Monday, 28 January 2013

Liebster Award Part Deux

I'm going to start getting well full of myself because Amy at Cocktails in Teacups has nominated me for another Liebster Award! I think the nicest thing about having gotten a couple of these has been getting more involved in the blogging community. I'm still quite a novice at this and in my past attempts at blogging, I have always found it difficult to connect with other bloggers, so things like the Liebster award are a great way to get to know some of the other people in the community.

(I'm not going to do the full 11 facts because I did a Liebster not too long ago & I don't want you all to get bored of me. Plus it's really hard to think of stuff.)

A few facts about me

  • I really like the smell of fake tan, which I know is really gross.
  • I really love rose wine with loads of ice- so refined I know.
  • I have two tattoos, well technically three, I have two large stars (which I count as one tattoo really) on my chest, on either side, below my collarbone- plus one tiny star on my foot. I want loads more but they're expensive, plus I'm not allowed them on display at work (BOOOOOOOO). Eventually though I want to save up to have the star on my foot covered up with a larger piece.
  • I watch FAR too much tv. Favourite shows of all time are Buffy, Lost (crap ending though, I am still bitter) & Friends. At the minute I am obsessed with Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones, Pretty Little Liars & New Girl.
  • I really like making lists and have done ever since I was little. I keep a notebook where I can write down all the to-do, shopping, grocery & organisational lists that pop into my head & that I feel I must get down on paper. For that reason I am also obsessed with websites like last.fm & tastekid even though they are of no discernible use whatsoever. I also think that's why I like Pinterest so much, it's all so organised.
11 questions, answered
  • What new years resolutions did you make? (if any, if not, why?) To take more photos, read more & blog more. Failing in all but the blogging one, but I hope my motivation for the first two picks up in Summer, as that's usually the way it happens.
  • If you won the lottery what would be the first thing you'd buy? Besides things like investments, savings, my own flat and like a house & boat for my parents, etc, the first material thing I'd buy for myself would be a Chanel handbag.
  • If someone asked for a book recommendation, what would you give them? God I am so out of the loop on new fiction it's embarrassing. So in that case it would probably have to be something by Donna Tartt or some of Bret Easton Ellis' early stuff (let's ignore the fact that Twitter has revealed him to be an actual moron).
  • What is the one place you really HAVE to visit before you die? Only one! Argh. I would really love to go to Japan I suppose, & of course I would love to see an aurora, preferably somewhere really cold with snow & lots of stars, not fussy where.
  • If you had one piece of advice for your 16 year old self, what would it be? Don't be so hard on yourself.
  • What TV show that no longer airs do you miss most? I don't really miss any of them because I don't think they'd be the same if they were still airing. Especially something like Buffy that really spoke to me at that age- it was more a generational thing. Also I don't miss Friends because I have the boxset on heavy rotation- I feel like it never left.
  • What one hobby do you wish you'd pursued? I wish I had more patience for things like crochet & knitting. And I wish I had never quit cello so early on.
  • If you could time travel to what age, what one would you go to and why? I'd go forward just to be nosy. I don't think I'd go back in time because as much as we romanticise past eras & admire the style of ages like the 20s or 60s, equality for women, people of colour and lgbt people was pretty awful (massive understatement alert). It's important to move forward.
  • What is the thing you most find attractive about the opposite sex? (or same, I'm pro equal rights) Literally any guy that makes me laugh is in with a chance. I don't really have a particular type though- you just have to be kind, funny & a decent conversationalist. A MAJOR turn off though is a boy who is too self deprecating & negative.
  • Who/what is your blogger inspiration? I obviously really like Elsie & Emma of A Beautiful Mess, and friends of theirs like Rachel of Smile & Wave and Katie of Skunkboy Blog. I like that all their blogs are accessible, creative & fun. I used to really like Gala Darling but I'm not so keen anymore since she's gone all new-agey & I don't find any of her life 'advice' all that realistic.
  • And finally... coffee or tea? Coffee, but I like tea too. I have a rather enormous collection of both. Truth be told though, I'm not much for hot drinks at home. I drink LOADS of coffee at work, I can't function without the stuff, but I'd rather drink water at home. Or wine. Pink wine.


I would like to direct you to the following blogs, all of whom I nominate for a Liebster They are under no pressure to fill out the questions, or they can pick just a few, etc, as I know a couple of them have been nominated before & it might feel repetitive for them. Regardless of whether they do or not though, you should visit their blogs & have a read at their other posts. Some of these bloggers I know better than others, but one thing they all have in common is that I really enjoy reading their lovely posts.

Kim @ What Peggy Said
Erica @ Being Erica
Kirsty @ Indigo Buttons
Katie @ Daydreamer Extraordinaire
Helen @ Pierre Le Cat

And the questions I pose to the nominees are:
  1. Your favourite animal?
  2. Favourite/fail-proof recipe?
  3. What is your most unusual talent?
  4. If you were inventing a cocktail, what would be your three core ingredients, and what would you call it?
  5. Which beauty process do you hate the most? (For example mine is washing & drying my hair it takes FOREVER).
  6. Give me one interesting fact about your hometown.
  7. If you won the lottery today, what would you do differently tomorrow?
  8. What's the best holiday you've ever been on?
  9. Favourite fictional character?
  10. Winter or Summer?
  11. Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Finally, if you're unfamiliar with the Liebster Award, it works like this: the award was created for up & coming blogs with fewer than 200 followers. Give 11 random facts about yourself, answer the questions posed by whomever nominated you & ask 11 questions for your nominees. Then finally, let your nominees know they have been given the award!  Thanks again Amy for the nomination!


Monday, 21 January 2013

A-Z of favourites: A is for Animals

I'm going to be writing a new feature on the blog- my A-Z of favourite things! Every now & then I will write a little about my three favourite things of a chosen subject, and work my way through the alphabet. Hopefully that way it will help me maintain some kind of regularity on the blog. This week it is one of my FAVOURITE EVER subjects- my three favourite animals!

Firstly, I would like to preface this by saying that of course my favourite animals in the whole wide world are the two munchkins below. On the left is Oliver, a grumpy, disdainful, 5 year old ginger tom who basically hates everything & everyone, unless of course he wants something and then he is your new bff. We think he may love my mum, who he occasionally would allow the privilige of holding him on her lap for maybe half an hour. He is hilarious though & a total cutie, and it's really fun to pick him up and give him snuggles when he clearly doesn't really give two hoots. The man on the right is Nevis, my dad's 1 and a half year old beagle pup- the MOST ADORABLE THING EVER. He is a right nuisance and will try to eat anything & everything. Things he has consumed or attempted to consume are, the cat's food, wine corks, many shoes, socks, bras, plastic bottles and pebbles. That is by no means an exhaustive list. He is smelly & requires human attention at all times but he is the biggest goofy loveball of fur ever and is generally so well behaved & friendly. I don't get to my parents' house to see them much, but when I do Nevis always gets amazingly excited and makes cute little high pitched noises and Oliver will occasionally look up to acknowledge my presence & I love them both for it.



And so, onto my list- My 3 favourite types of animal are:

3. Sphynx/Hairless cats. Hairless cats are quite a recent obsession. I saw a picture of a cat in the bath and then I fell in love. It's that simple really. Imagine bathing your cat- HOW CUTE IS THAT IMAGE? Okay now watch this video and then you will see that the reality of a cat in the bath is even cuter than your wildest dreams. Also, they can get cold easily because they have no fur so you can dress them in cat clothes- life literally would not get any better than that. I love their grumpy faces, patchy skin & wrinkles everywhere, not to mention those big ears are cute-ugly swoon worthy. AMAZING.

2. French Bulldogs. Another animal with an unbalanced ear : head ratio. I love animals with squished up faces, it makes them look slightly confused all the time, and I enjoy an animal with a good balance of ugly to cute. They are small & friendly with a sweet temperament. Sadly I have never lived anywhere that allowed pets but if I ever got a flat that did allow animals, I think I would try to adopt a little Frenchie. Look how snuggly they are! Sometimes if I'm feeling blue I just do a google image search for French bulldogs & that basically rights the entire world again.


1. Owls. I couldn't pick a favourite type of owl because I really love them all- snowy owls, barn owls, eagle owls, banded owls, horned owls, that one owl off Frozen Planet with the fat furry legs. Owls are great. I think it started with Harry Potter when I was about 13- at that age I could not imagine anything cooler than having a smart, sassy owl like Hedwig as a pet, and it has spiralled from there. Owls seem to have grown in popularity in the past few years, which has made it easy for me to feed my owl habit. Yes, I confess I am one of those unoriginal saddos who buys everything with owls on it. Owl pyjamas, owl jewellery (yes, I have one of those ubiquitous owl necklaces, in fact I have about 3 or 4 I think), owl bags, owl clothing, owl artwork... I even cross-stitched an owl. That is basically about as cliched as you can get. I don't care though because I love owls.

Owls look all wise and majestic, they have BEAUTIFUL feathers and expressive faces. They look incredible in flight and are sharp & ruthless predators. I also enjoy that as babies they look RIDICULOUS, their eyes are too big for their heads and their feathers are scruffy & stick out all over the place, and just when you think the babies are the cutest little things you have ever seen, one of them eats a whole rat. Owls keep you guessing, and I like that about them.


So there you have it- my first A-Z favourites feature on my top 3 types of animal. Animals are great though- don' be surprised if I manage to make the next one in this series all about animals too.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Style Picks: Bad Snowmance

So, I am currently writing this from bed. It is absolutely MISERABLE outside & freezing to boot. Whilst the rest of the UK is enjoying lovely, magical, fluffy snow, in Northern Ireland we are being subjected to torrents of rain and half-hearted sleet- so cold and horribly wet. I am so sad becase I LOVE snow, but we never get it here in Ireland- two years ago we got a load of beautiful snow for about two weeks, for the first time in decades, certainly as long as I could remember, and we've never had it since. So here I am, in my bed with the electric blanket cranked up as high as it goes, dreaming of a snowy wonderland, and more importantly, the beautiful clothes to go with it. Here are my picks for 3 wintery outfits- inspiration to help you stay warm AND stylish!


This one is a bit 'blogger-cliche' but then that's probably why I love it. Vintage camera? Check! Whimsical forest animals? Check! Peter Pan collar? Check! The blogger trifecta is complete. I like this outfit because I like being able to bring a sunny colour into my winter wardrobe but by keeping the other colours muted & wintery, it still feels seasonally appropriate. Plus I will take any excuse to wear a hat with a pom pom.



This outfit is a bit more casual- and I love the warm colour palette. Also loving that big furry collar on the parka- how amazing would that be to snuggle up to in the cold? I really love ear cuffs at the moment too- I bought a pack a couple of weeks ago but haven't really worn them out yet! I don't think I'm cool enough to wear ear cuffs- but I will keep persevering anyway, maybe someday they will look right!


This outfit is probably the most 'me' out of the 3, so it is obviously my favorite. I love black & white with little pops of colour, studs & various bits of hardware, and leopard print nails! I also got a bottle of Flora by Gucci for Christmas & I'm a bit obsessed with it- I have been known to spray a little on even after I get into my pjs just so I still smell of it. Also, how amazing is that big moonface ring? I NEED.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Better than a Golden Globe: Liebster Award

Awww the lovely Erica nominated me for a Liebster Award- thanks Erica! It's given to bloggers with 200 followers or less to help out up & coming blogs.


11 Facts About Me
  • I'm naturally blonde.
  • I get horrendously competitive at board games.
  • I love french bulldogs & hairless cats. I would love a pet but I sadly don't have any of my own- all  my pets live at my mum's house :(
  • I'd rather shop for kitchen supplies & home decor than clothes, i.e. I'm a bit of a nana.
  • I love Poirot & nature/science documentaries. Again, nana.
  • I have the WORST attention span.
  • I have moved at least once every year since I left university. It kills me every time because I HATE packing.
  • I'm really good at making roast dinners.
  • I'm obsessed with my electric blanket.
  • My eyes are two slightly different colours- one is green & one is blue, but it's hard to see without direct sunlight.
  • If all television got cancelled & all that was left was 24/7 repeats of Friends, I wouldn't be too devastated.

 
11 Questions Answered 
  • What is your middle name, and would you change your name if you could? Officially, I have no middle name, but unofficially it's Colleen, which is my mum's name. I would definitely not change it.
  • What was your first ever concert, and the last you went to? My first ever concert was Destiny's Child & it was amazing. The last one I went to was Laura Marling but it was AGES ago. It was amazing too.
  • What is your favourite movie, and can you recite a line from  it for us? My favourite movie is The Usual Suspects, and one of my favourite lines is the following 'Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Soze.'
  • Tea or coffee, and how do you take it? Coffee and usually just black, no sugar but with a little bit of cold water to make it a drinkable temperature.
  • What was the last book you read, and are you a kindle or original girl? Eek the last book I probably read was 'Room' by Emma Donoghue which was ages ago. I am currently reading Murakami's 1Q84 after buying it as soon as it came out and then putting off opening Volume 1 for ages. I always read loads in the summer & get lazy about it in winter for some reason.
  • Scrambled or poached, and with what on the side? Poached with hot buttered wholemeal toast & a generous sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.
  • Can you play an instrument, and to what level? Not one sadly.
  • What one food would you survive on forever, and can you cook it? SOUP. And yes, I frequently make my own.
  • Lindsay Lohan's best movie is Mean Girls. true or false? True, but her current offering 'Liz & Dick' is a really close second.
  • Pink is obviously the best colour, but what's the second best? Robin's egg blue.
  • Next to me, who is your favourite instagrammer, and give me their name. I don't follow a lot of people on Instagram yet but I really like @lipglossiping because she posts pictures of healthy food & her daughter is ridiculously cute.
Part of the Liebster award is to nominate 11 bloggers with under 200 followers too but I don't know any! The only bloggery people I know have a ridiculous amount of followers or have already recently been nominated.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Home Tour: Tiny Living!

Last year I made a couple of posts about my home at the time- a small, but perfectly spacious for one, 3 bedroomed terraced house. I really loved that little house, but I had to move out because I could no longer afford to live there, as my sister had been sharing the rent with me but had moved out. It broke my heart at the time (and still does sometimes, when I remember that little house!), especially as the flat I moved into is SO SMALL. As time has gone on though I've kinda come to love my little flat, and the downsizing is worth it for the luxury of being able to live by myself- anything bigger & I would need a flatmate, and I'm not easygoing enough when it comes to shared living to have a flatmate, as the (perfectly lovely) girls I lived with at uni will probably attest to.

I did initally debate with myself about whether to put these on my blog or not, as it sometimes feels like other bloggers' homes are SO lovely and mine is so teensy- but I am really proud of the way I have been able to stamp so much personality & colourful cosiness into such a small space.





For an idea of layout, the kitchen table with the print of the Lynch painting & fairy light flowers is directly in front of the fridge- the wall to the right of the fridge is the wall behind the picture. My sofa (not pictured because I couldn't seem to get one that looked nice, but it's lime green & amazing) is basically where I stood when taking the picture of the kitchen. The bedroom is to the left of the kitchen- it's basically a cupboard with a bed in it.

I love my flat (mostly- sometimes the lack of space can be frustrating) and I could probably get something bigger for the same money if I lived further out of the city, but what I am really paying for is the location. It's such a nice area & I live right over a coffee shop & beside an amazing deli. Maybe someday I will have a house as lovely as my last one, but for now I am proud of my little flat & the fact it is ALL MINE. Like a proper grown up!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Recipe: Beer Bread

I love baking- I find it fairly easy & very relaxing. My mum is a really good baker & always baked loads when me & my sister were little so I kind of grew up being around homemade baked treats a lot. I think that's why I find it so comforting to have something in the oven. I mostly bake cakes & cookies, but I want to try & expand my repertoire & branch out into more complicated things. Eventually, I really want to try making my own bread, but working with yeast seems quite tricky, plus letting it prove for about 6 hours does not suit my impatient nature! So I have gone the Irish route & made bread that doesn't require yeast & takes about an hour to make, obviously a better option!

Beer bread is possibly the easiest bread in the world to make, plus you can drink the leftover beer which is always a good thing. To make this amazing bread you will need:

3 cups of plain flour (about 450g)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
12 fl oz beer (350ml)
A handful of grated cheddar (optional)
About 2 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190°C (375°F)
  2. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cheese & herbs in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.
  3. Pour the beer in slowly, and mix slowly with a wooden spoon until just combined. You don't want to over mix it & knock all the air out of the beer. The mixture should be sticky & elastic.
  4. Spread into a loaf tin & smooth and glaze the top with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with a touch of water or milk).
  5. Bake for 40-45 mins until pale gold in colour.


I can't remember where I got this recipe so I also can't remember how exactly it works but I think the beer & the sugar react to create a natural yeast reaction. It's all very scientific. You can use any kind of beer you like- I have just used normal lager, but I also really want to try making this with Guinness!

You can also use any flavour combination that takes your fancy. Caramelised onion & gruyere? Sun-dried tomato & olive?


I also made a plain wheaten bread, but haven't included the recipe for this one as I used a popular brand of bread mix that you can get here in Northern Ireland that you just add buttermilk to as I couldn't find any whole wheat flour in the supermarket :( Next on my list is soda bread & potato bread!

Don't forget my post about home-made soup so you have something warm & delicious to go with your freshly baked bread! Happy eating!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Musical Year in Review: 2012

Now that 2013 is here my inner Virgo gets a bit obsessed with new starts, organisation, making lists & clearing out the clutter. It is nice though, to sometimes look over little aspects of the past year & collate things you have enjoyed. So I thought I'd write a little about some of the music I discovered in 2012.


I first heard about Sucré by reading Elsie Larson's blog, A Beautiful Mess, as her husband is a member of the band. The first thing I heard of theirs was 'When We Were Young' & I was instantly smitten. The album, A Minor Bird, was definitely one of my favourites of the year, possibly only coming in runner up to Lana Del Rey's Born To Die. Their musical sound is completely fresh & ethereal, and the vocals are lush & magical.



Lana Del Rey was more of a 2011 discovery, but she still counts for 2012 because it was when her album was released in 2012 that I really fell in love. It was by far my favourite album of last year, and possibly of all time, which is not a claim I make lightly. I just LOVE everything about her sound & aesthetic vision, and her music videos are both achingly sad & beautiful at the same time.



Just watch this video. I mean come on. It is exquisite & one of the most visually fantastic things my eyes feasted on last year. It makes me wish the apocalypse had happened in December so I could form some kind of post-apocalyptic cyber-punk girl gang & raise hell in a deserted wastelend somewhere. Not only that, but this song is so perfect I listened to it on repeat for about a week in the summer & I'm still not sick of it. Her sound has an electronic dreamscape vibe & her angelic, breathy voice makes you feel like you're floating. Visions is such a good album too, with not one single dud track. Circumambient & Skin, off the album, are both major musical high points.



First Aid Kit have been around for a while, & have been somewhat on my radar, but it wasn't until I heard 'Emmylou' that I realised how brilliant they were & hunted out all their albums. I love their country-folk crossed sound & their harmonised vocals vibe from twee cutesy to haunting noir-folk. They write great melodies that really get under your skin & round your brain & have a bunch of amazing videos too.



Manifest! by Friends was the sound of my summer & I got really obsessive about this song, Friend Crush, after I heard it playing in River Island one day & went home to Google the lyrics. They have a kind of modern, indie-funk sound that I seem powerless to resist dancing round my flat to when I am doing the dusting (yes my life is just that glamorous). If you have 'Mind Control' or 'Va Fan Gör Du' on your party playlist then I promise you people will have a good time- scientific fact carried out by my own kitchen-dancing research.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

My Basic Soup Technique

My mum got me an amazing immersion blender for Christmas & I am a bit obsessed with it. I used to have a very cheap one that I got for a fiver in BHS a few years ago in a sale but it broke a few months ago so I asked for one this year for Christmas. Since I got it I have not stopped making soup! It's basically the easiest thing in the world to make, is super cheap, so delicious & really healthy so I might just not eat anything else ever again.

I'm sure there are really fancy, complicated ways to make soup, (I read in a cookbook about skimming it?!? No idea...) & I am probably doing it wrong, but I am going to share my basic soup technique with you anyway, plus a couple of different flavours I made.

To make soup you will need:
An immersion (stick) blender or a regular kind of blender.
A big pot.
Lots of vegetables
Herbs
Stock

  1. I always start with an onion, garlic & some olive oil in my pot. I chop the onion really fine & crush the garlic (although I have been using the food processor attachment that came with my blender- so handy). Cook it on a high heat on the hob until the onion goes clear.
  2. Then I add my other vegetables. Things like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, squash, etc that can take a while to cook, I like to roast first to get them soft. Other veg like leeks, beans, broccoli, tomatoes etc can just go straight in the pot. I tend not to weigh anything but rather just fill my pot with veg until it is just over half full. Roughly, I would guess that if I am putting three types of veg in one pot it would be about 2 cups of each type of vegetable. The more veg you have the more soup you will end up with.
  3. I cook all my veg until it is soft & then I add my stock. You can use the best quality stock you can afford. I have used fancy stock before, and I would like to try making my own at some point too, but mostly I just use stock cubes. If you do use cubes then I wouldn't really recommend adding any extra salt as they tend to be quite salty already. Make up the stock according to the instructions & pour over your veg until it just covers it.
  4. Cover & simmer on a medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes.
  5. Take soup off the heat & let it cool a bit & then blend away! Be careful not to splash or burn yourself (I always do though because I am too impatient to let the soup cool- oops.) If the soup is too thick then just add a bit more stock & give it another quick whizz.
Soup in 5 easy steps!

Broccoli, Courgette & Broad Bean Soup
Serves 6

1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
250g frozen broccoli
200g frozen broad beans
2 medium courgettes, roughly chopped
1 lemon
1L vegetable stock

  1. On the hob- cook the onion & garlic in the olive oil on a high heat until onion goes clear.
  2. Add frozen broad beans & frozen broccoli- cook for about 10-15 minutes or until they begin to mostly thaw.
  3. Add the courgettes & cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Slice the lemon in half- peel & de-seed one half, roughly chop it and add to pot.
  5. Add the stock, cover & simmer for 20-30 minutes or until all veg is cooked & soft.
  6. Remove from heat, allow to cool & blend! Blend until mostly smooth but not entirely, this soup is best with a slightly rough texture & a few whole beans here & there.
  7. Juice the other half of the lemon & stir through soup.

Spicy Carrot & Harissa Soup
Serves 6

9 medium-ish sized carrots, roughly chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1L stock
0.5-1 tsp dried chili flakes, depending on how spicy you want your soup.
2 tsp harissa paste
1 onion
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried parsley

  1. Drizzle the carrots in a tbsp of oil & roast at 220 degrees for about 40 mins until soft, sweet & slightly char grilled.
  2. Cook the onion & garlic in the rest of the oil.
  3. Add the tinned tomatoes & cook for about 5-10 mins.
  4. Add the roasted carrots, parsley, chili flakes & harissa & cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add the stock, cover & simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Blend!
Soup is so easy & amazing- I am declaring 2013 the year of soup! All of your lovely home-made soup will keep in the fridge for about 3 days- but you can always freeze it & then just defrost it when you need it. I find it's really handy to freeze it in portions- by putting a freezer bag inside a bowl and then just filling it. That way your can portion off a batch & just use what you need. When you want to use it, just peel the frozen soup out of the bag (it's like a big soup ice-cube!), put it in a bowl & microwave it on full power until hot- stirring it occasionally throughout. It usually takes about 8-10 minutes. Yum!