quite overpowering so perhaps it didn't cook off enough, and the texture of mine felt quite mushy, but this might have been because I swapped the (expensive) puy lentils for (cheap) green ones. I do really like the use of "mushroom mince" which is something they use in the first book, but I'm not sure it quite accounts for all the liquid that mushrooms produce once cooked.

It said it served 4-6 and I got 6 good portions out of it with peas and broccoli. It wasn't my favourite shepherd's pie but I know Phil really enjoyed it so I might adapt it for another time.

This was a bonus recipe, and when I looked it up I couldn't seem to find anyone else doing a vegan Ximxim which was weird! So I didn't really know what this was or what to expect so I definitely cannot vouch for its authenticity! It's apparently a Brazillian dish with peanut butter and coconut milk, and this version is made with squash, aubergine and okra. I didn't have okra so I used mushrooms. It was really tasty and even got Phil eating aubergine which is always a plus! I would definitely make the sauce again with different veg.

Speedy Spaghetti
Anna Jones' lemon and kale spaghetti has legendary status in our house. It was the first thing I ever cooked in our house, it's Phil's favourite thing I make and I bet I've made it a dozen times (which is a lot for me who rarely remakes a recipe!). This follows a very similar format of creating a sauce from the starchy spaghetti water but with a slightly different sauce with olives and basil. I made a bit of a mess of it and had the heat on too high, so the water evaporated a bit too quickly to cook the spaghetti fully so I had to top it up a bit which I think affected the final flavour. I'd definitely give this another go as an alternative to our fave!

Singapore Noodles
Stir fry is one of my favourite ways to clear out the fridge, so this was perfect for a Thursday night. Really easy and tasty and really simple to adapt. I topped it with my favourite crispy tofu. Definitely one to make again.

Neuvos Rancheros
From my first look through the book this was one of the recipes I was most excited to make. I love weekend brunch and this sounded absolutely perfect. I halved it as it was just for the two of us, but I did use a full can of tinned tomatoes as it seemed a bit dry. We topped it with avocado, spring onions and cherry tomatoes but the whole thing was a bit one-note a disappointing despite being a bit of a faff to make! 

Sweet potato tikka masala
The Bosh boys are big on making their own curry pastes, which is cool, but my Nutribullet is a bit knackered so I'm always a bit nervous about getting it out! So in this case I decided to skip blending the tikka masala sauce so there was one less thing to wash up!

The sauce was absolutely insane and tasted just like a tikka masala - in fact it was my favourite thing I made from the book! It's quite hands on and time consuming so I don't think it's something I'd make too often midweek, but I'm definitely keen to make the paste again and mix up the veg. A huge success!

Vietnamese Tofu
"Add this to the list, mate" - Phil loved this one! Crispy tofu in a sticky sauce is right up my street so I knew I'd love this. I didn't want to buy coconut water, so I used the liquid from the top of a can of coconut milk and used the rest to make coconut rice in my Instant Pot as a side (in hindsight, a bit overkill with the sweetness of this sauce!). It was very rich and sweet and maybe a little bit too rich for midweek, but I'd definitely make it again on a weekend!

I would say this is a step up from their first book, which I think is their intention. The first book is very accesible for both a beginner cook and a beginner vegan, whereas I think this goes a step further without being overly complicated or requiring too many weird ingredients.

I would definitely recommend it as a complement to the first one and I know I'll be picking it up a lot! A great addition to any shelf, vegan or otherwise.

June Life Lately

June has been quiet, but in a really nice way. It hasn't been filled with weekends away or big events, but instead lots of lovely little things - dinner parties, birthday parties, shopping trips, seeing friends. It's been one of those months where I don't have lots to blog about, but it's been really great. It's been nice to not have a stuffed calendar, and instead have a more relaxing time and even, I'm not kidding, be a bit spontaneous! 

Here's what I got up to in June, and here's my One Second Every Day for the month!:

Where I've been
We always said if Liverpool won the Champion's League (or the league, sob), we would go to Liverpool for the parade, so of course, before the final whistle had blown and we'd even stopped crying, we were making plans for Sunday afternoon. In the end we managed to convince Phil's Mum to come along, and we drove up to Liverpool and picked up Phil's sister along the way, who lives there.

We got to the docks by the Liver Building at 3.30pm, giving us plenty of time until the parade started at 4. The atmosphere was insane. Everyone had a shirt on (we even brought some of our spare shirts so Phil's Mum and sister had one each to wear), everyone was chanting and singing. It was warm and a beautiful day. It was amazing.

We had no phone signal, so we had no idea what was going on or where the bus was. After 2 hours of waiting, and starting to get tired and impatient, a speaker appeared and welcomed us to the parade. This is it, we thought, it's around the corner! They're going to be here soon. "The victory bus is an hour and a half away". 


We nearly bottled it. We nearly left our cushdy spot for a place earlier in the parade. Phil's Mum and sister went to get something to drink and Phil encouraged me to get out my book.

But then, they arrived. And it was glorious. You know all the photos you've seen of the red flares down by the docks? That was right where we were. In the middle of all of it. Looking back now I don't think about the 4 hour wait. I think about those glorious few minutes, seeing the boys on the bus with the trophy. And it was all worth it.

For my Birthday, Phil had bought me tickets to a double bill of The Godfather films (I specifically do not refer to The Godfather 3 which I pretend to not exist) at the local old theatre We'd been looking forward to it for months! So a few weeks ago we packed a bag full of sweets and hunkered down for 7 hours of cinema. After the first film we had an hour's interval to grab a Subway, and then the second film had an interval so we could have some ice cream. The Godfather films are two of my favourite ever films and it was amazing to see them on the big screen. The Plaza even has an organist who played songs from the films at the start. It was such an amazing experience.

What I've been doing
Due to us having a few quiet weekends, we decided to do what we always do when we have a bit of free time, spontaneously start a house project! We've wanted shelves in the alcoves in the front room for ages, so one Saturday morning we took a tape measure and headed to IKEA. After an hour of planning and calculating spacing and the weight of recipe books, we then nipped to B&Q. Where we spent another hour looking at brackets and whether we cut saw a shelf up at home and buying spraypaint. Then back to IKEA for a cabinet.

Then home, where we had a flatpack malfunction, so then... back to IKEA.

There has been a fourth trip to IKEA, a cabinet that didn't fit (and now we've decided we don't need the cabinet but can't bring ourselves to go back so we're trying to find it a home in the house somewhere), two visits from my Dad to put up timber when Phil's drill wasn't strong enough to get through the wall, one night painting timber, and then finally, finally, last week, we got them up. And then realised we want two more.

They look great and I'm very excited... I just wish I'd known our little Saturday project would take 3 weeks to get finished!

One of the reasons we were up by IKEA was Phil had his 150th parkrun this month. Well, in fact, he actually had two! The plan was to do Heaton Park for his 150th so we could wear the 150 bib, but the day before we realised it was cancelled! We'd already decided to go to IKEA after, so instead we went to Hyde parkrun. But then he still needed a chance to wear the bib, so last weekend we celebrated his 150th... which was really his 151st.

We've had a few last wedding bits back this month. I had my bouquet and Phil's corsage freeze-dried and framed (thanks to my Mum who sorted this out when I decided the day after the wedding I wanted them preserving!) and we've had our video back! As with the photos, we're showing them around to friends and family first before I share, but we're really happy with our video and it really captures the day.

What I've read
Big reading month this month, thanks to reserving 9 books from the library and them suddenly coming in all at once! I've been to do some real tactical reading this month to make sure I didn't take too many books out at once or have anything late to be returned!

Here's what I read this month:

The Immortalists
Her Body and Other Parties
The Gathering
Paul takes the form of a mortal girl
The Corset
There There
The Doll Factory
Ordinary People
The To-Do list

The To-Do List is my friend Amy's book, so it was amazing and bizarre and surreal to read her actual book in real life! I was lucky that Waterstones emailed me on Friday to say it was in, even though it isn't out til Thursday, and I read the whole thing over the weekend!

What I've been watching
To distract us from worrying about the Champion's League final, we did a double bill at the cinema of Rocketman and Booksmart.

Booksmart is absolutely brilliant and everything I wanted it to be and more, but guys I am obsessed with Rocketman. We've seen it twice now and I want to go for a third time. I've pre-ordered the DVD and I reckon I've listened to the soundtrack 30 times. I listen to it constantly. I love it. So, yes, that is my review.

We've also been to see Toy Story 4 which is very cute and very funny - I was sobbing before the opening credits.

At home, we've been watching the second season of Big Little Lies and just watched Spider-man: Homegoing to prepare for the new one.

What I've been listening to
This month I finished Sheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things on audiobook, and unexpectedly sobbed when it was over.

I've also finally caved and got Audible... and then suddenly not a single audiobook was appealing to me. I've already returned one, and I'm currently listening to You are Not So Smart. Basically I want an audiobook as good as Bad Blood - I only listen to non-fiction on audio and I want something juicy.

Speaking of Bad Blood, I listened to The Dropout podcast this month because that story is just insane.

What I've read online
Metro - I had a miscarriage but I don't regret telling people before 12 weeks
Vice - Liking gin is not a personality trait
Clementine - Learning to love my Mum-gut after years of body disappointment
i News - For working class people like me, the threat of debt is always there
A Cup of Jo - A trick for making weekends feel longer
NY Times - Why we need to smash the wellness industry
Grazia - Apparently pregnant women are operating at the highest level of pain endurance all the time
Bon Appetit - How cooking has made me see my ADHD as a talent
The Bibliophile District - 5 Quick tips to read more books
Vix Meldrew - How one simple mindset shift changed the game
Greatist - Why diet culture is toxic, even for people who don't diet

Hope you're having a lovely July so far!
Charlotte x

Monday, 3 June 2019

May Life Lately

I've been asked a lot this month "how's married life?". Some people scoff at this question and answer, "it's exactly the same", but for me, it just...isn't. Married life is absolutely flipping awesome. I absolutely love being married.

So here's what I got up to in my first month of married life (and you can see my One Second Everyday for May here!)...

Where I've been

One of the most exciting wedding presents we received was corporate tickets to the last Liverpool game of the season away at Newcastle. We'd been looking forward to it for weeks but had no idea how insane the night and the game would be!

Despite it only being a few weeks after our minimoon we decided to make a weekend of it. The match was moved twice, so we had to cancel the hotel we'd originally booked for Sunday night, and after a long search we managed to find a hotel in Jesmond.

We headed up on Friday night precisely so we could do parkrun, and the hotel we eventually found was only around the corner (some of the other hotels we'd looked at would have involved a couple of buses or an hour walk to get us to parkrun!). It was a beautiful park and I ran my best time in 2 years!

It worked out quite well for us that the match got moved to an evening kick off as it meant we got the day in Newcastle. We explored the city, had a coffee at the brand new Everyman Theatre, met a colleague of mine for a pre-match drink, and we did a full tour of Newcastle Castle, which was really cool!

The match was absolutely unreal and we had the absolute best time. Despite it being corporate in the home end, it was full of Liverpool fans and everyone was chanting during the meal when we were meant to be on our best behaviour! It's probably the best match I've ever been to.

On the Sunday we decided to take advantage of our beloved National Trust membership. We'd picked up a few leaflets from a service station and liked the look of Fountains Abbey. As we got closer I realised I definitely recognised it from Sian's blog!

Fountains Abbey is absolutely beautiful and it was the perfect place to explore for a couple of hours. I especially loved the old monastery ruins, and the incredible church full of stained-glass which the National Trust man recommended. We are already planning a trip back - mostly because they have a parkrun!

I always say I was brought up on country music. As a kid, we never had Sky tv, but we had a box where we could get some channels, and one of them was CMT - Country Music TV. I remember it being on constantly. Ever since I got a Spotify subscription a couple of years ago, I'd been revisiting some of my old country favourites (most of which make me cry) and I slowly started to dip my toe into modern country music too, dragging Phil down the rabbit hole with me. I would estimate now I listen to country music more than pretty much any genre, besides film scores. My parents also love country too, and listen to a country radio station in the car and at home. So when my Dad said there was a country festival on every year a few miles from our house, we couldn't say yes fast enough.

We parked in a field a few miles away and started the day in the back of a "bus" (it was a van) before arriving at Buckle and Boots Festival which took place on a big farm. There was a big barn with haystacks to sit on, tents with merch and food and two stages. We arrived at 1pm and left at midnight. Buckle and Boots had set up a Spotify playlist we'd been listening to so we had an idea of the bands we liked and which we wanted to see. While quite a few of the artists had come from the States, I was surprised how many were from the UK. We jumped from stage to stage seeing dozens of different bands, and managing to get right up close to the front. We spent the whole day dancing and it was so so so much fun. I already cannot wait to go next year!

What I've been doing
I've gotten really into baking bread this month! We very occasionally get a "nice loaf" on a weekend and promptly eat an entire loaf on a weekend. I'd been reading about making crusty bread in a dutch oven and after being too scared to use the cast iron pot I'd had for over a year, I decided to give it a go on a quiet Bank Holiday Monday (proved while watching Game of Thrones). It was such a success I followed it up with a wholemeal one, and next I want to try seeded bread! I like the white bread best as it doesn't need to be left overnight and it can be done in 3 hours, but I'm excited to make more bread!

We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing friends and family who travelled for our wedding, brought us incredible gifts and made our wedding the perfectly incredible day it was, so we spent a whole day this month writing thank you cards. We wrote over 90 cards, it took 7 hours, and we took ourselves out for pizza afterwards! It was a long day but we wanted to write personal messages to everyone, including our incredible suppliers and it gave me all the warm and fuzzies writing to everyone we loved!

I've kept this a bit on the DL, but a few weeks ago we got all of our wedding photos back! At the moment we're just making sure we show them to all our friends and family before we put anything online, but I can't wait to share them with you - they are incredible!

We had a night with our friends a few weeks ago and, as part of a private joke, bought a novelty game called Peach Snaps. We laughed about it and thought we'd have a game and then it would end up in the loft. No. Peach Snaps is amazing! It's such a fast-paced, fun game which you can just shove in your handbag. Just don't play it with my friend, Simon. We don't know how he does it.

As you have probably gathered, 2019 is not a big running year for me. I haven't run one race so far, I don't have any signed up for, and it's likely I won't do any this year. This has made me feel a bit weird and sad, especially when I didn't run the Great Manchester Run for the first time in 5 years, but with the wedding and the honeymoon I just haven't been able to, or wanted to, train for a big race. But one thing I decided I would try was improving my short distance times. I've run over 180 parkruns, but my time at my local park hasn't seemed to be getting any faster. I've been chasing a PB for over 2 years, and I've never even really gotten close. A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to work on my short distance speed, and I started a Hal Higdon 5K advanced plan. I'm only partially following it - doing 2 days of speedwork a week on top of two BMF classes and parkrun, but I enjoy speedwork and it makes a nice change from just plodding along.

I ran a great time for me at Bramhall a couple of weeks ago, and had jokingly said to Phil, "I think I'm close to a PB!"

My home parkrun is quite busy, so we got a little further to the front than usual - something we often find makes a big difference. And I was feeling good. My park also has heavy tree-cover which causes nightmares for my GPS, so it always comes up short on my watch (they've told us multiple times it's measured perfectly, it's just GPS can't detect under the trees as accurately) and I've never completely sure what my pace is. I've run Bramhall over 80 times though, so I've started to get a bit of an idea of what my "timing points" are, and I try to use those to gauge my pace.

I knew I was on for a PB after the first lap, but it's also a really hilly park (I'm not selling it to you really am I?), with three big hills you run twice, so I was worried I would lose momentum on the hills second lap. As I got to my final timing point I knew I was on for a PB. What I didn't know is it would be a PB of 40 seconds.

After initial shock and celebration and excitement, my lovely husband then said to me "well you obviously haven't been trying hard enough!"

I've literally done 3 weeks of this 5K advanced plan so I'm quietly hoping more PBs might be around the corner!

What I've bought
I absolutely loved Sarah's post on Becoming a Lipstick Person. I am definitely a lipstick person, but I cannot stand reapplying it, so I rarely wear it for work or stick with neutral colours. However, her recommendation of Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink lipsticks interested me with their premise to last all day. I initially bought myself Seductress and Pioneer because they were two for £12 in Superdrug, then found myself buying Loyalist and Romantic, and finally Dreamer. Pioneer (a deep bright red), unfortunately, is the only one that doesn't seem to last all day but honestly the others are a dream. The first time I wore Seductress I could barely get it off! Highly recommend if you like a matte lip all day long.

May has been the BEST month for recipe books, with new books by Elly Pear, Rukmimi Iyer and Jack Monroe! 

Elly Pear's new book Green is entirely vegetarian recipes. Her first two books have some really good recipes, but I don't like that her first book promoted a diet, and her second wasn't for me beyond the first meal prepping chapters (which I loved). This instead is like a greatest hits. Honestly on an initial flick through there was almost nothing I didn't want to eat, and that included marmite spaghetti! I am super excited to get stuck into this!

And then of course, my favourite recipe book series has a new addition, The Quick Roasting Tin! I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy last week and I cannot wait to get stuck in! I've already made a batch of salted chocolate brownies, and have dozens of recipes marked up to make. Keep your eyes out for a review!

I've also just received the new Jack Monroe book, Tin Can Cook, which is all meals made from tins, and thousands of copies have been donated to foodbanks. If you want to donate just £3.50 you can send a copy to a foodbank here.

What I've been reading

Eight books read this month:

Going Clear - Scientology and the Prison of Belief
The Tyranny of Lost Things
The Dollmaker
Boy Swallows Universe
Little Eve
The Talented Mr Ripley
The Burning Girl
The Maid's Room

My favourites were The Tyranny of Lost Things (thanks, Joe, for the recommendation!) and The Talented Mr Ripley. I can't wait to read more of that series!

What I've been listening to
Ooh look a new section! I've always loved a podcast while out for a run, getting ready in the morning or doing work around the house, and I've found I prefer an on-going podcast series or an audiobook. I've been getting audiobooks for free from the library for a few months (I've been so surprised by how good the selection has been!) and I'm weighing up getting Audible at some point, especially for our road trip across Canada.

This month I listened to Robert Webb's How Not to be a Boy on audio and I absolutely loved it and cannot recommend it more.

I also listened to two podcast series, Maddie and Over My Dead Body. I absolutely love a multi-episode podcast on one topic or delving into one story or crime, so if you have any recommendations for these kinds of podcasts, please let me know!

What I've been watching
One trip to the cinema to see John Wick 3, which I enjoyed when I wasn't hiding under my coat. Three films at home - Good Time (which we watched a few weeks before the Robert Pattison Batman news which allowed up to be super-smug and say things like, oh have you not sen Good Time?), Headhunters because Jaime Lannister, and Crazy Heart because we'd just got home from a country festival.

TV-wise, obviously Game of Thrones and the 50% of Chernobyl I've seen from under my coat. Yeah I basically didn't watch episode 3 and episode 4 made me cry. We've also just started The Sopranos from the beginning seeing as we started it 4 years ago and we are terrible at watching TV.

What I've read online

Stylist - The reality of visiting a spa as a plus-sized woman
Swoonworthy - 7 decorating mistakes to avoid when using colour
The Telegraph - Alex Timpson, children's campaigner, obituary (I had absolutely no idea of the amazing work Alex Timpson did, and I'm so glad I read this. What an amazing woman)
The Guardian - When working class life can be so rich, why does reality TV belittle them?
Daisy Buchanan - Please stop asking me about my career
Biscuits and Blisters - Don't answer that
The Face - The Anatomy of Depression
Refinery 29 - In defence of being unproductive
Newsweek - 9 Simple things that can help calm anxiety
Unbound - My year of reading dangerously

With some new recipe books and a quiet June I've got loads of posts I want to write this month so hopefully I'll be back soon!

Charlotte x