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?

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!
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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!
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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? 

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #12

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!

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Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…

  1. “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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. Starting my graduate rotations at work. It’s been great to learn about other functions and network.
  6. Perfecting my tomato-free Bolognese. Recipe coming soon!
  7. 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…
  8. 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!
  9. 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…
  10. February’s Dominique Ansel Cronut. It was Raspberry & Orange blossom FYI. Best New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made!

What are the little things that make you happy?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #11 (The Bumper One With Christmas!)

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!

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Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…

  1. 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.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. Talking about all the funny memories. Hard and teary, but it made the sadness better.
  5. 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!
  6. Passing my first professional exam. Granted it’s one that doesn’t reallllyyyy count, but still!
  7. New PJs. They are the softest, cosiest things EVER.
  8. Hitting over 100 likes on an Instagram shot. It’s the little things that make me happy! (plus it’s kept happening!)
  9. Visiting the Design Museum. Definitely worth a trip, though I’d advise staying away at weekends.
  10. 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…
  11. Wandering around Parson’s Green. Quite possibly my new favourite pastime – the charity shops are full of insane bargains!
  12. 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!
  13. Spending time with one of my best friends. It was just what I needed to cheer me up!
  14. Cooking up the best tomato sauce substitute I’ve tried. Even worked well on pizza…
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Silent Witness. Though NOT a good thing to watch when you are living completely on your own…
  18. A new washing machine. It now actually washes and dries things, rather than making them hot and creased.
  19. Catching up with my cousins. Might not have been for a happy occasion, but it was good to see them!
  20. Pretty new shoes from Kurt Geiger. The perfect ‘power heels’ – high, pointy, patent black.
  21. 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’!
  22. Eating a Wispa. It’s not a bar I’d usually choose, but it really hit the spot…
  23. My new slippers. No longer is going into the bathroom a form of torture.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. Baking a Toffee, Banana & Pecan Loaf Cake. It was so, soooo good! Recipe to follow…

What’s been making you smile lately?

Personal: 2017 Goals, Month by Month

A bit belated perhaps, but after my month off I need a good ole kick up the ass and motivation boost. You see, I didn’t just give myself a month off from blogging. I had two weeks off work, a good chunk of time away from studying, and even took a fitness break. In fact, pretty much the only thing I didn’t take a break from was eating excessive amounts of chocolate.

 photo 2017 Goals_zps78affijh.jpgNormally my New Year’s Day looks like this – I’ll take the dog out for a good walk to clear my head, and I’ll sit with a bucket full of tea and think about my resolutions. This year had other plans for me, and the day wasn’t spent thinking about myself, but spending time with my family, being there for each other and reminiscing. And I kinda carried on in that vein for a few weeks. Nothing wrong with it, but when I started to get behind on study, when I returned to work and struggled to get anything in the evenings, I knew I had to set some goals. And fast.

This year I’ve done it a little differently. I’ve not set resolutions for the whole year. I’ve set a few fun year-long goals, but mostly I’ve worked month-by-month. Concentrating on some more specific goals for just 30 days seems a whole lot more achievable, and who knows – the habit might stick by the end of month!

 photo 2017-01-22 22.00.57_zpsrwokriis.jpgJanuary – Plan all my meals in advance at the weekend. Drink at least 5 glasses of water throughout the work day. Only eat canteen lunches once a week. And get my shit together and get organised!

Update (5 Feb) – I can kill two birds with one stone in this post, and review how I got on over January. As Will was away I had to be doubly organised with meals and so I did plan every meal – and only ate in the canteen twice overall. I think most days I drank 5 glass of water, never less than 4 plus fruit tea anyway. And I feel a little more organised, so I’ll count last month as a success!

February – Post on Instagram at least twice a day. Learn to make marshmallows. Only eat pasta once a fortnight.

March – Do at least two hours of study every day (you can tell my exams are in April!). Eat two vegetarian dinners a week.

 photo 2017-01-22 11.08.24_zps7oebi6tc.jpgApril – Do all possible prep for dinner the night before. Go out for fresh air every lunchtime. “No spend” month, with no purchases of makeup, skincare, clothes or shoes.

May – Do a workout everyday (maybe start the C25K again…). Visit somewhere new every weekend. Leave my phone in my bag whilst at work.

June – Wash my makeup brushes every week. Push myself at work (June is a big month for presentations, which is my worst fear, so this is a big one!).

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zps8s9qgfnh.jpgJuly – Eat something ‘raw’ at least once a day (July will be the month of the salad!). Bulk take blog photos at the weekends. Look into learning how to row.

August – Get off the tube early at least 3 days a week and walk. Don’t buy in ice-cream, only eat it at home if I’ve made it. Don’t touch my phone after 9pm.

September – Do at least two hours of study every day (more exams at the end of September). Leave my Kindle untouched until my exam is over.

October – Cook a new recipe at least twice a week. Do some serious wedding planning (I’ll be hitting the 1 year countdown, how scary is that?!). Only drink one cup of tea a day.

 photo Report Done_zpsevlcr5tk.jpgNovember – Up my social media game. Prep at least one blog post an evening (3 nights a week). Learn something new (maybe knitting – because I’ve not been saying that for years!). Cut down from having sugar in my tea.

December – Volunteer my time over Christmas. Take some time away from social media to concentrate on my family. Keep up a fitness regime over the festive period.

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And my year-long goals? I want to try each month’s flavours of Cronut at Dominique Ansel (though November’s is still my favourite so far!). I want to get more organised, both in and out of work. I want to meet up with more blog friends, see my uni friends more, socialise a little more with people from work. Here’s to 2017 being better than it started!

What goals are you working on this year?

Personal: A Hello From Me

Long time, no blog!

It’s been far too long since I since down at my laptop and tapped out a blog post. I’ve hardly picked up my camera in weeks. I’ve even been logged out of Twitter on my phone due to ‘inactivity.’ All in all, not quite the productive start to the year I was hoping for.

 photo 2016-12-02 12.08.03_zps2chmqmpb.jpg photo 2016-12-02 11.50.30_zpsqtlnvbip.jpgI probably made it clear in my last post just how tired i was, how run down I felt. At the time I was balancing work, study, blogging, a rammed social calendar and wedding planning, on top of personal circumstances that were far from pleasant. I had an email inbox that was rapidly expanding, a to-do list that was getting to be taller than I was (no mean feat, even with me being vertically challenged!). My skin was betraying just how exhausted I was, and my immune system gave way to a nasty virus in the week before Christmas.

I spent Christmas trying to solider on through, alcohol making me want to throw up, falling asleep at every opportunity and not even feeling like enjoying my food. Typically the 27th dawned and I felt an awful lot better – and luckily made a good dent in the leftovers. Using pigs in blankets as dipping implements for a boiled egg was the best idea I’d had throughout all of 2016…

 photo 2016-12-27 11.59.52_zpsyinsztih.jpg photo 2016-11-12 13.59.15_zpsqwcb2t3i.jpgA few cold countryside walks, a couple of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (because vitamins…?!) and things were looking up. I managed to get a decent chunk of studying done. Planned out the first few months of blog posts for 2017. And then the aforementioned personal circumstances came back and hit hard. Just a few short minutes into the year, my beloved Granddad peacefully passed away. It’s not something I’ve really mentioned on here, but he’d been suffering from severe Alzheimer’s for many, many years and whilst his passing is sad, I’m relieved he’s finally free – I’m sure he’s having a pint and chuckle at us all right now!

Feeling under the weather and dealing with grief – not to mention the fact that W then went to South America for the month – meant I just needed to continue to take a break. Despite myself promising I’d never put pressure on myself to blog, that’s exactly what I was doing for much of 2016. I hate not fulfilling my posting schedule, I hate being chased to reply to an email.

 photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpsbhea1wxt.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.59.28_zpsquqpo0fy.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpsldgejd2c.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.19.27_zpsyoegimcb.jpgThis year I’m going to try and take some of the pressure off. I’ve shifted around my posting schedule to reduce the number of posts each month. I’ve set an auto-reply to give PRs a warning that I may not reply immediately. I’m going to try and meet new bloggers, make coffee dates with those I’ve been meaning to catch up with for months. I’m going to head out for meals and not photograph them (well, maybe). I’ll bake for the enjoyment and not for the Instagram likes. I’ll make time for me, make plans for me and not ‘for the blog.’ I love blogging, I’m sticking around for a while. But I also like living, and my blog doesn’t entirely define my life. Here’s to 2017 being the year I live for me.

How has the start of the year been for you?

Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas

Just a quick note from me to say I’m now signing off until the New Year.

 photo Christmas 2016 18_zpsn3lze10m.jpgIf I’m honest, the last month or so has exhausted me. I’ve been emotional and teary, and quite frankly a joy to live with. I’ve tried to do far too much, overworked myself in my career, my study, my blog. I’ve set the bar for myself too high and the beaten myself up when I ‘failed.’

I desperately need to recharge my batteries.

I have a whole fortnight off work. I’ve cut down the studying I planned to do (see, too much of a control freak to let myself have proper time off!). I’ve swiped my blog schedule clean. As of 1pm on Friday I’m officially out of the office, and will at least reserve a few days for total rest and relaxation.

 photo Christmas 2016 19_zps9sx1dqvj.jpgThe plan is to catch up on some zzz’s. Eat far too much food. Drink lots of wine. Catch up with friends and family. I might be feeling more unfestive than I ever have before, but I’m also looking forward to this Christmas period more than I can remember.

So to all my lovely readers, have an absolutely lovely Christmas, a very merry New Year, and I will see you (hopefully refreshed and replenished!) in 2017! x

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #10

It’s Christtttmasssss!

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!

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Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…

  1. Birthdayyyyy! I turned 23 at the beginning of the month and had a lovely, lovely chilled few days celebrating.
  2. Mulled cider. My favourite winter-y tipple, there’s a pub in Leadenhall Market that does this perfectly.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. Honest burgers. Again. I met one of my besties after work and it was DELISH!
  6. The best eggs I’ve eaten. Ever. The yolk porn was insane.
  7. Seeing The Lion King. It was just amazing. I cried.
  8. Spending a fortune (worth of gift cards!) on New Look. I’m just hoping it all fits…
  9. 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.
  10. Ginger, Orange & Chocolate Cookies. My new favourite treat.

What’s been the highlight of your last week?

Lifestyle: November Favourites

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…

Bloggers do brunch! Happy belated birthday @jasxcharlotte 😘

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…
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Date Night

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!
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Autumnal Sunshine

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.
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Cosying Up

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.
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Crisp Sandwich

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!
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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!

London Wanderings

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?

Lifestyle: Feeling 23 (+25 before 25)

Cliched I know, but I genuinely feel like my life is flashing by before my eyes!

This time last year I was battling my way through the final year of my degree, sobbing my heart out with each final-stage job rejection and confused as to why W was acting secretly and my mum was hardly talking to me. Fast forward to now. I graduated with a First (and by a good margin too!), got offered two graduate jobs, am working in a job I love, and I’m living in London with my fiancé. Because a secretive long-term boyfriend and a shift mum meant a proposal was in motion, of course! I look back to last November/December and I just can’t believe how much my life has changed. I’m pretty much a full blown adult!

 photo 2016-11-12 14.00.47_zpsr1nyghen.jpg(I say that wearing my PJs, whilst drinking a hot chocolate that’s more marshmallows than drink…)

I turned 23 yesterday and it got me thinking – I have so much I want to do, several different bucket lists, and I really should start getting them ticked off. It also made me realise that life is passing me by quickly. In under two years I’ll be married and, whilst that in itself is the start of something very exciting, I equally want to make the most of these next two years, of being engaged and of having slightly less of those big scary responsibilities!

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  1. Get married. At least I know I’ll tick something off!
  2. Get a dog. Or at least set up a doggy share…
  3. Be at least a little bit closer to buying a house.
  4. Visit America.
  5. Paint a painting.
  6. Make good progress with my professional exams – finishing them is looking very unlikely unfortunately!
  7. Go on a tour of the Scottish Highlands.
  8. Visit Bruges.
  9. Host a proper, grown-up dinner party.
  10. Learn to row.
  11. Learn to knit.
  12. Cook an Eggs Benedict for myself.
  13. Make my own sausages.
  14. Grow (and maintain) some plants. With no accidental murders…
  15. Start running. And get past a few miles without injuring myself.
  16. Cook Pork Pilbil – my favourite Wahaca dish.
  17. Create a tomato-free BBQ sauce.
  18. Make all my bread from scratch.
  19. Revisit Switzerland.
  20. Go to Disneyland.
  21. Find my ‘ultimate’ burger.
  22. See a Highland Cow in the flesh (fur?).
  23. Host Christmas dinner.
  24. Volunteer. I’m planning on helping out at a ‘Supper Circle’ in the new year, cooking meals for families in need.
  25. Go glamping. I’m not into tents, but something a bit more glamorous might be more my cup of tea…

A bit of a varied list! Who knows if I’ll be able to afford some of the bigger items, and right now I cannot imagine hosting Christmas dinner in our little flat (where would everyone go?!). But I’m going to try my damn hardest to tick as many of these off as I can before I turn 25. Note that finding a grey hair is not on the list!
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Being 22 turned out to be the best year of my life, and I’m hoping the rest of my twenties continue along in the same vein! What do you want to tick off in the next few years?