Sunday, 26 November 2017

House update: nearly one year on

Home buying one year on

I'm typing this sitting on our blue sofa under a grey fluffy blanket, half-watching Rick Stein on Food Network, with a pumpkin candle burning on the mantelpiece. Ahead of me I can see the yellow chevron curtains we chose, next to our bookshelves stuffed with books - yes, colour coordinated, because I'm a bit of a wanker. The coffee table is littered with glasses that I haven't got round to putting in the dishwasher. Our mantelpiece is littered with candles, thank you cards from our friends' weddings, a couple of cacti and the orchid I forgot to water which is just a twig now. To my right I can see our cluttered dining room, clothes drying on the airer by the radiator, the beginnings of our wedding crafting on the table. And beyond that is our kitchen, which I can only just see, but the sight of our shoe cupboard and notice board makes me smile because it shows that people live here. This is a home.

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Friday, 24 November 2017

FASHION: It's the sparkliest time of the year.

Find a whole outfit out of sequins

I'm a little cynical about this whole Black Friday malarkey, because it really isn't a British thing at all. I actually realised recently that a lot of people didn't actually realise that the whole thing is basically the American version of Boxing Day - for them, it's the day after Thanksgiving when all the sales start.

That said, it is quite nice getting a guaranteed day of sales before Christmas, and this week I've snapped up a few Christmas party outfits and presents. Oh wait, the presents I bought weren't actually reduced. But I did buy myself a Kindle!

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

I'M STARTING A NEWSLETTER!



I've been thinking about starting a newsletter for a while ago - for all those little brain kernels that don't quite fit here or on my other social media outlets. So... I did.

The first issue is going to go out later today, I think, and you can sign up here. I'm aiming to send them out weekly.

It's a place for me to talk about what I've bought, cooked, eaten and watched that week, plus somewhere to update a bit more on my life. The first one is about self-doubt, and the second one is going to be about love.

I'm excited about having a new outlet, and I hope you guys are too. But if you're not, that's ok too.
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Friday, 27 October 2017

FASHION: I'm just really into jumpers right now

Autumn Winter 2017 jumper wishlist

For someone who has sworn a lifelong allegiance to dresses, I sure am into my separates right now. There is not much that straddles the cosy but chic line as much as a fitted jumper and a skater skirt, I feel, and luckily this year fashion seems to agree with me. Cute jumpers are frigging everywhere, and happily the trend for all tops to be mid-thigh length seems to have died so most of these all work with a skirt, too. I am into it.


I've also rediscovered jeans this winter - which is odd, but comfy - and it's enabled my jumper obsession even more. So here's a little compilation of a few beloved jumpers that I've bought lately (I've got no.3 in four different colours), and a fair few more that I have my eyes on from Joanie, ASOS, Aspire Style, Sugarhill Boutique, Oasis, New Look and Spartoo.


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Sunday, 22 October 2017

REVIEW: Jamie's Italian, St Albans

St Albans, Tring, Hertfordshire food blog with reviews and recipes, reviewing Jamie's Italian

I feel like I haven't eaten out all that much lately. I don't mind too much - the novelty of having My Very Own House has still not worn off after spending most of last year in my parents' attic (we ate out a LOT last year), but it is nice to have a treaty evening every now and then. So I was very pleased to be asked to review Jamie's Italian, and back in my old stomping ground, St Albans!

It's a funny thing with a lot of the nice newer restaurants in St Albans, because several of them are converted pubs that I remember getting very drunk in as a teenager. Bill's is the old Wetherspoons where I spent pretty much every Friday night when I was 18 (and a fair few when I was 17), Cote used to be The Vintry where I first tried vodka and Red Bull (it's still disgusting) and Jamie's used to be The Bell, who were cheerfully casual about asking for ID. Ah, memories.

I've been to Jamie's a few times, and I tried out the pizzeria last year (which now seems to be a deli again) but it's been a couple of years since my last visit to the main restaurant, so I was interested to go and see what it was like these days.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017

LIFESTYLE: It's the most cosiest time of the year...



I feel like I never felt that strongly about October until blogging and Instagram happened. Now my feeds are inundated with people insisting it's the best time of the year, and I have to admit - it's infectious.

I always claim to be a hot weather person, which makes sense as I am pretty much always freezing ('Feel my hands!' is basically my catchphrase), but I actually think I'm far more in my element during the autumn. Sartorially, it's ace - all opaque tights and short skirts, my faves - but it's also pretty amazing food and interiors wise, too. Stews! Candles! Roaring fires! King size coverlets! COSINESS! And all with the hopefulness of Christmas on the horizon, too. Why fight it, guys? October's the best.

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Saturday, 30 September 2017

RECIPE: Cheesy butternut squash and sage autumn bake

Autumnal recipe for butternut squash, sage, sausage and cheese pasta bake that can be made vegetarian

Matt started a new job a few weeks ago, and on his first day I wanted to make a special dinner as a treat, because nothing says 'I love you' like ALL THE FOOD, right? Certainly not in my book, anyway.

I had a butternut squash to use up and, because I was feeling all autumnal (yes, this was during the totally non-summery August we had), I decided to make a butternut squash, sage and sausage pasta bake. I very vaguely used this recipe as a guide, but very quickly started to ignore the recipe, so I mostly winged the entire thing. And I have to say, it was awesome. Probably one of the best things I’ve ever made. Make it now, and you will not regret it - it would also be equally delicious without the sausage, so good for vegetarians, too.

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

WEDDING PLANNING: How to not spend a fortune on your wedding dress

How to save money on your wedding dress in the UK

I’ve already done a blog post about choosing my wedding dress, but I wanted to touch on the cost a bit more because in all honesty, it freaked me the heck out. I originally set a budget of about £1500, which I thought was plenty, but when I started to look at dresses online and find out what they cost, a lot of them were £2k+. Panic set in. And then I started to question why the hell I was even willing to spend a grand and a half on a dress. That’s more than my monthly mortgage payment! That’s the booze budget for the wedding! That’s a damn nice holiday! That’s… too much. Too much.

So I started to look around and see what was out there, and I actually found that there are various options if you can’t or don’t want to spend that much. And not all of these are options I’d seen listed elsewhere, either. So let’s get to it, shall we?
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Friday, 22 September 2017

Back to Weight Watchers (9 months on)



I've been pretty candid on my blog in the past about weight loss and body image, I think, including documenting a two stone loss back in 2013 when I did Weight Watchers. I've been struggling for a long time with the implications of wanting to lose weight and not being happy with my shape - being part of the 'oh, women and their diets' trope always makes me feel like a bad feminist, and makes me wonder if it's possible to be truly body positive when you don't feel positive about your own. I don't have the answer. On social media I follow and admire so many awesome, gorgeous plus-size women who look incredible and truly own their size, and try as I might, I've never been able to see myself in the same way that I see them.

All these conflicting emotions is why this year, I decided to give following a diet plan a proper go again and not to talk about it too much on my social channels. For the record, I don't believe that fat means unhealthy. I don't believe that skinny means healthy. BUT I do recognise that, for me, when I weigh more it's the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. I find it easy to slide into the habit of eating lots of fatty food and doing no exercise, and not only do I see the ramifications of that pretty quickly, I feel them too. Prolonged periods of eating unhealthily does nothing good to my IBS. And that's why I wanted to try Weight Watchers again this year, and see what happened.

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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

FASHION: Where are all the nice coats this year?



This here is a rant. A good old fashioned rant. Because I'm cold, and I do not like being cold. I do like autumn, I like the excuse to get cosy, but in order to fully enjoy the drop in temperature, I need to be properly equipped. And as such, I have just one question to ask:

WHERE ARE ALL THE GOOD COATS?

I have scoured the shops. I have scoured the internet. And all the coats are RUBBISH.

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Sunday, 17 September 2017

LIFESTYLE: An Autumnal shopping spree



Lately, I feel like I've been shopping a whole lot. I think when the seasons change, the temptation to buy things is always stronger, isn't it? I just want all the jumpers and all the boots and all the coats, and it's simply inconceivable that I could pop a pair of tights under one of my summery dresses to tide me over.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few bits that I've bought lately, in the hope that someone reading this will buy them too, and make me feel better about shopping a little too much. I have to stop now, or I'm going to have to start cutting people from the wedding. Does EVERYONE need to eat?

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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

RECIPE: Frozen yogurt with Alpro

Al fresco cooking with Alpro

This is supposed to be a post about eating al fresco with Alpro, but it's not exactly al fresco weather. In fact, it's been super autumnal lately, and I'm kind of delighted about it because I can wear all the stripy jumpers I've been stockpiling all summer. WITH BOOTS. There's something glorious about rediscovering boots after the summer. Wonderful boots.

Anyway. I for one think that ice cream and other hot-weather treats are fine to eat all year round, even if you need to chase them with a hot chocolate to warm your mouth up afterwards. I was challenged to make something summery using Alpro products, so I had a go at this recipe from their website for Alpro frozen fruit yogurt. Alpro sent me a selection of their products to put this post together, so I chose the big pot of vanilla yogurt and got to work.

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Sunday, 10 September 2017

TRAVEL: Holiday and honeymoon planning

Honeymoon planning for blogger essbeevee, California road trip with a stop in Australia!

I'm trying hard not to make my blog tooo much about weddings, but it's occupying a big part of my brain right now, so I hope you'll forgive me. And today I'm not talking about weddings exactly, I'm talking about honeymoons!

I touched on our honeymoon plans a little last year, and since then we've firmed up our plans (although we still haven't booked anything). I airily mentioned it on Twitter a while back and a couple of people asked where we were going, and I thought 'Argh, it's way too complicated to squeeze into a tweet!' So... blog. Long form content for the win.

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Saturday, 26 August 2017

REVIEW: Giraffe's new tapas menu

Places to eat in Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, London - Giraffe tapas review
Places to eat in Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, London - Giraffe tapas review
Places to eat in Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, London - Giraffe tapas review
Places to eat in Liverpool Street, Spitalfields, London - Giraffe tapas review

I used to be seriously obsessed with Giraffe. It was one of my favourite places to eat whenever I went to London – I was obsessed with their flavours, the cocktails, the whole ambience... not to mention the little plastic giraffes they used to put in your drinks (do they still do that?). And then I don’t know what happened. I think I discovered other restaurants and just... moved on. Sorry, Giraffe.

But it’s ok, because they invited me back to try out their new tapas menu! Well, it’s not that new – they invited me absolutely AGES ago, and I was rubbish and have only just got round to going. It’s a great deal though, you get 3 tapas for £14.95 or 5 tapas for £24.95, and there’s an offer on right now where if you go for the 5 tapas option, you also get a bottle of wine! Amazing!

Obvs we went for the five-and-wine deal because OBVS, but it was difficult to choose just five dishes. There are some delicious sounding options like pan-roasted chorizo and honey, patatas bravas, tacos, gyozas, flatbread, Japanese style chicken... hungry yet? QUITE. Here's what we went for...

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Saturday, 19 August 2017

HOME: The best places to visit in Tring

Recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore in Tring, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border
Recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore in Tring, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border
Recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore in Tring, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border
Recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore in Tring, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border
Recommendations for places to eat, drink and explore in Tring, on the Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire border

It’s over a year now since we decided to move to Tring (our actual move will be a year in December – buying a house takes time, you guys) and I honestly think it’s one of the best decisions I (well, we) ever made. As much as I’m happy with our house – and I am, I feel incredibly lucky to have such a lovely home and to have parents who supported and helped us to get there (and I will always be honest about the fact that we DID have help, because it would have been so difficult to do alone) – I’ve really fallen for our little town.

Whenever I Instagram a picture of the pretty high street or the incredible views from the top of the park or my latest favourite restaurant, I hope that I’m inspiring someone, somewhere, to pay Tring a visit. Sure, it’s a 45 minute train journey from London and then a bit of a walk from the train station once you get there (that 35 minute walk is, I think, why Tring was still just about in our budget), but it’s so worth it once you get there! It’s surrounded by breathtaking scenery, it’s full of cosy pubs and independent eateries and it’s just so bloody nice. It’s the kind of place where there are boxes of fresh flowers along the high street, flowers that horrible teenagers don’t rip out when they’re bored. It’s the kind of place where people chat to strangers, where people saw us looking in the windows of estate agents and asked if we were joining the community. It’s the kind of place where every building on the high street, even the Costa and the Prezzo looks like it has an interesting history behind it.

I’m a fan.

Anyway, I really do think you should visit Tring for the day, or even a weekend. It’s only a 25 minute drive from Watford, it’s a direct train from Euston and it’s worth it when you get there. And if you do visit, I’ve compiled a little list of my favourite places in Tring... so far. There’s so much more I haven’t had the chance to discover, so please make recommendations if you know the area!

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Saturday, 12 August 2017

REVIEW: Busaba Eathai, St Albans

Review and recommendation of a Thai restaurant in St Albans - Busaba EathaiReview and recommendation of a Thai restaurant in St Albans - Busaba Eathai
Review and recommendation of a Thai restaurant in St Albans - Busaba Eathai

It feels like ages since I’ve done a food review, but that’s my fault – I’ve not been as active on the blogging front this year as I have been previously. There’s just been so much going on with the house and the wedding – not to mention working full time – that I haven’t had much brain space for it. But I like blogging, and I missed it, so here I am to talk about delicious Thai food.

I first visited Busaba Eathai in St Albans last year with my friend Fiona, to go to their opening. It was a great evening with some seriously good food and cocktails, and I resolved to come back soon... with Matt, who was most put out that he missed it. And Busaba must have heard his whinging, because they invited me back to try out the rest of their menu. I booked it in for the day after my birthday, and it was the perfect end to a foodie, boozy weekend.

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Sunday, 6 August 2017

WEDDING: Tips for going wedding dress shopping



With just over 9 months to go until our wedding day, I have already purchased the dress! I wasn’t intending to buy it this quickly – I thought I’d have a bit of a look over the summer – but then various local shops started to announce their sample sales and I thought I might as well squeeze in some appointments.

As I confessed on Instagram Stories a little while ago, I was really intimidated by the idea of wedding dress shopping. I think there’s so much pressure on this one item of clothing that it’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed. I was scared about spending too much money, I was scared that nothing would suit me (I've never found a maxi dress that suits me, and white is one of those colours I NEVER wear), I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to choose and I was scared that I’d feel disappointed. I think this is pretty normal.

In reality, everything was fine. It was actually a pretty enjoyable time, and I wanted to blog about my thoughts to help anyone else in the same boat as I was a couple of weeks ago. I really didn’t know what to expect, and I overthought it for a while instead of just getting on with it. In the end, I took a Friday off work and booked in three appointments with my Mum and my sister in tow. Three doesn’t sound like loads, but it takes time to get in and out of those big dresses, and even more time gazing at yourself in the mirror looking like a princess, so it was plenty – I was pretty done in by the last appointment!

I’m not going to share photos of me in the dresses on here because Matt really doesn’t want to see me in any wedding dresses yet, and I sort of like that - there is something kind of transformative about them, I have to say. So here’s what I learned…

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

RECIPE: Cheeseburger Casserole

Easy batch cooking recipe from a Hertfordshire food blog cheeseburger casserole vegetarian friendly based on Skinnytaste

Oh, hello! Life continues to be busy, but actually I've been doing the total opposite of busy lately. I've just come back from a week's holiday in Spain where I did precisely nothing, and it was brilliant. We ate cheese, lay down a lot and read tons of books and drank sangria every day, and it made me realise how important taking time to just stop is. It's super important. Make sure you do it.

We then finished up our holiday with a few days at Latitude Festival, which was ace. I'm going to try and get a post up about it soon. But anyway. Let's jump right in with a recipe, shall we?

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

WEDDING: Finding a venue

Tips for finding a barn wedding venue within 2 hours of Hertfordshire with no corkage

Now, let's be straight here. I'm going to start talking about weddings a bit on this blog. I'm preparing you now, so you can run if it's boring - but I promise I'll keep the yummy recipes and various life-stuff babble coming too, if wedding chatter really isn't your thing.

Even though we got engaged in October, we agreed that we wouldn't start 'officially planning' until 2017 started, as we were buying our house at the end of last year and assumed that we'd be a bit busy sorting it out. We definitely were. But I still grabbed a few moments to start planning, which consisted of working out a rough budget and starting to compile a list of venues that might be worth a look. It was worth it - we found one we loved, and we booked it a few weeks ago. May 2018, this thing is happening - eeek!

Now, I'm a bit of a control freak, and I like to plan things well. So I decided to create a spreadsheet of every venue I was looking into, filling in a list of criteria as I went which I'll share in a moment. This was quite a bit of work, but it was worth it. It meant that I had a record of all these venues and could see at a glance why I'd counted them out, or - more importantly - see if they were worth a second look. As it happened, our criteria changed a little, and so I did go back to my list, so I was so grateful that I'd gathered all this info.

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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hello! Here's a big, juicy update.



So... I haven’t blogged in absolutely forever, and I was going to write this big long post about why, and my feelings about blogging. Then I just realised that it was taking me ages to write because I didn’t really want to write it, because everyone and their insta-boyfriend has written a post about their feelings about blogging... so I thought I’d just talk about what I’ve been up to instead.

And so I knocked this post out in ten minutes while waiting for Matt to come and pick me up from work the other day, so I think we all learned something there.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

REVIEW: Pizza Express, Berkhamsted

Review of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The ChilternsReview of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The Chilterns
Review of new Pizza Express in Berkhamsted by food blogger based in Tring, St Albans, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, The Chilterns

We're settling in nicely to Tring - it's just such a lovely area, and I'm so excited to explore more places nearby, both in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire... the Chilterns is full of picturesque villages and excellent pubs. We keep promising we're going to strap on our walking boots and go proper exploring (I just bought some new ones from Spartoo, so I have zero excuse) but it hasn't happened yet. Actually, so far it doesn't feel like we've ventured that far (every time we go out to eat in Tring, we go to the same place!) but we've managed to make it into Berkhamsted a couple of times, which is just up the road.

It seems like this area is quite up-and-coming. Berkhamsted will soon be home to the second branch of one of my St Albans favourites, Tabure (and Matt's barbers are opening a branch there too, which he is very excited about) and Tring will be getting another St Albans fave, Lussmanns, later this year too (which I included in my St Albans restaurant roundup a couple of years ago). I love St Albans, but we were priced out of there when we wanted to buy property, which I think is the case for many people, so it isn't that surprising that independent businesses are moving this way too. And I am all for it, obviously.

We were invited to hop on the bus up to Berkhamsted to check out Pizza Express, which recently had a revamp. We timed our visit very poorly, as we tried a few items from the latest menu... about two days before they launched the new one. So unfortunately our main courses are no longer available to buy, but please join me in petitioning Pizza Express to rectify that, because I'm going to need their 'nduja mac'n'cheese and the Barbacoa pizza to be permanent menu items. SO GOOD.

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

WISHLIST: Dresses, bags and food for Spring

Spring Summer 2017 wishlist fit and flare dresses

Remember, back in the day, when I'd post regularly about clothes and shoes and bags and whatnot, and basically be a fashion blogger type person? Yeah, me too. I don't really see me going back to my ways completely (I never quite got over the awkwardness of taking outfit photos), but lately I've found myself falling in love with clothes again.

The problem of late has been that my kind of clothes simply haven't been in the shops. Honestly, my style hasn't changed all that much during the many, many, many years that I've had this blog (I actually wore a dress to a wedding on Saturday that I featured in an outfit post on here in 2012!) but what's deemed trendy has changed. I've been turning to online-only brands like Emily & Fin, Sugarhill Boutique and Collectif as my lunchtime wanders through my old favourites like New Look and Topshop have just turned up unflattering smock dresses, bodycon skirts that wouldn't go over my hips and midi frocks that would come down to the floor on me. Boo.

BUT! Suddenly, the shops are improving. I'm putting the blame at the feet of some of this year's most successful films - Emma Stone's wardrobe in La La Land was to die for (I now have a yellow flowered dress winging its way to me) and the dresses in Hidden Figures... oh, be still my heart. So here, for the first time in a long time, is a wishlist of some of the things I'm loving in the shops right now. Plus some food, because a girl's gotta eat, obvs.

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

REVIEW: Chocolate making parties in Hertfordshire with The Choccie Drop





Okay, so it's way too early to start thinking about my hen party, but with my bridesmaids officially assembled now, I am pretty excited to spend a weekend with all of my favourite ladies. Can't we just have six-monthly mini hen dos until the wedding? It's AGES away.

One thing that got me thinking about hen dos was The Choccie Drop party I went to a few weeks ago with Matt. The lovely Kirsty holds chocolate making workshops in Hertfordshire, and we spent an evening creating items of chocolatey wonder and getting entirely covered with sugar. It was, predictably, great - because what could possibly be wrong with that scenario?
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Friday, 14 April 2017

RECIPE: Super chocolatey Easter cake

Best ever chocolate cake recipe for Easter weekend

Now, some bloggers are organised and think about their content months in advance. I am not gifted in that area. I'm not a big planner, and I often post recipes after just cooking them once. I like to think that it's my style - spontaneous! Crazy! And delicious!

Aaanyway, that's why I have had these photos of an Easter cake on my computer for a YEAR. That's right - last Easter Sunday, I made this chocolatey wonder, and then realised that it was far too late to actually share the recipe. Now, some might call that being disorganised, others might call it dedication. But I'm just going to call it the best gosh darn chocolate cake you'll ever have, and recommend that you make it this weekend. Or any weekend, really. Heck, make it on a Tuesday. It's a really good cake.

Obviously, it's ace covered in mini eggs and chocolate bunnies (a decorating tip which I totally didn't invent) but it's also ace with a slick of chocolate buttercream and nothing more. This is the only chocolate cake recipe you'll need.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

RECIPES: Sweet potato recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner

International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner
International sweet potato week - recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner

There are some foods I like so much that I could cheerfully eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. One of those foods is sweet potatoes, which is handy, as I was challenged to make a breakfast, lunch and dinner dish containing the most orange of potatoes as part of International Sweet Potato Week, which takes place from 1-13 April. Nope, I'm not sure why it's a 13 day week either. Maybe the greatness of sweet potatoes cannot be contained within one of your earth weeks, ever think of that?

I absolutely loved doing this challenge. I've been cooking a lot of the same meals lately - good meals, but samey - and it gave me a little nudge out of my comfort zone and I discovered some new recipes that will definitely enter our regular rotation. Just wait until you get to my dinner recipe, because daaaamn.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

RECIPE: Easy peasy falafels

Blogger challenge with Florette smoothie mixes - easy falafel recipe for Sunday lunch
Blogger challenge with Florette smoothie mixes - easy falafel recipe for Sunday lunch

Usually, when given a blog challenge to make something, I'm pretty obedient. That's how I learnt that I wasn't very good at cooking tofu in January. But this time, I'm afraid I'm going to break the rules.

You see, Florette challenged me to make a smoothie bowl with their new Smoothie Mix bags, and I just couldn't do it. Back when the smoothie trend was at its peak a couple of years ago, I was drinking a raspberry, apple, oat and almond milk smoothie for breakfast every morning and I completely ruined them for myself - I just got so sick of them. And then, a few weeks back, I was making falafel for the first time and broke my BlendActive smoothie maker. Turns out you need a food processor for falafel - anything else just can't handle those pesky chickpeas.

(On the day I broke my Blendactive, I actually had to pull on my new Spartoo trainers and speed up the A41 to pick up the food processor a couple of hours before our guests were due to arrive to grab it from where it was being stored at my Granny's. Not advisable. Bit stressful.)

So I thought it was fitting to post the recipe for my falafel instead, which is now a tried and tested recipe that's come out every time I've had guests for lunch. Which is a lot - everyone seems to want to see our new house, and we haven't even got round them all yet! When I had the family round a few weeks ago, I whipped them up in my Mum's ancient food processor alongside a perfect roast chicken, potato wedges and bowls upon bowls of delicious picky bits. Mmmm, picky bits. The best of all the bits.

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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Miller and Carter steak restaurant, Rickmansworth

Review of Miller and Carter in Rickmansworth - steak restaurant in Hertfordshire

I cook and eat a lot of vegetarian food, and often think to myself 'Sure, I could go vegetarian,' and I truly believe I could. If I had to, I could. But I don't have to. And also there's steak. Consider steak.

I didn't get into eating steak until quite late in life, and when I started to order it more and more often, I was shocked to realise I liked it rare. My dad loves to tell the story of being told off by a chef for ordering his steak well done, and... well, I'm siding with the chef. I totally get why people aren't into rare steak, but I revel in it. Bring it to me pink, and juicy and barely cooked, and I'll be happy. Still mooing? Cool.

This is a post for carnivores, my friends.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

WEDDING: Honeymoon planning (well, fantasising)

Wedding planning blogger - honeymoon thoughts

It’s over a year until we’re planning to get married (I am like 73% sure the wedding posts will diminish during that time, I’m sorry I'm talking about it so much at the moment) and I can already tell that our planning is going to be anywhere but linear. We’re fixating on the little, insignificant details in a big way while giving rather less attention to the massive, significant stuff. Table names? Nailed. Venue? No clue.

And in that ilk, I’m idly planning our honeymoon. The honeymoon that we’re not actually intending to take until a few months after the wedding. I know why, of course. Hard savings this year means that exciting holidays has to take a backseat, and I’m getting all wistful for sunshine, interesting food and fun things. Currently I’m leaning towards an American road trip with a side of Disney, but there’s so much more out there to potentially choose from. The world is, quite literally, our oyster.

No, wait. That’s not literal at all. The world is not an oyster. Anyway, here’s some other honeymoon options that I’m toying with. I’m sure I’ll involve my fiancĂ© in these plans at some point.

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Monday, 20 February 2017

RECIPE: Slow cooked beef and ale stew

Beef and Guinness stew from Jamie Oliver's Superfood, Weight Watchers friendly

As much as I cheerfully kept my food blog going last year, I felt like I didn't cook all that much. Well, I did, but I didn't cook very many NEW recipes. I kept returning to old favourites over and over again, like chorizo pasta, peanut curry, coconut dhal and burrito bowls. Don't get me wrong, my parents wouldn't have minded if I'd made something different every night, but I minded. I didn't want to be under their feet all the time, so I relied heavily on batch cooking, which meant I'd spend a day once a month or so to fill up our freezer drawer with meals.

And it worked, but I missed what I love most about cooking - learning new skills, finding new flavours and experimenting with different things. So when we moved into our house, one of the first things I unpacked was my cookbooks. You see, having my own kitchen again is so much more than just space. It's having complete ownership of what's in the cupboards and the fridge, which sounds like a little thing, but when you're sharing that space it's sometimes hard to remember what's in there, or even to guarantee that what you left in there will still be there when you get home. We've all been in that position, right?

When we moved, I was convinced I wanted to replace the kitchen, but now I'm not so sure. Yeah, I'd love to replace the faux-wood cupboard doors with a calming cream, but it's actually a really good size with tons of storage, and lovely to cook in. I also get the impression it had hardly been used by the previous owner, apart from the oven which was pretty appalling. I attacked it with liberal amounts of Oven Pride (which I find terrifying but oh-so-satisfying) and it's much better, but I'm dreaming of replacing it eventually with a nice shiny hob (with no rust stains, the dream) and a big old oven. Currently eyeing up a nice cream double oven from Belling kitchen appliances, even though I'm not sure we can actually fit a double oven in. Oh well. One day I'll have my dream cream-and-wood farmhouse kitchen, I will. And until then, I must count my blessings, and remind myself that what we have now beats the oven we had in our flat by a long way, which was tiny, terrible, and only had one shelf. The wooorst.

Aaaanyway. I've already been racking up the new recipes since we moved. From curries to chilli to stew to meze, I'm loving experimenting again. I think my favourite new cookbook is one of Jamie Oliver's latest, Super Food Family Classics. You know when you just want to make EVERYTHING? That. Anyway, his beef and ale stew recipe is to diiiie for. He recommends serving it with mustard spiced pearl barley, but I serve it with mash, because I don't understand why you wouldn't have mash when you could have mash.

Here's my variation on it. It's pretty close to Jamie's, but I add a bit more beef and a bit more veg, and spend some time thickening it at the end, too. And I add mash. Did I mention the mash?

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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RECIPE: Vegan blueberry bircher muesli with Alpro

Alpro breakfast ideas - vegan bircher muesli with blueberries

I always have a little list of recipes in my head that I want to try out, but they're often the ones that it takes me the longest to get round to. One such recipe is bircher muesli. I love the stuff - I'm always buying the pre-made pots from M&S or Pret, and whenever I'm in Germany for work, I make a beeline for it at the hotel breakfast buffet.

Despite its name, it actually has more in common with porridge than muesli, and consists of oats soaked in milk, yogurt or both with grated apple. That's the basis of it, anyway, but you can add anything extra you like to it, such as fruit, granola or nuts. It's been around for years (it's a staple breakfast food in Switzerland) although it's had a bit of a renaissance recently under the guise of Overnight Oats, and there are hundreds of different variations - even versions where double cream or condensed milk is used instead of yogurt. Decadent.

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Saturday, 11 February 2017

WEDDING: Choosing my engagement ring

Story of choosng an engagement ring using bespoke design service from Purely Diamonds

It feels like absolutely ages ago now that I announced my engagement on here - and it kinda was, to be honest, as it was back in October. Well, if you remember, I was left with a little task... to choose my own engagement ring. Matt proposed with a beloved, broken ring of mine that he'd secretly had fixed, because he knew I'd want to choose my own ring.

He knew this because every time we idly looked in a jeweller's window or the conversation came up, I confessed that I had no idea what I wanted, just that I didn't want the standard cartoon emoji ring - you know, one square or round stone on a gold band. Of course, that's classic and beautiful, but I just wanted something a little different. And therein lay the problem.
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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

RECIPE: Vegan rice and pasta tofu bowls with Florette

High protein tofu salad bowls for Veganuary with Asian and Italian inspired flavours

I've never been very good at timing my blog posts properly. I've often had to turn my Christmas recipes into New Year's ones, and I have photos of an Easter cake sitting on my computer that I made last Easter Sunday and realised I'd have to wait a year to post if I wanted it to be at all timely. And all that explains why on this, the last day of January, I'm talking about Veganuary!

I didn't go vegan for January, but I know plenty of people who did. Eating a plant-based diet has plenty of potential health benefits, and ethical benefits too (you can see more at The Vegan Society). And while I don't plan to switch any time soon, I have found myself eating more vegetarian and vegan food in recent years. Florette recently challenged me to come up with some high protein, high vitamin vegan recipes, so armed with my block of tofu and some other vegan ingredients that they sent me, I got to work.

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Sunday, 29 January 2017

INTERIORS: A new bedroom

Tempur Love Sleep - tips to sleep better

I will freely admit that I am a tiredyhead. I am that person who falls asleep on the couch at house parties, dozes off every time I'm on a long car journey (as long as I'm not driving, obvs), and has a list as long as my arm of films I've missed the last half an hour of due to the alluring call of the Land of Nod. I once fell asleep at a friend's gig. Sleep is my bae.

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Saturday, 21 January 2017

REVIEW: Little Marrakech, St Albans

Review of Little Marrakech, Moroccan restaurant in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Oh, hello! I took a little bit of a Christmas break from blogging... that then extended into January. The first few weeks of January have actually been pretty quiet, and staying home and trying to remember how to make food that's not entirely made of cheese and booze isn't all that blog-worthy.

Of course, plenty's been going on. Obviously we moved into our own house in December, and we've made serious strides in making it our own. There's still plenty to do, but I've been sharing pics and vids on Instagram and I'm definitely planning a few posts about that. I'm probably most excited about having a decent shoe storage area (remember all those pairs from Spartoo I've been posting over the years?). I'm really looking forward to exploring Tring and the local area a bit more, too. It's so nice! And new for this year is a little thing called Wedding Planning. Eeeep. We're planning to get married next year, so we need to start looking for venues soon and ironing out plans. I'm a big planner, so I'm sure there'll be lots of it on here. But not tooo much, if that's not your thing. I promise.

Having my own kitchen again means more cooking, which I've already been doing plenty of. I must confess it's been a lot of tried and tested recipes lately but I've got a few new cookbooks and am inspired to try some new things. Anyway. That's all to come!

Today I'm sharing a review of one of my favourite restaurants in St Albans, Little Marrakech. This lovely Moroccan restaurant has been tucked away near French Row for quite a long time, and it's always stood out as one of the best restaurants in the area. Sure, now there's a pretty diverse range of restaurants in St Albans, but a few years ago it used to be chains as far as the eye can see, with a million Italian and Indian restaurants and not much else, so Moroccan food was exotic beyond our wildest extremely tame dreams.

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