Food: An Indoor BBQ

Maybe no-one has informed the weather, but this week is National BBQ Week in the UK, and when Newman’s Own sent over some goodies for me to try, I knew pulled pork had to be on the menu.

 photo 2015-05-23 19.31.02_zpsu1ds7jpj.jpgMe and W decided to have a bit of a cosy Eurovision night in. Drinks, more food than was sensible and lots of cheesiness courtesy of Graham Norton – a perfect antidote to the day spent in Costa acompanied by engineering notes (I spent the time blogging and laughing in my head – mean girlfriend!).

 photo 2015-05-23 11.03.36_zpsdgwltmhg.jpg photo 2015-05-23 11.03.44_zpsqsiegqin.jpgThis pulled pork is the perfect way to have a BBQ meal without relying on the weather. Sure, maybe it’s not quite the same as slightly pink sausages, burnt burgers and shivering in the cold, but its damn good. And it can be made in the depths of winter – I know I’ll be making it again. We served ours taco-style with wraps, some homemade pickled slaw, refried beans and sweet potato fries.

 photo 2015-05-23 11.09.47_zpsdebkeizq.jpg photo 2015-05-23 19.18.55_zpsxm2i8vqb.jpg photo 2015-05-23 19.21.17_zpskeebmok9.jpgThe pork was super simple, and great value. A tray of diced pork should came in at just over £2 and would have fed far more than the two of us. Simply rub with the Pulled Pork seasoning*, throw in the slow cooker with a teeny bit of water and leave on low for as long as you can. The style of rub meant it wasn’t ‘normal BBQ flavoured’ (i.e sweet, cloying and tomatoey), but instead it was spicy and mustardy. Whilst full of flavour, this marinade also enhanced the porkiness of the meat – not overshadowing it in the slightest. I loved it. Once your are ready to serve, lift the meat out onto a plate, shred with forks. Spoon as much fat out of the liquid as possible before putting the pork back to stay warm.

 photo 2015-05-23 19.26.15_zpsvduf3xku.jpg photo 2015-05-23 18.33.09_zpsfupvsfb1.jpgRefried beans are a staple for me, they are some of my favourite things. Sweat finely diced onions in lard, add in cumin and other spices until fragrant, add beans and squish around until thick and creamy. You can blend for a smooth dip if you want – and top with cheese to be even more greedy. We added some tabasco to the mix too – their new chipotle sauce* is pretty awesome! Sweet potato fries were a bit of a failure – a little mushy and not crisp. I’m determined to crack these over the next few months so let me know if you have any tips!

 photo 2015-05-23 19.16.15_zps4ythbyaz.jpgFood coma, cocktails in my new ever-so-on-trend tumbler jar*, watching the voting and guessing who would receive most points from certain countries, Eurovison is one of my favourite nights of the year. I loved Sweden’s offering and wasn’t particularly surprised when they won – definitely one of my favourite songs of the night!

Did you ‘celebrate’ Eurovison? Have you embraced National BBQ week yet?

Review: Summer Satchel from Yoshi*

You all know how much I love my satchels, so I was delighted when I was offered a Yoshi satchel to review. This wasn’t a company I had heard of before, but I’d seen one of their Coral satchels in the window of a local leather shop and fallen in love with the colour. After deliberating sizes I decided on the 14″ Belforte* (£65.00).

 photo 2014-06-16160119_zpsfc9e96af.jpgThe colour definitely didn’t disappoint when it turned up (bonus points for the company – it was the best packed satchel I have received, loads of bubble wrap, and a gorgeous cherry-print dust bag too) as its summery, bright and very feminine, but not quite as neon as it looks on the site. I fell in love with their Pale Green colour too, so I can only imagine how gorgeous this looks like in the flesh!  The one complaint I do have about the colour is that it isn’t particularly even – there’s a few little black specks on mine. I actually don’t mind them, it makes it look less perfect so I’m less pretentious about using it (with my main satchel I was paranoid about it until it received its first slightly scratch – five months in!).

 photo 2014-06-16160133_zps493afc61.jpgI find the leather quality to be high, although it is a little thinner than my others. Its definitely a lot more flexible, which is great as I can stuff a cardigan in there for chilly evenings, but despite the thinness the straps haven’t taken any noticeable battering during the first few weeks of use. I’m going to be doing a satchel comparison post soon, so you’ll be able to see more closely what I mean!

I’ve loved having a more summery-coloured bag for sunny days, its added an extra something to my outfit and as its more smallest satchel it means I’m carting much less rubbish around! Huge thanks to Yoshi for sending me this satchel to review (remember, all opinions are my own, and I’ve not been paid to write any positive comments) – they have some lovely satchels and clearly follow seasonal trends so I definitely recommend keeping an eye on the site. I’ve been informed their AW/14 Collection will be launching in the next few months so I’m keeping my eyes peeled…
Do you have a summer bag?

Weekend Antics #1

 photo 2014-03-16150744_zpsd3115368.jpgI feel so bad about posting this weekend – it became clear on Friday that I wouldn’t have time to blog (I like to keep weekend’s schedule-post free – I like a bit of spontaneity in my life!) and I don’t really like to send out a quick post just for the sake of it. Instead today I will make my excuses, and show you why I didn’t get chance to post.

Luckily my busy-ness wasn’t just down to the mountain of work I have at the moment (currently have three assignments on the go, and a three-hour ‘class test’ to revise for, and I’m expecting more coursework to be added on any day now), but because I decided to treat myself to a relatively relaxing weekend.

It was a ‘boyfriend’ weekend – as one half of a long-distance couples I see my boyfriend once a fortnight – and instead of trying to do work and getting annoyed/snappy when I couldn’t concentrate, I instead gave myself pretty much the whole weekend off. It was lovely to relax and not think about my ever growing to-do list!

 photo 2014-03-15103235_zpsad5d5805.jpgI took advantage of our lovely local butchers and bought some black pudding, which we used to make a lovely try up. I have a little leftover which I’m trying to decide what to do with – I’m torn between fritters, or adding to a carbonara!

 photo 2014-03-15105150_zps900146c8.jpgWe also took advantage of the lovely weather – I cooked some part-baked rolls and grabbed a pack of salami, and we headed out for a picnic.

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 photo 2014-03-16140944_zps3656ae74.jpgDespite being at my house, my boyfriend treated me to a lovely home-cooked meal (he did most of it whilst I was showering – I was impressed!). He made Swedish meatballs, and they were amazing. I’m going to adapt the recipe for my usual lower budget and post up soon!

 photo 2014-03-15183941_zpsfdce6b56.jpgI made the mistake of planning to cook stew (yep, on the hottest weekend of the year…), but despite it being far too warm for it, it was a damn good stew!

 photo 2014-03-13194754_zps7cca1226.jpgI also made one of my favourite cakes – caramel, chocolate and peanut butter sponge. I’ll definitely post about this soon!

 photo 2014-03-16162552_zps90534215.jpgI even got ‘proposed to’ with a hula hoop…who said students aren’t romantic?!

Sorry again for the lack of posts! What did you get up to this weekend?

REBLOGGED: Diary of an (Actuarial) Undergrad – Trials and Tribulations of a Good CV

I was recently asked to do a couple of guest posts for my university’s careers service blog, which can be found here. I must say, the support I have already received from the University of Kent in terms of careers has been outstanding. I reccomend a look on their website even if you aren’t a student, as there is some amazing advice. Definitely check out their blog too, and here’s my original post.

 

I’ve just finished my first year in Actuarial Science (which is, to put it very simply, a mixture of mathematics, applied statistics, economics and finance) and will be beginning a yearlong placement in the summer of 2014 as part of my degree. As of yet applications are only just starting to open, so I’ve been concentrating on getting my CV up to scratch.

 

The simple fact is you will be asked to produce a CV for potential employers at some point in your life.

I’ve held two part-time jobs whilst studying, and both of these were obtained by handing my CV to a prospective manager, so I know firsthand how crucial these ‘little bits of paper’ are. I also know that having to quickly produce one to hand over is probably one of the most stressful things in existence. So even if you ignore everything else I write in this post, at least do one thing; prepare your CV now, when you have a spare minute, and then update it as and when needed.

 

So, the perfect CV. What’s in it? What definitely shouldn’t be in it? How long should it be? What font should I use?

There’s a list of endless questions you could ask, and I’m not going to pretend I have all of the answers. But I have been told my CV is strong, and I’ve also had some fabulous advice from Nikki Ellis (the industrial placement adviser in the Schools of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science) so I hope I can guide you to the right direction.

The general consensus is that a CV for industrial placements (and indeed graduate roles) should be 2 pages in length. That should be a full 2 pages. Not 1.5 with hugeeee writing. And not squished-up-with-tiny-margins-and-tiny-font 2 pages. You shouldn’t be altering the layout of your paper and the size of your font to compensate for too short/long CVs. On that note, go for a standard font (something like Calibri or Arial) – none of the fancy swirly stuff! Keep the size between 10 and 12, any smaller and it will be difficult to read, any larger and you run the risk of it looking a little child-like.

The layout used is a bit more personal. I went for a tabular style CV, with section headings down the left. I also made important details (sub-headings such as educational results and job titles) stand out by putting them in a bold type face. One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to  break up large chunks of text, either through bullet points or some other means. A hunk of text will be off-putting, you want something easy to scan, something that will easily highlight how wonderful you are.

Content is a bit easier for me to advise on. I’ve been told that the order of the section in a CV should be as follows; contact details and profile; education; experience; skills; interests; and references. This is the order in which I will discuss the sections, just to make it a little easier for both me and you…

  • You want to start with your name and contact details. Make sure you include a phone number, email address and postal address.
  • Then go with a short paragraph (or maybe two even shorter ones) called a profile. This should briefly introduce yourself, summarise your experience and education, and state your current career goals. This section should be brief and to the point, and no more than a few sentences. Now is not the time to waffle (actually, at no point should a CV contain waffle!).
  • Then comes the education section. This should be in reverse chronological order, i.e. the most recent first. A good piece of advice, particularly if you find yourself short of space, is that the most recent qualifications should be talked about more, and the ones you took years ago the least. Hence I have just two lines devoted to my GCSE’s on my CV; the institution I sat them at, and the grades received. I haven’t mentioned specific subjects (although it is a good idea to clarify that they do include Mathematics and English), but I did mention the subjects I studied at A-level and devoted a little more space to these qualifications.
  • University modules and grades are often far more important. If your degree is directly relevant to the roles you are applying for, I’ve been told to detail the modules you have taken. I was also advised that, if ALL of your module grades are of a high standard, to include them in your CV. However, I really wouldn’t advise doing this if one is significantly lower than the others, or if they should any kind of inconsistencies in your academics. Best to use your own judgment to make that call!
  • Again in reverse chronological order comes your work experience. This can be anything from volunteering roles to employment. My personal advice would be to head each section with the place of work and the timescale, then briefly evaluate which skills you have gained from the role.
  • Following this section should be where you detail your key skills. My opinion is that bullet points are best for this, but at the same time make sure you write in full coherent sentences. Steer clear of clichés, and make sure you don’t repeat yourself. I know when I first got my CV reviewed by Nikki Ellis she counted a ridiculous 21 “I am”s in mine! Keep things clear, to the point, and relevant to the kind of roles you are applying for.
  • Next is the interests section. I’ll admit my CV actually lacks this, as I was short on space and it the thing that should be compromised on as opposed to nixing part of your education or employment history. This section is more important to some companies than others (do your research when applying!) and remember that any hobby or interest you list will give an impression about you as a person so think carefully about any potential implications.
  • Finally references. Here you have a choice; include full contact details of your chosen referees (make sure they are happy to provide references prior to submitting your CV if you chose to do this!) or state that you have references available on request. At university I’ve been told I need to include on academic referee (check with your department who the appropriate person is) and one employment referee; I have stated these two referees, and also mentioned that I am able to provide further employment references on request (as I have held done more than one job in the past).

 

And so that’s it, my not-so-brief guide as to what a CV should look like and include. I hope it helps at least one of you to create an excellent CV and hopefully gain a job! I’ll hopefully be back in a few weeks with a post on application processes, and those lovely online logical and numerical reasoning tests that a lot of companies implement into applications. Until then, have fun updating your CV…

Student Shopping: Tips on Auction Sites (And My EBay Addiction)

Sorry it’s been so long again. This operation really has taken a lot out of me, and coupled with trying to get on top of shifts at work (I don’t qualify for sick pay anymore, so wanted to make up for the shifts I missed!) I’ve had little time for blogging. I really have missed it, but my energy has been non-existent and the last thing I want is to be posting flat and tired posts. Hopefully this one won’t be too bad…

 

Over the few weeks between getting home and having my operation, I was tasked with clearing out my room. My parents aren’t planning on chucking me out anytime soon, but they are well aware I’m a little bit of a hoarder, and they also plan on redecorating my room next year. Embarrassingly, it took 3 trips to the dump to throw all of the non-decent stuff (and even more embarrassingly, only half of my room has been done – and it’s a small room!) and many black bags to house the various piles labelled ‘sell’ and ‘donate.’ Quite a decent pile of my stuff made its way to various charity shops, which always makes me feel like I’m doing my bit. I can’t say I give to charity as much as I’d like, sadly I can’t afford to donate often, but giving my unwanted goods for shops to sell makes me feel a teeny bit better. I also try and check out their clothing rails when I pop in – there’s often some excellent deals to be had!

I also had a lot of really, really good bits and pieces) that I felt I could get a bit of money for. I mean, most bits still had tags on! I have a really bad habit of buying things that I ‘might’ wear and then never wearing/using them, and although I’m growing out of that phase now (mainly as it’s my own money I’m spending!) it’s still left me with a lot of things to get rid of. Enter EBay. Not only did I find it an excellent way of getting rid of my unwanted things, I also found myself acquiring a few bits and pieces others didn’t want, which I did. This blog post will be a not-so-short guide to buying and selling on EBay.

 

Selling On EBay

  • Make sure it’s something that someone will want. Cheap items do sell, but is anyone really want to buy a broken Primark dress, pay postage, and repair it when they could buy a brand-new one for under £10. Special occasion items, like this here (I love it!), seem to sell well.
  • Set a reserve price just right. No point starting off your old ‘best’ leather jacket at 99p. But equally no point starting a well used t-shirt at £5. Judge it properly, and you’ll get interest.
  • Don’t charge ridiculous postage fees. It costs me £3 to post a small parcel (shorts/dress/t-shirt) and £3.50 for a pack of five postage bags. So to me, when someone asks for £5.50 postage for similar items, I get annoyed and put-off bidding. The ones EBay suggest are good estimates, and there for a reason, so do consider using them!
  • Take decent photographs, and lots of them. If you’re selling a patterned item, make sure your photos show it clearly. I also suggest taking photos of size/brand labels if possible, to avoid being accused of false advertising.
  • If selling clothing, please wash it before posting it off. I know people (me at least!) will most likely wash it when they receive it, but no-one will give you positive feedback for items with your dinner down them!
  • Make sure any items don’t smell. I won’t state which, but a clothing item I have received in the last few weeks had clearly been stored in a damp environment. Three washes and airings later it’s far improved, but I can’t stay I was impressed upon opening!
  • Don’t be disheartened if things don’t sell – list again, and again, and again, adjusting the reserve price if you feel it needs it. Remember that at certain times of the year (holiday periods) bidding will be less.
  • Ensure items are posted out quickly after payment is received. I always try to time my auctions to finish on a Saturday or Sunday, ensuring I have postage bags ready, so I know I can send them out the day after payment is received.
  • Keep an eye on items, as potential bidders may ask questions. It annoys me hugely when I ask a seller a question, they don’t respond, and so the item goes unbid on.

 

Buying on EBay

  • When searching, always try to be specific – don’t search for skirts, search for ‘floral skirt’ or ‘maxi skirt.’ No point wading through hundreds of entries you’re not interested in! Ideally, search for your favourite brands/shops too.
  • My biggest piece of advice is to include the size you’d want as a search term -you don’t want to find the perfect item and then it be miles too big/small for you.
  • Ask questions before bidding, especially if the seller won’t accept returns.
  • I don’t bid on things I like straight away. I add them to my watch list, set a phone alarm for just before bidding ends, and then bid at the last moment. This helps me to avoid a bidding war, and keeps me to a budget.
  • To keep to a budget, decide on a maximum bid and stick to it. Entering the auction with minute to go lowers the chance of you being outbid, and so removes temptation to spend more than you would have.
  • Don’t bid on everything you like – consider where it is from, and how well it will be made. I’m sorry if you think I’m a snob, but I would not buy a second-hand, used item from Primark for £5+postage, as I know perfectly well I could get one for the same price that hasn’t been worn before.
  • Last of all, always, always, please, please, please give feedback to your seller!

 

That’s my basic guide to selling/buying on EBay. I will admit the majority of things I have been interested in are clothes (I am a girl after all!) and here are the three items I have won this summer.

2013-08-02 18.27.35

A lovely vintage-style Urban Outfitters skirt. I just adore the different buttons on this, plus it’ll be far easier when I inevitably lose one!

2013-08-02 18.28.35

A less vintage, but equally lovely (and apparently one-off) unbranded skirt. This is a little on the tight side, but I got overexcited and ignored the ‘to fit sizes 6-10’ in the description as it was the first item I bid on.

2013-08-02 18.29.11

An absolutely gorgeous (the photograph doesn’t do it justice) mini-dress from Mango. I can’t wait until the winter to wear this with thick tights and boots!

 

I have also used EBay to try and find some items of sentimental value.

2013-08-02 18.31.31

Since I was very little, I’ve had one cuddly toy, and it’s the only one that I ever truly loved. It, or he, came everywhere with me, experienced things a bear shouldn’t have to experience (being stuffed in a drawer after getting lost in Marks and Spencer’s, and being posted from Cornwall for Leicestershire after I left him in a holiday cottage) and was basically glued to my hand when I wasn’t losing him. I loved, and still love, Bear. Yes, my bear’s name is Bear. I was an imaginative child (the story is, he was actually bought for my mum when she announced she was expecting me, I fell in love with him as a child, but I wasn’t allowed him until I said the word ‘bear’ – it ended up being my first word, and the name stuck). Anyway, I decided to search on EBay to see if I could find another, and found several straight away. I duly purchased, not to replace my Bear (he is irreplaceable!) but to store for the future day I have children, in the hope that they too have a cuddly best friend to see them through their childhood and beyond. See, EBay can be used for sentimental reasons too, and that just shows how soppy I am at heart…

 

For all of you Filofax fans out there (and I know there are a lot thanks to Philofaxy publicizing my blog on their round-up posts) EBay is also a great source of cheaper Filofaxes. I greatly aim to get hold of a vintage Filofax one day, and probably spend a little bit of time twice a week searching for these on EBay. I’ve not found the perfect one at the perfect price, yet, but I’m sure I will one day.  I want something like this…

Filofax

Image from here.

I will say though, I’ve seen a few try to sell non-leather folders expensively by mis-describing them. I’ve also seen multiple sellers listing other folders (i.e. cheap store bought ones) as “Filofax-style” in order to try and gain more money. So do be careful with what you are buying – Philofaxy has a great advisory post here. My biggest piece of advise if buying a Filofax is to definitely ask on Philofaxy, or on one of the Facebook groups, just to check that you are getting the real deal.

 

So that’s it, my rambly guide to using EBay. Hope that helps the potential bidders in my readers!

Upcoming Posts: Sparse and Sporadic or Regular and Ramble-y

This is just a quick heads-up posts warning my lovely readers that posts over the next few weeks may be a little, well, odd. Having suffered from regular health problems for many years, I finally have a date to go under the knife (well, laser) for an operation. Next Wednesday I will be a day patient at William Harvey hospital in Ashford, ready to have my deformed nose straightened and everything flushed out. There’s names for this in medical terms, but they’re far too long and scary!

At the moment, other than being drugged up to the eyeballs with pre-meds (seriously, side affects of insomnia and tiredness – how?!), I’m more than a little nervous, but also excited to potentially have an answer to the problems that have been increasingly debilitating over the last few months.

I aim to have at least one post completed before my operation – a review of the A5 Original Filofax kindly sent to me to review by the Ideas Network. I also have a list of new posts I wish to do over the next few months, though it obviously is dependent on a lot of factors as to whether they get done.

So, that’s your warning, although I hope that it will all go okay and I’ll be posting as normal. Just maybe a little confused, so ignore silly typos and spelling that’s more appalling that usual!