Personal: Grief

2017 has, so far, been probably the worst of my life.

 photo 2016-12-27 16.50.48_zpskuzjv2cw.jpgI started the year with all four grandparents. By the time the New Year fireworks had ended, I’d lost my beloved maternal Granddad. It wasn’t unexpected, in some ways it was a blessing, and I’d managed to say goodbye a few days earlier. On what would have been his 76th Birthday, my other granddad was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. He passed away at the beginning of May.

Loosing both my Gands and my Granddad in such a short space of time, having not really experience grief before, has completely and utterly shocked me to the core. Both were well-admired in their respective communities, both popular men. They’d been the limelight of family gatherings.

My Gands had had Alzheimer’s for many years, and unfortunately he’d had no recognition of anyone for over four years. The disease had altered him completely, his kind personality often destroyed. It was because of this that his death was, to me, almost a blessing. I’d give anything for a few more minutes with him, before his mind was taken, but I know he’s now sat in his scruffy clothes we all moaned about enjoying a pint.

 photo 2016-12-27 16.56.24_zpsqmlfp8ck.jpg photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpssee0leme.jpgMy Granddad’s death was more sudden, his decline a lot quicker and that was something I struggled with. Throughout the other’s illness he’d always been a constant figure and I hadn’t quite caught on to the fact that he wouldn’t be around forever. Again, the whole family got together and managed to have one last celebratory meal but it was tough. What do you say to a man you know you might not see again, but who is full-on refusing to accept that?

In the last few weeks I’ve had a lot of conflicting feelings. I’ve felt guilty. I know I avoided my paternal grandparents over Christmas as knowing my Gands was in the latter stages of life was too raw. I felt guilty that I cried more for one than the other. I’ve felt guilty at not travelling up to be with my parents, at carrying on with work and life. I’ve obviously felt sad, but I’ve also managed to laugh about them. I’ve felt happy that I had so many years with all of my grandparents. I’ve felt resentful that some of my cousins had better relationships. I’ve felt guilty that I had a better relationship with my Gands than my cousins. But it’s taught me a lot about grief.

 photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpslp8ekdep.jpgGrief is a form of love, and it shows itself in many different ways. Silence, tears, laughter. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. Letting myself cry and going easy on myself helped – I got to work one morning and before I’d even logged on I was in the toilets in tears. I picked apart my to-do list down to the bare minimum and took the pressure off. I’ve hidden away from the world, and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily call that a totally good thing, it’s helped me. I’m a very private person, so cards and messages are not something I can deal with, so they go unopened, ignored, until I’m ready to share my feelings.

I’ve learnt it’s okay for grief to disrupt my life. It’s okay to feel sad. But it’s also okay to feel happy. I know that both of them would want me to keep them in their hearts and make them proud – and that’s what I’ll do. 

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #14

Eek, it’s so nearly exam time now. With three weeks to go I’m pretty much studying none-stop. I’m finding it weird to be only studying for one exam (I almost miss having seven to study for – at least there was variety!) but I am looking forward to it all being over and getting a bit more of a social life back!

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  1. A burger and bride-to-be date. Lots of wedding planning chat with my friend who gets married in September got both of us over-excited!
  2. Spending the whole day in bed. Admittedly I had THE most horrendous migraine I’ve ever had (seriously, I couldn’t ever walk/talk/eat) but I felt so relaxed the next day.
  3. Chicken soup. W ran out the morning I was ill to stock me up on painkillers and soup for my lunch – by the time I could stomach food it was just what I needed!
  4. Drinks with school friends. It had been far too long since we had caught up!
  5. Finding the perfect white shirt. On weekends I like them pillow-y soft and the right balance between fitted and baggy. I’ve been looking for a replacement one for two years and H&M finally came good.
  6. Booking our wedding transport – so excited to be driven to church in a cream VW Campervan!
  7. Homemade pizza. I spread the base (recipe here) with soft goat’s cheese, topped with prosciutto, courgette, a teeny bit of mozzarella and some fresh basil. So fresh, so yum.
  8. A massive Oasis spending spree. I love their work clothes, but they are a little on the pricey side. My bonus came in last week so I went hauling and now I feel so much happier with my work wardrobe!

I’m imagining that the next fortnight will be taken up entirely by revision (though having said that, I do have a cheeky trip to York booked!) – I hope yours will be more exciting! What’s made you happy recently?

Recipe: Steak & Mojo Verde

I’m one of those people who really doesn’t think you can go far wrong with a good hunk of steak. For date nights, “I’ve had a bad day” meals, pay day treats, a steak is my go-to. I usually go for mine smothered in a rich and creamy mushroom pepper sauce, though if W’s cooking his whisky sauce is damn near perfection.

 photo Steak with Mojo Verde 11_zpsgkxl1sh9.jpgThis recipe, however, gives my much-loved steak a pepped-up summery twist that I’ve fallen in love with. When challenged by Thomas Cook Airlines to come with up a Lanzarote-inspired recipe cooked using a volcanic rock I was initially a bit stumped. It’s been years since I’ve been to the Canary Islands, to the point it was the days of children’s hotel buffets rammed with chips and smiley faces. Whilst the sauce I’ve made is pretty potent, it’s just as delicious mixed through yoghurt for a child-friendly version – I wish this had been available to dip my smiley faces in!

I cooked the steak simply, oiling the meat (not the pan), seasoning well and searing over a smoking hot pan. Resting for a good five minutes gave an extremely juicy steak, just warm in the middle whilst still being lovely and rare. I was meant to be using a volcanic rock. Parcelforce seem to be having problems with delivered said rock, and so a pan had to do. Far less exciting, I’m pretty sure it will typically turn up today. Gives me an excuse to eat the second steak currently residing in my freezer I guess!

 photo Steak with Mojo Verde 10_zpshubj3bam.jpgBut the sauce (oh the sauce!) is the star of the show here. A little sharp, very garlicky, a good herby kick from the coriander and a creaminess from the copious use of a good olive oil. Pretty much the perfect sauce – it takes a good piece of blending to emulsify but it’s worth it. Perfect to drizzle over salads, spoon over steak – and scoop up with chips. I also enjoyed it stirred through yoghurt as a sauce for a falafel salad…

Ingredients (per person, plenty of sauce leftover!)

  • 1 large rib-eye steak
  • 1 medium potato
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 handful coriander
  • 2x 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 35ml white wine vinegar
  • 50ml olive oil (+ 1 tsp and some for cooking the steak)

Pop six of the garlic cloves (unpeeled) into a small pan. Pop the lid on and put over a medium heat, shaking every now and then, for about five minutes. They should feel slightly soft, with the skins just beginning to blister. Let them cool for a bit.

Cube the potatoes (around 1″ square) and pop into a pan with some heavily salted water. Boil for ten minutes, drain off most of the water, add a spoon of olive oil, half a teaspoon of cumin and a pinch of turmeric (for colour, saffron would be better/traditional but student budget). Boil vigorously, tossing around, until the pan is pretty dry. Tip onto a tray and keep warm in a low oven.

 photo Steak with Mojo Verde 3_zpswrtx0qlr.jpgPeel the cooled garlic, along with the two raw cloves. Pop into a food processor with 1/2 teaspoon cumin, a good pinch of salt and the vinegar. Blitz to a rough paste, then slowly drizzle in the oil, blitzing regularly. Add the coriander, then blitz for a good minute or so until thickened slightly and creamy looking.There you have it – Mojo Verde! Set aside.

Heat a pan on a high heat under almost smoking. Season your steak on both sides, drizzle with a little oil then (if you like your steak rare) cook for around 2-3 minutes on each side. Wrap in foil and rest for 4 minutes whilst you prep your salad, then slice and serve drizzled with your mojo verde.

 photo Steak with Mojo Verde 9_zpsmijakhjl.jpgA point to note, however – whilst I softened the garlic taste by roasting within the skin, it’s still pretty strong. Not a recipe for a romantic night in!

Are you a steak lover? How do you like it cooked and served?

 

Recipe: A Roast Chicken, Variations & Leftovers

I’ve finally done it! I’ve finally started cooking whole joints of meat and, let me tell you, I don’t think there’s any going back. Nothing can beat the smell of a chicken roasting away, and the amount of meals the pennies buy is actually far, far better than I could have imagined.

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers1_zpsrqiaohag.jpgWe’ve been buying a 1.2kg chicken from Waitrose for just over £3.50 (thanks to the Pick Your Own offers), and this will generally do the two of us for three meals plus a couple of lunches. Considering you struggle to buy four good sized chicken breasts for that, it’s extraordinary value for money.

My standard roast chicken recipe is simple, it takes inspiration from a couple of Jamie Oliver recipes (if you own one cookbook, make it one of his!), my dad’s roast chicken recipe and the fact that I can use lemons away from my parental home. It makes tender meat, crispy skin and a really good homemade gravy. What more could you ask for?!

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers2_zpsrti1ynhb.jpgIngredients

  • 1 small chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 bunch rosemary or thyme
  • Oil
  • 2 celery sticks, 1 onion, 1 carrot
  • Chicken stock (1 litre, from a cube)

Spread a little oil in the bottom of a roasting tin. Roughly peel/chop the veg and space in the tin, seasoning with a little salt and sprinkling over some of the herbs. Place the chicken on top.

Heat the lemon until hot, either in the microwave or (my preferred method) by boiling with your potatoes. Pierce a couple of times and place inside the chicken.

Drizzle the chicken with a little more oil and spread to cover the whole bird. Season well with salt and pepper, sprinkle over more herbs and cook at 200C for around 70 minutes.

Take out the oven and place on a warm plate. Cover well with foil and leave to rest whilst you make the gravy.

Place the roast tin on the hob over a medium heat, and spoon out any really fatty bits (with chicken I find this is only necessary if the bird isn’t great quality). Add a good tablespoon of flour and stir to make a roux. I find mashing the carrots and celery in creates amazing flavour with a little sweetness. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil and simmer until you have the thickness you want, then strain into a jug.

Serve your chicken and gravy with roast potatoes and lots of green vegetables. Pick your leftovers off the carcass and chill the bones/meat separately for use in leftover recipes…

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers3_zps5xnu8rm4.jpg photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers4_zpsue0hdijs.jpg photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers5_zpsijuplobj.jpgMix It Up: Harissa Roast Chicken

A few weeks ago, on that gloriously hot weekend (where it rained all Sunday!), we decided on a summery twist on the usual recipe. The basics was the same, but instead of seasoning with oil and herbs we rubbed the chicken with a couple of spoons of harissa.

Served with roasted onions and peppers, lemony potatoes and a minted yoghurt dip, it was light, spicy and flavourful. A lovely change!

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers6_zpsovrjemwl.jpg photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers7_zpspzn87trh.jpgLeftovers: Spicy Pasties

Whilst we did make this with the leftovers from the Harissa Chicken, it would work equally well with plain chicken. Simply soften an onion in a little oil, add a spoon of flour and a little chicken stock and reduce. Add some shredded leftover chicken and a little harissa (chipotle paste, curry paste or even powdered spices would also work well), and cook until you have a pasty-filling consistency.

Roll out some shortcrust pastry (I have a recipe here) into two rectangles. Pile on the filling, fold and crimp around the edges. Bake for around 25 minutes until golden and piping hot.

Leftovers: Quick Noodle Soup

Make up some chicken stock in a pan, keep simmering over a low heat. Add soy, fish and sweet chilli sauce to taste. Drop in some shredded chicken and simmer for five or so minutes. Add in a nest of noodles and some peas/soya beans, remove from the heat and cover. With two minutes of soaking time to go (check your noodle packet) add some shredded carrot. Tip into a bowl and top with slice spring onion and some seasame seeds.

 photo Roast Chicken and Leftovers8_zpsmdbeolgn.jpgLeftovers: Warm Chicken Parmesan Salad

A less creamy version of a classic Caesar, this is sharp with mustard and lemon. Tear some bread into croutons, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile mix up a dress of mustard, lemon and olive oil to taste (I do a squeeze of lemon, half a teaspoon of mustard and a tablespoon of oil). Add the shredded chicken to a pan, turn on the heat and add the dressing.

Pile some leaves on a plate and grate over some parmesan. Scatter over the croutons and chicken, toss together and tuck in.

Leftover roast chicken is so versatile – it makes the best stir fries, stews and curries. My favourite leftover chicken recipe is so good it deserves it’s own post, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait for that!

Are you a fan of cooking big roasts then using the leftovers? What’s your favourite chicken recipe?

Fashion: AW15 Wishlist

I rarely write wishlist posts, which is silly really – I have many wishlists on the go at any one time. There’s my ultimate lust list of things I’d LOVE. There’s my wedding wishlist safely housed privately on Pinterest. There’s my season wishlist of clothes that I’d love to update my look with. It’s the latter I’m going to share today.

AW15 Inspiration

 

 

I’ve put together an inspiration board, I’ve pinned countless pins, and now I’m also going to blabber on about it. Realistically I don’t have the money to buy myself a whole new wardrobe, so I’m trying this virtual shopping lark. Talking about it might help. It might result in a massive online shopping spree. Only time will tell…

The main thing I’d LOVE over the next few months is a new coat. I’ve recently gotten rid of a lot of coats due to my weight loss – including my beloved cape. A new cape is very much wanted, the nicest one I’d spied so far is this one, but the one-size-fits-all puts me off. I’ve just gotten rid of one that’s too big, so the last thing I need is another! I’ve also been eyeing up the Zara coat for months, but I’m not convinced that this cut is the most flattering on curvier figures…

New Look is my go-to for seasonal pieces, and with a gift-card burning a hole in my pocket I’m not sure why I haven’t picked up any of these yet… The scarf is gorgeous, a standard-sized one of my lovely Zara one of last year. And the oversized tunic is almost perfect. But the zip?! In past experience these only get cold and uncomfortable so I’m not quite ready to shell out the cash…

And finally, suits. I’m now applying for graduate roles and whilst I do have an interview outfit or two, I’d love a brand new one. This grey tweed skirt is gorgeous, though being Michael Kors is completely out of budget. The Oasis shirt is also lovely, though I have tons of pussy-bow blouses already! Realistically my go-to interview outfit is probably already a tweed skirt and pussy-bow blouse, some things never change season-to-season!

A quick mention goes to the polar bear socks – aren’t they adorable!?! A definitely must have…

What are you lusting over for AW15? Are you having a style shake-up or sticking to what you know?

University: When Gaming Can Be A Good Thing

I’m sure every girl has evenings where their boyfriend is distracted by his playstation/Xbox/computer…though having said that I quite like joining in! Gaming has built up a bad reputation over the years, what with the “detrimental impact” it has on younger children and any resulting lack in physical activity.

I do recognise the importance of exercise but active gaming is an area which is growing rapidly. I was sent over this infographic by HomeLeisureDirect who are passionate about health and gaming. They also run school campaigns, which I think is a fab idea!
The Health Benefits of Gaming
Infographic created by Home Leisure Direct

Sponsored post, though all opinions are my own as always.

What do you think about gaming and active gaming?

Lifestyle: April Favourites

I probably say this every month, but I can’t believe how fast the year is going. It’s pretty damn scary to think that this time next year I’ll be facing my final university exams and preparing to start (hopefully!) a graduate job. This month’s been a bit odd for me. Most of it has been great, but this past week I’ve been pretty ill and down in the dumps. I always find a bad patch at the end of the month means I’ll think back on it negatively…but here’s the best bits!
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  • Finding my perfect blushers. I only wish Max Factor had brought these out before I splurged on my Nars Douceur, though at least they are completely different and I’m still getting plenty of wear out of it. They are stunning – easy to blend, neutral colours, natural looking finish. Love, love, love!
  • Reading an actual book. I love my Kindle, I’d chose Kindle over smartphone if I could only have one, but sometimes I just love the relaxing feeling a real book gives. This ones not the most thrilling of storylines, but for a book given by a stranger on a train it’s pretty good!
  • Spending time with family. It was my dad’s fiftieth earlier in the month and we hired a large house in the middle of the Rutland countryside. Utter bliss…though not exactly relaxing with energetic dogs and children running around! Me and my sis also had a trip to Hogwart’s – pretty awesome!
  • My new Barbour jacket*. It was absolutely perfect for the weekend away, and despite it being a men’s version I adore it. Thanks Repertoire Fashion!
  • Realising how much weight I’ve lost. Since Christmas I’ve lost 23 pounds. My goal of fitting into my old size ten jeans got obliterated (they’re now too big) and I’ve even managed to fit in my sister’s summer shorts.

 photo 2015-04-12 12.23.16_zpssnthxlfm.jpg

I’ve also grabbing McBusted tickets. Admittedly this could have been in March, but it’s going in this month’s! I’m of the age where I was a 9/10 year old when Busted were big (Charlie was my boy!), and just a little older when McFly made it (I remember them supporting Busted at the NEC many, many years ago). I was pretty excited when they merged to form McBusted and went to see their first tour – and yep, it was awesome. I didn’t manage to get time off work for a Sunday show this tour, so when I found out they were hitting Delapre festival just a few miles from my parents? I spent an anxious 15 minutes trying to get tickets. The outcome is I’ll be taking my sister to her first festival as long as she’s back from her Duke of Edinburgh in time (she better run!).

 photo 72c042eb_original_zpsswww6xwa.jpgThe best thing about the last month? Sorting out a flat in London for the summer! Yep, I’m living in London for just under three months. Me and W have managed to score a rather snazzy little place in Wandsworth, and I’m super excited. One, living in an amazing city. Two, actually living with my boyfriend of nearly five years. It’s making me feel rather grown up! Fingers crossed I’ll be able to make more blogger events too…

So yep, busy month! I made the most of the bank holiday weekend to relax and do some serious blog work. No rest for the wicked! How’s your month been?

University: Keeping Warm and Reducing Your Heating Bill

Throughout university I’ve always had bills-included housing packages – whilst they probably turn out a little more expensive it’s often easier. This year I’m pay quite a big proportion of my rent as bills due to living in an old style house with massive dodgy windows (there’s a gap in mine that takes nearly half a roll of toilet paper to block up!). With that in mind I couldn’t not share this infographic from RapidOnline;

heating your home

What are your top tips for cutting down your bills?

Baking: Peanut Butter Jam Muffins

 photo 2014-08-03153439_zpsb87ffac8.jpgAnyone know what the difference is between a cupcake and a muffin? I always thought muffins were bigger, but it seems the pans in the shops (well, Wilkinsons, I’m not made of money!) are all the same size. I’ve decided cupcakes are iced, and muffins are appropriate breakfast food!

 photo 2014-08-03153516_zps2bb22f2a.jpgThese muffins would definitely back fabulous breakfasts…in fact I know they do as that’s exactly what I had this morning. A cup of tea (or three), a banana, and a muffin. Yum yum. I seriously enjoyed getting my bake on over the weekend, I’ve recently moved into new accommodation for my placement year and was itching to play with the cooker! A huge improvement on student accommodation I have to say! Back to the muffins, and these do make relatively acceptable breakfast fare – especially good for one the go when I’ve snoozed turned off all my alarms. Went down well with the office too, though I’ve made a mental note that my boss is allergic to peanuts!

 photo 2014-08-03133923_zps750492ea.jpgI made these with another of the hand-stirred conserves I received from Mackays* – this time the raspberry one. Again I’m not 100% convinced this has the fruity flavour I’d want from a jam, but unlike the bakewell recipe it doesn’t matter too much here. You just want a nice fruity sweetness against the peanut!

I’ve moved towards cup measurements recently, as I’ve found it a lot easier to make up my own recipes using these quantities – the mathematical-geek part of me loves the ratios involved with baking…

Ingredients.

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup peanut butter – I used crunchy which added a fab texture
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oil (which I forgot to add, hence mine were a littleeee dry)
  • Jam*

This is such an easy recipe; I love muffins as they really are throwing things into a bowl, a little mix, then bake. Couldn’t be simpler!

 photo 2014-08-03134622_zps1f5c7468.jpgMix your flour, sugar and baking powder together in a large bowl. You should probably sieve them, but I’m lazy and lacking in the sieve department right now…

 photo 2014-08-03134856_zps7d8ee533.jpg photo 2014-08-03135401_zpscc1a6e07.jpgAdd your peanut butter, and mix until it looks bread-crumby. This is probably the hardest part as p-butter is so sticky – I’d recommend using a knife and chopping motions.

 photo 2014-08-03135735_zps72a4188c.jpgMix together your egg, milk and oil in a jug, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

 photo 2014-08-03140134_zpsc0db9850.jpg photo 2014-08-03140142_zpsed85ee81.jpgHalf fill twelve muffin cases (in your tray, of course!) with the mixture, then top with a small teaspoon of jam. Top with the rest of the batter mix, and smooth over so no jam is visible…or it bubbles up and burns…

 photo 2014-08-03142041_zps1cbd3aa6.jpg photo 2014-08-03142048_zps28b9e2e9.jpgBake at 180C for 15 minutes – they should be risen, golden, and give when pressed. And they should smell delicious too!

 photo 2014-08-03153439_zpsb87ffac8.jpgLet cool completely, as hot jam is not something you want to bite into. Enjoy for afternoon tea, or breakfast; hide them away for yourself, or leave unattended in the office – and enjoy the classic ‘peanut butter and jelly’ flavours in a muffin. Yum…

Have you baked anything recently?

 

Recipe: Homemade Pizza

Pizza. Definitely one of my absolute favourite foods, and one which I’ve not let my tomato allergy stop me from enjoying. White pizzas are just as popular over in Italy, and in my opinion just as delicious (plus you get extra cheese – why wouldn’t you want that?!). The lack of tomato sauce really lets the freshness of ingredients shine through; my favourite combo is a simple courgette, fresh basil and goat’s cheese mix, but adding broad beans and prosciutto is also insanely good…

 photo Pizza Dough_zpswwofx8v6.jpgPlease note that this recipe has now been updated (and, to be honest, much improved!), and can be found here along with some rather yummy topping suggestions.

Are you a fan of pizza? What’s your favourite topping?