Lifestyle: V-day & Long Distance Relationships

I was never a huge fan of Valentine’s day. In fact, I’m still not. Do we really need a particular date to tell our partners how we feel?! Does it need to be the fourteenth of Feb for me to get flowers? Nope. However the real reason I’m not a fan of V-day is that, being in a long-distance relationship, I really, really, really don’t want to see cute couples, lovey-dovey cards or be reminded that yet again a Skype date will have to do.

 photo Valentines in an LDR_zps1kc1t4b0.jpgFor new readers of the blog, W and I have been long-distance since the start of university in 2012 having gotten together at the age of 16 – and whilst we haven’t been too far apart, it isn’t the easiest of situations. Luckily Valentine’s 2016 falls not only on a weekend, but on a planned visit weekend too – we’re attending a wedding on the Saturday so have a hotel booked and (weather dependent) a countryside walk planned.

As we’re managing to see each other we’ve decided not to do gifts this year (though I’m far too excited for another fiancé card!), but here’s a few little ideas of how to spend Valentine’s when in an LDR…

Skype Date

Ah, the ol’Skype date. We try and Skype once a week anyway, but on certain occasions we’ll try and make it a bit more special. Maybe have dinner ‘together’ or really make the effort to make sure we’re not skyping whilst studying or (ahem) blogging…
 photo 2016-02-01 15.16.45_zpshjmp1sdw.jpg photo 2016-02-01 15.16.25_zpszf0mcbxq.jpg

Flowers by Post*

Contradicting myself here! I love receiving flowers (or indeed, treating myself) however I’m not the biggest fan of “Valentine’s flowers.” Luckily Blossoming Gifts have a pretty decent range of ‘Flowers by Post‘ – unfortunately my bouquet this time arrived a little bit battered, but I’ve had some fab ones in the past. I found once I removed the daises from this boquet it looked a lot better – and actually the carnations are still going strong 10 days later. I know I’d be super happy to receive a bunch of flowers in the post at any time – just having fresh flowers around really brightens my mood and puts a smile on my face!

As a special treat, use the code BGIFTS33 to get an excellent 33% off a bouquet. This does have a few exclusions (including the bouquet I ordered) however if you fancy upholding tradition there’s a multitude of red-rose bunches to choose from.
 photo 2016-02-06 23.02.13_zpsnvtqnxuz.jpg photo 2016-02-06 23.02.32_zpsm53cffhg.jpg

“Galentine’s” Night

One of the best ways to cheer me up when I’m feeling a little lonely is to spend time with friends. Sure, they aren’t quite as cuddly as W, but a girls night in definitely makes me smile. Grab a bottle of wine, shove on Mean Girls and you have my perfect Valentine’s right there!

Last Saturday, feeling a bit worse for wear, we treated ourselves to a couple of tubs of Häagen-Dazs*, got the blankets on the sofas and binge-watched Ex on the Beach. The Chocolate Salted Caramel flavour is divine!
 photo 2015-05-31 15.30.43_zpsdyvil4l7.jpg photo 2016-02-02 18.51.17_zpsaa93ydqu.jpg photo 2016-01-13 15.14.08_zpsf0bsnez1.jpg

Treat Yourself

If all else fails, Valentine’s is the perfect time to have a quiet evening pampering yourself. Light some candles, pull out your favourite products, grab some magazines and a cheeky bar of chocolate. I’ve been loving using a combination of Soap & Glory’s Breakfast Scrub and Lush’s Argan body conditioner for a really luxurious shower. I’ve also been mixing up pampering evenings with a little light wedding ‘planning’ (i.e. dress dreaming). Definitely helps with final year stress…

So, Valentine’s in an LDR can be okay – just ignore any soppiness, hand-holding and PDAs around you…

Are you a fan of V-day? How are you spending it this year?

Lifestyle: The Diet Reboot

Whilst this post might have been better-timed a few weeks ago, when everyone was all fired up for the #NewYearNewMe, annual January fitness regimes etc, I wanted to hold off. I wanted to time to try out my new cookbooks, actually play around with some ingredients. In short, actually practice what I preach…

 photo The Diet Reboot_zpsbm0mx5qh.jpgI’m not currently trying to lose any weight, not really. I didn’t put on any over Christmas and my skinny jeans still fit. Instead I want to beat the bloating issue I have going on, tone up and generally feel a little healthier. I’d noticed my diet slipping towards the end of the year and quickly was back into a not-so-good gastro cycle. I knew it was time to sort it out pronto!

And so it was back to a higher-fat diet, less of the carbs, more of the protein and fibre. Sounds much less exciting, right?!

 photo The Diet Reboot 1_zpsge10szru.jpgI do like eating ‘clean’ though, more so than even I realise. I try to stick to the 80:20 rule, treating myself every so often (usually when W is with me – living together is going to be a huge test of my willpower!). Even so I was getting stuck for healthy recipe ideas. Courgetti is all well and good, but I was getting into a routine and just knew I’d be whacking out the Mac’n’Cheese if I didn’t mix it up. Amazon Prime came to the rescue though, and I was able to order a huge stack of cookbooks and ingredients to arrive the very next day. Oh how I love next-day delivery!
 photo The Diet Reboot 7_zpsfdivdehw.jpg photo The Diet Reboot 8_zpsm4jmh3sj.jpg

Jamie’s Everyday Superfood

This was the book that reallllyyyy tempted brought me to break my cookbook-buying-ban of 2015 (I made it until December!). In all honest whilst the styling is absolutely gorgeous, most of the recipes and ingredients are just a little too inaccessible on a student budget. That said – the magic poached eggs are some of the yummiest things. This was the recipe that taught me the easiest way of poaching eggs (see here for my egg guide!) and adding fresh chilli is pure genius.

Hemsley Hemsley: The Art of Eating Well

This was top on my cookbook-wishlist, and it hasn’t disappointed. It’s full of colourful and healthy sound recipes – even picking it up for a read tempts me to make ‘good’ choices. I love the idea of thinking more about what I eat, eating cleaner and healthier. I’ve also been trying to follow the principle of “something raw with every meal” which this book has helped with perfectly – the Bacon, Red Cabbage and Pecan salad is divine!
 photo The Diet Reboot 3_zpswjavghiy.jpg

Infuser Water Bottle

I really do struggle to drink enough water – tea is my drink of choice thank you very much. I quite often will fail to get through even the smallest bottle of water in a whole day up on campus, so I hoped this would turn me around. It has improved my water intake, I’m tending to get through two of these a day which is such a significant improvement. The downside? It’s a bugger to wash, and my bladder won’t last through a fifty minute lecture…

Raw Cacao Powder

I’ve been after some of this stuff for months, and was really struggling to find some for a decent price. Turns out there’s a huge range of ingredients over on Amazon which are perfect for my healthy eating kick. This is great; high in protein, bags of flavour and it tastes so rich and chocolatey. Yum!
 photo The Diet Reboot 5_zpsppkbrqpj.jpg photo The Diet Reboot 6_zps5x7zzpez.jpg

Deliciously Ella (Books 1 & 2)

I was umm-ing and ahh-ing about the first book, mainly cos I’m as far away from a vegan as you can get. I mean, two of my favourite hastags on Instagram are #burgerporn and #yolkporn…I ended up getting Deliciously Ella for Christmas, so the Everyday Eating was first on my New Year New Me Amazon Wishlist. I love the fact that you definitely don’t need to be vegan to be hugely tempted by Ella’s recipes. In fact she advises using some of them as sides to meat or fish. And the breakfast ideas?! Heaven!
 photo 2016-01-26 08.21.56_zpswz320a2n.jpg

Chia Seeds

One of my favourite ingredients, I love adding these to porridge for an extra boost. They have such a lovely, creamy texture and keep me full all morning. I also love using them to make instant ‘jam,’ but the real reason I ordered these? To finally give making energy balls a go. Something about them still really, really doesn’t appeal to me, but right now I think they are what I need. I often find myself a little shaky come 4pm so I reckon these are the perfect pick-me-up snack. We shall see!

Amazon Student was definitely a life-saver when it came to making a split-decision to clean up my eating. If you haven’t heard of Amazon Student, it’s discounted Amazon Prime for students. For just £39 (with a free six-month trial too!) you get access to Prime Video, Prime Music, and my favourite… next day delivery. Thanks to Amazon Student my bits and bobs were with me next day, and having ordered so much over the last few months I now know roughly when my order will turn up on any given day (embarrassing right?!). I’ll certainly be sorry when my student status ends come summer!

*Post in collaboration with Amazon

Are you an Amazon fan? What are your favourite ‘clean eating’ ingredients?

Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

With everyone doing ‘veganary’ and the usual ‘new year new me’ this recipe perhaps is a little out of place right now. However I’m a very big believer in the 80:20 rule – so a slice of cake is by no means out of the question. In fact, a life without cake is not a life I’d want to lead. Especially when said cake is this one, complete with peanut butter frosting…

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 5_zps8vxkg5c4.jpgSpeaking of the frosting, this stuff is divine. Like, squeeze the icing bag straight into my mouth yummy. (I definitely didn’t do that). It’s creamy, sweet with a salty kick, and has just a hint of the cloyiness that peanut butter gives. It’s also super easy to make, no more hassle than a standard buttercream. And it’s just YUM.

The cake is also pretty good. Based on a super simple recipe I shared ages ago (that I won’t link – the pictures are horrific) it’s rich, almost brownie-like, and chocolately without being heavy. The perfect partner for the frosting.

 photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription1_zpsugydvttx.jpg photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription2_zpseicsqrim.jpg photo Bake Box Monthly Subscription4_zpswtvihmra.jpgSharing this cake (which almost knocks my favourite peanut butter cake off top spot!) also coincides with a rather exciting time – the launch of bi-monthly Bake Boxes*. I’ve never been one for subscription boxes, turns out I was super-excited to open this one. For £14.99 per box you get at least £40 worth of bits and bobs; definitely worth it in my opinion. I loved the style of the box, though it’s debatable how much the theme of ‘Spots and Stripes’ was reflected in all the items. Even so I reckon a subscription would be the perfect gift for a keen baker. I’m very tempted to carry on with mine!

Fun fact: this post was meant to be a bundt cake made with the item in the box. This was an epic fail due to the cake sticking dramatically – so bundt cake recipe still to come!

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 1_zps7unbxpb5.jpgIngredients

  • 3 eggs
  • Self-raising flour
  • Cocoa powder
  • Butter
  • Sugar
  • For the frosting: 225g smooth peanut butter, 110g butter, 225g icing sugar, splash of milk

For the cake, the weight of the ingredients depend on the weight of the eggs. Simply weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out that amount of flour, butter and sugar. Pop around 75g of the flour back and replace with cocoa powder, and spoon back a tablespoon of sugar.

Start the cake by creaming your butter and sugar together. I always find it easier to beat the butter a little first, and of course doing it by hand means calories burnt = more cake later. Beat in the eggs one by one, before sifting in the flour and cocoa. Thin out with a little milk, then smooth into greased/lined sandwich tins and bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes.

Once the cake is completely cool, make the frosting. Simply beat the peanut butter and butter together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar, beating inbetween each addition. Add a splash of milk to make it a spreadable consistency, then use to sandwich the cakes together and smooth over the top.

Or get your fiancé to show off his piping skills…

 photo Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting 4_zpsamiisl7s.jpgThis is pretty much my perfect cake – easy and quick to make, no fancy ingredients. And there’s no better combination that chocolate and peanut butter! In fact this would make the perfect Valentine’s bake…

Are you a fan of the chocolate-peanut butter combo? Would you be interested in a baking subscription box?

Fashion: Clothes I Forgot I Had

I never meant to have two wardrobes, but it’s a luxury I’ve been taking advantage of for a good couple of years. I simply have far too many clothes to take to/from university, so I split my wardrobe in half. The massive upside of this is that I can go home and refresh my look without spending anything. The downside – I occasionally forget what I have any buy what are virtually duplicates.

But everyone needs 20 white shirts, right?!

When I went home for my Christmas holidays (which seem SO long ago now!) I was rather limited for suitcase space, having had to pack notes in one case and a small overnight bag of clothes for my weekend away. I ended up having to rely on my ‘second’ wardrobe over my four weeks at home, rediscovering some pieces I wish I hadn’t forgotten about, as well as some I wish I had!
 photo Clothes I Forgot I Had 1_zpsnw6dguwv.jpg

The Cheap Skirt & Expensive Boots

This was a look I relied on a lot over Christmas, whenever I had to go out for something remotely more than a nip to the shops. Casual coffee with friends? Yep. Will’s birthday meal? Outfit sorted! I’d completely forgetten that I owned this skirt, despite having owned it for a good five years. I picked it up in Primark for £2 (!) as something to wear on one of mine and W’s earliest dates, and it’s still going strong. Admittedly it’s far too big right now, but with a jumper tucked in and my pretttyyyyy (and hellishly uncomfortable) ankle boots on it looks a lot better than a Primark cheapie!
 photo LBD_zpsglfgsmg7.jpg

The Classic LBD

Oh, my perfect LBD! How I wish I had received this lovely little black dress after I’d lost weight, as it is a bit bulky now. That said it was a key piece in my wardrobe over my holidays as it was so easy to throw on. I love it simply belted with a pair of patterned tights.

4 Billion Pairs of Plain Black Tights

These were a complete Godsend of a find! I spent a week up in W’s uni flat and it was freezinggggg for the first couple of days. The very first day I sat studying in five pairs of socks and gloves and was still more than a little grumpy when I eventually got instructions on how to turn on the heaters from the boys. Tights saved my legs from frostbite – I love layering pairs to make them warmer, or throwing a pair under jeans to stay toasty. Can never have enough tights!
 photo Clothes I Forgot I Had 7_zpsqmlagrgc.jpg

The Jumper Dress

I love a good jumper dress, and when stressing about what to wear for NYE I’m so glad this (quite literally) fell on my head. A beautiful plum colour, flattering fit without being too flashy (I was catering a dinner party for 14 so needed something comfortable – and easy to change into ten minutes before guest arrived). I reckon this even make the cut into my suitcase back to university.

The Glittery Nail Polishes

With a second wardrobe comes a second (and third, and fourth…) makeup bag. Admittedly I have far too much makeup, but leaving my glittery nail polishes behind was a conscious decision on my return to university. I knew I wouldn’t wear them until the holidays so I definitely made the most of them. Especially as I was showing off my sparkly ring at every opportunity…
 photo Clothes I Forgot I Had 2_zps1zmyudpr.jpg

Do you forget about clothes you own? Tell me I’m not the only one!

University: Getting Organised for Exams

Now in my final term of lectures (sob) I can finally say I’ve worked out what works for me in terms of organisation. And also what really, really doesn’t. It’s taken years of trial and error but I think I’ve cracked it – a combination of organisation that keeps me on track, but doesn’t eat into precious study time. I’m pretty sure, given how my pre-Christmas assessments went, that my revision technique is working out pretty well too. Though I’ll never agree with negative marking…
 photo Getting Organised for Exams8_zps3nclisgt.jpg photo Getting Organised for Exams7_zps2bgnxj9y.jpg

Keep Lists

I seriously don’t think I could live without a good to-do list! I like to list out big things – such as examinable content for a module. This is something I started doing wayyyy back in AS levels, going through the specification and ticking bits off as I went – it’s an exam technique that could work for all stages (so to those doing your GCSE’s, get on it!) and it’s super useful. I also like to write daily to-do lists. Seeing what I want to achieve each day really motivates me to get on and do it. And yes, I’m that person who puts ‘clean teeth’ on my lists. We gotta start somewhere!
 photo Getting Organised for Exams2_zpsy8i8uxtt.jpg

Print

I don’t know about you, but I get seriously distracted the minute I open up my laptop. I just absolutely cannot practise exam questions by just having the paper open on screen. Before I know it I’ll have 4 Facebook conversations going, I’ll be debating on Twitter and scrolling through my Bloglovin’ feed at an alarming rate. For me it’s all about making sure I’ve got hard copies to hand.

All this printing can get expensive (and annoying – how many times have you been halfway through printing an important bit of coursework when your ink dries up?!) – but luckily Epsom is on hand to (hopefully) change all that. I have to admit I was skeptical when they sent me a cartridge-less printer*, where you should only have to top up the ink once during your degree. Obviously I can’t test the latter claim as that would be a very long review process (plus, y’know, I’m almost finished my degree!) but I have noticed that the ink seems to be lasting better than previous printers. I managed to print a good 20 exam papers and genuinely can’t tell whether the ink level has dropped (should have drawn a line on!). That’s almost the biggest bonus of this printer; you can see the ink levels as you go. No more getting halfway through a document and realising you have zilch! It’s also quiet (no waking up housemates when you’re the one who likes to get up early) and it’s no horrendously bulky or unattractive. I mean, it’s a printer, but as far as they go it doesn’t look tooooo bad. I’d be fine with not hiding it away in a cupboard (the same cannot be said for W’s 3D printer…).

Timetable

Like with the lists, I just like having my time planned out. This is where I’ve changed though! Before I would make pretty revision timetables, with every hour accounted for. Now I’m a bit less prescriptive. I give myself a day where I concentrate on each module – which works now at degree level because each has enough different topics and ‘bits’ so I don’t get bored. Perhaps not the best idea for A-Levels but for me, it works.
 photo University Room Tour 1_zpsy3lofhfl.jpg

Prep

I like to take a few hours around this time of year to work out what stationery I need to get me through the rest of the year. Flashcards always tend to sell out everywhere come May, I always run out of black pens and paper, so I bulk-buy them now. Keen? Definitely. But it makes me feel much more prepared!

Take Time Out

Trust me, when I’ve got a list with a hundred different bits on, I know that the last thing I want to do is give myself a break. I’m actually really bad at taking time out to relax but when I do I definitely notice the difference. I come back more energised and motivated, and often looking at things with a clearer head makes them seem so much simpler. In the run up to my final year exams I’ll definitely be making a little more time for myself…
 photo 2016-01-23 16.25.16_zpsjg2zdiq9.jpg

Look After Yourself

And that brings me onto my next point: it’s really important to take care of yourself. Whether it’s making sure you get enough sleep, three good meals or plenty of water, it all makes a difference. You will never do your best in exams if you aren’t well, so these little things can really boost your performance.

 photo Getting Organised for Exams4_zpsfidsmn1s.jpg photo Getting Organised for Exams1_zpsbn8ljcrd.jpgAnd so that’s it, the little bits I’m already doing in my prep for exams. Yes, they might be many months away, but by getting this out of the way now I’ll be all set to start serious revision come Easter.

How do you prep for exams? Do you start early or are you a crammer?

 

Cooking How To: Eggs

I thought I’d start up a new little recipe series, based on simple how-to’s, basic cookery bits that will built up a beginners repertoire and hopefully allow they to feel more confident in the kitchen.

 photo How to Cook Eggs_zpspdyuqzck.jpgThe inspiration for this series? I’ve finally, finally managed to learn how to boil an egg. It’s taken a long time. My mum makes the best dippy eggs and soliders, and I crave them when I’m away from home. It’s the first thing I ask for when I get back and she’s tried teaching me countless times. It doesn’t matter if I follow her instructions to the letter, my eggs are always over-done or hardly done at all. I’ve tried numerous methods from the internet, wasted far too many eggs. Every weekend I’ve not seen W since July has seen at least one attempt at boiling an egg. And now I’ve managed it. I finally feel like a cook!

But equally, I’ve also discovered what pretty much amounts to an adoration for eggs. Whilst they haven’t quite replaced porridge of overnight oats as my go-to breakfast, I’ve instead turned to them for lunch. When I’m in the house at midday there’s nothing I like more than a hearty but healthy lunch and eggs are perfect for this. And for the essential weekend brunch of course…

So, here’s my ‘how to’ on eggs, all kinds of ways.
 photo How to Cook Eggs 4_zpspizdt17c.jpg photo How to Cook Eggs 3_zpspbdtg4sf.jpg

Boiled Egg

The classic, and the one that took me SO long to learn how to do. It’s embarrassing really! I tried to learn how to boil an egg a few times in my early teens, but it was never quite as good as mum’s so I just gave up. I’ve now picked up a method that’s a little odd, but it really works and does give me perfect eggs anytime.

Pour a small amount of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil – you want barely half an inch depth. Once boiling well add your egg and immediately place the lid on the pan. Cook for 6 minutes for a room temperature egg, adding another 30 seconds if it’s been in the fridge – I use medium eggs so increase/decrease timings slightly if you have different sizes. Remove from the water and run briefly under a cold tap to stop the cooking, then slice of the top and get dunking your soldiers!
 photo How to Cook Eggs 8_zpsx7do6sfr.jpg

Poached Egg

This is probably my favourite way to have an egg at the moment. It feels a bit more special than boiled eggs, but doesn’t involve burning my fingers trying to crack the top off. It’s slightly quicker, easier to serve with anything other than toast, and has just the right combination of oozy yolk and barely set white.

I do cheat a little and use the cling-film method – but it works! Bring a small pan of water to the boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Meanwhile line a small ramekin with clingfilm, and smear with a little oil. Add seasoning if you like (I occasionally like to add some chilli for a spicy twist). Crack in an egg, then seal by twisting two ends together and folding over the middle. Lower into the simmering water, then cook for 3-4 minutes (I go for the lower end of this as I like a justtttt cooked egg). Lift out, gently remove from the film and serve. Make sure you instagram that #yolkporn

Oh – and my perfect Boxing Day brunch was discovered this year. Bubble & Squeak (leftover mash and sprouts fried with bacon), ham and a poached egg. Delicious!
 photo 2016-01-13 13.41.20_zpsa5friw1u.jpg

Scrambled Egg

I adore scrambled eggs. However I’m also very fussy about mine. I like them softly cooked, barely set, buttery, a tiny grinding of pepper and plenty of salt. I also hate them being place on the toast (nothing worse than soggy toast!).

Simply melt a knob of butter in a small pan until foaming. Meanwhile crack two eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk together, along with 1-2tbsp milk (or cream – my treat whenever there’s a little in the fridge) and salt/pepper. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat the base, then tip in the eggs. Immediately turn down the heat to low. Using a rubber spatula, carefully stir the eggs every ten seconds, giving them time to start setting before each stir. Continue cooking until they are set to your liking – I know some people like a firmer set to their scrambled eggs, whereas I pull mine off the heat whilst still a little liquidy!
 photo How to Cook Eggs 2_zpsoddvsxjs.jpg

Baked Egg

Sometime that took a little bit of time to get right, but these are so worth it. They feel so much more luxurious than any of the other egg-based options, but are probably the least hands-on way of cooking.

Crack one (or two!) eggs into a small buttered ramekin, topping with salt, pepper, 1tbsp of cream and a teeny bit of grated parmesan. Put the ramekin baking dish, and pour boiling water into the larger dish until it comes to 2/3 of the height of the ramekin. Back at 180C for 12-15 minutes, or until the eggs are set to your liking. Enjoy with plenty of butter toast.
 photo 2015-12-21 10.23.09_zpsimngzv0p.jpg

Fried Egg

I have to admit, I hate frying eggs and if possible it’s something I’ll always get W to do for me (along with grating cheese – possibly the worst kitchen job in existence!). I hate how fried eggs tend to ‘bang and spit,’ it always makes me nervous. That said there’s nothing better than a plate of fried eggs and bacon, and I’ve recently rediscovered the joys of a fried egg sandwich too. 3 rashers of streaky bacon, two lightly toasted slices of ‘plastic’ white bread, a gooey fried egg, all sandwiches together is a piece of handheld heaven.

So, for a perfect fried egg simply get a (lightly oiled) pan nice and hot. Crack in your egg, turn the heat to medium and crack over a little pepper. Then simply leave on the heat until the white is set. I don’t bother with basting the top with fat or trying to get a crispy base, I’m happy with a simple fried egg. As long as it’s got a runny yolk I’m happy!

Carbonara

Ah, my favourite meal. I’ve honed my recipe over several years and I’ve pretty much got it spot on now. It’s my go-to when I’m having a ‘poor’ week as I always have the ingredients in, it’s perfect for nights when I’m short of time,and it’s easily adapted to be a little healthier too.

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add your pasta and cook for 9 minutes. Meanwhile dice one rasher of bacon and fry in a little butter until crisp. In a small bowl, finely grate 30g parmesan, 20g cheddar. Crack in an egg and whisk together. After about 7 minutes boiling, stir the pasta and then add around 3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the egg mix, beating well with a fork after each addition. This should partially melt the cheese and stabilise the egg a little. Once cooked, drain the pasta then add to the bacon. Toss together and turn the heat off. Add a little of the egg mixture, toss together, add a bit more, stir well, then add the rest – if it starts to scramble hold off adding any more for thirty or so seconds. Once all the egg is added stir well until thickened, putting back on a low heat if necessary.

 photo How to Cook Eggs 6_zpssa8rbzdj.jpgAnd that’s it – my perfect, simple carbonara recipe, as well as other super-easy ways to cook eggs.

How do you like your eggs, in the morning or otherwise? What other ‘how-to’ guides would you like to see?

Beauty: Brands I Want to Try in 2016

2015 was the year I bought a lot of makeup, but I also discovered what I liked (bold lips), what I hated (cheap eyeshadows), and what suited my skin (not a lot!). Towards the end of the year I really cut down my spending, not buying myself a lot and only asking for a few special bits as gifts. Playing around with more ‘me’ pieces has led to some serious lust over the high-end alternatives and I’ve ended up with a lot of brands I want to try over the next year.

 photo Makeup 3_zpsumedhc0e.jpgAnd I know it’s wayyyy too early, but I’m planning on doing my wedding makeup myself. And I’m pretty sure it’s just so I have an excuse to treat myself…
 photo Makeup 14_zpsdvidz9sp.jpg photo Makeup 15_zpsm3sxqprt.jpg

Nars

I treated myself to my first Nars product in the January sales last year; the now discontinued Doucuer blush. I love it – the formula is great, the colour perfect. And this has sparked a major interest in the brand. I’ve heard nothing but good things, so I think the next thing to investigate is their lip pencils!

The blush itself is the perfect colour for my pale complexion, adding definition and a bit of colour without being too dramatic. Why have they discontinued this?!
 photo Makeup 8_zpsx4pjxcv9.jpg

Hourglass

Possibly a bit of an obvious one for me given my love-affair with the Ambient Lighting palette, but I definitely want to try more from the Hourglass stand! I’m mainly tempted by the powders and blushes – Mood Exposure will be mine!

Tarte

Oh, how I wish this was easier to get hold of! I’ve been super impressed with one of their blushes, but I’m desperate to get hold of their powder foundation. I’m a big fan of powder foundations but do find the coverage to be hit and miss so this sounds like the perfect answer!
 photo Makeup 7_zpsawgowi0k.jpg photo Makeup 11_zpsrsglks4f.jpg

Charlotte Tilbury

Having tried an eyeshadow palette that has quickly become my go-to, this is a brand I know I’ll love. I’m most tempted by the lipsticks – the mattes seem to have the most amazing formulation and gorgeous shades!

The eyeshadow palette I have is ‘The Sophisticate’ and if I’m 100% honest I’m not actually tempted by any of the others. This one however is the perfect basic neutral quads. The shadows are satin finish – not shimmery, but not quite matte. They apply like a dream, blend beautifully, last a decent time and when they do fade do so evenly. I’ve found this palette perfect for daytime wear as well as amping up for an evening look – perfect for a weekend away!
 photo Makeup 1_zpsukngqh8x.jpg

So, a bit of a mix, but it is (I say quite bashfully!) mainly high-end. It’s wishful thinking really as I know the vast majority of this is completely out of budget!

What brands do you want to try more of?

Lifestyle: Hogwarts in the Snow

I’m a huge Harry Potter geek, along with my sister, and despite spending a good four hours at the WB Studio Tour in April there was still so much more we wanted to see. Deciding to go again during ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ was a good decision – we managed to catch the bits we missed out on before, whilst experiencing some new bits too.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 14_zpssacggb3e.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 4_zpsnkbjf3qb.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 3_zpsyz5zks9o.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 5_zpsfu2jqsx4.jpgWe ended up spending another three hours there! The only reason we left was because it was wayyyy past dinner time and two sisters getting hungry is not a good combo…

The Great Hall was decorated with numerous Christmas trees, and for a few seconds when you’re in The Great Hall, they light the Christmas puddings on fire. We’re gutted we missed this part! It was all wonderfully festive, and the ‘roast turkeys’ looked delicious.

Once done in The Great Hall, you are ushered out – so everyone else behind you can experience the same effect. For the rest of the tour you are on your own to explore for as long as you like.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 7_zps5ibvo5uo.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 6_zpsdiflmgy6.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 9_zpswijvcatv.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 10_zpssq6shl4q.jpgSeveral of the film sets have also been adorned for Christmas. It would be perfect to go pre-Christmas to get into the festive spirit, unfortunately it felt a little flat going just before the New Year! During ‘Hogwarts in the Snow’ there’s the chance to experience how the snow, ice and fire effects are made – including putting your hand in a burning fireplace, playing with snow and watching the Goblet of Fire lit up.

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 1_zpsiekp8kj1.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 2_zps1uf9bspm.jpgWe didn’t fly any broomsticks this time, but did the obligatory trip to Platform 9 & 3/4. We also still didn’t get a chance to really explore the area outside between the two sound stages where you can find the Knight Bus and Harry’s house on Privet Drive – both times it has absolutely chucked it down making it far from enjoyable. Guess we’ll have to go back again…

 photo Hogwarts in the Snow 12_zpsd6gwzmkn.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 8_zpszsywqnal.jpg photo Hogwarts in the Snow 13_zpspnvg6ar3.jpgThe next part of the tour is taken up with special effects, creatures and modelling – including THAT castle model. I find it amazing how well this was used in the films. This time the castle was covered in snow and ice, which is applied by hand for the exhibition. I can’t imagine how painstaking that would be!

So, another trip to Hogwarts and I STILL want to go back again. I’m desperate to go to the Harry Potter World in Florida too…

Are you a Potter fan? What house would you have been in? (I’m a Ravenclaw girl myself…)

Recipe: Mango, Lime & Chilli Ice Lollies

One thing I love is curling up in the evenings, with a good book or girly chick-flick on the TV, tucking into a bowl of ice-cream. I can’t resist (half price!) Ben & Jerry’s, I have a major softspot for Peanut Butter Cup. But ice-cream doesn’t like me.

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 3_zpspkydk4oe.jpgFor one, I’m slightly lacto-intolerant. Whilst previously I could avoid milk and indulge every now and then, it does seem to be getting slightly worse. My occasional bowl of ice-cream is now closely followed by a few days of bad skin, and my stomach certainly doesn’t thank for me it. Thankfully I’ve come up with a few delicious alternatives that don’t leave me spotty AND are healthy enough to enjoy a couple of times a week. The first is these ice-lollies.

Sweet, refreshing and slightly spicy, these Mango, Lime and Chilli ice-lollies are perfect to stash in your freezer. Quick and easy to make, and completely delicious – my kind of recipe!

 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 2_zps1c2wvjtt.jpgIngredients (fills 6 standard lolly moulds):

  • 4 ripe mangoes
  • Half red chilli, very finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • A tiny bit of sugar to taste (I didn’t include this as my mangoes were super ripe and sweet)

Peel and chop the mangoes, then tip into a blender. Whizz until completely smooth, then pass through a sieve into a large jug. Stir through the chilli and lime zest/juice and taste to decide whether it needs any sugar. Pour into the lolly moulds and freeze until solid.

Perfect as a ice-cream alternative, and these also add in a bit of sunshine to a cold January evening. Though seeing as W got the Kitchen-Aid ice-cream attachment for his birthday I may just have to play around with some dairy-free ice-cream recipes soon…
 photo Mango Chilli and Lime Ice Lollies 1_zpsbvnkqlg5.jpg

Have you even made your own ice lollies? What’s your favourite ice-cream flavour!

Beauty: My All-Time Favourite Lipstick (MAC Creme In Your Coffee)

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally realised my perfect lipstick isn’t waiting on a shelf somewhere for me. Instead it’s right here, sitting in my makeup bag. And has been for well over a year. Oops.

 photo Creme In Your Coffee Mac Lipstick Review 2_zpsgtlzniwl.jpgMAC’s Creme In Your Coffee is the perfect combination of nude but bold, my lips but better, creamy yet long-lasting. A lipstick that goes with anything, works for any occasion. Yes, perhaps it is a little dark in the summer, but from September-April it’s become to my go-to.

It’s a Cremesheen finish, which means it gives a solid wash of colour, a slightly shiny finish and a really moisturised feel to the lips. I find it beds down to a nice stain that lasts a good four hours, yet it doesn’t feel uncomfortable or drying, and it’s relatively easy to reapply without any unforgiving dry patches. This is probably my go-to finish if I’m unsure with MAC, as I’ve not found a dud (looking at you, Matte!) and it combines lasting power with a balm-like feel.

 photo Creme In Your Coffee Mac Lipstick Review 1_zpsiwbfgz7a.jpg photo Creme In Your Coffee Mac Lipstick Review 3_zpsvg9zjzgd.jpgBut the reason this is my all-time favourite lipstick? The colour. It’s quite a unique colour that I think its massively underrated in the world of MAC lipsticks. Described as ““creamy mid-tone pink brown” it is a warm-toned nude, but despite that still seems to have a slight teeth-whitening effect. It’s slightly darker than my natural lip, there’s pink and plum undertones, and it looks natural but put-together. I find it shows more brown on me, but in a soft and easy-to-wear way. Hard to describe really, but it sets off my ghostly-pale complexion nicely. It doesn’t wash me out, and it’s perfect for daytime wear, a dinner date, or a night out. Perfect for grabbing without thought really!

What’s your all-time favourite lipstick?