Friday, 30 May 2014

close the door


As I write this, the rain is hammering down outside and I'm dreaming of warmer days. What happened to the 20+ degrees we had a week or so ago? Sigh. For me there is nothing better than getting outside in the sunshine and exploring the towns, cities and (even better) countryside around where we live. 

For us, we are constantly struggling with the battle of wanting to save money (for a house/mortgage/deposit etc) but also wanting to have a life and enjoy our weekends. You know the one, right? It's so frustrating and although doesn't always stop us from doing things we want to do, can still make us feel guilty for splashing the cash unnecessarily. The perfect outcome = fun days out that don't cost the earth, which is where this post comes in.

In the past year we have really started to perfect the art of the road trip. Now that might be to another city a couple of hours away (did you see my post on our little trip to Bath?), or simply jumping in the car and going to visit more local scenes. We live in Surrey and are lucky enough to be surrounded by lots of beautiful countryside, pubs and other such loveliness. Be it going for a mooch around Waverley Abbey just down the road from us, exploring Arundel Castle, visiting a country pub, or driving somewhere different for a walk over the downs. Obviously going for a pub lunch is gonna cost a bit more than a country walk, but you've got to pick your weekends. A gorgeous sunny day may call for a long walk followed by a quick stint in a beer garden, whereas a miserable rainy Sunday is made for a cosy afternoon in a pub with comfort food. Choose your battles!

If you decide to go further afield, here are my top tips for a comfortable, fun and safe road trip!

- Snacks; the key to any successful outing. It's easy to stock up on choccie buttons and sweets, but don't forget to pack some fruit and water to keep you refreshed and hydrated. Gawd, when did I become all sensible and middle-aged?! Don't make my mistake and eat a whole bag of salted popcorn and forget to bring a drink!

- Tunes. Now, if me and Rich go on a road trip it can be tricky to find something to listen to we both agree on! On my playlist at the moment - Sam Smith: In The Lonely Hour, Banks: London, Beyonce: Beyonce, Alt J: An Awesome Wave. If you are on a long trip, good music is essential!

- Handsfree Kit. I don't like going for any drive without my phone plugged into my handsfree kit* - making it easy (and legal) to answer calls when driving and not have to compromise on safety. I was asked to be a safety and security tester for Tesco Compare and have been really impressed with the TomTom kit; easy to use, great quality of sound and no-fuss set up. Spot on!

- Know where you're going. As much as fun as being free and spontaneous sounds, it never works out as such! You don't want to be driving around unnecessarily for hours trying to find parking, a pub or somewhere fun-looking, so plan ahead and do your research. Find out how much attractions cost to visit - are there any discount codes online? Do they have any special rates? What is a must-see, and what do others suggest you should avoid? Make the most of those two short days we get each week!

What are your top tips for living for the weekend - be it road trips or local, low-cost exploring? 

Collaborative post
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Thursday, 29 May 2014

kitchen shortcuts #1



Introducing the first part in my Kitchen Shortcuts mini series - giving you some ideas and hints that should make cooking a whole lot easier! If you have any great tips, leave a comment, I'd love to hear them!

First up - freezing herbs. I often buy bunches of herbs (such as coriander, parsley, basil) that I use in my cooking, but am always left with some leftover which I don't get round to using. I really hate waste, especially now the cost of food is so high, so needed to find a way of preserving and saving the rest. After a little google I quickly realised I wasn't the one and stumbled upon a whole load of ways to keep herbs for longer - and it couldn't be easier!

First, pull the leaves off the stalks. With some herbs, like coriander, its perfectly fine to eat the stalks but for the sake of storage break off the leaves and finely chop. Discard the stalks. Push a bunch into each compartment of an ice cube tray, and top up with a little water. Pop in the freezer and you have yourself ready-to-use herbs for cooking! I love using these when making my coriander chicken - making a simple supper even simpler!

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

go figure


The first time I tried a moussaka was on a flight to Canada - needless to say, it wasn't the finest of introductions! Since then, however, it has worked its way into my recipe book of classics. I first made this recipe about a year ago but wanted to share it with y'all again, seeing as its so tasty and all that!

You can find the recipe here

A few things to keep in mind - first, a moussaka is a labour of love... it aint a quick meal to through together! I save this for an afternoon where I don't have much on, so I can make it in plenty of time for dinner. It takes about an hour to do all the prep (the four stages; aubergines, potatoes, mince, and bechamel sauce) and then about thirty minutes to cook in the oven. 

Second, you'll need a nice deep dish. I like this round ceramic casserole dish (TK Maxx) - the round shape makes it perfect for the circular shape of the aubergines and potatoes. Its a bit like a lasagne, where you stack all the layers up. The aubergines and potatoes are obviously thicker than the pasta sheets you use in a lasagne though, so you'll need something suitably deep. 

And finally, much like lasagne, moussaka isn't a looker. Once served it doesn't look particularly attractive but I can guarantee you it tastes a million times better than you'd expect! The bechamel sauce sets like a fourth firm layer, delicious.

Best of all - as this has everything hidden away inside it, you only need to serve with steamed green veg. We usually go for tenderstem or purple sprouting brocolli. Enjoy!

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Sunday, 18 May 2014

starting the summer


Just a few outfit details from this weekend, which was largely spent gardening and then chilling in the sunshine in our much tidier garden! Today we had friends round for our first BBQ of the summer, and soaked up the rays surrounded by good food and company. Bliss!

Jeans Topshop (yes, another pair of boyfriend jeans!)
Sandals Zara
Top H&M

These sandals aren't the most practical of shoes as they slip off quite easily, but I love the asymmetric design and flash of white. The top is part of H&Ms Natural Collection, and is sized really weirdly - I'm usually an 8/10 on top but had to buy this in a 12 as it was super tight on the bottom. Its a bit silky which isn't ideal in the heat, but I love it nonetheless! 

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Friday, 16 May 2014

re-routing


Top Topshop
Jeans Topshop

Anyone else done with skinny jeans? Maybe that's a slight exaggeration; I just crave slouchy, comfortable jeans at the weekend, and my Topshop Joni's just aint doing it for me! Last weekend I picked up these Hayden boyfriend jeans from Topshop, and they are completely filling the brief - faded, slouchy, and oh-so-comfortable. Granted, I look a bit like an 80s throw-back (or Kurt Cobain according to Kat, ta love!) or arty-type, but I love them. I think they look kinda funky with my newest pair of clogs, but also love them with flat sandals or Converse. 

Amen for boyfriends...or their style at least!

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Sunday, 11 May 2014

bookworm #26


The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

After reading Me Before You early last year (wow, time flies), I couldn't wait to get my hands on another of Moyes' offerings. I can't believe it's taken me this long! 

Now, if you saw either of my Victoria Hislop reviews (this or this) you may know that I am a big fan of books with a bit of history. This plot is kinda similar to both the Hislop novels actually, as it tells two stories - one in the present and one in the past. It starts by telling the story of Sophie Lefevre who, in France in the early 1900's, has her portrait painted by artist and husband Edward Lefevre. WW1 commences, her husband is sent to war, her life turns upside-down - and her painting falls into the hands of a German kommandant. Meanwhile, in the present day, Liv Halston becomes embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over the provenance and ownership of The Girl You Left Behind - a painting given to her by her late husband as a wedding gift. 

As you can imagine the two stories weave together, bringing the past forward to the present, and raising issues of stolen works of art during the war. Doesn't sound particularly thrilling, I know, but woven with a good couple of love stories and great characters - its a winner. It's the perfect beach book being an easy read but completely gripping and thought-provoking. 
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Monday, 5 May 2014

back in the game


H&M Running Tights  Nike Free Runs  Stella for Adidas Sports Bag  H&M Sports Bra  Bobble Water Bottle

Confession: I love buying gym stuff. Be it sports bras (I wish it was socially acceptable to wear these all the time), leggings or another pair of trainers, I'm hooked. Cos buying stuff for the gym doesn't count right? That's what I'll be telling my overdraft...

Is it sad to admit that buying new gym gear makes me more motivated to go? Gwaaaan, don't deny you've not thought the same!
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