Monday 27 April 2015

Home sweet home (finally)

I've been in my new flat now for just over two months, and I wasn't prepared for how long it would take to feel like home. Turns out, consolidating two people's things takes king of a while, but I'm glad we didn't just give up and turn the spare room into a junk room. We've persevered though and it was worth it - it's now feeling comfy and cosy and, well, home.

What also surprised me was how much my tastes have changed over the last year. When I moved home, I put a lot of things in storage, and it was only when I unpacked them recently that I realised they just weren't me any more. It doesn't seem right to put Alice in Wonderland prints on the wall any more - a lot of my more cutesy things have gone straight to the charity shop. I think it's probably a combination of growing up a little, and also wanting this to be OUR flat, not just mine.

I'm still sneaking in the occasional cute little touches though. Our spare room has become a haven for all my shoes, bags (I have a serious addiction to fancy handbags) and makeup and I've been sneakily putting pretty vases in front of Matt's Arsenal print (don't get me started). I've also become quite the fan of hampers for storage - we're really short on storage in our bathroom, so we now have a little stack of three in there, to squeeze in all our bottles and whatnot. I'd really like to incorporate this mason jar organiser from this storage hacks post, too.

Most of the cute little bits in this post were kindly sent to me by Flamingo Gifts, who are a veritable goldmine of pretty, quirky homeware... that's still not too girlie for living with a boy.


Saturday 25 April 2015

Double cheese and giant couscous salad

I'm actually against salad for dinner, in principle. I know you're supposed to have breakfast like a king and have dinner like a pauper, but I find if I don't have a decent meal in the evening I just spend the rest of the night feeling snackish. And as it was only just Easter, there is a lot of chocolate in my flat to be snacked on. Dangerous.

The thing is though, I'm only against salad for dinner as I often don't find it filling. It's why I rarely order it when I go out, because I don't think a plate of leaves and a little bit of meat or cheese is really a meal. I need something with it to give it some substance, like potato or lentils or couscous or rice.

With all that in mind, I decided to make a GOOD dinner salad. We had some cheese in our fridge to use up after our flat warming party and a salad seemed like the healthiest way to make a meal out of it. I bought some giant couscous and some butternut squash and turned it into an excellent dinner salad. It filled us both up nicely, and I only had a LITTLE bit of Easter chocolate afterwards. Well, it needs using up, doesn't it?


Tuesday 21 April 2015

My day on a plate

I am a nosy bugger, so love these kinds of posts. I'm not sure why catching a glimpse into someone's daily routine is so intriguing, but there it is. I can't guarantee my day on a plate will be all that exciting, but let's give it a go...

9.15am - Breakfast
3 x chocolate Belvita breakfast bars

I usually have porridge or a smoothie for breakfast, but I was sent these to try by Belvita along with the strawberry ones, and they're really tasty. The chocolate is gooey, not hard, and tastes a little like Nutella - but as the biscuits aren't very sweet, it's a nice balance and not too sweet for the morning. I always eat at work so these are great for busy days when I don't have time for my porridge - and they did a pretty good job at keeping me full until lunchtime, I started getting snackish just before 12.

1.30pm - Lunch
Tesco Finest Moroccan Chicken Soup 

I always have soup when I'm trying to be healthy, so boring! This one is pretty good but a little lacking in flavour - I was hoping it would be like the yummy M&S version but it doesn't come close. It was super filling, but quite a strong flavour... not sure I'd buy it again.

4.00pm - Snack
Sunbites Red Pepper & Chilli Pitta Bites

I bought these as they're really low in calories and good for those afternoons that I can't quite get through. They have quite a strong taste, which I like, but they're more than a little cardboardy. Probs won't buy again.

7.30pm - Dinner
Giant couscous and cheese salad

We had some cheese in the fridge to use up from a party, so turned it into a big, hearty salad with giant couscous and butternut squash. Super tasty, healthy and filling - plus cheese. Ticks all my boxes! (Recipe coming soon)

8.30pm - Snack
Toffee Kitkat

These are tasty, but not as toffeeish as I would like. But what I would like is a bar of basically pure toffee, so what do I know?

Thursday 16 April 2015

Chicken kebabs (better than the local chippy's)

Lately, my go-to takeaway is a chicken kebab. It's perfect for when I can't be bothered to cook, but never leaves me feeling too guilty - after all, it's basically just chicken and salad. I mean, I always order chips too, because our local kebab house does proper squashy chip shop chips, and it would be rude not to. But still. It's way better for me than a pizza, or an Indian, or a Chinese, right?

However, in the spirit of being a bit more healthy and because I've been on a bit of a cook-from-scratch spree lately, I decided to make my own. It was the perfect dinner for Easter Monday, as we were both feeling a bit poisoned from too much chocolate and booze, and also our flat-warming party on Saturday had left us with a bunch of nibbly leftovers including pittas, houmous, salad and olives. We grabbed some chicken from the freezer and presto! Dinner!

Sunday 12 April 2015

10 ways to spend less on your food shop

I feel like I'm so on top of my food shopping and cooking choices lately. I know, that sounds super smug, but sometimes it's nice to feel smug, right? Anyway, I'm at that point of smugness that I think everyone should be as great as me, so I've put together some tips. I am the BEST.

In all seriousness, I know so many people who struggle with their food shop. It's easy to go a bit mad every week, and get to the end of the month and realise you've spent a few hundred quid just for you and your significant other. And it definitely doesn't have to be like that. I spend less than £100 a month on food for Matt and I, and as hopefully my latest blog posts attest to, we eat damn well.


Friday 10 April 2015

Chicken & coriander burgers

I've had an epiphany that being excited about what I'm eating gives me more of a push to eat healthily. The truth is, there are tons of healthy recipes out there that are really yummy, but I have a terrible habit of pinning them and forgetting about them. So lately I've been scouring my Pinterest boards for inspiration, and it's working. I'm not really craving takeaways and pub grub any more - I'd much rather have something delicious and fresh that I made myself.

The other thing I'm doing is a freezer inventory. We stocked the freezer up pretty sharpish when we moved in, and I'm keen to actually use the random things in there, rather than discover eighty packs of discounted chicken breast when we move out. I adapted this burger recipe, as I had some chicken mince that I bought excitedly (from the discount section, hooray) which I popped in the freezer and promptly forgot about all those chicken mince related recipes I was going to make. Anyway, it turns out we had almost all the ingredients already for this recipe, and anything we didn't have, we just improvised. Woohoo.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

The art of conversation

New toy alert! I recently went to an amazing Dolce Gusto event celebrating the art of conversation, where we were observed by Faizal Lulat, an artist who takes quotes from real conversations and turns them into art. It was a great night, fuelled by champagne and a good gossip with Kristabel, and really interesting to see the little pieces of art produced. And as a final win, I was sent my own piece of art and a coffee machine too!

Monday 6 April 2015

Slow cooker burrito bowls

The other day I met with the lovely Amy after work and we went to a Wetherspoons, because we're classy girls with shallow pockets. I've been trying not to eat so much crap so dismissed the usual beer and a burger option, and took a look at their Mexican menu instead. I ended up trying the naked burrito, which was basically a burrito bowl - rice, pork, salad, guac etc - and it was surprisingly good. So much so that I couldn't actually stop thinking about it... and when was the last time that's happened with a Wetherspoons?

Later that week, we were pondering dinner options and I decided to give my own burrito bowl a go. I took to Pinterest for inspiration and found this recipe, involving a slow cooker. Perrrrfect. I adapted it a little, but it worked really well and created such a tasty, fresh, healthy dinner. I had it two nights running, Matt had it for three nights and I think we would have both been happy to eat it all week!


Friday 3 April 2015

Investing in yourself... a month on.

I posted about my urge to improve things about a month ago, due to a general feeling of UGH. So has anything changed, or am I still in a general malais?

I'm happy to say that things are a lot better. I know myself pretty well, and I tend to respond better to small, manageable changes than big life overhauls, so that's how I've approached things. I've still got a way to go, but I feel like I can keep this up, which is exactly how I want to feel.

Wanna know what I'm doing?

Resolution 1 - Eat healthy
It's taken a little while to get my head round this, but it clicked when I started going through Pinterest and pulling out healthy recipes that I wanted to make. Last week we made burrito bowls, which were won-der-ful and chicken and coriander burgers (recipe posts for both are coming soon). I haven't been tracking Weight Watchers points either, and I'm hoping I can keep these habits up and get to the point I long for - eating well without using a diet plan as a crutch. They've really helped me before, and I'm not against them, but I don't feel like it's something I can do for life.

Resolution 2 - Get moving
I bloody love my Fitbit. I'd just ordered it when I wrote that post, and since posting it, I've become a huge fan of that little bugger. It's basically a fancy pedometer that tracks your movement and gives you a report on your smart phone. Wearing it doesn't make you move - you could just ignore it and use it as a fancy, useless watch instead. But I'm naturally quite competitive, so I want to see my stats mounting up at the end of the day, and I want to hit that 10,000 step target. So I park at the far end of the car park, I take the stairs instead of the lift, I go for a lunchtime wander, I get off the train a stop early, I drag Matt out for a walk after work. It's helping. I'm not shedding stones yet or running marathons, but the more walking I do, the more I want to do, and the easier it gets. I'm much less achey and tired already and am finding myself scouring the internet for good walks - I've even started a Pinterest board about it and that's when you KNOW I'm serious.

Resolution 3 - Less processed crap
I'm already buying less low fat stuff, and last week I quietly stopped drinking Diet Coke at work. I didn't announce it or make a big thing of it, I just didn't have it one day. Or the next. I'm keeping a bottle of squash on my desk which is a good replacement for when I want a sugar hit (because I always think of Diet Coke as a sugar/caffeine hit, but honestly, there's not that much caffeine in it). I'm still having my sugary Oatsosimple every day, but my next goal is to buy a Blend Active and make smoothies from oats, fruit and yoghurt instead, and I'm pretty excited about that. I inadvertently had a couple of wheat-free days last week and felt a lot less bloated, so I may try incorporating more of those into my week, too.

Resolution 4 - Make more effort
This is a tricky one. I did start trying more with my hair and makeup at work, but it didn't take long before I went back to my usual weekday hair routine of drying and straightening my fringe and pulling the rest of my hair into a bun, still wet from the shower. It's just easy, ok? And I haven't bought any new work clothes - I did spend a small fortune at ASOS on the hunt for a dress to wear to a wedding, though, and it was lovely to wear something that I genuinely loved. It's been a while. I am still reluctant to spend money on clothes until I lose weight, but there are some sales on at the moment, so maybe I can justify a couple of new dresses.

Resolution 5 - Skincare routine
I've really focused on the small changes here. I've swapped my cleansing wipes for micellar water, which I think is a really good start. But that's it so far. My next steps are to swap my facial scrub for a more gentle cleanser, and start using an eye cream. And I have invested in better makeup - I've swapped my old primer for a mattifying one which is definitely helping my oiliness, and bought an Estee Lauder concealer. I also spent a small fortune on lipstick and blusher in Sephora when I was in Paris. So I'm getting there.

It has only been a month, and it's easy to keep up good habits for a short period, but I feel pretty positive that I've made good changes. I'm especially pleased with how much more active I've been, as that's the most difficult one for a lazybones like me. I'm excited about it, and about doing more and more. I also got through March without getting a cold, therefore breaking my cold-a-month cycle that's been going on since November! I don't think living a bit better can have hurt - I've been getting more fresh air and eating better - but it is a bit warmer too and I'm not surrounded by sniffling people as much any more, so probably a combo of that. Still. Yay!


Thursday 2 April 2015

Chocolate and alcohol: a match made in heaven.

I'm not religious, so for me Easter is very much about chocolate. I mean, friends, family, and those four glorious lie ins are a pretty high priority too. Oh, and I usually squeeze in at least a couple of mildly alcoholic evenings, because surely it would be a waste not to, right?

Well, it seems like Aldi read my mind, because they sent me a bumper hamper of chocolate and alcohol to celebrate Easter. I am all for these kind of packages, FYI. There was a reason though, not just to cause me joy - they've been working hard on their posh chocolate and spirits line, working out which chocolate goes best with which drink.
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