Monday, 18 September 2017

Serious interiors goals at Grand Designs Live and the Ideal Home Show

One year since becoming a home owner, I still haven't fully decorated and put my own stamp on the property. And in today's Instagram culture where you are inundated with picture after picture of interiors perfection, that alone has been hard. But I stick by my beliefs. I'm a firm believer of living in dwellings as they are for a bit, rather than making any structural or aesthetic changes right from the offset. It gives you the best chance to learn what works for you and what doesn't. And which rooms get the best light, compared to those that perhaps don't.

This house doesn't have the biggest of rooms and for this reason, I have shied away from bolder colours. I always thought that pale colours would suit these rooms better and make them seem less small. And it's for this reason I have always eyed up a palette of soft greys, looking to emphasise clean lines with white ceilings and white skirting boards.

That was until I got my house and home fix at the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live earlier this year.

Lots of the show rooms at both events featured rooms the same sort of size - if not smaller - with dark, bold colours. And they worked well. Contrary to popular belief, they didn't make the space seem smaller. These darker shades actually gave the walls a warmth that I never thought possible from a darker colour. I suddenly started liking colours I'd never considered before. Take this Blackadder inspired room for example.


I love the opulence of the dark blue walls against the
dark brown flooring and the metallic details.
And oh to have a bathroom like this...


That gold sink though
(M. told me right off the bat that I can't have one... boo!)


And how about this room for a celebration of colour? Not exactly the dark walls 
we have been nattering about, but an inspiring use of colour all the same. 


But now you see what I mean. I never once considered having dark or colorful walls (read: walls that aren't white!) but they inject so much soul and personality into a property. I have always been so scared to make that leap but what I've come to realise is that paint is just paint. It's not the be all and end all. What's the worst that could happen? That you don't like it and that you have to re-paint? That is part of the fun of decorating. Your sense of style will evolve over time, so it's not unreasonable to try something now and re-decorate again later. Be bold. Take a leap of faith.

*To Homebase for dark sample pots of paint!*

Grand Designs is in Birmingham from 11th - 15th October
Ideal Home Show will be back in November for Ideal Home Christmas

Friday, 8 September 2017

Listing my top picks from Lyst

Worst blog post title ever. You know what it's like at work when lunch time strikes. Other than being a hungry, hungry hippo, it's my time of the day to read blogs and have a nose online. One of the sites I use is a site I only first heard about last year at work when I managed an advertising campaign for them. Curious, I checked www.lyst.co.uk out online and loved what I saw.

Offering a wealth of brands, Lyst is a place to see all your favourite brands in one place rather than trailing the web looking at each site one by one. Their broad pricing range is a nice little touch, making the site accessible to all. When ogling over a £850 pair of Chloe boots, I also came across shoes as little as £10 which had been reduced in the sale. And you can often grab a designer bargain with their pre-owned section - so it's always worth looking around the Lyst site as there are bargains to be had! Here are my current top picks from the Lyst website:


Olivia Burton Wonderland watch - for obvious reasons! How beautiful is the watch face?!
Chloe sneakers - Converse these are not! I love the muted grey colour and the scallop edging.
YSL grey bag - I love all YSL bags, but this is the most beautiful colour of them all <3
White coat - the coat of dreams. Shearling and wonderfully wintry for the approaching cold snap
Chloé boots - I have coveted a pair of these for the longest time - I love anything Chloé!
Tan skirt - how perfect would this skirt be with a black roll neck and knee high boots?!
YSL red bag - because it would be nice to have a bag in my wardrobe that isn't black or grey!
Valentino flats - I'm not great in heels, but this pair of flats fits the bill for formal occasions!
Gucci belt - the ultimate #GirlBoss belt (perhaps a GB buckle would be more fitting!)

Appreciate this may be difficult given the amazing choice... 
but which items are your favourites?

Monday, 28 August 2017

The healthiest brownies I ever did eat


I'm no stranger to a brownie. Other than freshly baked bread, homemade brownies must be up there in the top five of best household aromas which make a house a home. Plus they taste damn good too. When asked if I wanted to review Pulsin's newly re-branded range of brownies, it was a pretty easy decision, let's be honest here.

For those unfamiliar with Pulsin, Pulsin offers a range of healthy snacks which focus on wellbeing as well as taste, providing a healthy way to maintain your energy levels across the day. With listed ingredients such as dates, green tea extract and grape juice, I  was intrigued to see what a healthier version of one of my favourite treats would taste like.

Containing xylitol - a natural sweetner found in fruits and vegetables - Pulsin have truly made their brownies guilt free. In a day and age where we have multiple intolerances and dietary requirements, each of the brownies I taste tested were:

  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free
  • Soya free
  • Vegan
  • 100% natural with no artificial colours, additives, preservatives or GM ingredients


Peanut Choc Chip brownie

I was a little nervous about this one as I hate peanut butter. As luck may have it, this brownie contained actual peanuts rather than the butter - so a thumbs up from me! This was the very first brownie I tried. Based on first appearances, it looked like your typical gooey brownie, but when you bit into it, it was a drier, more crumblier texture than I was expecting. The brownie itself wasn't very chocolately but it's saving grace were the peanuts which gave it some taste. As M very eloquently put; "it tastes healthy".


Super Berry brownie

The main defining factor of this brownie was its pinky red hue, due to the inclusion of goji berries and raspberries. The brownie itself didn't smell particularly berry-esque, but it did smell like raisins which was curious considering that raisins weren't listed in the ingredients! I found this brownie a little too sweet for my liking (probably as it contained berries, grape juice AND dates) and my only criticism was that I could strongly taste the dates but didn't really get any sort of berry flavour. To improve the recipe, I would add some larger cut cashews (another one of the ingredients listed here!) to soften the sweetness and add another texture.


Maca Bliss brownie

Compared to the super sweetness of the berry brownie, the maca brownie was a plainer affair. Contrary to my initial thought process, "maca" doesn't refer to macadamia nuts - Maca is in fact a Peruvian root herb which has been used for centuries to release stress. A brownie that helps with stress? Definitely my kind of product!


Almond & Raisin brownie

This was my favourite brownie as it was the only one where you couldn't taste the dates! This brownie was less dry and more gooey like a traditional brownie. The almonds were chopped much bigger than the peanuts or macadamia nuts in the other brownies, and there was a nice contrast between the soft, gooey texture and the crunch from the almonds. And surprisingly enough, despite this being the tastiest recipe of them all, this one was also the lowest in fat! WIN


In order of preference I would put these as:

  1. Almond & Raisin - the raisin taste was nicer than the dates, and the bigger nuts worked better!
  2. Peanut - the peanuts gave it a great taste
  3. Maca Bliss - fairly plain and inoffensive - better for those who want something less sweet!
  4. Super Berry - too sweet for me personally, less berries and more nuts required


Suggestions for improvement:

  • Use more raisins or currants instead of dates. Or use an alternative like dried figs, coconut, beetroot etc (I would personally love to try a beetroot brownie!)
  • If nuts are the main focus of the brownie, include larger chunks and enough of it! 
  • None of the brownies I tried tasted vaguely chocolately so maybe explore the chocolate balance?

In summary, I really enjoyed trying a healthier version of brownies. Whilst I won't be giving up the full fat version any time soon, I would definitely buy the Pulsin Almond & Raisin brownie and the Pulsin Peanut brownie again in the future. These two weren't too sweet and felt very substantial. They would be perfect as a late morning snack at work to keep your energy levels up for the day, or pre gym workout to give you a boost.

Would you give healthy brownies a go?

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The perfect summer picnic with Tesco

For someone who regularly shops with Tesco, I can't fault them. The other day I received the cutest little box from them. Designed in the style of a picnic basket, I opened it to reveal a red gingham print interior and very me treats.


I'm curious if Tesco looked at my purchase history and that dictated what they chose. Because my online shop does mostly consist of juice, squash, olives and cheese! (plus I love falafel). So these selections were spot on. It's been so manic lately what with wedding prep, so it was really nice to take some time out, sit in the sun, and do nothing. And what a lovely day it was to go for a picnic. It was the sort of heat where you don't want a huge meal and all you want to do is snack. So these tapas style treats from Tesco were a good shout.

Tesco mixed olives & cheddar cheese*
I'd never had a tapas style olive pack with cheddar before. Usually I find shops tend to package olives with feta or mozzarella as these are all very salty foods that complement each other well. Cheddar is a slighter harder cheese which has a strong flavour if you go for an extra mature, but doesn't quite have the same saltiness as say a feta or mozzarella. However I was surprised to find that it did go well with olives. Green olives aren't my favourites as I find them too salty. I usually prefer them cooked into a meal or bread rather than standalone. However the cheddar here helped to tone these down which is why I think these were the first green olives that I have actually liked snacking on as is.


Tesco chickpea, onion and broad bean falafel*
Falafel I only discovered about a year ago (massively late to the game!). If faced with a shelf of different falafel varieties, I wouldn't usually pick a broad bean one - but I am so happy I got to try these as I adored these. These were by far my favourite thing in the box that Tesco sent and I will definitely be ordering these again!


Robinsons Raspberry and Apple flavoured water*
I have never really been into flavoured waters. I would usually buy squash and do it myself, or have water as is. Because at least with squash you can dictate how strong it is (I prefer super strong over weak!). This Robinsons flavoured water was a bit of surprise to me. It was the first flavoured water that I didn't dislike. On the initial sip I found it quite artificial tasting and super sweet, but as I drank more of it, I become accustomed to the taste. I couldn't taste raspberries or apples as such, but it was fruity, pleasant and refreshing on such a balmy, hot day. Thumbs up from me!

Thank you to the lovely people at Tesco for the picnic treats and for a making a bright, sunny day even sunnier!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Maltesers chocolate pancakes

By the time you read this, I may be in a pancake induced coma (the best kind!). I love the fact that there is actually one day of the calendar year specially designated to pancakes. Granted it's part of a wider reasoning (Lent), nevertheless I love how everyone of all religious beliefs and backgrounds have embraced it. How tonight is the night to have milk, eggs and flour (if you're not vegan / gluten free!) in your home lest all hell break loose. I discovered yesterday that I'd ran out of flour and it was panic stations r us. Should I have been quite so panicked about the whole situation? Probably not. Have I been a last minute Nelly with getting said flour? Oh yes. It's been added to my online shop which hopefully Mr Tesco will swing by with tonight. However if my Instagram is empty of pancake porn later then you can be sure of two things:

  1. Tesco ran out of flour due to surplus demand
  2. me possibly crying into a bowl of cereal wondering where the pancakes at

I am especially on tenterhooks about the whole flour delivery situation as I have already purchased this wickedly naughty but insanely delicious looking jar:


Maltesers chocolate spread - currently reduced to just £1.50!

If the flour fails to materialise later then screw the cereal... I'll probably be spooning this directly into my mouth from the jar. Classy. And if Maltesers don't float your boat, there are plenty of other varieties to choose from. I'm talking: Cadbury Caramel, Twix, Bounty and Crunchie, to name a few.

Wish me luck! (and hope your pancake eve is better organised than my own!)

Friday, 10 February 2017

Charity // living on £2 a day with Zamcog & Voucherbox

Recently Voucherbox reached out to me, wanting to spread awareness of how much food we waste and the amount we spend in doing so. Did you know that it costs £2 a day to feed, clothe and educate a child in Zambia? Voucherbox has teamed up with Zamcog to present the £2 challenge.

The #2poundchallenge is all about encouraging bloggers to try living off of just £2 a day and for each blogger that takes part and writes a post on their experiences, Voucherbox will donate £50 to Zamcog. Which is amazingly generous. Working in the city of London, I am only too aware that a typical lunch can cost me £5 or more. And that's just lunch.


For the challenge myself and M. would need to live on just £4 a day (£2 each). The £4 would go towards three meals for two people and some form of snack. To save as much as possible, I made lunch and dinner in bulk so the below takes into account the costs of both of our portions for just one day.

____________________________________________________________________________________

BREAKFAST

Toast & jam 


x4 slices of toast each - 16p
Butter - 13p 
Jam- 9p

TOTAL = 39p

I bought a loaf of supermarket own brand wholemeal bread which equated to 4p a slice. A very frugal lunch meant that I could stretch to jam as well as butter (albeit in small quantities!)

____________________________________________________________________________________


LUNCH

Parsnip soup


Parsnips - 30p
Rosemary - free!
Veg stock - 12p
Onion - 6p
Milk  - 16p
Butter - 6p

 TOTAL = 70p

The rosemary was scavenged from the garden which was a good way of being resourceful and thrifty. Being a relatively simple soup with one vegetable and no meat stock, I did worry that it may be fairly bland, but the rosemary was great at counteracting this. This was in fact one my favourite soups I've ever made!

____________________________________________________________________________________

DINNER

Gnocchi bake


Gnocchi - 38p
Cheese - 24p
Peppers - 39p
x1 tin chopped tomatoes - 31p
Garlic clove - 5p
Tomato puree - 5p
Spinach - 50p
Smoked paprika - 5p

TOTAL = £1.97

Who knew that a £1.97 dinner with the most basic of ingredients could be so full of flavour?! I picked up a value pack of gnocchi for just 75p from the supermarket and I only used half of it as gnocchi is brilliant for being really filling - so you don't need a whole lot of the stuff. Rather than being just a plain and boring stodge, cheese and tomato combo, the veg gave it some extra colour, texture and flavour. I shopped the 'farms' range of supermarket veg which is sourced from local farms and is considerably cheaper. I usually shop this range anyway as it's just as good quality as anything else. Not the prettiest dish to plate up, but that crispy cheese on top was the real MVP!

____________________________________________________________________________________

SNACKS

Bourbon biscuits


x4 biscuits each = 2p per biscuit

TOTAL = 16p

In an ideal world I would have been snacking on fruit but have you seen how expensive fruit is these days?! Why spend 40p on an apple when you can spend 30p on a pack of 22 biscuits? Chocolate is a lot tastier than fruit anyway. This worked out at 2p per biscuit which were perfect for late morning nibbles and the afternoon slump!

___________________________________________________________________________


TOTAL SPEND = £3.22

 ____________________________________________________________________________

What I learnt from the experience is that living on just £2 a day is incredibly hard. Everything has a price and it was interesting seeing the monetary value of a splash of oil and a sprinkle of paprika, because everything adds up. It really made me re-think how much I spend on food and this is something I'm going to continue. This experience has proven that this is possible and that cheap food isn't tasteless or lacking. My shop was done in Tesco - so this proves it is possible in British supermarkets other than Aldi, Lidl or Iceland.

One of the conditions of the £2 challenge was to tag another blogger to continue on the good work. But I don't want to tag just one person - I invite you all to join and contribute towards this good cause. To date over £1000 has been raised which is an amazing achievement. You can read more on the £2 challenge here. If you participate in the #2poundchallenge, please do leave links to your experiences in the comments below as I'd love to see other ideas for money saving meals!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Trying Polish food for the first time with Polish Village Bread

I must admit, but despite being a foodie, I haven't tried a whole lot of different cuisines. I'm as fond of an Italian, Chinese or Indian as the next person, but embarrassingly I haven't tried much else. I had my first taste of Columbian food last year but other than that, I haven't had much exposure to other types of food.

When Polish Village Bread got in touch inviting me to try Polish food for the first time, I was really excited to try something new. Because I genuinely had no idea what a typical Polish dish was or the sorts of things eaten.

A lovely member of the team came to my door and hand delivered a bulging tote bag of goodies. I am still over-whelmed with the team's generosity and the amount of food they provided. All of the savoury items they provided were already cooked and didn't take long to heat through by means of shallow frying, microwaving or booshing in the oven. Read on for my first experience of Polish cuisine!

Breaded chicken topped with mushrooms and cheese
Piers k Kurczaka w Pierzynce


This was very much like a pizza except with breaded chicken instead of a traditional dough. The crunch of the chicken contrasted really well with the texture of the vegetables and the melted cheese. It was super tasty and so easy to prepare after a long day at work - something I could easily eat every day!

PANCAKES

But not pancakes as you know them! These were more like croquettes with their crunchy exterior and a fluffy filled interior. I tried three different flavours which included:


Croquettes with spinach and cheese
Krokiety z Serem Typu Greckiego i Szpinakiem


These were my favourite of the three! The cheese in these ones tasted slightly different like they contained a garlic and herb soft cheese rather than a plain soft cheese. The middles were deliciously creamy and smooth to contrast against the crunch of the shell of the croquette.

Croquettes with mushrooms and cheese
Krokiety z Grzybami i Serem


Again, good flavours, generously filled and a good amount of crunch. To contrast, this was more of a saltier dish. I like things seasoned well so this didn't bother me one bit. The mushrooms tasted like they had been cooked in soy sauce - but don't quote me on this!

Spicy chicken and mixed veg pancake
Krokiety Mek Sykanskie


These were spiced, but not spicy (perfect for my palette as I can't tolerate spice!) These were the most generously filled krokiety and contained veg and pulses like kidney beans and sweetcorn. That combined with the spices, meant that it had a slight Mexican feel to it and were very colourful inside.

DUMPLINGS

My favourite Polish word: pierogi. But over the years I never knew what pierogi actually meant - I just liked saying it! Pierogi turns out to be plump pillowy little dumplings, beautifully crimped into little sun / flower shapes. I tried three flavours:


Dumplings with pork and onions
Pierogi z Miesem


I preferred this pork filling to the pork in the stuffed cabbage parcels (below). These were very well seasoned and tasty as.

Potato and cheese dumplings
Pierogi Ruskie


Not the easiest of things to photograph due to its samey colouring, but otherwise very smooth, soft and creamy which made for a very nice combination. One of my favourite pierogi. 

Sauerkraut and mushroom dumplings
Pierogi z Kapusta i Grzybami


As with the other dumplings, a good and very tasty dough, which was generously filled. This was my least favourite flavour of dumplings (but that's because I'm not a massive fan of sauerkraut!).

Cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and pork
Golabki


These had a very crumbly texture in the middle with the rice and pork mince mixture. The cabbage was my favourite part of this dish as it hadn't lost its crunch completely. My only critique of this one was that I cooked as per the instructions on the pack but it didn't get very hot. So my advice is that you would need to heat this one longer to get to perfect eating temperature.  

Fruit cake


I also received a cake which I was very excited about as I do love a good dessert! I only know "fruit cake" in the British sense of fruit cake and that's a cake I really do not like. The Polish take on fruit cake was much more up my street with none of the dried fruit nonsense. Instead it was more of a fluffy sponge with fruit on top. It felt massively guilt free because as well as having lots of lovely berries on top, it was also very light and low in sugar. I took the cake with me to work and everyone in the office said it was one of the loveliest cakes they have ever had!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

So now you can see what I mean when I said it was a very generous food parcel!
I was also sent a capacious tote bag, wooden spoon and jigsaw puzzle.


I would just like to say a massive Polish dziękuję (thank you is pronounced jen-KOO-yeh!) to the team for their generosity and for giving a chance to sample food that I haven't tried before. You can find a full list of the Polish Village Meals range here.