Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A girl and her cookbooks - A love story

We all have our vices...
Yes. I'm addicted to buying recipe books.
*hangs head in shame*
This isn't even all of them. These are just my favourites. There are at least 10 still at my parents. And I found one of two more after I took this photo. OH and one of them is Phil's. But I bought it for him. And we live together. So it's basically mine now.
The worst part is I don't even use them all.
I get so so so so excited to buy them. Or ask for them for birthdays. Or beg for them.
And when they arrive I read through them like novels. 
I leave them on the coffee table. I leaf through them while I'm lounging on the sofa.
I write a list of my favourite recipes for my "Things I want to cook" note.
And then I take them upstairs and put them on the shelf.
And go back to Pinterest and the thousands of food blogs I read.
There are a few books here I haven't even cooked from yet.
THE SHAME. THE SHAME.

It's not like I don't cook. I cook almost every day. Sometimes twice, or three times a day at the weekend (sometimes even more than that). 
But as I mentioned in my last post, I cook from food blogs. From Pinterest. From the goldmine that is BBC Good Food.
I make excuses.
Too many complicated ingredients. I can't buy that in Aldi. Pine nuts are too expensive.
That will take too long. Phil doesn't like sweetcorn. I don't have room for more jars of spices.

This post is two-fold.
One, to shame me and my book buying habit. Fuelled by nearly preordering Anna Jones' new cookbook despite having only made one recipe from A Modern Way To Eat, which I only bought three weeks ago.
And the other is to inspire me. To inspire me by all the wonderful, gorgeous books that I already have.
And to set myself a challenge.

I have to make something from one of my physical books once a week.
That's not to say I can't cook from Pinterest and food blogs the other 20 meals of the week.
But at least one meal per week has to come from one of the books I already have.

Maybe I'll blog about it. Maybe I won't.
I'm sure you'll see some of the results, and disasters, on Instagram at least.

To get started, I picked out a few favourite cookbooks. Then a few more. Then just a few more that I'd forgotten about.
Then realised that more than half of my books were favourites. Never mind. Moving on.

Then I got out my notebook. And started to work through each book.
In just the first three that I went through there were 26 new-to-me recipes I wanted to make straight away (I didn't write down anything I'd already made). And that's only from 3 books! And I have 32!

I'm sure there will be meltdowns. There will be tears. There will undoubtedly be tantrums in Tesco and disappointment in Aldi.

But maybe if I stick to this I can feel better about my piles of recipe books.
Or at least, you know, not feel guilty when I undoubtedly pre-order Anna Jones' new book...

Monday, 25 May 2015

Sweet potato breakfast noodle bowl with kale, avocado and fried egg

Confession time - I'm obsessed with food blogs. I barely read any fashion blogs anymore, but my reader is absolutely stuffed with food blogs. I read them on Feedly on my phone, then when I think I want to save a recipe I open it up in Safari, to eventually be pinned to Pinterest when I run out of browser windows (seriously I have like 20+ windows open at a time). And then alongside Pinterest I have a note in my phone called "Things I want to cook" where I co-ordinate everything I, erm, want to cook.
If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that I cook a LOT. I cook dinner from scratch at least 5 or 6 times a week, as well as food prepping on a Sunday, and my favourite meal of the week - Saturday, post-parkrun breakfast. I would love to post more recipes on my blog but the reality is I'm not actually very creative when it comes to cooking. The truth is, I'm too scared of doing it wrong. I'm scared I don't know which flavours go together, which textures work, and as a result I am a slave to my dozens of cookbooks and the aforementioned food blogs.
A few weeks ago though, Monkey Nutrition asked me to review something on their site, and I picked some coconut oil. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you'll know that coconut oil is kind of a big deal in the food world. I won't go into the details of why it is a better choice to cook with, but you can read all about it here. Anyway, I had a bit of a problem - I wanted to use it to make something unique for my blog, but as I said, I'm not a very creative cook.
But one of the few meals I do tend to play around with is my Saturday brunch. Phil and I usually go to parkrun, then head to Aldi and get home about 10.30am. By this time I'm starving, but I want something both quick and nutritious after my run. As we've just done a big food shop by this point I have plenty of options of what to make!
On Saturday I knew I wanted sweet potato noodles and I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but couldn't find a recipe online that perfectly satisfied my craving. So for a change, I made something up! It was so delicious that I decided to make it again on Sunday after my 6 mile run and this time used my coconut oil!
If you've never cooked with coconut oil before, I will warn you that it does, unsurprisingly, taste like coconut. This particular brand was quite strong, so this is something to bear in mind. I personally love coconut in savoury cooking, but don't like it in sweet cooking. I loved using it for this breakfast dish, but when I made brownies with the oil I could taste the coconut coming through. So for me I'll be prioritising it for savoury cooking - which is most of my cooking anyway!
Now a reminder. I am not a food blogger. I didn't weigh anything and I didn't measure my spices. I know, I know, that's really annoying for you. But it does mean you can tailor things to your taste. I also used mushrooms, kale and peppers here, but swap for the your vegetables of choice.
Also, I'm really nervous to post this - I don't know how food bloggers do it!

Sweet potato breakfast noodle bowl with kale, avocado and fried egg

Serves 1


2 tablespoons coconut oil (or oil of choice)
1/2 medium sweet potato, spiralized (using the blade with the smallest triangles)
3-4 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pepper, sliced
1-2 handfuls of kale, washed
Nutritional yeast
Chilli flakes
Garlic powder
1 egg

To serve: 1/2 avocado, salsa


1. Heat a frying pan onto a medium heat with one tablespoon of the coconut oil
2. Add the sweet potato noodles and cook, stirring often, until soft - about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't stick!
3. Add your mushrooms, peppers and kale. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, chilli flakes and garlic powder to your taste (I used about 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, about 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes and about a teaspoon of garlic powder).
4. Get a second, smaller pan going on a high heat and after about a minute, add the rest of the coconut oil. After a few minutes give the oil a swirl around the pan and when it's smoking, add the egg.
5. Cook the egg until it's to your liking (I give mine a good 4 or 5 minutes because I like it super crispy. I had a bit of a nightmare here and my yolk split, but let's just ignore that).
6. Put the veg and noodles in a bowl, top with your egg and add avocado and salsa. Take a photo of your avocado because you have had some brown avocado nightmares recently and you can't believe it looks so perfect.
7. Serve and enjoy!
I would love to do more recipe posts but I just don't feel confident in my ability to create recipes myself - but I could definitely post recipes that I've tried from other blogs or books. Although I'm paranoid enough about keeping my kitchen clean!

Let me know if you give this a try!

Charlotte x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Rebrand

I've never really been a jeans-and-tshirt girl. Well, unless you count between the ages of 14 and 17 when you had to wrestle me away from my black jeans and My Chemical Romance tshirts. I've always been into dresses and skirts, to the point where I once took a jeans-for-a-week challenge on my blog to see if I could do it, and even then I cheated and only managed it for five days. I think some of it comes down to personal preference of style, and some of it comes down to shape. As a classic pear shape, I feel much more comfortable in skirts and dresses than I do in jeans. 
But over the last few years I've found myself wearing jeans more and more. This might not necessarily have been that clear on my blog (these kinds of outfits aren't exactly inspiring!) but I've definitely noticed myself reaching for jeans much more on a lazy morning before work.
The problem that I've had - and the funny thing is, it's actually the exact same problem I said I had in that jeans challenge post from over four years ago - is that I don't have a lot of tops. I have a lot of blouses, but they're not always the right style or length for with jeans. As a result, I end up wearing tshirts which are usually music or TV show related (I got two Parks and Recreation tshirts for my birthday) and leave me feeling a bit slobby. 
But a few weeks ago when Clarity Travel Management got in touch about their recent rebrand (they used to be Co-operative Travel Management), I saw a great opportunity to push out of my comfort (read: dress buying) zone. They offered to send me £50 of High Street vouchers to help with my own rebrand. I knew straight away I wanted a pretty top and a big statement necklace to wear with my jeans, and straight away spotted this absolute beauty in Oasis. I think it's absolutely gorgeous and it's exactly the kind of pretty, wear-anywhere top that I wanted. The necklace I got from River Island, and after I bought it I decided to push myself further with jeans-wearing and picked up four plain, stretchy tshirts in Primark to wear it with. Even though the tshirts are really plain, the addition of this huge, chunky statement necklace really completely the outfit (even if it does weigh my neck down a bit!).
top - Oasis (c/o Clarity)
necklace - River Island (c/o Clarity)
jeans - Topshop
flats - Dorothy Perkins
As I'm sure is no surprise after my last post, I've been a bit burned out this week. On Sunday I went to Chorlton Runners for their Sunday run, and two miles into a 5 mile loop I tripped and fell completely flat on my face. I don't think I've ever moved so fast jumping up and pretending I was alright! I cut up my hands quite badly, scraped up my elbow and straight away could feel bruises coming up on my legs. I didn't know anybody and I was utterly mortified! The problem was, two miles in, it would take me almost as long to walk back as it would to keep running. The rest of the group gently suggested that running would help the blood flow and distract me a bit from the pain so I took a deep breath and ran the three more miles. I was feeling pretty shaken and upset and just felt overwhelmingly sad. Not at myself and not because I was in a lot of pain, cause I really wasn't, it was just upsetting, really! One of the lovely ladies gave me a lift back home even though it was completely out of her way when she saw me heading for the bus covered in dust and blood, and as I was heading to the flat I called Phil who ran me a hot bath and looked after me. The incident just left me pretty shaken though, and it hit me hard on Monday. I didn't feel like spending the day explaining what had happened so I decided to work from home, and even though I did my makeup and did my hair, I spent the day in sweatpants which isn't like me at all. I didn't want to go to choir, which was another worrying sign. I convinced myself I was under the weather and I was "coming down with something" (in inverted commas because I swear I say it at least once a fortnight) and made excuse after excuse for why I left so lousy. When Phil came home I burst into tears on him. I felt demotivated (which is quite a big thing for me as I consider myself a pretty motivated person!), plagued with self-doubt and just lazy and useless. I forced myself to cook us some dinner instead of reheating leftovers from the freezer, and doing something creative and productive definitely helped. We had an early night and by Tuesday morning I was out running tempo runs and feeling completely fine. There's just been so much going on lately I was well overdue for a burn out.
This week hasn't exactly been quiet either. On Tuesday I went to visit my friend Judy from choir who is in hospital. She's become one of my closest friends at choir - despite our 43 year ago gap! - but she's been very poorly lately and it really isn't looking good for her. Phil and I went to see her last week but on Tuesday I went on my own to honestly say goodbye really. It was horrible and sad and upsetting, but she knew I was there and I know she appreciated that and I suppose that's all you can do. Yesterday mine and Phil's friend Rosie came for dinner and we had a really "grown up" lovely evening. We shared a bottle of wine, I made us a spinach and feta pie and a greek salad and she even brought me flowers. It was just lovely.
One thing that has gone me through this week has been enjoying my lunch breaks. I recently joined the beautiful central library, and got a bit overexcited and reserved four books in one go, so I've been going down to the library on my lunch breaks and reading for a while. It's been amazing. I think the library is the place I've spent most of my time this week after work and my flat!
Well, it's nearly bank holiday! I cannot wait for this weekend. I am so ready for a break. Phil and I are going to the Lake District for four days in a few weeks and it cannot come fast enough.

Hope you're having a wonderful week.

Charlotte x

Monday, 11 May 2015

These are a few of my favourite things

Growing up, I danced from the age of two. Ballet, tap, modern, jazz. Monday nights, Tuesday nights, Wednesday nights, Thursday nights. Sometimes Saturday mornings. I had swimming lessons too. Then horse riding. And I played the cello. And the piano. And I was in the school choir, and most of the school plays.
I'm 25 now, and not much has really changed. I work full time. Take on some freelance work when I can. Run this blog. Sing in a charity choir. Run a home and do all the chores that running a home involves, including cooking dinner from scratch every night. Oh and I'm training for a marathon.
I joke that if I was applying to university now I'd have a killer UCAS application.
This weekend was a culmination of nearly all of those things. Friday was date night, but when I left work at 5pm the heavens had opened. Now living in Manchester you get used to a bit of rain, but this was torrential. I scuttled back home and hastily texted Phil asking, do we really need to go out tonight? Instead we ordered takeaway from the restaurant we were planning to go to (Deliveroo is amazing!), lit some candles, put on our comfy pants, drank a bottle of wine and watched far too many episodes of The Office.
On Saturday I was up and out to get the train to Liverpool for my cousin's wife's hen do meal. They're already married, but they had a quiet ceremony with just a couple of witnesses so Sarah had her hen party afterwards, and a group of my family and her friends went out for the day for lunch and a drink. At 5pm I rushed back to the train station after the meal to make it back to Manchester for a choir concert I was singing in at 7.30. The concert went well - with a few little mishaps! - and we had a great time. The acoustics in the church were so good I was a little taken aback that my solos sounded pretty alright!
Then it was back home to bed, because on Sunday we had the Great Manchester Run. Now if you've been reading for a while, you might remember that two years ago I watched my friend Eve run the Great Manchester Run and was so inspired that I signed up for the 2014 race the next day. I'd never run in my life! As you know now, running has been the most amazing journey for me over the years. Four 10Ks, one half marathon, countless 5Ks. Early starts and long runs and chewing jelly babies while trying to keep breathing. Running has become one of the biggest parts of my life, and the Great Manchester Run has always had a place in my heart as the place where it all began.
Annoyingly, Phil was two waves ahead of me, so I went down with him at 11.30am even though I wasn't running til 1pm. Living right in the city centre though meant we were literally around the corner from the start. I even went home for a bit while I was waiting for my wave!
Thanks to a little bit of confusion, I almost ended up running in the wave before mine, but right before crossing the line I realised, but it meant I was right right at the front of my wave!
Then, just as I was about to start, I spotted Phil! He'd finished his run and was walking back to our flat! I just got a chance to shout to him and he told me he finished in 56 minutes, which was amazing.
But then we were off! I knew being close to the front I had to be careful I didn't set off too fast, but it was hard to not be carried by the other racers. I was aiming for under 1 hour 5, but really hoping for under 1 hour 2. Under an hour wasn't even crossing my mind. It's one of my big goals for this year, but I just didn't think this would be the day.
As the first kilometre marker approached, I looked at my watch and saw I was under 6 minutes. I knew I was running a bit too fast, especially after a while when my watched flashed up with 9:20 for the first mile. But I also felt good. And I knew if I kept up this pace I could do it in under an hour. The excitement started to bubble up.
Ahead came the 2km marker. I was still under 12 minutes. I knew I knew I knew I was running too fast. But I felt so great. I didn't feel tired, I felt exhilarated.
3km in under 18 minutes, 4km in under 24 minutes. I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment, but I had it in my head now. I could do this. I could do this in under an hour.
For the first time ever, I ran without headphones. I listened to the bands. I listened to the cheering. I listen to the other runners breathing.
5K, 6K, 7K.
8K was when I knew I was going to do it. At 8K (5 miles) in 47:37  I knew I had over 12 minutes to run just over a mile. I could taste it.
By 9K I was exhausted. But I forced myself to keep pushing.
And then I saw the finish.
If you ever ask me, I always sprint finish, but my legs just wouldn't go any faster.
But it didn't matter.
With the end in sight I saw the clock click over to 59 minutes.
I could see the end.
And I started to cry.
I started crying with pride, with exhaustion, with the overwhelming feeling of "I'm about to complete my goal. The goal I've had since I started running two years ago."
I crossed the line.
59:20.
And burst into tears.
I cannot explain the feeling. I can't explain the feeling of hitting a goal you really didn't think you could achieve. The feeling of pushing yourself to your limits. The feeling of, oh my god I did it - what else could I do?
My goal has always been to run a 10K in under an hour. So what next? Could I run one in 55 minutes? What about 50? Suddenly this whole world has opened up to me.
And stupid as it sounds, I feel like I've finally broken the barrier. I'm no longer a "slow" runner. I no longer have to preface every race time with "well I'm slow but...". I no longer have to justify myself. I no longer have to worry that people who have only just started running are going to beat me.
I'm finally... average at running!
I know that sounds terribly defeatist, but that's not what I mean. I've always been slow. Not even not-fast. But slow. And I've always been embarrassed by my times, as awful as that is to say. I've never felt good enough at running, and I've often thought, you know, maybe this isn't my sport. But a love of running prevailed and yesterday I finally proved that I could do it. And now I can do anything.
And after all that excitement and exhaustion, I got home, jumped straight in the shower and went to my cousin's christening. Which is where this dress comes in. 
H&M contacted me a few weeks ago with some images from their new Divided prom collection (available online and in store now), and I selected this dress as I have a wedding to go to at the end of the month. When it came however, it was a lot more white than I had expected (I thought it would be more pink), and even though we're only going to the reception of this wedding, I decided I probably shouldn't go to the wedding of someone I don't know (it's a colleague of Phil's) in a white dress. But I realised it would be perfect for Leo's christening.
I admit, when I first tried this dress on, I wasn't sure if it was very "me", but once I added some black heels and a leather jacket... poof! It suddenly felt perfect for me! I got absolutely loads of compliments on it at the christening, and I'm thinking of seeing if I can pull it off for the day time with a denim jacket and nude flats.
dress- c/o H&M
leather jacket- Boohoo
heels- Marks and Spencers
necklace - Topshop
So after that weekend you can imagine that I'm suitably exhausted, but the fun never stops in my life. I've gotten home from work, thrown some washing in (that I had no time to do over the weekend!) and I'm about to have dinner before choir! Never a dull moment eh?

Charlotte x

Monday, 4 May 2015

Marathon (Wo)Man

Hi! Happy Bank Holiday Monday! I hope you're having a lovely day. I am having the best bank holiday weekend. Yesterday Phil and I went to Blackpool for the day. It was cold and wet and disgusting, we had terribly disappointing fish and chips, we spent £6 winning a toy zebra and we got completely soaked on the first ride we went on but we had such a fun day. Today we're having a bit of a rest. Phil joined me on a 7 mile run this morning - the first time he's ever joined me on a run! - and I really, really enjoyed it. It was so nice to have someone running with me even though we didn't talk much! We have the Great Manchester Run next weekend and I'm feeling really good about it. We're spending the rest of the day doing washing, cleaning and food prep before I head to choir tonight.
Speaking of running, two exciting things. One is that I signed up for my second half marathon! I'll be doing the Birmingham half marathon in October so I'll be starting to train for that straight after Manchester. The other is... I SIGNED UP FOR A MARATHON! Eeeeeeek! I'm officially signed up for the Manchester Marathon next year. Just typing that is terrifying but I'm excited and more determined than ever! 
dress - River Island
leather jacket - Boohoo
ballet flats - Dorothy Perkins
necklace - Topshop
Last weekend my Mum came up to visit and we had a day of shopping and lunch. She bought me some trousers from River Island for my birthday that in the end didn't really suit me so we were on the hunt for something to exchange them for. The second I saw this dress I knew it was the one. When I got home Phil said "that is the most "you" dress" and I definitely agree. I have a wedding and a Christening coming up so I think this might be the dress that I wear. I love that it's fancy enough for something like that but can be dressed down too. And it's yellow, which is my favourite colour right now.
Well I'm going to back to (trying) to relax. I say that, but so far today I've run 7 miles, made breakfast, done two loads of washing, taken three sets of outfit photos (are you supposed to admit that as a blogger? Ah well) and started to make my lunch for tomorrow, so I suppose it's not really been that relaxing at all! Next weekend I have the most ridiculous weekend so I need to try to have a break. So I have a choir concert next weekend, which means I have three choir rehearsals this week (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday). Friday Phil and I are going out for dinner to celebrate a year and a half together. Saturday I have a meal in Liverpool for my cousin's wife's (late!) hen party, and then I'm straight back for my choir concert. Then on Sunday we have the Great Manchester Run followed straight away by my cousin's son's christening! We're actually going to miss the ceremony but we're going to make it for the evening part. It's gonna be a busy one!

Hope you're having a great bank holiday!

Charlotte x