Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Favourite Five || Autumnal Recipes

I'll admit, I needed a little push into Autumn this year. It's the best season by far: the orange and reds, the chilly nights and frosty mornings, the dark TV dramas of times gone by, cinnamon hot chocolate and leaves piling up around my driveway. It just felt very sudden this time round. One morning a few weeks ago I woke up at my usual time to get ready for work, and it was dark outside. Bam! Just like that, and Summer was gone.

I've spent a few evenings searching for perfect cold-weather recipes to try, snuggled under blankets with lemon-ginger tea, the cat snoozing by my side. When Hubbles is out after work I like to set up camp in the living room, turn the TV off, light a candle and settle down with some cookbooks and magazines. And Pinterest, of course.

1) Chicken with figs and grapes by Dash and Bella.
I love the increased use of fruit with usual dinner stuff this time of year. To be honest my curiosity so far in this practice hasn't been much more exotic than pineapple on pizza, but figs are a new found favourite of mine and pairing it with chicken seems like a safe way to make a subtle change.

2) Bulghar wheat, date + clementine salad from Good Food.
I have salads most days during the week for lunch so it's nice to find ways to change them up from summer to winter produce. It's refreshing anyway to take a break from all that rich, stodgy food that's around now too, I would happily make this for dinner for myself with the leftovers for lunch the next day. This has lots of flavour, texture, and could be offered as a side for dinner, in fact it would be brilliant to serve alongside some cold meat cuts and bread if you're in for buffets at parties!

3) Slow roasted marmalade pork found in Sainsburys magazine from December 2010, but also posted at 3 Clean Plates.
Usually pork finds itself lumped with apple sauce. Apple sauce is divine, but if you've got a bunch of friends/family over for Sunday dinner soon try something a little different. Just shove it in the oven and leave it be for a few hours, I would serve with mashed potato and some roasted carrots as that won't keep you in the kitchen and away from guests for too long.

4) Cranberry, butternut + sprout nachos by Half Baked Harvest.
Movie night? Leftovers sitting in the fridge? Want something more interesting than just a bowl of sad crisps for a gathering? At first I grimaced a bit at the thought of sprouts with nachos, but with brie and cranberries and butternut?! These truly sound like the best nachos ever, a perfect joining of flavours, sweet and savoury and nacho-y.

5) Incredible mulled cider by Jamie Oliver.
Confession: I'm not overly keen on mulled wine. I don't think many people are, really. People, myself included, drink it because it's 'A Thing' at this time. I think the idea of mulled wine is more enjoyable than the drink itself, it evokes images of standing in the corner of a market in the cold, laughing with friends, hands wrapped around a glass of some lovely flavoursome warm drink, cheeks pink and snow settling in your hair. In reality it's always a bit disappointing. It's just weird. A bit too acidy and burnt-spice on the throat, and no one wants to say it but we all wish we'd ordered the hot chocolate instead. But mulled cider is something different, pairing warmed adults-only apple juice with ingredients you would usually use with apples just makes more sense than putting it with wine.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Things I Love Thursday

:: via ::

The weather is finally perking up! Such lovely warm sunshine over the last couple of days. I hope it lasts for the weekend, we have lots of celebrating to do this week.

- Prison Break.

- Prison Break.

- The 5:2 diet - the scales aren't giving too much away yet but I feel lighter and more alert after a couple weeks. I find that the fasting days make me think twice about eating some things on the non-fast days too, I've been quite shocked to discover how many calories are in small quantities of things I gobble down lots of without thinking! Oh peanut butter, you cheeky devil you.

- Prison Break.

- Being invited to dinner at my best friends house for the first time! I love it when friends move into their own places so I can look at all the pretty things they get for themselves. Primark have some really gorgeous bedding sets this year and pretty fairy lights too. Next home-ware, as ever, is ridiculously beautiful this season.

- Seriously why has it taken us 8 years to watch Prison Break? Michael <3

- {The Examined Mind} by Stephen Grosz.

- A colleague telling me I am rocking it today!

- Finally booking a trip to LAS VEGAS BABY! YEAH!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Filofax || Week 19

A bit late posting for this! I wasn't feeling very well over the weekend so as you can see, I did nothing at all! Well I sat myself in front of NetFlix for two days solid. Prison Break is amazing, 8 years late to the party!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Recipe || Spring spaghetti with chicken, cream and peas

Almost every week in our house we will have carbonara one night for dinner. We love carbonara, and especially with garlic bread to wipe the sauce up with at the end. My husband seems to have the magic touch because his versions are always amazing, but one day when it was my turn to make it I almost sabotaged myself - I'd forgotten to buy bacon! THE HORROR! Dinner was surely ruined!

Or not? I remembered we had some chicken thighs in the fridge and peas in the freezer. Et VOILA! This. It doesn't quite replace carbonara, but I love it at this time of year because it's especially flavour full and the little pops of sweet peas are a wonderful change to all that creamy-ness. Sometimes (cough, when I forget to buy cream, cough) I'll squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the chicken in the pan just before the pasta is cooked to make it a little lighter and healthier. 

Ingredients - Serves 2 
200g pasta 
4/5 chicken thighs (bone/skinless) 
150ml single cream 
1 large egg
Couple handfuls frozen peas 
50g grated parmesan 
Black pepper 

- Put some water on to boil for the pasta. 
- Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan, heat and add the chicken in strips - I just use scissors over the pan as I go. Let the chicken sit for a while to get nice and golden, then turn. Once golden both sides (7-10 minutes) smoosh around a bit but keep the heat pretty high. Add 2tsp coarse ground black pepper. 
- Meanwhile into a bowl pour the cream, add the cheese, crack the egg and a large pinch of black pepper. Fork everything together. 
-Smoosh the chicken around a bit more in the pan; the black pepper will smell awesome now. Keep the heat high and add the peas, stirring once in a while and after about 5 minutes the peas will start to look ready. Turn the heat down to medium.
-Now add the pasta to the boiling water. Spaghetti takes around 10 minutes to cook and by the time it's ready, the chicken will be super golden and the peas blistered with a super sweetness to them. 
-Drain the pasta. Add the chicken and peas and the cream mixture from the bowl. Mix everything together well in the warm pasta pan, sprinkle over a little more cheese and pepper, then serve.

:: My recipe ::

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Birds of prey experience

For my mother-in-laws birthday this year I bought her a birds of prey experience day. It was completely unplanned - hubbles and I were visiting our in-laws in January and I saw this offer via email from last minute.com. My MIL asked what I was up to with my face in my phone, so I told her about it and she said she would love to come! For some reason I didn't think she liked birds that much, so, win, because I really wanted to go too.

I booked our tickets and arranged to visit over the Easter weekend. The {Birds of Prey Centre}* is based in Bedford, an hour and half drive away from my in-laws house in Essex. On arrival we handed in our printed voucher tickets and stood with the group of people on the same experience as us - the centre also offers American Raptor and Archery days. Overall there were around 16 of us. 

A short drive in their land rovers to a nearby field and we caught sight of the beautiful birds for the first time. For our experience, the group began with the cutest little tawny owl, Pandora. Our instructor Emily explained to us about her breed and the difference between daytime/nighttime hunting owls, and then we had turns putting on the special arm gloves and Pandora flew from arm to arm for some tempting treats. She was so light and completely adorable! We moved on with owls to larger sizes and I was always surprised by how light they were for their size. Emily explained that most of an owls bulky look comes from their feathers, they are so thick and plentiful. The larger owls were tempted between us with raw chick legs - part of their natural diet - and the centre goes through thousands a week to feed all the birds.

^ Yes, I am a mess here, but focus on the birds.

^Some cool accidental action-shots from my MIL. Look at those wings!

After having fun flying the largest owl, Emily went to collect the Eagle, which we were all very excited about of course! In order to tempt him - gosh, how sad that I've forgotten this regal birds name! - we were given chick heads** to hold in our gloved hands. I tell you, the sight of an Eagle sweeping up towards you is something else! It was slightly terrifying because all I could think about was him pecking out my eyes for a snack, but also magical, he was so beautiful! He weighs 8lbs, which is a pretty hefty weight to have on the end of your arm, you can see in my picture Emily is helping me to keep my arm up. His wingspan was taller than my mother-in-law! She is a gnome though ;)

 When Mr Eagle decided he was fed up of flying around for us, Emily tied him back to his sitting post and we gathered back to where all the birds were standing. Here we were able to hold the birds at length, ask any questions we had and take as many photos as we wanted. My favourite birds were Pandora and Marvin! Pandora was just so small and sweet and Marvin loved a hug. Here's a fun fact too: contrary to the myth of owls being wise they're actually pretty stupid! Emily told us their eyeballs take up most of the room in their skulls, and with Marvin we were allowed to reach in through his feathers with our fingers to find his skull - honestly, it is tiny! They make up for in it in looks though, I'm sure you'll agree.

^Marvin! Look at that superior face.


^Levi the Chilean Blue Hawk

I think if you know anyone that might love to do this, get them booked in quick! Such a lovely way to spend part of your weekend, it's exhilarating and you learn heaps. Our experience ran from 10am-1pm and there are afternoon slots too. Take a packed lunch and some drinks with you. There is parking on site.

*To round up, I want to say a huge thank you to our instructor Emily for being so informative and attentive. If you follow me on twitter you will know I am an advocator for animal rights and it is very clear that the staff at this centre are devoted to caring and loving these birds; if I felt concerned at all about their welfare I would have left. Many of the birds have been rescued from owners that were cruel or didn't understand what a bird of these sizes needed and experience days like this enable the birds to have more freeing flight exercises and educates the visitors; both I think are very important. The BoPC staff were all enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgable. It is unfortunate that no licence is needed to own a bird like this but unless you have space for an avery, you should consider something smaller. A previous owner of one of the owls thought, after watching Harry Potter, that the travelling cages used in the films were what they could live in. He arrived at the centre in pain with joint problems and unable to fly, he is the first little owl in our pictures above, healthy after lots of help from the centre :)

**The chick parts fed to the birds are part of their natural diet and they were already dead. No more unsettling than picking up some chicken wings in your supermarket! 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Filofax || Weeks 16-18

Hello to my lovely new followers! I have been a bit MIA recently, you know; life gets busy. Can't wait to get to know you.

Here are my Filofax pages from the last few weeks:

Friday, 2 May 2014

Favourite Five || Bedrooms

We're not close enough to moving that I should be thinking about this, but I can't help myself. I love thinking about how to decorate a space, how I want a room to feel, picking out decorative accessories and finding the perfect window dressings.

This week I can't stop thinking about bedrooms. I recently posted about our current room, it's light green and pale wood-ness. I don't like it really. The colour was my husbands choice and as it went with the fake wood furniture we have in there, I went with it. (One day, I will own real wood furniture.)

Anyway, I'm finding it hard to be brave and challenge myself with decorating a room in darker, moody colours. What if it ends up feeling like a tomb? What if it's flat and depressing and looks sad and sombre all the time?! What if what if.
It started because we have a black divan bed base, which we're taking with us in the move, so I need something that can work around that. I originally liked the idea of putting black and yellow together, but there was something not quite right about it, something… wishy-washy and twee. On Pinterest (where else) I found some images of black with gold, which is a more grown up and luxurious look in comparison. So black and gold. But I don't know if I want a black wall or four, or dark grey walls, or what. All I do know is that I'm fed up of cream walls and I don't like the monochrome look; I want varying textures and shades. Something sensuous and adult but welcoming and cosy too. How do people decide these things? How are some people so well able to put a room together, to incorporate all their ideas and make it work?

There's no point stressing out too much about this until we have actually moved and I can sit in our new bedroom and get the feel of it, but for now, I am obsessing over these images:

:: One :: 

This is my favourite and I can't leave it till last. I love that print above the bed - I'm thinking a mirror above mine - bringing the white and black together, and that cosy faux fur throw on the bed. The colours are all quite neutral which helps the black to not feel too suffocating. 

:: Two :: 

I'm not in the market for feature wallpaper - makes a colour scheme more difficult to change - but the light bounces off these gold accents, so it doesn't feel like a gloomy space. If I use black paint behind my bed, I would definitely put up a large mirror to open the wall up. 

:: Three :: 

I do love a fairy light. They pop against the black and make this space feel more fun. I've always thought of black bedsheets being reserved for rebel grunger teenagers, but the gold detailing gives it a more sophisticated look. Plus black would be great for dirty cat paws. 

:: Four :: 

The fight starts here. There is black and gold, but the light grey walls makes such a difference. It's the safe option, and I don't know if I prefer this look to the others above. It's beautiful, but missing all that sultry darkness about it. I love the matching lights and empty frames. 

:: Five :: 

This is magnificent. I want to take a running jump at that bed. I like the idea of using mirrors behind the lamps with the reflective furniture and light fixture, this pushes the light out from the dark wall. As my bed frame is black, I think that's a useful idea to stop everything looking so black-on-black.