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!
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!
Costa’s Peach Iced Tea. One of my guilty pleasures.
My dad’s Caramel Swirl Brownies. He’s a great baker (check out his Malteser Blondies here) and these were great.
Pink Prosecco on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Bliss.
Dying my hair a new colour. At first I thought it was a tad dark but I’m loving it.
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….
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!
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.
Flicking through recipe books. I’m trying to mix up our weekly meal-plan – let me know your go-to quick dinners please?!
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!
The Good Widow. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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
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…
An evening at the pub, even if I was mistaken for being in my thirties. Note to self: wear makeup after crying!
Beginning to plan our trip to Switzerland. I spent a good few hours trying to work out the cheapest train tickets
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.
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…?
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.
A raspberry and blueberry crumble with peanut butter topping. As good as it sounds.
Will. He’s been my rock these past few weeks despite being insanely busy. I don’t know what I’d do without him!
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…
Early Friday finishes. My office shuts mid-afternoon before a Bank Holiday so I was on my sofa with a cuppa before 4pm. Bliss.
Impromptu meet-ups with my besties, meaning we saw each other two weekends in a row.
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!
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.
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…
A whole day of meetings on the top floor of our office. We had stunning views of London all day.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Exams being over. Nuff said.
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!
A day of spring cleaning. Little jobs that had been overlooked have now been done – and my shower is sparkling!
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…
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.
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!
The London Marathon – it’s one of my favourite sporting events. Congrats to all who took part!
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.
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!
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…
Also, I got W to eat mushrooms in the above pancakes – for the first time ever!
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.
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!
Cooking a delicious Lamb Tagine. I pretty much made the recipe up, but it was SO. GOOD.
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!
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…
Lighter nights. If I wasn’t staying late to study, I wouldn’t be getting home in the dark!
Heading to a wedding fair. I find these things so strange, but it was fun to have a mooch around.
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.
Eating alllll the chocolate and having a good gossip with my girlies. The best way to spend a Sunday!
Woo, back to the fortnightly posts! This year is flashing by so quickly it’s rather scary…though I’d so glad January went quickly (I did NOT enjoy living on my own!).
These last two weeks have been strange. Busy, exhausting, but really rather satisfying too. Let’s chat about the little happy things!
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
“Breaking in” my wedding shoes. A.K.A wearing them with every opportunity. I did the hoovering in them last week, though trying to hide them from W is torture.
Valentine’s! We’re not huge fans of it, but we set aside the evening for a good meal (duck breast followed by souffles – he’s amazeballs!). I was also ‘surprised’ with the Jo Malone perfume I’d been subtly talking about for a while…
Booking the music for our wedding. One of the best Saturday evenings in February involved a bottle of wine and several hours listening to demos. Let’s just say there’s some interesting ones out there, but I’m SO happy with who we’ve managed to get!
My work’s Christmas dinner.Seriously. We had it in a hotel near Liverpool in the middle of February. I ate scallops, beef cheeks and a (disappointing) chocolate dessert and drank lots of (very good) wine.
Starting my graduate rotations at work. It’s been great to learn about other functions and network.
Perfecting my tomato-free Bolognese. Recipe coming soon!
Finishing up my tutorials and a celebratory lunch (Chinese) with my coursemates. Though considering the exam is in April, I’m not sure what we were celebrating…
Spending a Saturday in Canterbury with my best friends. It felt like ages since we had a good catch up. We ate cakes and gossiped for hours!
Eggs Chauncer at Tiny Tim’s, a Canterbury institution. It was English muffins, ham, mushrooms, poached eggs and rarebit sauce. I think eggs should be served with a cheesy sauce more often…
February’s Dominique Ansel Cronut. It was Raspberry & Orange blossom FYI. Best New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made!
I’m well aware it’s been wayyyyy more than a fortnight since my last happy post, since Christmas for that matter – but I didn’t want to change the format of these posts too much. Rest assured they will be back each fortnight now! It just so happens that this one is a longer one…
A lot has happened in my life since the last Happy Post, and in all honesty the majority of it wasn’t that happy – so I’ve been focussing on the little things. Since writing these posts my positivity has improved no end!
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
Christmas. Surviving travelling up from London carrying a very heavy Christmas cake. Getting our parents together for a festive celebration on Christmas Eve. Catching up with all of our families. Receiving some lovely presents.
Expanding my Charlotte Tilbury collection. Admittedly only by a lip liner, but I will also be booking a bridal session courtesy of my parents very soon. #excited
Making an amazingggg dessert with W for our NYE party. We made Chocolate & Cherry Brownies, with a Hazelnut Mousse, Cherry Gel and Chocolate Soil. And caramel-dipped hazelnuts. It was SO good.
Talking about all the funny memories. Hard and teary, but it made the sadness better.
Will’s birthday meal at Mac & Wild. We ate an extreme amount of venison. Plus there was toasted bee pollen on my dessert. And I had an amazing whisky cocktail. Goooood night!
Passing my first professional exam. Granted it’s one that doesn’t reallllyyyy count, but still!
New PJs. They are the softest, cosiest things EVER.
Hitting over 100 likes on an Instagram shot. It’s the little things that make me happy! (plus it’s kept happening!)
Visiting the Design Museum. Definitely worth a trip, though I’d advise staying away at weekends.
Getting a seat on the Tube all the way. I usually get one for most of it, but to board the Tube and sit down straight away meant it was a good day. Like I said, it’s the little things…
Wandering around Parson’s Green. Quite possibly my new favourite pastime – the charity shops are full of insane bargains!
Talking of bargains, I picked up a lovely coat at Spitalfields for £15. It’s just what I’ve been looking for – and seeing as I found a fiver in my bag I’m even more chuffed!
Spending time with one of my best friends. It was just what I needed to cheer me up!
Cooking up the best tomato sauce substitute I’ve tried. Even worked well on pizza…
Spending time with another of my best friends – my mummy. She came down for a sleepover, we ate too much chocolate, then too much cake and cried at Phantom of the Opera.
Picking W up at Heathrow. I missed him more than I want to admit – it felt like I was missing my left (I’m a leftie!) arm.
Silent Witness. Though NOT a good thing to watch when you are living completely on your own…
A new washing machine. It now actually washes and dries things, rather than making them hot and creased.
Catching up with my cousins. Might not have been for a happy occasion, but it was good to see them!
Pretty new shoes from Kurt Geiger. The perfect ‘power heels’ – high, pointy, patent black.
Taking time to paint my nails and put on a facemask on Sunday nights. The advantage of not having W around was plenty of time to be a ‘girly girl’!
Eating a Wispa. It’s not a bar I’d usually choose, but it really hit the spot…
My new slippers. No longer is going into the bathroom a form of torture.
Stand Up Philosophy. We’ve been meaning to go for ages, and we did it. Topic of the night was ‘taste’ and my highlight was definitely Sophie Duker (even if she did knock over my wine – luckily I’d almost finished it!). Not one to listen to with a full bladder.
The third shoe mention – I bought my wedding shoes!! Yes, 20 months in advance, but when you have Size 3 feet and you spot the perfect pair a gal’s gotta move fast.
Baking a Toffee, Banana & Pecan Loaf Cake. It was so, soooo good! Recipe to follow…
Hands up who else can’t believe how quickly December crept up on us?! These past two weeks have been pretty full-on again. Lots of celebrating, an awful lot of food, more than a little cheeky shopping and cramming in study whenever I could too. I’m SO looking forward to a few weeks off over Christmas and New Year now, I seriously need to recharge my batteries!
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
Birthdayyyyy! I turned 23 at the beginning of the month and had a lovely, lovely chilled few days celebrating.
Mulled cider. My favourite winter-y tipple, there’s a pub in Leadenhall Market that does this perfectly.
A new Kindle. My parents treated me for my birthday. I’m so, so grateful and it was sorely needed after mine decided to die a slow and painful death over November.
Getting positive feedback on my first assignment. Yes, I failed it, but it was clear I’d mis-read a question and I know exactly where I need to work on. Feeling motivated now!
Honest burgers. Again. I met one of my besties after work and it was DELISH!
The best eggs I’ve eaten. Ever. The yolk porn was insane.
Seeing The Lion King. It was just amazing. I cried.
Spending a fortune (worth of gift cards!) on New Look. I’m just hoping it all fits…
Making new blog friends. I headed over to a Co-Op and Sorted Food event last week and met Tanya for the first time. We drank too much prosecco and had a ball.
Ginger, Orange & Chocolate Cookies. My new favourite treat.
November is normally one of my favourite months. It’s normally cold and crisp. I love Bonfire night; wrapping up warm to watch fireworks and scorch my face by getting too close to the flames. I love wandering around London and sniffing the first whiffs of Mulled Wine. I love buying presents, choosing wrapping paper, getting ready for Christmas. I love cosying up with a good bowl of comforting food.
This November has been different.
I’ve kept up a smile, a happy appearance (W would say differently, it’s his shoulder I cry on!). But I’ve really struggled with November this year.
I found it grey, the weather pretty miserable. Even on dry days, the biting wind of Fenchurch Street all but killed off my lunchtime strolls. I resented it being dark in the mornings and dark in the evenings, even dark during the days on one horrific Monday. I felt overwelmed with all I had to learn for my job, the amount of studying I need to do before my exam in April. I missed my university housemates, felt lonely and isolated. I felt pressured and fed up of wedding planning. I began to hate my appearance; frizzy hair, spotty and flaky skin, growing wobbly bits. All in all, it hasn’t been my best month.
It’s made me all the more grateful for the little things, the tiny bits that make me smile, make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Whether it’s ready a good blog post, understand a section in my course notes or making the perfect cup of tea (rarer that you’d think!), focusing on these has kept me from throwing the towel in and hibernating until Spring…
A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on
Brunch & Babes
One grey and drizzly Sunday morning was certainly cheered up with brunch and catch-ups with some of my favourite blogging girls – and some new favourites too. We headed over to Cambridge St Kitchen for instagrammable dishes and plenty of chatting, all in celebration of Jasmin’s birthday. And it really cheered me up. I’d been feeling a little lonely over the past few weeks so it couldn’t have come at a better time!
The brunch was, we all agreed, “fine.” Nothing special, not really worth the 60+ minutes wait, bitter coffee and my toast was burnt. The cafe itself was lovely, the staff friendly if slow, and my poached eggs were yolk-porn perfection. Not bad, not great.
We followed with a ‘cake quest’ – picking up the much-hyped Cronut and then a good wander around Victoria and across the park to work at least some of it off. Verdict on the Cronut? Insanely indulgent, deceptively filling, wonderfully sweet yet balanced. November’s flavour (yep, wish I hadn’t known about the monthly flavours!) was Cherry & White Almond, and the frangipane notes work well against the sharp jam and sweet dough. I’m not convinced it’s worth the hype, but it was good. Though it hasn’t replaced my love for Co-Op doughnuts…
Moving in together means there’s little room for romance in our day-to-day lives. However right at the start of the month W surprised me with date night. He cooked a super-fancy meal, we turned off all distractions and really enjoyed each other’s company. And with him in the kitchen, I’m a lucky girl. Pan-roasted venision with celeriac puree and blackberry pan jus, followed by his S’mores concept dessert. Homemade chocolate and whisky ice-cream, buttery biscuit base, mashmallow-y meringue blow-torched to give that toasted flavour. Yum.
He also surprised me with flowers. And remembered to buy us a vase to put them in. I found a good’un!
I know I said that the month was pretty grey and miserable (and it was!), but there were some gorgeously sunny days. Every time the sun made an appearance I insisted on wrapping up warm and heading out to make the most of it – which is pretty easy when we live right next to a gorgeous little park.
I’m on the go a lot. I rarely sit down and truly relax. I work full-time. I study on the tube. I get home and exercise. I either cook or wash-up (because adulting). I either blog or study. I sleep. I get up early. Repeat.
One Saturday we made the effort to really take some time to chill out, relax and start the weekend properly. We planned to shop on Friday evening (we usually go pre-9am on Saturdays, because me and busy shops is not a good combo). We didn’t set an alarm, we had giant mugs of tea in bed, we made scrambled eggs. Separately, because he likes a firmer-set scramble, I like part-cooked softly set eggs. Bliss.
Right when Instagram is full of salads, of healthy dishes, of vegan “free-from everything” meals – I post a picture of a crisp sandwich that I had for lunch. With S’mores brownie on the side. I have no shame! In all honesty I’d been craving a crisp sandwich for months, it was the first lunchtime in a long time I was on my own, and so I indulged. White ‘plastic’ sandwich bread, proper salted butter (no of that spread nonsense), salt’n’vinegar crisps. So bad, so good. Messy, crunchy, slightly greasy and a full-on carb overload. I only regret that it’s not socially acceptable to do in the office…
And speaking of S’mores Brownie, that was a definitely highlight of November for sure… I took some wrapped up to our local Firework celebration. The perfect snack!
Stocking Up My Freezer
A few weeks back Abel & Cole offered to send me one of their new student recipe boxes*. A veggie recipe making six portions, along with potatoes and some seasonal fruit – all for £14.50. I normally think recipe boxes are a bit overpriced, but actually I’m really impressed with this one.
I originally got sent their Mushroom & Leek Risotto Box – which sounded super-yum. Unfortunately Royal Mail, ahem, royally mucked up and I only got my hands on the box a week after it was sent. I rescued what I could and made a yum potato and leek soup (plus stock up my cupboard with arborio rice) and had apples for snacks for a few days.
They then sent over their Squash Scouse (hand-delivered). And I now have it stashed away in my freezer for evenings where I just want to leave something to heat up and cosy up with a warm bowl. It made eight massive portions (and I didn’t even use all the ingredients), the veggie flavours were simple yet stunning and it is super-filling. We’ve had it on it’s own, with chicken and with spicy sausages. Yum!
Despite the greyness, the dampness, the shorter days – it’s been so lovely to get out and about and really explore some more of London. I loved wandering around Victoria with the blogging girls, I loved have a browse around Spitalfields with W – it took alllllll my willpower to ignore Bleecker Street burgers! Though my Christmas dinner toastie (cheers Costa) was pretty yum…
Have you tried any of the coffeeshops Christmas specials? What was your highlight of November?
Woo, less than a month til Christmas! And even more importantly, my birthday is this week. I am the kind of person who inwardly gets so excited about their birthday, and this year is no exception. I have the day off work (and the day before off for study – yay for double lie-ins!). I plan to spend the weekend seeing some of my favourite people and eating more food than appropriate. Oh, and brunch which I’m hoping will involve a reinvented Eggs Benedict which incorporates black pudding. Yum!
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
Brunch with some blogging gals to celebrate Jasmin’s birthday. It was so nice to see some new faces, and catch up with everyone else. It had been far too long!
Pretty flowers. I came home one Friday to a bunch of flowers on the table. I’d had a grumpy week so this really made me smile.
Making a potato-dauphinoise-cross-cauliflower-cheese-bake-thing to go alongside roast pork. It was super yum and I now have a mandolin to damage myself with!
Booking our wedding photographer. It’s one of the most important parts to me and it’s resulted in a LOT of Instagram stalking over the last few months.
Scallops. I love them, but rarely get to eat them as I’m never hugely tempted by the sound of the entire dish on the menu. These, however, were served with black pudding and a smoked aubergine puree. Cooked perfectly, they were delicious.
Stir-up “Sunday”. Despite seeing Christmas Cake and Pudding as Devil’s Food (dried fruit = ick!), it was great to spend a Saturday evening baking, making a mess of the kitchen and breathing in festive smells.
Sticking to the Christmas theme, we headed out for lunch at Costa to try out their festive specials. I love the Christmas Dinner Toastie I chose, though we were both a little disappointed at the Pigs in Blankets pannini – bacon and sausage together doesn’t equal PIBs, right?!
A wander around Spitalfields and Brick Lane. Definitely a place I want to revisit.
Watching The Missing. The series has been so, so tense. If you haven’t seen it, get in iPlayer now! The ending of last week’s episode was so frustrating I screamed.
Meeting old friends and *finally* visiting Honest Burgers. Was so nice not to have to remove relish (#allergyissues), the burgers were yum, chips amazing, and the company awesome. A good night!
An extra little one this fortnight. Katy put out a shout for Happy Things a while back and her post was so, so uplifting. She got over 150 replies and reading through it put a massive smile on my face.
What has been the highlight of the last few weeks for you?