Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #61

Woohoo, officially halfway through 2019! June went by in the blink of an eye (and probably a good thing considering the weather for most of it!) and we’re into July. Less than six months until Christmas (yes I went there…) and our main holiday of the year already over. But what a holiday it was, I’m tempted to rename this post Happy Monday: The Scotland Edition…

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  1. Our holiday. It deserves both a point of it’s own and several other points; it was wonderful. We started with a few days in Edinburgh (my all-time favourite place) and then did a mini roadtrip up the East Coast and then back down through the Carigorns. I absolutely loved it and am itching to explore more of Scotland. Maybe next year…
  2. Scottish seafood. Seriously amazing. One night in Edinburgh I declared I’d had the best bowl of mussels ever, only to take that back a few nights later. We had mussels by the bucketful, lobster, clams, langoustines and so much fish. Just gorgeous and so fresh. Oh, and also the best fish’n’chips ever too.
  3. Communal dining. We ended up doing two communal/family dining experiences during our holiday and both were lovely. It was great to talk to other diners about anything and everything – do you know of anything similar in London?
  4. Ticking off a bucket list item. One of the above communal dining nights was at Ballintaggart Farm, somewhere I’d wanted to visit since reading about it in a foodie magazine last summer. It was beautiful – absolutely faultless food, wonderful service and stunning scenery. So yep, ticked it off the bucket list, but now I absolutely have to stay there.
  5. Scottish strawberries. Some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
  6. Cheese and wine night. On one of the evenings we decided to cosy up in the little studio we’d booked with some local produce and a good bottle of Malbec. Turns out Scotland does cheese rather well, and venison salami is just as delicious as it sounds.
  7. Speaking of cheese, on one night my husband ordered a cheeseboard and couldn’t finish it. So I got dessert (a black lime tart FYI) and cheese. Best. Night. Ever.
  8. A curious dish of Sea Trout with Brie Risotto. Not a combination I’d have thought to put together (and one I was scared to order, but my other choice was tomato-ed) but it was absolutely delicious. Just the right amount of cheese to add richness without overwhelming the fish.
  9. Seeing a polar bear (or four!). As they’re W’s favourite animal we took a day to head to the Highland Wildlife Park, and I unexpectedly really enjoyed it. I thought the enclosures were some of the biggest and well thought out of zoos/parks I’d visited, the animals certainly seemed well cared for and the keepers were passionate and clearly loved ‘their’ animals. Seeing one cry as a litter of Artic Fox pups left their den for the first time showed that! I also may or may not have teared up at the sight of a pack of wolves…
  10. Not eating a bad meal *at all* during our trip. A combination of good luck and meticulous planning.
  11. Finally tracking down my dream dress. I’ve been looking for a linen, pinafore-style, button down midi in black for months and picked one up in the Urban Outfitters sale. It looks dreadful online so I’d not ordered it as an option, but promptly spent the saving (and some more) on a skirt as well.
  12. A vegan afternoon tea at Café Forty One. Part of a day out with my little sister before she starts full time work (how did THAT happen, still feels like she’s in primary school?!) – it was delicious, especially the savouries, and we followed up with Science Museum Lates.
  13. A green bowl of goodness. After over-indulging on holiday this was much needed – quinoa in a coriander-mint-spinach dressing with roasted broccoli, more spinach, avo, seeds, chilli and a little feta. Yum!
  14. An extra week off in London. Not as enjoyable as I had planned (came back from Scotland with a fun-spoiling stomach bug) but I managed a few days out, including a much awaited trip to Lina Stores. Good pasta, I tell you that!
  15. Afternoon tea with my best friend. We were invited to Whittard’s Tea Bar in Covent Garden to celebrate National Best Friend’s Day and it was the perfect day-date. More to come very soon!
  16. Gorgeous weather. Need I say more?!
  17. Actually, we also managed to have good weather in Scotland, which was a surprise. Despite carrying out raincoats *everywhere* we only got rained on once for around 20 minutes, and instead got a little sunburned.
  18. Barbeque with friends. Good company, delicious food and a few board games…
  19. Feeling inspired on Instagram for the first time in a while. Check out my feed and let me know what you think!
  20. Iced Chocolate. I’m sat in a coffee in Shoreditch (get me!) writing this with an iced chocolate and it’s wonderful.

Do you have any holiday plans for the summer? Hope you’re making the most of the lovely weather!

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #60

June already – we’re nearly halfway through 2019 and I have to say it’s sped by for me! I’ve been crazyyyy busy with studying (up until April anyway) and then work that I feel like I’ve barely had time to stop and breathe. I’m hoping things are slightly less hectic over summer as quite frankly I could do with a break…

These last two weeks have been fairly uneventful. We *finally* emptied and fully defrosted the freezer so my priority has been filling it back up again (something about having a freezer full of healthy homemade meals makes me so happy) and there’s been some much needed catch ups with family and friends.

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    1. Solo pizza night. I finally picked up Sainsbury’s current tomato-free offering – a Fig, Prosciutto and Gorgonzola combination which was super cheesy. I enjoyed half of it with a large salad, then the rest worked wonderfully cold in lunchboxes (not vegan, but beating food waste!) the next day.
    2. Fresh mango. I can’t stomach mango juice or mango flavoured things (it was the last thing I drank before coming down with a very bad stomach bug last summer) but fresh mango I’m currently loving! I really love it in salads right now, so fresh and tasty…
    3. Raspberry Gin. We picked some up that’s made in Northamptonshire and it is delicious. Definitely going to be my summer drink of choice!
    4. Some good #yearofveganlunches salads. I’ve been adding a harissa-lemon dressing to cooked lentils and serving with roasted figs and coconut, or some roasted beetroot. So good.
    5. Finding a reduced packet of Mini Eggs. I definitely didn’t eat enough of them at Easter…
    6. Picking up some of the country’s best (in my opinion) pies AND my favourite local sausages from a butchers in Canterbury. That place is probably the thing I miss most from uni, apart from my friends of course!
    7. Amazon Prime. Because when a board game you’ve wanted for a while price-drops by 80% I want to get my hands on it asap.
    8. Getting dates in the diary for lots of dinners with friends. There’s going to be a lot of cooking in the next few months!
    9. Seeing one of my plants grow lots of new leaves. Makes up the the slow death of the aloe vera plant…
    10. A really good sandwich – milano salami, garlic mayonnaise and roasted fennel in baguette. The perfect Saturday lunch!

What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #59

Oh, how I love Bank Holiday Mondays – that extra day almost makes me feel as though I’ve had a week off! After a crazy few weeks at work it was definitely needed!

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  1. More recipes from Ottolenghi Simple. I know, I’m obsessed. This time I’m loving the Harissa and Confit Garlic Roast Potatoes. Roasties will never be the same again…
  2. Making a really good Chicken Tikka Masala. It tastes just like the takeaway curries of my childhood (before the tomato allergy!) but with a lot more spice and flavour. I think my recipe is just about there so I’ll get it written up soon!
  3. Reading and loving a book that’s a little out of my comfort zone. I’m in the process of joining two book clubs (though can’t make the first meet of one of them, sob!) and one of the books wasn’t really my thing. I’m a lover of gritty crime novels, but trying something new was fun!
  4. A new floor table for next to our dining table. (1) I no longer need to put the full light on when I want to see what I’m eating and (2) it fits our smart bulb so I can get Alexa to turn the light on/off (or different colours!) for me. It’s the little things!
  5. Sainsbury’s have started to make own-brand Lactofree milk. It saves me 50p a week (which isn’t something to be scoffed at if added up over the year).
  6. Finding the perfect khaki-green shirt dress in H&M. A good midi-length, decent material and a really nice belt – all for under £25! I justified it using the money saved on own-brand milk (see point 5)!
  7. Getting good feedback on presentations at work. I’m having free trouble with imposter syndrome at the moment so I’m trying to concentrate on that – any tips on how to feel more confident in your abilities?!
  8. Knowing I get to eat my all-time favourite salad tonight – it’s a combination of blue cheese, leftover brisket, mint, apple, pear and croutons and it is the oddest and most delicious bowl ever…
  9. Racing against the clock to cook one of Jamie’s 15 minute meals. Has anyone ever managed it?!
  10. An absolutely delicious meal at Copper & Ink. I’ve wanted to go since wayyyyy before it opened and it didn’t disappoint. Well worth the journey of nearly an hour from my place!

What’s been putting a spring in your step lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #58

Happy May Monday! As with the last fortnightly update, I’m so pleased to be back to regularly (almost at least!) blogging – it gives me the creative outlet that I would struggle to get in my day-to-day life. Much as I love my job, creativity is not something it hugely offers me and so doing this on the side works so well for me – and concentrating on my other love of food is pretty much a double win. And this last fortnight has certainly been full of good food…

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  1. Another bank holiday weekend full of fun and relaxation. Though it sadly lacked the sunshine and warmth of Easter, the early May bank holiday weekend brought board games (mainly Ticket to Ride, Catan and Forbidden Island) and a delicious roast chicken dinner made up entirely of recipes from Ottolenghi Simple.
  2. Speaking of that roast dinner, the Two Bean Two Lime Salad is quite possibly my new favourite thing. THE most delicious way to eat your greens!
  3. We also used the Bank Holiday to try out a new recipe – and made Pork Belly Bao! I was really pleased with how these looked and tasted given we’d never tried anything like this before. Definitely worth a go!
  4. Unusual Jaffa Cake flavours from M&S. The jury is out on the Peach & Passion Fruit (limited edition, grab a pack and let me know what you think?) but I’m very intrigued by the raspberry ones so watch this space…
  5. A surprisingly good throw together salad of chorizo slices, cheddar, salas leaves, mint and lemon. Yum!
  6. A solo dinner of fish fingers. We’re on a freezer run-down to de-ice it, so managed to score a solo dinner to nab the fish fingers. Such a guilty pleasure! Though unfortunately we’d emptied the freezer of bread so I couldn’t pop them into a sandwich…
  7. Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cakes. A classic and a goodie – and a recipe I’ll be sharing very soon.
  8. Kindle Unlimited. I’ve finally started shelling out for it and it’s the best decision ever. Though very glad I waited until post-exam as there are SO many page-turners available. I’m also joining a couple of book clubs so it’s been alllllll the reading for me!
  9. A whole month of clear skin. Let’s hope I haven’t jinxed it!
  10. An absolutely delicious dinner at The Royal Oak. I didn’t try the signature Njuda Scotch Egg, but my Pea Salad was delightfully fresh and my Bavette Steak with Wild Garlic? So good. I also thought £40 for those courses plus two large glasses of very decent wine wasn’t bad at all. But maybe I’m too used to London prices?

What have you been loving lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #57

Happy Monday! I’m proud to say that there has not been radio silence this last fortnight, with a couple of blog posts actually making it through the drafting-editing and all the way to the publishing stage. I’m so thrilled to be back typing away in my little online space, although I’ve recently had a paddy, thrown all my toys out of the pram and decided I hate a lot of the photographs I’ve already shot. And so now I’m facing reshooting a load of recipes… so yep. On the plus side, that means making and eating them all again…

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  1. The glorious sunshine of the Easter weekend. Not only was it the first time I could actually enjoy the Bank Holiday thanks to exams being before Easter (the novelty!) but the weather gods did us proud. Getting some much needed Vit-D is definitely a highlight of the last fornight!
  2. I also took an extended break, heading up to my parents the Tuesday before Easter to celebrate my Dad’s birthday, get in some doggy snuggles and just get out of London. I love living in London, but there’s something about the (non-polluted) fresh air and being able to get out into the countryside that makes me so happy.
  3. Ottolenghi’s slow-cooked lamb shoulder with mint and cumin. Yes, I regretted having the oven on for more than 7 hours on the hottest day of the year but this was absolutely bloody delicious. We’ve always done a lamb roast on Easter Sunday but this was definitely the best. And the leftovers. Ooft. So good.
  4. Speaking of the leftovers, I played around with another of Ottolenghi’s recipes – the spiced shepherd’s pie with butterbean mash. Using leftover meat (with was so tender it carved with a spoon) it was fairly quickly pulled together and the butterbean topping was dreamy.
  5. Is it bad that I’m mentioning the same cookbook three times in one Happy Monday post? We made the Za’atar Leek Eggs for a pre-walk breakfast on Easter Monday and they were so good. We should have maybe cooked off the stock a little more, and our eggs were a tad over, but yum, yum, yum. Preserved lemons are my new favourite ingredient.
  6. And speaking of the walk – we did a lovely 5-ish mile circuit from Kingston, through Bushy Park, through Hampton Court Palace Gardens (the informal ones, because free!) and back down the Thames. We saw an incredibly friendly deer, lots of dogs and had a picnic. Bliss.
  7. A pub lunch in the Leicestershire countryside. Not only was the price of it insane (2 beers, 2 white wine spritzers, 2 lemonades and 3 sandwiches with fries – £33 thank you!) but it was delicious. Beef sandwiches with really good cold but rare roast beef, crispy salty fries and a well dressed salad. Worth the sunburn sitting in the beer garden! (yes, I was wearing suncream)
  8. Taking my grandma through my wedding photos. Such a lovely moment!
  9. Catching up with my girlies. It felt like ages since I saw them (it wasn’t, but I was so distracted with exams I didn’t make the most of it!) so it was lovely to spend some time giggling away.
  10. An afternoon tea. Not a fancy one at Hide this time, but a buffet version to celebrate our friend’s engagement.

What’s made you happy lately? Did you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #56

Happy Monday! There’s been radio silence on here since my last post a few weeks ago, as studying for the ol’exam just got in the way. I do usually try and schedule posts to see me over exam season, but it just wasn’t happening this time. The good news is the exam is out of the way, so I’m planning on reintroducing myself to the world of blogging over the next few weeks…

Most of the last month or so has pretty much entirely been spent at my desk studying, but of course there’s been time for a few yummy bits and pieces to eat!

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    1. A really delicious pasta bake from the lastest issue of Delicious magazine. Essentially a cheese bechamel spiced with nutmeg and clove, spaghetti and plenty of spring vegetables. One of the nicest and freshest things, and something I’ll definitely be making again.
    2. Post-exam cocktails at my favourite spot – Home SW15. Of course some sneaky cauliflower cheese croquettes got eaten too…
    3. Cadbury’s Darkmilk Chocolate. The perfect bar for an evening treat, it’s far too easy to sit and eat loads of this!
    4. Pizza night! Following every professional exam me and W have gone out for a pizza, and this time round was no exception. We tried out Battersea Pi over in Clapham and it definitely didn’t disappoint! Review coming soon…
    5. A “throw together” meal of a hash made with potatoes, onion, cavelo nero and chorizo sausages, topped with a fried egg. Surprisingly tasty!
    6. Spending far too much money on clothes, but finding some real gems in the process. H&M in particular have some lovely bits in…
    7. Sourdough bread. W has really gotten the hang of dealing with our starter and baking the perfect loaf. Have a look on my Insta feed for more!
    8. Re-reading the Harry Potters, because why the hell not?!
    9. New laptop! I bought it a good month ago now, but it’s only since my exam on Friday I’ve been able to have more than a brief play on it. SO nice not to have to wait 30 minutes for it to turn on…
    10. Having a good skin week, despite my exam stress. It’s been a rough ride for my skin this year (mainly due to the fact I’ve accidentally upped my sugar intake and I’m finding it tough to cut it back down) but right now it’s looking good.

How have your spent the past few weeks? Any tip for cutting down on sugar?!

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #55

Hello from me! This is just a really quick, frantically typed catch-up today – done between exam papers (because somehow my exam is now less than three weeks away, no idea how that happened!). My last fortnight has been pretty much all study (surprise surprise) but definitely some yummy food and good days too…

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  1. Meal prep Sundays. The perfect way to productively procrastinate – though to be fair to myself I did pick things that produced maximum portions with minimum effort. The perfect way to pace myself through exam questions, and now we have lots of delicious meals ready for the week!
  2. A date-night in. I had an afternoon off work and couldn’t bear to spend it all studying so cooked up a three course meal. It included oven-baked arancini, veal saltimbocca and a cream dessert with bananas and homemade caramelised walnuts. Yum!
  3. I also mastered making my own caramel for the first time. It’s terrified me before so I’m pleased I tried it out!
  4. Evening walks. Despite it still being dark after dinner we’ve been trying to get out for a walk around the local area. Turns out we’re getting in around 2 miles which isn’t bad!
  5. A really good meal involving cheesy mash and pork fillet. Based on this recipe. So good, so quick, absolutely 100% will make again.
  6. Tinned peaches and vanilla ice-cream. A new combination to me and one I’m now totally hooked on.
  7. A new laptop. I’ve needed one for years but finally took the plunge this month (anyone else HATE getting new tech even though you know it will work better?!). It’s (1) super fast, (2) so light-weight and (3) really quite pretty so winning on all counts.
  8. Peanut Cookies from Sainsbury’s and Yorkshire Biscuit Brew. Thank me later.
  9. Watching Masterchef – I love it! I thought the Vegan Challenge was particularly good, and I also loved the episode about cooking with scraps.
  10. Board game afternoon (and takeaway pizza from The Dynamo) with my girls. The best way to spend a Saturday!

What’s made you smile lately? What have you been up to?

Food: My #YearofVeganLunches Challenge

I’ve mentioned this more on my Instagram grid that on here, but one of my goals for the year is to aim to make all of my lunchboxes vegan throughout the year. I’m doing this for a few reasons – but mainly to prove a point after someone mockingly bet me I couldn’t eat many vegan dishes. I’m stubborn, me. It’s also to cut down on the amount of meat I eat, although a lot of my lunchboxes were veggie anyway, and to remove the unnecessary cheese. Lunch looks a bit boring, add a generous helping of feta. Pasta? Grate half a block of Parmesan on it. You get the picture.

 photo Vegan Lunches_zpsdg4bkab1.jpgThat said, I’m not being overly strict. I don’t want to end up dreading lunchtime and craving the canteen’s chips instead. I don’t want to give up on this challenge a few months in. And so it’s onto the self-imposed ‘rules’…

  • The challenge is for lunchboxes only, which means eating out, weekends and study days tend not to fall under the challenge. I’ve actually found myself picking more vegan options on these days anyway, but I needed to lift the restriction when eating out as vegan + tomato allergy ain’t as easy as you’d imagine!
  • Ignore pasta, as long as the sauces and accompaniments are vegan. I know you can get vegan pasta, but we have so much of it anyway (as we buy in bulk) so I’m not sweating it for this challenge. As long as I don’t serve up a mac’n’cheese (with proper milk/cheese!) I kinda feel that’s okay! Though I do have some vegan chickpea pasta to try out from my latest Degustabox (gifted) so we’ll see how that goes…
  • Avoiding waste trumps this challenge. Whilst I’m no longer creating my lunchboxes around planned leftovers (they go into dinners instead) I will still refuse to see waste just because ‘its not vegan’ if it can otherwise be thrown into my lunchbox. Case in point was a delicious yoghurt based dressing from a Taco Salad (this recipe) a few weeks ago. It went wonderfully over the bean mix I had in my lunchbox that week, but would have ended up down the drain if not. Likewise if there’s a bit of feta going to waste in the fridge (because it comes in packs that are generally far too big) then I would sooner eat it in a lunch than throw it out!
  • No meat substitutes (and I’m not crazy about the amount of sugar in the Oatly cream and creme fraiche substitutes either…). Though I have to say I’m curious about pulled peas…

And so far, this approach is working out really well for me. I’ve had some damn tasty lunches – highlights have been a mushroom and lentil stew/soup combo (I’ve since re-made this as more of a stew with borlotti beans and leeks and have five portions stashed in the freezer), an amaaaazzzzing chickpea soup with tahini and a surprisingly tasty throw-together salad of lentils, kale and roasted broccoli. The sort of thing I’d have thrown feta on top of without a moments thought, but actually was all the better without it.

Have you tried going vegan, or eating more vegan options?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #54

Happy first Happy Monday of March! Can I first address the fact that it’s already March, and this year is going by far too quickly for my liking?! Well, January really dragged for me but February? Blink and you’d have missed it! As I alluded to last fortnight, things are a little difficult for me right now. I’m trying my hardest to concentrate on the little things, but some days are better than others! Here’s the good bits from the last couple of weeks…

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    1. Lots of doggy cuddles. I’ve been dogsitting this past weekend and it’s been great to spend some quality time with my pup. He’s definitely in his more senior years so it’s been lots of cuddles and a few extra sneaky treats!
    2. A weekend with my mummy. We went for our annual afternoon tea (this time at Hide, which was every bit as beautiful as I’d hoped) and had a wander around Richmond the next day. A lovely and relaxing weekend ahead of many weekends of study…
    3. The Chickpea Pasta recipe from Ottolenghi Simple. An absolutely amazing dish, and the chickpea mixture is also really good over sourdough toast. It’s going to become a staple for sure.
    4. I’m Fine, and Neither Are You. One of the February free Kindle books available for Prime member, and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
    5. Another good tomato-free pizza from Waitrose. This one was Speck and Gorgonzola and was the perfect combo of meaty and cheesy.
    6. Cosying up in jumper dresses. I’ve recently invested in one from Oliver Bonas and it’s just so cosy and soft!
    7. One of the best pies I’ve ever, ever eaten. It was a Chicken, Pancetta and Mushroom combination at The White Hart near Waterloo. It was packed full of tender meat, had so much flavour and the pastry was perfect to (about as far away from a soggy bottom as is possible). I also really enjoyed the roasted veg and braised red cabbage on the side. Oh, and the Sticky Toffee Pud was pretty awesome as well.
    8. Bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. A treat breakfast as smoked salmon doesn’t generally fall into my shopping basket, but its been soooo good!
    9. Fresh daffodils and a new side table.
    10. Finding some cookie dough frozen in the freezer. Freshly baked cookies in 15 minutes is a very dangerous thing indeed…

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #53

Happy Monday! After my more positive post a fortnight ago there’s been radio silence on here and, whilst I do have an excuse, it’s not something I particularly want to share. Let’s just say that these last few weeks have been far from easy and there’s more to come. I’m hoping that focusing on the positives whilst writing this post will improve my mindset (it needs it!).

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  1. The SUN. These last few days have been absolutely glorious in London, and for the first time in my life I’ve felt a genuine difference in my mood as the weather has brightened up. I’ve even been outside with bare legs (albeit a midi skirt) and a t-shirt. In February.
  2. Having a big spring clean. With the warmer weather we threw open all the doors and windows and went a little crazy with the cleaning spray. We reorganised cupboards (my bathroom cupboard now has boxes for treatments of different ailments. I even have a first aid box). Found places for wedding presents which have been sat out for months. Sadly the missing limited edition MAC lipstick that sparked the tidying remains missing.
  3. Picking up more plants. Our flat was lacking some green, so we picked up some more plants and attracted a lot of attention walking back from B&Q. Now just to keep them alive!
  4. Gooey melted cookie dough pots. For our Valentine’s date night we kept things fairly simple – pan-fried sea bass with a lemon caper butter, then this glorious cookie pots based on a recipe from Top with Cinnamon.
  5. Lots of new recipes. We’d noticed we’d let our goal to cook more new recipes slide in January due to both of us being ill constantly, but we more than made up for it in the last two weeks, pretty much everything we cooked was a new try! Highlights have been an Ottolenghi chickpea pasta dish and a smoked haddock bake. And the aforementioned cookie pots.
  6. Having broad beans for the first time in years. My Granddad used to grow them and they immediately transported me back to my childhood.
  7. A new concealer that seems to be working wonders on my under-eye circles. If you have trouble in this area definitely check out the L’Oreal Infallible More Than concealer.
  8. Knitting! My knitting skills are definitely getting there – don’t get me wrong my Grandma would NOT be impressed but it’s looking less like a tangle of wool every time!
  9. Popcorn from The Popcorn Shed (gifted). The perfect calorie controlled snack, and the flavours are *amazing* – I loved the Berrylicious flavour combined raspberries and chocolate…
  10. Branching out and buying a leopard print dress – now I just need to find the courage and the occasion to wear it!

What’s made you smile this week? Are you enjoying the nicer weather?