Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be constantly productive?

Do you ever get the same feeling as me that you’re constantly running behind? Like you have a long to do list, you complete 90% of it and yet you still have a niggling feeling like you should have pushed that extra bit to get everything done. Sometimes you do have the energy to finish everything off or but some lucky stroke things take less time than you imagined. On those days the sense of achievement is pretty great, but it leaves me asking a question, why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves?

I don’t actually know where this drive to be busy came from. If I’m honest at times I was a bit of a sloth. I was happy idling my time away, spending time binge watching Game of Thrones and expecting nothing more from my free time than just relaxing and seeing the boyfriends I had at the time.

I’ve noticed most of my female friends and a lot of the blogging community seem to be reluctant to give themselves a break. I don’t know if its crept up on me as I’ve got a bit more mature or whether its actually finding a job that I’m pretty good at and a pretty cool niche in blogging that I really enjoy. I’ve found myself in breaks at work keeping on top of blog emails and wedding research. If I stop my brain feels like its literally breathing a sigh of relief. Perhaps that’s why spa days are so immensely popular?

I am surrounded by so many wonderful people in my life stuck in the same predicament, some tired mothers who accomplish so much; some people managing multiple jobs and people running their own businesses who seem to achieve so much. Everyone seems to have the same worry that they’re not productive enough , not doing enough.

I think I mentioned nearly 2 years ago about having to take a hiatus from blogging and I had to pull back from work as I pretty much worked myself into the ground during a stressful time at work. The day in A&E that followed was at best hilarious as it was so surreal and at worst a warning sign about overdoing it.

So, to all the worriers, the list makers and the people who upon completing their to do list add another 5 things to it. You’re doing a pretty great job, keep it up. The world needs more people who care. But don’t be afraid to sit down and have a tea break, the world won’t stop if you don’t finish everything.

Plus, you can maybe cross a couple of the more unattainable tasks off the list and get some sleep?

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

Healthy alternatives: wholemeal pizza bases

We love pizza in this house. Frozen pizza, takeaway pizza, proper Italian pizza, pizza when drinking, hangover pizza, this list goes on. However, I think its pretty common knowledge that pizza isn’t the healthiest option and anything that increases the nutritional benefits of our Friday night favourite has a big fat thumbs up from us.

On top of the nutritional benefits homemade pizza is an absolute steal compared with buying pizza from a takeaway or restaurant and taste better than supermarket pizza so it is better for household economising. It is also a fun thing to make with children as it would allow them to pick their own toppings so there are lots of benefits to making your own.

Pizza dough is so easy to make, even for notice bakers. The only advice I can give is to really follow the instructions about water temperature and yeast and also to allow plenty of time for the dough to rise.

We made steak and rocket pizzas, but obviously mix it up as you wish.

To make 4 pizzas you will need:

500g strong wholemeal flour

2 teaspoons of salt

25g butter, cut into small cubes

13g (1 sachet of dried yeast)

250ml tepid water

For the topping

Passata with garlic and herbs added

1/2 ball buffalo mozzarella per pizza

Parmesan cheese

1 sirloin steak per 2 pizzas or 1 frying steak per pizza

Rocket

 

In a jug, mix together the lukewarm water and yeast. To a large mixing bowl add the flour, salt and butter. Add the water and use your hands to mix this together into a rough dough. Once the flour and water is mixed, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. At this point you can half the quantity of dough if needed and freeze for a later date. Return to the bowl and least it rise for an hour, or until the dough doubles in size and springs back when poked.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Split into 2 and roll out the dough so that it is about 1/2 cm thick. Top the dough with the passata and cheese and cook for around 15-20 minutes or until the base is cooked. While it is cooking grill or fry your steak. (Leave this to rest before cutting). When the pizza is cooked stop with the steak, Parmesan and rocket.

This pizza tastes delicious but is slightly more difficult to eat in slices so you may want to consider using a knife and fork.

Dane actually told me that this pizza was one of the best ones I have made for him, which is high praise indeed.

 

Wedding planning part one

Wedding planning part one

As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.

I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.

I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.

So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!)  We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.

I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:

  1. Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
  2. On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
  3. Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.

Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

The Hobbit Themed Chocolate Birthday Cake

Hobbits are well known for their love of food. So is my family. As the Hobbit is one of my Dad’s all time favourite books it seemed pretty fitting to have a birthday cake themed around the part of the Hobbit; although the execution of it was something of a lucky fluke. Fortunately although it is not an exact replica of how Smaug or his hoard looking in the film, or how I imagined it in the book, it is a pretty good approximation.

This cake is a perfect birthday cake for any chocolate lover. You wouldn’t necessarily have to make this exact cake, you can adapt this around other themes as you wish.

To make this cake you will need:

170g caster sugar

170g butter

150g self raising flour

20g cocoa powder

3 eggs

For the filling

100g white chocolate

50g double cream

For the ganache topping

200g dark chocolate

200ml double cream

50g milk chocolate

To decorate

3-4 packs of chocolate fingers

Chocolate such as Malteasers, Minstrels or similar

Kinder Eggs (basically I wanted a Minion from one)

Gold lustre cake spray

Gold cake decorations

To make the cake preheat the oven to 180°C and line 2 medium cake tins. Whisk your eggs and sugar until light and fluffy so they leave a trail on the surface of your cake mix. Melt your butter and fold this into the mix, along with the flour and cocoa powder. Bake for around 12 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean and the cake is springy to touch. Once cooked set aside to cool down. It is nigh on impossible to decorate a warm cake.

While the cake is cooking make the chocolate ganache and filling. To make the white chocolate filling melt the white chocolate and cream together. Set aside to cool. Take the same approach with the darker and milk chocolate and cream to make the ganache topping. Melt the chocolate and cream together until thick and glossy and then leave to cool before putting on the cake.

Once the cake and ganache are cold sandwich together the 2 cakes using the white chocolate filling. Cover the cake and the sides with a smooth layer of ganache. Line up the chocolate fingers on the side of the cake (this looks attractive and hides the fact that decorating cake sides tidily is a chore). Half the Kinder egg and place on top of the cake as a cracked egg. Add the chocolates as treasure at random, however bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect and most people will want a bit of chocolate topping on their cake. Spray with gold lustre spray and add your cake decorations.

Put in the fridge to chill to firm for several hours before serving. Add a dragon if one is available.

Serve as part of second breakfast, elevenses or similar. Hobbits need to know there is decent fare in the pantry at all times.

A weekend in Northumberland

A weekend in Northumberland

Northumberland you stole our hearts. It turns out that all it takes for D and I to be happy is a beach, fish and chips, a place of historical interest and a boat trip. (Maybe also a day off work). We visited not one but 2 castles; Alnwick Castle, where much of the first 2 Harry Potter films were shot; and Bamburgh Castle which is just beautiful and overlooks the sea.

Considering we did everything at a relaxed pace we managed to fit a lot in. I really and wholeheartedly recommend taking a boat trip from Seahouses. Apart from seeing some of the beautiful coastline that the UK has to offer, we also got to see some adorable seals and puffins (the smell of guano was a bit ripe though).

Obviously being at the seaside we have to take the opportunity to have some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in a long time overlooking the sea.

We hit the jackpot with our B&B and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The room and bath were beautiful and the owners were so kind. We stayed at the Old Station House just outside of Belford. I could not recommend the place enough.

I think with planning a wedding its sometimes tempting to focus purely on the day ahead rather than enjoying your time as an engaged couple. I’m so glad we took an opportunity to spend time together in such a blissful and relaxed surroundings.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and reasonably priced break in the UK I couldn’t recommend Northumberland (both the coastal area and the National Park) enough.

Spinach and tomato pie

This year D and I have been eating a lot less meat. There were several reasons for this but the best thing to come of it (apart from feeling so much better) was the opportunity to try a whole host of new recipes.

Considering D is not really much of a vegetable eater he actually enjoyed this recipe. Alongside having a great many health benefits, spinach is one of the most versatile vegetables. This is also a pretty easy thing to put together after work and packs a punch in terms of fruit and vegetable portions.

To make a pie to serve 4 you will need:

1 pack of lighter puff pastry

2 eggs

450g frozen spinach

50g Parmesan cheese

200g garlic and chive soft cheese (the lighter option)

Salt and pepper

Herbs de provence

4 large tomatoes cut into segments

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 onion, diced

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly fry the onion and garlic on a medium heat until soft. Add the spinach, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper and fry until the spinach has cooked down. Once the spinach is cooked; add the cream cheese, Parmesan and egg. Reduce the heat and make sure the cheese and egg is distributed through the mixture.

Place the spinach in a pie dish and top with the (rolled out) pastry. Glaze with the egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

This pie also makes excellent leftovers or vegetarian picnic food.

The Florida Road Trip

The Florida Road Trip

Oh Florida you stole my heart! Our final leg of the trip was preceded by a rather disastrous flight to Jacksonville from Washington DC, but we had a wonderful time in Florida.

We started in Northern Florida at the beaches of Jacksonville and St Augustine, enjoying relaxing on the white sand and swimming in the sea. We followed our day at the beach with seafood dinner at Red Lobster. I’m still dreaming about the dinner we had there.

Other the next couple of days we visited two natural springs. On my birthday we had a wonderful time at the Devil’s Den snorkelling in a fossil cave. The following day we swam, kayaked and ate delicious barbeque food at Manatee Springs. It was great to see the wildlife, but we were both pretty wary of the large snake on the steps to the water.

Following our adventures in Northern Florida we headed to Orlando. I’ll be honest, I wanted to love Orlando but I didn’t. We had a good time there, but it was so much busier and more commercial than Northern Florida. It didn’t really help that I got the worst cold and one of the days I was too ill to do what we had planned.

In terms of the Orlando parks we both loved Islands of Adventure. We somehow managed to go on a day where we didn’t have to queue for anything and we managed to walk straight onto all of the rides. The dream day at any theme park! Be aware though, we both got absolutely soaked on the water rides, down to wringing out our underwear! We also went to Typhoon Lagoon at Disneyland and had a relaxing day at the water park.

On our final day we visited Magic Kingdom. There were some elements to Disney’s Magic Kingdom that I loved – the Castle, the shows and attractions. However, it made me realise I am not really one for crowds and the queues were insane. If I were to go back to Disney I would probably pick one of the other parks to visit – I know its the big one to visit but it was a bit much in the heat for D who isn’t really a Disney fan.

All in all we loved Florida. For those interested we upgraded our hire car to a minivan for the extra space and for the ease of it. (Thank you D for driving!) We stayed in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Palatka, Ocala and Orlando. I wouldn’t recommend driving too much in Orlando; we actually returned our car in Orlando and used the hotel shuttles, the bus services and Ubers.

I know the main draw for a lot of visitors to Florida is the parks but we both really felt that if we had gone straight to Orlando we would have missed out on some really special experiences. Although theme parks are fun, swimming in springs in the sun and walking across beautiful beaches felt pretty once in a lifetime and was exactly what we needed at the time in life that we visited. It gave us the chance to just enjoy being engaged and let life happen for a while.

Also, a final thought for the last of my America posts. Buying premium economy tickets for our flight home was possibly the best £70 per ticket I’ve ever spent.