Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Creamy, Cheesy Mexicana and Chorizo Pasta


I cook in a few different ways. Sometimes I'll challenge myself to make something new, following the recipe to the letter and buying loads of extra things that I'll never use again. Other times, I'll find a recipe and mess with it until the final result bears no resemblance to the original (but if it makes it on here, it means it totally paid off). And sometimes, I'll pretty much just throw the contents of the fridge into a pan and see what happens.

This recipe, my friends, is the latter. It successfully used up a bunch of stuff that would have gone off otherwise, took hardly any time to cook, and tasted pretty damn good to boot. The thing with experiments is that if the individual components are all nice, then chances are they work together. And if not... well. We just don't talk about those ones.
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Monday, 22 June 2015

Wishlist: summer jackets for the office

For a really long time now, my self-inflicted work uniform has been black tights, heels or ballet pumps, a cute dress and a cardi over the top. It's classic, it's easy and it works. But lately I find myself falling out of love with cardigans. They often don't feel very smart, and I think we all know they're not trendy. Practical, yes - but a bit rubbish, too.

I think it's working in a more trendy office, as there are very few cardis around. Over winter, everyone wore jumpers and jeans, and now it's a bit warmer, the jumpers have been swapped for cute jackets and kimonos. It's making me desperate to update my terribly holey cardigan collection. All of these, please...


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Thursday, 18 June 2015

The ultimate Glastonbury packing list (from someone who's been going for a decade)


By now, I'm a pretty seasoned Glastonbury goer. I've been going since 2005, so that's a full decade (although this is only my ninth year, due to a couple of fallow years). I know my stuff. I've posted tips and whatnot here in the past, but what I've never shared is my packing list. I am EXTREMELY cool, so I actually have a spreadsheet. Scoff if you will, but having it saved digitally means I can always find it year after year, and am constantly editing and honing it every time I go. It's incredibly handy, and means that I don't forget anything. I don't think I can declare that from any other holiday I've been on!

Whether it's your first Glasto this year or you're heading to another festival, this will hopefully give you some packing inspiration. If you've not been to Glastonbury, it's unlike some other festivals in that the campsites and stages aren't in separate areas - once you're in, you're in. That means you're surrounded by 24 hour food stalls, most of which are incredible, so I never bother with a stove or proper food - just a few cereal bars and snacks.

Always prepare for all weathers - even if the Met Office is saying blazing sunshine all week, pop those wellies in the car, just in case. I've been caught out by leaving them at home before. And don't underestimate how cold it gets at night. It's bloody freezing. You'll want to layer like you've never layered before.


Festival Essentials:

  • Sleeping bag
  • Tent
  • Lilo (much lighter but just as effective as an airbed)
  • Umbrella (can also double as a parasol if it's very hot)
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Antibacterial gel
  • Rucksack (I take 2 30 litre rucksacks for my belongings, and then a small leather one for day-to-day - here's a What's In My Bag post about that!)
  • Torch
  • Sunglasses (I usually bring 2 cheap pairs)
  • Large sandwich bags (always more useful than I expect, especially for keeping loo roll dry on a wet day, or popping on your feet inside your wellies if they get damp inside)
  • Bin bags (not just great for rubbish, keep one folded up in your day-to-day bag for sitting on)
  • Loo roll (a pack of 6 is usually enough for me - trust me, you'll be glad of it)
  • Baby wipes (this is your shower... sorry)
  • Cash (the cashpoints have long queues)
  • Pay as you go phone (batteries last longer and it doesn't matter if you drop it in mud)
  • Camera (prob best not to take one you care about)
  • Solar lights (so you can see what you're doing in your tent of an evening)
  • Picnic mat (Poundland sell mini ones, perfect to sit on)
  • Collapsible water bottle


Cosmetics:

  • Dry shampoo (life saver)
  • Tissues
  • Hair grips
  • Hairbrush
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Mirror (try and get a reasonably large one for sorting your face out in the morning)
  • Suncream (30SPF for the body, and oil-free 50SPF for the face)
  • Makeup (BB cream, concealer, eyeliner, lipstick)
  • Earplugs (tents are thin, campers are loud)
  • Razor (or go for a wax beforehand)
  • Hayfever tablets & any other medication
  • Ibroprufen


Clothing:

  • Wellies (even if no rain is predicted, BRING WELLIES)
  • Kagoul (see wellies comment, above)
  • Tights x10
  • Leggings x5 (great for layering over tights at night)
  • Socks x10
  • Long socks x6
  • Thermal socks x5 (all the socks seem excessive, but layering is your best friend when night falls)
  • Underwear
  • Dresses x5 (one per day, but you probably will rewear. I don't recommend jeans!)
  • Thin cardigan
  • Thick hoodie
  • Pyjamas (I wear fleece tracksuit bottoms and a long sleeved tshirt, plus about three pairs of socks and a hoodie)
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Trainers
  • Flipflops (wishful thinking)
  • Straw hat (trust me, sunstroke at a festival is not fun)
  • Knitted hat (yes, in June. Gets bloody freezing at night)
  • Cycling shorts (for wearing under dresses if you go bare-legged)


Food & beverages*

  • Water (I bring a multipack of cheap water from a supermarket to drink in the car, then keep 1 or 2 full for the walk and make sure the rest are empty. Good for decanting alcohol into, or just filling up with water on a daily basis. There are lots of water points there.)
  • Cider x8
  • Cans of spirits & mixers x10
  • Cartons of wine x6
  • 500ml spiced rum (decanted into a plastic bottle)
  • Ginger beer (for mixing with the rum)
  • Tent snacks (I take Pringles, cookies, Babybel, cereal bars - for meals, you'll want to go to one of the amazing food stalls)

*Obviously the amount of alcohol you bring is totally up to you, but the amounts listed above work for me. Don't judge my drinking! It's a festival!
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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Gourmet catering at home with La Belle Assiette


On one of the last hen dos I went on (I go on a lot of hen dos), the girls organised a caterer to come in and cook us dinner. It was a great idea. It cost no more per head than all going out for a meal, but meant that we didn't have to leave the house AND that none of us had to miss out on the fun while slaving over a hot stove. They even tidied up for us! "That's a tip to store away for the future," I thought. And it's the perfect way to introduce La Belle Assiette, who offer that very service.
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Sunday, 14 June 2015

Afternoon tea bus tour with the BB Bakery & Rennie


This great nation was founded on combining two great things to make one awesome thing. Salt and vinegar! Cheese and biscuits! Peanut butter and chocolate! Cheese and pickle! Fish and chips! Cheese and another type of cheese! And now... afternoon tea and guided tours!

I feel my tone may sound sarcastic, but I swear it ain't so (I'm never anything less than sincere about cheese). I actually really enjoy a guided tour, especially one on wheels as it means I can rest my feet for a bit. You get pretty sights and learn a little while being lazy, what's not to love? Adding afternoon tea to the mix is right up my street.
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Friday, 12 June 2015

In which I finally get over my issues with spectacles.


You know what trend I hate? Wearing glasses when you don't actually need them. I LOATHE it. Those hipsters with their lens-less spectacles and great hair don't know they're born. They haven't EARNED it. They've never had to endure knocking their specs off their bedside table in the middle of the night and waking up in a (literal) blind panic. Or having to incorporate major guess work as a teenager on whether or not the boys in the swimming pool with them were remotely cute. Or sacrificing their £5 a week pocket money at age 14 to show their parents they were serious about wanting contact lenses.

I resent it for all those reasons, but mostly I resent it because I have the worst vision of anyone else I know and have never found a pair of glasses that suit me in the 25 years I've needed them. IT ISN'T FAIR.

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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Craft & Cleaver, St Albans: Craft Beer, BBQ (and burritos!)


As much as I enjoy living in St Albans, I do have the occasional moan about it. Recently we're getting better restaurants, but for the longest time it's been really quite samey. It's not a big town centre, but you can't walk two feet without tripping over an Italian or Indian restaurant - both of which I love, but you really don't need that many of them, especially when there's so many other cuisines that you could be trying!

What I decided we need - as I have declared myself the spokesperson for the hungry people of St Albans - is a good Mexican and a good BBQ place. The need for a good Mexican is something I've been complaining about for around ten years (pretty much ever since I tried good Mexican for the first time), and I even know where it should be (look, I ranted about it in September! And the Cursed Restaurant is still bloody empty!) but my prayers have been 2/3rds answered by Craft & Cleaver.
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Monday, 8 June 2015

A bouquet of sunflowers


In a lot of ways, I feel like this is the first time I've had my own place. It's not actually true - I've lived with housemates a couple of times before, and with my sister - but every time I've had to be conscious of other people, and unable to make the living space as 'me' as I would like to. I'm still getting there in that respect, as I can't paint any of the walls and as we're intending to buy somewhere next year it doesn't seem worth investing lots of money in furniture that might not work in our new place, but I've been loving having a bit more freedom to discover more about my tastes and buying habits.

Obviously I'm not going to bore you with my washing up liquid of choice but I am going to talk about flowers. I've been given flowers before, but I've rarely bought them because I never really had anywhere to put them to enjoy them. In most of my house-shares my bedroom has been too small to put them out, and if I left them on the kitchen table or something then I'd barely ever get to see them. So it's no surprise that I'm obsessed with buying flowers now. Not having a vase of fresh flowers out in the flat makes me really sad, and finding discount flowers on my wanderings makes me insanely happy. Fortunately I have really cheap tastes - posh flowers like lilies give me hayfever, and I prefer a splash of colour, anyway. During daffodil season, I had a serious addiction to those £1 bunches, but now I can't get them any more I've moved onto bunches of rainbow tulips instead. They're so colourful! Cheap flowers for the win, basically.


I think, actually, I have a child's taste in flowers. I like primary colours and simplicity. So when Blossoming Gifts asked me to pick a bunch of flowers from their website to review, I chose sunflowers without a second thought. LOOK HOW HAPPY THEY ARE.

The prices at Blossoming Gifts are really reasonable, as a lot of flower delivery services can be on the pricey side. They came well packaged and have lasted really well, too. And they look amazing out in my living room, right in the middle where I can enjoy them every day.

Next time you're ordering online flowers, give them a go - there are lots of bouquets under £20, and as an added incentive I have a discount code for 33% off your next order which is BGIFT33. It just excludes this range and the hampers and wines. You can use it multiple times though so why not send someone a nice surprise in the post today?

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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Get your boobs measured. It's good for you.


I think every single girl I know would admit that she doesn't get her boobs measured enough. Of course, there are some of us who stay the same size throughout most of their life, and so if they get measured once in a while, that's fine. Then there are those of us like me whose sizes change constantly, and who should really be getting measured annually (at least).

I don't, though. I put it off and put it off, and it's only when I realise I'm rotating the same two bras, one of which is nursing a couple of holes, neither of which fit properly, that I think I should probably get that sorted. Which, yeah, accurately describes me about now. TMI? Nah.

Would I get on with it though, if I wasn't prompted? The good thing about blogging is every so often, I get that prompt. I've written about bra fitting services several times on here, and it's been great as it has encouraged me to keep an eye on it and update my underwear drawer on a regular basis. Because wearing bras that fit properly is really important. It's not just about not ruining the line of your clothes with the four boob effect caused by a too tight bra, or looking a bit saggy because your straps aren't tight enough. You're not doing your back or shoulders any favours by wearing a bra that doesn't fit properly, and poor support can even make your boobs saggy as the skin gets stretched a little bit every time you're bouncier than you should be. This is why you should always wear a sports bra, kids.

Now I've horrified and embarrassed you all by talking super graphically about boobs, you're going to want to get them measured, right? Well, pop down to Debenhams and try out their bra fit service. They have a massive range of beautiful bras suitable for every size and a team of experienced bra fitters on hand to tell your boobs what's what. Hooray.


Disclaimer: Debenhams kindly sent me a few (much-needed) bras to say thanks for writing this post.
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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Recipe: Blue Cheese Butternut Squash Dauphinoise


Butternut squash is magical. It's filling, like sweet potato, but it isn't a proper carb. I could google why it isn't a proper carb, but I'm not gonna... all I know is that when you're pointing on Weight Watchers, you can eat as many butternut squashes as you want and they don't count at all! MAGIC.

So choosing butternut squash as a vehicle for wonderful ingredients is a no brainer. In this case, cheese. God, I love cheese. This is kind of a gratin / dauphinoise / hot mess but it's creamy, tasty and cheesy, and I am down with that.
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Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Wine tasting with Lisa McGuigan & Gaucho


If you know anything about me at all, you'll know that I love food and I also love wine. So an evening with food and wine is basically my idea of heaven, especially if the company is good (even if it's not though, I'll always make do). Recently I was invited to a night of just that - great food, great wine, great company - thanks to Lisa McGuigan Wines. Lisa was raised in the wine business - you know McGuigan Wines? That's her dad. She's launched her own wine brand incorporating her years of knowledge of the wine industry and more than a little style, too - check out those black and silver bottles! She hosted a fabulous dinner at Gaucho with a few bloggers to tell us all about the range, and to allow us to sample a few glasses along with some carefully chosen dishes.
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