Thursday, 26 February 2015

lighter and brighter



Two images from H&M

With the mornings brighter, the evenings getting longer (I'm pretty sure it was light until almost 6pm today, it's practically summer!) and the temperatures reaching balmy double figures I am feeling positively Spring-like. Yes, I know the mercury might only be hitting ten or eleven celsius for some of us this week, but it beats the frosty mornings and chilly air. I'm throwing open the curtains in the morning and if I'm really lucky and am blessed with an early finish at work, I can get home to see the last moments of daylight. I really do live for the summer! All this light, bright weather has got me thinking about getting more light into our little home.

Linen curtains H&M
Copper lampshade Asda
Glass vase H&M
Metal pot H&M
Hanging planter Etsy
Mirror H&M
Candle Ikea

Light, bright linens on our bed and over the windows to let in optimum rays - I love these linen curtains for their rustic, homely feel. No nasty voile curtains for us, please. I'm currently obsessing over the idea of a VELUX roof window or sun tunnel to help bring even more light into our home after seeing my parents newly renovated garage. Dreamy! But for now... reducing clutter, using glass and other light, transparent materials and bringing a bit of nature into our home via some indoor plans will do just fine. I feel like I'll have made it in life when I can say I have a VELUX window in my bedroom! Just imagine the light...


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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

pan asian noodles


I love me a bit of Pan Asian cuisine. Wagamama and Dim T are two of my go-to chains if I fancy some noodles, ramen or rice and I've been keen to recreate something equally as tasty at home. I love to cook with the fresh, fragrant flavours of Asia - no heavy oil or deep frying needed! 

I've adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals book and merged with a couple of other recipes, it's so simple to throw together and really packs a punch flavour-wise. Here I've used chicken and prawns but we also have it with salmon, and Jamie Oliver's original recipe uses steak. Take your pick! 

You will need (for 2)
Dried egg noodles for two
3 chicken breasts
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Handful of prawns
1 tsp ginger paste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 red chilli, diced
3 spring onions, sliced
4 mushrooms, sliced
Juice of half a lime
Handful coriander, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce (reduced salt)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 pak choi

Start by coating your chicken in sesame seeds before frying a little oil or Fry Light. If you're using salmon, pop it in some foil and in the oven for about 20 minutes until cooked through. Rub a little five spice on if you fancy! Into the chicken throw in the garlic, ginger paste (I use this), chopped coriander, chilli, spring onions and mushrooms and the lime juice. Cook all together on a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. 

In a separate pan cook your noodles in boiling water according to pack instructions. 

Add the soy sauce and hoisin sauce to the chicken and vegetables, stir through and then throw in your prawns (I use frozen cooked prawns, defrosted in a bowl of water) and pak choi. Leave to cook on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the pak choi has softened and prawns have turned pink and opaque. Drain the cooked noodles and stir into the pan with the chicken and sauce. Drizzle on a little more soy sauce if you think it needs it. Serve in warm bowls with another squeeze of lime juice.

Most of Jamie's 15 minute meals seem to take me far longer than 15 minutes to cook, but this really doesn't take long at all! There are a load of shortcuts you can take to ensure you have these ingredients ready to use after a busy day at work: ginger paste, frozen chopped chillis and garlic, freezing your own coriander cubes or this frozen coriander. I buy my frozen prawns from Lidl (around £2 something) which I keep in the freezer and just grab a handful when I need them. 

Slimming World syn values - 
Hoisin sauce - 2 syns per tablespoon (4 syns total)
Remember to split the syns between servings!

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Monday, 23 February 2015

fitbit one


2015 is the year I get in shape. The first step I took was starting Slimming World, which you may have seen me talking about in previous posts and on my twitter and instagram - stay tuned this week for my first post on how I'm getting on. But of course, healthy eating should always be combined with an active lifestyle. Being a teacher means I am on my feet most of the day, but the heavy workload also means I don't have as much time to workout as I'd like. I've been trying to find ways of monitoring my fitness, so when I was asked to review the Fit Bit One I jumped at the chance. 

This handy little gadget claims to help you both get fit and sleep better, all in one teeny tiny device. For me, sleeping is really important. There are two things which just send me over the egde - a lack of sleep, and a lack of food. Like many people my stressful job means my sleep can often be disrupted, meaning I wake up feeling tired and agitated. The first thing the FitBit One helps you to understand is the quality of your sleep - pop it into the wristband provided and whilst you're sleeping it does all the hard work. 

I find the data (which syncs to your laptop or phone) so fascinating! It tells you how many times you woke up and how long you slept for in total, allowing you to get a better understanding of your sleep patterns. Mind blowing stuff! Not only does it measure your sleep, but it also measures what you do in daytime hours. A little like a pedometer, this clips to your clothes and measures the number of steps you take, stairs climbed etc, giving you an idea of how active you are and how many calories you burn daily. As it's so small, it is totally discreet - you can even pop it in your bra! 

For me, the FitBit One helps me understand my body. I never thought I did much exercise in the day - how wrong I was! I love checking out how many miles I walk each day, and using the online tools I can record a load of other stuff such as what I eat, drink and when I workout. So far, I'm super impressed. This year I am determined to slim down and develop my fitness - this is really helping me understand how I need to go about doing that. What a clever little thing!

Disclaimer: I was gifted the FitBit One for review purposes on behalf of LV = Love Life. You can see their top ten smart fitness tech here. All views still my own. 

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Thursday, 19 February 2015

selma


This week is half term, which means I have been able to have a life again. Hallelujah! Yes, that has meant hiding my marking out of sight and showing new levels of procrastination... but I'll worry about that later. On Tuesday evening Rich and I went to our local Vue to see the highly acclaimed Selma. That's right - a film that isn't 50 Shades. Shocking, I know. For those of you who don't know, Selma is a historical drama set in the 1960s, focussing on Dr Martin Luther King and his campaign for civil rights in America. The film starts with him accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, and goes on to show the group's battle with the American presidency regarding voting rights. The film shows the Selma to Montgomery marches and the horrific police brutality - there are no words. 

Should you go and see it? Yes. I was completely blown away by this film. I am particularly interested in the Civil Rights Movement and this time period, and found myself submerged in the politics and angst. A must see. 

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

berry beautiful


If, like me, you are on a health kick and trying to save a few calories here and there, pancake day is a little bit terrifying! I mean, who can resist all those chocolaty, sugary discs of loveliness? Yeh, painful. Good news folks - there is an answer. After seeing these 'no bloat' pancakes on Kat's blog I knew I needed to try them. No flour, sugar or naughties in sight - just bananas and egg. And no, I've not missed anything! After a bit of internet exploring I've found these on Rosie's page, where you can find deets on the how-to. 

For now, just ogle over how delish these look. I've topped with mixed berries and fat-free yoghurt... and an obligatory drizzle of maple syrup. The best news? Minimal guilt, maximum satisfaction. 

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Monday, 16 February 2015

mardi gras


In case you missed the memo; it's pancake day tomorrow. More traditionally known as Shrove Tuesday, it comes the day before Lent begins in the Christian calendar, the day we are supposed to feast ourselves before forty days of self-denial. 'Fat Tuesday' (or Mardi Gras as it's more commonly known) is my kind of day - despite not having a religious bone in my body, its one of the few religious festivals I choose to celebrate... along with Christmas and Easter. You may note a common theme: food and gluttony. Oops.

History bit done, lets get cracking. We all know our favourite sweet pancake recipes - mine's a simple lemon and sugar offering if you were wondering - but I wanted to share with you a recipe for savoury pancakes. Before you satisfy your sweet tooth, how about some creamy chicken, pancetta and spinach pancakes? It's Fat Tuesday afterall... go hard or go home. 

This is a Delicious Magazine recipe (I was lucky enough to be given a subscription for Christmas this year, hooray!), and is oh-so-tasty, oh-so-easy. Buy ready-made pancakes to make this even easier, or just double up on your batter mixture. 

Find the recipe here.

Tip: I found using ready-made pancakes didn't roll very well and split, next time I'd use my own. 

Serve with a side salad - a little squeeze of balsamic glaze helps to cut through the richness of the pancakes. 

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Friday, 6 February 2015

blackout

...kinda.

I don't know about you but in this miserable weather, I just want to wear black. I'm in mourning for the summer! As much as I love the cosiness of winter - the snuggling up at home and the zero-guilt comfort food - I'm sorta over it. Once Christmas is done with and the weather gets even colder, I just crave the summer. Bring me the warm days and light evenings!

So in these last couple of months of chilly, gloomy weather (it'll be done by Easter, right?) I will be mostly embracing this dark hue, whilst it's still acceptable. As they say, I'll stop wearing black when they invent a darker colour. 

Roll Neck Jumper River Island
Faux Leather Skirt Topshop
Oversized Cardigan Esprit
Ankle Boots H&M

I bought this River Island roll neck jumper on a whim just before Christmas, it's jersey material unlike the other knitted roll necks I own which means its super versatile. I love wearing it under dresses and other jumpers, adding another layer of warmth! Everything looks better with a roll neck. This oversized cardi is great for injecting a little bit of variation on the black theme. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm on board with oversize cardigans making a come back - I loved a cardi back in the day, but not sure if they've had their day. This, this and this are tempting me, though! 

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

devonshire apple cake


Mary Berry's Devonshire Apple Cake
Makes 16 squares 

You will need: 
450g / 1lb cooking apples (or there abouts)
350g / 12oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
350g / 12oz caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp almond essence
225g / 8oz butter, melted
Flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C / Gas 4. Grease a 12 x 9 traybake tin and line with parchment.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Measure the flour, baking powder and sugar into a large bowl. Beat the eggs together with the almond extract and stir into the flour with the melted butter. Whisk, then spread half the mixture into the baking tin. Arrange the apples over the cake mixture before carefully topping with the rest of the mixture. Sprinkle over the almonds and bake for about an hour, or until the cake is golden, firm to the touch and a knife comes out clean. Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and remove the parchment. This is best served warm with cream or ice cream, but is equally yummy at room temperature. 

I made this last weekend and was super impressed with how easy it was, and how blimmin' tasty it is! No, it's not diet-friendly (... apples are healthy though, right?) but it sure is worth the cals. 

Taken from Mary Berry's Baking Bible

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Sunday, 1 February 2015

February moments

image from Pinterest
Mornin'! I just wanted to pop a few words down and say hello - it's been a while! As always, work is all-consuming at the moment but February has lots to offer. Here are a few things I will be doing over the coming weeks...

Counting down 'til half term! As always, I'm living for the teacher holidays. This one will be spent re-grouping, catching up with friends and my gorgeous nephews. And breathe! That said, I'm finding the weeks are flying by this year. We've got lots of look forward to in the coming 12 months, so in one sense the pace is good, but I'm conscious of not wishing my life away! 

Getting ready for a Counselling course in March. I've applied to start a introductory counselling course at the Adult Education centre attached to the college where I teach, not only to add another string to my professional bow, but to develop some of my interpersonal skills. When people ask me for advice a panic comes over me - what should I say? What do they want to hear? This is obviously more a concern in teaching as you are always under pressure to 'get it right' and I guess this anxiety has filtered through to my personal life. I love working with young people, and am hoping this course will give me a better understanding of the issues they face and how to best address them. 

Getting (further) stuck into Slimming World! So far so good, but my biggest problem is weekends... when it all goes to pot. This month I am going to try and document my eating more, and hopefully share some of my experiences on here - is that something you'd want to read about? I'm enjoying trying out new recipes, but also adapting our firm favourites to make them SW-friendly. The good news is that Rich has barely noticed our meals have changed!

Planning for adventure. Exactly a year from now my life will get very exciting as I embark on a four month sabbatical. More to come on that this month - but our plans involve SE Asia, backpacks and a map. Stay tuned!

The plank challenge. After seeing loads on FB and Twitter etc, I've decided to take on my very own plank challenge! So far I can do 45 secs - 1 minute without too much pain, and have been doing three sets of these each day. I'm hoping to increase this by 10 seconds each week. Firm abs, you will be mine!

And today? Well sadly that will mostly involve attacking a huge pile of marking, but in between I am going to be using up some of my Christmas baking ingredients and throwing a few bakes together. Sadly, I can't really enjoy the fruits of my labour but I know colleagues will! 
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