Fashion: The Tartan Skirt

I dress pretty much the same most of the year. In summer I’ll pretty much always wear a dress (or shirt/top combo) and sandals. When it’s colder, I favour skirts, jumpers and ankle boots. Plain things aren’t really my bag. Think floral prints, patterns that would be more at home on a pair of curtains.

 photo Tartan Skirt 4_zpsuwos8smc.jpg photo Tartan Skirt 5_zpshal8ehwg.jpgWhilst a capsule wardrobe would never work for me, equally I rarely have that “I have nothing to wear” feeling. When I buy clothes I think these though. I buy basics, or I buy things that I know I really love. I leave things for a few days, and if I can’t stop thinking about it I go and buy it.

This tartan skirt is one such example. I came across it randomly through one of the (1000+) blogs I read, fell in love, and then realised the post was published in February. Searching on Ebay proved fruitless, so I tried to forget about it. Then I spotted it browsing through my local Topshop’s sale rack. In a size 16. Que searching through EVERY Topshop I passed for a few weeks (quite handy, it was during our flat-hunting week so there were a lot of stores). I eventually found a Size 10 on Oxford Street. Still a little too big, but perfect for tucking in a jumper and perhaps wearing to devour a huge Sunday Roast.

 photo Tartan Skirt 2_zpssbw0th0p.jpgIt pairs beautifully with so many of my jumpers; I’m currently loving the shape of this grey one (I have the same Primark jumper in about five colours now!). It looks great with flats or heeled ankle boots. It’s a flattering length – short, but not bum-flashingly so. And the material is so soft, it’s almost cosy to wear. Definitely an Autumn/Winter essential in my eyes.

Are you a fan of tartan? What’s your go-to look for Autumn/Winter?

Lifestyle: Autumn Wanders in Richmond Park

I do love London, love working in the bright lights of the City. But I have discovered that I really, really miss wide open spaces, fields, woods, and long walks. One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is head out and explore, and there’s something so magical about doing so at this time of year; pulling on thick socks and boots, snuggling up in coats, donning scarves, hats, gloves. You can wander hand-in-hand without getting sweaty, you get a beautiful rosy glow to your complexion without spending 10 minutes at the mirror with blusher.

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 46_zpscco5gu7v.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 45_zpszvs9i14e.jpgLuckily our flat right now is perfectly located. 10 minutes stroll (across the Thames, I marvel every day at the beauty of my short walking commute) to the nearest Tube station which takes us both conveniently to where we need to be each morning. But best of all? It’s just a short drive to Richmond Park. In fact, it takes longer to drive across the park than it does for us to get there.

We headed over there a few weeks ago, back at the beginning of the month when the weather couldn’t quite decide between Summer or Autumn. I kept removing my jumper, putting it back on, then moaning it was too warm again. First world problems, right?!

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 40_zpshbhcw1tw.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 35_zpssiztpny3.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 34_zps26i1dom5.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 33_zpsfeqpbtz5.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 30_zpsljgmpaig.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 29_zpsgnce7j88.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 2_zpsmkytrt2v.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 12_zpsvvf5zdmb.jpgI used the opportunity to finally (finally!) play about with the manual settings on my camera. I’m still very much ‘playing’, with no real clue as to what I am doing. Whilst I wish differently, I don’t find anything too ‘creative’ comes particularly easily to me (give me some numbers any day!) but I don’t think I’ve done too badly here. Sure, there’s some over-exposure and a bit of blurriness, but on the whole not bad for a first attempt. Now to keep up the courage and not slip back into auto-mode…

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 37_zpslbjyyleh.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 36_zpsghfxejp2.jpgAs my parents had come down to visit, they kindly brought with them a huge picnic. Lots of goodies – quiche, picnic eggs (guilty pleasure!), sausage rolls, pate, baguette, cheeses…we were stuffed before we could even think about pudding! It did mean that we just had to go on a long walk, making the most of the beautiful parkland and fresh air… And the best bit about them visiting (the fact that we could keep the leftover picnic food was a close contender!) – they brought the dog! Having a dog was something I missed hugely whilst at university, but moving out properly has made it seem like a huge deal. I pretty much fall on the floor to play with every dog I meet (seriously, if anyone in SW has a dog they can lend me for a day, I’m yours!). So, so good to have doggy cuddles for a few hours.

 photo Richmond Park October 2016 32_zps5yrgdcaj.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 28_zpsf2g1fwph.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 27_zpsetm9xhvp.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 24_zpsyiz0ecfp.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 21_zpszidigzmz.jpg photo Richmond Park October 2016 20_zpsra2lrfws.jpgAlthough I’d visited Richmond Park at the height of summer last year, I think Autumn is where it is really at it’s most beautiful. The trees were just beginning to change when we visited, giving a teaser of what was to come. I only hope the leaves change colour just a bit earlier in two years, else our Autumn wedding is in danger of becoming a ‘late Summer’ wedding! I also couldn’t believe quite how close we got to the deer on this visit, even with an overexcited terrier (try as we might, he isn’t a fan of non-human/dog creatures, big or small!). The stags in particular were breathtaking, and definitely more than Instagram-worthy! Pretty much a perfect Autumnal afternoon…

Have you ever visited Richmond Park? Any recommendations for places to visit in London to get away from crowds?

 

Recipe: Red Wine Braised Ox Cheeks

There’s few things I dislike about Autumn. Spiders are one of them (I HATE the things, some of the monsters in the Lake District were certainly scream-inducing!), and my craving for comfort food is another. It’s not that I don’t love Autumnal food. I do. It’s just that so often it takes a good few hours to cook, and that’s just not possible after work. So I stick to quicker things, dinners far less comforting, and get grumpy as a result.

 photo Ox Cheeks_zpsxujzazec.pngAll that’s changed.

Thanks to Debenhams, I’m now the proud owner of a pressure cooker*. And it makes stews in around half an hour. Add in the chopping, a bit of frying, thickening the sauce and making the mash/dumplings and you’ve got a heart bowl of comforting food in well under an hour. Boom.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 9_zpsndjrtnxv.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 1_zpsywqzxyuj.jpg photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 3_zps0plqwrqr.jpgI have to admit, the pressure cooker scared me at first. This is by far and away the most technical bit of cooking equipment I have ever used. The strict safety warnings made me worry I was going to create something explosive. It just looks intimidating. It makes horrendous noises when letting the pressure out at the end of cooking. It took us no less than four attempts to do the ‘initial steam’ before first use. But it was worth it.

Boy, was it worth it. By cooking Ox Cheek in a pressure cooker we were able to break down the tough meat quickly, with the result so meltingly tender we divided it up with a spoon.Cheeks are a budget cut of meat (ours worked out at around £1.50 for a massive portion) that are made for slow cooking, and using a pressure cooker cuts this time down massively – I reckon this would take at least five hours normally. We cooked a whole cheek weighing half a kilo and that needed just over an hour to break down, cut into pieces you could do it in 30. Then there’s the sauce. So, so good. The braising gravy is infused with so much tasty flavour and then pureed (my new favourite trick!) to transform into a thick, glossy sauce that coats the meat, soaks into mash and begs to be mopped up with bread or just slurped with a spoon. I have no shame when it comes to gravy like this.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 2_zps7u5mttki.jpgIngredients (Served two greedy people with leftovers)

  • 3 tbsp oil, separated
  • 1 large ox cheek (around 500g)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 3 carrot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1½ tsp mustard
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 125ml red wine (we went for the cheapest Sainsbury’s had)
  • plenty of black pepper and salt, to season

Prepare the beef cheek: cut off any large, fatty membrane. Pat dry then cover with plain flour (seasoned with salt and pepper). Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Sear the beef cheek on each side until nicely browned.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 4_zpszvubq49w.jpgTurn down the heat to medium and heat the remaining  oil. Add the onion and carrots. Sauté for 3 minutes until the onion isstarting to soften, then add the celery and garlic and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Pop the veg mixture into the cooker and place the beef cheek on top. Pour the wine into the frying pan and return to heat. Turn the heat up to high, bring to boil and let bubble for 1 minute whilst scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the wine into the cooker, then all the remaining ingredients and season well.

Close up the pressure cooker, following all instructions, then cook on ‘high’ for around 1 hour – we used the ‘Stew’ setting on our cooker. When done, release the pressure and leave until ready to open before testing the meat. If the meat doesn’t fall apart when pressed with a spoon, give it a little longer.

Open the cooker and ladle out around half the veg. Discard any thyme stems and bay leaves. Use a blender to puree the veg, then add back to the cooker and stir well – it should thicken the sauce well. If it’s still a little thin, puree a bit more veg, if it’s too thin add a little stock or some water. Taste taste and season if necessary, then serve with mash and plenty of green vegetables.

 photo Ox Cheeks in Red Wine 6_zpsfdkqtp3e.jpgIn just over an hour we had a gorgeous comforting meal on the table, and having played around with the pressure cooker a little more we figured out cutting the meat up would give us the chance of cooking a stew in under 30 minutes. Can’t get better than that!

What’s your favourite comfort food? Have you tried using a pressure cooker?

Fashion: Transitioning To Autumn

This time of year is definitely my favourite. I love how the trees start to turn, how hedes are bright red with berries. I love that the sun takes on a golden tinge, that mornings are cool enough to make a scarf needed, but the afternoon sun is still warm. I love that we can take advantage of the slightly darker evenings to curl up with a good book and a hot chocolate. I look forward to comforting food, to pies and stews, to berry crumbles with custard.

 photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 9_zpsrt3zvdx0.jpg photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 10_zpsrhrxuva9.jpg photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 6_zpsn7oqfozn.jpgThe one downside? It’s spider season. How do they get into my house? How do they appear in the middle of the floor? Why do they run so fast? How can I make them go away?! Eurgh…

One of my favourite things about going into Autumn is pulling out all my favourite bits and pieces from the back of my wardrobe. All my most-loved clothes are made for this time of year, and the first day I put black tights on again is definitely one I enjoy – no more leg shaving for a few months! I love the autumnal shades, in fact our wedding is scheduled for early October purely because of the gorgeous colours around at this time of year. And it’s the same weekend we original got together, I guess!

 photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 3_zpskyrjljhb.jpg photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 1_zpsw4t0gmao.jpgThis skirt has been a staple in my wardrobe for an embarrassingly long time. Like, my pre-university days. Which felt fine when I was actually at university, but now I’ve graduated feels a bit excessive. That said, I can’t bring myself to chuck it just yet. It’s one of the few skirts I paid to have taken in when I lost weight (though still needs a belt to stay at the waist), the material is thick and good quality (that’s M&S for you!) and it has pockets.

The best thing though?It’s perfect for sunnier, warmer days that still hint at an Indian summer, whilst being ideal for cooler days where a jumper is needed. I’ve taken to carrying around a pair of woolly black knee-highs around with me, as they’re perfect for slipping on when things are a little colder than expected. Far too often in the past few weeks have I pulled on a dress, only to get rained on! Throwing on a jumper is effortless with a skirt like this, as it goes with so many. I’d originally planned to pair it with a blush pink jumper, but I’ll be damned if I can find it…

 photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 4_zpsuxw0x1lw.jpg photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 8_zpsm839hooi.jpgAnd the boots*. Oh, how I love these boots! Usually I spend months and months trying to find decent boots (though I hit the jackpot last year with some bargains from LIDL & ASDA). Having wide feet, narrow ankles, chunky calves and a whole size difference between each foot makes things rather difficult. These somehow work. I don’t need to wear three pairs of ankle socks on my small foot to keep it on, I don’t need to shove insoles in. The elasticated ankle means mine are supported, yet I can see there is enough give for those blessed with a bit of padding on their ankle bones. If you have dodgy-shaped feet, I can highly recommend a browse on JD Williams, I’m rather enamored by these too… The pointed toe is surprisingly comfy, the heel height just right. I can see these getting a lot of wear through to Spring time!

 photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 2_zpswd6yu6j5.jpg photo Transitioning to Autumn Fashion 7_zpsb7yfdn8c.jpg(Typically, the day I shot these photos was very warm, with sun so bright I could barely see. Hence the squinting and horrendous shadows. Sod’s law and all that…).

*Boots received from JD Williams in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own, if I didn’t love them the post wouldn’t be going live!

What’s your favourite time of year? Do you have a wardrobe staple you refuse to get rid of?

Lifestyle: Falling for Autumn

Autumn is by far my favourite season. There’s something so magical about the changing colours of the leaves, the chill in the air, the fact that Christmas is just about the corner. We can start pulling out the blankets, the chunky scarves, the boots that we’ve so carefully stored away. It’s a time where we don’t have to use blush to fake rosy cheeks, where it’s not too warm to walk hand-in-hand, where berry-toned lips every day are acceptable.

 photo Falling for Autumn 6_zpsn9gpuxil.jpg photo Falling for Autumn 2_zpsy7sxmzjb.jpgIt’s no secret amongst my friends that I love Autumn. I love kicking crisp, crunchy leaves about, I love the cosy feeling the first stew-and-dumplings of the season brings. I’m determined to have an Autumn wedding (complete with blankets to snuggle under, a roaring fire and sparklers…).

 photo Falling for Autumn 3_zpsdurovmef.jpg photo Autumn Makeup 3_zpse8vczghh.jpgThis Autumn I’ve gone all out. I’ve got a log-fire candle burning, cinnamon in EVERYTHING. I’ve got the cosiest new blanket on my bed (I bought it way back in February but have restrained myself from using it until the new university term!). I’ve got fresh fluffy socks. My most oversized scarf is back in rotation and my ankle boots are firmly back on my feet. My makeup is full of plums and browns, I’ve toned down on the highlighting.

Weekends and evenings see me cosied up on the sofa, cooking up comforting food an luxuriating in the fact that this is the last year I can afford to sit around and do nothing (we’ll ignore studying for now).

 photo Falling for Autumn 4_zpskqgu4xfb.jpg photo Falling for Autumn 5_zpsbjrlmtlq.jpgAutumn is also a time for new beginnings, at least whilst still in my academic years. I’ve refreshed my Filofax, slimmed down my wardrobe, decorated my lovely new room. I’ve pinned countless soup recipes ready to try, perfected my roast chicken recipe, downloaded as many Kindle books as I could afford.

I may have loved summer, may have loved the feeling of the sun kissing my skin, but it’s Autumn that truly has my heart.
 photo Falling for Autumn 1_zpsawuijaif.jpg

Are you a fan of Autumn? What’s your favourite part of the season?

Beauty: Autumnal Tones

Autumn. It’s my favourite season, partly because of the memories it holds, partly because of the beautiful colours of the trees and the sunsets. It doesn’t hurt that ‘on trend’ Autumn makeup includes all of the shades that I love, that suit me perfectly.

 photo Autumn Makeup 8_zps7ugnhffk.jpgIn Autumn I can get away with dying my hair progressively more and more ginger (doing so in the summer results in a slightly orange look). I can paint my nails with dark colours and not look gothic. I can wear the same scarf and ankle boot combo many times and not look like I’m recycling outfits.

 photo Autumn Makeup 3_zpse8vczghh.jpg photo Autumn Makeup 6_zpsxbmzwol6.jpgThe majority of my autumn makeup has been rolled over from last year, with just the addition of some new nail polishes. After seeing swatches I couldn’t resist picking up some from Tanya Burr – both colours are so different to anything else I own, the finish seems glossy, they’re ridiculously cheap. Now I just need to find time to paint my nails…

I’ve also gone slightly away from the norm with some of my nail choices. I adore the chocolate brown shade – it’s so rich and glossy, I’d swear I’d just dipped my nails into melted chocolate. The red is unlike anything I’ve ever owned – it’s warm, orange-toned but slightly muted. The perfect bold shade that’s just a little easier to wear than a pillar-b

 photo Autumn Makeup 2_zps2ua2bff7.jpgThere’s unfortunately nothing new in the lip department. I’m mixing and matching lipliners with my MAC lipsticks, and to be honest I’m relatively satisfied with my collection at the moment. Though I wouldn’t say no to having Diva in my collection…My favourite everyday shade has to be Velvet Teddy (bit of a cliche I know, however the warm tone is super flattering on me), and I love Craving for a night out. If I need something to stay put all day then I’ll go for the Rimmel matte balm in Sultry – a staple in my makeup bag.

A slick of plum lipstick, an oversized scarf and really I’m good to go. Autumn is just so easy compared to summer.

What’s your go-to makeup look at the moment?

Fashion: “Wide” Leg Boots from JD Williams

I, apparently, have fat legs. I can wear Size 10 skinnies (admittedly they’d be an 8 if it wasn’t for the thighs!), but I struggle every year to get a pair of boots that fit. Last year I dragged my boyfriend round every single boot-selling shop in several towns before buying the first pair that did up. Embarrassingly, even the ‘wide-leg’ range in places can come up very tight. And if I do get a pair to fit on my legs, chances are I’ll have to go up to a size 5 (I wear 3-4 generally), and they will also be wide foot width. And I have narrow feet. To put it simply, I dread needing new boots as I will pretty much always end up in tears and starving myself for a few days.

 photo 2014-11-09162706-1_zps6fa069e9.jpgWhen I saw on Twitter that JD Williams were looking for bloggers to review their products, I did audibly squeal with excitement. Checked their website, and you can specify fit on the calf and the foot. Then crossed my fingers in the hope that they’d want to work with me. Luckily they did, so I sent off a couple of choices and let them surprise me. These delights turned up a few days later.

 photo cee637f7-6c35-4180-9fc9-0d11186f8b09_zps0f5e622c.jpgThe Legroom High Leg Boots* have a subtle brogue style design – it’s more subtle in the black, the two-toned brown pair are slightly more of a statement (and absolutely stunning in my opinion). Old habits die hard and I did order a size 5 – I could have got away with the 4, but a pair of thick socks and these are good to go. They are outstandingly comfortable for new boots. I say that as someone sporting a blister the size of 2 50p pieces from boots I bought last year. Water-tight as I unfortunately discovered whilst shopping on Saturday. Andddd…wait for it…big enough on the calf. I went for the Curvy calf option after the not-so-delightful task of measuring my calf. They come bigger and smaller than what I went for, which is damn good if you ask me. Still slightly too wide in the foot as they come in E as the smallest, but nothing thick socks can’t fix.

 photo 2014-11-09162830-1_zpsadf8f276.jpg Photography fair – I had accidentally set a 10-second timer for all shots…

I’ve since spent hours browsing JD Williams site. Their ankle boots are gorgeous – I have serious, serious lust over these beauties. And I don’t tend to like ankle boots! The site has an amazing array for A/W suitable boots and shoes, quality is high so your feet will stay dry, and the size options is better than I’ve seen elsewhere. I don’t think the price is too high either – between £60 and £100 is standard for a pair of real leather knee-highs, and I have a feel these will last far longer than my last pair. These photos were taken on a very soggy walk in the park (a lull in the rain brought us out!) and my feet stayed warm and dry.

 photo 2014-11-09163219_zps59171173.jpgI’m also wearing a beanie hat from Primark, a shift dress from New Look, and a Mango jacket from four years ago. My boyfriend felt left out so I shot some photos of him – he’s far more photogenic anyway! And here’s the usual disclaimer: I was sent these boots for the purpose of a review, however all opinions are my own and 100% honest. Annnd a cheeky ask – I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough to have been nominated in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! Thank you to those who nominated (I hand on heart didn’t nominate myself), fingers crossed to all entrants!

Hope you all had a good weekend – I had a lovely one. Afternoon tea, walks in the park, and a gorgeous Sunday lunch of Salt Beef.  Do you prefer knee-high boots or are you an ankle-boot lover?

Baking: Autumnal Blackberry Brownies

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgI love autumn. I can’t be the only one who’s starting to long for pretty scarves, chunky knits, and lovely boots. Actually, I’m not longing for boots as I can’t find any that fit – if anyone knows of any affordable wide-calf-narrow-foot brands I’ll pay with brownies… On my walk to and from walk I pass by a long hedgerow that’s absolutely brimming with blackberries and plums. Sounds idyllic, although the reality is it’s right next to a trainline, and right under Gatwick’s flight path. But for those few moments I could be on a country walk, and so after a week of waiting for blackberries to ripen (and moaning when others got there first) I came home with a small handful. A good wash and they were as good as any I’ve picked from a field.

 photo 2014-08-21083403_zps5a2e9b2d.jpg photo 2014-08-21083320_zpsd8818175.jpg photo 2014-08-18083254_zpsfe4444fd.jpgI debated making a crumble, but lack of ripe fruit meant that was a no-go, and I wanted something I could share. Half my love of baking is sharing the goods around, so a crumble doesn’t really fit the bill. Then I remember the raspberry cheesecake brownies from Edinburgh, and decided to do something similar. Sans cheesecake.

 photo ed98a75c-345b-40ed-903b-fe6668b4059e_zpsdc01713c.jpgI ended up loving the combination of dark, fudgy chocolate brownie with the burst of sharp blackberry, the crunch of the seeds adding a welcome element too. The brownie mix is adapted from my Mayonnaise Brownies; I’ve made it simpler, easier, less washing up. Whilst here I did add a little nutella, I’m not too sure its necessary, and if I’m honest these were a little too fudgy. Just use your judgement – if its looking dry, add nutella!

I’m now convincing myself that using a low-fat brownie mix, and adding fruit, means it’s acceptable to eat four of these in a day. Agreed? Here’s the recipe to convince you…

Ingredients

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 220g sugar
  • 1/3 mug of hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 150g mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tsp of nutella, if needed
  • 1 handful of blackberries, though I wish I’d had more!

 photo 2014-08-20182138_zpsdc448439.jpgMelt your chocolate in the microwave, and leave to cool.

 photo 2014-08-20182641_zpsd25ae499.jpgMeanwhile mix the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and sugar together in a bowl.

 photo a041942d-61ec-41a9-94e0-eac3006540df_zps5ca06735.jpg photo 3274b40a-e9a9-4d6d-92b8-2f3003c99040_zps3071bb9c.jpg photo cfb47624-4c67-4915-91b5-6c9e98e79c28_zps24c6b28a.jpgOnce the chocolate is cool, pour it into the dry mix, along with the mayonnaise and egg. Mix together, don’t overbeat. Add the water gradually until you have a gunge-y mix – add nutella if necessary.

 photo 3cc0736f-e26a-4a47-a57a-21e10786dc75_zps27620964.jpgStir through your blackberries, tip into a prepared tin (lined and greased – or just covered in tin foil if you’re lazy like me) and bake at 180C for 25-ish minutes.

 photo c987daed-3407-4bbc-97ed-1057a80e6e3e_zps3986e105.jpgAs with all brownies, do your best to wait until they are completely cool before cutting, or they will fall apart. Then stuff your face with five of them. After all, they are pretty damn healthy 😉
 photo 2014-08-18083341_zps2deef1f7.jpg

Are you an Autumn lover?