Friday, 28 November 2014

FIVE FOR FRIDAY #5

 
These posts seem to come around WAY too quickly. Everything seems to come and go way too quickly at the moment - I cannot get over the fact it is 1st December on Monday. OFFICIALLY Christmas countdown territory!

This week has been a hectic one. Every week feels like a hectic one. I kinda need some sleep! But this won't be happening as I'm heading up to Sheffield for a long overdue catch up with one of my best buds and an old work colleague. I'm very excited as a massive chunk of my heart was left in Sheffield pre-travelling and I love an excuse to head back, reminisce about my university days there and leave feeling like I've gone back in time.

This week's FFF:

Opportunities - As 2014 is drawing to a close, 2015 looks set to be a bloody exciting year. Work-wise I am incredibly excited and it's most definitely going to be a lot of fun. I'm heading over to Milan for a work event in February which is my first overseas one with my company and I'm a bit giddy. Not only are things on the cards work wise but I am starting to set my sights on a few other ventures that aren't exactly set in stone yet but I feel like my drive is through the roof right now - such a nice feeling after living in limbo for a while.

A girly day and night with my best friend - On the Saturday just gone I had a really lovely day. My best friend and I had decided to get tattoos. We had a lovely lunch with two of the girls before heading to the tattoo place and left very happy customers. That evening we went to a Yankee Candle party hosted by one of her neighbours (a bit like a tuppaware party but delicious, so-good-you-could-eat-them candles). We had a lot of fun and I ended up staying over after a few glasses of rose went down a little too easily. It was so nice to have an almost unplanned day of time together!

Black Coconut Yankee Candle - I couldn't write this weeks FFF without mentioning this heavenly scent. The Yankee Candle party was lethal for our bank balances; we all spent way more that intended (or necessary!) and ended up with gift sets, candle holders, heart decorations (they were selling quirky little gifts, jewellery, cards etc too). This candle though - WOW! I've always been a Black Cherry kinda girl but seriously, this is a game changer. I've had it lit every night since Sunday and it seems to seriously relax me before bed (...or from 7pm post-gym when I decide to put my pyjamas on). Last week I was all about the Muji Elderflower Candle tin, this week (and possibly forever/until I buy the Mulled Wine scented candle I've been eyeying up) it's all about Black Coconut.

Hunger Games - Mockingjay Part 1 - I weirdly became obsessed with the Hunger Games films earlier this year while I was in Australia. I'm yet to read the books (on my to do list - which is about 100 pages long!) and I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and saw it in the cinema but didn't actually watch Catching Fire until April this year when I was in Sydney. I was engrossed and when it ended, I felt like I had to watch it again. Straight away. So, as you can expect, I was really eager to see this film in the cinema.  As expected, the film was BRILLIANT. I wanted to watch it again straight after - get yourself to the cinema!!

My new Chelsea Boots - I am very, very fussy when it comes to shoes (I do work in the Footwear Industry, after all!) so when I set about to find the pair of Chelsea Boots, it was not an easy task. I am desperate from some brogue-style Chelsea boots but the pair I am obsessing over are mostly these or a beautiful Crockett and Jones pair. SO I stumbled across these Clarks beauties, completely by chance when I accidentally walked in the wrong shop on Oxford Street (it was very busy, I was getting irritable and darted in the first shop near me!) For as long as I can remember my Parents have been trying to persuade me to go and buy shoes from Clarks. I was completely against the idea until this last 12 months where they seem have really upped their game, especially working with the likes of Orla Kiely. I haven't taken their Mariella Busby Chelsea Boots off ALL WEEK. The leather is beautifully soft, the soles are certainly going to be long lasting ones (I'm incredibly heavy on shoes and tend to need most pairs of boots or well-heeled shoes re-heeling at some point!) and they are just really bloody comfortable! So if, like me, you've always turned your nose up at Clarks shoes, seriously don't. They have some really great stuff in at the moment and with this colder weather rearing it's ugly head you'll thank me for this little snippet of information for some beautiful, reasonably priced boots that will last you a few years at least!

What are your weekly loves and happy things?

xo

Thursday, 27 November 2014

THINKING: Thankful and Happy Thanksgiving!


Does anybody else ALWAYS think of this whenever they think of Thanksgiving? Possibly my favourite Friends episode EVER.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL OF MY LOVELY READERS ACROSS THE POND!

I love the idea of Thanksgiving and really wish we had something similar in the UK. As you know from some of my Let's Talk posts, I like to be reflective every now and then. I am a big believer in not forgetting the little things because, day to day, it's so hard to sometimes not focus on the bigger picture and remember that bigger picture is built up of so many smaller, important factors that we should appreciate and be thankful for.

BAKED: Triple Chocolate Loaf


Say hello to the best and worst thing that could happen to you - a triple chocolate dream. Amazing for the taste buds, potentially terrible for your waist! I actually had to leave 3/4 of this at work so I didn't devour the whole thing - my colleagues certainly weren't complaining!

You've seen the photo - I'm not going to bang on about how good it is. Can you hear the slice at the top calling your name yet?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

COOKED: Prawn Saganaki

When I popped this little beaut up on Instagram, I was inundated with comments/messages/text from people asking me when this would be up on my blog. The good news for my patient friends wanting to whip this up - it is SO simple and an inexpensive dish to throw together in a hurry. I made enough to serve three-four (depending on portion size) so I could have some for lunch the following day and fresh a portion for later on in the week.

I've been a huge fan of Greek food for years. We regularly visited the country when I was younger and I've had a craving recently to pay it a long overdue visit (mostly for the food and the beautiful scenery). I've tweaked this recipe with a bit of coconut oil (to suit what I'm doing diet-wise at the moment) and a bit of onion - you don't have to do this but it worked nicely for me.

As I said, this dish is so simple, full of flavour, packed with a little bit of spice and fairly healthy too - even better!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

ATE AT: Tom's Kitchen, Chelsea


Weekends, for me, mean food. Mostly breakfast... I LOVE eating out at new places as it is but when it's breakfast in Chelsea, well, that gets me a little overexcited.

I've recently started spending a lot of time in London because of work and various friends have moved/live down there so it gives me a good excuse to venture down and try some new places.

I've heard a lot about Tom's Kitchen (all good!) so thought it would be rude not to take the opportunity of a free weekend to venture to Chelsea for a lovely Sunday walk with a hearty breakfast beforehand.



There are several Tom's Kitchen's dotted about London and there's even one in Istanbul (which I will one day find an excuse to go to!) so you're spoilt for choice really.

We had a 10.30 reservation, which isn't too early on a Sunday but the streets of Chelsea appeared deserted and, upon entering TK, we realised why. Everybody else had obviously heard the same good things and had an ventured out for a spot of Sunday breakfast (or maybe brunch as well - weekend brunch begins from 11.30am).

Despite the fact I'm a fry-up kinda girl, I'm a little granola obsessed at the moment. I say obsessed, I mean really obsessed. I could eat it for every meal...

I opted for their INCREDIBLE homemade granola. No exaggeration. It was like an amazing version of Crunchy Nut granola full of oats, pecans and raisins - served with natural yoghurt and honey.


I also had a fruit salad as I was craving some morning goodness.


You know I'm a tad over enthusiastic about breakfast but seriously, LOOK AT IT. Delicious!


It truly is the nicest granola I have ever tasted and I even tried to recreate it at the weekend. Genuinely though, they need to sell it by the bucket load because I would not get fed up of breakfasting on that nutty goodness everyday!

Every meal I saw dished out looked beautiful - from the croissants to the full English.

I can assure you - you will not regret a visit to Tom's Kitchen.

I'm already looking forward to many more breakfasts (and brunches!) to come.



 


xo

Monday, 24 November 2014

Let's Talk: Living In Limbo and How Things Turned Around


I've been very fortunate since returning from travelling that I've seriously landed on my feet - despite a few 'situations', shall we say, I seriously have.

I got back, had a couple of weeks of 'OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE'-related panic then landed a temp job. Temp jobs are fairly easy to come by anyway I guess but I applied, got a phone call within the hour and was asked to start on the Monday. Temp jobs often aren't fun - this certainly wasn't. It was monotonous data entry with a bit of product quality testing thrown in, hardly a role that would allow the day to fly by and I was constantly hungry, sat at a desk with my headphones in; minutes felt like hours, that kinda thing.

That ended and I wasn't entirely sure what to do. At that point, I was with my now-ex and planning to move in with him but was 100% determined I didn't want a 'convenient' job; I wanted THE job - the one that challenged me, the one that would be the start of my career and the one that would get me where I wanted to be. Although I wasn't exactly sure where this imagined destination was but I felt like my next job had all the answers.

I went to a few interviews, told each time that I couldn't be given any negative feedback and they were impressed, but alas, wasn't offered the jobs. Why? You bloody tell me! But you know what, I'm big believer in things happening for a reason - albeit a reason we don't get yet - but a reason all the same. My dad has always said that quite often things are out of our own control and sometimes we just have to go with the flow but something good will be around the corner. However, the inner cynic in me struggles with that sometimes.

Obviously the knockbacks, although not really knockbacks, made me feel pretty terrible because I felt like nobody would give me a chance, I still carried on applying for jobs. By this point, I had finally accepted that my relationship wasn't making me happy, a feeling I'd had for a while but I just didn't want to admit it to myself (although, here's an example of me 'coming along' as a person - pre-travelling I would have let this drag out for another 6 months-several years) so I felt at a loss. Plain and simple I thought, what the fuck am I doing? I'm 23, I'm unhappy, I feel incompetent and I need to get my shit together. I went travelling to escape, to run away from unhappy feelings and as much as I hate even saying this - by running away, I found the things that made me happy and I knew what I wanted (not necessarily in terms of life but I had a lot of self-re-evaluation) and I promised myself I would start being a bit more selfish. I'd be a better version of the person I was beginning to dislike. Pre-travelling I felt weak, miserable and I'd lost my 'muchness' (according to the people that knew me - I've never had much confidence in myself as it is) but anyway, I promised myself that I wouldn't do things I didn't want to do, I wouldn't be in situations that didn't make me happy. I would have more of a 'fuck it' mentality. So, that's what I did. The deeply buried confidence in me came out, I kept writing, practised yoga like it was going out of fashion and I just carried on (note: at this point I hadn't sacked off my relationship because well, I had a lot of other things in my head and kinda played an avoidance tactic by hiding at my parents house).

I then got an email from a job I'd applied for at M&S in marketing. I knew already that my lack of marketing degree would go against me and I pretty much went back to meltdown mode. I lay on the bench in my garden, crying to my mum about how worthless I was (seriously, this woman is amazing - she never gives up on me!) I cried, a lot and couldn't even follow my own coping tactics that usually help. I then got a call completely out of the blue from a recruitment company. A lovely lady (aka my employment saviour) told me she had seen my CV online, saw that I blogged and told me she had the perfect job for me. 'They all say that', I thought but the more she told me, the more I liked what I heard - Milan, travel, blogging, social media - this did sound exactly what I wanted. Problem was, I was mid-breakdown and I had to go in that afternoon (a two hour car journey, bearing in mind I was makeupless, stressed out and in no fit state to be interviewed - plus, I couldn't even prepare). 'They can only see you today and I honestly know they will love you', she said. My Parents both told me they thought this was a sign; this was the good thing to come when everything else felt pretty tragic. By this point I had already sacked off the M&S interview and I thought, I can't let my own lack of confidence get me for the rest of my life. I told her if she could bide me three hours to get ready and get down there, that I'd be on my way.


I hopped in the shower, frantically got ready and had my Mum reading through the website to me to try and help me prepare. This was the job and I couldn't even get prepared for it. The demons in my head told me it was pointless but I did it anyway. My gut feeling told me this was meant to be, and you know how I feel about trusting your gut instincts.

I arrived and sat in that board room, wondering what the hell I was doing but as we spoke, it was everything she had described and at that point, I saw the start of things to come. I realise this all sounds ridiculously cheesey but things like this don't happen to me and I was (still am!) amazed by this opportunity.

Long story short (although a long story...), within three hours I had been in floods of tears, got my shit together, whizzed down the M1 to be interviewed and been offered the job. Almost three months on I can honestly say I am happy and I am at the start of good things to come. Life doesn't run smoothly, I know but I feel completely in control of my own life now (also, a week after starting the job and still unhappy with my relationship, I ended it and moved in with my parents for a few weeks before finding a place to rent - just so you know the full story)

I'm looking forward to the future and it looks pretty darn good. I've eliminated the negativity from my life in many ways and I'm actually proud of how far I've come in this sense. I don't know where I'll end up, what I'll be doing or whether things will work out but I feel like I was given a break; this happened for a reason - good or bad.

I'm writing this, not to gloat - please don't mistake it for that. My life isn't even slightly perfect. I'm writing this to tell you, I've felt helpless and lost, like my life is stuck (way more than the once!) but I'm telling you - don't lose hope. Good things will be around the corner even if you can't seem them or believe that yet.

Don't give up hope or talk yourself out of things, sometimes you need to just go for it even if a slight opportunity arises. It might not even be right but you can't let worry, self doubt or negativity restrict you all the time (I can preach this because I used to and now I have a much healthier mind!)

5 and a half months ago I had no idea what I was doing (and most days I probably still don't) but fate will be on your side and I'm writing this to show you that although you might not be even slightly close to where you want to be, one day out of the blue, someone or something might give you that break that you need to believe in yourself, to stop living in limbo and to start you on that path to getting your shit together.

xo

Saturday, 22 November 2014

ATE AT: Owen's Food Store, Muswell Hill


Whenever I venture to London for a weekend, many of you will know (especially any instagram followers) that I love to venture out and try different restaurants. Nothing excites me more than a breakfast or brunch outing either! 

Becoming my regular go-to breakfast on a lazy Sunday is Owen's Food Store in Muswell Hill.

Not only do they have a most lovely section of organic and health foods - from grains to jams, meat to cheese - they also have a fabulous little cafe/restaurant.

I've only been for breakfast but the lunch menu also looks great (as does every plate I have seen dished out!) I always opt for their gorgeous natural yoghurt with grated apple, almonds and honey. It's a delicious, healthy AND filling way to start the day.

So next time you're thinking about heading out for breakfast (brunch or lunch!) venture to Muswell Hill - you'll avoid the crowds, pay reasonably for  delicious meal, be greeted by lovely staff and if I'm honest, will probably end up finding some gems to take home with you from their store.

xo 


Friday, 21 November 2014

FIVE FOR FRIDAY #4

 
This week has been a bit of a write off really as I've been suffering with a bad cold so been plodding about at work then pretty much home, dinner, a bit of reading and bed. The week has absolutely flown though and I'm happy it's almost the weekend again!

This weeks FFF:

Weekend excitement - I'm heading home for the weekend for a quiet and relaxing one. Despite relaxed evenings this week, I feel like I'm really burning myself out at the moment. Last weekend was fun but so busy. It will be nice to have some time at home to bake and cook, see my family and friends. I'm also having my sixth tattoo on Saturday, which I'm quite excited about (but still worryingly undecided!)

Foodie Fun - I've had a great foodie week since my last FFF. I spent the last weekend in London and A LOT of eating out was involved. I visited Bar Esteban in Crouch End for tapas, Ham Holy Burger in John Lewis on Oxford Street for, you guessed it, a burger, Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea for the most amazing granola and fruit salad breakfast, Pizza Pilgrims for an incredible Portobello Mushroom and Truffle Oil treat and my favourite granola and grated apple breakfast at Muswell Hill's Owen's Food Store - I will be blogging about all of these over the next week so prepare yourselves for some mouthwatering photographs.

Christmas Shopping - I set a monthly goal for November to start my Christmas shopping and I've been thoroughly enjoying it. I've bought a couple of bits but I've been loving window shopping and finding the perfect presents for my loved ones. I definitely enjoy giving gifts to people and seeing their excitement more than receiving them (hard to believe with my multiple Christmas gift lists, I know!)

Taylor Swift - 1989 - I have had a massive love and appreciation for TS for years now. Now she's released her new album and my love for her is through the roof. She seriously writes the best lyrics and speaks exactly what so many of us feel. New Romantics has become my newly assigned life anthem and I love Blank Space as well. My colleagues are probably loving (note: wanting to kill me) this week as I've had 1989 on a loop in my office right through the week.

Muji Elderflower Candle Tin - I started shopping in Muji back when I was in college. They had a lovely little store in Nottingham (is it still there?) and I was obsessed with their stationary. They also had my absolute favourite candle - which I now forget the name of and never replaced, more fool me! It was a pinky/purple colour and smelt amazing - I went in the other day, praying they would still have said candle but alas, no longer stocked. I spent a good 20 minutes talking to the lovely shop assistant who recommended a few of his favourites and I finally decided on the Elderflower candle, we thought it was a great 'any time' candle, suitable for any room of the house as well.

xo

Thursday, 20 November 2014

COOKED: Lentil and Bean Chilli


I don't eat a lot of meat (mostly fish or veggie dishes) so I'm now even more consciously doing so - replacing the nutrients meat provides with other things - such as lentils and beans.


This dish is quick and easy to make, delicious and I've cooked it using coconut oil and agave nectar. It's one of those great dishes, especially for me, as they are pantry staples. I can always whip this up without going to the shops for the ingredients making it very convenient.

All you need for 2-3 servings:

1 tin of kidney beans
1 cup red lentils (I didn't really measure it out but roughly a cup)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 garlic clove, crushed (or two if they're small)
1/4 fresh red chilli, diced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp coconut oil
Cracked Black Pepper, to season
Pink Himalayan Salt, to season

To serve:

2 tbsp crème fraiche or natural /soy yoghurt
1/2 avocado

Let's get started...

1. Heat up a frying pan on a medium heat with a teaspoon of coconut oil thrown in

2. Once the coconut oil has melted, throw in your diced onions.

3. After a minute, reduce the heat to allow the onions to soften without burning.

4. After three or four minutes, throw in your garlic and fresh red chilli and stir.

5. Once your onions have softened, add your chopped tomatoes

6. Allow the tomatoes to simmer for a few minutes before adding your lentils.

7. Next stir in your chilli powder, dried chilli flakes, paprika, cinnamon, soy, salt and pepper - stir every so often but allow to simmer for around 10 minutes so the flavours can combine

8. Once the tomatoes have reduced, add the puree and agave


9. Throw in your kidney beans and allow everything to simmer until the kidney beans have softened (make sure you lentils have softened too!)

10. Service up with a half sliced avo and some crème fraiche - natural yoghurt works fine too.






I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and it really is simple. You can make it in bulk, save a bit for the following day or freeze it (I'd say up to two months is fine)

xo

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

VISITED: Christmas at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire


Chatsworth House brings back so many happy memories for me. I've been going on days out in Derbyshire with my Parents since I was little and, even into my (almost) mid-twenties, we try and get out into Derbyshire whenever we can. We go to Chatsworth Country Fair every year towards the end of Summer and it's always a great event - but let's face it, any event thrown by Chatsworth tends to be a good'un.

I was invited to attend the opening day of the Christmas decorations within the house and it could not have been a more perfect theme - Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - my absolute favourite children's book and in the most beautiful setting. I adore this story for many reasons (mostly the Cheshire Cat and the various theories on the hidden meaning intended by Carroll), to the extent that I even studied it as part of my dissertation. Chatsworth House is absolutely beautiful, with the vast greenery surrounding it (not just the grounds but the Peak District in general!) and the stunning interior - including sculptures, grand staircases and many styles of paintings. I am biased about it's beauty but a small chunk of my heart will always be nestled in Chatsworth.

I can't say it was the nicest day to be going there - it rained from the moment we woke up...



But we certainly weren't going to let a bit of wet weather dampen our spirits.



I was already excited but when I saw the baubled Rabbit Hole entrance...I was pretty much like a child in a sweet shop.



This was one of my favourite little details (and we hadn't even gone 'down the rabbit hole' yet)


I couldn't wait any longer...we ventured in.

Catching sight of the white rabbit..


Before entering a hallway filled with book pages - from Dickens to Shakespeare (I had a peak) - the effort that had gone into decorating this room was impressive.


Decorated for Christmas, this room had such beautiful and original detail with the wooden panelling, marble floors and painted detail...


Even the ceiling is spectacular..


I was certainly more happy to be there than I look (I am just terribly unphotogenic!)




The LED lights cannot be appreciated simply from a photograph. This was one of my favourite rooms - surrounding it, many of the originals paintings belonging to the Duke and Duchess.



We went out into another hallway...


And discovered the 'dressing room'. It's safe to say that a while was spent here...








Thankfully a sign led us in the right direction (and encouraged my parents to stop handing me different outfits to put on!)



Thankfully, we arrived just in time for the tea party...



I cannot get enough of this beautiful staircase - only a small part of the houses' beauty.






Apart from the twinkly caterpillar, this room was undoubtedly my favourite.

I thought the banner quotes were a lovely touch as well.



Curiouser and curiouser, we ventured further... 






Another part of the house I absolutely adore - the library...





I can't help but think that possibly some of JK Rowling's inspiration for the decor of Hogwarts came from stately homes like Chatsworth...with our without the Cheshire Cat (this could be Crookshanks after all...)
I've now imposed a rule on my parents house - multiple real trees each year - I love the smell! 




My Dad was most disappointed the tarts had been stolen (he claims he had walked around so much at this point he was ready for a snack!)




 

Possibly the closest I am ever going to come to having my own throne...


I was very impressed and was informed it was much nicer than last year's theme (which I unfortunately missed as I was living in Australia still at that point!) 

There is something magical about Chatsworth and the magic of Christmas heightened that for me during this visit. I left feeling like I truly had been down the rabbit hole and on a little whirlwind adventure into my favourite children's book. I don't think I've felt this Christmassy for years either and I am so happy that November onwards has now become an acceptable time for the exciting Christmas build up to begin.

We bid farewell to Chatsworth yet again...



And what until you see my London posts - I went on a little adventure this weekend and saw ALL of the Christmas decorations - it was dreamy!

xo