Thursday, 30 January 2014

big and bouncy


Since I had my hair cut last month, I've been on the hunt for products to give me bouncy voluminous locks. When my hair was long it was so hard to inject bounce - it was so heavy it just hung! Now its got a new lease of life I am loving the above products. First up, I was given these Percy and Reed products for Christmas - the Abundantly Bouncy Volumising Mousse and Volumising No Oil Oil (for fine hair). Although my hair isn't remotely fine, the oil is perfect at smoothing the ends of my hair without weighing it down. Now the mousse; I haven't used mousse since I stole my Mum's when I was about 12 and created some pretty lush crunchy curls. Thankfully, this is nothing like that! Lightweight, nourishing and not sticky at all, this really helps me build volume when blow drying. A little goes a long way too, although it's a bit more than you might pay in Boots, a small blob does the job. 

Alternately I use VO5 Plump It Up Amplifying Blow Dry Lotion instead of the mousse, which although not quite as good, does help to give some body. I have to say I'm put off by the colour and style of the packaging - to me it looks cheap and gimmicky. Is that silly of me?! Once I've styled my hair either using my straighteners to iron out any kinks or add wave, or the Babyliss Curling Wand, I keep it in place with Loreal Elnett Hairspray Very Volume (Supreme Hold). Although this smells like grannies, it is pretty good at holding my curl and volume all day. 

And finally, Loreal #TXT Volume Supersizing Spray. What a beauty. A quick spritz into the ends of my hair leaves them looking textured and plumped up, without leaving any residue or feeling heavy. I'd heard loads of good reviews of this so couldn't wait to try and have been really pleased with the results! 

What do you use to keep your locks bouncy and voluminous?

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

courgetti


Yes - I've gone there - courgetti. If you've not seen this gracing blogs/instagram/twitter recently (i.e. Nouvelle Daily and Millie Mac) then where have you been?! Now I am most certainly not one for denying myself things I like... pasta is one of them. I usually try to fight the bulge with cutting down on portion sizes, but I can now say I am well and truly a new woman! I never would have thought I'd say it, but courgetti is bloody delicious. I do love courgettes anyway, which helps, but this is so tasty.

I've seen some use a vegetable spiraler to create courgetti, but I just use a julienne peeler that I picked up from TK Maxx for about £3. I find one large courgette is a good size for one person, and is what I've used to create the amount shown in the pictures here. Simply peel your courgette (I keep going just until it hits the seeded core, then discard the rest of the courgette) and fry in a small knob of butter and garlic - I use one clove, pressed/crushed - for a few minutes.  The outside skin keeps a bit of crunch, so don't over cook. Season with salt and pepper before serving, if you want a bit of a kick maybe try some chili flakes.

It really is that simple! I like courgetti with meatballs and sauce, or bolognese. And the best part is you can eat lots without feeling a smidge of guilt. I prefer this to regular pasta now as its far more tasty (thanks to the garlic) and doesn't leave you with that heavy carby feeling afterwards. Joy!

Have you tried courgetti?

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Friday, 24 January 2014

cluck cluck


Now the weekend is almost upon us, its a chance to do the things we don't get time to do during the week - go shopping, catch up with friends, relax in your PJs, clean the bathroom (sigh) and eat good food (yey). To me, a good roast chicken is the ultimate... But, it takes time. Very rarely do I get home early enough to put aside 1.5 hours cooking time, but thankfully that is what weekends are made for! As much as I love a good traditional roast with all the trimmings, I also like serving a roast chicken in a more 'dressed down' way - with homemade potato wedges and salad. 

Here are my tips for the perfect, super simple roasted chicken:

- Follow the guidelines on the pack to cook, most medium sized chickens will take about 90 minutes. 

- For the first forty-five minutes, loosely cover the chicken with tin foil. This will keep it nice and moist, and then once you remove the foil it gives the skin a chance to crisp up. Don't throw away - you'll use it later!

- Before cooking rub a little olive oil, salt and pepper into the skin. If you have any fresh herbs you can also chop these up and rub in, or sprinkle with dried herbs. Some come pre-basted with butter and herbs... why not let someone else do the work for you?

- I remove the string around the legs of the chicken before cooking as think it helps the juices to flow and keep the chicken moist.

- Stuff a lemon up its bum. Chop in half, and put half up the bum and then halve the left over piece and lay around the chicken in a baking tray. The flavour really absorbs into the chicken, and you can make a really lovely lemony gravy with the juices. Delicious!

- Every so often, spoon the juices in the baking tray back on to the top of the chicken. This helps crisp the skin and keep it tasty. 

- Once cooked (check it is thoroughly cooked by piercing with a knife and checking the juices run clear) leave to rest for about five minutes on a carving tray/chopping board covered with the foil you cooked with and a couple of tea towels on top. Again, this helps to keep the meat moist and full of flavour. 

- Serve on a warm plate - I find meat often gets cool quite quickly, so keep it hot for as long as possible by warming your plates before hand. Middle aged I know, but worth it!

As I say, I love roasted chicken served with wedges and salad. We usually have a bottle of Nandos sauce or similar as an accompaniment, or lemon chicken gravy if serving with veg. Grilled courgette is a great one to have if you'd prefer something warm to salad - just slice length-ways down the middle of the courgette and cook on a griddle pan for a few minutes on each side. 

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Wednesday, 22 January 2014

bookworm #22


The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wow, no bookworm post since August?! A rather sad sign of how going back to work in September really reduces my reading opportunities - I'm usually so tired by the time I hit the sack, I fall asleep in seconds. Anyway, I'm back in the game and have a few bookworm posts stocked up!

First up, The Color Purple. I mentioned towards the end of last year how I was involved with Rosie's #bloggerbookswap and this was my first read from the lovely Amy. I'd heard lots about this book - it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was later made into a film directed by Steven Spielberg and staring a young Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. The book is written as a series of letters and centers around the main character Celie, who begins by writing to God detailing her life and times. Later in the book, the letters change from being written to God, to Celie's long-lost sister Nettie. In a general sense, this book focuses on the inferior position of Black Americans, sexuality, oppression and hardship - but isn't all doom and gloom. Although detailing very painful moments, it is also uplifting in places and you are really able to connect with Celie, and her troubles. 

Have you read The Color Purple? I've not seen the film, but its definitely on my 'must-see' list! 
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Thursday, 16 January 2014

timeless


Last Saturday, my good pal IRL Kat came to visit for the day - lunch at mine, catching up, doing a bit of outfit snapping and a little mooch around town. After getting right back into Pinterest recently, I have been pinning food inspo which I think prompted me into trying this little concoction; Serrano ham, asparagus tips (lightly cooked in a griddle pan) and poached eggs drizzled with hollandaise sauce.  Delish!

It also gave me a chance to take some snaps of a couple of sale buys - this chunky roll neck jumper from H&M and these tan ASOS boots. The boots were a complete bargain at twenty quid, and the jumper is now even further reduced to an incredible £8! I seriously need to stop buying polo/roll neck jumpers, its getting silly. I'm considering the boots in black though; a small heel, super comfy and versatile... but I also have an inordinate number of black ankle boots, sigh. I've pledged not to do any clothes shopping until the end of Feburary in an attempt to properly start saving for a house deposit - its gonna be a hard one!

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

fragrant


This is one of my Mums old classics - when I moved out a couple of years back we sat down and wrote down all her recipes and top tips, and this is definitely one of my favourites. It's comfort food at its best, but also has great flavours and tastes fresh and delicious. I use creme fraiche and filleted chicken thighs without the skin to reduce the fat content. If you'd prefer, you can use single cream instead of creme fraiche. This time I served it with fresh egg pasta, but you could use regular spaghetti, or we often have it with rice. You can use chicken breasts if preferred. 

You will need: 
Filleted chicken thighs
Creme Fraiche
Coriander (bunch)
Chicken stock
Onion (diced)
Spinach (a large handful or 3 frozen balls)


To start, dice an onion and fry in a pan in a small amount of oil - alternatively, use a handful of frozen chopped onions. Cook for about 5 minutes then add 500ml of chicken stock and bring to the boil. To the stock, add the chicken thighs and spinach. Adding the chicken raw to the stock mixture ensures it maintains all its juices and leaves it tender and succulent. 


Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes, before roughly chopping a good-sized bunch of coriander and adding to the pan. Leave a little aside to garnish when serving. Pop a lid on and leave it to simmer for a further 15 minutes on a medium heat. 


Keep an eye on the chicken and ensure its cooked throughout, flipping the thighs over halfway through. Before serving, add a couple of tablespoons of creme fraiche and stir thoroughly. You will be left with a delicious, fragrant broth and super tasty succulent chicken. Serve with rice or pasta and sprinkle with a little more coriander to garnish. My mouth is watering at the thought! Enjoy.
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Sunday, 12 January 2014

dig a little deeper


The Christmas break is over, and I'm back to work and reality with a bang. Like, a really loud obtrusive one. Ugh. In an attempt to overshadow the stresses of work with fun stuff (see: resolutions!) I have been seeing friends, family and generally eating and drinking more than I should for January. Gym membership is next on my list...

Last Friday night I met all my girls in a local pub - this is fairly rare, we're a tricky bunch to pin down - for wine, dinner and a jolly good catch up. For those interested and in the Hampshire area, it was The White Horse in Otterbourne; perfect for a cosy catch up with good food and atmopshere. Three of us ate at the pub, and coincidentally all went for the same thing - breaded brie wedges to share, followed roasted pumpkin and sage macaroni cheese. A complete cheese-fest! We left feeling suitably stuffed and in a lovely contented, cheese induced daze. 


Before the pub, I had spent the afternoon at Chewton Glen hotel with my Mum getting massaged and pampered. A birthday treat for my Mum, and a lovely little pre-work treat for me - perfect! On Saturday we had the family round for birthday celebrations and I got to see my gorgeous little nephew. I'm still smitten; look at his little smile!


And finally, this weekend we have been celebrating our whopping seven year 'anniversary' (!!) and yet more birthdays with friends - I cooked up a storm with a Camembert and cured meat starter, then my spinach, trout and pesto parcels, followed by Sophie's divine chocolate mousses. I need that recipe! Yesterday, Kat came to visit - but that's a whole post in itself!

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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

work it out


At the end of last week my teacher pal came to visit my hometown of Farnham for an afternoon of eating, drinking and mooching. Just what we needed with the new term just round the corner! For lunch we popped into Lion and Lamb in Farnham - a very sweet little cafe that serves consistently good lunches, has a good specials menu and in the evenings you can BYOB. I plumped for the beetroot, rocket and goats cheese salad and Shelley chose the butternut squash and prosciutto salad - naturally we got some chips to share too! 

After lunch we mooched around town, bought unnecessary hair products from Boots and picked up a honeycomb hot choc from Costa (seriously the best thing ever, like a Crunchie in a cup!) before going back to my house. I tried wearing my hair straight for the first time since the big chop - much easier as my hair is naturally quite straight, but I think I prefer it with a bit of a wave. What do you think? Shelley's (gorgeous) coat is from Zara - I love the colour, fur trim and buckle fastenings! My outfit wasn't nearly as interesting, so I thought I'd let her steal the sartorial limelight for today. 



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Saturday, 4 January 2014

resolutions: taking some time

The new year has begun and it seems de rigueur to start thinking resolutions. I could totally go down the 'eat less, workout more' route - in fact I actually drafted a blog post to this effect, but them remembered how much I love eating. Why would you 'resolve' to stop doing something you enjoy? Seems foolish to me. Yes I will be re-joining the gym and stop having cheese and crackers after meals, but I don't do fad diets. We'll see...

I guess this year my real focus is on well being. Over the past few months work has really got on top of me and has left me feeling stressed, anxious and well, unhappy. I'm not going to lie, I don't really enjoy teaching anymore - but that's a whole post in itself! My goal for this year is to stop work from taking over my life and start to strike a better work/life balance. To me it's fairly basic - the more enjoyment you get from things outside of work, the less emphasis is placed on work itself. When work becomes and be all and end all, its not surprising you get stressed and worn down.

Someone asked me the other day what my hobbies were outside of work/teaching, and I really struggled to come up with an answer. It's like writing a CV - saying 'socialising with friends and reading' sounds more than a little lame. Can't you come up with something better than that?! So this year I want to readdress the balance, and spend time doing things I love. Here's how...


1. take a course
I want to start off by learning some new skills or finding something I enjoy doing. First up I want to take an Indian Head Massage course; something to help me relax and hopefully I will be able to find a friend to come along. My Mum is already trained in several holistic therapies including IHM and she swears by them to help relax and improve her general well being. If you are looking for reasonably priced, day-long courses (or longer) its worth checking out your local FE college. I teach in one, and the Adult Education section has some great options - I've also got my eye on a Stress Management course (!), Furniture Painting and Digital Photography. Why not - you've got nothing to lose, and could gain a new hobby and skills. 


2. join a book club
This is something I've wanted to do for a while! I love reading (check out by bookworm feature) and swapping book recommendations with friends - this would be a great way to meet like minded people and try new reads. Its so easy to stick to a genre, or follow the hype - as a result I've not read some real classics or books that are off the radar. I just need to find a group to join or other folks to start one with! 

Those are the first two goals on my list - I don't see the point in writing hundreds of things as that just won't be achievable. Can you think of anything else I should do?
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Thursday, 2 January 2014

time to relax


Now the festivities are over, and my body is definitely feeling the after effects of overindulging, I am on an end of year relaxation mission! Lots of warm baths, face masks and reading in bed - perfection. For those interested, I've just finished The Color Purple by Alice Walker which I received as part of the #bloggerbookswap from Amy and was really impressed! Have you read it? I'm now on to Philomena by Martin Sixsmith (on which the film was based) which I was given for Christmas. Two chapters in and I'm hooked!

So, where to start. I was given these rather delicious Neal's Yard bath potions for Christmas - so far I've been loving the English Lavender shower gel and am looking forward to using the Seaweed and Arnica foaming bath. It is said to restore those who are overtired; perfect for post-festive partying and the inevitable hangover! 


This past week I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning the house and washing up (all that tasty food don't cook itself!) and my hands are feeling the after effects. This is Absinthe hand cream from The Body Shop is my go-to product at the moment; it smells divine (who'd have thought?!) and leaves my hands hydrated and soft without feeling greasy. Its these little luxuries that put a smile on my face - sad, I know!

And finally, once my body is tended to, on to the face. All the rich food, alcohol and cheese (!!) has left my skin feeling pretty sorry for itself and I've started to break out which is quite rare for me. This Merumaya Luxury Facial Wash* is my first point of call to recharge my skin and get it back to its former self - I also loved their Melting Cleansing Balm. This one is to target blemish-prone skin whilst also holding anti-ageing properties - they say to start young! And to complement this I've also been using an anti-wrinkle eye cream from Vision Direct* before bed. I've discussed my eye issues with you all before and have continued to ensure the skin around my eyes stays hydrated and well looked after. This does the job well!

And if all else fails to help you relax and unwind, try one of these...

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