Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #20

Eurrrghhhh, anyone else struggling with the heat in London right now?! I’m not a huge lover of hot weather at all and having to spend Saturday flat-hunting (our landlord has decided to sell up) meant it was pretty much unbearable. It’s been too hot to even consider properly cooking – I am missing a Sunday roast but this gal definitely isn’t having an oven on for close to two hours! Enough of the moaning, here’s my recent favourites…

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  1. Meeting with our potential wedding florist. I LOVE her work so fingers crossed the quote works out and we can get booked!
  2. A gorgeous dinner at Rocksalt in Market Harborough. My spiced haddock Scotch egg was absolute perfection.
  3. Mocha over ice…an ice-cold Pimms. Anything ice-cold basically.
  4. Excellent feedback on my first business report and presentation at work. It was a tough project but was made all worthwhile.
  5. Exploring areas of Putney we didn’t know existed. It’s shameful how little we’ve seen of the area!
  6. Waitrose Chocolate Ice-Cream with Blood Orange Sorbet. It’s like a frozen jaffa cake and sooooo good.
  7. A much-needed haircut. It swishes so much better now!
  8. Short denim dungarees. I only bought them last weekend and I’ve worn them most evenings/weekend days since. My favourite new bit of clothing in what feels like forever!
  9. Ticking off another Michelin Star off my list. We went on a work meal to La Chapelle in Spitalfields. My crab lasagna starter was so insanely yummy.
  10. Mars Bar ice-creams bars. Nuff said.

Fingers crossed next Happy Post will mention a shiny new flat! What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #19

Another fortnight, and another one where I’ve found it really difficult to write this post. Last week we buried my Granddad and it was a very difficult day. I then came down with a virus-type illness (sore throat, cough, earache, bunged nose – the lot), and to top if off felt nauseous and anxious for a good week. All the more reason to concentrate on the little happy things I guess!

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  1. A 7 hour round-trip drive in a pretty car. I had to go on a site visit for work, and the brand new Jaguar F-type made the 6.30am start a bit more bearable!
  2. Costa’s Peach Iced Tea. One of my guilty pleasures.
  3. My dad’s Caramel Swirl Brownies. He’s a great baker (check out his Malteser Blondies here) and these were great.
  4. Pink Prosecco on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Bliss.
  5. Dying my hair a new colour. At first I thought it was a tad dark but I’m loving it.
  6. May’s Cronut – Blush Peach and Elderflower. The best of 2017 so far, just a shame that the outside area of Dominique Ansel clearly had a drain issue when we visited. The smell that followed each toilet-flush was NOT good….
  7. Pulling out light and floaty summer dresses for work. Generally I wear shift dresses (see here for my normal work wardrobe, minus my new favourite bits) but it’s just been too damn hot!
  8. Picnic in the park. Instead of cooking dinner I made a quinoa salad (recipe up soon!), whipped up some hummus and threw everything in a coolbag. It was bliss to sit outside and not have to worry about overheating our flat by using the oven.
  9. Flicking through recipe books. I’m trying to mix up our weekly meal-plan – let me know your go-to quick dinners please?!
  10. Doggy snuggles AND puppy cuddles. I went to my parents for the Bank Holiday weekend and caught up with my pooch – and snuck round to the neighbours to meet their 3-month old Westie. Nothing like squeezing a dog to make your troubles go away!
  11. The Good Widow. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
  12. A long walk about the Thames Path. On Saturday we wandered towards London, only planning just a short walk as I am (still!) feeling rubbish. Nearly 4 miles later we caught a bus home! It was such lovely weather, I watched helicopters taking off/landing (I’m a bit of an aircraft nerd!), we ate a picnic in Battersea Park and pointed out our dream apartments and houseboats.
  13. Baking Cinnamon Rolls. In need of some cheering up yesterday (who didn’t?!) we spent the day lazy about, tissues in hand (I’ve kindly shared said illness) and baking some yummy things. Cinnamon Rolls are my ultimate comfort bake and these didn’t disappoint. I’ll have the recipe up in a couple of weeks.
  14. Homemade Chicken Satay. We both fancied my Asian Radish Salad (see here) for a light dinner, but felt like something different too. I whipped up an amazing satay sauce which we used to marinade chicken turkey (actually, as that’s all we had) before grilling. Yum yum!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: A Few Days In York

This little break feels so long ago now. A few days away at the beginning of April, designed to make sure I was relaxed and well-rested ahead of my exam period. We wanted somewhere were we could eat lots and explore – and with cobbled lanes, plenty of museums, interesting little shops, cafes and cosy pubs York fitted the bill perfectly.

 photo A Few Days in York 26_zpszho4rki2.jpg photo A Few Days in York 5_zps4z8i7h5s.jpg photo A Few Days in York 6_zpsikgjsikj.jpgThe train up from London takes around 2 hours, and booking far enough in advance meant it was cheap. Rooms in a Travelodge were also a bargain (top tip: saying you’re travelling for business generally gets you a room on a ‘quiet’ floor which is great for a good nights sleep). This meant we were free to splurge on good food and wine for our trip – after all we were on holiday!

 photo A Few Days in York 1_zpso0fn5at9.jpg photo A Few Days in York 2_zpszqgxnip1.jpg photo A Few Days in York 3_zpsnyh8pzkq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 4_zpsb9mxwx4f.jpgWe kicked off with a meal at York’s up and coming best restaurant, Skosh. They’ve received rave critic reviews despite only opening in 2016 and I can see why. Everything we ate was absolutely delicious, the service fantastic – and we ate at the chef’s table so we could see all the cooking going on. We only managed to get a lunchtime slot as it’s pretty difficult to get a table, but if you can squeeze in it’s well worth it.

The evening we whiled away in Pairings; I would love something like this near me in London. Each order a flight of drink (red wine for me, port for him) and customised our own meat and cheeseboard. Several hours of chatting and giggling later, we both concluded it was the perfect way to spend the first night of our break.

 photo A Few Days in York 18_zpsahcpyiec.jpg photo A Few Days in York 16_zps1iw5r5rq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 15_zpswzu3qhxt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 14_zpsdtxjxfpp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 13_zpsryiettmn.jpg photo A Few Days in York 12_zpstqafbsau.jpg photo A Few Days in York 11_zpsc58rkmam.jpg photo A Few Days in York 10_zpsseskg0zp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 9_zpsojjnfly7.jpg photo 2017-04-03 13.05.05_zpsjkkv0uhg.jpg photo 2017-04-03 11.51.57_zpszcsxhckj.jpg photo A Few Days in York 7_zps6zatirui.jpgAfter a quick brunch in Pig & Pastry, we spent our first morning in the Railway Museum. Far more exciting than it sounds, we could have probably spent longer than the morning in there. However seeing as the sun came out and treated us to a very warm afternoon, lazing about in the Park felt like an amazing use of our time. I also picked up a gorgeous bath-bomb from The Yorkshire Soap Company – I had to make advantage of having access to a bath, even in a Travelodge!

 photo A Few Days in York 28_zpsc62bdu8l.jpg photo A Few Days in York 27_zpsig40e78g.jpg photo A Few Days in York 25_zpsknyl3fxx.jpg photo A Few Days in York 24_zps5cvviu3h.jpg photo A Few Days in York 23_zpsfztpnfai.jpg photo A Few Days in York 21_zps96tnngjt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 20_zps0tuww6ba.jpg photo A Few Days in York 19_zpsf8cga7e4.jpg photo A Few Days in York 31_zpsnxuxylsc.jpg photo A Few Days in York 30_zpsl2sw4odl.jpg photo A Few Days in York 29_zpsiwlfdrue.jpg photo A Few Days in York 33_zpscl5eeann.jpg photo A Few Days in York 35_zpszxxrek8m.jpg photo A Few Days in York 34_zps4asfi3jh.jpgOur final day started in Brew & Brownie, before a walk around the City Walls and a mid-morning nap (the breakfasts were huge). The rest of the day was spent wandering the shops, exploring the Shambles and generally enjoying ourselves. Obviously we hadn’t quite eaten enough food, because we grabbed lunch at Betty’s. We avoided the cliche of afternoon tea but enjoyed their Swiss food. I loved my carb heavy Alpine Macaroni, filled with bacon, potatoes and pasta, whilst W’s Rösti was pretty much perfect.

There was a lot we didn’t manage to do in York. We just missed the reopening of the Viking Centre by a matter of days, and we didn’t manage to go and visit the Minster. We did manage (inadvertently I might add!) to have a little kiss under Heart of Yorkshire stained-glass window – legend says if you do you’ll stay together forever, though he’s stuck with me regardless. I’d have also liked to see a couple of museums, and we both want to explore the Yorkshire Moors – guess we’ll just have to head back up there soon!

Have you ever been to York?

Blogging: Turning Rubbish Photos into Insta-Worthy Snaps (Editing Tips & Tools)

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for months. I’ve become known for having a knack of taking terrible, terrible photos and turning them into Instagram-worthy shots.

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A flower stall snapped from the top desk of a moving bus? A bit of cropping and editing and it fits into my feed quite nicely! A picture of a house at a really dodgy angle? A few taps on VSCO and we have #housegoals. Unappetizing food? Upping the contrast and playing around with the saturation generally gets as close to food porn as my evening meals are gonna get. I can quickly take a snap and be pretty confident I’ll have something to post. I also wanted to buck the trend and write a post about Instagram that doesn’t involve moaning about their ridiculous algorithm… so here’s how I take and edit my snaps and plan out my grid…

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Getting the Angles Right (VSCO)

If you follow me over on Instagram, you’ll know I love pictures of pretty houses and architecture in general (along with food!) – but the key thing with these photos is to get the angles right. I hated most of the photos I took until Katy posted about this little trick (her post gives a step-by-step guide so check it out!). It was a serious game-changer!

The Vertical Tilt feature alters the perspective of the shot. Photos of houses can often have (frankly) dodgy angles because you’re generally not tall enough to take a centered photo – this tool fixes that issue. In a nutshell, you can tilt the top of the building towards you. It pleases my love of straight lines and can fix even the wonkiest of photos. With the exception of the York Shambles. That street was a straight-line-lovers nightmare…

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Cropping & Editing (Instagram)

I generally do all my editing in the Instagram app itself. The main reason is that I’m lazy. The other is I actually find it works quite well with my style of photos and it’s easy to keep things consistent. Too many steps means I’d probably forget something and it just wouldn’t look quite right.

The first thing I do is get it all nicely cropped. The one thing that annoys me about my phone is that I can’t force it to take square photos – and so I quite often end up having photos that simply don’t work in Instagram. Sure, I know you *can* use non-square photos but I’m not a huge fan.

Cropping can also be a lifesaver when you’ve got an ugly element on the photo. The snap above, for instance, was a shopfront near Portobello Market. As I took the photo, a pretty ugly transit van drove by – so instead I cropped out the shop front and ‘grammed the flats above.

Then I go in with a filter. I tend to use Clarendon on all my photos, bar ones that are on a really white background. However I will only use it at a maximum of 30% strength – double tab on each filter in the app to alter how strong it is.

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The main editing is then done ‘manually.’ Usually I do some or all of the following:

  • Up the contrast
  • Up the structure (by a max of 20 points as otherwise it can develop noise)
  • Up highlights and shadows
  • I’ll then go and adjust the warmth and saturation if needed, sometimes the highlight/shadow edit can wash these out slightly
  • Finally I’ll sharpen, usually by around 50%

I try to avoid upping the brightness as I find this was distort the natural shadows in the picture and the finished shot will look slightly flat. Occasionally I’ll also add a bit of Vignette, particular on a flat lay. I find it adds a little more depth.

Then I take a screenshot and crop it to show just the photo. Saving this then gives me a bank of Instagram shots, editing and ready to go. I can import these into my grid-planning tool, upload them to my laptop to use in blog posts and work out how long I’ve got being I need to go and visit a new pretty cafe to stock up on more snaps.

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Planning (Planoly)

Now, I wouldn’t say I have a theme as such. A lot of accounts I follow have a very clearly defined ‘look’ to all their photos, and it’s something I wish I could achieve. Frankly for me, though, it’s not practical. The every-changing weather means sometimes my skies are blue, sometimes grey and moody. I flit between countryside and the city. I spend more time working and studying that I do in pretty cafes. I like to document my food. So what I try and do is keep photos generally quite consistent in terms of style and colours. I’ll bring in a new ‘key’ colour to tie things together – at time of writing I’ve got a lot of green on my feed, a few months ago there was a lot of pink.

I use the app Planoly to plan my feed – it’s probably not the best out there, but it does the job and works well on my phone. I’d love something that can work offline (this one tends to drain my data if I use it away from the flat), and there is a monthly upload limit but it’s working fine for now. Any other Android recommendations out there?

Yes, sure, I’d love to take the perfect photo first time, but I’m finding that this works well for me. My phone also doesn’t have the ability to take ‘square’ photographs, so knowing I’ve got to crop them and play about anyway means doing this doesn’t create any extra work – and it means I have more chance of having a bank of ‘grams ready to post.

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And Finally…Some Instagram Accounts I Love

This is so hard to write – there’s so many accounts I love and my preferences change depending on my food. Generally though my favourite accounts are – rhymeandribbons, farewellmayblog, flatlaybreakfast, fridayfaye, londonfoodboy, jetlagontheroadnatbeesfashion and poppyloveslondon. And obviously so, so many more. If I listed all the ones I loved we’d be here for days…

Are you a fan of Instagram? Send me your account link!

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #18

This post was difficult for me to write, very difficult. I’ve mentioned it briefly on social media, but 2017 is proving to be an extremely hard year for me. In the space of just over four months, I’ve lost both of my granddads. Both matriarchs of the family. Both loved, admired and respected both within our family and their community. The 9 days have been a struggle for me, and trying to see the good bits in my day-to-day life has proved a little difficult. But I wanted to try, to write this post to remind myself just how much I still have in my life to be grateful about.

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  1. Gardening. My company arranged a Global Day of Giving, with offices worldwide closed to allow us to go and volunteer in the community. I went to Alexandra Palace to do some gardening – an activity I love (oh, how I wish I had a garden!). Despite the rain it was a great day, and we were allowed on a tour of the old theatre whilst it’s being renovated.
  2. A good catch up with my parents. The night before I got The Phonecall I’d spent over an hour chatting with them. After a busy time at work with only a few short conversations it was what I needed.
  3. Visiting Columbia Road Flower Market for the first time. It was scarily busy but I bought some succulents and now feel like a proper blogger…
  4. Cheese Toasties at Maltby Street Food Market. The Cheese Truck is now a permanent fixture in my foodie highlights – my fav was the Goat’s Cheese, W loved the Queso & Chorizo. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve dreamed about them since!
  5. Picking up the perfect Gingham Dress from Marks & Spencer. It fits well, is really good quality and the perfect length for wearing with thick black tights and boots, or bare legs and sandals. And I had to get a Size 6. #winning
  6. Starting to firm up our wedding cake arrangements. Though given her *amazing* chocolate chip cookies I’m tempted to just have a cookie tower instead…
  7. An evening at the pub, even if I was mistaken for being in my thirties. Note to self: wear makeup after crying!
  8. Beginning to plan our trip to Switzerland. I spent a good few hours trying to work out the cheapest train tickets
  9. Enjoying National Vegetarian Week. Other than some meat stock used in one of my freezer meals, I didn’t eat meat for the entirety. We had some amazing meals – a chickpea curry with tandoori roasted cauliflower was a particular highlight. Whilst I love meat too much to be veggie full-time I’m definitely going to up from one meat-free dinner a week to at least two and cut it out at lunchtimes.
  10. Playing with my new Kenwood Stand-Mixer*. They make baking so much easier, and I’ve always been a little bit scared of breaking W’s Kitchen Aid! Is two stand-mixers in a tiny flat excessive…?
  11. The BBC drama Three Girls. Not exactly a happy thing as it was based on the child sex trafficking in Rochdale, but it was such a gripping three-part series. Raw, emotional and it really got me thinking. Definitely recommend having a watch on iPlayer.
  12. A raspberry and blueberry crumble with peanut butter topping. As good as it sounds.
  13. Will. He’s been my rock these past few weeks despite being insanely busy. I don’t know what I’d do without him!

What little things have made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Studying Whilst Working

I’ve moaned enough about it lately – the early-morning studying, the late-night revision, the spoiled Bank Holidays. I’ve had a lot of questions both on here and on social media about what I’m actually studying for (and even one memorable accusation of me lying about studying as I graduated last year – the dark-side of blogging cliques right there!). And I’ve had even more questions about how I’m balancing working, studying, blogging and (kind of) having a social life…

 photo Working Whilst Studying_zpshvfkalig.jpgWell my personal feeling is that I’m not balancing it. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed. I’ll sit down to study and think about all those unread emails in my blog inbox. I’ll be blogging and think about all the studying I need to do. I’ll feel guilty having some free time. I love my job, yet I’ll want to leave on time so I can do something in the evenings – either study or blog. I struggle to make time to exercise, there’s always something else that needs to be done.

The exams I’m doing are tough. I’m studying to qualify as an actuary – eventually I’ll be a Fellow of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries with some shiny new letters after my name. The exams intensive in terms of both time and content – and only around 45% of candidates tend to pass each exam. The exam I took in April has a recommended study time of 400 hours, with my notes filling 5 level-arch folders. Squeezing in 400 hours to a 6 month period, whilst working full-time, has actually turned out to be quite tough. I am lucky enough to get around a day off a week from work to study, though the response of many of my non-work friends is that I use them for lie-ins and lazy days – I wish! Most of them I’m at the kitchen table by 8am, and generally spend longer working than an average day. Though I guess doing all that in my PJs is rather nice…

Finding The Time

Whilst it is depressing, I find looking at my average day and seeing where I could fit in some study is the easiest way – doing a little bit as often as possible means (1) I’m in the habit of it and (2) I feel more productive and thus feel a lot more prepared and confident. My commute is generally spent reading material – or revising using a study card app nearer to exams. Lunch breaks I like using to do a couple of questions – I’ve found picking a particularly difficult topic and spending 20 minutes working through it is a great way to power through it (plus I’d put off the difficult bits otherwise!). I also like to spend an hour or two in the office after work. I’ll book a meeting room and put my head down – though obviously I tend to only do these for a couple of months before an exam. All year round would probably exhaust me!

If all else fails, I find physically slotting some study time, some blog time, even exercise will make me do it. If it’s in the diary, I’m committed.
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Little Hints to Keep Motivated

  • Focus on the end goal. Thinking about when I’m fully qualified, with those extra letters after my name, just helps keep me focused
  • Ignore the pass rates and stats – as they’re quite low for my exam, I find them quite demotivating.
  • Set days for certain things. I like to have Wednesdays as my study leave from work, I like to study Tuesday and Thursday evenings, on Mondays and Wednesday evenings I blog and exercise. And Friday night is fun night – until the fortnight before exams of course!
  • Make sure you have some down time. Treating myself to a magazine and face-mask, or a nice bar of chocolate will always boost my spirits.

And if all else fails, productive procrastination helps!

How do you balance everything in your life?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #17

It feels like far longer than a fortnight since I last penned one of these posts – I’ve enjoyed plenty of time off studying, although my next ‘exam’ kicks in this evening. It’s an online fortnight course, with an element similar to coursework and a multiple-choice exam in a few months. One of the easiest ones I need to do, then I’ll crack on with studying for September’s exams. It’s never ending…though I’m enjoying it (despite the moaning!). Here’s what’s been making me smile…

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  1. Early Friday finishes. My office shuts mid-afternoon before a Bank Holiday so I was on my sofa with a cuppa before 4pm. Bliss.
  2. Impromptu meet-ups with my besties, meaning we saw each other two weekends in a row.
  3. Wandering around Canterbury and grabbing a Pork & Co roll – and a black pudding scotch egg for the next day. I don’t know why I didn’t try one of their scotch eggs before I moved away from the shop, it was delicious!
  4. My new mattress topped from Eve. It’s made my bed so much comfier, I’m having a hard time getting out of it in the mornings…I highly recommend it if you’re living with a less than perfect mattress in a rented place.
  5. Perfectly cooked brisket alongside W’s amazing cauliflower cheese. The perfect Sunday roast!
  6. Sticky salmon with vegetable noodles. Yummy, and low-carb thanks to Oomi.*
  7. My new Dyson. I didn’t realise quite how bad my old hoover was until we had to empty it twice. And our flat is tiny.
  8. Getting my blog mojo back. Lots planned for the next few months!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Falling in Love Young

Long-time readers of my blog will know the story of my relationship, but here’s a recap. Me and W met at the age of 16, when I moved to the local Boy’s school for Sixth Form. We got together around three weeks after first speaking, and that was it. Although we went our separate ways to university, we stayed together – travelling up and down the country every other weekend. And during our final year, just before Christmas, he got down on one knee.

 photo Falling in Love_zpssvs7l1p1.jpgSo that’s it. I fell in love at the age of 16. Even if I didn’t know it at the time (spoiler alert – I didn’t). Obviously I wouldn’t change what we have for the world, but falling in love at a young age isn’t easy. Sure, it’s nice to know you’ve found your soulmate already, but there’s the tough bits too…

“You’re Too Young”, “You Don’t Know What Love Is”

If I’m truly honest, I actually didn’t hear this nearly as much as I would have imagined. I did have a lot of people assume we wouldn’t manage to stay together throughout university, including one lovely piece of super-helpful advice – that we split up, then get back together after it. Oh, and the comment about the ‘unexpected surprise’ when we announced our engagement. No, no I did not (and do not!) have a bun in the oven…

I guess I kind of understand. Both of us can pretty much pinpoint the day we realised this was ‘it’ for us – and that day was nearly three years into our relationship. The “I love yous” we spoke after just eight weeks had little of the meaning they do now, despite us meaning it at the time. However I do remember thinking that something was different, the night we got together. No matter how young you are, I think you’ll always remember the first kiss with your future husband.

You Grow Up Together (or Grow Apart)

We’ve definitely grown up since we met – and we knew that we would inevitably grow together or apart. No matter how in love you are as a teenager, I do think there is still the chance of growing apart. I’m not the same girl I was at 16, W isn’t the same guy. I know couples who were just as good as us back in sixth form who just grew in different directions, developed different priorities. And that’s fine.

You’ll Be Useless At Dating Advice

This is something I actually found quite tough – I feel a little bit excluded in girly conversations as I have very little relationship experience. I met a boy, dated said boy, will marry the same boy, done. Yes, I’m lucky in that I’ve never had my heart broken or any major relationship drama, but it’s rendered me pretty much useless at advising my friends.

Also, I have no idea how you meet people in your twenties. I’m technically of Tinder generation but I don’t know how to use the thing…I have no idea of the ‘rules.’ How soon should you sleep together? When do you introduce them to the parents? What about your wider family? Sidenote: we met each other’s parents before getting together, and he met my grandparents after a month. And my entire family by three months in.
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You Still Get to Experience Life, Just Together

Falling in love has never, ever stopped either of us from doing what we wanted. We both did the undergraduate degrees we wanted, at the university we wanted. We’ve graduated. W is doing his Master’s in “Inventing Stuff” (and you can help his Solo Project out by taking filling in this short form on “Sharing Your Struggle“) whilst I’m working in my dream job. We’ll be looking into getting our first dog in hopefully not too many years. We’re doing the travelling we want to do (UK and Europe based). He watches the golf and snooker *snores* and I watch crime dramas and Disney. I buy too many clothes, he wears jeans with pen strains and holes. We’re still our own people, we just muddle through life together.
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You’ll Have a Hilarious Bank of Photos

Yay for planning an ’embarrassing photo wall’ at your wedding. Whilst I don’t think I’ve changed that much since I was sixteen (just worked out how to style my hair!), he looks SO different. I’m surprised he hasn’t had his ID rejected yet…

I will also add it’s painful for me to share this photo. It just makes me cringe!

Your First Dates Won’t Be That Romantic

After McDonald’s lunch with friends and a few hours of MSN chat, our first ‘date’ (the week before we got together) was to Pizza Express. It was raining heavily and he whacked me round the face with a soggy umbrella. Most of our dates were Friday evenings spent alternating at each other’s houses, with the occasional trip to Nandos.

 photo 2016-02-14 15.21.08_zpssj2k95vo.jpgBut above all, falling in love has been fun. We got to know each other without any pressures, no tick-tocking of a biological clock, no desire to settle down. We were able to be ourselves at university, not too closely attached to each other – but there for the other at the end of the phone. I get more years to share with my soulmate. And above all else? I have excellent evidence of the embarrassing moments of his later teens. Though I’m sure he can say the same, so I won’t be sharing…

Did you fall in love at a young age, even if it didn’t last?

Lifestyle: Productive Procrastination

I’ve moaned about it enough, so you’ll all know by know that despite having graduated last summer I’m still studying. I’ve chosen a career path which pretty much needs a professional qualification, so for the foreseeable future I’ll be entering an exam hall every six months.

 photo Productive Procrastination_zps0ad7ut5z.jpgNot only does this mean I’m an absolute delight to live with (sorry W!) I’ve also become quite the expert in productive procrastination. A.K.A getting shit done whilst avoiding the mountain of studying sitting there on my desk. Here’s just a few of my favourite ways to procrastinate, whilst being productive about it.

“Organise” Your Notes

I doubt it’s only me that simply can’t revise without neat notes, organised folders and a fully-stocked stationery drawer?! This year I spent far longer than necessary printing labels for my notes and making sure they were perfectly lined up when sticking them on…

Clean

NGL, my flat is never cleaner when I’m approaching exams. The phrase ‘tidy home, tidy mind’ springs to mind, though in reality I’m not quite sure that scrubbing at an already sparkling oven is an excuse to put off revision!
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Batch-Cook

This is generally something I do right when I realise I need to knuckle down and do some work. Having a freezer full of easy to reheat meals makes me feel so much calmer going into the exam period, as I don’t need to think about having healthy dinners to cook. My tomato-free bolognese is perfect for this, but I also love freezing stews and casseroles. Anything I can just reheat and throw together with veggies or a salad!

Walk The Dog

Yep, the dog I don’t even have! When I still lived at home, even when I went home during university Easter holidays, I found walking the dog one of the best ways to procrastinate. It got me out of the house and away from my desk, blew away the cobwebs and generally just cleared my mind. If only I could find a dog to walk now!
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Pamper Session

Sometimes you’ve just got to improve your mood. I hit a rock-solid brick wall about five days before my exam, right before the Easter Bank Holiday gave me 4 solid days of revision. After a few tears and choice words I took an hour or two off. I filed my nails down, shaved my legs and did a triple mask facial. Midway through one of the face masks I had a bit of a ‘eureka’ moment – and cracked the discounted dividend model for valuing equity investments!

The ‘Motivating’ Spotify Playlist

This is double the procrastination for me, as I don’t generally listen to music. However it’s definitely something I’ve spent far too long doing – in fact I’m pretty sure I’ve spent longer perfecting the playlist than I have actually listening to it. I either go for silence (or as close as it gets living under the Heathrow flightpath!) or pop Heart FM.
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Bake

I’ve already mentioned that baking bread is my number-one procrastination method, although I remain firm in my stance that this is mainly because it goes a good way to reliving my writing-induced RSI. That said, I also love to snack on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g whilst studying, so baking means I generally keep things a little healthier. Homemade hobnobs have *got* to be better than shop-bought ones right?!

What do you do to ‘procrastinate productively’?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #16

Ahhh, the sweet, sweet taste of freedom. Somehow the end of exams isn’t so great when the next run are only 5 months away (and you’ve got an online one in 4 weeks) but it was SUCH a relief to get these ones out of the way. Not least because my arm felt horrendous after 6.5 hours of constant writing. Now just the long wait until July to find out if I’m one of the 40ish% who pass! Here’s what else I’ve been loving recently…

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  1. A whole day of meetings on the top floor of our office. We had stunning views of London all day.
  2. Vegan Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese – based on my best-ever tomato-free bolognese recipe, this was a delicious meat-free version. So good…though even better when I made it non-vegan and covered it in parmesan.
  3. Early morning study sessions. I might be weird for this, but I love getting up ridiculously early to revise. I’m so much more productive in the mornings!
  4. Buck’s Fizz & Pain au Chocolat. We went to the sunrise service at our local church on Easter Sunday, followed by bubbles and pastries. It was such a lovely way to start out a day of revision and chocolate!
  5. Lamb. I practically fought with another woman over the last half-leg in Putney, then roasted it with plenty of garlic in a bed of hay. It was perfect – especially with a rich potato boulangerie and green veg.
  6. Exams being over. Nuff said.
  7. Pizza & Cocktail date. We saw my exams off with an evening at The Dynamo. As usual the pizza was great despite the special being unavailable (my fav is there prosciutto, fennel and pomegranate white pizza) and our drinks were strong and delicious. Shame about the dreadful service that evening though!
  8. A day of spring cleaning. Little jobs that had been overlooked have now been done – and my shower is sparkling!
  9. Lunch at Pollen Street Social. Delicious, and nice to add another Michelin Star to my list! We had to scrap our afternoon plans and nap instead, as 3 courses turned into 7…
  10. A date with my besties! We wandered around Putney, enjoyed pizza, cinnamon buns and hot chocolate and planned next month’s trip to Go Ape.
  11. Homemade ice-cream. We’ve been using the ice-cream maker attachment on the Kitchen Aid to make an ice-cream each month. This weekend we may Hay & Strawberry inspired by Chin Chin Labs. Sooooo yum!
  12. The London Marathon – it’s one of my favourite sporting events. Congrats to all who took part!

What’s made your last fortnight happy?