Friday, 30 January 2015

Burgers and hot dogs from The Snug, St Albans


I'm moving in a few weeks and will yet again be a few minutes walk from the centre of St Albans. I can't wait to spend more time discovering places and sharing my favourites with you - lately it seems to be becoming a very cool little city and I'm happy to spread the word.

A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I headed to The Snug for lunch - a cosy pub by the clock tower with excellent cocktails and amazing food. I was pretty obsessed with trying their Christmas burger this December, but upsettingly I never managed to make it in time (pleeease bring it back this Christmas - I hate to miss limited edition food!). However, their regular menu more than makes up for it - lots of American inspired food, which is right up my street. I was a very happy lady indeed when they asked if I fancied doing a review.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Hello, petal.


Getting flowers in the post is always a lovely surprise, whether they're from family, friends or someone you fancy like mad.

Even though Valentine's Day is next month, and smug ladies all over the country will be receiving a flower delivery to their office, I think sending flowers is a nice thing to do to anyone you love, whether or not you're in a relationship with them. I don't hold much stock by Valentine's Day - I was single for so long, it really brought home that it is just a day, and also how much some people fixate on it. So not worth it. But I like seeing people who use it as an opportunity to tell everyone they love how they feel about them - the more platonic, the better.

So if you have a friend you just want to give a squeeze this February, send them some Valentine's flowers. They'll love you for it - and almost definitely won't think it's a subtle hint that you fancy them. Unless you do, in which case you should jump on the chance to dispense with subtle hints and put a saucy message in the florist's card, or heck, maybe just send them a link to these engagement rings from Tarratt the jewellers instead...

The flowers in this post were sent to me from Debenhams Flowers. This is the Moonlit Meadow bouquet. They came beautifully packaged and are still going strong almost two weeks later - I'll definitely be ordering from them again! Debenhams have given me a 25% off voucher to share with you all, so why not show someone how much they mean to you?

For 25% off at Debenhams Flowers please use DFBLOG25. The only bouquets exempt from the discount are the 'Flowers By Post' range. Terms & conditions apply, yada yada.

~+~ 
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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Why I moved back home


On Christmas Eve 2013, at the grand old age of 31, I moved back in with my mum and dad. I’d been in a houseshare for a year and a half, but one of the girls was moving away and the other was moving in with her boyfriend, and when I talked through my options with my mum, she started trying to convince me to move back in. I really didn’t want to. I get on absolutely fine with my parents – they’re lovely, supportive people – but living under the same roof as them just isn’t COOL, especially at my age. It’s more than that though – I’d become used to having my own space and freedom, and I knew things would be different when I moved back.

My mum is desperate for me to some day own my own place, so we struck up a deal; that if I saved a certain amount in a year, she would match it. It was both generous and awesome, and what’s more it was achievable. I fought it for a little bit, but inevitably gave in because I realised it would make a huge difference to my life.

So, a year on, I’m not ready to buy a place yet. But I am in a much better place, financially. I know that if I run out of money before the end of the month, I’ll be ok. I have no credit card debt any more. I have a new car. And I have an ISA with five figures inside it.

Most importantly, I’ve learnt to budget and to save. I weirdly enjoy going through my budget spreadsheet and seeing my savings build up, and working out where they’ll be in a year. Saving some of my wages every month is just a given now, and as someone who was permanently broke no matter how much she earned, I’m happy and amazed to have cracked it.

It hasn’t been that easy. I've struggled with the loss of freedom. For instance, at my parents’, I don’t feel like I can leave dirty plates out on the side. I would never lounge on the sofa in my pyjamas for an entire Sunday. I have to let them know if I’m going to be out all night. They eat my food. I eat their food. They get a little offended when I don’t want to talk about my day. It’s never got too much to bear, but sometimes it’s a bit irritating. But I feel guilty complaining about it though - I really haven't spent a lot of time here this year as I've had Matt's flat just up the road to escape to, and I know I'm lucky to have been given this opportunity and to have supportive parents.

Buying a place of my own probably won’t happen until 2016 now. As much as I could save even more if I stayed at home another year, I don’t want to. A year has been plenty, and I have a handsome young flatmate lined up to rent with next month, so I’m more than ready to fly the nest again. I’ve moaned about living at home quite a bit this year, but for anyone who has their finances in a muddle and is considering it, I can’t recommend it enough. I really feel like it’s set me up for life, and I think that’s pretty damn amazing.
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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Traditional English Scones


As much as I adore cream teas, I always feel a bit disappointed with the scones. I don’t think anyone makes proper scones, not like my parents make. The more realistic outcome is probably that the scones my parents make are not traditional scones, but they’re so much nicer.

Scones are always what my Dad makes when there’s milk and eggs to use up. There’s not even much milk in them, but it’s an excellent excuse to have hot scones regularly, so no one questions it. They may be traditionally a summer dessert, but there are few things more comforting on a cold wintry Sunday. There’s nothing like a scone fresh out of the oven, so hot that the butter disappears into it, and it leaves your fingers greasy and your stomach happy.

It rhymes with stone, by the way.
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Friday, 16 January 2015

New home wishlist featuring Matalan, Tesco and B&M Bargains

I've been hard at work flat-hunting lately, and even though we haven't found anywhere yet, there's only a few weeks until we're planning to move. I'm ridiculously excited. I have really missed having my own place, and I'm obsessing a little too much about what it's going to look like and the furniture and lovely home bits I'm going to buy. I'm having to force myself not to buy loads but it's hard - I think once I'm in I'll be a little out of control! Although I'm still trying to save money with a view to buying somewhere in a year, so I'll have to restrain myself.

I've been looking on H&M Home a lot - they have some lovely products, but the only store I've seen them is in Oxford Street and it's a bit of a trek for me. I always prefer actually picking up products and looking at them before I buy them, you know? But I've seen tons of nice - and great value - stuff in Tesco, Matalan and B&M Bargains, all of which are near me, hooray!

B&M Bargains


Matalan



Tesco

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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

How to lighten up a recipe without sacrificing flavour

Back in 2013, when I was trying to fit into a bridesmaid dress, I got really good at the whole healthy eating lark. I managed to figure out the balance between losing weight and eating tasty homecooked food, and I thought I was set. Unfortunately, a variety of reasons saw me falling well and truly off the wagon (America, Christmas, new relationship – yeah, that’ll do it) but I’m determined to get back to where I was. As much as I want to lose weight – and I’ll admit it, I do – my goal is to feel the way I did when I was eating healthy, made-from-scratch food. I felt awesome! No bloating or tummyaches, and I got super efficient at food shopping. No waste, no overspending – I rocked.

One thing I got really got at was looking at a recipe and learning to lighten them up. I’m still going to post recipes on here, but I’m all for encouraging people to get into the kitchen, so here are my top tips.


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Sunday, 11 January 2015

Boozy Coconut Truffles


I don't want this blog to be all about healthy eating in January, because that's no fun, and a little of what you fancy does you good. That's just science.

This is actually a recipe that I made just before Christmas. I'd had a little obsession for a while about making truffles for presents, and I spent an afternoon trying out some different recipes. My cookie dough ones were terrible, the peanut butter ones were awesome (I used this recipe) and the salted caramel ones tasted great, but were really tricky to make. By far, the easiest and most popular ones were my coconut ones, and so now I shall pass this immense knowledge onto you. You lucky people.

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Normal is the watchword.

I'm one of those people who wears a watch every day, and will wear that watch for years. I had my last watch for 10 years before I replaced it - and even then, it was because I was sick of it, rather than it falling apart! But I must be getting more fickle in my old age, as I find myself looking around at new watches, even though I've only had my current one for a couple of years.

I was recently sent some info about Shinola, who recently launched their UK site and Carnaby Street shop. These aren't budget watches by any means, but as they handcraft all their products, these are real investment pices. I'm a fan of the watches (my favourites are below) but they even sell pet accessories too. I kind of love the idea of being matchy matchy with my cat, haha. The middle watch is so interesting too, and it would go perfectly with my trusty leather backpack from Sabrina.

~+~ 
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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

10 Good-For-You recipes to cook in January

Look. It’s January. We’re all in the same boat here. We all ate far too much over Christmas and we haven’t really stopped yet, but that resolution to start eating healthily again is blinking away and you know you really shouldn’t have oven pizza for dinner again.

Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, it’s always a good idea to try and eat well, and if you start now as you mean to go on, then hopefully you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Eating well doesn’t mean surviving on cabbage soup – there are tons of awesome, easy recipes that you can make to give your tummy some much needed TLC.

So what should you eat to get you back on track? Here are my suggestions - some are my own recipes, others are from my Pinterest wanderings. All are good for you, tasty and do NOT taste like diet food.


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Saturday, 3 January 2015

Looking back.


There's been a lot of change around these parts over the last year.

Blogging... well, my blog has changed a lot - I hardly do outfit posts any more, but I'm really enjoying blogging more about food. It's actually been rather lovely seeing that I can change direction whilst still maintaining support from the blogging community and the brands I've worked with, and I'm really excited about developing the food and lifestyle side of this blog even further this year.

Professionally, I've gone through a big transition. I left the job I'd been in for 5 years in the summer, which was a scary time, but something that I don't regret at all. I've learned a lot working in a contract role for the last few months, but I'm really excited about starting my new job on Monday. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but it's a great opportunity and it's amazing to feel passionate about what I do again - that's been missing for too long.

Personally, everything is different. This time last year, I wouldn't have believed you if you'd told me that I'd be spending today flat-hunting and furniture-shopping with the guy from work I had a crush on, but there it is. Being with Matt has changed a lot for me, and it's been pretty damn wonderful. I'm really excited about what's next for us. I'd been single for a really long time before this year, so being in a relationship has been a huge change for me, but it means a lot.

Moving home this year was a hard decision. Living with your mum and dad in your thirties is never going to be cool, even if you're never home. But it was the right decision to make - I have enough savings that buying a place in a year (this time not alone) is a very real possibility. I can't deny that I'm counting the days until I can move out, but I don't regret coming back, and I'm grateful that my parents gave me the opportunity.

I'm not going to make strict resolutions this year, because I just want to focus on being happy and treating myself a bit better. The healthy lifestyle I adopted in 2013 has gone to pot and I feel pretty horrible - aside from the weight gain, I'm tired all the time, I've been getting ill constantly and I'm pretty sure that my internal organs have been replaced by melted cheese. I will never stop loving food, but I've shown myself before that it's possible to love food and live a healthy lifestyle, so I'm going to be focusing on getting that back. Lots of cooking from scratch, and probably rediscovering exercise again.

This year has been transitional, to be sure. It's been hard at times. There's been a lot of sadness. But I feel like I'm entering 2015 in a really great place, and I can't wait to see what it has in store.
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