Monday, 4 December 2017

Cookbook review: The Modern Cook's Year - Autumn

Anna Jones is hands down my favourite food writer (I've written about my love of her before in 2015). Her first two books, A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook are my desert-island recipe books, with her dal with sweet potatoes and one-pot kale and lemon spaghetti being two of my favourite recipes of all time. Her food is all vegetarian and mostly vegan, with an emphasis on great-tasting healthy food which doesn't preach "clean eating" (which I despise). 

While she has her moments of recipes requiring "smoked water" and "pickled peppercorns", I find most of her recipes accessible and simple to make, and over the years she has rarely let me down.

So of course, as soon as I heard about The Modern Cook's Year I had it on pre-order. Unlike her previous two books, the format of her third offering is a little different. Instead of being split into meals and meal types like her first book (breakfast, salads, mains, desserts etc.) or timings like her second book (in the time it takes to set the table all the way to over an hour), her third book is split by season, into 6 seasons in total, from the start of the year to winter.

And this book is a beast. It's about twice the size of her previous books with over 250 recipes and each season starts with a guide to what is in season during that particular time. I admit I don't usually pay as much attention as I should to seasonality when cooking, so I decided that due to the size of this book, and to pay attention to the seasons, I would review this book in several posts. So obviously, first up is autumn.

I received this book in September after coming home to a changing leaves and cooler temperatures after a week in balmy Spain, so it was the perfect time to work through the autumn chapter. I'll admit this now, I am definitely one of those autumn-obsessed people, so I was particularly excited about this chapter. 

First Impressions
Autumn is one of the bigger chapters in the book (I realised this when I started planning for my winter recipes and deciding to combine both Winter and Start of the Year as these sections are much shorter) and I really appreciated the list of in-season vegetables and fruits which was particularly useful when doing my meal planning with recipes not from this book.

I wrote a list of 13 recipes I wanted to make from this section, with 9 seeming do-able for midweek and 4 being more weekend affairs. These ranged from breakfasts to main courses to desserts.

I haven't really explored the book beyond the autumn and winter sections so far (I didn't want to get excited about some delicious courgette or aubergine dish in the summer chapter that might lure me away from my seasonality goals!), but I know already this chapter will be a favourite, thanks to root vegetables, pumpkins, and curries. However, we'll have to wait and see!

What I made
So I actually only made 6 recipes, as towards the end coursework kind of took over and there might have been a time I had Quorn nuggets and chips for tea (no regrets), and I do want to go back and make the carrot fritters seeing as I waited 3 weeks for a jar of lemons to preserve in order to make them, but I did make one recipe twice so that might count?

Autumn bowl
I love a simple bowl meal, and this gave me loads of inspiration for future bowl ideas. I absolutely loved the homemade chilli sauce and spent the week throwing it on everything - I just wish it lasted a bit longer in the fridge! Phil didn't like the big grilled spring greens but this recipe did start my obsession with spring greens which I've been enjoying shredded and fried in loads and loads of garlic, so I'd do that instead next time. An easy and simple dish but with that chilli sauce it really hit the spot.

Dal baked eggs
Dal is basically my favourite food and we eat a lot of eggs, so I knew this was going to be a winner. We had it for dinner with pitta and the aforementioned garlicky greens and it was delicious. It needed the lemon juice to cut through it, but it was easy, quick and a great recipe to have on hand as it's made entirely of ingredients I always have in.

Squash Piadinas
One of my favourite Anna Jones recipes is her sweet potato quesadillas in A Modern Way to Eat, and I've tweaked and adapted the recipe so many times it's become a real easy-dinner staple with lots of chilli and feta. These felt a bit like an Italian version of those, but just not quite as good. It was tasty and quick, but I'd reach for sweet potato quesadillas, especially as I always have sweet potatoes in, over these.

Sri Lankan Squash Dal
I've made this recipe two weeks in a row (basically unheard of in our house!) and I absolutely adore it. I impulse-bought a spice grinder a few weeks ago and this recipe gave me the perfect opportunity to try it out. It's a little bit of a pain to make the curry powder, but it makes loads so I've popped mine in a jar so I can make this any time.

I got a bit obsessed with pumpkins during the autumn as Aldi had these adorable little mixed pumpkins for 80p each, and I think I bought about 10 in total. I used them as decorations for a few weeks and then most of them ended up in this.

I really recommended getting hold of some alternative pumpkins to the usual butternut squash as I fell in love with the super sweet orange pumpkins and deep green pumpkins I tried. They are absolutely incredible roasted and I kept sneaking pieces before they could make it into the curry.

The curry itself is very easy, with the only time consuming part being chopping up and roasting the pumpkin. After that it's plain sailing.

This was definitely the best recipe I tried and I know I'm going to make it over and over again. Now pumpkins are going out of season I might try it with other roasted roots or sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Mash
This isn't really a full meal, but Anna gives you some ideas of how to use it. This sweet potato mash is flavoured with chilli, coriander and soy sauce and partially blended which makes it super smooth and sweet. I had it with fried halloumi, garlicky greens and roasted chickpeas and it was pretty much my absolute dream meal. 

Maple Crumble
I'm not really a dessert person but I wanted to give one of the puddings in this chapter a go. I was planning the make the malt loaf, but I didn't want to spent god-knows-how-much on two different kinds of spelt flour and malt extract, so I settled for this.

It was pretty easy to make, but the dried fruit felt a bit unnecessary (and was quite expensive to get hold of!) and made it all a bit dry. Phil didn't like the dried fruit at all and would definitely preferred me to have just made a regular crumble! I did eat some for breakfast one day which was quite nice with yoghurt, but I'm not sure I'd be in a rush to make this again.

I'm really excited for the rest of this book, as there have been some real hits here in the Sri Lankan dal and sweet potato mash. One thing I will say of Anna Jones, which has been a problem for me throughout her books, is her portions can be tiny, or she'll suggest just a small salad on the side of a bowl of vegetables, and as a volume eater, it just doesn't do it for me. I'd definitely recommend having a few sides ready to go when cooking from her books.

I do love the format of this book, though, and it's really made me think more about buying in season and checking where my veg has come from, and maybe, sometimes, having second thoughts about aubergine in November and maybe swapping it for sweet potato. I'm looking forward to understanding more about seasonality as the book goes on.

I've already started planning some recipes to make from the winter and start-of-the-year chapters so keep your eye out for those in the new year!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 3 December 2017

November Life Lately

It's December! My favourite month of the year, and the month that I am FINALLY FREE OF COURSEWORK! After 14 months, three modules, three pieces of coursework and an exam, I completed my final assignment in my Diploma in Professional marketing on Wednesday. It's been incredibly hard sacrificing nearly every weekend and endless evenings for over a year to studying, reading and working on coursework, and I am so exhausted and relieved and thrilled it's over! I'd wanted to do the course for years (it's the equivalent of a degree so I'll basically have two degrees once I get my results!) and it's been incredibly interesting learning the theory of what I do at work every day, and I really feel like it's helped my at work, but I am definitely glad it's over! Now, just to wait til February for my results!

Because of this, however, November has been far from an exciting month! I have spent every single Sunday, nearly every Saturday, and most Monday and Thursday evenings doing coursework this month, and that's really been my focus. I've missed runs, British Military Fitness classes and social engagements to stay inside hunched over my laptop so I'm looking forward to getting back into my routine this month!

However, I have done a few nice things this month, so here's what I've been up to which hasn't been related to "Measurement and Metrics":

What I've been doing
I've been trying out Forest app after reading about it on Rosie's blog. The concept is simple but it totally works. You set how long you want to not use your phone for, say 20 minutes, and then it grows a tree while you're not on your phone. If you use your phone, the tree dies! I'm finding it really great because I refuse to kill a tree! I put my phone on aeroplane mode, set my tree to grow and get on with reading or watching a film. It was also brilliant for coursework! I already use the Pomodoro technique and I've sworn by it during coursework, and this has been a really helpful addition.
At the start of the month Phil and I went out for dinner to go see Jamiroquai at the Manchester Arena. I didn't really know what to expect when Phil booked the tickets, but they were always on his list of "bands to see no matter the price when they go on tour" and we'd booked these tickets back in February. It turns out you forget how many amazing songs Jamiroquai have! It was an absolutely brilliant concert and they were amazing. I'd definitely go see them again!
We've also been at the football this month where I ate chips and curry sauce and we beat Southampton 3-0 and it was excellent.
And finally, November marked mine and Phil's four year (!) anniversary. We celebrated in true Charlotte and Phil style by going to British Military Fitness and doing burpees in the dark in a freezing cold park, but then a few days later we went out for a fancy-pants meal in town. We went to El Gato Negro Tapas which I've been eyeing up as an anniversary meal option since about July as it looked gorgeous and just a little bit more fancy than somewhere we would go for a standard meal out, and it did not disappoint! We had the most amazing food - sweet potato with mango, tomatoe-y chickpeas, king prawns, tiny fish cakes, I can't even remember what else, but it was all stunning. I would definitely recommend it as somewhere for a kinda-fancy meal in Manchester as the food is exceptional. We then had a drink after in one of our favourite places - The Fitzgerald.

What I've been reading
Despite studying most of the month, I always make time to read, and this month I read a novella, a graphic novel, and two novels (with one being 900 pages!).
I've gone on and on enough times about What Page are You On? podcast, and I basically read every book they talked about in their Halloween edition. Such Small Hands was a gorgeously creepy novella, which I followed up with the gorgeous Thornhill which was the most stunningly beautiful gothic graphic novel.

Next up was The Upstairs Room which I was super into until right near the end, and finally, one of the best books I've read in a long, long, long time, I Know This Much is True.  This book completely took me by surprise and absolutely broke my heart. It is absolutely stunning and at 900 pages I was so glad I had so much to read. I was devastated when it was over and I know it's going to stay with me for a long, long time. 

I'm going to do a bit of a write up at the end of the month on my favourite books, films etc. of the year which I'm really excited about!

What I've been watching
This month we finished Mindhunter which was absolutely stunning and wonderful and perfect. I was devastated when it was over and can't wait for a second series. I am the biggest Fincher fan girl (plus, Jonathan Groff!!) and this totally hit the spot for me.

We have also been watching The Sinner which we're kind of, eh. It's okay. We are determined to not leave another series unfinished but we're not super into it, but with only a few episodes left we're probably going to stick it out but it's been a little bit disappointing!

Finally, I mentioned last month I read Let the Right One In and this month we watched the Swedish film adaptation. Wow, this was such a beautiful and gorgeous film and a brilliant adaptation of a book I loved.

What I've bought
Not much this week as I had a bit of a Black Friday disaster. I bought a dress that was too big, a jumper that was too small and three times now Topshop have sent me the wrong coat! The only good thing was Phil happened to be in town when I discovered the jumper I ordered was too small and managed to get me another size. So Phil and I are the proud owners of almost-matching fairisle jumpers.

What I've been eating
A few winners this month. Lebanese moussaka from Slow Burning Passion is one of my favourite things ever and I'm so glad I rediscovered it this month. 
I also gave mythical-sounding slow cooker mac and cheese a go from Miss South's Slow Cooked which we were a bit dubious about, but it was EXCELLENT.
I finally used my last two decorative pumpkins this month to make some amazing completely-made-up pumpkin soup and another completely made up vegan breakfast burrito which was bloody amazing and I regret making it on Instagram stories because I can't remember what I put in it.

I've also been cooking LOADS from the Autumn section of Anna Jones' A Modern Cook's Year and my review of the autumn section will be up over the next week or so!

What I've been reading online
This kind of depressing (or inspiring?!) cartoon that Amy shared
The Guardian - What's your biggest regret?
Rosie has had a really challenging year, so I loved her post On Contentment
The Guardian - My Week Eating Nothing but Recipe Box Meals
Swoonworthy - Let's talk Infertility
Kate Leaver - Feminist reading really can beat anorexia. It worked for me.
New Statesman - Ghost Watch: The Halloween Hoax that Changed the Language of Television
Mara Wilson - A 13 Year Old Girl is Not "All Grown Up"
The Pool - The Piercing that Made me Feel Powerful
Metro - Male Incompetence is a Subtle Form of Misogyny
Buzfeed - 100 Tweets that Made British People Piss Themselves in 2017

I'm looking forward to getting back into blogging this month. I've got a recipe book review planned, a look back on my year and a bit of a favourites of the year to do. Plus it's my blog's 8 year anniversary at the end of the month!

Hope you're having an awesome December so far!

Charlotte x

Monday, 6 November 2017

October Life Lately

Hello, November! Whenever I write one of these posts I can never believe how much has happened in a month! I feel writing this one I've done a lot of watching but not a lot of... doing! Here's what's been going on this month...

What I've been doing
Well I suppose one thing I did do this month was run a half marathon! I'd had a horrible training cycle full of injuries and there were a few points when I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to run. I didn't have a time goal, but once I started and got a better pace than I expected on I decided I wanted to beat my 2:08 of my second half marathon in 2015. 
I had knee pain within 3 miles, and foot pain almost right away, but I managed to push through in 2 hours 5 which I was absolutely thrilled with considering everything! I'm still struggling with the foot injury (starting running on it less than a week after the race did not help, and I managed to cause another injury through overcompensating), and I'm desperate to run again, but I'm so glad I had another great half marathon. 
That's my two halves done for the year so I'm really hoping for a PB next year - while I did get another sub 2 hour in May, I missed a PB by a few seconds so it's given me something to aim for!
Enjoy this terrible race photo of me.

I spent a lot of October doing coursework for my marketing diploma. I am so so so close to being done. I just have one last piece of coursework to submit on 1st December and I am finished! 

But it's not been all work, I've done plenty of socialising and had friends to visit, including my friend Ellen who I took to her first parkrun!

What I've been reading
Just two books this month read - The Fact of a Body which I'd downloaded months ago after a recommendation from Kate's newsletter, and then when it was mentioned on What Page Are You On? I decided to give it a read. I'm not super into true crime but this was a really interesting read, and I definitely, definitely recommend it if you are into true crime!

I also read The Shock of the Fall which I was a little bit disappointed with! I think it was built up a bit too much for me and it wasn't quite what I expected.

When I looked through my Goodreads I couldn't work out why I'd not read more this month and realised, I put a book down! I absolutely hate putting books down, but I know I'm not enjoying a book when I'm just not interested in reading. I don't think there was anything wrong with the book (it was Call me By Your Name so I could read it before the film) and I think I will pick it up again, but this time I couldn't get into it. So I decided I'd rather be reading something than nothing, so I put a book down and reached for something I loved.

What I've been watching
It seems with having had a quite quiet month we've had plenty of time to watch films which is always a good thing! 

Here's what we've watched this month:

Blade Runner 2049
The Death of Stalin
Lars and the Real Girl 
Half Nelson
Gerald's Game
The Exorcist 
American werewolf in London

I won't go through them all, but notable mentions - Lars and the Real Girl I LOVED. Instant favourite. I also feel like I have to mention my first watching of The Exorcist. Phil has wanted me to watch it for absolutely years and I've always been too scared! So the weekend before Halloween I caved. It was terrifying and I feel like I spent most of the film hiding behind a blanket, but the next day after some time for reflection I decided I actually thought it was brilliant and I'm looking forward to watching it again (and knowing when to look away!).

I also adored American Werewolf in London which we watched on Halloween. I found it hilarious.

TV-wise, we still haven't watched the new series of Stranger Things as we are hooked on Mindhunter. I am the biggest David Fincher fan so I knew I was going to love it but I think it's absolutely amazing. We're trying to pace ourselves cause we don't want to binge and it to be over!

We were also craving a comedy after finishing both The Office and Parks and Recreation so we've just started It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (yep we are about a decade late to the party) and love it so far.

What I've bought
In a word, a lot! I've definitely treated myself in October!
I gave myself a budget to get my winter wardrobe sorted and got nearly everything I wanted from M&S! I got these four jumpers for £60 and I've already worn them all so much. They're perfect.
I also played the long game in Oasis again and got this swan jumper after waiting 3 months for it to go in the sale. Always worth playing the long game in Oasis.
Speaking of sales, one of my favourite films is American Psycho and I've had my eye on this Pierce and Pierce tshirt for months, so when I saw it in the sale at Last Exit to Nowhere I had to have it. £8!
I also ended up with a few new recipe books, whoops! Anna Jones is my favourite ever food writer and her other two books are my desert-island books, so I've been (im)patiently waiting for the release of A Modern Cook's Year for what's felt like years. It's split into seasons so I've only been letting myself cook from the autumn section so far, and I'm going to review it on here a season at a time, so keep your eye out for my review of the autumn section.

I also bought Vegan Street Food after battling with myself over it for ages, and both of Elly Pear's books after borrowing them from the library and really enjoying them.

What I've been eating
I've gone full autumn-cliche this month and after focusing on the autumn section of A Modern Cook's Year I've been trying to eat more seasonally, so I went a bit crazy for these little pumpkins when I saw them in Aldi. Not going to lie, I bought 5 on November 1st cause I was worried they'd stop selling them after Halloween. They're currently decorating my fireplace.

As well as cooking through A Modern Cook's Year I've also been getting plenty of use from my airfryer, this month perfecting salt and pepper tofu and discovering it makes amazing baked potatoes!

Listening to
I'm still obsessed with What page are you on? podcasts and bought nearly every book from their Halloween special last week.

I also got hooked on Dirty John which is  fascinating crime/mystery podcast which I binged over a few days. I'm also now down the rabbit hole with podcasts on cults  - I'm currently fascinated with the Heaven's Gate podcast which then led me to Cults which is a podcast all about, unsurprisingly, cults. Highly recommend!

What I've been reading online
Marisa Bate - I'm frightened of having a baby, and maybe that's a good thing
Marisa Bate - Being part of "generation rent" doesn't have to be a bad thing
Schmancy - Failure
Ruby Tandoh - The Perfect Kitchen

What I'm excited for
Wednesday is our four year anniversary. Yep, it's been four years since I sheepishly posted I "have a date tomorrow". Where has time gone eh? And here we are in the house that we own, after living together nearly three years. Time flies when you're having fun!

We're not doing anything on the day except our usual Wednesday British Military Fitness but we're going out for dinner and drinks on Saturday night. 

Other than that, not much else! I am "excited" to hand in my final piece of coursework but I actually need to finish it in the next 3 weeks - eeek! 

I'm also starting to get excited for Christmas but I'm not allowed to get excited til 1st December!

Cookbook Review: Love Real Food

It's no secret that I love a good food blog. Back in the day, I used to read hundreds of food blogs but I'm massively cut my reading list down to just a handful now. I've already written about my love of the Minimalist Baker recipe book, which might be one of my absolute favourite books, and I feel like I've been waiting forever for this release from Kathryne Taylor of Cookie and Kate.

I've been reading Cookie and Kate for absolutely years and had lots of success with her recipes. I once announced her sweet potato chilli my favourite chilli ever, and her kale fiesta salad is probably my favourite salad. Kate's blog has a great combination of healthy recipes which are also easy and incredibly tasty.

I was so excited to find out she had a book coming out and it feels like I've been waiting years to finally get it in my hands! So here's my verdict...

First Impressions
The book has pretty much everything I expected from Kate - lots of soups, salads and, while not really my thing, healthy desserts. 

My first impression was "are there enough main courses here?", as there are full chapters on soup and salad and a whole chapter of snacks and drinks called "happy hour" which I know I'll never use.

I've made it clear before I hate the whole "clean eating" brigade and everything to do with that lifestyle, so I was disappointed to find her desserts include clean eating specialities, like coconut sugar (sugar is sugar, arghhhhh!!). But what can I expect from a book called "Love Real Food?" There's some of the usual clean-eating comments in the intro, but overall she pushes moderation and health over restriction, which is a lot more positive than a lot of her contemporaries.

So I think my overall first thoughts were, is there enough here that I really want to make? Here's how I got on...

What I made

Southwestern roasted veggie salad
I know Kate makes particularly good salads, and I love anything with Mexican flavours. I don't often make salads for dinner, but this was really filling and delicious. It was easy and straightforward, and one of those recipes I had nearly everything in the cupboards I needed, but it wasn't quick to make. However, there's a lot of hands-off time, so it's easy enough to make midweek. Definitely making this again!

Bean and greens quesadilla
I love quesadillas - we eat them at least once a fortnight as an easy, lazy dinner on a Friday night or weekend lunchtime. This was quick, tasty and easily adaptable - everything a quesadilla needs to be.

Kale, sweet potato and feta scramble
This is so delicious I've actually already made it twice! Both time I was on my own so I had to scale it down quite a bit to serve 1 (quite a bit of guesswork involved!). I'm not sure why you need two pans, as I just scrambled the eggs in the same pan as the sweet potato and kale (down with more washing up!), and served with avocado. Absolutely delicious and a perfect brunch.

Mexican veggie bowl
This is a lovely, tasty, weeknight meal and quite similar to the burrito bowls I regularly make at home. I didn't bother with the beer in the beans but it was still delicious. I topped ours with feta, lettuce and salad. Definitely another to make again!

Sweet potato enchiladas 
Okay there's a good chance I put too much cheese on these but I have no regrets. These were excellent! I LOVE quesadillas and these were a perfect Sunday dinner. They do take 1.5 hours, but this is clearly stated, and I served them with the fiesta salad from her blog (honestly this salad will change your life).

Chickpea tikka masala
I make a LOT of chickpea curry, and I'm always looking for new recipes. I've got a few favourites (the Minimalist Baker one is amazing) and I've had a few disappointments (I loved Keep it Vegan but the chickpea curry was uninspiring). I adapted this slightly by using 2 cans of chickpeas and one full can of coconut milk (I hate having half-used tins in the fridge!), and found a few steps unnecessary (this recipe is over two pages which is really annoying!), but this was really delicious and easy. Another great chickpea curry recipe for the books!

Moroccan butternut squash stew
This wasn't my favourite. I'm not the biggest fan of cous cous, and as it soaked up all the liquid, this "stew" solidified into one big lump! (I ate it as a salad for a few days). I'm not sure if there was enough going on here to entice me to make it again. The only real disappointment of the book.

Moroccan carrot salad
I made a few changes to this - quinoa for wild rice, green for rocket, and it was quite easy and relatively quick, but I found it a bit boring and uninspiring. Not sure I'd make this again.

Butternut squash chilli
I've mentioned before Kate's wonderful chillies and I wasn't sure whether to bother making this, but I'm so glad I did. My current reigning champ chilli is the one from the Minimalist Baker book, but this is definitely up there. It's so tasty and easy, and I love how the butternut squash makes it so thick. I've made this once on the stove and once in the slow cooker - perfect for after a cold, wet British Military Fitness class!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

September Life Lately

I've just got back from 8 gloriously relaxing and refreshing (and warm!) days in Spain, so I'm a little behind with catching up on reality!

I've been inspired by Michelle's Blogtober to think about blogging a bit more and considering going back to writing smaller, shorter posts. Like most things in life, I always want to do a bit too much and plan these big, expansive blog posts, which overwhelm me and make me not want to write at all. But I need to go back and think about the kind of posts I used to write and how I can writer smaller, shorter pieces that I love.

I'm really, really enjoying writing my newsletter, though, and it's giving me a totally different creative outlet that I love for all those micro thoughts and ideas that are too small or too private to put so publicly on a blog. You can sign up now if you haven't already!

Saying that, I have coursework due in 8 weeks and I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed by that right now, so maybe my return to regular blogging will be nearer to Christmas!

It feels a bit strange to be looking back on September at already 10 days into October, though I will be including some of my holiday things in this post as technically I went in September, but here's what I've had going on this month.

What I've been doing
At the start of the month I got the good news that I passed my second module of my marketing diploma! Two down, just one more still to go!
Back in 2013, the Stockport 10K was my first ever race and my first ever 10K, and I loved going back and running it again last year. So despite struggling with injuries and illness during my current half marathon training cycle, it was great to run this race, even though it wasn't my best time!
September also brought with it my Dad's 60th and not one, but two celebrations of it! On the day we had meal with some of my close family, then a big family party with all my extended family (my Dad is one of 8 kids so there's a lot of us!).

Where I've been
I've had a trip away to Stafford to visit my friend, Ellen. We had lunch, shopped and went back to her house to drink hot drinks and discuss books. It was lovely.
I've also been to Anfield again, however this time it was for a disappointing 1-1 draw with Burnley (thought we did have a great meal in Liverpool afterwards at Amalia)
I've obviously just returned from a wonderfully relaxing 8 days in Spain. I'm incredibly lucky that my parents have an apartment over there and I've been going since I was a teenager, and it's so nice a refreshing to have a quiet holiday. I'm a big fan of a city break, but I often come back more exhausted than when I left! But going to Spain every year is perfect - I know my favourite things to do, favourite long walks, favourite places to eat, and I can just relax, sleep in, read as many books as I can and go on lots of long walks. It's lovely.
But my favourite thing we did this month was just before we went away. Phil asked me to keep a date free because he had a surprise for me (I LOVE surprises!). But a few days later I realised why the date rung a bell and worked out what it was (surprise ruined!). However, it didn't matter because it was absolutely incredible - we went to see La La Land at the Bridgewater Hall with a live orchestra! It was absolutely amazing and I might have cried. Twice.

What I've been watching
We've had quite a few cinema trips this month (getting the most of my Cineworld Unlimited card!). This month we have been to see Logan Lucky, It, mother! and American Made. Logan Lucky felt a bit like a first draft, though it was very funny and definitely entertaining. I thought It was brilliant - the book is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I thought it was very well done. mother! I actually thought was very good - once I understood it - but I found it very stressful and anxiety-inducing - my heart was beating so fast my Fitbit thought I was exercising! And American Made was surprisingly good, clever and very funny (Phil LOVES Tom Cruise!)

At home, we've just finished The Night Of (I know, we're always late to the party) which I thought was excellent, and we're finally restarting Friday Night Lights, which we've been trying to get through for about 3 years. Phil has seen it all before but the rubbish second season made me stop watching, however I'm really enjoying it again now.

Speaking of Tom Cruise, we also watched Minority Report this month, which was another film I'd never seen!

What I've been reading
Thanks to a very relaxing holiday in Spain where I tried really, really hard to relax a little bit more, I managed to read 10 books over the last month (and a bit).

Here are the books I read this month:
How to stop time
The Gustav Sonata
Sweet Caress
The Nest
The Snowman
Big Little Lies
The Disaster Artist
One of us is Lying
The Circle

My favourites being The Gustav Sonata, which was absolutely beautiful and made me cry, Sweet Caress, which was gorgeous, The Nest, which was my perfect kind of character-driven family drama, and The Disaster Artist, which is a hilarious must-read if you've ever experienced the film, The Room.
Oh and I also hit my Goodreads reading goal for the year of 30 books! Yay!

What I've been loving
The worst thing about finding a brand new podcast you love is that you don't have 6 months of old episodes to binge on - this is the only thing I don't love about What page are you on? As the name suggests, this is a book podcast and I love it already, after only two episodes. I worried about book podcasts cause I thought I wouldn't have read enough books or that they'd spoil books I hadn't read, but it's just like two friends chatting about books, which is exactly what I love to do with my friends! There's only been two episodes so far but it's brilliant. Highly recommend.
On my friend Cate's recommendation, I borrowed Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat from the library a few weeks ago and I've just bought my own copy. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is less a cookbook than a book about the fundamentals of cooking and it's absolutely fascinating. There is so much I didn't know about how to use each of these four elements most effectively! This is an absolutely must-read for anyone interested in the science of cooking - I can't wait to read it again and make notes.

What I've bought
(What I didn't buy in September I've made up for in October for real)
Not loads this month. I did buy the most wonderful floral dress on a payday lunchtime a few weeks ago and I've already worn it three times and I love it. Because yes, I do need more floral dresses, thanks for asking.
I'm still waiting for my parkrun 100 tshirt, so I placated myself by getting myself an Apricot parkrun tshirt with my home parkrun - Bramhall - on. As you know I could bang on about parkrun all day and I feel so strongly about it, so it only felt right to support them by buying this.  I love wearing it on a Saturday and seeing other runners wearing them Bramhall ones - it makes me feel part of the club.

I was supposed to not be buying recipe books, but honestly, Salt Fat Acid Heat has made me rethink cooking so much that I honestly don't think I'll be buying as many and try to focus on being more spontaneous and following fewer recipes. However I did get Hugh's Much More Veg which is a sequel to Veg Everyday which is excellent. It's completely vegan, and while I haven't made anything yet I have had a flick through and it looks excellent.
Finally, on the way to the airport last week I realised we were going to Terminal 1  which means one thing - duty free MAC! I'd been weighing up Lady Danger for ages, decided to buy it, then wobbled when I tried it on and thought it was too orange. Phil said he really liked it though, so I went back and bought it and I'm so glad I did. Maybe it was weird airport light cause this shade is amazing. (I now have 24 MAC lipsticks...)

What I've been reading online
A Rosie Outlook - September Intentions

What I'm excited for
I've got my next half marathon on Sunday and while I wouldn't say I'm excited, I do enjoy racing. I've been plagued with injuries and illness so this is not going to be a PB, and won't even be sub 2 hours, but I'm hoping to enjoy it nevertheless.

We've got another trip to Anfield at the end of the month, and we've got dinner guests planned and a friend coming to stay so that should be exciting. I'm up to my eyes in coursework for my final module at the moment so I need something to break up working all day and then studying all night!

Hope your month has been lovely!

Charlotte x

Monday, 4 September 2017

August Life Lately

Hello, hello! It's September! Don't you feel like you should be buying new notebooks and pencils and a pencil case in the shape of a Pepsi Max can (yep, had one of those!).

Whenever I write one of these posts I'm amazed at how long a month feels. August has felt exceptionally long! Maybe it's because I go on holiday this month!

August has been pretty good! We've been to Whitby, caught up with friends, got very settled in the house and had a few people over. I feel like we've lived here ages and I am so in love with our house. I even love doing the cleaning! I still wake up some mornings and look around thinking "we own this! We finally got there!".

Anyway, August!

What I've been doing
The month started with a night out with my work colleagues to Musical Bingo! Like normal bingo, you get a printed card, but instead of numbers it has song titles and artists on. Each round a brilliantly talented guy at a piano plays different songs and you have to identify them and see if you have them on your card. It was SO much fun, so different and I can't wait to go again!

One of my goals for August was to read every day (I managed it all but one day - the day that I was off sick with a chest infection and could barely keep my eyes open, let alone read a whole sentence!). One thing that has helped has been the Productive app. I have a variety of goals set for my week (read every day, stretch and strengthen my knee twice a week, yoga twice a week) and this app is super simple but makes it really easy to manage by reminding me of my tasks to do throughout the day. I think there's a lot more to it I haven't quite managed yet but for now I like the simplicity.
This month I hit a new milestone in independence - dyeing my own hair! I've been a bottle brunette ("chocolate truffle") for about a year and a half now, but I always get my Mum to do it for me. This month my persistent greys were poking out (insert grandma emoji!) and I knew my Mum was busy, so I decided, after watching a few YouTube videos, to give it a go myself. Admittedly, I covered myself and the bathroom in dye, and managed to completely soak myself to the skin washing it off, but I am freshly dark brown and I love it!
When we first saw our house, the thing Phil wanted to do right away was paint our bright pink bathroom. Now, I don't hate it (and actually I think I'm going to miss it!), but painting it is on the to-do list, so this month we bought some paint samples and I think we've picked the colour! So now we just need to find the time to paint it!

I've been very lucky this month to have spent lots of time with some of my amazing friends. We kept July very quiet to give us time to get settled in the house, but August gave us a packed social calendar which has been lovely. It's been so nice to go out with friends and to have some people over to see our little house! We've had Bundobust with our friend Rosie who was briefly home from Australia, a house party with my friend Kayleigh home from Berlin, and visited our newly-married friends Meg and Si for the first time since their wedding!

But as I mentioned in my last post, a packed calendar naturally led to one thing - a chest infection! I started to get ill while we were in Whitby and by Monday I was completely wiped out. I took Tuesday off work and was only finally feeling human again by Friday! Thankfully I'm loads better now but it's the most ill I've been for ages!

Where I've been
Last weekend took us to Whitby for my third time with Phil's family. We stopped off in Harrogate on Friday night, naturally making sure we got in the queue for a fat rascal at Betty's!
On Saturday Phil and I got up for some parkrun tourism at Harrogate parkrun and we headed over to Whitby. We had an amazing weekend of ice cream, fish and chips, gin tasting, failed escape rooms, losing pennies in the arcade and taking the same photos we take every year. It was everything I wanted it to be.
If you don't know, Phil and I are huge Liverpool FC fans, and we've got tickets to a few matches this season thanks to our club membership we both got for our Birthday. But when Phil announced his friend had two spare tickets to the midweek Champion's League qualifier against Hoffenheim two weeks ago, we couldn't resist. A 4-2 win under the Anfield lights on a Wednesday evening was absolutely incredible, even if we didn't get home til midnight!

We've also been exploring our new home this month. We've found an amazing pub that we can cut through to from our road and we spent a lovely sunny Friday evening a few weeks ago drinking in the beer garden. I can't wait to explore more places!

What I've been eating
I'm still working through Love Real Food so look out for a review of that soon. My favourite things so far have been the chickpea tikka masala and the enchiladas.

I've also been loving my slow cooker for late nights home from British Military Fitness on a Wednesday night.
I finally got a chance to try the Hip hop chip shop this month thanks to Kosmonaut. The deep friend halloumi is to die for.

Another thing I've gotten a real taste for lately is tofu. I've often been indifferent but I've started to really enjoy it lately with broccoli and brown rice and a tasty sauce. My current favourite sauce is Cate's coconut curry sauce which I could eat with a spoon.
Finally this month I learned the ratio of effort to praise of a lemon cheesecake is at least 1:100000. I swear a monkey could have made it, and everyone was going crazy over it. I may never make another dessert again. Recipe here.

What I've been watching
After wanting to watch it for over a year, The Night Of is back on Now TV and it is absolutely brilliant! We have a few episodes left but I am both gripped and exhausted! I think Riz Ahmed is absolutely brilliant and as I'd never seen Four Lions we also watched that this month. Absolutely hilarious.

While we haven't been to the cinema this month (I know! Too busy!) we did watch the Netflix documentary, Icarus, which wasn't what I expected at all. Well worth a watch.

What I've been loving
OMG DID YOU KNOW BRAND NEW HAVE A NEW ALBUM OMG. So Brand New have been my favourite band since I was 14. I've been listening them to nearly half my life. When their last album came out I was 19. 19! I was in my second year of uni! I am so so so happy they have a new album, and it's also BRILLIANT. My little emo self is thrilled.
Also loving friends who buy you awesome clocks for your house.

What I've bought
Not much this month! Another stripey top because £13 stripey tops from Uniqlo are my weakness (I have three), and some insanely bright bedding I got from Aldi for £2.99. SCORE.

What I've been reading
I read two books in August - Night Film and My Shitty Twenties. I read a brilliant article about Night Film, which sums up how I felt. You have to suspend a lot of disbelief, some awful dialogue and a lot of thriller cliches, but it's actually a pretty good book.

I LOVED My Shitty Twenties, Emily Morris' memoir of finding out she was pregnant at university. Most of the book is set in Manchester and I loved all the little references to roads and places that I knew. Emily's writing is a dream and I'm not ashamed to say I cried when it was over.

What I've been reading online
A Rosie Outlook- Turning 33
I've been blogging-friends with Rosie for years, and I feel like I've been with her throughout her journeys through her blog. This year in particular she has had a difficult time, and I admire her strength, her writing and her way of communicating throughout her struggles. So I was thrilled to read her post on turning 33 filled with not sadness, but positivity and hope for a future that wasn't quite what she might have expected.

Guardian - Why we fell for clean eating
There are few things I hate more than the concept of "clean eating" (FOOD IS NOT DIRTY), and this article in the Guardian pin points a lot of my feelings and wonders why people are falling for this food morality.

Blisters and Biscuits - Stop relying on those struggling to start the conversation
I became friends with Louise on Twitter kind of by accident when she blogged about her experience running the London marathon, and now it's nice to have a running friend to talk to about trainers and parkrun tourism. She also writes about mental health, and I thought this piece was absolutely brilliant on how after a tragic suicide people always resort to "I'm here if you want to talk" rather than starting the conversation themselves. As someone who tries to speak out about my mental health, I know how hard it can be, and she is completely right that the onus shouldn't be on the person struggling to speak first.

The Pool - Can our kids really go gender free?
I've been passionate about rejecting gender stereotypes ever since I was 21 and read Judith Butler's Gender Trouble and I feel really strongly about raising children not to conform with their gendered expectations, and this article gives me hope than we can start to eradicate gender norms in future generations.

Sali Hughes - Being a grown up means empowerment - who doesn't want that?
I think this will be a topic for a future newsletter, but I love this piece because I LOVE being an adult. I have no interest in reliving my youth - I love owning a home, earning money so I can pay my mortgage, hey I even want to talk about m vacuum cleaner to anyone who will listen! I love this piece because "adulting" gets a bad rep and actually, there are a lot of great benefits to no longer being a kid!

Buzzfeed - How YouTubers like Zoella are capitalising on the self-care movement
This is a long but really interesting read on the growth of bloggers talking about mental health (good), but using it to sell products (bad). I find it increasingly difficult to find non-biased reviews of many products thanks to so much sponsorship, and as someone often looking for better ways to self-care, I found this really interesting. Self-care, it seems, is just another product to sell.

VOX - With Reputation, Taylor Swift has learned to stop worrying and love capitalism
As someone brought up on country music, I used to love Taylor Swift, and I still like a lot of her old music. I went through a phase of actually really liking her a few years ago, but now, not so much. I've been fascinated by her lately release which feels like a car crash I can't quite look away from. This article in the Paris Review from 2015 on her use of passive aggression in her lyrics is also worth a read.

23 questions from the final series of Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones? Good. Here's a great piece on questions that the final series needs to answer.

What I'm excited for

We FINALLY go to Spain this month and I am so ready. I've chosen my 8 books for a week-long holiday (don't worry, I have backups), and I am so ready for bare legs and long walks and locking my phone in a drawer and reading my books for a week. My parents' just got a new apartment and it has a POOL so I'm pretty excited!

Not gonna lie, excited to paint our bathroom, and another trip to Anfield. Oh and I'm also running the Stockport 10K  for the third time - the first race I ever ran  years ago!

Hope you're having a great September so far!

Charlotte x