Lifestyle: Happy Things #44

Another Sunday evening when I’m going to moan about being too hot – it’s the start of September, I should be getting ready for Autumn but even the thought of wearing a jumper is making me sweat. Though I have at least managed to wear a cardigan outside recently which is an improvement… A lot has happened since my last Happy post (especially as I missed one, whoops!) so this is a bumper one. It’s certainly been a good few weeks.

    1. Being able to say “we get married NEXT MONTH” – after being engaged since the end of 2015 this feels crazy! So excited to be a wife…
    2. On more wedding-related news, we’ve had our respective stag and hen dos. He came back with all hair/beard/eyebrows still in-tact which was my biggest worry, so that was good. And my hen (or at least part I, with part II to come!) was amazing. My girls did a wonderful job at planning at day that was perfect for me, though unfortunately my night out was cut short when my mum took ill – but hey, what’s another Happy Things post without praising our ambulance service?!
    3. The meal on my hen deserves a special mention – I wouldn’t be a food blogger if meals weren’t a highlight. However my Confit Duck Leg with a Plum and Ginger Glaze was extraordinary. One of the best things I’ve eaten all year.
    4. All the foodie magazines. Recently I’ve been able to get a copy of the Sainsbury’s magazine through work, which takes our regular foodie magazines up to 3 per month, plus anything else I can get my hands on. So much inspiration. And it’s meant we’ve definitely kept up our goal of cooking at least one new dish a week…
    5. Speaking of new food, August’s Degustabox arrived and was just as good as July’s. I’m a big fan of the Crooked alcoholic soda!
    6. Making a batch of Noodle Salad for lunchboxes. It was loosely based on this recipe, but I’ll be posting my own version soon!
    7. Hosting a dinner party for friends. I made a selection of tips (Tumeric Hummus, Courgette & Tahini and a Whipped Feta) and served with breads – I could have just eaten that. So fun to catch up over some delicious food.
    8. Picking up a new favourite dress from Warehouse. My previous favourite shrunk but they’ve been great about refunding it, fingers crossed this one doesn’t suffer the same problem!
    9. This Trout Pizza from Waitrose is still a favourite, I’ll be gutted when it’s no longer available…
    10. A few days of cooler weather. We enjoyed some comfort food (this Cauliflower Cheese Risotto is a great option!), and I even pulled out the fluffy socks. Sadly it hasn’t lasted!

What have you been up to lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #43

It’s Sunday evening, I’m sat sprawled out in an attempt to cool down and am utterly, utterly ready for Autumn. Sure, this hot weather is an excuse to eat plenty of ice-cream and I’m spoilt with an air-conditioned office AND a commute which involves the air-conditioned District Line. But it’s still a tad warm for my liking! Despite the moan about the heat, there’s been plenty making me happy lately…

  1. Cooking some more authentic Thai food. I posted about our Moo Pad Prik on Saturday, but it was absolutely delicious and deserves another mention!
  2. Finding a fragrance brand I really, really love. Noble Isle makes the most stunning fragrances, I already know I need ‘Fireside’ as a winter candle or diffuser this year!
  3. Flicking through my favourite new cookbook. Not only does Gatherings look beautiful on my shelf, it’s also one of the nicest books I’ve got. There’s barely any recipes which don’t scream ‘make me!’
  4. My cousins lovely wedding. It was the most relaxed day, she looked beautiful and it was lovely to catch up with my Grandma too.
  5. The above also made me super-excited for my own big day. It’s just under 9 weeks to go, I had my first dress fitting last week (which went far better than I had feared!) and eeek! So excited!
  6. Making one of the best cakes I’ve eaten yet. It was super-tasty, super-quick and went down really well at work (almost disappearing before lunch time). If you’ve got a courgette-glut it’s the perfect cake for you and I’ll be posting the recipe very soon…
  7. Finding all sorts of tomato-free pizzas in supermarkets. Waitrose are currently doing one with Trout, New Potatoes and Samphire which I’m excited to try!
  8. Having a freezer full of Bolognese (tomato-free of course) courtesy of yellow-sticker beef mince.
  9. Getting *the* most excellent customer service from the beauty salon where I’ve booked to have my nails done before my wedding. They’ve booked out the last two hours for me, my mum and sister, encourage us to bring some bubbles and were genuinely just lovely.
  10. An excellent issue of Delicious magazine. My future in-laws got me a subscription for my last birthday and it’s the best foodie mag I’ve read. Full of excellent articles and the recipes are super-seasonal and super-yum. To top it off the postal packaging is now biodegradable!

What’s made you happy lately?

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┬áPollo 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 #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 #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 #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?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #32

I’m sat here writing this on a Sunday evening. I’m in my cosiest PJs (they’re from Next and they are the softest things I’ve ever worn), I’ve got a wee dram of whisky and I’m feeling delightfully sleepy and cosy. That pretty much sums up my January to be honest – cosy. Lots of evenings in, snuggled with a good book or Silent Witness. Lots of comforting, seasonal food. It’s been wonderful!

    1. Afternoon Tea with my besties. We visited Alice & The Hatter Tearooms in Herne Bay and whilst it wasn’t exactly a refined afternoon tea it was yummy enough. A bit of a sugar overload, but we very much enjoyed it!
    2. Trying to squeeze in some daily exercise. I’m struggling a bit with the daily, but I’m doing something more often than not. I’m alternating between Yoga and more HIIT style work-outs which feels more sustainable to me.
    3. An exercise mat. My dad picked one up for me from Aldi and it’s made the aforementioned yoga workouts so much more enjoyable – no more bruised back from our wooden floors!
    4. A payday treat at Honest Burger (previous review here). I remembered exactly why I consider The Honest to be my favourite burger so far, and how addictive their rosemary chips are. Any other burger places you can recommend?!
    5. Silent Witness. It’s my guilty pleasure – I usually wait until later in the week then watch the two episodes back to back…
    6. A Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. Quite possibly my favourite thing I’ve cooked so far this year.
    7. A belated Burn’s Night celebration. We cooked up Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and a Whisky Peppercorn Sauce, then finished with Cranachan. Delicious – and all the more so with bagpipes playing in the background!
    8. Finishing off a really difficult but enjoyable project at work. I had to learn a new software and start a fairly complex project all within four weeks, and I’m proud to say I achieved this. Coupled with an unexpectedly good annual performance review I’m feeling fairly #girlboss right now.
    9. Getting loads of wedding-related things pencilled into our diary. I’m having a hair/makeup trial later this week, a dress-fitting is booked for February, we have menu-tasting in a few weeks and there’s a date for my hen weekend.
    10. Homemade Pitta breads. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat bought ones again!
    11. Tacos. We made Duck & Pineapple Tacos a few weeks ago, and last week we used leftover marinade to make Pork Pibil ones (recipe here). I do love a good taco!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Things #31

Wow, hasn’t the past fortnight gone quickly! Maybe it’s because my Christmas ended up being not-so-festive, but I’ve found easing myself back into work, a routine etc a lot easier than previous years. I mean, if you ignore the horrendous 2.5+ hour journey to work last Monday morning, it’s been pretty much a breeze! Though if you could send me an excuse to eat vast amounts of cheese again, that would be wonderful…

  1. Long walks. Both on New Year’s Day, then again last weekend, me and W wrapped up warm and went for a long walk. Our go-to route is along the river (heading West out of London), but we also spent a lovely 4 hours zigzagging across Richmond Park, before walking to Ham and then onto Petersham Nurseries. Gorgeous, though trying to make our own sandwiches on a picnic bench in sub 5C was perhaps a mistake.
  2. Buying pretty plates at Petersham Nurseries. Anything for the Instagram!
  3. Speaking of Instagram, I’ve been loving curating my feed lately. If only I could reach the small but elusive 1k though!
  4. Joining a new join at work (albeit temporarily) – it involves a lot of techy and code-y work so it’s been a challenge, but I’ve really appreciated it.
  5. Booking onto a Doughnut Making Workshop as part of W’s birthday present. It’s not until the end of March but I’m already excited for it!
  6. Being challenged to cook a ‘local meal’ – more on this soon…
  7. A birthday night out at Home SW15. The food was lovely, the seasonal cocktails (mine involved parsnip and white chocolate) were yummy and I definitely want to visit for brunch now!
  8. Oh brunch. We also managed a birthday brunch at our favourite, The Dynamo (read my previous review). I tried their Turkish Eggs which were AMAZING, just lacking a big enough toast portion…
  9. Cosying up with a homemade lasagne made with my tomato-free bolognese. Cheesy, creamy, and full of all the carbs!
  10. Burning my favourite candle. It’s Rose & Oud scented and I’m so gutted it’s now ran out.
  11. Enjoying my new armchair. I now finally have a mustard-y yellow armchair. It’s just the right size to curl up on with a book, it’s super comfy and makes my flat feel 10x more cosy. I love it!
  12. Making progress with wedding bits and bobs. With less than 9 months to go we actually need to plan stuff rather than just book vendors. I have my hair/makeup trial, first dress fitting and our ‘engagemnt’ shoot with our photographer all in the next few weeks, plus a shop to try and find dresses for my ‘maids. So exciting!

What’s made you happy recently?