Lifestyle: April Favourites & Goodbye for Now

That’s it guys, exam season is officially upon us! I have just one week until my first exam (eek!), but equally in three short weeks you will find me retiring to bed for the next month to recover. April has, pretty predictably, been crammed full of revision, past exam papers, late-nights on campus (I switched it up and spent some time at Loughborough Uni with W – nothing like a fresh library to switch up revision!). But April also saw some lovely evenings, a very exciting day and (of course) plenty of yummy food…
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Cheese Night

I wouldn’t class myself as a huge lover of cheese, but one thing I can’t get enough of is fondue. Me and W invited a few friends round for wine and fondue whilst I was up with him – I don’t think anything can beat a good glass of white wine, and plenty of carbs (we go for potatoes and bread) dipped in cheese alongside good company. He’s definitely perfected making his cheese mix, though £12 of gruyere makes me wince!

Dresses!

I’m super fussy with clothes, which normally means when I need something shopping is a stressful business. Knowing that in the next few months I need a dress for our Summer Ball and one for Graduation has meant I’ve been browsing a lot…somehow in the space of just one week I managed to buy and fall in love with a dress for both. I also managed to fall in love with a dress for another occasion…
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Wedding Dress Shopping

Which brings me onto this! I planned to meet my mum for a day of trying on wedding dresses – in order to make up for not coming home during my Easter holidays, and to break up my revision. I really wasn’t expected to find something, and in reality it definitely was not the plan to find something. I mean, we haven’t set a date, booked anything, and even dates we are thinking about are in the back end of 2018… Having said all that, I realised very quickly that the idea of what I always wanted was definitely still what I wanted. Sure, I tried on different things. I tried on some lovely, lovely dresses, there was nothing wrong with them. But I felt like I was playing dress-up.

Even if I wanted to (and my dress is staying strictly under wraps until I walk down that aisle!) I couldn’t share a picture, as ‘my’ dress doesn’t actually exist. A story for another post perhaps! *cliffhanger ending*

Oh, and wedding dress shopping involved cake. Including an amazing Coconut & Lime Cheesecake *drools*
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Revision Snacks

Having a yummy snack for “once I’ve finished five questions” is the best way to motivate me through revision. Every other exam period has seen me gain weight, but with a slim-fitting graduation dress and a trip to France two weeks after my final exam, I’m determined not to let that happen. I’ve been snacking on carrot sticks and homemade houmous (made me realise just how much salt is in the ready-made stuff, I can’t stomach it now!). And my own energy bites. And homemade flapjacks. And homemade muffins. You can tell I’ve been seriously procrastinating!

And although not exactly a revision snack in the picture, I’ve been loving experimenting with my new love this month – chickpeas. I’ve perfected my houmous (I like it chunky), I’ve roasted them with parmesan into crunchy, savoury nibbles, and I made up a coconut chick-pea curry on a whim one even. SO good!

Feeling Confident

Even though I’ve still got a week of pretty much solid revision left to go, I’m actually feeling surprisingly confident about my exams. I definitely haven’t felt this good at this point about them before, so fingers crossed everything goes alright. I’m trying to drag my average up, and although I’ve only got to do this for a tiny percent, it did feel extremely daunting. I’m now dreaming of mortality models, stochastic processes and differential equations, so clearly things have sunk in!
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Sleep Spray

With things starting to get a little stressful, I’ve started to notice a slight decline in my sleep. Luckily I have no problem in drifting off (yet!) but staying asleep back 5.30am is proving difficult. Having always shied away from sleep sprays as lavender is my skin’s worst enemy, I’ve realised if I spray this onto my ‘bare’ pillow, wait for it to dry, then put the case on, I get all the benefits and none of the zits. Even if it’s not keeping me asleep, it’s making me a lot calmer when I do wake-up. There’s nothing worse than an early-morning panic attack!
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And Now a Goodbye

I had originally planned to have scheduled posts going up throughout my exams. Heck, I’d written the posts and the vast majority of them were scheduled. But then I realised I wasn’t quite happy with them, the photos weren’t great, I hadn’t proof-read, everything was a bit…boring… It was stressing me out, I knew I wouldn’t be able to respond to comments, and so I’ve unscheduled the posts. This will be the first time in a long time that I’ve not posted regularly, but it’s also the most important few weeks of my education ever (until we get to my fellowship exam). I’ve decided I’ll be back at the start of June to have a catch-up, talk about my May favourites, and then we’ll resume normal service from there. Goodbye for now!

What have your highlights been over the last month?

Lifestyle: A Day in Deal

There’s nothing I love more than being by the sea. I’ve no idea where my love of the coast came from; growing up as far inland as you can get in the UK meant it was reserved to a couple of times a year, usually in the winter. Yet still nothing calms me down more than wandering along the coast listening to the waves crashing against the beach.

 photo A Day in Deal 3_zpsx6w4oiwr.jpg photo A Day in Deal 2_zpsyaqit8vi.jpg photo A Day in Deal 1_zpssrqusrrz.jpgWhen W forced me to take some time out a few weeks back, he put me in the car and we drove out of Canterbury and towards the Kentish coast. We usually head towards Whistable; 10 minutes away and lovely, but we fancied something different. Deal was somewhere I’d heard mentioned a few times, so Deal it was!

A strange little town, it was a very odd combination of absolutely delightful independent shops and bakeries, right next to discount chain stores. Disconcerting, though I can imagine in five or so years it will be the most wonderful bohemian seaside town!

We wandered along the pier, turning back to discover the loveliest view of the seafront.

 photo A Day in Deal 7_zps7oneqaxh.jpg photo A Day in Deal 4_zpss8rwzcwj.jpg photo A Day in Deal 6_zpsw8hbsf4p.jpg photo A Day in Deal 5_zps8msojubx.jpgWe sat on the beach and chattered to each other, skimming stones and enjoying the almost warm sun.

We strolled up to the castle, but decided the extortionate entry fee for not a particularly exciting castle wasn’t happening.

We gorged on burgers and many sides. Wandered some more. Sat on the beach some more. Treated ourselves to ice-cream.

We wandered around the many lanes that Deal seems to have, some of them reminding me of the posh parts of London almost.

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Other than the fish-and-chips, it was your quintessential day out at the good ol’English seaside. And it was the perfect day. It cleared my head, it got the sun on my skin, and it made me realise how important getting some good fresh air is. It also reignited my love for the sea, and now I’m determined to visit more often…

Are you a fan of the English seaside? Have you ever been to Deal? Any recommendations in Kent?

Recipe: Springtime Vegetable Carbonara

Without a doubt, one of my absolute all-time favourite meals is carbonara. Ridiculously quick to make, on-hand ingredients, comforting and tasty. The combination of soft pasta, silky, creamy sauce, peppery and cheesy, with salty hits from the bacon – it really is my idea of perfection.

 photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 4_zpsm7iuyyg6.jpgBut recently I’ve been trying to lighten it up, increase the veg content (sorry, a salad/vegetables on the side is not a good combination with carbonara). I wanted to stay as true as possible to the original dish, mainly for the simplicity. I love that I can have dinner ready in under fifteen minutes when making this, and now I have a slightly more bulked out green version too. Perfect for spring, perfect for a quick dash in and out whilst studying!

This version is actually even quicker and needs less washing up – doing away with the bacon helps with that. And it’s perfect for using up any odds and ends lying around. A bit of leek adds some sweetness, broad beans would be wonderful, sugarsnap peas add crunch. Feel free to add mint instead of parsley, sprinkle with feta, stir through a leftover spoon of cream cheese… it really is an adaptable recipe. I imagine it would would perfectly with a “courgette’o’nara” too.

 photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 1_zpsbjfqwdu2.jpg photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 3_zpsdeyj1sni.jpgIngredients

  • 70g pasta, I favour spaghetti in a carbonara
  • Small handful frozen peas
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 slice of ham, chopped
  • 1 handful baby spinach, washed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small handful finely grated parmesan
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves, chopped

Cook the pasta, adding the peas for the final four minutes, before draining and running under the cold tap to cool. Whilst the pasta is cooking, combine the cheese and egg, and dribble in a little of the hot pasta water, beating constantly – this melts the cheese and prevents the egg from scrambling later.

Add a little oil to the same pan, and lightly fry the mushrooms and garlic clove for a minute. Fish out the garlic and add the ham. Fry for 1 minute, then add the pasta, peas and spinach. Heat until just warm, remove from the heat and add the egg mixture gradually, stirring constantly. Return to a very low heat and stir constantly until the sauce is thickened but not scrambled. Stir through the parsley and plenty of black pepper, and serve immediately.

This is definitely one of my new favourite dinners – comforting, filling, and a decent amount of green. It’s almost as good as a standard carbonara! I may have mentioned it before, but it is my aim to keep all carbonara ingredients in my house at all times – and Aldi are making this super easy with their excellently priced eggs and bacon lately. I may have been having too many BAE sandwiches for my own good… Comfort food aside, I’ve noticed the quality of fresh produce has very much improved over the last couple of years, making it the perfect place to grab a load of spring veg. The upped veg content makes the perfect for a quick springtime supper; fresh and colourful, and not too stodgy.
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*Aldi provided me with vouchers for ingredients for a Springtime recipe, though as always all opinions are my own!

Are you a pasta fan? What’s your favourite quick dinner?

Beauty: Bath Time

There’s nothing I love more than taking an hour or so in the evening to relax and pamper myself – I’m looking forward to allowing myself that time again once exams are over! In fact I’ve been stockpiling some of my favourite products ready for the ultimate ‘bath night’ (wild student lifestyle, hey?!)

 photo Bath Time 2_zpsgo5tgbeu.jpg photo Bath Time 4_zpsk4bqfuqh.jpgIf I’m going all out, luxuriating in a long hot soak (with multiple hot-tap top-ups) then I’m going to do it properly. I’m going to use my favourite bath products, I’m going to take in a book or magazine, I’m going to take in a cup of tea, maybe even a cheeky glass of wine. I’m going to make sure my towels are warming on a radiator for when I get out, and my favourite PJs are clean and ready to slip on afterwards.

Having said all of that, I’m not a fan of the more ‘popular’ bath products. I have never tried a Lush bath product I’ve enjoyed using, with the majority making my skin feel dry. I seem to have a reaction to anything with any trace of lavender in, coming out in acne-like rashes. Bubbles annoy me as they tend to make my hair greasy, and to make me even more fussy? Citrus scents aren’t allowed in our house due to allergies. It can make choose a bath product a little more difficult! There is one standout product I’ve used in the past year though, and I have unexpectedly come to love it. Sure, this Eygptian Milk & Honey Bath Powder might be awkward and a little messy to use (I’ve prefer a tub rather than flimsy bag!), but it smells divine, leaves my skin feeling soft and soothed, and makes me super relaxed. A bit pricey perhaps, but the one bath product I’ve found that I’m willing to splurge on.

 photo Bath Time 7_zpsmudnz58r.jpg photo Bath Time 9_zpskp51taic.jpgAs I’m sure I’ve moaned enough recently, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m going through a rather stressful and intensive revision period. There’s definitely no time for a long, relaxing soak (and my mind won’t shut down long enough for it anyway!) but I have been making an effort to squeeze some pampering into my showers. Using some of the bits and bobs my mum put together as part of my Christmas present, I’ve come up with a super-quick routine that leaves me feeling treated and relaxed, whilst not taking up much additional time at all.

 photo Bath Time 13_zpspe3cgnt4.jpg photo Bath Time 12_zpscu39iorj.jpgThe Breakfast Scrub is the only Soap & Glory product I’ve absolutely loved, and it’s perfect for buffing my skin up. The Argan shower gel from the Bodyshop smells absolutely divine, and Lush’s Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner leaves my skin so, so soft. Even on days where time is really short, taking 30 seconds to properly massage my moisturiser in, apply some lip-balm and spray a pillow spray before bed leaves me feeling much more relaxed.

What are your go-to bath products? I’d love to try a bath oil sometime soon…

 

 

University: Getting A Grad Job

Now, I might not be the best person to write about this, so the simple reason that I don’t have a graduate role lined up. However I’ve been through the application process (both for my placement and for a grad role), and I’m still actively looking for something – so maybe I’m the ‘realistic’ person to talk about graduate employment. I definitely know more people without a job than with one at this point in the year!
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Grad Schemes or Job

I know for the area I’m going to get into (note the determination in that sentence!) the majority of grad schemes are now closed. That’s probably not the case for most industries, and whilst I feel like it should be stressing me out, I’m well aware that there are plenty of graduate-level jobs out there. They might not come with quite as fancy training packages, but they will throw you in the deep end, get you working, and aren’t an option to dismiss.

There are so many sites and companies out there to help graduates find jobs. Spotlight Recruitment is a website specialising in marketing careers. Not my industry I must admit, but I have browsed the site to see what they’ve got – I love that you can narrow down your search by region. Covering categories such as digital marketing, communications and e-commerce, it’s a really easy to use site and has useful tips like on selling yourself in interviews, what to include on a CV (I wrote my own guide here) – all pretty much essential information.

Applications or Recruiter

No doubt about it, job applications can be stressful, long-winded, frustrating. They can involve getting the perfect CV, then answering endless competency questions, completing online tests. Then there’s various interview stages; telephone, face-to-face, assessment centres… trust me, if you get through all of these, get told you passed every stage with flying colours and still don’t get offered the job, it’s pretty damn soul destroying.

Recently I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with some absolutely lovely recruiters. Whilst no, I don’t have a job yet, they’ve offered help and guidance as to how to hone my CV, I’ve had a few very positive interviews, and the stress and time consuming part of the application is nicely reduced.
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Application Hints & Tips

I’ve written quite a few guides to careers and getting a job before (ironic, huh?!) – but I think the biggest key is to be prepared. Make sure you know what the job entails and how your experience and aspirations relate to it, spend a lot of time researching the company. I would also try and think of a few questions you want to ask – it’s always something you have the opportunity to do, and the right questions give such a good impression and show you’re super interested in the company. But my biggest tip of all? If you do get a rejection, no matter how dreadful it makes you feel, always ask for feedback. Then get your chin up, smile and do 10x better in the next one.

How do you find the job-hunting process? Any tips to share?

Recipe: Banana Bread Muffins (a.k.a Procrastimuffins)

I have to admit it, I loveeeee banana bread. I adore how moist and full of flavour it is, sweet enough to satisfy my sweet tooth but not ridiculously bad for me. Filling, but not stodgy, managing to get me some of the way to achieving my 5-a-day. These are the banana bread I love so much, but in muffin form! Perfect for an afternoon snack.

 photo Banana Bread Muffins 4_zpsbyt4eagl.jpgOr microwaved until gooey, served with a scoop of ice-cream. Thank me later…

I always end up with over-ripe spotty bananas, due to my hatred of actually eating a banana. Sure, I’ll mash one up in my porridge. Offer me a banana smoothie and I’ll take it. But will I eat a banana? Hell no! Using them like I do means they need to be super sweet and ripe, hence I always end up rushing to use the last few. A few weeks ago I was revising for an exam the next day, wandered into the kitchen and spied some completely brown bananas. And PROCRASTIMUFFINS were born. Only taking 30 minutes, including baking and washing up, they were the perfect way to take some time out, whilst creating a yummy post-exam snack for the next day.

The basic recipe produces moist, slightly cinnamon-y muffins, very banana-y with a slightly hint of peanut butter (because p-butter). I’ve taken it up a notch here and stirred through a small handful of roughly chopped dark chocolate, but in all honesty that’s not necessary. The muffin is the star of the show here, not any additions. That said, I’m imagining a batch made with pecan-nut butter (a new discovery), with extra nuts stirred through… They are moist, but not ‘gummy’ like some banana bread can be, they don’t fall apart, and they’re not too sticky. In essence, the perfect study snack.

 photo Banana Bread Muffins 6_zpsxsg7rciu.jpg photo Banana Bread Muffins 7_zpstusz8huh.jpg photo Banana Bread Muffins 9_zpsmyvnt9a1.jpg photo Banana Bread Muffins 8_zps4ligmb2f.jpgIngredients

  • 100g butter
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 140g sugar – I used a mix of soft brown and granulated, but use what you have
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 120g yoghurt or soured cream (or a mix of the two)
  • 2 bananas, mashed well
  • 1 small handful ‘extras’ like chocolate chips

Melt the butter and peanut butter together in a large microwaveable boil, then stir in the sugar. Let cool a little, then add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until combined. Mix the flour together with the cinnamon and bicarb, then add to the butter mix and stir together. Then add the bananas and yoghurt/soured cream, stir until just combined. Fold through the extras, then pour into muffin cases – this recipe fills 12 cases almost to the top.

Bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes, watching to make sure the tops don’t brown too much. Let cool a little in the tins, then cool completely on a wire rack.

 photo Banana Bread Muffins 3_zpsmsdedzqz.jpgEat whenever you need a pick-me-up, as a speedy breakfast, or heated and served with ice-cream as an indulgent desert (preferably with a spoon of nutella melted on top, because who doesn’t love banana and nutella?!).

What do you do to procrastinate? I reckon by the end of exam season I’ll have spent a fortune on baking ingredients and won’t fit into any clothes!

Beauty: Absolute Essentials

I’ve spoken before about my daily makeup, though in truth there’s probably even less that I would consider absolutely essential. This past week has seen me stay at W’s for a good while, and I had extremely limited space to pack my clothes and makeup…

 photo Everyday Beauty Essentials 1_zpszr3c9zhr.jpgPut it this way, my suitcase comfortably fitted four lever arch folders. Anything else had to be squeezed around the side of them…

It made me really re-evaluate what I saw as essential. I didn’t want to be suddenly in need of something, but I didn’t want to pack excessively. Turned out the teeny-tiny makeup bag I brought was more than enough to cope with late-night library sessions, wedding dress shopping and a cocktail night out! My clothes packing wasn’t quite so on point. Let’s just be thankful that Primark knickers are so cheap!

Skincare

I do keep a small amount of ’emergency’ skincare at W’s – I hate travelling with it normally as I’m terrified it will leak. I decided to risk just sticking with what I had, despite normally only relying on it for two nights maximum, and I was pleasantly surprised. The Garnier cleansing lotion has bee a firm favourite of mine for years, I’m pretty sure it was the first cleanser I ever used. Even now I keep a bottle lying around for late nights as it’s a purely lazy option, but so much better than wipes! I also stuck with my trust Garnier Moisture Match moisturisers – perfect for a foundation-free glow.

I will say, though, that my skin did start to break out towards the end of the week. Luckily I dug out a sample size bottle of Pixi Glow Tonic, which got my skin back on track. Turns out this is also an absolute essential for me!

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Forgoing foundation is something I do most days, however going away without it?! A risky game to play, it felt quite strange without the ‘comfort blanket’ of knowing I could hide away breakouts if needed. That said, the bits I did decide on taking worked perfectly fine – I was more than comfortable heading out for the evening (and standing in wedding dresses surrounded by mirrors!) with what I had.

For days in the library, a combination of concealers hid a multitude of sins. The Barry M Light Reflecting one is simply the best I’ve tried for under-eye circles, managing to hide late nights effortlessly. Whilst it’s not high-coverage, it’s reflective and moisturising, keeping the eye area naturally refreshed and awake-looking. And for any chocolate-induced spots (my late-night library snack of choice last week was half-covered hobnobs…) 17’s Stay Time is my go-to. Ridiculously pale, and stupidly long-lasting, this is definitely one of the best concealers I’ve tried at actually concealing.

Eyes

My original plan was to just grab a mascara (Max Factor False Lash effect is currently in use, but it’s pricey – I’ll be back to Natural Collection next!) and go, and it would have worked fine had the week just been about studying, and possibly a casual drink down the local pub. However some of the bits and pieces I gt up to needed just a little bit more, so I was super grateful to find a dark matte brown eyeshadow lurking in W’s cupboard. Perfect fr tidying up brows and adding a touch of definition to my eyes, it made me look so much more done.

 photo Everyday Beauty Essentials 3_zpsu0hewjym.jpgLips

Ah, now this was the tough one for me! As you all know, I love my lipstick and I usually take longer to deliberate over which one to wear than I do to get dressed in the mornings! In the end I just forced myself to grab some as I was leaving the house, taking the time to make a decision would have resulted in far too many being packed! Keeping it simple with a red, a pink and a nude meant all bases were covered. Yes, I might have wished for a more dramatic dark oxblood-red on one day, but was it the end of the world? Not really!

What are you absolute makeup essentials? What couldn’t you live without?

Weddings: The Day He Proposed

Whilst the last wedding post was a bit ranty, today’s is a bit of light-hearted fun. I was originally going to talk about dress shopping, as I’d been planning a day of trying-on yesterday for months. In the end I’d decided I would be wedding-dress-ed out so scheduled up this one instead. Guess you’ll have to wait for any sneaky dress details…

 photo Proposal Story 6_zpsnr82oxsf.jpgI mentioned in my post all about W’s proposal that I had a strong suspicious it was happening that weekend. For one, he had turned very protective about his phone. He’d taken a phone call shut away in a room months before (five minutes after he proposed, I had it confirmed it was the jewellers!). My mum was hardly speaking to me, and had slightly teared up when she dropped me off at the train station a few weeks earlier. I was trying (and failing) not to get my hopes up…but the whole day was still very tense!

11:00 Assessed lecture time! My last lecture of term was the finale of a simulation where groups of us ran a business producing and selling agricultural machines. It certainly took my mind of the weekend. And the fact that I had to cram a lot of stuff into suitcases…

11:45 Mid-lecture I make the decision to cancel my Shellac nail appointment. I didn’t want it too look too obvious I’d guessed what was going on. And it would be a waste of money if he didn’t propose!

13:00 It’s Christmassss. I raced out of my lecture and headed to GBK with Libby. I ended up having to send my first burger back (sob) due to tomato contamination, but eventually ended up stuffing my face with all the food. I built my own burger with a combination of smoked applewood cheddar, bacon and a crispy onion ring, with mustard added at the table. So, so good.

15:30 We roll back home, I try to pack but end up having to take a lie-down.

16:30 I squeeze all my bits into two suitcases. I’ve been instructed to pack a small weekend bag (including sensible shoes, warm things, and a nice ‘going out with heels’ dress). I also need to get a load of folders home to do some studying during my four week holiday. Let’s just say I must have looked amusing trying to lug all my stuff around!

17:00 I sit and paint my nails. I decide to go for shiny and clear. That way it doesn’t look too obvious and if he does propose any chips won’t show in ring photos.

 photo 2016-03-24 07.10.01_zpsdl8quzds.jpg18:00 My housemates take me to the station. Halfway there K comes out with “what if the first thing he does when he sees you is get down on one knee?” I respond confidently; I was pretty sure he’d wait until we got where we were going (I’d guessed that place right too).

18:10 I struggle to the platform with what feels like half my worldly belongings in the cases.

18:15 A quick chat to my mum. I mention K’s prediction. My family dinner suddenly has to come out of the oven immediately, and the phonecall is cut short. I’m oblivious. And cold.

18:25 On my way into London! I sink into a good book, trying not to feel too excited. It had also been one of the longer fortnight gaps between visits for us, so I was looking forward to a good hug!

19:20 Arrive in London. Struggle off the train (though at least someone asked if I needed any help this end!). Lug everything over to Left Luggage and get the big full-of-study-stuff one checked in.

19:25 Text W. Ask if I can meet him slightly earlier than instructed. Request declined, I sit and try to concentrate on my book. And fill in a survey for St Pancras.

19:55 I’m too impatient, I announce to W I’m leaving now, not at 8pm, and wander up to Granary Square. (Image Credit: We Believe in Beauty)

19:58 I remember thinking how Christmas the area looked with all the lights. And I’m still absolutely freezing.

19:59 I spy W sitting on the steps by the canal. He waves, I wave back. But he’s not looking at me. I realise he’s mistaken some other girl with a suitcase for me…

 photo 2016-01-03 16.29.51_zpsmsrbw4rb.jpg20:00 A long-awaited hug. Apparently he’s only half-leaning in to stop me noticing the great big box in his pocket. Again, I’m completely oblivious. He suggests we sit down, I’m a little reluctant. The steps are concrete, I’m wearing a skirt. And it’s cold.

20:05 We catch up about our last few days (busy with deadlines, we’d hardly spoken). He asked me if I want my surprise yet. I say no. He tells me I’m having it anyway. I now direct you to my proposal story to hear a little more about that as I’m tearing up typing (four months on, slightly pathetic?!)

20:35 We head to our hotel, it suddenly hits me (I’m engaged!) and I laugh manically in a woman’s face. She looks terrified, bless her.

20:45 I “find out” we are going to Edinburgh. I am far too pleased that I guessed that part of the surprise!

21:00 Having cracked open champagne and transferred it to mugs, we start ringing round family. I cry down the phone to my mum, the dog howls down the house phone when I speak to my dad.

22:30 I decide I want a McDonalds. Bad decision. I spend the majority of the early hours feeling rather ill in the bathroom…
 photo Proposal Story 5_zpsrwdef4zl.jpg

So there’s a glimpse into one of the best days of my life. What is your happiest memory?

Recipe: Simple No-Knead Bread Rolls

It’s no secret that I love baking my own bread; I just find it tastes far nicer, leaves me feeling fuller and gives me something to do. Baking and cooking is my ‘thing’ – when I’m stressed, I bake. When I feel ill, I crave a comforting meal. It’s very rare that I have no motivation to get into the kitchen. In fact, I quite often use it as a procrastination tool!

 photo Wholemeal No-Knead Bread Rolls 1_zpso6ns894a.jpgWhilst I still do buy bread – I’m awful at slicing so need something for toast, and I have a massive weakness for M&S white baguettes – the majority I eat is homemade. Pretty much every week this year (certainly every fortnight) I’ve proved my way to a batch of rolls, bagels or even pittas. And I’m lazy. Very lazy. So my bread requires no kneading, very little hands on work, and even the shaping takes just five or so minutes. Throw in the oven for 15 or so minutes and you’ve got a week’s worth of bread rolls for very little effort. And a rather yummy smelling kitchen.

I still maintain that James Morton’s Brilliant Bread is the best bread book I’ve read. Possibly because he advocates no-kneading, possibly because no recipe I’ve tried from it has failed yet. And he’s not exactly unattractive to look at either…this recipe is loosely based on his “Wholemeal Bread.” I’ve altered the proportions slightly to suit my tastes, made it even lazier, and turned it into 8 rolls. Perfect for lunches!

 photo Wholemeal No-Knead Bread Rolls 4_zps1xzmtwiy.jpgIngredients

  • 500g strong bread flour, made up of wholemeal and white – my favourite proportion is 375g wholemeal, 125g white, but it’s up to you
  • 7g salt
  • 6g yeast (I buy a tub and keep it in the fridge, so much cheaper than individual sachets)
  • 375ml water, warm (I boil a kettle, and use 100ml boiled and the rest cold)

 photo Wholemeal No-Knead Bread Rolls 3_zpswfejdjcs.jpgTo make up the dough, simply add the flours to a big bowl and stir with a knife to combined. Add the yeast to one end of the bowl, salt to the other, and rub in. James says to keep them separate at this stage, and whilst I do add them to separate ends I don’t make a special effort to keep them apart.

Make a well in the flour mix, and add the water. Stir with the knife until it’s coming together, then get your hands in and bring together into a scraggly ball. Cover the ball with cling-film and leave to rise for half an hour.

After the half-hour rise, using a wet hand slide your fingers under the dough and fold it over. Repeat a couple of times, turning the bowl with each fold, until the dough feels smoother. Cover with cling-film and pop in the fridge – I usually put it into the fridge at about 8am, and take it out around 4pm when I get back from lectures. If you don’t do the final rise in the fridge, leave for half an hour, repeat the folding process, then leave for another hour until doubled in size.

Once it’s risen to twice it’s size (a good 6-8 hours in the fridge), tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 roughly equal portions, and roll each into a ball. Cup one hand, place on top of the ball of dough, and make large circles against the work surface – this creates friction and gives a ‘tight’ round bread roll. Place on top of a greaseproof paper lined baking tray. Once all rolls are shaped, cover the tray with cling-film, and leave to rise for a final hour.

Preheat the oven to 200C, then bake the rolls for around 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack (leaving them on the tray will give a soggy bottom), then eat as many as you can still warm. Any leftovers freeze well for the rest of the week.

 photo Wholemeal No-Knead Bread Rolls 2_zpsrnkhdxzy.jpgAs I type this I have a batch in the oven – the smell is amazing. There’s nothing better than the small of homemade bread, no? These are the perfect combination of indulgently crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, whilst having a healthy feel from the wholemeal flour. Next challenge? The perfect seeded bake!

Do you ever make your own bread?

 

Fashion: SS16 Wishlist

It’s getting to the time of year where I’m bored of my wardrobe, bored of heavy figure-hiding jumpers, bored of thick black tights, fed up of ankle boots. Yet this year I’m not exactly enamored with my summer wardrobe either. The majority of it is far too big for me, my style has grown up a bit since I bought most of it. And as a penniless final-year student (with as yet no job lined up) I’m not exactly in a position to rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe.

SS16 Wishlist

 

Being penniless hasn’t, however, stopped me obsessively browsing online for bits and pieces I’d love. These are just a few of the bits I’ve bookmarked recently…

The pinafore I’m absolutely in love with. I have the black version though, and I know just how short it is! I’m not exactly tall, but the regular version is reserved for wearing with thick black tights only! I have a feeling that the one in the ‘tall’ section will be too long in the body on me, but we shall see…

The dress (well, at $430 maybe not this exact one!) is something I’m looking for ready for Summer Ball. I ideally want something simple and black, which I can jazz up with gold accessories. And gold flat sandals, because “Summer Ball” is actually in the carpark, and we’re planning a boozy BBQ throughout the entire afternoon.

The satchel-style bag in the top-right is something I might actually be getting. The Leather Satchel Company recently ran a kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a customisation tool – which was fully backed way past target. I pledged £60 in return for a mini-satchel, and this colour combination is my favourite so far. I only wish I could have pledged more, as I’m really lusting after a two-pocket satchel…

So much I want, so little pennies to spend! What are you lusting over at the moment?