Wednesday, 25 March 2020

How I'm Keeping Sane Whilst Social Distancing

So it's been a little while since I last sat down and wrote a blog post. Things have got weird over the last few weeks and to be honest, it's just not felt right to post anything. That's not to say I disagree with other bloggers still posting, we all deal with things differently and I've really enjoyed still having content to read but personally I just couldn't find the motivation for it and I had no other content ready to go so that's why things have been a bit quiet on here and over on my Instagram. Whilst I'd love to carry on with my 3 blog posts a week, I know I'm not going to. At the time of writing this, I'd just had a few ideas buzzing around my head and I felt like I wanted to sit and write so that's what I'm doing but I'm not going to force anything. If I want to blog, I'll blog and if I don't, I won't. So there won't be a real schedule anymore to my posts, at least while everything is so up in the air but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter. Anyway now that ramble is out of the way, I thought I'd share a few of the things that I've been doing over the last few weeks to keep myself sane. 
Cath Kidston mug held up in front of bookshelf
We're all (hopefully) doing what the Government has ordered and social distancing/isolating if unwell so we're all spending much more time at home. If I'm in the house for too long with nothing to do though, it drives me mad! Of course it's something we have to do at the moment though so we can hopefully get over this as quickly as as possible so here's what's been helping me fill my time and it's all actually been really helping when I'm feeling the stress of everything that's going on.

Spring Cleaning

First of all, cleaning always helps me. What's that saying? Tidy house, tidy mind? That really does apply to me and I genuinely struggle to relax if things are untidy. That's not to say I like doing it, let's face it, it's a pretty boring task but I do love that feeling afterwards when I sit down, with a candle lit of course and feel happy with the space I'm in. Aswell as basic tasks which I do anyway like cleaning the kitchen, polishing the room, hoovering etc, I've also been sorting out our wardrobe, getting rid of anything we no longer need, cleaning the windows, dealing with our kitchen cupboards (a task I'd been putting off) - just stuff that doesn't get done day to day.

Going For A Walk (When It's Safe To Do So)

Obviously we should all be limiting our time outside now to just one form of exercise a day and as we have a dog that needs walking, that's something I'll be doing each afternoon. We were trying to get out for walks where possible anyway (social distancing of course) so I suppose nothing has changed in that respect, we'll just have to be more careful with where we go and ensure we only do it once. Just a little bit of fresh air each day does so much good and as we're not unwell so don't need to isolate, we'll definitely be making sure we get that. We're just making sure we go at quieter times of the day and to places nearby which aren't ever full of people anyway (let alone now) and of course making sure we're not coming into contact with any other fellow dog walkers.

Baking

Of course with all this extra time at home, I'm going to be baking. Over the last few weeks I've made a Golden Syrup cake which I'll be sharing a recipe for soon, peanut butter cookies which are always a firm fave and trusty shortbread and each time it's just completely calmed me down. I don't know what it is but I just find baking therapeutic so it's my go to when I need to occupy myself for a while. 

Cooking New Meals

Aswell as baking I've also been loving cooking more over the last few weeks so it's safe to say I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Again, it's something that chills me out (the majority of the time) so I've been looking forward to each night making a nice meal for both of us. Aswell as trying out new meals like my sticky soy chicken and veggie chilli, I've also been going back to old favourites like chicken lasagne, pizza pasta bake and diet coke chicken and just trying to change up the meal plan where I can and working around what I've been able to get in the shops.

Reading

I'm sure it's no surprise I've been spending a lot of time with my head stuck in a book. I read a lot anyway as I'm sure you might be able to tell from my reading roundups but there's something even more special about it now and it's just a complete escape from everything that's going on in the world. When it's all getting too much or I've exhausted the whole of Netflix, a book will always be there and I've just found reading even more of a comfort than I used to.

So that's how I've been trying to keep some sort of normality going whilst social distancing! I imagine we've got many more weeks of this to come so I hope if you've been feeling a bit stuck and unsure of how to fill your time, that this has maybe given you a few ideas. I'm just trying to use this time to soak up my family, read that book that's been sat on the shelf for months and really look after my health in every way. This is a pretty new and worrying time for all of us so I just hope you're all keeping safe, take care ❤️

How have the last few weeks been for you? What have you been doing to occupy yourself?

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Monday, 16 March 2020

The New Fragrance From Missguided - Babe Night*

AD - This post is in collaboration with Missguided and all Missguided products are gifted
I don't often speak about fragrances on my blog, mainly because I don't really branch out with them and I have a select few which I seem to go back to again and again but I couldn't wait to share the latest release from Missguided. I've shared my love for the award-winning Missguided fragrances before and you might have seen them pop up a few times on my Instagram, so I was thrilled when I received the new EDP, Babe Night.
Missguided Babe Night perfume held up over flatlay
In case you didn't know, Missguided are no longer just a fashion brand, they have branched out into the beauty world. They currently already have 3 perfumes - Babe Power, Babe OUD and Babe Dreams (Babe Power has been a firm fave of mine for a while) and trust me when I say each of them are beautiful scents. As always with Missguided perfumes though, I can't help but love the striking design of the bottles. Whilst the scent is always the most important thing with a perfume, I am a little fussy and like the bottles to look pretty on my bedside table too! Like the other perfumes, vegan and cruelty free Babe Night is a can shape bottle which is just so unique to other fragrances in my opinion. It stands out from all of the other brands and I know I'd be drawn to it in a store over anything else! With it's classic black bottle, subtle glitter and rose gold text, it looks sleek and stylish.

Now let's get onto the scent of Babe Night. It opens with notes of lemon, orange and green apple and develops with heady accords of orange blossom, jasmine and spicy pink pepper. The base notes are musky vanilla, cedar and patchouli. As you might guess from all of the citrus notes, Babe Night is a very fruity scent meaning it's the perfect scent to take you into Spring and Summer but the musky vanilla and patchouli really do develop and come through after the sweetness hits so I'll personally be wearing this all year round.
Missguided Babe Night Perfume held up in front of brick wall
I'm always more about the sweet and fruity scents over anything else so this has been a welcome addition to my perfume collection. Each scent just works together so well and I've found a few spritz of this will linger on my skin for hours which is exactly what I want.

If you want to try Babe Night out for yourself (£28 for 80ml) or any of the other Missguided perfumes, you can find out more on the Missguided website. 

Have you tried any of the Missguided perfumes?

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Wednesday, 11 March 2020

My Easter Creme Egg Brownies Recipe

I'm aware it's insane the amount of brownies I've made recently, I just can't help it. They're one of the easiest bakes, very rarely go wrong and you can do so many things with them. Since finding the perfect brownie recipe I've added things like Bourbon Biscuits, Lotus Biscoff, After Eights, Jaffa Cakes and Oreos and now with Easter on the way, I really wanted to incorporate some Easter chocolate into my bakes. I've already shared my Mini Egg cookie slices in case you haven't seen and today I'm sharing my recipe for Creme Egg brownies. Yeah they're pretty similar to all of my brownie recipes and I know recipes for these get shared year after year but I still wanted to post my own, so here it is and I hope you enjoy if you give them a try!
Creme Egg brownies in cake tin
Ingredients:
100g butter
200g golden caster sugar
200g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
100g plain flour
6 Creme Eggs, halved

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) and grease and line a large square baking tin
2. Put your butter and sugar into a large saucepan and warm over a medium heat until the the butter has completely melted and the sugar has started to dissolve
3. Take the saucepan off the heat and add in your 200g of dark chocolate chunks, stirring until completely melted 
4. Add in your vanilla extract and mix again
5. Add in your two eggs then using an electric whisk if possible, whisk until you have a thick velvety batter
6. Sift in your plain flour then fold in gently until fully combined
7. Pour your brownie batter into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes initially
8. After 20 minutes, remove the tin from the oven and add your halved Creme Eggs, pushing into the mix slightly. You could cut into smaller pieces and scatter if you prefer but I tried to do mine as neatly as possible
9. Return to the oven for a further 25 minutes
10. Once cooked, leave to cool in the tin then remove and cut into squares!
1 Creme Egg brownie held up over chopping board with creme egg brownies arranged
I'm not gonna lie and say these are the prettiest bake I've ever made because they're not but I'm still really glad I finally gave them a go and they tasted delicious which is the most important thing. The Creme Eggs did explode a little making them harder to cut and next time I'd maybe experiment with adding them at a later stage just to only melt them slightly but it's all part of the fun. I'm obsessed with Creme Eggs so adding them to my already fave gooey brownies was a winning combination.

Have you got any Easter bakes planned? What's your favourite Easter chocolate?

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Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Staying Hydrated With Waterdrop*

AD - This post is in collaboration with Waterdrop and all products are gifted
I've said many times before that I don't drink enough water. I have times where I absolutely love it and can get through glass after glass and then I go days with barely any. I'm a sucker for a fresh juice or something fizzy but there's no denying that when I up my water intake, I feel 10x better. My skin is clearer, my hair feels healthier and generally I just feel less sluggish and more alert. Water by itself is pretty boring though and I think that's why sometimes I find it easier to reach for something else. With the help of Waterdrop though, there's another alternative to plain, boring tap water.
different flavours of Waterdrop microdrinks laid out on white background with water bottle to the right side
If you've not heard of Waterdrop before, they have invented the world's first Microdrink which allows you to prepare a fresh, tasty drink anytime, anywhere. Literally all you need is water. In the battle against sugary drinks (my weakness) they've come up with sugar free Microdrinks which combine superfruits, vitamins and natural aromas into a tiny cube which dissolves in your water. Their mission is to essentially get people drinking more water leading to healthier, longer and more sustainable lives.

Waterdrop have a range of unique flavours available so I'm sure there's something for everyone and each cube is intended to be dissolved in 400-600ml of water. The flavours available are:

Boost - Blackcurrant, Elderflower & Acai
Defence - Cranberry, Rosehip & Moringa
Focus - Lime, Baobab & Acerola
Glow - Mango, Cactus Fruit & Artichoke
Relax - Hibiscus, Acerola & Aronia
Youth - Peach, Ginger, Ginseng & Dandelion
Clean - Herbs, Juniper Berry & Stinging Nettle
Zen - Star Fruit, White Tea & Lemon Grass

Not only do they taste good, but they're also full of vitamins. For example, Glow contains Vitamins B1, C and E whereas Boost contains Vitamins B6, B12 and C so you can be assured that each flavour is working to keep your body and mind healthy. Aswell as all of this they're also less than 5 calories each and without preservatives or sugar.
closeup of focus waterdrop microdrink with other flavours laid out in background
Whilst these Microdrinks aren't the cheapest at £6.99 for a box of 12, this does make them 58p each which is considerably less than a bottle of vitamin water which can be priced at anything from £1.50 usually. A bonus to Waterdrop Microdrinks aswell though is that all outer packaging is recycled cardboard and there is generally far less plastic around the cubes than you would find with an actual plastic bottle.
closeup of Waterdrop focus cubes
One final thing to mention about Waterdrop is their gorgeous water bottles! Each collection has a matching reusable glass water bottle for £22.90 aswell as steel drinking straws and other accessories so another great way to ditch the plastic. I have the Glow bottle and I've loved using it over the last few weeks, it's just so pretty and along with the Microdrinks, it's definitely been encouraging me to drink more water.
Waterdrop Glow Yellow glass bottle and packaging
closeup of Waterdrop Glow yellow bottle with protective sleeve
I mentioned in my self care goals for 2020 post last month that I really wanted to take care of my skin this year and water plays a big part in that so Waterdrop have come along at the right time! If you want to try out Waterdrop Microdrinks for yourself, you can buy from their official website here.

Are you good with drinking water? Which flavour do you think you'd go for from the Waterdrop range?

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Sunday, 8 March 2020

Tips To Ensure That You Pick The Right Engagement Ring

This article is published in partnership with Media Buzzer
Image Souce: Unsplash
If you are planning to pop that magical question in the near future, no doubt your thoughts will be focused on the ring, the symbol of your everlasting love, and it is vitally important that; a) she likes the ring and b) the ring actually fits. If you wanted to make the marriage proposal really special but you are finding it all a bit too much, here are a few tips to help you find the best engagement ring for your budget.

Know Her Style - Whatever her style in clothing and jewellery, you should take this into consideration when looking at a selection of engagement rings. For example, if she loves antiques, why not surprise her with an antique diamond engagement ring that is steeped in history? An online search will help you source the perfect antique diamond engagement ring and when you buy from a respected dealer, you can be sure that the item is genuine and fairly priced.

It Has To Be Diamonds - Unless she has a particular dislike for diamonds (anything is possible), the ring should contain diamonds, which are very much the symbol of romantic love. Check out the stunning Kalmar Antiques antique style engagement rings, which are genuine pieces that have been passed down through the generations.

Obtaining Her Ring Size - There are several ways to do this; you could 'borrow' one of her rings that she wears on the third finger of her left hand,or enlist the help of a good friend who can keep a secret. It is vital that you know her ring size if you are buying an antique ring, as they are very difficult, if not impossible, to resize.

Define Your Budget - If you don't decide on a maximum budget, you could easily end up overstretching yourself financially. Plus, it will help the jeweller if you give them a figure that you are happy to pay. There are a lot of expenses when getting engaged and then you have the wedding to prepare for, so make sure that your engagement ring budget is set before you look at rings. If you are not sure about your budget, this article should help you to decide on an engagement ring budget.

Involve Her In The Choice - If you are really worried that she might not like the ring, you can sacrifice the element of surprise and ask her to help you choose the ring. At least that way, you know she loves the design. You also know that the ring will fit like a glove.
Image Source: Freepik
Choosing the right engagement ring can be a challenge for any man, and we hope that the above advice will help you make the right decisions and end up with a ring that takes her breath away. You know her better than anyone else, so you should be able to choose a style that she will want to wear, and by checking out the online antique dealer, you are sure to see some stunning examples of antique and vintage diamond rings.

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Friday, 6 March 2020

My Sticky Soy Chicken & Egg Fried Rice Recipe

I'm so used to posting baking recipes now as you might have seen over the last few weeks, it feels like I've pretty much not stopped but it's been quite a while since I last shared a meal idea. I think my last was a Winter Shepherd's Pie which I still highly recommend given it's still pretty chilly outside and it's sure to warm you up! Recently though I made a Chinese style sticky soy chicken with homemade egg fried rice and it was genuinely one of the best meals I've made in a long time. I've gone back to the same old meals over Winter but I kind of came up with this one on a whim and both George and I absolutely devoured it, so I felt I had to share the recipe.
Egg fried rice topped with soy chicken in bowl with silver cutlery next to it
Ingredients: for 2 people
2 chicken breasts
2 garlic cloves
60ml of soy sauce
1 tbsp of honey
1 boil in the bag rice (or however much rice you'd usually make for 2 people)
2 eggs
A handful of frozen peas

Method: Sticky Soy Chicken
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees (180 fan) and line a baking tray with foil
2. Place your chicken breasts on the foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper
3. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes (usually depends on the size of the chicken breasts), then shred with two forks
4. Add the shredded chicken to a frying pan and add two crushed garlic cloves
5. Fry for a few minutes before adding in around 60ml of soy sauce and 1 tbsp of honey
6. Keep on a medium heat for 5 minutes while the sauce thickens up slightly and coats the chicken

Method: Egg Fried Rice
1. Boil your rice according to the packet instructions then leave to cool completely in a saucepan
2. While your rice is cooling, scramble two eggs in a frying pan and set aside
3. Once your rice has cooled, add to a frying pan along with a handful of peas and splash of soy sauce
4. Keep stirring whilst on a high heat, ensuring the rice is completely cooked through
5. Add your scrambled egg into the rice and give it one final stir
6. Split evenly between two bowls then top with your sticky soy chicken!

This was just all kinds of delicious and I can see it being a regular addition to our meal plans. You could easily swap out the chicken for Quorn instead and you could pack the rice full of extra veggies if you wish. It's a great fakeaway for nights when you fancy something a bit more indulgent but don't want to splash out on a takeaway.


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Wednesday, 4 March 2020

My Milkybar Cookie Slices Recipe

Last month I shared my recipe for Mini Egg Cookie Slices and you best believe they have been on my mind ever since. They were almost a mix between a soft chocolate chip cookie and a gooey blondie, so pretty much heaven in a mouthful. As we enjoyed them so much I decided to make more recently but I just swapped out a few ingredients, coming up with Milkybar cookie slices. White chocolate chips and chunks of Milkybar went with the cookie mix incredibly well so here's how to make them, if they sound like your kind of bake.
tray of Milkybar cookie slices on kitchen counter next to packet of Milkybar
Ingredients:
115g butter
55g granulated sugar
135g light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp cornflour
sprinkle of salt
100g white chocolate chips
1 block of Milkybar, broken into chunks (1 bar has 15 chunks so I used 12 for the slices, 3 to melt for a drizzle)

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees (170 fan) and grease and line a large square baking tin
2. In a saucepan, melt your butter then add in your granulated sugar and light brown sugar
3. Using an electric whisk, if possible, whisk until smooth
4. Add in your egg and vanilla extract and whisk again until combined
5. In a separate bowl, weigh out your plain flour, bicarbonate of sofa, cornflour and sprinkle of salt. Give it a gentle mix then pour into your wet mixture
6. Stir your wet and dry mixtures together until fully combined and then pour in your chocolate chips
7. When you have mixed in your chocolate chips, you should have a thick cookie dough so now you can tip it into your baking tin
8. Spread out the cookie dough in the tin, getting it as even as possible then bake in your oven for 15 minutes
9. After 15 minutes, add your Milkybar chunks to the top of the cookie dough, pushing in slightly. Bake for another 15 minutes (I recommend doing it this way as I originally added the Milkybar chunks at the start and as you can see they browned a little. Adding them halfway through should just melt them slightly)
10. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then leave to cool completely on a wire rack
11. Whilst the cookie is cooling, melt the remaining 3 chunks of Milkybar in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water than drizzle on top. Once the drizzle has set slightly, cut into slices
slice of Milkybar cookie held up over other cookie slices
This recipe makes 12 cookie slices but you could easily double or adapt it how you wish to make more. You could also swap out the white chocolate and Milkybar for milk chocolate, Galaxy, Cadbury, whatever you fancy. I love the gooey, almost cake like consistency of these with the crisp top and a warm chunk of chocolate. Just something a little different to the mad amount of brownies I've made recently!

Have you done much baking recently?

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Monday, 2 March 2020

The Five-Year Plan by Carla Burgess Book Review*

*I received a copy via Netgalley to review but all opinions are my own
Trying to stick with one of my blogging goals for the year, I'm back with another book review. I said earlier this year when I shared my review of Big Little Lies and then People Like Us that I only wanted to share reviews when I felt really passionate about a book and The Five-Year Plan by Carla Burgess just captivated me from the very beginning.
The Five Year Plan by Carla Burgess on kindle held up in front of bookshelf
'Orla is a trainee reporter with a five-year plan: work her way up the career ladder, move to London and secure a job on a big national newspaper. She doesn't want a boyfriend, he's only going to hold her back anyway. Aiden spends his life travelling the world and living in a tent. He knows his goal: to photograph animals and raise awareness of global warming and wildlife conservation. He's definitely not looking for a relationship past the odd casual hook-up! So when Orla and Aiden's lives collide, they do everything to not fall for each other - with the opposite effect. But they stick to their plans, and go their separate ways... Five years later, they meet again...'

My review

When it comes to a romance, I tend to stick to the same sorts of authors because they very rarely let me down - Paige Toon and Carole Matthews, are just a few I've spoken about countless times before on my blog. Thanks to the likes of Netgalley though, I've been introduced to loads of new authors so this was my first book of Carla's. Whilst I thought it sounded like my kind of story just from the synopsis, I never quite expected to love it as much as I did.

From the beginning I couldn't help but like Orla. She was clumsy, funny, ambitious, just a good person and someone you'd want in your life. I found her so relatable throughout the whole book. I loved cheeky, Irish Aiden too. What is it about the Irish, seriously?! Swoon. I could picture him so clearly and from the moment he and Orla meet, you can just feel the connection instantly.

What starts as a friendship full of flirty banter soon becomes more serious though and over time they realise there might be more between them than they were both anticipating. The Five-Year Plan actually starts at them meeting again after a five year separation but then we go back in time to get the history of how everything happened the way it did. One of the first things I really liked about it being set out this way is that we get that initial 'OMG' shock when they meet again but then we get so much backstory so we can really start from the beginning with them. Another thing is that it was such a natural progression from friends to lovers for Orla and Aiden and it didn't feel rushed in any way. In fact, at times I do think the book was a little too long but the amount of detail there was only allowed for you to fall even more in love with the characters.

Of course, as I've just mentioned, there is a five-year plan in place which means initially their relationship is short-lived. Orla is a journalist desperate to rise up through the ranks in London. Men, babies and marriage are not in the equation. Whilst Aiden doesn't quite have a plan in place, his work also means he isn't ready for that yet either and his job which takes him all over the world, isn't something he's prepared to give up yet. So they go their separate ways. I was devastated for both of them but just as luck would have it, exactly five years later they're both at the same event one evening, and the feelings are still there. How much has changed in that time though? Are they the same people they were five years ago? Is it still not the right time for them? So many questions!

Whilst you'd love it to be as simple as them running into each others arms and living happily ever after, life doesn't work out that way. It was heart-wrenching at times and I was willing for them to find their way back to one another after so long apart but I did genuinely think at times maybe it just wasn't meant to be? You can feel the anguish they are both going through though and I think the decisions Orla especially has to make are really relatable as she had such a clear idea in her mind of how her life would go and falling in love with Aiden changed it all.

Whilst this wasn't a book packed full of twists and turns, it didn't need to be. It was a slow burner at the start but overall it's a beautiful love story of two people who were just always destined to find each other. It made me smile, it made me cry (surprise) and I just felt happy after reading it. Who doesn't love a book that makes you feel that good? If like me, you love a bit of romance, The Five-Year Plan is out in March!

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