Just a quick note from me to say I’m now signing off until the New Year.
If 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.
The 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
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?
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!
(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!
Get married. At least I know I’ll tick something off!
Get a dog. Or at least set up a doggy share…
Be at least a little bit closer to buying a house.
Paint a painting.
Make good progress with my professional exams – finishing them is looking very unlikely unfortunately!
Volunteer. I’m planning on helping out at a ‘Supper Circle’ in the new year, cooking meals for families in need.
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!
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?
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?
We’ve lived in London for nearly three months (I know, I couldn’t quite believe it either!), and my “to-do” list is getting longer and longer. Disappointingly we’ve hardly ticked off anything, yet it grows at a seemingly exponential rate. There’s no rush to complete it (I have no plans to move out of London anytime soon, if anything I’m here to stay!) but I do have some bits I really want to try and do over the next few months.
Some are perhaps a bit weirder than others. Rather more than a couple involve food. Some are big and fancy, others are small. Some may take longer to tick off.
Go up the Shard. Even if just for cocktails.
Visit a flower market. Think of the Instagram shots!
Visit all the tube stations. This was inspired by my first trip to Mornington Crescent a few weeks back – it’s quite honestly is the strangest tube station I’ve visited! In an ideal geek world I’d take a selfie at each and put a film together with Jay Foreman backing it….
Explore Greenwich. Looks like a lovely place – and the observatory is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
Wander around Portobello Market. Because who wouldn’t want to?!
Eat brunch at Duck & Waffle. I’ve been dying to go for ageeesssssss.
Buy and devour a Cronut. Though I’m waiting until the hype (and queues) die down a little.
Go to Richmond Park in the frost and/or snow. Just imagine how pretty it would be!
Go on a stay-cation.
Eat a LOT of street food. I’ve finally visited KERB but there’s so many more vendors I want to try…
Find my “London’s Best Burger.” I ate the 2015 winner at the beginning of October and now feel I need to do more research. Send over recommendations!
Visit Kew Gardens. I also really want to experience their Bee Hive!
Watch The Lion King. I’m so excited to finally tick this one off in December with my besties!
Fly over the city in a helicopter. A girl can dream!
Make use of the gorgeous streets for outfit photos.
Eat at The Grain Store. We got engaged in Granary Square so it’s natural to try the nearest restaurant, right…?!
Explore more hidden areas. I love the canal walk between Kings Cross and Camden.
Have Afternoon Tea in a posh hotel. Because British.
Go “metal-detecting” on the Thames Shoreline. We can see the river from the flat (it’s just 50 yards away!) and I’d love to give this a go!
Row along the Thames. I’ve always wanted to give rowing a go, and there’s so many rowing clubs nearby in Putney…this is my goal for summer 2017!
What’s on your bucket list? What would you love to do in London?
These last few weeks have been super busy – during the first week of November I had one evening where I wasn’t socialising after work. Coupled with the fact I ended up having to book onto tutorials for my professional exams TWO MONTHS earlier than anticipated, craming reading in alongside everything else has left me shattered. That said it has been super fun – I just know I need to tone it down a little.
Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…
Tacos and tequila. Me and W headed down to Wahaca to celebrate Day of the Dead. We stuffed ourselves with Pork Pilbil, Chicken Tacquitos and, of course, Churros. The perfect mid-week treat.
Talking of mid-week treats, meeting up with some of my closest friends for burgers and catch-ups after work features rather highly. However thought of putting Camembert AND truffle mayo into a burger deserves a medal.
Studying again. Sure, I moan about it, but at the same time I’m loving having something to work towards. The small amount of time pressure is actually making me get on with it, there’s been no procrastination here. Yet!
Enjoying an Indian for the first time since leaving Redhill and my placement. Still not quite as good as Bombay Mela, but I’ve discovered Spiced Fried Okra is yum!
W’s parents visiting. So nice to catch up properly!
Our new little nephew being born. This actually happened in the previous fortnight but clearly I had Aunty-baby-brain. Looking forward to having cuddles in hopefully not too long.
Getting a seat from the start of my morning commute two days in a row. I hate the tube in the morning, it makes me feel so sick, so this made my day! It also means I got 30 minutes of course-note reading done, which means more time in the day for fun things…
Woah, this month has been weird. In the blink of an eye we’ve gone from a glorious Indian summer to grey skies, short days and cosy evenings. I’m getting home in the dark (which I find deeply depressing) although the upside is the stunning sunrises I see most mornings.
Celebrating 6 Years Gone & 2 To Go
I still can’t believe myself and W have been together for six years – it’s gone so quickly, but equally it feels like a lifetime. I definitely can’t imagine a time without him now! We celebrated on our anniversary with a gorgeous meal at Mac & Wild (review to come, it was insanely, struggled-to-walk-cos-so-full delicious). We also toasted that it’s now officially less than two years to go until the wedding. It almost feels as though we can begin to plan a bit more now, though I do wish it would hurry up!
A Good Haircut
I got pretty disillusioned with my hair over the summer. I’d grown it quite long during my final year of university (vainly wanting it to sit well under my graduation hat!) and once I’d had it chopped back into shape I decided I was bored. Typical, right?! Well I’ve gone for an itsy-bit of a change now, ditching the choppy-ness and going for longer layers. It’s a work in progress but I’m reassured that it will only get better. And at least longer layers means more choice for bridal styles…
Since moving in I’ve been a little bit frustrated with our bedroom. It’s not small, but with a king-size bed there’s not a huge amount of spare space. And with only 25cm between the bed and the wall on ‘my’ side I was unable to have a bedside table. Which during spider season was not ideal. Fortunately, W came to the rescue and BUILT these gorgeous ladder-shelves. Sure, he made a bit of mess in the process and I’m not convinced the neighbours would have appreciated the noise, but I love them. I’ve added Primark fairy lights, pretty books and candles and now the whole room feels a lot cosier.
For my teams away day right at the end of the month we spent the afternoon in an Escape Room right in the heart of the city – next door to our office in fact! I’d never done one before, now I’m trying to round up a gang to do another. Logic puzzles, physical challenges and a whole load of laughs, it was such a good way to spend the afternoon. It was great to meet more of my wider department in a social setting too – I’d been pretty much thrown into work and some of them, I’m ashamed to say, I hadn’t spoken to before.
All The Burgers
You know me, I love a burger! Over the past few weeks I tried London’s Best Burger of 2015 (post coming soon, I promise) and sampled some of GBK’s newest additions to their menu. Next on my list is Honest – they are right next to my office!
Baking with Co-Op
The Co-Operative Food sent me a hamper filled with all kinds of exciting goodies last week, designed to get me in the spirit of Halloween, to get me into the kitchen. I have to admit I haven’t quite followed the spooky theme, but W did make some amazing S’mores Brownies with the ingredients. They also have some super-yummy recipes on their site, which I’d never actually visited before. These Chorizo Bean Burgers are going on our menu plan very soon!
So, we live right next to a park, taking the entire top floor of our (admittedly small) block. We’re pretty much right in the trees, and our super-wide window ledges have turned into a bit of a squirrel run. We’ve had Stuart (as we’ve christened him) nibble on his breakfast, have a scratch and even a nap right outside our window, just next to our sofa. And then there was the Sunday he, erm, brought a friend to visit. Which was interesting. And slightly embarrassing as they were ‘getting to know each other’ as two AO delivery men dropped my freezer off. Ahem…
A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on
And then there’s all the little things that I’ve loved this month. Finding a new favourite fruit tea (Blackcurrant & Blueberry, SO good). Sunday morning snuggles with Saturday’s papers. Yummy dinners. Discovering a new favourite cocktail, with a name so filthy I can’t bear to repeat it here (mine and W’s parents probably will read it!). Kicking through Autumn leaves. Kerb at Camden (though not the upset stomach that followed for us both!). Playing tourist and going on a riverboat – and learning an embarrassing amount of fact about London. I have to say I’m loving living in the capital, and I’m so excited to spend my first winter here.
What was your favourite thing about October? Are you loving the Autumnal weather or hating the colder days?
Wow, it’s the end of October already! This month has definitely gone from being summery (I was wandering around in t-shirts only a few weeks ago!) to being properly cold and Autumnal – I need scarves and gloves on pretty much a daily basis now. And, dare I say it, it’s not long until Christmas. I’m starting to feel a bit excited…
Here’s what’s been making me smile lately…
Meal-prepping. Things have definitely gotten hectic but I’ve loved getting organised and prepping things at the weekend. Plus my fridge looks super neat and tidy.
M&S released my favourite work style dress in burgundy. I saw it and bought it within around 3 minutes one lunch-break!
On a related note, I found my Christmas day dress!
And on a Christmas theme, I’ve managed to convince W to let me buy a new Christmas tree for the pair of us. No more £10 trees from Tesco, I’ve got my eye on a ‘pencil’ one from John Lewis.
Starting to study again. I was torn between dreading it and looking forward to it, but it turns out I’m hugely enjoying getting my teeth stuck into new material.
Heading home to be spoilt for a couple of nights. My mummy cooked all my favourite treats!
Having a good haircut and managing to get it dyed at the same time. It’s been a while since my haircare was so in sync!
Mushroom risotto. W was working late on a project, I couldn’t resist…
Narrowing down our wedding photographer search. Quite possibly the most important element for me and despite the time we’ve got I found it stressful. Some were booked on 2019 dates!?!
Wandering around London. I can’t quite explain how much I love living here!
Hope your fortnight has been as lovely as mine! What’s been making you smile lately?
I read a lot over summer; I was rarely seen without a book. I regularly had to beg a lift from W to pick up something else to read. I managed to get through virtually a whole bookcase of books I hadn’t read, ones I’d been saving to read for the last four years.
Over summer I stuck to actual, physical books. My Kindle was hugely neglected, I even lost it at one point, but it meant I was able to get through the vast amount of books accumulated since I started university. I read anything and everything. Chic-lit. Crime. Psychological thrillers. Murder mysteries. Historical novels. Teen novels. You name it, if it was on my bookcase, it got read. Here’s just some of the highlights….
Behind Closed Doors (B.A Paris). One of the best thriller books I’ve read, infinitely better than Gone Girl in my opinion. The first time I read this I literally had no clue where the book was going for a good half of it, and even in the last chapter I was still guessing the final ended. The writing is excellent, the storyline complex but so believable. A must read.
Me Before You, and After You (Jojo Moyes). The books to read in 2016 it would seem! I definitely enjoyed Me Before You, it’s on the verge of being more chic-litty than I would usually go for, but it was definitely gritty enough to keep me gripped – and of course I cried towards the end! However I absolute HATED After You. I found the story hugely ‘fake’ and the writing seemed as though the book was rushed out. That said, I’d never thoroughly enjoyed a Jojo Moyes until Me Before You, so maybe her writing style just isn’t for me. Oh, and the film was good too, though I preferred the book. The film made me cry was too much.
The Beachcomber (Josephine Cox). One of the older books I read, this is a romantic novel cross murder mystery set in, I believe, the fifties. I find romantic novels from this era so lovely to read, it’s all about the relationship without any smut! Difficult to say much about this one without giving it all away, but if you like romance with a bit of ‘grit’ then this is worth picking up.
Coming Home (Rosamunde Pilcher). Ah, this is one of my all-time favourite books. I have this in hardback and at around 800 pages it’s not exactly a comfortable one to sit and read. That said, the story is so, so lovely. Set in wartime Britain, down in Cornwall, it follows the life of a girl called Judith as she grows into a young woman. It’s not got an overly strong storyline, but rather each character has their own plots. It’s a book I can really lose myself in on a rainy day.
An Absolute Scandal (Penny Vincenzi). I treated this a little like prep for worth, perhaps not the best idea! It’s based on Lloyd’s of London collapsing and when I read it a few years ago I loved it. Now, having worked in insurance, it irritates me slightly as it’s inaccurate. Guess I’ve spoilt this book for myself!
The Girl From Nowhere (Dorothy Koomson). I love love LOVE Dorothy Koomson’s books, in fact a good amount of them would feature in my ‘favouritest ever book list’ if I were to write one. I’ve felt some of her later reads were a little flat but I really enjoyed this one. A couple of plot turns, interesting characters and something a bit different from her usual storylines.
Reading an actual book, as opposed to a Kindle, was at first a delight. I loved the more physical feel, it felt as though it slowed my reading pace down and I really appreciated the book. Then it became annoying. Trying to fit a book into my bag although with everything else was both tight and resulted in a sore shoulder. Not having anything to read immediately having finished a book. The wrist ache from trying to read in bed. Now fully reunited with my Kindle (though with it being four years old, it seems to need replacing sooner rather than later) I’m still reading at a ferocious pace. I’m making the most of my commute before I start studying and revising on the tube!
Are you a reader? What books do you recommend?