My love of kitsch

My love of kitsch

You might have noticed there are more posts at the moment but a lower percentage are food posts. I feel like I actually post the same number of food posts over all but I was missing writing more often, but last time I was writing every day or 2 about food I ended up at least 2 stones heavier, so be prepared for more home ware, music and general chat.

Anyway, I can almost exactly pinpoint when I started adoring novelty and kitsch. When I was about 15 or 16 I noticed that Topshop were selling plastic jewellery and being the cheapskate that I am I decided to just buy the plastic jewellery I was given as a smaller girl. Anyway, I don’t seem to have really grown out of wearing rabbit earrings or having glittery nails in the subsequent 12 years. Perhaps I’ll be the crazy grandma wearing a handknitted fox scarf with a badger hat and smurf earrings. I certainly hope so.

Anyway, apart from a few buys from Tatty Devine and Skinnydip a lot of these were actually random finds by D from festivals, etsy and he spotted the Instax camera at Currys before Christmas. It’s one of those things I wanted for such a long time but didn’t let myself buy it. So he got a lot of brownie points on Christmas day.

I tend to pick up a lot of these on days out so all of these have happy memories for me and make me smile when I wear them. Although my jelly sandals sadly melted in last years heat, they were only Β£5 from a random ebay shop so I just trot around my garden in them.

Anyway, a lot of these items are what I would consider as a bit of fun. Something that makes me smile on difficult days. Which I think goes beyond liking fun jewellery, I truly feel more myself when I wear something I like and I think most people feel more confident wearing something they’re happy in. So while I would never rock up to an important meeting at work in a rabbit hat or off putting earrings I like the fact that one of the things my friends associate with me is lively accessories.

Now, I’m in the market for a badger hat. If anybody knows any stockists let me know.

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Hello Fresh week 2

Hello Fresh week 2

So last week I discussed my initial thoughts on Hello Fresh so I thought I would give a final run down. I was a tiny bit irked last week that the box this week came with 3 cans of food. Not that I have an aversion to canned goods – its a cheaper way of eating fruit and vegetables in some cases. I think it was partly because I am pretty intolerant to certain pulses and left them out of one of the recipes entirely. Still, everything tasted great and I will consider future purchases when we’re busier or need cooking inspiration.

I must admit we both adored the quick roast dinner recipe; the gravy was just lovely and sweetened both our Mondays a treat.

I think possibly the nicest thing about these recipes is that they are so stress free. I think they’re so easy to follow and suit a variety of abilities. Also I actually did these boxes without checking what was in them and I found we actually tried new things without the bias that way.

So the pros of Hello Fresh (and similar boxes):

  1. All of the ingredients (except oil and salt and pepper) are provided in the exact quantity required.
  2. Recipes are easy to follow, even for beginners. Nothing takes too long to cook.
  3. They encourage healthy eating. The meals are pretty low calorie, they’re keep you fuller for longer and have lean protein and contain fruit and vegetables.
  4. The food is delicious and encourages customers to try new recipes.
  5. They come in a range of sizes so suit different family sizes.
  6. The packaging is well designed.
  7. They discourage food waste.
  8. It has to be said – good portion sizes. There were a couple of times when I thought “surely this won’t feed us both”. But yes, the classic box for 2 provides a decent meal for a hungry 6ft3 man and his girlfriend.
  9. I actually learned some useful tips from the recipe card.
  10. The food is all pretty local.

The cons are:

  1. I do think, even with the offer these aren’t cheap for what they are if you’re generally a clever shopper. We still had to do a partial food shop – although by the second week I didn’t end up buying as much so it might depend on your lifestyle.
  2. The portion sizes are generally ok but some are a bit nuts. A pasta dish I made was supposed to serve 2 but we both had it for tea/dinner and then lunch the following day. Also we got sent a massive broccoli and it was all supposed to go in one dish. I enjoy my vegetables but I felt that was a bit excessive.
  3. Having to dispose of some of the packaging can be tricky. We know people moving house who are taking the boxes and have a friend who needs packaging material but depending on your local council’s approach to recycling this could be a pain.
  4. Currently they can’t cater for all dietary requirements. Although the box also comes in a vegetarian option and can offer some dietary requirements its not suitable for all allergy sufferers or vegans.

And finally, I do think its worth stating if you do sign up you can pause delivery if you don’t fancy the weekly box on offer or you fancy repeating some recipes you’re sent. We actually both really enjoyed the meals we cooked and I look forward to getting the occasional box. However I love cooking and I did miss the spontaneity of meals, but it felt pretty reassuring on nights I had to work late knowing there was a nutritious meal waiting for me.

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Strawberry and mascarpone brownies

Strawberry and mascarpone brownies

I feel like these brownies which evolved from cheesecake brownies are the height of summer decadence. However, I am all about balance these days and when shared with friends these are the perfect treat for those lazy Sunday lunches we all love in the Summer. I actually tend to use the reduced fat mascarpone in these as I genuinely cannot tell too much of a difference. Adding vanilla bean paste to these adds a rich sweet dimension that goes perfectly with the strawberries. However, I part baked these and then had to finish them off in my Uncle’s oven so they aren’t as attractive in the final pictures are they initially were in the earlier ones. However, when I make these again I am pretty tempted to retake some of the final photos so you can see some of the beautiful swirl patterns going on.

To make 12-16 brownies (depending on size preference) you will need:

100g cornflour

200g dark chocolate (Bournville is good for these ones)

250g caster sugar

3 eggs

100g butter

6-10 strawberries depending on size

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod

250g mascarpone (or reduced fat mascarpone).

Preheat your oven to 180Β°C and line a baking tray with grease proof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and the mixture leaves a trail on the surface when you lift the beater. Melt together the chocolate and butter. Set aside to cool while you sift in the flour. Gradually add the chocolate mixture while you continue whisking your eggs. Once all this has combines pour into your baking tray.

In a separate bowl combine the vanilla and mascarpone. Swirl this over the top of the brownie mix. Half your strawberries and dot these on the top of everything else. Bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer comes out of the brownie almost clean.

Cut into squares and serve warm with ice cream or cool as they are.

This is what they will look like when you drive them across a hilly town, but they still taste amazing! I certainly felt pretty decadent eating these.

An ode to moving to a new place

An ode to moving to a new place

I felt like given that it is around the time when a lot of my younger audiences are contemplating moving to a new university town and some of you might be in that horrible place between graduating and finding a job. Whether you find yourself moving to a town 10 miles up the road, or to the other side of the globe, relocating somewhere new can be daunting, especially on your own.

I am naturally shy and even as a little girl I was never one for going to something on my own. Whether it was hiding behind my parents and especially my older brother or being scared to go to a new activity; I have to admit I was pretty bad when it came to meeting new people. The first few weeks of university I was horribly homesick for my friends and family and it took me weeks to get the courage to actually get to know people. (I feel compelled to mention that the people I know from university were on the whole, wonderful, I was just scared to come out of my shell.)

However, this couldn’t continue and upon graduating from my MSc the recession actually, possibly helped. I mean, finding a decent job in my industry was pretty stressful and my confidence was pretty low because of this but in terms of lifelong confidence it helped. Between September 2010 and February 2012 I had 5 different temporary jobs in a variety of shops, offices and a research post. I also volunteered for my local hospice doing a phone based job. It was tough but the combination of having 5 different first days in a new working environment, meeting a lot of new colleagues and encountering customers forced me to talk to so many new people. Talking to people on the phone about a charity I felt strongly about stopped me being so afraid of asking for things. Then the last interview I went to in a scientific role before I gave up forever came up and I got the job and it was too far away to stay living with my (lovely) parents.

So I ended up moving to Harrogate, while its not massive I knew approximately 3 people, my Uncle, Aunt and my then 16 year old cousin. So in some ways I had a little support system already in place who fed me Sunday dinners and helped me out a lot when I didn’t know anyone else. It was still scary though the prospect of making friends. Luckily my friend ED and I started the same job in the same department on the same day and even today we are close friends. Then DC and Miss S started working and we formed a little friendship group which gradually got slightly bigger as we all got to know more people.

(This post has snowballed into a life story but bear with me). Times did get hard and it wasn’t all rosy. I spent a lot of time watching tv in my room feeling pretty lonely. I had housemates who were untidy, ones who had scary boyfriends and finally 2 girls who were plain lovely and I was very sad to leave. A long term relationship crumbled but while it was the most painful few months of my life I think it actually benefited us both in the longer term. Holding onto something that isn’t working any more, even when you still care deeply about somebody is emotionally draining, exhausting and everyone ends up hurt. The best advice I should have taken long ago from my parents was not to live in 2 places at once.

Pretty often I find myself now in situations where I think, “how did I end up having fun with you here? 2 years ago I didn’t even know you exist.” Its pretty amazing to think that if I hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have started blogging ergo wouldn’t have bonded with D over writing, I would never have had our pets or met all the people I did through D. I would never have had the opportunity to see so many bands, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start doing theatre stuff again after so many years and I certainly wouldn’t have hugged as many famous musicians.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that sometimes the most wonderful parts of life come from the scariest feelings of the unknown. I was lonely that first night in my first house here, I was so terrified of going on a date with D that I required a pep talk from my housemate and my poor parents got multiple tearful phone calls about people using my toothpaste, ex boyfriends and finding the initial stages of adult life difficult.

I think the best advice I can give to anybody who finds themselves in a similar position to me is to start saying yes to people. In the earliest stages of friendship go along to everything you get invited to, keep in touch with old friends, be the event planner of your friendship group from time to time. Please don’t let nerves be the reason you don’t join in with a new activity. I wholeheartedly speak from experience when I say somebody will make an effort to make you feel welcome.

Although I miss my family and friends from home a lot at times relationships with people who really matter won’t change if you take a new opportunity. If you do move for work university I think throwing yourself into somewhere new, even if you feel sick with fear makes your life so much more than just a job, or a course.

Hello Fresh – Week One

Hello Fresh – Week One

Hello Fresh has become immensely popular of late and for good reason; it provides customers with healthy, easy to follow recipes in more or less the exact quantities required. So when a Hello Fresh sales representative came to my door I decided to give it a whirl and do a review for the first two weeks. (I do have to admit I did keep talking to the man because D had literally just got out of the shower!)

Anyway, the first box was pretty lovely. We had a steak ginger and beef stir fry, a Moroccan salmon salad and a pasta dish with lemon and tarragon. The stir fry and salmon in particular were a success and we will definitely be repeating them again.

Now D and I were discussing our first impressions and we both agreed the food was delicious, and as the cook of the household I noticed how nice it was to just have everything you need for a recipe without having to pop out to the shop for some forgotten ingredient. However, I do think it kills some of the spontaneity of cooking. I like to throw ingredients I think will work together to see what happens. However, during a busy week it was absolutely wonderful to go home and have a healthy meal on the table in less than 30 minutes without really thinking too much.

I will post a full run down after we have finished our second box but we have been really impressed. I don’t think this is something we’d opt for on a weekly basis but like I said before, it makes eating healthily on a busy week seem a lot more appealing.

I also think this might inspire less confident chefs to try new things. Sending ingredients in smaller quantities gives budding chefs a chance to cook with new ingredients without the pressure of having a lot of something left in their cupboard that they may dislike. The service that the company provides is actually amazing. Our box came on the hottest day of the year and everything remained cool and nothing spoiled. The communication of when the box was going to be delivered and where it had been left was very well organised too. Overall I am impressed so far.

Have you tried Hello Fresh or anything similar yet? Or do you have any other box subscriptions you want to recommend?

A little homeware update

A little homeware update

I supposed this post goes slightly hand in hand with the fact that it was my birthday yesterday. Perhaps I have become a slightly more “adultier” adult? Anyway, as D was already pretty well installed into our home when I moved in, but we’re slowly making updates to little things in the decor (next stop is a new bed for us, whoopee!)

Here is a few of my favourites in case anyone is interested.

  1. Le Creuset Cast Iron Casserole Dish

Le Creuset is one of my absolute favourite places to buy cookware from. We have a few things that I have picked up over the past few months. However, this one is particularly special as I saved up vouchers I got for various work awards in order to buy this and it took me months so I was delighted to finally get this. I chose the Marseille Blue version to tone in with things we have already.

If you’re balking at the thought of paying more for one of these babies consider that my parents have Le Creuset cast iron cookware from when they were first married over 30 years ago so it’s price per use is actually decent.

2. John Lewis Croft Collection Colander

Apart from the fact that this is ridiculously pretty this probably isn’t an exciting purchase. our colander was won in a raffle by my parents and needed replacing so I picked up this one as I couldn’t resist the floral pattern. I look forward to using it.

3. Cole and MasonΒ Spice Carousel

As a keen cook I am loving my new spice carousel. This was a wonderful belated Christmas gift from my parents on Monday. We are both pretty taken with how it looks and I am enjoying being able to season our meals without having to delve into our cupboards for herbs and/or spices. Thanks parents!

4. Various pictures from On the Wall

On the wall is an independent shop on Boar Lane in Leeds which specialises in selling vintage prints, art prints and posters from cult and anime films. We have recently updated our bedroom (and have more to go into the kitchen and bedroom) with various framed pictures. This has given our bedroom such a refresh and it feels so much more ours now. Also, taking older pictures down has made everything feel more spacious and I feel like have made a stamp on our home as a couple more now. (Next post will include the print with the t-rex on it!)

5. Chicken egg basket (and heart fruit bowl), Matalan

Matalan has some great finds in its homeware section. I was really excited to find both of these. They both cost less that Β£10 too which was pretty cool for something I had been angling for for a while (the fruit bowl is not pictures as mine is currently housing a few sad looking apples and kiwis). I do prefer finding home things from a variety of places as it really feels more like your own home and not a direct copy of a catalogue.

6. Rose Gold Photo Frame and Mug, New look

I can’t actually find my exact mug on the New Look website but it must be said, New Look have some fantastic home finds currently. Whether you’re decorating your first university room or casually sneaking girlier kitchenware past your boyfriend, don’t forget New Look if you want to add a few feminine touches.

Rice Krispy Treats (Marshmallow Squares)

Rice Krispy Treats (Marshmallow Squares)

There’s something about cobbling a recipe together based on something you’ve been in a cartoon vaguely therapeutic. While throwing together ingredients for this I couldn’t help thinking back to an old episode of the Simpsons. You know the one where Marge is sent to jail and the town riots because they can’t get her rice krispy treats. While I can’t claim I need a statue erecting in my honour for making these, I do concede that they were delicious and they were very well received by the people I made them for (the cast of a play D is going to be in). Another plus is that they take barely any time to make, they’re not messy to eat and you don’t need an oven to make them. Probably perfect for a harrassed mother of 3 (or perhaps somebody who has promised his or her services helping with a bake sale and then promptly forgotten).

To make approximately 20 rice krispy treats you will need:

200-250g rice krispies

400g marshmallows

180g milk chocolate

 

Line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Break up the chocolate and put in a large microwave proof bowl with the marshmallows. Heat on high for 1 minute. Check and stir. Repeat every 30 seconds until the mixture is melted. Stir vigorously.

Add the rice krispies and keep stirring until all the cereal is coated in the chocolate marshmallow mix. Spread this into the brownie tin in a thick layer. Set aside to cool for half an hour. Once the rice krispy mix is cool and everything has set; cut into squares (you decide the portion size).

Now if anyone is looking for me I’ll be dying my hair blue and styling it into a beehive.

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