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?

Food: Getting Inventive with Veg ft. Roots Collective

One thing I’m definitely guility of is seeing vegetables as an after thought. Don’t get me wrong, we eat a decent amount (more often than not I get my 5-a-day in) but they are a side dish. An ‘essential’ mainly put there to get the good stuff and vitamins in. I can’t honestly say I always enjoy eating them!

 photo Roots Collective_zps5d2ribmy.jpgHowever when we moved in together, W and me set ourselves the challenge of being a bit more inventive with veggies. We eat vegetarian dinners once or twice a week, we try new things (hence my new loves for beetroot and butternut squash!). Recently though I’ve taken it one step further. Roots Collective challenged me to add even more veg into my diet whilst getting creative with their blends.

Now, let’s just get this off my chest. I didn’t think these worked as a juice. Too herby, too bitty (I have no issue with orange-bits in my OJ, but green stuck in my teeth was not attractive!). What I did love, however, was using them as an ingredient.

 photo Roots Collective Blends 4_zps5pasahbk.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 3_zpsqgrrd1ns.jpgThe beetroot juice (which was surprisingly the most palatable to drink) ended up being my absolute favourite out of the bunch. Whizzed up with chickpeas or butter beans, some garlic and a spot of seasoning, it made an extremely yummy and vibrant dip. It was such a gorgeous colour that really brightened up my lunchbox (and my study notes – as it turns out my Monday morning brain isn’t great at closing lunchboxes properly…). Excellent with carrot sticks, ever better with homemade pitta. I kind-of ignored Roots Collective’s recipe, instead leaving out the oil and replacing the tahini with a spot of peanut butter (don’t judge!).

Yep, note to self: post recipe for homemade pitta bread soon. Trust me when I say you’ll never look at shop bought ones in the same way again!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 1_zpszl3joift.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 2_zpsbjtutyzt.jpgThe cucumber-y one was another fave, partnering really well with salad. I did a couple of different types. A Mexican bean salad (black beans and onions sauteed wih chipotle paste, served with lots of lettuce, coriander, cheese and a few cheeky tortilla chips) – yummy, and the juice added the freshness I would usually get from soured cream. It also went really well as a dressing for couscous. Served with my homemade falafel this was the perfect lunchbox for a few days!

 photo Roots Collective Blends 15_zps40fy2qei.jpg photo Roots Collective Blends 9_zpsnnfub2wq.jpgThe others I made into soup. Sure, they still need veg adding, but it was a super quick way to add extra flavour without faffing around. Just add the chopped veg to a small amount of water, simmer until soft, drain, add the juice and blend. My current thrifty tip is to make soup out of a broccoli stalk – it’s something that would otherwise get thrown away, but it’s perfectly edible and just makes good soup. Add some blue cheese and you’ve got a happy girl over here!

So, what are Roots Collective Blends? To be brutally honest, I’m still not quite sure! Not a juice. Not a smoothie. The entire bit of veg ends up in the bottle, cold-pressed without any added fruit juice to lock in all the vitamins. They can be drunk straight from the bottle (personally I don’t recommend it!), or eaten us with a spoon (I reckon they are too thin for this – but maybe I’m just a messy eater!). I think they come into their own when used as a sauce or a soup. Oh, and I’m definitely trying this risotto recipe sometime soon!

What’s your favourite veggie dish?

Beauty: How I Build Facemasks Into My Routine

Now, every girl loves a good facemask. A time to slather it on, light a candle, brew a cuppa and read a good book or magazine. Don’t get me wrong, a mini pamper evening is right up my street. But quite often I just don’t have the time to spend half an hour doing nothing.

 photo 2017-01-22 11.08.24_zpsp4hpc13t.jpgThat’s quite depressing, really. But true. Some weeks I don’t really have half an hour to spare to just sitting and relaxing. I mean, if I stopped with the incessant scrolling of social media, if I used my lunch hour a bit better, if I worked a bit smarter, then sure. I’d probably have more time that I know what to do with. I am of the mindset that any spare time I have from now until April (and then June-September. And repeat for the next few years) should be spent studying. Pamper evenings are becoming rare!

So whilst it’s a ‘no’ to regular pamper sessions, I can’t quite give up how good my skin both looks and feels after a facemask. It’s smoother, more radiant, makeup applies better and last longer. It just looks good. So now I just squeeze in a quick facemask session into my general skincare routine. I get the glowy skin, I get the pampered feeling, but I don’t feel like I’m procrastinating (too much).

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 12_zpsyq2rxjn3.jpgBefore I wash my hair (so every 2-3 days) I throw on a clarifying mask – I’ve used the Warming Minerals one for years, but I’ve noticed a sneaky packaging/naming change so I’m hoping it still agrees with my skin. Because of the consistency of this (it’s quite thin, especially to a damp face), I find it works well to remove makeup – obviously taking off mascara first. A quick rinse with a facecloth whilst under the shower and I’m fully cleansed.

This particular mask is warming as you apply it, adding to the pampering feel. It’s slightly tingly (and God forbid you get it in your eyes!), and the end result is soft, smooth skin. Clear pores, yet no tight, dry feeling. It also brings out lurking spots like nothing else I’ve tried.

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 13_zpstmbn7sro.jpg photo Bodyshop Facemasks 19_zpscmk8o5ez.jpgWhen my face is feeling a bit lack-lustre, I’ll go in with either an exfoliating mask or a more nourishing one.

My exfoliator of choice (currently at least!) is this Acai Energizing mask. I confess, I don’t use it as a traditional mask. I simply massage it on, concentrating on any drier ages, then rinse off with a facecloth. Smooth, revived skin in just a few minutes. I also find taking 30 seconds to massage my face so relaxing.

I find this mask great for reviving my skin after a long week. It smells good, feels refreshing (a Godsend after a long Tube journey!) and leaves my skin looking and feeling much happier. And it looks like raspberry jam…what more can you want?!

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 11_zpsvdwxftwd.jpg photo Bodyshop Facemasks 5_zpsodbw1br8.jpgThen there’s the nourishing mask – and my skin has definitely needed nourishing this winter! It’s taken a battering with cold weather, a bombarding of air conditioning and heating, and the recycled air on the underground. Plus London water is not kind to skin! I find I get the best results from any kind of moisurising mask if I apply to wet skin then leave on for five minutes. Anything longer and it tends to block my pores (or become itchy), anything less and it just don’t do anything.

This Honey Mask has been great during the winter, though I’m not sure I’ll be a fan of it’s sticky texture when it gets warmer (I’m hoping to pick up the Rose one for then – I’ve tried it out in store and it smells gorgeous!). I tend to apply it just before bed, then go about doing all the bed-time things. Brushing my teeth, getting my cup of tea prepped for the morning, pushing allllll the cushions onto W’s side of the bed (because it’s the annoying things he loves most about me!). I’ll then rinse off quickly and pop into bed – waking up with soft, smooth skin that’s hell of a lot more plumped up. I find it revives my complexion, leaving me with even toned skin. Definitely a must-have for me – I’ve been using it every other day for the past few months.

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 10_zpsepsek4e6.jpgPlus, these new Bodyshop facemasks are just so prettyyyyy on my bathroom shelf. I’m a sucker for good packaging!

Typically, despite having flawless skin at the time of writing, just before posting my skin decided to have a major breakout. Thanks hormones. So to those of you who see me around now, my current skin is not a reflection of these products!

Are you a fan of facemasks? Do you prefer proper pamper evenings, or just slotting them into your routine?

Review: Brunch at The Dynamo, Putney

One of the other main foodie loves in my life (beside burgers) is eggs. Fried, scrambled, baked, poached and of course the dippy egg. Served with toast, bubble and squeak, chips, or in a bacon sandwich, I just love eggs. As long as it has a runny yolk (I warn you now, never, ever serve me up a non-runny yolk. I will and have sent eggs back for such a crime) you can pretty much guarantee I’ll love it.

 photo Dynamo_zpsqc4v05mt.jpgI almost ruined eggs for me though. My pre-exam meal throughout my final-year exams was two slices of toast, two slices of ham and two poached eggs. Mushrooms if I had them to hand. Now I struggle to stomach the thought of poached eggs, and I haven’t eaten that particular combo since my last exam. In fact, I’ve had poached eggs a grand total of two times since – both whilst out for brunch.

Once was at Cambridge Street Kitchen with some blogging gals – nothing special, toast too crunchy and eggs only just the right side of ‘done’. Another 5 seconds and I’d have sent them back (though considering it took an hour for them to materialise, maybe not…).

Then there were these. The. Best. Eggs. Ever.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 9_zpsxfnekvaa.jpgI’m not even exaggerating. I mean, just look at that yolk.

Dynamo is a strange pizza-brunch-cylist workshop-cafe type place just around the corner from us. It’s dangerously close given it’s menu, though somehow we’ve only eaten there twice since moving in back in August (plus a cheeky Deliveroo order, because it was raining and I needed pizza). I’m not exactly sure what kind of concept and vibe they were aiming for, but it works. It’s the kind of industrial interior that looks good on your Instagram feed. The kind of menu that makes you go ‘oooh’ and have to ponder for a while. Smiley staff. And a bike workshop in the mornings if that takes your fancy… You can even take your dog, which I’m SO doing next time he comes to stay!

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 11_zpsgt6olcja.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 12_zps985di4b8.jpgThe pizzas (I know, this is a brunch review) are some of the best I’ve had. Pillowy, soft sourdough base which some really interesting toppings. There’s a good selection (three!) of white pizzas, including a totally irresistible Pancetta, Fennel & Pomegranate combo. Try it and thank me later.

And now to brunch.

Also a ‘different’ menu. No traditional Full English here. The ‘Full Dynamo’ features sweetcorn fritters, there’s blueberry pancakes with bacon, chorizo hash and all kinds of other egg-based delights.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 5_zps8vly6r1e.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 4_zpshr3uofj7.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 2_zpsd5sfii8i.jpgW had the Chilli Scrambled Eggs – “Scrambled Eggs, Nduja Toast, Feta and Zhoug.” Yep, we had to google Zhoug too (it’s a green chilli sauce). The scrambled eggs were some of the best we’d tried, which considering we have very different ideas about what scrambled eggs should be (I’m creamy and barely cooked, he’s firmly set but fluffy) is a pretty tall order to satisfy. The nduja and zhoug added just the right amount of spice, and the feta added a gorgeous fresh tang. Scrambled eggs, but not the nursery supper from your childhood. He certainly had a happy face after eating!

Then there was my order. Eggs Eddy, a spin on my favourite Eggs Benedict – “Poached Eggs, Black Pudding, Citrus Hollandaise and Seven Seeded Sourdough.” Guys, black pudding instead of ham is a revelation. I know not everyone is a fan of it, but I LOVE it and this worked so, so well. It was perfectly cooked (crispy outer, soft and melting inner), topped with perfectly cooked eggs. Gooey yolks, just set whites and no firm yolk in sight. And the colour. And flavour. So good. The citrus hollandaise was delicious, with the zing cutting through the rich meat so I didn’t feel (too much) like waddling out afterwards.

 photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 6_zps7tztzscx.jpg photo Dynamo Putney Brunch 8_zpssa9hiopd.jpgThe only complaint (from both of us) was that we’d have loved an additional bit of toast, or a thicker slice. A little thing, and we could have easily ordered some had we not been off to devour birthday cake!

So yep, this is my local brunch spot. Safe to say I’m not planning on finding a new flat any time soon! I’d highly recommend a trip out to deepest SW15 if you’re looking for a new brunch spot…Now all I need to do is find out who supplies their eggs!

Where’s your favourite brunch spot?

Recipe: Toffee & Pecan Banana Loaf Cake

This is banana bread like you’ve never had before. Banana bread on steroids. Banana bread so deliciously sticky and gooey it nearly has to be eaten with a spoon, so much so it’s definitely more cake than bread.

 photo Toffee Banana Pecan Loaf_zpsrdfxtaqw.jpgIt’s also one of my favourite bakes of all time.

Inspired by this GoodFood recipe, it’s sweet, squidgy (love that word!) and crunchy all at once, it’s extremely easy and pretty quick to make. The only difficulty and time-consuming bit is chopping the toffees – and if you use fudge instead it’s a whole lot easier. I found the best way to chop actual toffees was to warm a knife over a pan of boiling water (I was doing mashed potato for dinner at the same time!), then chop under a tea-towel to stop toffee shattering everywhere. Then everything pretty much goes into one bowl, gets a quick mix, thrown into a loaf tin, scattered with nuts and toffee and baked. The result is a pretty good looking cake, even when your toffee does sink right to the bottom.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf6_zpsflako6rz.jpg photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf12_zpspxjmyuni.jpgIngredients

  • 200g mashed ripe banana (around 2 bananas – I tend to buy bananas in bulk, ripen excessively then slice and freeze)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g butter
  • 100g/4oz toffee yogurt (I use MullerLight – just under a full pot, so the chef gets the leftovers!)
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 200g flour
  • 1&½ tsp baking powder
  • 75g pecan nuts
  • 150g chewy toffees

Roughly chop the pecans and toffees, then set aside. Mix together the bananas, eggs, butter, toffee yogurt and sugar, until well combined. Fold the flour and baking powder into the mixture, then fold in around three-quarters of the pecan nuts.
Spoon the mixture into a 900g loaf tin (greased and lined), before sprinkling on the remaining nuts and all of the toffees. Bake for around an hour at 150C until loaf risen and no longer soggy in the middle (just a skewer to test!). Cool in the tin- trust me, molten toffee is not a good thing to get on your fingers! Slice up when fully cool – and just blast in the microwave for a few seconds to warm up if serving with ice-cream.

 photo Toffee Pecan Banana Loaf15_zpsumfwa8hx.jpgI find this cake perfect for so many occasions. Stick in some candles and you’ve got one of my favourite birthday cakes. Slice up and it makes a sell-out charity bake. It’s delicious served warm with ice-cream, and I’ve had it (with and without yoghurt) for breakfast too – it’s “banana bread” after all!

Have you been baking lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #13

Dear 2017; please slow down. Before I know it, April will be here and my exams will be on top of me. It’s such a scary thought to know they are next month. For some reason (and I don’t really know why!) I’m finding my professional exams a whole lot more daunting that anything I’ve ever done before.

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  1. Not being diagnosed with anything nasty. I’ve had a bit of a health scare recently and after an obscene amount of blood tests (and a very long wait for a couple of very quick chest x-rays) the really scary things have been crossed off the list. Not exactly a resolution, but a huge relief! Note to self: don’t ignore symptoms for so long again!
  2. Pancake Day! We had two pancakes courses; rolled crepes stuffed with chicken, bacon, mushrooms and spinach in a creamy sauce (then topped with cheese and grilled until crispy), and fluffy American pancakes with maple syrup. I may or may not have have some for lunch too. Possibly with lemon and sugar…
  3. Also, I got W to eat mushrooms in the above pancakes – for the first time ever!
  4. Dog-sitting. I looked after the family dog at the beginning of the month. I got to raid my parents’ food cupboards, enjoy their bath and have puppy cuddles. My idea of a pur-fect Friday night.
  5. Working in Lloyd’s of London. I rotate into different teams as part of my graduate scheme, and I managed to be in the position to work in Lloyd’s for a week. It was such a different environment!
  6. Cooking a delicious Lamb Tagine. I pretty much made the recipe up, but it was SO. GOOD.
  7. My new backpack. I need to pick one up for our main holiday in the summer and whilst it’s probably not the most practical, I do love it!
  8. Franco Manca is coming to Putney. It is on schedule to open next month and I’m so looking forward to it. It’s also on my walk home from the station which is dangerous…
  9. Lighter nights. If I wasn’t staying late to study, I wouldn’t be getting home in the dark!
  10. Heading to a wedding fair. I find these things so strange, but it was fun to have a mooch around.
  11. Tesco now do a tomato-free pizza. Admittedly it’s £5.35 and I’d sooner go to Franco Manca (see no.8) for an extra couple of ££, but it’s nice to have in the freezer.
  12. Eating alllll the chocolate and having a good gossip with my girlies. The best way to spend a Sunday!

What’s made you happy lately?

Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

This isn’t the most attractive of dishes, I fully own up to that. It’s quite possibly the pink-est thing I have ever cooked, have ever eaten. W (quite rightly, though I wasn’t impressed at the time) claimed it looked at bit like brains.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpstpdq0qtl.jpgI spoke about my love for beetroot a few weeks ago (when I published my Beetroot, Black Pudding & Goat’s Cheese Salad recipe), but here we go again. For years I shied away from it, and when I did try it I thought it tasted of soil. Not particularly offensive, but not particularly pleasant either. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve actively enjoyed eating it, something I have our engagement meal to thank for. Now not only do I love it in it’s own right, it’s also absolutely essential for me in my No-mato sauces.

Now, I get that to the non-beetroot lover it’s not a great vegetable. It can be bitter yet sweet, and of course it’s quite an earthy taste to become acquired too. This is a recipe I would highly recommend to someone not to sure about it. Sure, the colour is off-putting, but the flavour is muted by the mascapone, the texture is that of a classic risotto – very creamy. It’s also pretty cheap to make, so it’s been a favourite of mine over winter!

Ingredients

  • 2 beets from a vac-pack (freeze the remaining ones – or chop and roast for scattering on the top)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g risotto rice
  • Small glass of white wine, optional
  • Around 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascapone – or a soft goat’s cheese is excellent (and my favourite!)

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic, then fry in the olive oil or 5-7 minutes over a low heat. Turn the heat up, stir in the rice until well coated. Pour over the white wine, then allow to evaporate whilst stirring. Add the stock gradually, a ladleful at a stir, stirring often. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked (but still with a little bite). If you run out of stock, just use a little water.

Whizz the beetroot in a food processor to make a purée. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and the mascapone through the risotto. Season well, then leave to rest for 5 or so minutes. Served scatter with the remaining Parmesan. If you’ve roasted some beetroot, add it to the top or (as I did here) fry some cubes of black pudding to scatter over.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 4_zpsmsvmsk4s.jpgThe perfect dish to begin falling in love with beetroot!

Are you a beetroot fan? What’s your favourite type of risotto?

Lifestyle: Overcoming Loneliness When Living Alone

Now, I’ve never officially lived alone. During my second and final year at university I lived with some of the best housemates ever. After a summer flitting between both of our parental homes, me and W moved in together pretty quickly after we graduated. Something glinting on the second finger of my left hand seems to suggest I won’t be getting rid of him anytime soon!

 photo Dealing with Loneliness4_zpsechxyd4b.jpgBut I have spent a few good chunks of time on my own. During my placement year I had a rather odd living situation (I rented a spare room – with a lovely live-in landlady, her partner, three dogs and a cat) and would regularly have the house to myself for a couple of weeks. And, of course, this January W spent the month in Chile. So I’ve definitely had my fair share of living alone – and I’ve definitely worked out what makes it a not-so-great experience, and how to make it work.

Plan Something Fun

During my placement year, I saw W pretty every other weekend. Much as I hated our LDR, it gave me something to look forward to – and we always made the most of our time (no vegetating on the sofa for a whole Saturday…). Whether it was exploring a cute little village I’d discovered, heading to a new cafe or getting the train to Brighton, having something to look forward to made the lonely evenings worth it!

I remembered that when he was away, and made plans months in advance. Some fell through, but I was so grateful to spend the weekend with one of my best friends, and also another weekend with my Mummy. Both involved stuffing ourselves silly with pie. One involved homeware browsing and bargain coat-buying. The other involved a lot of cake and a theatre trip. Both were just what I needed to keep my occupied!

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Schedule in Girly Time

Now it might just be me, but sometimes I feel a litttttleeeee selfish when I have girly time when I live with W. Much as I love smoothing on a facemask, lighting some candles and painting my nails, there’s always something else to do! We love baking together, playing on the Xbox – even our usual messing around just isn’t possible during a pamper evening (wen you’ve seen the damage a tickle fight does to freshly painted nails you’ll understand!). Him being away gave me the excuse to have perfectly manicured nails, I used a facemask every other day and I danced to Taylor Swift every night.

Oh, and I was able to watch Bridget Jones, 50 First Dates AND Bride Wars without anyone whinging all the way through it. #Winning!

Have a Backup/Emergency Plan

Now, I’m quite accident prone. In fact, I’m really proud of the fact that I only had ONE accident during January (picked up a pan that had been in the oven with bare hands; 3 fingers and my thumb on my writing hand blistered…). But accidents like this aside, I made sure someone nearby had spare keys to our flat/block (because I was convinced I would lock myself out – I didn’t). I made W show me exactly where the fuse box/water supply bits etc were so I could ‘fix’ things in an emergency. I made a big effort to make friends locally so I had people I could rely on in an emergency.

As you can see, I’m a planner. I didn’t need to do that, I had no emergencies, but it gave me a massive peace of mind.

Batch Cook

Weirdly, I had absolutely no problem with cooking for myself every night at university. This January, however, I hated it. I would get home from work, study for an hour or two, then realise I had to cook. Quite often it was nearing 10pm before I sat down with some food. Trust me, the h-anger was real!

For the last few weeks I got into a routine where I’d prep a few things over the weekend (even if it was just chopping veg) and it definitely helped. There was less relying on pizza – and it’s put me in a better meal-prep frame of mind now he’s back too!

Background Noise

Normally I’m a lover of silence. I don’t listen to music. I work/study without any background noice. I rarely use headphones. However even I needed SOME background noise when in a house on my own. My favourite trick is to put the radio on, as the chit-chat at least makes me feel like I’m having a conversation – I had one study day where I didn’t speak AT ALL to anyone. Sad day!
 photo Dealing with Loneliness2_zps0gskium0.jpg

Get Out

It got to around 4pm one study day in January when I realised I hadn’t spoken a single word. I wandered to Sainsbury’s and it made me feel SO much better. Until I figured out that I’d used the self-service checkouts and still hadn’t spoken to anyone…

But still, just getting out and about will instantly make you feel a bit less secluded. I also found it a great excuse to bulk take photos for my Instagram feed – W hates me taking snaps of random houses, so doing it when he wasn’t amount (plus overcast January days work so well for outside photography!) worked out nicely.

Don’t Watch Scary Things

Now, I’m a huge fan of Silent Witness. I love it. I think it’s one of the most realistic crime dramas about, the acting is excellent and it’s pretty much true to scientific detail. Some of the episodes in the 2017 season were some of the best I’ve watched, and that in itself was a massive, massive problem. The first story was about a human trafficking ring, and I watch it the first weekend W was away. It had some pretty horrifying scenes and despite not being overly sensitive it really affected me. Lesson learnt, only watch nice things!
 photo Dealing with Loneliness1_zpscc2vanrb.jpg

Make The Most Of It!

For me, having W away meant I could be hugely productive. I could get up at 6am and exercise. I could study for a few hours after work, come home and still squeeze in a few hours of blogging. Those few weeks meant I managed to catch up on my study plan (events over my Christmas holiday meant I was quite a bit behind where I wanted to be), and I got a shit-tonne of blog posts drafted up and scheduled. Oh, and it helps to stockpile your favourite chocolate too!

It also meant I could starfish in a king-size bed. Not have to keep putting the toilet seat down. Eat mushrooms and seafood. Have cushions and blankets covered the sofa.

And it all that fails, get a dog!

(I’m joking with the last one. Obviously only get a dog if your circumstances are right. But I definitely would be getting one if W had to go away regularly!)

Do you, or have you, lived alone? How did you deal with the loneliness? 

University: Saving Money in London

London is expensive. You hear this a lot, but I don’t think you truly appreciate just how true it is until you actually live there – I know I didn’t! “Sure” I thought. “Everywhere’s expensive for a graduate” I scoffed. Despite being on a (very) good graduate salary living in London can sometimes be tough.

 photo Student Budget_zpss6by45ja.pngRent is ridiculously pricey (I’m desperately hoping my landlord doesn’t up the rent in the summer!). I have a list far longer than my arm of places I want to eat. There’s shops on every corner. Delicious coffees to be drank and cronuts to be eaten. Travel within London isn’t too bad, but to get out anywhere? It can be ridiculously pricey! We’ve been lucky so far in that we’ve managed to travel out of the Capital for decent amounts, but that’s through being savvy – and used to hunting down cheap fares from our LDR days!


Ticketclever
have produced a (pretty good!) infographic helping students in London. I definitely have to go and give @SkintLondon a follow, sounds like a great place to get ideas. Oh, and even if you only travel a couple of times a year, I’d highly recommend a 16-25 railcard. It pays for itself in just two visits home to me – and the saving on travel to places like Edinburgh means it pays for itself almost immediately!

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

What recommendations do you have to save a bit of money?

Review: Honest Burgers, Covent Garden

I subtly alluded a few weekends ago that I quite like a burger.

 photo Honest Burger_zpsgd83mpms.jpgScratch that, I pretty much shouted from the rooftops about my love for burgers. This year I’ve made it my mission to find my ultimate burger. I’ve got a meat grinder attachment for the KitchenAid to try and make my own. I have an ever-growing list of places to try (and please, please feel free to add your favourite burger to it!). I even, much as I am ashamed to admit it, day-dream about burgers. Please tell me I’m not the only one?!

When we moved to London Honest Burgers was top on my list of places to visit, but despite my office being literally on top of one, it took me until November to visit. Then I went again in December. And again since. It’s taken me until now to pen up a review, and I’m not entirely sure why. Because, quite simply, I could have summed it up with a simple Instagram post and a “Yum” #thumbsup.

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsgeseavtn.jpg(Fun Fact: my flatlay of Honest burgers was my first Instagram photo to smash through 100 likes).

We visited after a few drinks, and before more drinks, with a small-ish group of friends one Saturday night. Despite going to the small Covent Garden branch, we maybe waited 20 minutes for a table (heading off for more drinks whilst we waiting for the all important phone call!) – definitely not the wait we were expecting!

Between us we probably ordered most of the menu. A couple of cheeseburgers, a couple of “plain Jane’s”, a couple of Tributes, a chicken, the special at the time (some with black sesame seeds and kimchi) and my “Honest” burger. Everything comes with chips (a nice surprise!), and we also grabbed a couple of buckets of onion rings to share.

 photo Honest Burger Review 5_zpsn4fklxkd.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 10_zps7nbor936.jpgI always think that if a restaurant names a burger after themselves, it’s got to be a bloody good burger. Byron made that mistake (it was a bit disapointing), but Honest really nailed it. For one, it didn’t contain tomatoes. At all. It’s rare I can enjoy a relish, or even not have to trust them to not put a sneaky tomato slice in, but this was pure tomato-free goodness. A thick meaty patty cooked just right (plenty of oozy pink, but nothing too slime-ily raw about it), seasoned well and actually tasting of beef. Lots of oozy cheese. A good spoonful of onion relish, but not too much it took over. Crisp but not tooth-shatteringly so bacon. A token bit of salad. Some gorgeous lightly picked cucumber – slightly sharp, still crunchy and adding a gorgeous refreshing element. All held together in one of the best brioche burger buns I’ve tried. Despite the juiciness of the patty it held together pretty damn well. I didn’t get it all down my front at least…

 photo Honest Burger Review 3_zps3wha0un7.jpgOther burgers got similar reviews. W had the kimchi special, which I didn’t try (I’m not a fan of kimchi or sauerkraut flavours at all) but it did look and smell good – and disappeared in super-quick time. The chicken burger also looked damn good, even if I never order them. And whilst the cheeseburger did look good, when you can add bacon and relish I’m just not too sure whether I’ll ever order one…

The chips were also a revelation. I’ve become used to disappointing chips, and nothing is worse than a limp fry – but these were stunning. Chunky, almost chip-shop style, but with lots of crispy bits. Drenched in a rosemary salt, they were incredibly moreish and I hoovered up the massive portion size. On my second visit I went after work in my tightest pencil skirt. Bad decision. I forced the chips down and then couldn’t sit down on the tube to get home.

 photo Honest Burger Review 7_zpscwpzqxr3.jpgIn fact, the only dud were the onion rings. And I was super disappointed. One, because I bloody love onion rings (number one place so far has been Burgers & Cocktails, followed rather closely by Ed’s Diner). Two, because I’m heard so many people raving about Honest’s onion rings. Sure, they were reasonably crispy, but the onions inside were watery, and the batter thick and almost doughy. A raw spice taste to them too – despite only two portions between 7 of us, they were the only thing we failed to polish off…

 photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpshsqynyy2.jpgOnion rings aside, Honest Burgers jumped straight to the top of my ‘favourite burger’ list. Excellent meat, good buns, supremely moreish chips. They’ve recently had a ‘Sunday Roast’ burger special with bacon gravy (!) and roast potatoes that I’m desperate to try, and I’m only gutted I didn’t manage to grab one of their Christmas specials. This year, this year.

Have you ever been to Honest Burgers? What did you think? Where’s your top burger in London?