Valentine’s Special: Relationships

I still remember the first time I was “in love.” I was between the ages of 3 and 5, and he was called Tom. Tom lived up the road from me, and was probably about 16. I adored him. I’d watch at the  window and wave as he went to/from school, and I’d jump at any chance to visit him. It wasn’t exactly unrequited love; he used to indulge me and wave back, come over to play with whatever toddler toy craze was about and was always friendly. My love affair ended  when he found someone else. I’d come home  one day and found him walking hand-in-hand with a beautiful brunette. I remember feeling actual physical pain, and ended up vomiting my spaghetti bolognese everywhere. He actually came round to apologise to my parents and to say he hoped he hadn’t upset me too much. Years later I found out that he didn’t let his girlfriend near his house for 3 months to prevent upsetting me (he was such a nice boy).

Now I’ve told you that embarrassing little story about my childhood, I’ll add another embarrassment of my teenage years. I didn’t really talk to boys. I went to a girls secondary school, but even before that I’ll admit I was terrified of them. I have no idea why, but I got tongue-tied, red-faced, even a little (ew) sweaty palmed and so nothing went beyond a facebook add or a number request. I will also say, however, that I was happy with the way things were. So for my younger readers – boys don’t necessarily make you happy, and if you want my advice I’d steer clear of them til at least mid-to-late teens! I had my dog and that’s all that I needed!

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To top it all off, I ended up some an over-persistent rather old male friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, which definitely didn’t help my boy-phobia. As far as I can remember (15 suddenly seems a long way off!) it took a threatening message and a change-of-number to get rid of him.

My boy-phobia had to change though, and it had to change quickly, when shy-timid me decided to go be part of a small select group of females at the local Boy’s School. I was 16, quickly growing into myself, and more comfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before. And that’s when I met my boyfriend.

Electrons

I very quickly began to fail AS chemistry, and was introduced to a tall, geeky guy who offered to help. Over a lunch-time tutoring session (where he demonstrated electron shells with marshmallows and skittles) I began to think this geek was actually rather cute, and so we began texting. Two weeks later and we ended up in town during some afternoon frees, in the pouring rain. Ever the gentleman he offered me his umbrella. The problem was he was just too enthusiastic…I can’t say a soaking wet umbrella to the face is the best chat-up act in the world!

He must have been pretty good at apologising, because the next week I accepted his invitation to dinner at his house. We chilled on the sofa, watched the ever-so romantic film Hot Fuzz followed by a couple of episodes of Top Gear, moving closer to each other as the hours passed. Somehow the awkward first kiss happened and the rest, they say, is history.

More than three years on, we’ve finished sixth form and are currently living two-hundred miles apart. Despite time-consuming and demanding university courses and jobs, we make the effort to see each other as often as possible, planning cheap-as-possible dates and scheduling in Skype dinners. Old fashioned letters dropping through the postbox is probably the highlight of our weeks, and despite some days wishing I could have a boyfriend-cuddle whenever I wanted, I know that even if we’re apart I wouldn’t change our relationship for the world. And I get to be surprised on train journeys with flowers!

I’m not sure when we’ll close the distance between us, I’m not sure when we’ll be able to live together, but I do know that those lunchtime Chemistry lessons produced much more than some vaguely remembered facts. They gained me person who knows me better than myself, the person who still can’t be trusted to hold an umbrella safely, and the person who I know I’ll end up spending the rest of my life with.

Now, sorry for the spectacularly gushy and lovey-dovey post today. It wasn’t really what I was aiming for, but its what got written.  I had originally wanted to do a post on surviving long distance in a relationship (and let me know if you do want to read it as its in my drafts!) but it didn’t quite work out. I certainly hope this wasn’t too personal a post !

Now a final plea – please let the trains be running this Valentine’s, cos otherwise it’ll be a date between me and my laptop! And because we all know this is the most important part of my story, I actually ended up with an A in Chemistry…

What’s your relationship story, or your first experience of love? I’d love to read them!

In Pictures: Christmas Holiday

I have a lot of pictures to show from my Christmas holiday and as most of today is being spent on a train back to university (I can’t wait to see everyone again, although I’m already missing the people at home!) I thought I’d just do a simple photo-heavy post and show you them all, with a few explanations. Let me know if you want more lifestyle posts like this…here goes!

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2013-12-21 17.45.43Coming back to my mum’s amazingly decorated tree!

2013-12-21 17.49.50Snuggles with this cutie…

2014-01-03 09.43.46…and this one! I enjoyed spending lots of time with my boyfriend. During term time we’re anywhere between 150 and 200 miles apart, and although we try and see each other every fortnight it’s been great to see him every single day for a long period of time. We tried to do a lot of ‘dates’ this holiday to offset me having to study, and it’s been great!

2014-01-09 13.47.01One of our dates included a wander round Borough Market, where we lunched on this yummy paella.

2013-12-31 10.41.18I received some lovely expensive make-up…

2013-12-28 09.22.09…and got myself some fab bargains!

2013-12-23 15.21.05Did a little bit of baking.

2013-12-31 10.39.10-1And made sure I pampered myself!

2014-01-02 13.49.20Made the most of the Christmas leftovers.

2013-12-31 13.31.54Devoured some bread baked by my boyfriend (and resolved to make my own!)

2014-01-04 19.42.19Made some amazingly good Massaman Curry.

2014-01-11 16.19.00Watched a lovely sunset…

2014-01-11 16.20.53…whilst drinking a yummy hot chocolate!

2014-01-13 19.34.51I was treated to my favourite meal, fish pie! Thank you to both my boyfriend and his mum for their joint effort in this meal, it was wonderful!

BeHwDX8IYAAjbmpAnd this was topped off by lemon-y pancakes with the papers the next morning.

2014-01-15 20.48.02One of our date nights was a lovely Italian meal (paid for via a voucher we received for Christmas) which we finished off with a trip to the local cinema purely for the Ben & Jerry’s counter! I went for Peanut Butter Cup, with is my absolute favourite, and Smores. The perfect combination in my eyes!

And finally, perhaps best of all…

1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_nYep, I managed to secure my Year in Industry placement which forms part of my degree! I feel really proud of myself for gaining one so quickly, it was my first non-retail/leisure interview, and I didn’t have to start panic-applying to every single placement I could find! I have a few posts set to publish on the University of Kent’s Employability blog about my application journey, but as soon as they are up I’ll be reblogging on here to give some tips. Back to the subject- I’m looking forward to working within the Pricing team of one of the UK’s biggest insurance companies from July, it’ll definitely be a change from university, and it’s an amazing opportunity. So excited!

 

How was your Christmas holiday period?

Birthday Thanks

It was my birthday a few quite a few days ago, and I’ve been meaning to do this post since to show you all what fabulous friends I have. Now, I now we are all in the same boat, all on a very tight budget, and so I really don’t expect gifts at all, let alone some of the wonderful things I received. Everything I was given was just totally ‘me’ and I love it all – it shows what great friends you have when everything they buy you is perfect!

2013-12-05 10.27.41Here’s just a selection of what I got!

  • First up is the canvas at the back. Amazing, my housemate actually painted that herself. When I realised she hadn’t bought it, I feel in love with it that little bit more. It’s absolutely stunning, and will look good in both my student room, and my dream-bedroom I’m planning for when I finally have my own house.
  • Then there’s the apron in the corner, which another housemate asked her mum to make for me (seriously wish I had a mum that could sew, let alone wishing that I could sew something like this!). Between this and another friend gifting me a recipe binder, you’d think they were hinting at me doing some baking! But honestly, I love both of the gifts, and they will be so, so  useful. Not to mention that a floral apron was actually on my Christmas list!
  • Lots of chocolate, which is helping me get through a period of stressful assessments and placement applications (I so wish there were more actuarial industrial placements available!). Plenty of fluffy socks, which are vital as we have a cold kitchen floor. Plus I love fluffy socks, and wear them pretty much constantly. I have been known (accidently of course) to shower in them…
  • A 2014 calendar, which will go perfectly in my room. And it’swipe clean, so great for tracking assessments and important to-do’s. Looking forward to using this!
  • A new Cath Kidston mug. I love my Cath Kidston mugs, they’re a perfect size for hot chocolates, so I love that I now have two at university!
  • Libby was shocked to hear this year that despite wearing dresses/skirts with tights a lot, I’ve never tried Primark’s super-cosy tights, so she treated me to a pair. Once this horrible wind dies down, and I’m not in danger of flashing anything, I’ll be trying these. Is is weird to be so excited about a pair of tights?
  • I was also treated to some new make-up, and related bits-and-pieces, including a MAC blusher I’ve wanted for five long years. It’s been worth the wait!

But what was my best present? Well, we all went out for a meal for my birthday, and it turns out that everyone had been secretly talking behind my back. It turns out that one of the people I had invited had deliberately agreed, despite knowing she wasn’t coming. Because my wonderful friends had arranged to get my boyfriend down to my university town and surprise me. They’d been planning for WEEKS, everyone knew (including my mother, who nearly let it slip a few hours beforehand!) and they managed to keep it a total surprise, although I did start getting a little suspicious at various points. To everyone who was in on this and made this happen – thank you so much, you will never know how grateful I was to spend my birthday, and an extra few days, with my boyfriend. Those in long-distance relationships will understand!

So that’s it, a quick round-up of my wonderful presents, and my even-more wonderful friends. Thank you guys – I love you all!

 

Fun Friday Finds

Welcome to a new series, which I hope will become weekly (although bear with me on that one!). Basically here I’m going to be going over what I’m loving at the moment, new blog posts I’ve read this week, things I’m adding to my wishlist – loads of things really! Hope you enjoy it – and bloggers if you want to be removed then please let me know!

Homemade Shortbread

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I received a lovely parcel from my lovely boyfriend last week – some homemade shortbread (he is also a very keen baker) and four bars of dairy milk. Not only was this a great surprise, and a much needed pick-me-up, but the shortbread was amazingly good!

Tony Moly Lip Balm/Tint

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As you know from my previous post, I’ve fallen in love with the strong colour payoff and unbelievable staying power of this product! If you like a berry lip, but aren’t a fan of reapplying all the time, I couldn’t recommend this enough. Thank you to Makeup Savvy for the recommendation!

My Filofax

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Life is a little busy with a few deadlines, and a lot of mid-term assessments, and this is vital for keeping me on track and organised! I literally couldn’t live without my Filofax, and I really do believe every student should have some form of diary or organiser that works for them. I’m planning a post about my university set up very soon, so please keep an eye out for it!

 

Blogroll – Best Posts of the Week! (or last few weeks…)

  • As you probably know, I love the Londoner’s Banana & Nutella Swirl Muffins, and I can’t wait to try these ‘healthy’ cookies.
  • I’m trying to get into eating soups for lunch (especially as they are a great way of using going off vegetables) and as soon as I receive a new blender I’ll be trying Mama Cook’s Borlotti Bean, Bacon & Vegetable Soup.
  • I love A Thrifty Mrs blog for the vast array of tips – our kettle is looking decidedly grubby inside so this weekend I’ll definitely follow her tips for descaling.
  • I’m a huge fan of neutral but smokey and defined eyes, and I desperately would love to try Naked  3, which has just been announced. Check out Sunday Girl’s post for more information!

Has this week introduced you to anything new you now love?

Baking: Peanut Butter Snickers Brownies

Another baking post for you! Anyone would think this is turning into a food blog, but that isn’t really the case…much as I love food I still want to keep this as much of a lifestyle blog as I can manage. Food is just a big part of my lifestyle…

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Anyway, this recipe has quickly proved to make a favourite baked good of mine. These brownies are rich, gooey, crunchy from the snickers, with a savoury hint coming from the peanut butter. Wonderful on their own, but spectacular warned with Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. Diet = ruined.

 

I will say is that the snickers did make this very unstable and virtually impossible to cut. The crunchiness of the nuts is a pretty key part of the finished bake, but I’m not sure whether Snickers bars is the best way to achieve this. I plan to make another batch trialling a slightly different method, which I will blog about in due course. I will also add my method of using tins is slightly odd – I always line with tinfoil and grease this, then add greaseproof paper. Mainly as it eases the washing up…

 

So, here is the recipe for some of the best brownies I have ever eaten. Gooey, crunchy, chocolatey and salty. If you ever bake one thing from this site, make it these!

I made these as part of a bunch of presents for my lovely old boyfriend, for our third (yep, third – sickenly loved-up couple alert – but happy anniversary again my lovely!) anniversary of being together. His reaction was pretty impressive, so I think he liked them. They have been greatly appreciated by parents and housemates alike (and also travelled the five, yes five, thanks Southeastern Trains, hour journey to said boyfriend in a suitcase relatively unscathed) so would be great to make when meeting new people, having family visit, or for sending home in the hope of a fund relieving cheque in return…

 

Ingredients

  • Brownie mix (I used this recipe, as it is my go to for brownies. I also like this slightly healthier one, but I admit to using Tesco’s “just add water” mix on occasion, as baking ingredients can be expensive!)
  • Peanut Butter (around two tablespoons, smooth seems to work better in baking)
  • Snickers bars (I used three snack sized bars)

 

Method

  • Preheat your oven to around 180C.
  • Chop your snickers into rough chunks.

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  • Once your brownie mix is made up, stir through your chopped up Snickers, and add roughly half the mix to your prepared tin.

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  • Warm your peanut butter slightly in the microwave to make it a little runny (photo is before microwaving!).

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  • Add around half of your peanut butter over your brownies, trying to drizzle it evenly over the mix.

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  • Add the rest of the brownie mix, and drizzle over the rest of the peanut butter. Smooth the top down.

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  • Bake for 20-25 mins, turning if your oven cooks unevenly. If it is slightly underdone when you check it, my tip is to turn the oven off and leave to cool in the oven. It should finish it off nicely.

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  • Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting. If you do this while they are still warm, so know from experience that you will just make a mess.
  • Now sit and eat, preferably with a class of milk or a cup of tea. Oh, and although the snickers might make the base sticky, it means great pickings for the baker…

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This post has made me so hungry, I think I might need to go and steal another from the boyfriend… If you liked this post, check out my brownie post here. Also look at my take on The Londoner’s Banana and Nutella Muffins, and my Citrus Drizzle Cupcakes.

Restaurant Review: Wined and Dined at ABode Canterbury

Now, this post is going to be slightly odd seeing as it’s on a student blog. Decent food (and I mean amazingly good food!) is wayyyy out of my budget, but for my birthday my lovely boyfriend treated me to an rather posh meal at quite an exclusive restaurant; certainly one of the best I’ve eaten in.

Before I start gushing about the food, a little complaint about my age. Nineteen sounds so old! I’m 20 next year, and in just 13 days I’ll have to say “I’m 21 next year” if asked that question. Just as long as, with the help of Loreal, my hair remains blonde, I’m happy.

Right, food.

I was lucky enough to be taken to ABode in Canterbury, a Michelin accredited restaurant in the city centre run by Michael Caines (the chef, not the actor). It is definitely up there with some of the best meals I have eaten; only one other strikes me as being memorable throughout my lifetime. Unfortunately due to restaurant rules I was unable to take photographs of the food, so I’ll just do my best to describe it.

We were warmly, if rather oddly welcomed. It was assumed when we arrived that we weren’t diners, despite our smart dress. I guess they don’t see many of their clientele being students! There was also a confusion with the booking, and as a result the menu we requested was unavailable.

We were seated quickly, and presented with a basket of fresh bread and butter. There were three types of bread; a white with sea salt; a brown with honey; and a sun-dried tomato. I tried the white and the brown, being unable to try the third (although apparently it was good). As this was the first bread I’d had in a good couple of months, I wasn’t in a fit state to take any of it in. It was very, very nice bread.. We made our food choice over the bread, choosing from the set lunch menu.

For me, my starter was probably the highlight of my meal, despite the eyelash it came adorned with. It was a pan-fried fillet of mackerel, served with potato salad and salsa verde. The mackerel was fried to perfection, beautiful crispy skin (no soggy bits at all!) beautifully flavoured, wonderfully salty and almost sweet flesh, and nearly all of the bones removed. I was cautious about the potato salad, but this was nothing like the pot you buy in Waitrose in the summer. This was a three tier tower of tiny diced potatoes, very al dente, with pickled vegetables. I enjoyed the pickled ‘something’ – a flat and very thin disk, which was crispy and well flavoured. I enjoyed the onions, and even the tiny mini-florets of pickled cauliflower. But despite my enjoyment of radishes in other dishes, I really disliked these. Maybe that was me. The entire dish was perfectly balanced, and I really enjoyed it.

My boyfriend’s starter was also very well received. He ordered cauliflower soup nervously; neither of us enjoys that particular vegetable. He was even more nervous when presented with a bowl of, admittedly quite nice looking, cauliflower florets. No soup to be seen. Disaster was averted when it was poured in via a jug at the table. This soup was some of the best soup I’ve eaten. I actually enjoy the taste of cauliflower, it’s the texture that spooks me. Soup is clearly the remedy for that, and I may consider buying it and making some soup next term. The cauliflower ‘croutons’ aside, I’d have happily eaten this.

 

The mains came perhaps a little too swiftly after the starters. But again, I’m being demanding and picky.

My boyfriend fell in love with his dish; pork fillet, with various vegetables, apple sauce, and some kind of jus. It certainly looked pretty, but I personally wasn’t a fan. However, I really dislike fruit in my main course; cranberry sauce with my turkey (and I don’t eat turkey more often that every five or so years) is my limit. For me, this dish was too sweet, but everyone else I witnessed eating it seemed to think differently to me.

My dish was very very close to the standard of my starter, and I really enjoyed it. I had ordered Wild Mushroom Risotto, with a Nutmeg and Parmesan Foam. The risotto was perfectly seasoned, both creamy and light, and the rice was cooked nicely. I would have perhaps liked more mushrooms, or perhaps more mushroom flavour, but I make my own risotto very strongly flavoured, so this is more personal taste. I had always thoughts foams a bit pointless; surely its just a bit air-like, and surely it would get cold quickly. I was wrong. This added a perfect strong flavour, and sort of melted into the risotto, making it even more creamy and luxurious. I would definitely order this dish again! However, one thing let it down; the garnish of cress felt like something a pub-restaurant would add, and for me its bitter flavour spoilt what was otherwise my dream dish.

 

We were left alone for a considerable time before ordering desert, for which I was grateful. We ordered two deserts, with an agreement to halve each. The first was a lemon tart, with raspberry coulis, lemon peel and various other adornments. For me this was a little cloying, but I had fallen in love with our other desert. The second was a white chocolate mousse on hazelnut biscuit with more raspberry coulis. I found this more delicately flavoured, with enough texture to keep it interesting.

 

Having read though my post, it actually doesn’t sound like I am praising the restaurant much – which is not the impression I want to give! In fact, it was by far ahead of many meals I have previously eaten, and definitely on my list to visit again. It was an amazing birthday treat for which I am extremely thankful, and I enjoyed the food immensely. Cress and eyelash aside. And hopefully, I’ll be taken back there again, or to other amazing restaurants (hint hint!)

Square Meal