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Monday, 31 March 2014

taking time to appreciate - 1

In the past few months, I've found myself reading more and more lifestyle blogs and less and less of the usual fashion and beauty blogs I used to lose hours on.  Don't get me wrong, I still love a good outfit post, and every week I seem to be emptying my purse in Boots due to a beauty bloggers rave review, but lifestyle blogs have got me hooked!

Two in particular deserve a little credit.  The first is Sallytangle, in fact, I've mentioned her blog so many times on this space that I may as well dedicate a whole page to her.  The second is Cider with Rosie.  Both of these ladies seem to take much more time to admire every day life than I do.  Sally regularly has me dreaming about exciting porridge toppings, and suddenly noticing an impressively bright blue sky.  And Rosie makes me want to take the time to set up beautifully styled photographs, and while away hours just enjoying the simple things on Pinterest.

But one thing both of these lovely ladies do is appreciate, and feeling inspired by Rosie's '10 things that've made me happy this week' posts, and Sally's 'Wonderful Wednesday's', I've decided to take a leaf out of their books, and spend a little more time to notice things around me I usually take for granted.  
So here we go, starting this week...

1. Flowers - I've never been the type of girl who loves receiving a bouquet of flowers, but after the boy returned home a couple of week's ago with a surprise bunch, I've really started to enjoy them.  Our living room looks much more inviting and homely with a vase filled with bright blooms on the fireplace.  And since then, the vase has never been empty.  My favourites so far have definitely been the yellow and white chrysanthemums,  and there's just something about yellow flowers I love.  They certainly brighten a dull day.

2. Baking - I've well and truly discovered my inner Mary Berry.  You may have noticed by the regular recipe posts that have been appearing on this little space of late. I've always enjoyed baking, but recently, I've been making it a priority.  I love to hear what people think of my latest delight, and it's always nice to know there's some home baked treats in the pantry.  It's not so good for the healthy living I'm trying to implement though.

3. Nieces (and nephews) - I had to take a day off work last week to help look after my 15 month old niece.  She's at the age where she can really make me laugh, and I just love to spend time with her.  Plus now that she's learnt to say my name, makes me feel super special.  I have two nieces, and a new nephew (he only arrived three weeks ago, so I haven't had much time to enjoy him properly yet) but being an aunty is just such a lovely gift. 

4.  The boy - our lives seem to be so chaotic these days that although we do see a lot of each other, we don't seem to spend our days the way we used too.  When we lived in London, our Saturday's would regularly involve a wander round the park, a drink in the pub, and a quick dash round Tesco to buy ingredients for an exciting meal that night.  Nowadays, we spend less time on the tube, but since owning our own home, having family just around the corner, and the convenience of a car, weekends doing nothing have become a thing of the past.  It's the reason we moved home, and we love it.  But I definitely look forward more and more to the time we get to spend together just doing 'nothing', and prioritising time just for us.

I'd like to make this post a more regular feature on this blog, and so if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, there's a high likelihood you'll be seeing more pictures of flowers, food (that's not surprising!) and you never know, sooner or later, I may be taking time out to take a quick snap of the sky.

Friday, 28 March 2014

philly cheesecake brownies

If you read this post, you will know that I had a little affair with some chocolate brownies of late.  But when they taste THIS good, it's difficult not to go back for seconds...and thirds.

So for the next of my 'baking' posts, I'm bringing you Philadelphia's very own 'Philly Cheesecake Brownies' and boy, were they good.

They were SO good, I just used the word 'boy' as an exclamation, yes, I'm a little ashamed too.

Ingredients (for 12)
125 g butter
125 g dark chocolate, chopped
200 g brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
50 g plain flour, sifted
50 g cocoa powder
0.25 tsp baking powder
200 g Philadelphia Light
50 g caster sugar

1. Combine butter, chocolate and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from heat and whisk in eggs.
2. Add flour, cocoa, and baking powder and stir until well combined. Pour into a greased and lined 18cm x 28cm rectangular tin.
3. Beat Philly and caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Spoon randomly over chocolate mixture and swirl with the tip of a knife. Bake at 180 ºC, 350 ºF, Gas Mark 4 for 35 - 40 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool before slicing.

And I can honestly say, this recipe is EASY, looks like you've spent hours slaving over the stove, and taste Ah-may-zing! 

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

house of fraser - true fit technology

In the words of my two year old niece, 'I got a new coat, I got a new coat'. 
Obviously, this beautiful coat speaks for itself, but what's even better is, I ordered it using House of Fraser's new True Fit Technology.  I'm sure you're all probably thinking, what is that, I know I was when they contacted me asking if I'd be interested in giving it a go.  But honestly, it is a god send!

The theory behind it is that many of us do our shopping, never really knowing which size we should be ordering.  It's a problem I have on a regular basis because I tend to switch between a size 10 or 12 depending on the brand.  

Anyway, House of Fraser have put together this new feature which means you tell it a little bit of information about yourself, your size, height, weight, bra size etc.  And I mean a 'little', it literally took me 5 minutes to tell it everything it needed to know.  For example, I've probably got an average stomach and a slightly on the flat side bum (should have kept up those squats!).  Give it a couple of seconds and it generates your 'True Fit' Profile.

You can then take it a step further if you want, and input further detail.  For example, I know I tend to be a size 10 at Warehouse, however at Oasis, I tend to be a 12 (damn you Oasis!), so I can tell it all this, if I'm size 16 in Therapy jeans, and a size 6 (keep dreaming!) at Yumi, then I can tell it all that.


And why I have my eye on something and it's looking likely I may 'add to basket' it gives me a little help in the right direction.  So for example, I'm thinking about making a cheeky little Warehouse purchase, but I'm at my desk at work, and can't decide if I usually take a 10 or tells me what TrueFit thinks.

Look, here it is doing the hard work for me:

One click, step, and a few quid lighter the item arrives at my door and I'm confident it's going to fit.

And that is the story of this coat, and isn't it just perfect?

Coat* - Warehouse via House of Fraser
Jeans - River Island
T-Shirt - too old for me to remember
Sunglasses - Thailand 'Ray Bans'
Boots - Miss Selfridge

And if you're kinda confused, because I'm rubbish at explaining things...this video explains it all:

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

a healthy life - week 11

What's happened this week? Well, an Indian takeaway is what's happened.  Chicken passanda, peshwari naan plus poppadoms and chutneys is what happened to be entirely precise.

Which has resulted in a half a pound weight gain.  I know the Indian takeaway isn't entirely to blame, but with a calorie content that is pretty much off the scale, it's got to be a contributing factor.

In addition to that, I don't think my arse has moved from a stationery position during the whole week, on top of that I may have made a rather large Lemon and Blueberry Cake, with a high sugar content, so it's not surprising that the scales have gone up rather than down.

I'm not going to let myself be too concerned about it though, in the grand scheme of things, what's half a pound? There's a high chance after a good day yesterday and today, that I've lost it again.

What I need to focus on is ensuring that when I have these 'hiccups', I quickly get back on it.  Sunday, the boy and I went for a long walk to attempt to override a portion (probably a 20th) of said takeaway, but I then swiftly followed it with a vanilla milkshake.  So all in all, it's been a bad week.

But like I said, I am back ON IT! Yesterday was a good day, mainly consisting of vegetables.  Today has been another good day, porridge for breakfast, salad for lunch and a yet to be consumed egg based tea.

I have a day running around after my 20month old  niece, which will no doubt burn a week's worth of calories, and I have a bridesmaid dress fitting on Friday so I'm determined to have lost that little measly half a pound by then.
I'm feeling motivated, and this week I'm being inspired by Rosie.  Check out her blog if you're not already.  This crazy lady has given up refined sugar for lent...she has more willpower than me! But she's also posting her progress, from healthy smoothie recipes to guilt-free treats, and something I could learn a little bit from..her exercise regime.  It's Rosie I turn to at the moment to give me a kick up the bum, just wish it would kick me into action to actually get up and move said bum.

Monday, 24 March 2014

it's all about...the wrinkles

At least, that's what it feels like at the moment!

If you follow me on Twitter (you're not? why not!) then you may have noticed I've been venting some frustration lately, largely due to the lines that are fast appearing on my forehead.

Now, I don't know if it's because I'm getting married next year, or because I'm growing out my fringe so all of a sudden, my forehead which was previously hidden, is now glaringly obvious, but I have become completely fixated on my wrinkles.

I'm sure many of you think I'm being irrational, my mum does, but I can't stop obsessing over them.  My first concern is that I'm only 28 and I'm sure I should still have flawless skin, right? I regularly compare my forehead to other people's (yeah I know that sounds weird) and try to work out how old they are, and how their wrinkles compare to mine.  9 times out of 10, mine are worse, and they're older than me.

It's getting to a point where I'm spending more and more money on products, and more and more time catching sight of my reflection and spending in-ordinate amounts of time worrying about it.  Which quite frankly, if you've seen my 'worried' face, definitely isn't helping.

So I thought I'd turn to my readers for help and advice.  My main concern, as you can see by this beautifully highlighted picture, is my forehead, and the area between my eyes.  The wrinkles on my forehead look like deep river valleys to me, and I'm sure make me look much older than my years.  Then I have what looks like a slight scar between my eyebrows, it's not a scar, I've never had anything like a spot or cut that would cause that, and it's driving me mad.  

I recently purchased Estee Lauder's Night Repair Cream, and L'Oreal's Revitalift Classic for Deep Set Wrinkles, as recommended by Stylist, and will stick with these for now.  In fact, L'oreal claim you will see a difference in a few weeks, so I may do a comparison post soon.

But I'm deliberating over some acupuncture facials.  I went to a local beauty salon for advice, and was recommended one of their top treatments.  However at £45 a pop, and a suggested 6-10 treatments, with ideally one a week, my heart and my credit card broke a little.  I can't bring myself to justify that expenditure without really knowing if it's going to have any effect.  

And, I've been eyeing up botox treatments...I'm getting desperate.

So, what I really want to know is, can any of you recommend anything that REALLY works, shall I fork out over £400 plus on facials, or is there some high street magic that will do the trick?  

With a wedding 14 months away, I'm ready to put in the hard work.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

stylist's trend on trial, trialled: orange lips

When Stylist drops through my letterbox on a Thursday, I nervously pick it up , then hurriedly flick through to find that week's Trend on Trial, inevitably it is then met with a 'Oh....ok', and I spend the week trying to decide how exactly I'm going to pull off that look.
This week, however, was different.  Orange lips!  A look that is in fact, not uncommon on myself, particularly when the sun is out, and my skin is a nice shade of bronze, rather than pasty white as it is at the moment.

So I set to, teamed with MAC's Morange, and Revlon's Lip Butter in Tutti Frutti I knew this was going to be a Trend on Trial I enjoyed.

I first purchased Morange several years ago after seeing a blogger wearing it...sorry I have no idea which blogger it was, I stumbled across her randomly one day, and have never managed to re-locate her since, but I can still picture the image of her sporting that orange lip.  I quickly made it my mission to rock that look myself, and have never looked back since.

I'm now the proud owner of several products in a various shades of tangerine, satsuma...and well, orange, and I'm sure my collection is not going to end there.  Like the Stylist ladies, I love this look, it radiates confidence like a bold red lip does, however it's much more cheeky and playful.

However, I do have one but, and really I think to completely pull this off, a tan is essential.  Given that I'm a deathly shade of translucent white at the moment, I'll be popping this back in the drawer until there's a hint of a tint, and a holiday on the horizon. 

What do you think? Is Orange the new black red?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

mary berry's victoria sponge cake

Now I realise I've been filling these posts of late with my 'healthy living' lifestyle updates, weight loss news, and motivational tips.  However, I still enjoy my baking.  But now, I just bake for other people, I get to sample a slice (or two) and then let them enjoy the rest.

Now I had a real baking triumph last week, I have even surprised myself at how good it was.  And I've got to say, it's all down to Mary Berry.  My dad swears by her Victoria Sponge recipe, and he makes a damn good cake.  So I thought I'd follow suit, and give it a go.  And it was, by far, one of THE BEST cakes I have ever made!

225g Soft Butter
225g Caster Sugar
225g Self-Raising Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
4 Large Eggs

About 4 Tbsp Raspberry or Strawberry Jam
A little Caster Sugar
75g (ish) Softened Butter
75g (ish) Icing Sugar
A Splash of Milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 4. Cut 2 greaseproof paper circles, grease the sandwich tins with butter and put the circles inside. Grease the circles.

2. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl, then add the caster sugar, self-raising flour and baking powder. Crack the eggs one at a time and then add to the bowl.

3. Using the electric mixer on slow speed, beat for 2 minutes until smooth. The mixture will be soft enough to drop off the beaters when you lift them up.

4. Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins and level the surfaces with a palette knife or spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes.

5. The cakes are ready when they are risen and pale golden. The tops should spring back when lightly pressed. Cool for about 2 minutes; loosen the edges with a knife.

6. Push the cased out of the tins on their bases, invert them and remove the bases. Cool the cakes the right way up on a rack. Soften the jam with a palette knife.

(I then made a butter cream icing to also layer between the two cakes, Mary doesn't suggest it, but I just think it adds a nice bit of moisture to the cake.  I don't generally follow a recipe for butter cream, a bit of softened butter, icing sugar mixed in and a splash of milk...taste, then add any of the above)

7. When the cakes are cold, remove the lining papers and invert one cake layer onto a plate. Spread with jam, put the other layer on top and sprinkle with caster sugar.

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