Monday 30 December 2013

Merry & Bright

Just a few photographs of our Christmas, which began with "fake Christmas" at our house on the Sunday before the official big day. We watched Home Alone and Die Hard, I burned my favourite festive candle and we ate that entire box of salted caramel profiteroles. Marks & Spencer, you are a temptress and I love you.

We then spent five days at my parents' house in Cheshire and it was pretty idyllic. A festive pub crawl around the village pubs, going to pick up the turkey from the local farm that we've been getting it from for the last 30 years or so, preparing the vegetables with my Mum on Christmas Eve (accompanied by plenty of gin) and then the usual Christmas Eve evening spent with good friends at the world's cheapest (and possibly most cheerful) pub. Christmas Day was quiet but lovely, with Boxing Day being much the same. Lots of thoughtful presents, great food, plentiful wine and a couple of bracing walks to enable the consumption of more food.

I'm not back to work until Thursday and I'm relishing each and every moment. Plenty of sleep, plenty more good food (before the wedding diet begins in earnest in January) and lots of sitting down. My favourite. I hope that, whatever you do tomorrow night, you have a great time and that 2014 is spectacular for you all!

Saturday 7 December 2013

Back once again...

So, the six month break was entirely unintentional, I promise. Life got busy and I didn't have time to write. And then I lost the inclination to write. Blogging stopped being a part of my life. I stopped writing, I stopped reading. Then, a few weeks ago I opened up Feedly again and I started to read. And I realised that I missed writing, I missed posting photographs. So here we go. It feels rather strange to be posting a summer's worth of photographs but, if I don't post them now, I never will.

Grillstock in June. Beer, meat, sun. Wonderful.

I threw a little party for my girls back when it was sunny and before this one moved in...

Yep, I live with a boy now. And it's pretty much brilliant in every single way.

We went to London in July and wandered amongst the flowers near St Paul's.

We also took many many photographs in the reflective spherical sculptures nearby.

In September we went to Liverpool and stayed at Hope Street Hotel. In a room with the most magnificent view.

We went to Crosby beach and I took approximately 6 million photographs of the Another Place sculptures.

I made a new friend.

We gazed at the view, drank prosecco and life was marvellous.

We carved some pumpkins. I'll leave you to guess which was mine.

And then?

Well, this happened....

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Hello June!

So, confession time. The food budget challenge? Failed it. Blogging more often? Failed that too. BUT, what I have achieved in the last two weeks is lots of quality time with family, friends and The Soldier. There have been lots of cuddles with babies (two of my friends have recently given birth), an epic 2nd birthday party, lots of lovely food and drinks, some horrendously stressful times at work, lovely sunshine, lots of watching of The Walking Dead and a fair bit of relaxing. I've been cooking more, trying to look after myself a bit more (hello Origins purchases, you have saved my face) and trying to get to bed a bit earlier (but usually failing).

So, June! You've crept up haven't you, you cheeky little minx! I'm using June as a bit of a fresh start to be honest. I've put myself on a spending ban, particularly in relation to beauty products. I have shelves full of unopened products and I think it's high time I started working my way through those, rather than buying the next "miracle" or must have product.

I've also put myself on a takeaway ban. Whilst I've been doing really rather well at eating more healthily, the odd takeaway here and there has crept back in, usually when I'm exhausted from work and just can't bear the thought of preparing a meal. It has to stop though as, without fail, I always feel absolutely disgusting after eating takeaway food. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Aside from those little personal challenges, June is going to be exciting! We're off to Grillstock next weekend, I'm in Belfast the weekend after that for the Game of Thrones exhibition (oh yes) and then we're off to Glastonbury at the end of the month. I've got ten days off work and I intend to savour every single moment of sleep, cider and music-filled joy. Bliss.

Friday 17 May 2013

Five things

Say hello to the new love of my life, my brand spanking new deliciously purple Kanken. I'd been lusting after one of these little beauties for a while, after seeing posts from numerous bloggers, but it was the lovely Bee who finally pushed me into taking the plunge when she posted that there was a cheeky little 15% discount on all Kankens at the moment. And, just between you and me, it's still valid! GO! BUY! LOVE!

I've been staying at my parents' house for the last ten days or so, looking after their dogs while they gallivant around America. Again. Whilst it's nice to take some time away from home and relax in leafy Cheshire, there is one slight issue. I can't so much as look at a piece of food without this little monster plopping herself down in far-too-close proximity and lstaring at me with her beady little puppydog eyes. She's a tiny tyrant.

Neon jumper. Ghostbusters lounge pants. Comfort at its finest. Yes, I just said lounge pants. Let's deal with it and move on.

This cheeky little lobster roll at Neighbourhood made for an extremely decadent Wednesday lunchtime treat. Lobster: Guaranteed to brighten up even the toughest of work days. Add in a cheeky portion of chips and you've got yourself a whole heap of joy.

And now for my giant face! As a card-carrying member of the We Hate Lipstick brigade, I feel I must confess my sins: I bought Rimmel Apocalips in Big Bang and I FLIPPIN' love it. Whilst I will always (always) fear stained teeth and a stained face (I'm a face toucher), I think I can just about cope with it for this little wonder product.

Saturday 11 May 2013

The Great Food Budget Challenge

A few weeks ago Jenn from Much To My Delight posted about the food budget challenge that she was about to undertake. She updated her blog weekly about the challenge and then at the end, with the news that her and her husband's total spend for the month of April was $1,041.57. Yowzer. Now I've suspected for a while that a large percentage of my earnings goes on what I'm eating and drinking but I thought it would be interesting (at least for me!) to actually find out exactly how much I spend. So for the next month (upto 10th June) everything I spend on food and drink (including any nights out and meals out) will be recorded in my nifty little Google Drive spreadsheet. It's no secret that I flippin' love spreadsheets so hopefully this won't turn out to be too arduous a task. Although I do fear I'm going to be absolutely horrified by the amount I've spent at the end of the month. I'll be checking in once a week, on a Saturday, with the rolling total.

This month might not be so typical as I'm actually staying at my parents for the next ten days or so, looking after their dogs. The fridge is pretty well stocked (best parents ever) but there were still a few bits and pieces that I needed (wanted, not needed) to pick up. I bought hot sauce, garlic, cucumber, grapes, chicken tikka pieces, gnocchi, apples, green beans, lemons, green tea, fromage frais, wholemeal bread, carrots, mushy peas and a couple of packets of pasta 'n' sauce (no judgement please, I usually cook from scratch but these are perfect for a quick meal after a long day at work) and that little lot cost me £20.23. Oh food, why must you be so delicious and expensive.

Spreadsheets on a Saturday night. I truly am living the dream. It's a good job there's a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge to counteract my dullness.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Twinings Health Benefits Blend Teas

I'm a huge herbal tea fan. My kitchen cupboards are groaning under the weight of my tea collection and a sizeable amount of my desk at work is filled with packet upon packet of the stuff. When Twinings got in touch with me a while ago (a long while ago as this post is massively delayed, for which I apologise) and offered to send me a few teas from their new range I jumped at the chance. I was sent boxes of Awake, Sleep and Detox tea (there are also Purify, Defence and Digest in the range) and I've been working my way through them ever since.

All the teas are delicious but I think Detox is my favourite. It contains lemon peel and milk thistle and I've been known to sip on this when suffering as a result of too much wine the night before. Miraculously, it actually does help! Sleep contains lavender, camomile and vanilla and, although I'm not normally a camomile tea fan, this is lovely to drink just before bed. I am a troubled sleeper (oh hai work stress) and I'm not entirely convinced that this tea has helped to solve that but it does definitely help me to relax, which is always nice. Awake has hints of ginger and ginseng, with rooibos and cinnamon. Again, I'm not sure that it really does wake me up, but the only thing that ever really manages to do that is a potent combination of sugar free fake Redbull (I am thrifty when it comes to energy drinks as this enables me to buy expensive candles. MAGIC!) and a venti Americano. Double trouble.

Overall I think it's really my failings as a human, rather than the failure of the teas, that result in them not exactly living up to their promises. Despite this, I really love these teas and the other three blends are definitely on my shopping list. Thanks Twinings!

Disclosure: I was sent the samples of tea but received no other compensation for this post

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Five Things

A good three years after I bought them these obscene Topshop leggings are still going strong. I must own at least 20 pairs of printed leggings (they're one of my addictions, along with pizza, dark chocolate peanut butter, ice cold Marlborough sauvignon blanc (my favourite) and really good steak) but these are definitely in the top five.

Frozen raspberries, sliced banana and coconut yoghurt are my new jam. Along with a huge cafetiere of Taylor's Lazy Sunday, obviously. With Glastonbury a mere seven weeks away (and with the need to squeeze into my denim shorts becoming ever more pressing) I'm eating fruit and vegetables like they're going out of fashion. Although I wish someone would tell my skin that as I appear to have become a teenager again.

More rug love. I can't help it, I'm totally smitten. Also, I think it's clear from this photo that I need to add "buying cushions" to my list of addictions. The Soldier constantly fights a losing war against my battalion of cushions.

The weather over the Bank Holiday weekend was absolutely glorious, at least in my little patch of South Manchester. On Monday I slapped some Factor 30 on, poured myself a large iced coffee and sat in my teeny yard in the baking sunshine flipping through issues of Grazia that have been gathering dust on my dining room table. It's quite rare that I actually sit down and read (does reading magazines even count?) but it's something that I definitely need to make more time for.

And here's me! On Saturday night I headed out to dinner with a couple of the girls from work. In honour of me actually being bothered to leave the house for the evening (I'm such a homebody these days) I even straightened my hair and wore super high heels. Shocking. It's been a while since I wore anything other than Converse or boots so my calves didn't know what had hit them the next day. Poor things.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Currently loving...

1 & 2 - I was sent this beautiful bag by Joules and I'm absolutely in love with it. From the little rabbit (hare?) on the front to the bright pink wrist strap to the gorgeous lining to the buttery soft leather, it's just lovely. I don't really own many "grown up" handbags, despite my advancing years, so this is a welcome addition to my wardrobe and it's already had a fair few outings.

3 - I treated myself to this candle after a few very stressful weeks at work. Working so close to Space.NK is very bad for my bank balance! Diptyque candles are expensive, this is well documented, but I really don't think they can be beaten for strength of fragrance. Verveine is a gorgeous lemon scent that fills the house with fruity joy.

4 - I love all things ginger. Eating it, drinking it, smelling of it. This was a freebie with my last Origins order and I'll definitely be repurchasing it. It's gingery without being overpowering and I just love it.

5 - THAT Urban Outfitters rug that every blogger seems to have. It's a new addition to my living room and it really adds a little je ne sais quoi to the space. I have completely white walls throughout my house (bar a bright pink one in the spare room that my lodger of last year painted) so I like to add little bursts of pattern and colour wherever I can.

6 - NEON. I love it. That little pink number was a Topshop sale purchase and the yellow jumper was a pretaportobello sale purchase. Reduced neon makes my heart sing.

Monday 6 May 2013

Dog Bowl, Manchester

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to head down to the newly opened Dog Bowl for some food and a game of bowling. I hadn't been bowling since I was about 14 so I was pretty flippin' excited to say the least. Unfortunately that excitement waned when, mid-game, it became apparent just how horrific I was at it. It didn't really help that The Soldier turned out to be really rather good. Competitive is my middle name and there may have been a slight huff when I was roundly trounced. Believe me, you don't ever want to play a board game with me. Still, it was fun. Really fun. And I LOVED the shoes. I'd wear those bad boys out, given half a chance.

So, what was the food like? Well, I've actually hesitated to write this post as I really don't like to be critical of places, particularly when I'm not even paying, BUT, it just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. Certain aspects of the meal were great (the fries, the cocktails, the onion rings) but other things unfortunately overshadowed them. For a start, my food was lukewarm when it arrived, which is always unfortunate. I went for the Wing Burger (£8) and, whilst I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, I wasn't expecting only 2 small boneless chicken wings, a LOT of tomato and a massive (slightly stale) bun. The ratio of chicken to everything else was completely off and I ended up leaving the majority of the bun and the salad. The chicken wings were lovely but, at £8, this did feel massively overpriced. Plus, from the menu description, I'd been kind of hoping for lashings of buffalo sauce and some crumbled blue cheese, but these didn't appear. Instead the blue cheese and hot sauce had seemingly been combined into one sauce, which didn't really taste strongly of either.

The Soldier went for the The DB Burger, as there had been such a good write up of it on Manchester Confidential. The burger looked impressive when it arrived, speared by a steak knife, but unfortunately there was no sign of the "sauce and juices that pour from this delight" and, aside from the pulled pork, it was rather... dry. Again, the sweet potato fries were great though. In fact, I think they might be the best sweet potato fries I've ever had. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and very moreish. Again, we did feel that the burger was slightly overpriced. If I'm going to pay £15 for a burger then I want it to be the best burger I've ever eaten and unfortunately this wasn't.

Having read other reviews of Dog Bowl, I do wonder whether we just had the misfortune of ordering badly. But, at the prices being charged, it shouldn't really be possible to order badly.

The interior of Dog Bowl is really nicely done. The decor and lighting are great and the bar area is very smart. The little touches are also really nice, including the salt and pepper shakers in the form of tiny little bowling pins. We would go back to Dog Bowl but I think we'd concentrate on the bowling, cocktails and other areas of the menu, as there are far better (and cheaper) burgers to be had in Manchester.

The DB Burger, sans onion ring topper
The Wing Burger

Disclosure: Soldier boy and I were guests of Dog Bowl, as organised by Manchester Confidential