Lifestyle: Happy Things #42

I’m back! It’s been a while since I sat down and wrote a blog post, with my Thursday recipes being scheduled in advance a while back. And I’ve missed it. Oh boy, have I missed blogging! But life got crazy, everything got in the way and it’s just not happened.

So where have I been? First up I managed to get some kind of stomach illness, and ended up in hospital with suspected (although fortunately not!) appendicitis. Then W got majorly ill along with hundreds of others at his graduation ceremony, which meant yet another hospital trip (this time in an ambulance – which I was secretly quite excited about underneath my worry). Then there’s been wedding bits and pieces, busy-ness at work and the fact that my appetite and love of food simply hasn’t come back yet – not great for a food blogger! But I’m back, I’m here, and I’m hopefully here to stay.

One thing I will say is that I’ve been having major technical issues over here recently. My server company is threatening to shut down the site, I’ve got no photos showing up and it’s all a bit of a nightmare. Just stay with me and we’ll hopefully figure it out! Oh, and Bloglovin decided to disconnect, then loose all of my previous posts. Doh!

And now onto what’s made me happy lately…

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

A post shared by Chloe Ellen (@life.and.loves) on

  1. I passed my exams! Yep, I’ve recently got the results of the exams I took back in April and I passed them both. I’m now only two exams away from qualifying which feels pretty damn good!
  2. Lunch at Padella. We finally bit the bullet and queued when I had a random Monday off. We got there before it opened, queued for just under an hour and then enjoyed some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. Including in Italy. Only beaten by one restaurant in Venice, my dish of thin, delicate strands of pasta with teeny sweet mussels was divine. I also tried Burrata for the first time, which is a ‘happy thing’ all of it’s own…
  3. Watching W graduate from his Masters. I was and am so unbelievably proud!
  4. Trying out rather enjoyable alcohol-free white wine. Botonique* is billed as the ‘soft drink for wine lovers’ and, whilst it divided opinions between my friends, I really enjoyed it (they weren’t keen at all!). The smell is a bit off-putting (aka don’t breathe it in) but once I got used to the fragrant flavour I found it the perfect thirst-quenching treat for a hot picnic. Definitely one to try if you’re cutting down on alcohol!
  5. Picking up my new favourite dress. It fits well, is beautifully made with gorgeously soft materials. And it has bees on it.
  6. Opening my first Degustabox* – a monthly hamper filled with new, innovative or exciting foodie treats. I’ll be reviewing this month’s on my Instagram stories so stay tuned on here to find out more, but so far the Rhubarb Cider has been a real highlight…
  7. Managing to replicate my go-to order at Bella Italia. It’s a courgette and pasta dish in a light lemon and tarragon sauce, and now I can make it all the time.
  8. A rather successful planning meeting at our wedding venue. We remembered exactly why we booked it as the staff are so helpful and organised. We’re virtually all set for the day now – I’ve sorted the bridesmaid gifts, RSVPs are rolling in daily and I’ve got my first dress fitting next week!
  9. A meal at Trishna. Fancy Indian food, it was all absolutely delicious, and I’m still dreaming about the Crab Curry.
  10. An afternoon learning all about sourdough. We were booked onto Bread Ahead’s Introduction to Sourdough* which was an amazing class. We’d previously done the Doughnut Workshop (see my post here) which was super-fun, but this one was a lot more technical. We came away with a couple of loaves each as well as a wild yeast culture to feed and start our own sourdough journey at home. I highly recommend if you want to further your bread making knowledge – full post will be up soon!

*Items marked were gifted in exchange for an honest review, with no money exchanging hands. All opinions my own as always!

What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #41

Another Monday, another Happy Things diary! This last fornight has been a mix of being super-busy at work, some relaxing weekends and a lot of evenings spent resting a pulled neck (so painful!). Having said that, there’s still a lot to be happy about…

    1. White Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies. The perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchy and chewy. Recipe coming soon!
    2. BBQs and gatherings with friends. I’m not a football fan at all, but the World Cup at least gives people the excuse to get together a bit more and I’m totally okay with that.
    3. Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Quiche. It’s currently baking as I type, it smells *amazing* and I’m looking forward to it making up my lunchboxes this week.
    4. Having a bit of an Instagram clear-out. So many accounts I don’t remember following, or just don’t have any major interest any more. It’s meant my feed is full of content I actually want to see, so I’m engaging more. Win win.
    5. Fresh mackerel. It’s one of my favourite fishes and it’s *so* cheap to get hold of. This weekend we pan-fried some in a harissa glaze which was delish!
    6. Gaining a tortilla press. I’ve made homemade tortilla wraps previously but struggle to get an even thickness so I’m looking forward to giving this a go.
    7. Homemade burritos. We piled green rice, refried beans, pork pibil and cheese into wraps and heated in the oven. They were huge, naughty and absolutely delicious.
    8. Enjoying the above whilst watching the Lego Movie. Everything is awesome!
    9. My fiance passing his Masters degree – we celebrated with pizza and wine, then he caught up on some much needed sleep. I’ll hopefully be sharing some of his final project on my Instagram page soon so stay tuned…
    10. Managing to nail a copy-cat recipe of Bella Italia’s Pollo Siciliana. I skipped the chicken, but it was virtually spot-on and absolutely delicious. One I’ll be making again and again…

What’s made you happy this week?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #40

Ok, so I know I’m always saying how quickly time is going, but how the actual F is it June already?! It’s now just over four months until our wedding, it’s basically only six months until Christmas, and I’m closer to 25 than 24 (doesn’t that sound SO much older!). 2018 has quite literally sped by, and in part I’m thankful. I don’t want to wish away the summer, but I’m so excited for October to roll around so I can get on with marrying my best friend, I’ve waited long enough already! Of course, it helps when each fortnight is full of delicious food and happy memories…

    1. Mexican Food. I’m really loving Mexican at the moment – chillis, tacos, spicy salads. We’ve made our Pork Pibil recently (and I’ve eaten more than my fair share of Pink Pickled Onions), and I also whipped up some spicy grilled chicken with insanely tasty potatoes and slaw inspired by our Wahaca book. Another one for my Cooking From series I think…
    2. Getting our wedding invites out. It took a lot of hours, nearly 50m of ribbon and 6 papercuts, but I was really pleased with them, and seeing/hearing our friends and families reactions has been lovely. Roll on October!
    3. A trip to Honest Burger. Still my fav burger in London – what’s yours?
    4. Suddenly liking Avocado. I think I mentioned this last fortnight, but up until a month or so ago I didn’t touch avo. Hated it. Now I can’t get enough! Whether it’s in a salsa (piled into a taco of course!), or on toast with feta and chilli flakes, it’s my current go-to food. So yum.
    5. Honeymoon shopping! After a disastrous trip to Westfield I’ve made a couple of successful online orders. What’s with the size discrepancy in Zara though?! Ended up with one dress in an XS, and one in a L…
    6. A really good frittata. We followed a recipe in this month’s Delicious magazine and it was insanely good. Full of potatoes, shallots, a lightly set egg and topped with gooey mozzarella. We served with a radicchio and salami salad, then I enjoyed it in my lunchbox for a few days. Will be making again for sure!
    7. Receiving all the dog photos from my parents. They picked up a rescue dog to add to the family last weekend, and so far (touch wood!) he’s settling in really well. We’d actually been looking, on and off, for ten years to add to our family so it’s about time!
    8. Chocolate Brioche Twists for Sunday brunch. Check out my Instagram page for how they looked.
    9. The Netflix series Safe. Anyone else watching? I’m hooked!
    10. Planning my not-hen do. My friends and mum have planned my main one, but I’m also having a mini one with my grandmas and future in-laws (girls only!) closer to the wedding. Obviously it will involve bubbles and cake!

What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #39

Happy Monday! As I type it’s Sunday evening I’m currently sweltering in my flat, wondering whether it’s acceptable to eat ice-cream whilst my dinner is cooking… (read: trying to justify it to myself!). I’ve had the most wonderful couple of weeks, I’m really making the most of this not-studying malarkey with plenty of plans. I have to say, though, I’m hoping for a slightly more relaxed three-day weekend next week, I’m in need of a rest!

  1. Nice Cream. I love making soft-serve style ‘ice-cream’ out of frozen bananas and a splash of milk. A weekend treat is a big bowl made with peanut butter, and topped with peanut butter cups. So, so good and just that bit kinder to my bank balance and waist-line than Ben & Jerrys!
  2. A trip to Wakehurst Place. I met my girls, we had a delicious picnic (I made a Quiche Lorraine which is one of my favourite treats), drank Shloer out of plastic champagne flutes and wandered around the gorgeous gardens. It was such a lovely day, and now I’m sorely tempted to get a National Trust membership…
  3. Steak Salad. I’ve felt a bit anemic lately, so decided a steak dinner was in order! We usually serve it with homemade chips and a whisky sauce, but lightened it up – puy lentils, roasted broccoli, asparagus, mixed salad leaves and Parmesan with a dash of balsamic vinegar. It certainty hit the spot!
  4. Re-vamping our interiors slightly. After a good spring clean I’ve switched a few things round in our flat, picked up some new bedding and generally just gave it a good old refresh. You can read some bedroom decor tips from both me and some other lovely bloggers over on this Laura Ashley post*
  5. Afternoon Tea at Dandelyan. This was my first foray into luxury afternoon teas and it was wonderful – four cocktails, the most gorgeous food and a stylish setting. A full review will be live in the next week or so but I highly recommend a trip!
  6. Shopping for honeymoon clothes – because my wedding is now less than 20 weeks away! I’ve picked up a few bits in H&M but still want some more summery dresses and skirts. Any places to look?
  7. Sorting out wedding ceremony details with our vicar. We’ve confirmed a basic running order, our hymms are virtually chosen and it’s all feeling a lot more real now. Invites are slowly going out as and when I manage to finish them off, they should all be sent by next weekend. Eeek!
  8. And speaking of weddings, how gorgeous was the Royal Wedding this weekend?! I loved the dress, the veil was insane, but what made me super-emotional was how Harry looked at his bride. Utterly fairy-tale.
  9. Gin. I’m not a fan of tonic so haven’t really drank much gin in the past, but recently I’ve been enjoying it with various other mixers. Elderflower is a good combo!
  10. I’ve managed to keep my house plants alive for a year now. I think I’m more than ready now to be responsible for my own puppy… 😉

*in collaboration with Laura Ashley, all thoughts and opinions are my own as always!

And that’s it! I’m planning quite a quiet Bank Holiday weekend next week – I’m hoping to go to Immy’s yoga class, then I’d like to take a trip to Kew Gardens for a bit of a photo sessions, then possibly a walk around Richmond too. Other than that it’s a big weekend of blogmin and wedmin!

What’s made you happy lately? What are your plans for the upcoming Bank Holiday Weekend?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #38

Happy Bank Holiday Monday! It’s a bit of a miracle here in the UK that a Bank Holiday weekend has been combined with hot and sunny weather, but I for one am not complaining (other than the bright sunshine makes it far more difficult to take photos!). We’ve spent the weekend exploring new (to us) areas of London, lying in the sun, eating tacos and generally just relaxing. I’d like to do something a bit more exciting next Bank Holiday though, so let me know what you got up to!

  1. Tacos for dinner. We love eating Mexican food, and with a tub of leftover roast chicken needing using up we took inspiration from Chelsea’s recipe. The avo-corn salsa combo was DELICIOUS (I used frozen sweetcorn, and fried it in the pan we’d used that morning for bacon, before cooling and adding to the avo), and perfect with the roast chicken (tossed in a chipotle dressing with some onions). We topped with feta, a squeeze of lime and lots of coriander and *really* enjoyed it. Plus it was ready in 10 minutes, so I can see it becoming a regular fixture in our meal plans.
  2. Olive Oil and Lemon Cake. It was light, zest and delicious – have a look on the ‘gram for more!
  3. Exams are done! I finished my latest exam sitting a fortnight ago and, whilst hugely relieved, I’m not feeling overly confident with how they went. Either way I’m not retaking in the next sitting (as it’s right before the wedding) so I’ve got a nice break from heavy studying for now. I’ll still be sitting a smaller exam in September, but no written paper this time – vain as it may be, I get awful finger blisters when revising and being left-handed means I *really* want to avoid them just before the wedding!
  4. Launching a new blog series. I’m going to be reviewing cookbooks with a recipe from each – you can read the first Cooking From posts here and here.
  5. A wander around Hampstead Heath. It’s an area of London I’ve not explored at all, but I’m desperate to go back and see more of it. We just won’t mention the fact I stupidly wore sandals and now have insanely painful and swollen ankles…
  6. Wedding prep! I bought the final bits I need for my ‘look’ on the day (highly recommend Dress Me Pretty if you’re in the Midlands), we’ve finalised our invitations, bought a couple of things for decorating the reception. It’s now five months to go – eek!
  7. An impromtu date night at Home SW15. It’s quite honestly our favourite place at the moment, and we wish we had the pennies to visit more often. We enjoyed a Lemon Sole (me, it was perfectly cooked), a Bavette Steak with Red Wine Butter (him, I stole a piece and it was the best tasting steak I can remember eating) and shared a portion of fries with aoili. If you’re ever in the Putney area I highly recommend a visit!
  8. Saying hi to puppies. There’s a gorgeous Border Terrier pup who lives near me and I’m worried the owner will think I’m stalking him as I bump into him far too often…
  9. Ice-cream! Sun and heat = ice-cream craving. Chalet Chiro in Putney does the best ice-cream I’ve tasted in London, and one of the best outside of Italy (there’s a small hidden place in Brighton that *just* pips them to the post).
  10. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. We had this for dinner last night and it was perfectly – just the right amount of soft, sweet garlic, with tender chicken. Keep an eye out for the recipe!

What’s made you happy lately? How have you spent the Bank Holiday weekend?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #37

Happy Monday! It’s probably not surprising to you that I’ve had yet *another* quiet fortnight. Exams are just about to get into full swing – I have a computer based on over two days this week, then a big written paper in another two weeks. I’m not feeling overly confident with these as getting the flu really knocked the stuffing out of me – I forgot a lot of what I’d covered, lost a lot of time, and it took me ages to be able to study at my full pace again. Fingers crossed it will be alright!

The past two weeks have involved a lot of time at my desk, but some fun also. And of course, it was Easter which meant chocolate, hot cross buns and a long weekend…

  1. More Bourek and Hummus from Balkan Bites at Borough Market. I first tried this when we did our doughnut workshop, then went back the following weekend for me. It’s definitely my favourite street-food lunch at Borough Market. It’s relatively light, steaming hot (but I bet lovely if left to cool too), the hummus is *amazing* and the green chilli packs a punch. Get the spinach and feta bourek and you won’t be disappointed!
  2. Finally getting round to watching the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?
  3. Doing a spot of baking. I made a (perhaps excessive) Easter Cake for the office and it went down well. Sponge filled and covered in buttercream (courtesy of Green’s Cake Mixes*), the topped with a giant chocolate-cornflake nest and filled with mini-eggs. Yum!
  4. Winning a couple of blog competitions. I’ve recently managed to win a Bill’s voucher and also a mini-moon getaway in the Cotswolds for a couple of nights.
  5. A sunrise church service on Easter Sunday. Our church does it with a Bonfire next to the Thames and despite the early start it is a lovely occasion. Helped by the pastries and Buck’s Fizz afterwards I guess!
  6. Dinner Party planning and eating – without the stress of cooking! We planned a bit of a get-together for a few friends last week, I help W plan the menu (always fun) and then left him to do the cooking. He did a wonderful job and make egg yolk ravioli, a chicken dish with pan-roasted thighs, mashed potato, malt crumble, crispy skin skin and a chicken jus. Then dessert was a chocolate-cherry concoction that was simply heavenly…

What’s been making you smile lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #36

Happy Monday! Again, this fortnight’s been quite a quiet one – exams are just around the corner so evenings out and weekend plans have been at a minimum. That said there’s still been a lot of good food. My sense of taste came fully back after my illness (can’t believe that struck four weeks ago – time has flown by!) so I’ve been making up for the bland meals with lots of yummy eats!

    1. Feeling better again. I can’t quite believe how ill I felt – being unable to walk properly from bed to kettle was a low point to say the least.
    2. Homemade sausage rolls. We switched out the traditional pork for lamb mince, and spiked them with harissa. So good, though I’d be tempted to add a bit of finely chopped apricot for some sweetness next time.
    3. A date night out in Putney. We had cocktails at Home SW15 (my review is coming soon, promise!) including a bizarre but tasty combination of rhubarb, tequila and caper. We then ventured to Yum Saa, a newly opened Thai place. It wasn’t quite as good, yummy food but a rather cramped table, uncomfortable seats and a pricey bill left us feeling a bit deflated.
    4. A very, very yummy Vietnamese Duck & Blood Orange Salad. W just needs to taste fresh chillies before adding them as we both struggled with the heat of this one!
    5. Lunch at Borough Market. I tried something new and got a Spinach Bourek with Humus from Balkan Bites – and it was the best lunch I’ve eaten at Borough Market. Light yet filling, super tasty and indulgent, and the humus was just delicious. I’ll be eating more of them for sure!
    6. Wandering around Hever Castle with one of my besties. We snapped loads of photos, patted loads of puppies (I saw FIVE, including the most adorable baby huskies!). I have some photos I’m really proud of, so keep an eye out on my Instagram!
    7. A Doughnut Making Workshop at Bread Ahead. Not only was Justin Gelattly himself running it (fan girl moment), it was genuinely one of the best cookery classes I’ve done. We came home with 13 doughnuts, plus one eaten fresh from the fryer in class, and dough for another 12. And four big bags of honeycomb. I think I did well with W’s birthday present this year!
    8. Ordering a deep fat fryer. Mainly to make the rest of the doughnuts, but I’m also thinking proper fried chicken, onion bharjis and scotch eggs…
    9. Making a big batch of my favourite soup. It’s a simple combination of bacon, chopped carrots, celery and onion, garlic, cumin, chicken stock, red lentils and lemon juice – and it’s delicious.
    10. Picking up a dress I’ve *loved* in Oasis for months, at 70% off. Winning!

What’s making you happy right now?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #35

This fortnight has been a pretty weird one, as most of it I’ve spent being rather ill with a severe cold/flu illness. In fact this was the same illness than led to my previous happy things post being cut short halfway through – apologies about that. It’s been kinda difficult to see the good things when you’ve spent so long in bed, especially when you’re too ill to walk the length of your flat or even read a book, but I’m hoping writing this post will cheer me up.

  1. Chicken soup. The best medicine you can buy!
  2. Starting with (another) new team at work for the next few weeks. I may have only managed half a day before I headed home ill, but I’m excited to start a new project and see where things go.
  3. Sausages in Cider. I had very little taste for over a week with this illness, and this was the first dinner where I actually managed to appreciate it.
  4. Chicken & Ham Pie topped with Cheesy Mash. I needed comfort food, and this worked.
  5. Finding a 20% off code to coincide with when I needed to reorder Pixi Glow Tonic. Every little helps!
  6. Lemon Meringue Pie. Coupled with a lack of taste I had very little appetite, but I was craving this – so my wonderful fiance made me one fro scratch.
  7. Ordering some pretty pyjamas for the morning of the wedding. At least I’ll look decent in the bridal preparation photos!
  8. A pamper evening. If you’re feeling ill then an evening with candles, a warm bath and facemasks might not make you feel better, but it does help a little.
  9. Receiving our pre-wedding shoot photos back. Our photographer has done an absolutely amazing job, I’m planning on sharing a few over on Instagram during the week!
  10. Blood Orange Curd Tart with Dark Chocolate Pastry. This was our Sunday night dessert yesterday and it was goooood!

Sorry for the slightly depressing Happy Things post! Hope you’ve had a better fortnight than me!

Lifestyle: Happy Things #34

Sunday night, it’s cold outside, I’m cosy-ed up on my sofa with a hot chocolate and looking back over all the good things in the last fortnight. Not a bad end to the weekend!

      1. Doing a menu tasting for our wedding. All of the food was wonderful, especially our chocolatey dessert. I can’t wait!
      2. A Valentine’s night in with a current favourite casserole (pork, lemon, mustard and dill with parmesan dumplings – it’s delicious) and cheat’s chocolate mousse.
      3. Bright skies and sunshine. It feels like Spring is just round the corner!
      4. Having a clear blog inbox for the first time in months…
      5. Having a first measurements session for my wedding dress – eek. I am so looking forward to seeing it all come together.
      6. It’s been all go with the wedding stuff recently – we also had our pre-wedding photoshoot with our wonderful photographer. The sneak peek was wonderful, so I imagine there will be lots of happy tears when we get the rest of the snaps!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #33

I’ve gotten into such a lovely, lovely habit of writing these cosied up on a Sunday night. I find it really starts my working week off well the next day, as I’m in such a good mood having remembered all the lovely things that have happened recently. And it just so happens this last fortnight has been absolutely amazing!

    1. My Hen Do being planned. It’s a total surprise right now but I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen, and just to spend time with my best girls.
    2. Bridesmaid shopping. I actually found the idea of this really quite stressful (no idea why – my girls are lovely, but I just don’t enjoy shopping when I have to buy something in particular), but it was a really lovely day. I just know the three of them will all look completely and utterly gorgeous on the day!
    3. More wedding things – but my hair and makeup trial. Again something I was nervous about as I’m not really one to have a nice hair-do and lots of makeup on, but I think I found a gem in the lady I’ve booked.
    4. Taking part in The Little Plantation Winter Instagram Challenge. I haven’t participated in every single challenge, but I’ve been enjoying being inspired to think of different foodie things to post.
    5. A few weeks of awesome lunches. There was a Cauliflower Salad inspired by a recipe in Fress, then I made up a glorious taco-inspired quinoa salad for a few days. Yum!
    6. Going to Flip Out in Wandsworth. It was an awesome Sunday night workout session!
    7. A Cheese & Onion Chutney Grilled Cheese. So, so good.
    8. A Tasting Menu lunch at Roganic. It was my Christmas Present from W and the boy did goooood! I’m not going to be blogging about it as it was such a treat meal, but I can highly recommend it if good, tasty and slightly fancy British food is your thing.
    9. Snuggles with my pup. At 12 he’s starting to get a bit older now, but that means he’s more up for cuddles!
    10. Trying Aligot for the first time. It’s basically an insanely cheesy mashed potato, made with Alpine Cheese. It’s super-rich and filling, and quite possibly one of the most delicious things to have some out of my kitchen

What’s made you happy lately?