Sunday, 29 November 2015

WEEKENDER: November




It's finally the end of November!

I unintentionally took last week off from blogging. I'm behind on my 52 books in 52 weeks and I spent most of my time reading and getting ready for Christmas (I have enough Christmas cards to open a card shop). I've got the majority of presents sorted, or at least planned for.

November was a weird month. I spent the beginning of it surrounded by people, drinks and parties. Things I'm not accustomed to. Things I didn't plan on. And then this last week has felt like the quietest week of the year!

Friday, 20 November 2015

COOK: Beef Stew and Dumplings


It's winter. 
These storms, these cold nights, the dry skin on my knuckles. It's definately here.

I'm not very good at proper cooking. I can bake. God, I can bake with my eyes closed. But proper actual food, nah. Except if it's a one pot concoction. And only if I don't put tinned tomatoes in it. I have a habit of putting tinned tomatoes in everything and although sometimes they're nice, they're not nice in everything.

Thankfully, this recipe doesn't have tinned tomatoes in it.

What you'll need:
500g stewing beef
500ml boiling water
A bit of oil
2 beef stock cubes
Plain flour
A handful of small mushrooms, halved
A handful of small potatoes
A carrot
2 cloves of garlic
A knob of butter
A splash of balsamic vinegar
Either a good splash of red wine or a good splash of red wine vinegar (I used the vinegar)
A splodge of Worcester sauce
Salt, pepper, mixed herbs

For the dumplings:
A cup of self raising flour
Half a cup of Atora (full fat!)
Enough cold water to create a sticky mess

That might look like a lot of stuff, but it should be stuff you already have/that's easy to get hold of in your local supermarket.

First melt the butter into the oil and brown the beef in a hot pan. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a bit of plain flour and mix about for another 2 minutes. Add the veg - you can add more veg than I've listed if you want to.

Then transfer to a casserole pot with a lid. Pour in the water and stock cubes and other liquids (the vinegars and sauce) as well as the herbs. Leave in the oven at 180C for about 2 hours. After that time, give it a check - mine had got to the stage where if I left it any longer, the meat would start welding itself to the bottom of the dish - and if you need to, add some more water and a touch more flour to thicken it.

I left mine for a further hour, before taking the lid off and adding the dumplings. I've never understood why people don't make their own dumplings - it's as easy as a ready mix, just tastier. I made four individual dumplings, but in the past I've created a sort of 'pie top' out of the dumpling mix that goes lovely and crisp on the top while staying nice and gooey underneath.

Love a good dumpling me.

I baked the dumplings for another twenty minutes or so until I got so hungry I would have eaten them raw. Thankfully, they weren't raw. The whole thing was just right.

You could keep the tiny potatoes out and make a mash instead, or steam some vegetables to go alongside. For us though, bash some stew in a bowl and eating it up steaming hot is the only way.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

SAVE: DIY Christmas #1


We are hosting Christmas this year.

My family are coming for Christmas Dinner and the Lads family are coming for a Boxing Day buffet. I've never allowed so many people in my house. Mainly due to me not really liking our choice of decor or having the time to really clean our home - so the lad's Ma with her 150 million allergies coming round really scares the shit out of me. I don't want her to keel over as soon as she enters our house. And I don't want her to think I keep her son living in a shithole. But, the latter comes under the header of General MIL Stuff.

With our massive clearout still underway I'm positive about how our home standards will be when everyone turns up. However, because we're catering for so many people (on top of usual present giving) I'm focusing my spend on the quality of food, rather than super expensive decoration. 

This copper jar was £2.99 from Home Bargains (their in store copper home selection is mint - I can't find it online), and the woodland pine cone fairy lights were £5 from Wilko's. Looks just as good as this to me, and I reckon the price tag is much more worthwhile too.


Find me here too!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

VISIT: Five Places To Eat In York



Situated down a little cobbled back street, this place doesn't really stand out from the other bars and eateries, but it's a gem. The burgers in this place are absolutely awesome - ask for a cheese burger and for well under £10 you get a burger, fries, onion rings and a side salad. If we don't fancy anywhere else, we always end up here. Great food for great prices. (We always get the sharing nachos to start - as pictured above).

I love this place - it has good beer, good music and the genius addition of a delicious pizzeria. It has live music most nights and you'll have to fight for a table because it's so popular. There's usually a quite a long food waiting time because it's so busy, but the atmosphere of the place is buzzing. I love Wednesday evenings because it's a little bit quieter and the live acts are local and mostly unknown which means they usually have a bit more banter about them. The pizza's are fairly average, but the whole place has everything you'd want for an enjoyable evening out.

The House of Trembling Madness
The snacks in this place are just divine, I love the little salami's with the mustard dip. It's located above an ale shop which means it's not somewhere you'd necessarily find just by wandering about. I've lived in York most of my life and I'd never discovered it until earlier this month. I especially love that it's decorated much like it would have been back in the medieval times and it's always packed with people so the atmosphere is great!

I took the Lad here for his birthday and we ended up having a full three course dinner. Everything was lovely. We've eaten here a couple of times before and every time we get excellent, warm and friendly service, the food is just superb (get the pie!) and due to the gas lamp lighting it's a great place to drink and be merry with loved ones.

Situated opposite Clifford's Tower, it's a beautiful place to eat. The menu holds a selection of very different Italian/Greek style dishes to suit a variety of tastes. I took my family for my birthday last year and there was something for everyone. Service can be a little slow during busy times, but for a midweek meal this place hits the nail on the head. 

Friday, 13 November 2015

READ: #39 The Angel Experiment, #40 The Snake, #41 The Accidental Hitman, #42The Life Changing Magic of Tidying


The Angel Experiment
This has been on my bookshelf since I was in my early teens. I enjoyed it much more back then, although I'm now intrigued as to how the story continues (formerly unbeknownst to me, there's actually eight other books in this series). A group of mutants (children with wings) are on a mission to rescue one of their 'flock' when their territory gets invaded by the minions of the School. They managed to escape the School four years ago and have lived in a mountain top chalet ever since - thinking they were safe. The youngest gets kidnapped and a massive trek (or rather flight) around America ensues. Firstly, back to the School in California, before taking a trip East to New York. I think the plot is very good, the writing could be condensed down A LOT. There's a lot of internal monologue which soon gets repetitive, but seeing as each book is written from the point of view of a different member of the flock, then maybe it would work in the larger scheme of things.

This is solely a digital ebook and isn't available to buy from bookstores in hard copy format. It only cost £1.50 and took me about an hour to read. It's a filler story from the Messenger of Fear series, a little taster for the kinds of things that might happen in the next book. Not much goes on to be fair, it's the retribution of another person who's committed a crime and got away with it in the eyes of the normal law. I liked it.

This is another ebook, and it was recommended to me after a brief stint working with a new team back in August. It's hilarious. Especially the first two thirds. Tom White has managed to kill his best friend, his first accomplice and now he's planning to kill his neighbour. What follows entangles him in a massive gangster war in which he's slap bang right in the middle of. I'd say that the author starts off really, really well and I found it a pleasure to read, however in the last third of the book, although the story is good, it's just not AS good as the first part. It kind of dribbles off and ends and I'm left thinking 'oh, that's it then'. This book only cost £2 so for that kind of money and the amount of laughing you'll do, it's definately worth buying.

I bought this because a) I saw a lot of other people reading it and b) I hadn't read any reviews. I've read many, many self help books from things like What is Depression? to The Happiness Project so I'm fairly accustomed to the kind of ways authors try to draw you into a subject what they believe is the key to a super life. This is one of those books. It does inspire you to open all your cupboards and sort through them and I like the one key point 'Does it spark joy?' because I've been trying to create an environment I love since the beginning of the year - this point really is key to a nice home. There is a lot of actual bollocks in this book too - like treating every object as a human. I get it. You have to really appreciate every object in your home for it to have a place in your home or for it to really bring you joy. But still. Sorry Marie, but you sound like a complete loony. Aside from all the spiritual side of things, I love this book and what it stands for. get rid of what you don't need RIGHT NOW, what you don't want and what you don't love and you'll end up with a home that's just perfect for you.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

REVIEW: Burts Bees Blueberry and Dark Chocolate


For some reason this little Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Lip Balm was only 85p in my local Boots the other day. 85p! I have two of the 'normal' Burt Bees chap sticks flying around a handbag somewhere, but could I heck as find them when I wanted them? No.

Chuffed that this was on offer I picked it up thinking it was just blueberry (I think it would've been better if it was) and didn't realise it has dark chocolate thrown in the mix too. I'm not a great fan of the combination, but it's a definate grower. At first I thought 'ergh! NO!' and now, after continuous enforced usage, I actually look forwards to using it.

I can only assume that others, like me, found the combination a little too interesting for their personal tastes and that's why they reduced it - however, I'm not complaining. It works wonders for my lips just as the normal version does.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

LIFE: My new piercing


With my birthday a week ago, I decided to stop fannying about and forced myself to go get my auricle pierced. Before I got it done, I researched what to expect and found a lot of either super informative, but not personal articles,  mainly about top helix piercings rather than auricle piercings.

What is the Auricle?

The auricle is the narrow part of cartilage along the outer rim of the ear, in between the fleshy lobes and the wide flat expanse of the helix area - it's otherwise known as the midhelix. I chose this mainly to be different (but, Pinterest have some lovely pictures of this type of piercing too). The Lad and a friend of mine have both had their cartilage pierced and both said it would be a horrible experience - instant infection, soreness, redness, bumps on the exterior edge of the piercing. They painted a pretty good horror story. As did the internet - despite a lot of people having cartilage piercings, the majority of sites and videos show nasty repercussions.

The Piercing

I got it done a week ago.


The actual piercing didn't hurt much. If you've ever had blood taken, it's similar to the feeling of the inside of your elbow being pricked with the needle. Or if you get a mosquito bite. It's uncomfortable, but the pain was over instantly. When the stud was put in, it stung a little, but again not much and as soon as she'd screwed the end of the stud on, it stopped.

There was no blood or scabbing or anything nasty like that.

It was a pretty cold day that I got it pierced and it was the beginning of a full day of shopping so I was outside walking in between shops a lot. The only issue I had with it that first day was that when I left a shop and the cold hit it, my ear ached and I took to diving into another shop so it would warm up. When the temperature was warmer, it didn't ache at all. And by the end of the day, my ear didn't ache even when I went outside.

Aftercare


My piercer recommended Boots Sterile Saline Solution to clean it with. It must be sterile and it must be saline -  those were her words to me. She had plenty of piercings and said she'd used this on all of hers. I don't know whether it's made much difference, but I've been applying it with a cotton bud twice a day and (so far) no issues.

It's only in the past couple of days that the bruise has come up on my helix area. It's a lovely dark purple and it's sore to touch or brush my hand past it. Actually touching the stud (which is super long to accommodate any swelling) doesn't cause the sharp intake of breath it did earlier in the week although I'm still careful to avoid touching it at all to limit any germs getting in there.

Fingers crossed, it won't take too long to heal. Though from past experience with my other piercings, even if they start out looking good, it only takes one germ to make a sorry state of affairs.

Have you got a cartilage piercing? What was your experience like? How long did it take to heal?

Friday, 6 November 2015

LIFE: MASTER PLAN SIDE D: Artwork/Prints

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The next stage of Plan D is to start/complete a gallery wall up our staircase. I've been collecting gold, black, bronze and some wooden (which I've painted copper) frames from our local charity shops - the most expensive of which was £1.50. I have a load of photos that didn't make the cut for my scrapbook that will be framed and put up there, alongside pretty postcards, patterned paper, keepsakes and prints that I hope to purchase from Etsy.

There are so many beautiful prints available from Etsy that it's hard to choose. Throw into the mix this post that Lily published recently and the amount in my 'wishlist' or 'favourited' folders has increased tenfold. Watch this, soon to be full, space!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

BATTLE: Moisturisers


With winter on it's way, it's time to think skincare.

I've been using the Olay serum on it's own since my other moisturiser ran out last month. Now I'm officially in my 'late twenties' I'm on a serious skincare mission. I ain't gonna get no wrinkles. Well, maybe a few. Never fancied the botox look anyway.

I've used the Neutrogena Oil Free Grapefruit Moisturiser in the past and my skin responded well so I was excited to pop this Visibly Clear Oil Free Moisturiser into my basket. It smells clean, but a little like a suncream from when I was six. I like that it's formulated for 'fresh looking skin'. That to me implies I'll be able to have skin that I won't need to slap a load of makeup on everyday - fresh French woman style. Winner.

I picked this Garnier Pure Active Matte Moisturiser on a whim. My makeup tends to slide off my face by lunchtime unless I make a concerted effort to cake the powder on. I'd rather not do that so thought I'd give this a try instead. it's a gel like consistency and smells very 'hygenic'. It sinks in well though and makes my face feel soft and supple - excellent.

Both of these moisturisers have been warmly welcomed into my daily routine. I tend to veer towards the Neutrogena, just because it's creamier and I'm more used to that, but I'm pleased with how the gel Garnier version helps my skin.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hello November


November is my favourite month.
Bonfire night, thick coats, woolly hats, hearty meals. Cannot beat it.

(Except for maybe the first frost that I'll forget to put the cover on my windscreen for and end up scraping my car at 6am, in a rush, and be late for work. That part isn't so good.)

The very best part is today though. It's my birthday today. Go me.
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