Cooking From: Midwinter Suppers from The Christmas Chronicles

This book is so much more than just a cookbook. Not only is it ones of the most Instagrammable books I own, it’s also one of the loveliest to cosy up and read at this time of year. Nigel has such a wonderful way of writing, so personal that this feels more like a diary than a collection of recipes. Indeed it’s full of so many of his own memories of the festive period, interspersed with recipes covering the main event of turkey and goose, to how to use leftovers and all manner of other delicious things. And it’s not just the usual Christmassy fare either, the book takes the reader from the beginning of November all the way to the end of February. And somehow each recipe seems absolutely perfect for this time of year.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 11_zpsdzfefrii.jpgNigel is able, in both his cookery programmes and books, to completely relax me. It’s his voice, but also his wordings and the way he simply puts sentences (and ingredients) together. And his recipes are just the same – simple, uncomplicated and all the ones I’ve tried have been delicious. This book is all about cosy winter food, which sums up both recipes we’ve cooked.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 14_zpsmvwb833m.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 15_zps56obvc7p.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 16_zpslfvfgbhr.jpgThe Black Pudding and Baked Apples with Celeriac and Mustard Mash might be a bit of an unusual combination, but it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in the past few weeks. It’s warm and comforting, and genuinely feels like a big hug on a plate. Just a few ingredients, a bit of time (but not too much) and you’ve got a delicious plate of food – and this also makes the whole flat smell amazing from the baked apples.

Then there’s the Pork Chop with Cheesy Spinach Polenta. We’d never tried cooking with Polenta until last week, but I’m fairly sure it could become a new obsession. Super creamy, a little cheesy, instensely savoury and perfectly matched with the tender yet slightly caramelised pork chop. Another dish which made us feel enveloped in a satisified happy foodie fog.

As a last minute edit, we also ate the polenta with onions and cheese (Camembert will do – favourite line in the whole book) yesterday evening. Rib-stickingly heavy with cheese and oh so glorious.

But there’s so many other recipes I’d love to try! The Roast Goose with Lemon Potato Stuffing is high on my list, and the Oxtail with Butter Beans and Sherry sounds amazing.

 photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 10_zpsqywase2j.jpg photo Nigel Slater Christmas Chronicles 13_zpskswejamu.jpgSo much more than a cookbook, this is currently living on my bedside table. I can see it becoming almost a tradition to pull it out and cook from it each festive season…

What’s your favourite festive recipe?

Recipe: Blood Orange Noodle Salad (perfect for Leftover Turkey!)

One of our resolutions for 2018 was to cook at least one new recipe a week. And it may just be the first resolution that I’ve not only managed to keep for longer than a few months, but that I’ve managed to keep all year. I’m beyond proud that we’ve done this, in some weeks cooking more than 4 new recipes. We’ve added things to our repertoire, we’ve tried things I wouldn’t have usually gone near.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad_zps5ee5catj.jpgAnd one of the first new recipes we’ve tried, and one of my favourites, was this Blood Orange Salad. Originally a Sainsbury’s recipe made with duck, I think it would work wonderfully well as a way to jazz up leftover Turkey meat (particularly thigh meat).

The sauce is zingy and hot with chilli, sharp from the rice vinegar (an ingredient I wish I’d given in and bought sooner, it adds so much more life to noodle dressings). The blood orange gives it the most amazing seasonal flavour, still fresh and zesty but not as harsh as lime. Cucumber adds freshness, there’s plenty of crunch from the veggies, and the double-herb hit of mint and coriander just pulled it all together. The slow-roasted duck leg is both meltingly soft meat and really crunchy skin, which contrasts well with the juicy blood orange – if you’re using leftover turkey I’d recommend throwing some of the skin in the pan and frying on a really high heat to get the same effect.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 5_zps6aic4lif.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 7_zpszwpvhphh.jpgRecipe (serves 2)

  • 1 duck leg, or around 300g leftover turkey meat
  • 2 nests of dried rice noodles
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cucumber
  • 2 spring onions
  • 4 radishes
  • 100g sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 a Chinese Leaf, core removed
  • 1 pack mint, leaves only
  • 1 pack coriander, leaves only
  • 2 blood oranges (one whole, the other juiced for the dressing, below)
  • 30g peanuts, roughly chopped
  • For the dressing – 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 1 red chilli, 2 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp light brown sugar, juice of 1 blood orange, 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, 3 tbsp rice vinegar

If making with the duck, pop the duck leg on a baking tray and season them generously with salt and black pepper, rubbing it into the skin. Roast the duck for 11⁄2 hours at 180C, until the skin is crisp and the flesh soft and tender. Once ready slice the meat and skin into rough chunks, discarding any bone. If making with leftover turkey meat, heat a little sesame oil in a wok and fry the turkey over a high heat until heated through. Do this just before serving.

For the dressing, toast the sesame seeds in a small pan for about a minute, giving them a stir now and then. Tip them into a jug, add all the other dressing ingredients (with the chilli and garlic finely chopped) and stir together.

Cook the rice noodles following pack instructions, then drain and rinse in cold water, shaking off the excess. Tip into a large bowl. Slice the carrot and cucumber into matchsticks, trim the spring onions and slice them into shreds of a similar length. Trim and slice the radishes. Slice the sugar snaps lengthways. Shred the Chinese leaf, mint and coriander. Add all these ingredients to the bowl with the noodles as you prepare them.

Slice the whole orange into rounds and halve the rounds, removing obvious pips, skin and pith. Add the oranges (and any juice) to the bowl with the salad ingredients; gently toss together. Add the rest of the dressing to the noodles and toss using tongs. Layer the salad, meat and noodles onto large plates; sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

 photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 3_zps8gaf5blq.jpg photo Blood Orange Noodle Salad with Duck or Turkey 1_zpsd9op4uks.jpgThis would be very much welcome as a Christmas leftover dinner – perhaps not on Boxing Day (I’m still alllll about cold cuts, bubble and squeak and cheese) but on the days that follow it would perk even the scroggiest of people up. And of course it feels nice and healthy, so kicks off all the good intentions for the New Year…given the sucess of cooking new recipes this year, I know one resolution that I’ll be carrying through into 2019!

Have you ever kept any resolutions? How do you use up turkey leftovers?

Recipe: Brussel Sprout, Bacon & Blue Cheese Pizza

I’m a bit lacking in Christmas recipes this year – I usually like to start testing and photographing them (getting myself firmly in the festive spirit at the same time!) during November, but lying on a beach in Hawaii until the end of October meant I felt firmly un-Christmassy until last week. There’s been no edible gift testing (so who knows what my colleagues will end up with!), we’re even well behind normal consumption levels of Pigs in Blankets.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza_zpshls8suso.jpgWhat I do have, though, is this festive pizza. And I’d like to think it makes up for all the other lack of festive recipes coming up in this space. It’s crunchy and cheese, rich and decadent, and really delivers a punch of festive flavours. The honk of blue cheese always reminds me of festive cheeseboards (and one particular hour-long car journey with W’s family and some potted Stilton, not something I care to repeat!). Cranberry sauce just because. And the sprouts.

Brussel sprouts are so reminiscent of childhood Christmases where I’d be made to eat “just one” – and actually this continues now as I still hate the things served up with a Christmas dinner. Shredded onto pizza, pasta, in a salad then fine. Steamed or boiled and covered in gravy and they are my foo of nightmare. But they DO work on pizza.

As it’s a no-tomato pizza it runs the risk of becoming a little dry, but we’ve both spread the base and dotted spoonfuls of mascarpone over to add some creaminess. It’s also fab with walnuts to replace the bacon for a veggie pizza.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 1_zpsnde98ss5.jpg photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 3_zpsmdqe38uv.jpgRecipe (for one)

  • 1 ready-made plain pizza base (or make your own, my recipe is here)
  • 1 rasher of bacon, diced
  • 8 brussel sprouts, base removed and finely shredded
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp of mascarpone
  • 25-50g blue cheese depending on your taste, you could substitute for brie or even mozzarella if you prefer
  • 1 tsp cranberry sauce, to serve

Fry your bacon in a small amount of olive oil or butter until crisp, then add the sprouts. Stir fry for a minute or two. Meanwhile spread 2 tbsp of mascarpone over your pizza base, and season with black pepper and the grated nutmeg. Scatter the spouts and bacon over the bacon, dot over more mascarpone, and sprinkle over the blue cheese. Bake for around 10 minutes at 200C, then serve with a drizzle of cranberry sauce.

 photo Brussel Sprout Pizza 4_zpskj6spx1q.jpgI imagine this would also work well with leftover sprouts from the big day itself, certainly a step up from Bridget Jones’ mum doing a turkey curry buffet!

Are you a fan of brussel sprouts?

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: Birthday & Christmas Gifts

I was in two minds about publishing this post. On one hand, I hate to think like I’m bragging, when in reality I’m hugely grateful for any gifts I get given. I also worry about whether I’ve missed anything out, and in doing so will offend someone. On the other hand, I love reading other people’s ‘what I received’ posts, and this blog is meant to be a reflection of the type of posts I’d want to read. In the end however I decided to do this as a huge thank you to those who bought me a gift, those who wrote me a card, or even those who just wished me a “Happy Birthday/Christmas” or “Congratulations” last week. If I’m forgotten to mention anything then I’m truly, truly sorry, but I can say hand on heart everything I have received will be treasured.

 photo Gifts 2015 4_zpsq6zpey84.jpg photo Gifts 2015 14_zpsdpuyr8ou.jpg photo Gifts 2015 3_zps6now4ov3.jpgI was thoroughly spoilt for my birthday at the start of the month. I’d spent a relaxing few days at home the weekend before, where I was treated to my favourite homemade curry by W’s dad, followed by a lovely roast beef dinner by my parents. My dad also made the most amazing cake for me! Gift-wise I was so touched by everything I received; some new PJs (much needed!), a lovely berry-coloured cape which I’ve hardly taken off over the Christmas break, a totally ‘me’ scarf and a paperback version of my favourite book. W’s parent picked me up my first (?!) Christmassy jumper, a cute Joules jumper that looks exactly like Tee-J and is so cosy (Joules jumpers are a little pricey but totally worth it and there’s often some great discount offers available – like up To 45% off selected jumpers and cardigans!), alongside a sleeve for my Chromebook. I also was gifted some cash to treat myself with (I picked up a lovely pair of heeled ankle boots from Asda and the Real Techniques Bold Metals Gift Set). My Nan also treated me to some tabletop studio lighting, it’s making food photography much easier!

 photo Gifts 2015 2_zps6ucszqzh.jpg photo Gifts 2015 1_zpsoquejvyd.jpgAs I’d been told I was being whisked off on a surprise weekend away, I didn’t expect anything from W, but he still presented me with a lovely selection of chocolates from Cocoa Amore. They didn’t last too long!

My housemates were, as always, complete babes and gave me some perfect bits and pieces. A Milani blush in the most gorgeous colour, some chocolates, slippers, handcream and some vouchers to treat myself. I couldn’t ask for better friends!

 photo 2015-12-25 14.59.02_zps29scjbwh.jpgAlready feeling rather lucky, it was soon time for Christmas. If I’m honest Christmas was extremely overwhelming this year after everything that had happened, I’m quite pleased things are starting to calm down now if I’m honest! That said it was super magical to spend some quality time with our families – and it was the first year W and me spent the whole of Christmas together! The day was quite relaxed, staying at his overnight and giving each other stockings in the morning, heading to church before driving over for lunch with my parents – a full on feast of goose, turkey, two types of stuffing, pigs in blankets, and of course the obligatory sprouts!

 photo Gifts 2015 17_zpsx9tsvedo.jpg photo Gifts 2015 10_zpsovw1pedo.jpg photo Gifts 2015 6_zps2kgvhd7m.jpg photo Gifts 2015 18_zpschefb6lb.jpgAgain I was completely spoilt; a stocking full of little gifts from W, then some gorgeous pressies from family and friends. My stocking included some of my favourite chocolates (Strawberry Creams taste of Christmas to me!), a few festive t-shirts and the most gorgeous scented candle. I was also super excited to receive a ‘fiancee’ Christmas card…especially given it was brought in October presuming I’d say yes! My mum put together a collection of bits and pieces to pamper myself in the New Year – I’m quite picky when it comes to things like this, but she got all my favourites. She also picked me up a shiny new frying pan, something I’m probably far too excited about! Alongside this my family also brought me and W some cushions – a “W”, “&” and “C” ready to start furnishing a flat together in the (hopefully) not too distant future. I’d picked out a few makeup bits from my Nan, choosing MAC Diva along with another makeup brush. And again W’s parents and family spoilt me rotten – some healthy cookbooks, a gorgeous ASOS scarf to name just a few bits.

 photo Gifts 2015 11_zpsswlrv7xa.jpg photo Gifts 2015 5_zpsp4ewbltz.jpgAlways a fan of Secret Santa’s, I took part in two this year. The first was with my lovely housemates, where I received a chunky tartan scarf, gorgeous mug and some hot chocolate to fill it. I also took part in the #FDbloggers Secret Santa, receiving some delicious pecan nut butter, and some rather interesting chilli and hemp flavoured chocolate – I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet!

 photo 2015-12-20 15.53.22_zpstufvalxj.jpgAnd of course, the best present of all – a fiance and the promise of spending the rest of our lives together.

I’m such a lucky, lucky girl! Not only did I receive some gorgeous gifts, more importantly I got to spend plenty of time with my nearest and dearest. The perfect festive break!

How was your Christmas? What gifts did you receive?

Logging off for Christmas

Just a quick note to say I’m taking a break over the next week or two. Despite a really busy university term I’ve been posting four or five times a week (even over this last exam-filled week), and needless to say I’m exhausted.

 photo Christmas Decorations 2015 7_zps87tlur1c.jpg photo 2015-12-05 14.47.42_zpsurk1tjba.jpgI’m writing this in advance, but yesterday night I was intercepted in London by W as part of my birthday surprise and (I’m hoping here!) whisked off for a romantic weekend. I’m sure by the time you read this I’ll know where I’m going…and I look forward to sharing the adventure in a few weeks. But for now I’m going to make the most of my time with my family, focus on finalising revision and getting some exciting content scheduled for the new year. I’ll still be on social media over the next few days, so if you want to try and find out where I’ve been whisked off to check out my Instagram or Twitter.

Have a lovely Christmas everyone! x

Lifestyle: It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

I’ll be the first to admit it; I’ve found it very difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. In actual fact, I’m still not totally there. Probably something to do with the two exams (disguised as coursework, of course) and two assessed lectures left this week. Thanks final year

 photo Christmas Decorations 2015 5_zpsil3faenh.jpg photo Christmas Decorations 2015 4_zpsxcbvrhvi.jpgWe have, however, decorated our house with not one, not two but three Christmas trees. Admittedly one is in Libby’s room, but it all looks so lovely and festive that even the scrooge in me has been won over slightly. All this has been done on a tight student budget, so there’s no excuse not to get even a little into the festive spirit…

 photo Christmas Decorations 2015 6_zpsoq6yutqp.jpg photo Christmas Decorations 2015 7_zps87tlur1c.jpgIn the conservatory, a.k.a my favourite room of the house, despite it being bloody freezing most of the time, we have a white tree (not my usual taste, but it was so cheap last year I couldn’t resist!), decorated with white, silver and pink. Girly but I reckon it also looks quite sophisticated – and it looks great in that particular room.

 photo Christmas Decorations 2015 1_zpsusdm0two.jpg photo Christmas Decorations 2015 2_zpsetsvo3rw.jpgWe’ve gone more traditional in the lounge, a proper green Christmas tree (a bargain from Argos in second year, this is it’s third Christmas with us!) decorated with red and white. There’s cute hand-knitted decorations, sparkly ones, lights, it really is rather lovely. And we’ve even filled our fireplace with baubles, put Christmas cards up, and generally made it Christmassy.

 photo Christmas Decorations 2015 3_zpseis2whwd.jpgIt can be really hard to decorate a student house for Christmas on a tight budget, but I reckon we’ve got it down now – invest in a cheap tree, big boxes of baubles are around £5 from ASDA or Wilkos, or ‘borrow’ from parents’ lofts. We’ve not spent a fortune, but our house looks so festive. I definitely can’t wait to have my own proper ‘grown-up’ tree though, I’m almost tempted to drag W shopping for decorations in the January sales…

Have you decorated for Christmas yet? What colour scheme have you gone for? Let me know if you’ve blogged about it!

 

Beauty: 2014’s Fuss-Free Party Look

Some girls love the process of getting ready, of slowly putting their makeup on and carefully doing their hair. I’m not one of those girls. I like to throw it on quickly, give my hair a quick curl and volume boost, and run out of the door. Yep, that usually involves laddered tights, chipped nails and smudged lipsticks but as I don’t drive these are problems easily fixed en route.

 photo 5cf4c46c-46e8-4ec5-a0f2-1e6ceec385a0_zps891aaac9.jpgChristmas and New Year was no different for me. Both days were quite relaxed, time with my loved ones, but I still wanted to look relatively nice. Okay, NYE didn’t last, I was in a duvet on the floor by 10:30 as I felt dreadful. But the thought was there. Anyway, on those kinda days/nights I want a really quite makeup routine. Preferably something I can do without a decent mirror, and even more ideal if I can throw it on top of makeup I’m already wearing.

 photo 23d5d79e-62d9-465b-b3bc-c671372d34c5_zps6ae402c9.jpgThe Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette is perfect for this. A quick dusting over 10-hour old foundation and it looks freshly applied. A sweep of the highlight and a blend of the contour make me look polished. And all in under 60 seconds. Layering it up a bit more, with a little concealer, this can be all I need for a base too. I love it, and am dreading the day I hit pan.

 photo 5231b11e-ca76-4f5c-a210-c8eeec2f4060_zps78f3b850.jpgA simple eye make up is all I feel like if I’m wearing the makeup all day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a smokey eye, but all day?! I’ll only rub my eyes and ruin it! I just go for a thick coat of a good mascara, Bourjois is currently mine (and probably the rest of the blogging world’s) favourite.

 photo c029a2bc-c22e-48c4-bd71-690b87e231bb_zps5c72f429.jpgAnd it wouldn’t be festive makeup without a red lip, would it?! This little beauty from MAC is one a lot of people haven’t heard of, but I fell in love at first swatch. A glaze finish, it’s moisturising and sheer whilst still packing in some intense colour. This is a red lip that’s appropriate to visit your grandparents in, though don’t give them a kiss as it does transfer. Hot Tahiti is a warm-toned red that is simply stunning. It’s great on its one, but I also love it to touch up my Revlon Matte Balm when it starts to fade. A handbag essential, and I’ll definitely be on the hunt for more glaze finishes.
 photo 8f014542-fcfa-400d-af95-7d93c757b85e_zps6deb665b.jpg

That’s my look this season, effortless and fuss-free. Are you a fan of throwing on makeup in a rush, or do you prefer to take your time? Have you tried any of these products? What was your go to make-up bits over the festive season?

Lifestyle: Christmas & Birthday Gifts

I really wasn’t going to do one of these posts. I’m a relatively private person, opening presents in front of those who gave them actually makes me really nervous; not because I don’t think I’ll like the present (the vast majority of people know me so well that I always get something I love!) but because I worry my gratitude will seem false. I’m also really, really slow at opening presents too, it drives my family mad! But I received such lovely, lovely gifts for both Christmas and my 21st that I couldn’t help but share. I hope it goes without saying that this certainly isn’t a bragging post, but more of a thank-you post to my nearest and dearest who gifted so wonderfully. I love you all, and I hope you love your gifts!

And, y’know, I’m really nosey. I’ve loved reading through what other people got, so I thought I’d do the same!

 photo e3e99fa8-edf6-4d1a-a2ae-be4b2a55283e_zps90770c07.jpgI haven’t photographed everything (living between three different houses has it’s complications!), and I probably won’t manage to “list” everything, but I’m truly, truly grateful for everything I’ve received.

 photo aca5ae4f-d8de-471f-9de4-2fa9558aa2f1_zpsff82f1ad.jpgI couldn’t pick a best present, even if my life depended on it. I loved my 21st surprise – instructed that I’d need warm and sensible clothes with decent footwear, it was something I’d got nowhere near guessing! My 50mm camera lens will be getting a lot of use over the coming months – note that it looks huge here as I have it attached to a mount adapter. A Le Creuset roasting dish extends my (orange) collection. I love the brand, they look stunning, cook things beautifully and are blissfully easy to clean. Expensive, but I reckon they are worth gradually buying. I only wish the casserole dishes weren’t so heavy, as I physically can’t lift them! And W amazed me again with an engraved white gold locket. A sentimental present that fits into my everyday life, I love it.

 photo 89021abd-fbe3-4116-a178-cf37125e0c17_zps757c3c56.jpg photo 9505a0f0-84f0-4d83-830a-459e588e3707_zpse21ae840.jpgMakeup wise and my lovely mummy bought me the Hourglass Ambient Light palette way back in September. Hidden in her wardrobe since, it’s every bit as beautiful as I remember. A dream to apply, I can actually contour and highlight my face even without a mirror. Again, expensive. But nothing I’ve used before even gets close to living up to this. I also spent some of my money from W’s parents in MAC on the way back to Surrey, picking up another lipstick. I’m slowly building up my stash, and seem to be picking up less popular colours. Let me know if you’d like to see a post!

 photo d16ccdd4-e1d3-4eba-b500-311731be36fd_zps9b969d00.jpgOne of my most lusted after things of 2014 was a set of heated rollers, and W’s parents so very generously gifted me the Enrapture set for my birthday. I’ve only used them once so far, and considering I did it on my own the results weren’t half bad. My placing was slightly off, I probably should have reheated halfway through, and I definitely noticed the lack of hairspray, but I’m already on my way to being in love. Far easier than curling tongs, and I do feel vintage-ly glamorous!

 photo 00a239c0-f5bb-43e7-8ade-5f2b9252c35b_zpsc11f7247.jpgThis Cath Kidston timer has been on my wish-list since I first spotted it months ago. What is strange is that it wasn’t bought by my boyfriend (who had heard me witter on about it). It wasn’t purchased by my parents, who know that it’s the spitting image of our dog. Nor was it bought by anyone who had actually read my wish-list. Nope, my landlady bought it for me!

 photo 3d5c2b21-9e24-4136-a897-1293d861f4c9_zps2b3af53c.jpgCandles are something I’ve seriously got into in recent months, and I received loads to add to my burn-list. A lovely scented one from a university secret-Santa, a log-fire scent one from Will, and a selection of mini-tins from my parents. Shoreline is an amazing scent, but all of them are pretty gorgeous.

 photo 35343c64-f7bb-4ea9-acd2-14d5872c5ee8_zpsdf768950.jpgNot strictly presents, but some lovely treats this past month too. I recently won a competition run by Curry’s with my post about living with nightmare housemates, and my prize was an ASUS Chromebook. It arrived in time for my birthday, and it’s so lovely. Not a substitute for a laptop as it doesn’t run Office, but great for blogging. I’ve left it at my parents and now don’t have to lug my laptop up and down the country virtually every other weekend, but it will be perfect for university next year! And a massive (7kg!) parcel from The Leather Satchel Co arrived two days before Christmas. I’ve found out I’d achieved a massive figure in my affiliate account (which is now closed, so no discount code at the moment I’m afraid – I’m still looking to work with the company though so keep your eyes peeled!). I ordered my mum an extra present, and myself two beauties from the sale. Will is getting a custom bag too, once he’s decided on colours! This patent taupe satchel has been on my wishlist for a year, and its’s every bit as stunning as I imagined. I love it…though I’m now running out of storage space. I think I’m up to seven satchels now…

Recipe books always feature heavily in my present pile, and this year was no exception. Though I’m having to stop asking for them now until at least after university, as I’m threatening to become overrun. Oops. I received this year’s GBBO book (of which I’ve also made some delicious peanut cookies), lasts year GBBO finalist Ruby’s book (surprisingly scientific, I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into this one) and Paul Hollywood’s Puds & Pies (rabbit pie is on the menu as soon as they are in season!).

 photo a7eaf06f-791c-430d-9af6-41fd7f237c13_zps1b16def8.jpgOne of the main things on my birthday list was a Brown Betty teapot, and my parents certainly delivered with this absolutely perfect one. A two-cup pot, this is just right for long, lazy afternoons. Though I must say, the giant one requiring two handles is definitely going to be mine at some point during my life. My children better like tea! Will bought me a mug (which, although mean, I have to agree with) which is going to live at the office, and he made (yes made!) me some gorgeous hot chocolate. Added to this, he pulled out all the stops with a giant bottle of hazelnut syrups. Cosy nights in for a few months are sorted!

 photo ae571a53-6b34-4cd9-aace-19866e9f8181_zps5c35369d.jpgAdded to these amazing presents are the shower gels (including my all-time favourite Bodyshop Olive scent), the chocolate, the nail polishes, the photoframes, the beautiful photo canvas, and the stunning Zara scarf (so cosy!). I was utterly spoilt, and I’m so thankful to all my friends and family. I only hope my own presents matched up!

So, a very Happy New Year. I hope you all had an amazing Christmas, and that Santa treated you well. What gifts did you receive?

Lifestyle: Shutting Down for Christmas

Today I finally, finally, travel home for Christmas. I’d like to say it will be a relaxing week but that would be hugely optimistic. I’m meeting friends in London for lunch and Winter Wonderland on my way, then going straight out for my sister’s fifteenth when I get back. Tomorrow I’m lunching at W’s and dinnering with my parents. Monday brings hospital appointments and ice-skating. Oh, and presents need to be bought and wrapped, and cards need to be delivered. I’m exhausted even thinking about it! But I am so looking forward to being back with my favourite people for just over a week. I’ll be back for a four day weekend over New Year’s too, which might be a little more chilled – though it still involves W’s 21st!

 photo 47dcd0b2-46b7-44f0-9ffb-92a6d27df6fb_zps32de00eb.jpgAll this rushing around, combined with last week being horrendously busy at work, means that I’ve been feeling under pressure to get blog posts written. I’ve always sworn to myself that the moment I feel pressure is the moment to step back, so that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t want to force out a substandard post and icky photos. I’d sooner put whatever time I do find spare into improvements for next year.

 photo fc07e33d-ca1a-4f8d-877b-03d85a014cfd_zps6431b94f.jpgThat said, there’s a few Christmassy tags I feel quite tempted to do, so if I do pop up it will be unscheduled, and rather festive. We shall see! But for now, I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, and no-one has been naughty enough to get a lump of coal in your stocking!