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!