Saturday, 30 April 2016

WELCOME TO MOLLY-LAND!


This is Molly. Also known to us as "Mols", "Mollster", "Mollykins" and "Mollylicious".

She's my sister's cat, so technically - technically - she's my niece. Isn't she lovely?

Me and the fella have been at my sister's flat for the past few days, catsitting, while my sister and brother in law are in Spain. Lovely though she is though, there are a couple of disadvantages to it.

I feel like I get nothing done when she's around

I know cats are meant to be independent but I feel like I spend most of my time in the flat trying to entertain her or watch her to decide whether she wants entertaining. In the  few days I've been here I've gotten behind in blogging, reading blogs, even tweeting. And when I exercise, she appears next to me and watches me like I'm absolutely mental so I end up feeling self-conscious and stopping. Shamed by a cat - shame on me!

I'm a bit allergic to her

I probably am allergic to cats and didn't realise sooner as I've never had a pet and, until Molly appeared in my life, never had extended periods of access to one. But around her I get runny eyes, runny nose, a wheezy cough . . . and the closer I get to her, the worse the symptoms are. Which is a shame because I absolutely love her and want to give her cat snuggles. (Yes. I went there. I said "cat snuggles". Don't start me.) She's the only reason I've ever had need to take anti-histamines!

Feeding guilt

I have instructions about how much to feed her and that's fine . . . . it's good to have guidance about these things. But the packs of food are so small and I just feel like she must be starving all the time. Last night I went straight out after work and felt so guilty when we didn't get home until after ten - she'd not had a feed since half eight. She seemed fine with it . . . but I wasn't. And when she starts staring at her bowl and then purring beseechingly at me I just feel like my heart is breaking for her.

Changing the litter

I don't think I even need to go into this one in any detail. Thankfully we've only had to do that once so far.

Vanishing acts

Molly isn't an outdoor cat, which is a good thing . . . because I sometimes lose her in this two bedroom flat. More often that not, if I can't find her, she's either on top of the wardrobe, or in her little den (which is under a sheet on top of the sister's exercise bike). But there's so many nooks and crannies she could potentially be in that sometimes it can take me a while to find her! And this leads me on to my next point . . .

Morning woes

When I wake up in the morning, I don't know where she is. If you don't leave the bedroom door open, apparently she used to cry outside it, so we don't risk that. So I don't know where she is . . .  and I hate that, because it freaks me out a bit. The other morning I peeked out from under the cover and she was just sitting next to me on the bed STARING at me - I nearly jumped out of my skin! Plus she then winds her way between my legs as I try to get to the kitchen to get her food . . . does she want to kill me before I can feed her or what???


But despite all this she is bloody adorable and I love her to bits. Pets are pretty damn awesome. <3 p="">

Thursday, 28 April 2016

EVEN *MORE* REASONS WHY I FEEL I'M FAILING AT BEING A "GIRLY GIRL" . . .

So after my post last week about reasons why I fail I'm failing at being a "girly girl", I immediately (of course!) thought of a few more. Damn, blast and blow, I thought, what is a girl to do?

Why, make a part two of course!

So let's do this!


High heels

This is something I've spoken about before - I cannot walk in high heels at all. I frequently fall off them and/or end up with sore shaky legs, plus I look like Bambi on rollerblades. I spent most of six seasons of Sex and the City marvelling at how Carrie Bradshaw could actually not only walk, but RUN, in most of her skyscraper designer shoes! Probably my lack of talent at walking in stilt shoes is also one of the reasons why I don't really get very excited about buying shoes and I virtually live in Primark ballet pumps. Even on nights out if I can get away with it I'll opt for flat or flat(ish) shoes despite only being 5 foot 3.And I own about three pairs of high heels. So I definitely don't feel like a girly girl in this respect!

Contouring

I just don't *get* it . . . how does it even work that you splodge several ridiculous colours in certain bits of your face and it somehow all miraculously BLENDS together AND makes you look like a different person? I doubt I'll ever understand it. I've tried strobing cos that seems a tad easier . . . but I'm pretty sure I can't do that right either.

Beauty appointments

These are right up there with hairdresser appointments for me. I'm probably the only person who has come out of a massage more stressed and/or tense than I started. Why is this stranger touching me? WHEN WILL IT END???

Cocktails

Cocktails always seem like a really girly thing - but if I'm out and everyone else is drooling over the cocktail menu . . . I'm usually looking at the wine list for a large glass of their finest white wine (well, when I say "finest" I usually mean less than seven quid). To me cocktails are expensive for what they are, and usually taste like juice so I end up knocking them back. I just don't see the appeal 95% of the time.  I'm not a massive fan of cocktail making classes either . . . if I AM going to have a cocktail I want it made by the expert, not by my amateurish hands!

Designer Handbags

I seem to be missing whatever gene makes people crave designer handbags. If a Primark bag looked nice, I'd probably use it all the time. I like the feel of slightly more expensive bags, but when I say "slightly more expensive" I mean one from Oasis or Warehouse. I don't think I would ever buy a bag worth say 500 pounds because I'd be thinking "I can get 10 fifty pound bags for that". Or, more likely for me, "I can get one fifty pound bag and 100 cheap bottles of wine. . . " (I'm just hoping my mental arithmetic is right there!)


So . . . there you go . . .  even more reasons why I feel I'm failing at being a "girly girl". Any more?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

PASSPORT CONTROL . . .

So . . . my passport turned up yesterday . . . which is pretty damn amazing when I only handed my app into the post office last Tuesday evening. Less than a week turnaround time, which was a miracle! But a very welcome miracle since we managed to get our holiday booked last night!



I've now turned my attention to finding a passport cover for my new passport. Because my last two passports have ended up a bit frayed - not enough to prevent me getting in or out of the country but enough for me to worry about it a teeny bit every time I was queued at passport control, so it makes sense to try and keep this new one in tip-top condition (even though I loathe my new passport picture and would happily replace it with my old one if I could). So here are some of the options I have found!

Sass and Belle @ Asos


Skinnydip @ Asos





Some really cute options there, I'm sure you'd agree. Just need to decide on one.

Or spend another few hours looking at the options. After all, I might only be able to have one passport, but that doesn't mean I can't have several passport holders . . . ;-)

Sunday, 24 April 2016

VERY SUPERSTITIOUS . . .

I've never been a particularly superstitious person.


I don't like seeing a magpie by itself, but it's more because I want it to have a friend than because I am thinking of the old adage (or Steps lyric)  "one for sorrow . . ."

I don't think anyone should walk under a ladder, but that's more of a health and safety issue than anything else.

Anyway . . .

So me and the fella have been looking for holidays next month. We have the latter half of May off so we can try and squeeze a nice wee week in the sun in at some point. But when the fella was looking up holidays the other night, he came across something strange . . . the Friday before the week we wanted to go away was much cheaper. Like . . . ridiculously cheap.

And trust me, when you live in Glasgow, the holidays are never cheap. You see Thomas Cook and First Choice and the likes advertising their wares, claiming to have holidays from 150 quid per person etc  , , but it's never from Glasgow. Or anywhere in Scotland. It's pretty much reserved to London airport departures and you just lose the will to live looking for a holiday leaving from Glasgow that actually costs less than twice that amount!

So we couldn't understand this at all - until we started talking about asking for an additional day off and realised what the date was of these cheap holidays.

It was Friday the 13th.

So apparently this is a known trend. I'd not been aware of it before, but holidays are cheaper when Friday 13th is involved!

As I already mentioned - I'm not superstitious. I don't like planes though. On any day. So if I could fly on Friday 13th for cheaper, I think I would grab that opportunity with both hands.

Unfortunately that option is taken out of my hands for now, since my passport ran out earlier this year and I applied for a new one just last week. Fingers crossed it arrives soon!

But I'm curious about the rest of you . . . would you knowingly choose a holiday that left on Friday 13th, just because it was cheaper? Or would you be one of the people who would avoid travelling on that date like the plague? I'd love to know, so please feel free to share your opinion in the comments!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

AM I A GROWN-UP YET? (PROBABLY NOT . . .)

So back in late 2008, when this blog was in its early infancy, I wrote a post about why I didn't feel like a proper grown-up.  I thought it might be fun to revisit it, seven and a half years later, to see whether or not I have actually made it to grown-up status yet. Let's see shall we?



2008 me: I am 29 but essentially live like a student (despite the fact me and all my flatmates work full-time)
2016 me: I am 36 and a half and rent my own flat. Go me. Although I moved in nearly three years ago and still haven't fully unpacked. Oops. (And I still celebrate half birthdays. Enough said.)

2008 me: I have never lived with a guy (unless you count the insane male Chinese flatmate who lived in the room next door for a bit and terrified me more than a little - I don't count him, surprisingly)
2016 me: I still have never lived with a guy apart from Freeman (aforementioned Chinese guy). But me and the boyfriend stay together every night at either my flat or his house so that's pretty much the same thing I reckon.

2008 me: I am single and still (occasionally) randomly snog guys I barely know - usually wildly inappropriate ones
2016 me: Luckily that's well out of my system now!

2008 me: I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with my life
2016 me: Still true. Although I have at least progressed in the company I've worked for since back then!

2008 me: I still cry about the most ridiculous things
2016 me: Always. Still. In fact, I'm planning a post about some of the ridiculous things I cry about sometime soon. I bet you cannot wait! ;-)

2008 me: I have no savings. Well, I have fifty pounds in a savings account but I had nearly two grand more four years ago.
2016 me: I think I have 100 pounds in savings now. But a credit card and an overdraft which kind of cancels out the savings?

2008 me: I spend a ridiculous amount of money a month on clothes, dvds, cds, books and socialising (hence the aforementioned problem with savings)
2016: I spend more money but have less to show for it. I also have more outgoings as I pay more in rent on my flat than I used to pay for all my rent and bills in the shared flat. BUT I go out for dinner loads so I feel quite sophisticated. If rather skint.

2008 me: I can't cook for shit.
2016 me: Wow. You know, I was starting to feel a bit like not much had changed. But I can cook now. I'm actually pretty good at it. If you're pals with me on instagram (if you're not - why not? I'm right here!) you'll notice I regularly put up pictures of my delicious meals. (Yeah, I'm one of those people!)

2008 me: The thought of having kids still terrifies me (hell, I've never even had a pregnancy scare. Although, to be honest, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Right???)
2016 me: Still terrified. Still terrified I'd lose it under a pile of clothes in my bedroom.

2008 me: The longest relationship I ever had was less than 18 months.
2016 me: Three days ago I celebrated my 2 1/2 year anniversary with the lovely fella. So I've blown the previous record RIGHT OUTTA THE WATER. And people said it couldn't be done!!! (They didn't really say that . . . but if they know my track history they probably thought it . . .)

So the verdict? Older, yes. Slightly wiser? Yes. Can I make you a decent chilli con carne? Definitely. But really that much more grown up?

Probably not.

And long may that continue!

Can you identify at all?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

SEVEN REASONS WHY I FEEL I'M FAILING AT BEING A "GIRLY-GIRL" . . .

I'm quite a girly girl. I love dresses and make-up and chick-lit, and pretty hair. I take pride in my appearance. But then sometimes when I'm listening to other girls talking, or reading a beauty blog, I wonder if I'm missing some vital genes. Let me elaborate on some of the reasons why I sometimes think I'm actually sort of failing at being a "girly girl".




Nails

I love colourful nails, but I sometimes feel like everyone is away spending money on shellac (I'm not even sure about the spelling of that, let alone what it actually is) and getting their nails done professionally while my nail routine is 1) put on nail polish in a hurry 2) smudge it 3) start peeling it off the second it starts chipping 4) repeat with another new nail colour daily.

Foundation names

I can't even remember what my current foundation BRAND is if I need to replace it yet other girls can have whole conversations where they bascally name different types of one foundation BRAND that they all seem to use. It's like they are fluent in a whole other language I just don't understand. See also: lipstick names. I think the main problem is that I'm just not fluent in Mac. :-/

Eyebrows

I've spoke about this one before. If I have a day where my eyebrows end up looking remotely symmetrical it's a red letter day indeed. Most of the time, I am having a permanent bad eyebrow day.

Hair

I'll have a whole separate post on this at one point but . . . I hate getting my hair done. I have literally been to a hairdresser like five times in my whole life, I can't enjoy it the way other people seem to. They see it as a pamper session, I see it as a torture session complete with horrific small talk.

Eyeshadow Blending

I have watched like five million youtube tutorials on how to blend eyeshadow and yet I still can't understand how to do it. It's very upsetting.

Cleansing routine

I rarely take my make-up off. I have literally only in the past few weeks started trying to maintain a regular cleansing routine, and that's only because I feel like it's a necessity.  I'm not getting any younger after all! I]m still struggling with it though. It's sooo much easier just to add more make-up onto that already on my face on any given day!

"Going out" make-up

My "going out" make-up literally looks exactly like my day-to-day make-up. No matter how hard I try. Maybe it's not that I'm not a girly girl . . . maybe I'm just really shit at make-up!


Am I alone here? Please let me know if you identify!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

SUPERMARKET GAMES THAT ARE *NOT* SO FUN . . .

(I was trawling through some old writing I'd posted online elsewhere the other day and came across this little gem, which I previously posted here.  Hope you enjoy!)

Hi everyone!

Feeling a little bored?

Well, no longer will this be a problem because I’m here to cheer you up with my fabulous Supermarket games.

Now, don’t worry, this isn’t Supermarket Sweep, this is real life, and we are playing for the right TO DO OUR SHOPPING AND GET HOME!!!

It’s simple enough to play these games in virtually any supermarket but beware – they have the potential to frustrate you at times. So let’s get going….

1.SUPERMARKET QUEUE ROULETTE

The idea behind this is quite simple really. You are standing with a basket of goods, trying to decide what queue you should join. The object of the game is to get served and leave the store as quickly as you can. There are four tills open – each has a few people standing in the queue awaiting assistance. What one do you go for? Well, in theory, you go for the queue with the fewest people waiting…

BUT there’s a catch. Of these four tills, one of them is the ENEMY. If you choose THAT till, it is unlikely you will be home that night. The people in front will realise they have forgotten urgent supplies, or their wallet, AFTER the goods have been scanned. That reduced can of coke that the guy in front of you has will refuse to be scanned and have no barcode so they have to send someone searching for the actual price. Perhaps the whole till will even explode while you wait. You never know what might happen.

And you never know WHICH of those four tills it may be.

You probably won’t be surprised to guess that I frequently lose at this game.

2. AISLE SARDINES

Sardines, anyone??? No, not the canned fish variety, but the game where you see how many people you can fit in a tiny space – in this case a supermarket aisle. My local supermarket seems to have the narrowest aisles I have ever witnessed. It’s hard to overtake anyone, and if you are coming down it from one end and see someone at the other end, prepare for collision! (That’s where we combine the old Sardines idea with British Bulldog, that old game where everyone… well, RAN at each other). This whole operation is made especially complicated by the fact that the baskets are huge in comparison to the aisles, more than half the width. Therefore you have to manoeuvre both your body AND your basket around other shoppers. And if a TROLLEY decides to make an appearance… then everyone in the aisle is SCREWED!!!

Yep, that’s not one of my favourite games either…

3. PLASTIC BAG ORIGAMI

Once again, the aim is simple. To extract the plastic bag from the group of others at the end of the till and get it open with minimal fuss and minimal damage to a) the bag and b) your sanity. Sometimes this can be fairly simple, most of the time it is anything but. It can also be further complicated by the shop assistant giving you no help, a growing mound of groceries waiting to be packed while you are still struggling to open the rogue plastic bag, and finally managing to get a bag open after a to-the-death struggle only to realise one of the handles is broken and it’s therefore completely useless.
It’s enough to make you want to give up and go home without your goodies, it really is!

4. THE GREAT BASKET HUNT

Your mission? To find a basket.

The catch? There are no baskets where there are meant to be. They have all vanished. You may have to run to all the checkouts looking for abandoned baskets, only to realise one of the workers has just collected them all and is heading back to the original location with them, meaning a high speed chase will be in order. You may even find it is necessary to steal someone else’s basket, complete with contents, when they have their back turned. Hey, if you snooze, you lose.

5. THE BUDGET GAME

This is where you attempt to buy everything you need for under a tenner. Easy enough if you want, say, a couple of bags of pasta (not even the fresh and therefore more expensive stuff, any bog standard own brand would suffice), some generic sauce and a bottle of lemonade. But that means the game won’t be any fun, it’s meant to be a CHALLENGE.

So here’s what you REALLY want…

Some mince, a couple of chicken fillets, strawberries and some grapes. Oh, and let’s add in some toilet paper (since everyone knows that’s ridiculously expensive considering what it is!)

Now try getting all THAT for a tenner! It’s gonna be a challenge, I promise you that. It may even be IMPOSSIBLE.

6. LOYALTY CARD SNAP

The fun begins when the checkout operator asks “Do you have your card?” Cue the frantic searching. Let’s say you’re in Tesco. You flip through the cards you have in your purse/wallet frantically. Asda, nope. Somerfield, wrong! Morrisons, not a chance. Your library card, your credit card, your gym card, your Boots advantage card – all present and correct. But your Tesco card. No that’s lying on your kitchen table. You’ve lost again!

7. THE DON’T SHOP TILL YOU DROP GAME

This is a game of logic and/or strength. You must make sure you visit the supermarket by foot or, if you want to make it REALLY difficult for yourself, a UNICYCLE. But we’ll stick to the pedestrian version for the moment. You must also ensure it is a fairly long walk back to your home.

Go on foot and then discover that your favourite thing (in my case, a six pack of Diet Irn Bru or Pepsi Max) has a two for one offer on it. Your favourite thing must be fairly heavy, of course. Now decide if yuu have the energy to carry it home.

An alternative variation is to ensure you have hardly any money, and no credit or debit card with you, and then discover a fabulous offer that NORMALLY you would be able to afford but today you can’t. Of course that version of the game isn’t accomplishing much as the decision of whether to buy it or not is taking out of your hands. But if the aim of YOUR game is to feel miserable, then you’ll have succeeded brilliantly and can pat yourself on the back!

8. HIDE AND SEEK

In this case, we assign a shopper to stalk your every move while you try to escape and get your groceries with minimum effort. However, your stalker has an almost psychic ability to appear WHEREVER you go – sometimes it’s as if they are actually WAITING for you, right in front of whatever it is that you want to buy. And they won’t have any interaction with you, or even seem to be buying anything themselves – but that’s because their only task is seemingly to make your shopping trip AS DIFFICULT AS POSSIBLE.

The aim – try NOT to kill them. Murder is, after all, a criminal offence.

It’s gonna test you to your limits though.

The next two games are for the shop staff to enjoy. The customers, once again, will be slightly LESS happy with the results

9. I WENT TO THE SHOP AND I BOUGHT . . . NOTHING

Shelf-stackers – gather around! Choose a time when you know the store will be fairly empty and remove all the most popular groceries from the shelves. Bread, milk, eggs, juice for a start. If you’re feeling REALLY evil, remove the sweets, chocolate and crisps as well. And, of course, all the alcohol.

Watch annoyed and frustrated customer running around madly searching for their necessities. Try and think what you can take off the shelves next in a bid to frustrate them further.

It will work really well.

10. THE FREAK-OUT-THE-CUSTOMER GAME

This is where you try to either annoy or thoroughly confuse (or both!) the customer with either your conversation or behaviour. Some things to try:

- Start singing “Mustang Sally” and pretending to ride your chair and swing your hand above your head.
- While scanning the price of an umbrella the customer is buying, ask one of your colleagues in a really loud voice if they think it’s a Mary Poppins umbrella because why else would someone buy a brolly so expensive (hello, dumb@ass, it was the cheapest umbrella in the shop!)
- Make your conversation as random as possible – perhaps ask them out of nowhere what kind of music they like, so they feel obliged to ask you too and you can have a really awkward stilted conversation about it.

The techniques are all tried and tested (they’ve confused or annoyed ME in the past) but if you wish to make up your own feel free. Remember the key points – RUDE or RANDOM!!!

You may have guessed by now, that these are not REALLY games. They are in fact the ten most annoying things about supermarkets, in my opinion, CLEVERLY DISGUISED AS GAMES!!! You see, you don’t actually need to go out and play these games – because they are going to play YOU, whether you like it or not!

You have been warned!!! 

Friday, 15 April 2016

P TRIES . . . THE BODY COACH

Okay, so it's time to get another instalment of "P Tries . . ." on the go - this time it's the turn of "The Body Coach" book!


So I've been aware for the Body Coach aka Joe Wicks for around a year now, since I started seeing his videos popping up on Instagram. In these videos he creates quick, healthy and delicious looking meals, which purport to only take 15 minutes to make. Of course I was intrigued by this as I feel like I spend a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen! So when the book came out just after Christmas, I rubbed my overly full belly, sipped on my wine, and uploaded it to my Kindle, full of good intentions.

Thumbing through, I could see tons of recipes that I wanted to try out. First up, I would give the warning that they are pretty meat/fish heavy so this is probably not the book for you if you're a vegetarian. There are a couple of vegetarian-based recipes in there, but I don't think there's really enough to make it worth your while buying it. (You're welcome.)

So I continued to eat, drink and be merry until after the New Year hit, and then I knuckled down to the hard work of eating healthy. (I lasted about four days on that particular occasion). The first recipe I tried from the book was the cheesy chorizo chicken with spinach. Now, this recipe immediately jumped out at me because I love chorizo and I am probably one of the highest ranking members of the (imaginary) Mozzarella Lovers Club. So it's little wonder this was the first recipe I tried!


And it was simple enough - slice the chicken, dice the chorizo, fry in coconut oil, add seasoning, red onion, cheery tomatoes and spinach, and then add in the mozza and pine nuts. It was delicious . . . however, it took me some time to do the slice and dice jobs on the meat so it definitely took me longer than the fifteen minutes implied. However I'll admit it was worth that extra time!

Next up I tried the turkey meatballs with feta. Although I cheated a bit. The recipe actually used store-bought turkey meatballs, smothered in sauce with feta added on top. But I remembered seeing a recipe he'd created online where the meatballs were stuffed with the feta. So I did that instead, but with mozzarella because, Mozzarella Lovers Club, remember? So I made my own meatballs, stuffed with mozzarella, and then used his recipe for the sauce, which was very simple. I liked the meatballs best, although I would have preferred beef meatballs rather than turkey (I'm just not a massive fan of turkey mince); boyfriend preferred the sauce (He doesn't really like meatballs in general). We served it up with spaghetti and we ate it all, but I probably wouldn't make this again unless I was using beef or pork mince.


The third dinner we tried was the creamy steak and spinach. Once again, simple but delicious. To be honest, I'd actually intended on making the beef stroganoff recipe but I got confused between the two and didn't realised I'd bought the ingredients for the wrong recipe until I got home. Oh well, t'was a happy accident! Only six ingredients needed for this one - one was a splash of white wine, but because I was trying to be good I substituted it with white wine vinegar and I don't think it affected the meal negatively in any way. Steak, double cream, mushrooms, spinach and olive oil are all that's needed otherwise, plus from seasoning. Gorgeous.


And last but not least . . . if you struggle for lunches (and none of my lunch ideas here have helped!), I would recommend the recipe for tuna and courgette cakes. These are immense. All you need is tinned tuna, grated courgette, a bit of flour and egg. Form into patties and fry in coconut oil. Simples, right? Well, I found that mine stuck to the pan and I ended up having to bake them on the occasions I've tried them, but that seems to be just me, as my sister has made them and fried them without any issues. Either way, these are absolutely delicious - the tuna and courgette makes a fab combo and teamed up with a slight coconuttyness (is that even a word???) from the oil they make an excellent packed lunch. The recipe does me for two lunches when accompanied by some cherry tomatoes and avocado, although when I told my sister that she laughed and says she eats all of hers in one go. The fishcakes are also apparently freezable but personally I can't imagine ever having any to freeze!

Okay, downsides? As mentioned, most of the meals do not really take fifteen minutes, unless you are some sort of expert at chopping vegetables. (I am not). However, I don't think this will come as a surprise to most people. Secondly, as already mentioned, it's probably not an ideal recipe book for people who don't like and/or eat meat or fish.

And lastly, some of the portion sizes are rather big. It's worth bearing in mind that these recipes are created pretty much on the premise that you will be following the fitness guide also contained in the book (involving HIIT - or high intensity interval training) or probably some other hardcore type of workout. So if, like me, you are not doing this . . . perhaps have a wee look at the volume of ingredients and how many people the recipe is meant to serve beforehand and consider reducing the portion size slightly!

I probably know at least ten people just in my department at work (a big chunk of whom are in my team of ten) who have this book, so I imagine that anyone reading this knows several people too who already own it. In fact, now I've typed all of this post, I'm thinking "was there any point to this one? Is there anyone out there who doesn't already have this book?" I suppose, even if there isn't, maybe you haven't tried all of these recipes yet and this post might just help you to choose the next meal!

Do you have this book and have you tried it yet? If so, what were your favourite recipes?




Thursday, 14 April 2016

DOWNSIDES TO BLOGGING . . .

This blog has been my little website home for over eight years now, and I do love it here; however most things, however good, usually have a few drawbacks . . . so here are my downsides to blogging!



No ideas
Sometimes there are just no ideas in my head. I try to think of blog post ideas but it's like there's just a blank space in the little portion of my brain reserved for blogging. At points like that I start barking "think of some blog ideas" at the fella (poor guy) and then mock any ideas he actually comes up with, despite being put on the spot by me. At least he's actually THINKING of some, unlike me! Even looking through blog posts listing blog ideas or inspiration often has me still shooting mental blanks. It's like I just have to wait for the ideas to come to me sometimes - I can't force them, and it's very frustrating!

Writer's block
Sometimes I have loads of ideas, but I literally have no idea how to start a post about them. At the moment I actually have a massive list which I have saved in my Wunderlist app, and I add to this list every single time I think of anything that I could post about. Any little idea, no matter how big or small, since sometimes a couple of these ideas might actually combine to make one big post, you just never know! But that's the problem. Sometimes I look at this list, think "okay, let's do this!" and my brain just turns to mush and I can't figure out how to go about the post I want to do. Is it an opinion piece, a list? Is it meant to be funny, or serious? How do I start it? Do I have enough thoughts on the particular subject to actually produce more than a paragraph? The pressure gets to me and I end up with two lines in a saved draft in my blogger account and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It is actually ridiculous how many half-finished post ideas I have. Eventually I know, in most cases, inspiration will hit me on how to actually follow through on the idea . . . but like my previous point, I usually can't force it. If I do, it feels very obvious that I have!

Lack of comments
I don't get a massive amount of comments on my posts these days. Sometimes I don't get any. The posts where I didn't get any comments used to be few and far between, these days these posts are more par for the course. In around 2009/2010 I was at my peak probably and on one occasion I actually got about 40 comments on a post - that was a one-off experience though, and these days I'm happy if I get two or three. I know you shouldn't measure your blog by the comments on it, I know many people who read blogs and don't comment (and I don't always either) and I know that often these days a lot of the discussion tends to take place on the social media where you're promoting your blog rather than on the comments section of a blog post itself . . . but there's still that little part of me which feels disappointed when I check my blog after writing a post I'm quite proud of only to see that there are no comments there awaiting moderation.

Not having a niche
When I started blogging, the whole process was generally more of a personal thing . . . I treated my blog like a public diary, outlining the funny things that happened to me, my love life (or lack of for most of the time), and my inner thoughts and feelings when I was going through particularly shitty times in my life. A lot of people who were also personal bloggers back when I first started out have since found that once their life has improved, once they are happier, they have less to blog about . . . and I found that too, but I still loved blogging and wanted to continue. So my blog has pretty much morphed into a lifestyle one, since that is probably the logical progression for a former personal blogger. But I still sometimes feel like I don't really fit into the lifestyle niche. And I feel a bit old for it too. And that maybe my blog is a bit all over the place and I don't have a proper theme and people won't want to read it because they don't know if they're going to get a snarky list, a random recipe or a reality TV show drinking game when they click onto my website. I kinda like the randomness myself and that personally is what I look for in a blog . . . but I know not everyone feels the same way!

Lack of understanding
I think I'm pretty intelligent (I like to think so anyway!) but I struggle to get my head around things like html, self-hosting and SEO among other things. I try to read up on them, and there are so many useful blog posts out there about these things . . . but I find it all a bit of a minefield and feel totally (silly pun coming up - wait for it!) "blogged down in it". Sometimes I wonder if this lack of knowledge is holding me back a bit.

Having things to do IRL
I often struggle to fit in time to blog, especially as I like to read other people's blogs as well, and catch up with social media . . . and when you throw in 35 hours a week in the office, plus exercise (I'd prefer not to throw that in, but it is a necessary evil), plus catching up on TV, reading and socialising, it leaves little room for actually blogging, despite me having the best of intentions about posting more often, or scheduling posts in advance. And I don't know about you, but going back to my first point . . . does anyone else find that idea inspiration will strike you most often when you're nowhere near your computer? I have been struck by some of my best ideas in the pub, in the office, or in the middle of a road trip with no internet signal for miles around. And this, my friends, is one of the reasons I have started noting down my ideas on my list as soon as they hit me. I hate to think of the amount of potentially brilliant ideas I thought of and then lost over the years before I started doing this.

Maybe one day they'll come back to me . . .

Have you experienced any downsides to blogging?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

LET'S TALK ABOUT THE "D" WORD . . .

As I am on a bit of a health kick right now, I have been thinking a lot about diets.

I've tried A LOT of diets over the years, so I thought I would do a little post about some of these. And why, in the main, they did not last.



Now, around 15 years ago, back when I'd just left uni, I did my only properly successful diet. This was calorie counting - I rigidly stuck to 1200 calories or less a day. I weighed everything. I kept a record of every single thing that passed my lips and how many calories. I weighed myself twice a day. I was a bit obsessed. The main reason for this though was because at the time I was unemployed and I needed a project - so I made the project me!

Also, being unemployed, I was lazing in bed until midday so wasn't eating my breakfast until late and then just counting it as lunch. It was pretty easy to drop the weight in the end . . . and it didn't hurt that I had a nice young metabolism at the time which responded well to the drop in calories and increase in me half-heartedly doing my tae bo dvd in my room! I dropped two stone in a mere couple of months on that diet . . . and kept it off for a good couple of years too!

Calorie counting is pretty difficult to maintain though. I have tried it again, with little success. Even using the myfitnesspal app. But I felt like it was judging me - it would send me little messages as I recorded my calorie intake, telling me I'd had quite enough salt for the day, or my fat intake had went over my allowance . . . and even when it was praising me I felt more than a little patronised!

So what other ones have I tried? Let's count them off . . .

Atkins - doesn't it sound like such a good idea? All the meat and cheese you could want, everything full-fat . . . It's a tough mindset to get into though, and the carb withdrawal made me feel like I do the morning after one of those nights where I've adopted an "eating's cheating" mentality while chinning glasses of vino blanco. Dizzy, struggling to actually walk across the room without feeling like I'm going to faceplank the floor . . . and this can only be fixed by sugar and carbs. Which, combined with all that full fat cheese and meat I've scoffed for the previous few days, just adds up to pounds on rather than pounds off, sadly. :-(

Harcombe - This can be effective if you stick to it, but it's a struggle. The main principles of it are 1) avoiding processed food and 2) not mixing animal fat with carbs. So you can have, for example, lentil curry with brown rice, or a baked potato with vegetable chilli, or meat/fish/cheese with veg/salad . . . but you can't have spaghetti Bolognese. Well, not unless you're using fecking courgetti that is. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind courgetti but it's no substitute for actual spaghetti made out of actual spaghetti. And while Iove chilli con carne just topped with cheese and a big dod of natural yogurt, sometimes I really want it to be chilli nachos, which would be a no-no with Harcombe. So, although I did actually lose a wee bit of weight on this one, and fast, this wasn't a sustainable diet for me.

Clean eating - I can't give up dairy. I can't give up chocolate. I can't give up wine. I lasted about a day on this one. Then made up for it by eating all the unclean stuff.

Sugar-free - I have read the "I Quit Sugar" books (I'll do a "P Tries..." post on that soon) and I actually thought this would be an okay one to try. So much you can actually still eat on a sugar-free diet, surprisingly. Dairy, cheese in particular. (Can you tell I really really REALLY love cheese?) Potatoes and pasta, things that you would think would be bad for you! Even crisps. Oh, and wine isn't forbidden either! I lasted four days on this before I got sick of looking at ingredient labels and seeing "sugar" listed everywhere. And I probably just really REALLY wanted a Dominos.

5:2 - now I thought this could be "the one" - for anyone who has been living under Big Brother house conditions for the past several years, this is when you eat 500 calories or less two days out of any week followed by whatever you like (I imagine within reason) the other five days. Only worrying about calories 2 days a week? This seemed perfect. However, a few problems. Firstly, I became utterly obsessed with food on the days I was starving myself. I actually had to look up recipes to take my mind off the hunger and force myself not to lick my computer screen. Secondly, because calorie counting is an absolute arse, I was eating ready meals and processed jelly pots so it was easier to add up the energy I was taking in.  And thirdly, I was eating waaayyy too much on my feast days to make up for the fast days. (You can read about my - very brief - experience on 5:2 and the time I ended up crying in the office car park after forgetting my lunch right here if you care to do so!)

Last but not least . . . we have Slimming World.  Now, I don't go to classes. The idea of being weighed by a stranger is bloody terrifying to me. But I have got a hold of the general principles and I do my best to stick to them. I like the fact that it makes me think about what I'm putting in my body, that it makes me plan my food in advance, and that I get to make some utterly delicious meals from scratch. (I will share some of these very soon.) I don't like the fact that, according to its principles, avocado isn't something I can eat on the regular, and the fella doesn't like the amount of dirty dishes it seems to create . . . but overall, out of all of the diets, it's the closest to a healthy, balanced lifestyle I have found so far and the easiest to stick to.  And I can still eat cheese.

Still not happy about the flipping avocado though!

Do you follow any sort of diet?

Monday, 11 April 2016

THE "MADE IN CHELSEA" DRINKING GAME . . .

So "Made in Chelsea" is back on our screens as of tonight. So, in honour of this, I have decided to make up a little drinking game for it.


Sidebar: Please note I am not playing this game myself, nor do I encourage you to do so. Since I reckon that if you drank every time one of the below things happened, you wouldn't make it through the first half of the show before you were pretty damn tipsy. This is really just for funsies.

Warning made, if we were playing this drinking game, here are the points when you should take a drink . . .

***When someone has an intense meeting next to the river. In the usual place. You know where I mean. ;-)

***When Lucy makes her “awkward” face.

***When Spenny hits on one of his mate’s new girlfriends.

***When it turns out Spenny actually slept with his mate’s new girlfriends in the past.

***When Spenny acts like he has no idea what he has done wrong, despite having hit on or slept with one of his mate's new girlfriends.  (Apparently Spencer is not actually returning to the show - boo - but I've never let reality stop me from a wee joke.)

***When Louise cries. Again.

***When Jamie throws his metaphorical toys out of the pram due to a girl not immediately falling at his feet.

***When Lucy and Tiff have a strangely unemotional but apparently sisterly argument.

***When a character appears who you have never met before in the last however many series but everyone seems to know them and talks about them like you should know them too.

***When that character is immediately very annoying and has probably slept with at least one cast member already.

***Whenever Mark Francis and Victoria make horrid comments about anyone else in the show.
***When Ollie changes the current team he plays for.
***When Sam says or does something stupid.

Are you a "Made in Chelsea" fan? Can you think of any more to add to the game?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

MY "SCOTLAND THE BEAUTIFUL" WISHLIST . . .

As you probably know if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, I love Scotland and regularly document some of the fab places I've travelled to in this gorgeous country. But there are so many places I have yet to see in real life. So, here I present to you . . . My "Scotland the Beautiful" wishlist!


1) Lewis and Harris
Did you know this is the third largest island in the British Isles, bested only by the United Kingdom and Ireland themselves? Well, now you do! I know quite a few people from the Outer Hebrides and have always been intrigued by Lewis and Harris. Plus the beaches look bloody incredible, like something that belongs abroad in far warmer climes.

2) Orkney
Orkney actually consists of seventy islands. SEVENTY! I've always wanted to go here, if I did go it would be the furthest north in the world I would ever have been.

3) Take the train all the way from Glasgow to Mallaig
I love long train journeys and I am desperate to go this train route. We've driven up to Mallaig before but when I have occasionally spotted the train weaving its way through Glencoe I've felt very jealous. I've been to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct but I want to be ON it (Not in an "Anchorman" type way I hasten to add.) But it's so expensive! Maybe if I win the lottery or something.

4) Arran
I feel like everyone has been to the island of Arran but me. I've wanted to visit for years - I don't know why I haven't! When I do go I'm sure I will be using my lovely friend Smidge's guide to what to do there.

5) Bute
Jeez, it's pretty much all bloomin' islands isn't it? I must have a thing for them, I guess.

6) Great Cumbrae
I nearly made it here once - we were in the queue for the car ferry over for ages. We didn't actually end up ON the ferry though. Long story.

7) Fairy pools
When we went to Skye last April (my post about that can be found here), I was especially keen to see the Fairy Pools. Unfortunately they were the one sight on my must-see list that went unseen by me. This was partly because of horrendous weather, and partly because the path down to them was being dug up. I want to go back to Skye at some point anyway, and when I do, I will be making certain that I get to see these!

8) Slate Islands
I only found out about this little set of islands a few weeks ago, when we ended up on one of them by accident! You can get onto one of them by bridge (which is how we got there without even realising at the time that we were on an island!) but I'd love to visit the other ones! They can be found near the lovely town of Oban.

9) Ardessie Falls
You know I love a good waterfall - we intended to check these ones out when we were doing the North Coast 500 last year, but time got away from us and we had to cancel. Next time for definite!

10) Mull
Yep, you guessed it - another island! I think I'm going to have to work out a way to try and do a few of these islands in one go, as I don't have time for all of these holidays! :-)

You can rest assured that when I make it to these places, I will share all about it here - in the meantime you can check out my other Scottish adventures here - and next up in the series will be next weekend's trip which will be taking in the Cairngorms. Can't wait!

Have I missed any places out? Where in Scotland is on your wishlist?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

6 INCREDIBLY BORING LIFE ACTIVITIES . . .

Life can be such good fun sometimes. But there are always tedious activities to bring us back down to reality. Here are some of mine . . .

  • Blow-drying hair. I find hair-drying one of the most boring things ever. I can't watch the tv while I do it because it's noisy - unless I use subtitles, and it's really difficult to multi-task by doing any other activity (I've discovered you can just about read a Kindle at the same time but it's hard to concentrate with the aforementioned noise.) Perhaps if I ended up with a headful of glossy bouncy locks once I'd finished I'd feel differently - but I never do. And I usually still have to straighten it anyway. Which, incidentally, is also supremely boring. Especially straightening the back of my hair. This is something I frequently give up on . . . (And yes, I know I could just let it dry naturally but 9 out of 10 times the finished look does not work for me and is worse than the half straightened, half curly do.)

  • And speaking of hair, dyeing my hair is also immensely tedious - especially knowing I have to blow-dry it afterwards. Mixing all the components of the dye together, trying to coat the roots, timing how long I've had it on the roots, spreading it over the rest of my hair, waiting again . . . and then it takes about three times the amount of time a normal hair-washing session does to take it out. Which leads me onto . . .

  • Showering. I've talked about this before so I won't go into it again. All I'll say is . . . it's a necessary evil (and, incidentally, the only real NECESSARY activity on my boring activity list!) but I try to get my showers over as quickly as possible.

  • Chopping vegetables. Don't get me wrong, I've grown to love cooking. But I really REALLY can't be bothered with the standing around chopping up vegetables for whatever delectable delight I am cooking on any particular night. I'm starting to embrace frozen vegetables as a result. (Not literally, mind - frozen veg is too cold to hug for long.)

  • Making risotto. I heart risotto very much, and have even found a recipe for it that I've tried several times and love. But it drives me mad having to stand and keep a constant watch on it . . . and keep stirring. As I've said before on Twitter, it's enough to give you RSI - Risotto Stirring Injury.

  • Queuing . . . for pretty much anything. Particularly in theme parks where you essentially spend entire days at a time queuing for a fraction of the time on an exciting attraction. Is it really worth it? "Yay, I'm finally on that ride I've been queuing for an hour and a half for! Oh, it's over. What's next? ANOTHER QUEUE!!!" (insert incredibly sarcastic "yay" here.)

And don't even get me started on housework. Because I've already covered that one too . . .


What life activities bore you?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

P TRIES . . . "DELICIOUSLY ELLA EVERY DAY"!

The Kindle has a couple of disadvantages for me. One - and I've mentioned this before - I read less yet buy more books. Secondly, I keep buying cookbooks. Which is ridiculous because, although I've got more adventurous with recipes, I still struggle a bit with stepping out of my comfort zone and it can take my brain some convincing to actually try out new dishes.

That being said, I am hitting my stride and, despite mentioning in my post yesterday I don't cook from scratch enough, I do still do it several times a week and I took my new year's resolution to learn more recipes to heart. So I thought I'd do some posts covering some of the recipes I've tried out . . . but I'd group them together by the book or website I got them from.


So in this first "P Tries . . ." post I am looking at the book "Deliciously Ella Every Day" and the recipes I've cooked up out of there.  This book is her second, and I prefer it over her first - I have yet to try anything out of that one. But I've tried a few recipes out of this particular one, and there's a few I still want to try. And I've been largely impressed. The focus is on healthy eating and the recipes are gluten free and largely vegetarian/vegan . . . although me being me, I've done my best to change that at times!


The first recipe I tried was the roasted maple sprouts. Now, I'm not really one generally for mixing sweet/fruit and savoury, especially with a spice element thrown in just to mix it up even more, but for some reason the combination of ingredients in this salad/side dish really jumped out at me. The combination of Brussel sprouts (which I am a massive lover of btw) combined with potatoes, chilli flakes, pomegranate seeds, nuts and maple syrup did not disappoint! I swapped the hazelnuts in the recipe for pine nuts since that's what I had, and served as a main dish to me and the fella along with grilled goats cheese and red onion. It was pretty damn amazing and one of those dishes I've been thinking of ever since. (It was also the first time I'd ever sampled pomegranate seeds. How did I get to 36 without having tried those before???)


The success of that recipe spurred me on to try another one that had appealed to me - the chickpea and squash salad. Now, one of the things that immediately appealed to me about Deliciously Ella is that she feels strongly that a salad should be interesting and not just a bunch of limp lettuce leaves and not much else. And I thought that this salad sounded delicious. Because I'm not sure about butternut squash, I used sweet potato instead (which was another suggestion), which is baked with chickpeas, spices, seasoning and oil. Rocket (I subbed in spinach) and sundried tomatoes and a honey-based dressing were then added to the cooled sweet potato and chickpeas. Oh and I added feta because I'm an unashamed cheese fiend. I made enough to do me for two work lunches and I thoroughly enjoyed it on both days. Another dish I would definitely make again.


I was therefore excited to try out the next recipe on my to-do list which was the chickpea, quinoa and turmeric curry.  Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this one as much. This could be my own fault - the smell of it was absolutely AMAZING for the first 20 minutes or so of the quinoa cooking, then I forgot about it due to something I was watching on the TV and it ended up smelling more burnt instead sadly. It was still tasty but I probably wouldn't make it again.

There are loads of recipes in this book that look delicious and I will definitely be trying some of them soon, particularly the breakfasts that I can make in advance and eat on-the-go (maple chia pots, bircher muesli and carrot cake muffins, I'm looking at you!) and the some of the healthy snack and other salad options. There are also tons of soup and batch cooking recipes for those of you who like to be organised.

One thing I definitely can't see myself trying though is the gluten free, vegan equivalent of carbonara.  I'm sure it's very tasty but it has butternut squash in the sauce and I simply can't accept that. If you do try that one though, or have already tried it, I would love you to tell me what it was like.


Have you tried any of Deliciously Ella's recipes? What were your favourites?
 

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

THE ONE WHERE I THANK THE HUMBLE BATHROOM SCALE . . .


I weighed myself yesterday.

I know, I know . . . the scale is the "sad step" and you shouldn't go by what it says or let it control your life and I agree most of the time, yes.

BUT . . . when you haven't had a working scale for six months plus and have spent waayyy too much time and money consuming Dominos pizza and imbibing Chenin Blanc, while not doing all that much exercise (okay, no exercise at all apart from a once-a-week pole fitness class and the occasional walk around the supermarket on the three days a week you feign healthiness), it's easy for the pounds to creep on and for you to stay in denial about it. (Holy crap, that was a long sentence!)

It is so easy to stay in denial if you don't see the figures for yourself.

And pizza is just so delicious. And wine.

And chips and cheese.

And the garlic bread with cheese you sneakily add on as a side to the healthy pasta dish you've made on one of your "better" days. 

Or the chocolate bar you have for breakfast out the vending machine at work because you forgot to make your overnight oats or crustless quiche. Every day for a week.

(I'm exaggerating

And you think about the idea of doing exercise about hundred times more than you actually do it. Because you've had a shit day and all you want to do is go home and sit around in your pjs watching Impractical Jokers on repeat until you can shake off the remains of the day. And isn't laughing a lot a great workout for the core? (I must have abs of steel buried under there somewhere, for sure.)

So anyway . . . I stood on the scale yesterday. And that was it. It was like that part in the film Mulholland Drive where the mysterious box gets opened and everything suddenly changes. Except slightly less dramatic.

Because I'd put on a stone since the last time I'd weighed myself. More than a stone. And I wasn't at my target weight, or anywhere near it, in the first place. I am the heaviest I have ever been.

So now I am on a mission.

To eat as healthy as I can. To cook from scratch whenever possible. To not have a bad day and then just keep tacking on more bad days, so that before I know it I've been gorging on takeaways for close to a week (it doesn't happen a lot - thank goodness - but it does happen). To not deny myself anything, but try to moderate the things that I know are bad for me. (For example, you would never see me giving up cheese . . . but I will try to eat less of it).

Oh, and actually get off my butt and do some fecking exercise.

Let me dust off my non-existent willpower and see if I can actually make a difference.

I might not necessarily have a body I feel confident showing off by the time I (hopefully) go on holiday next month . . . but if I could even just start to fit back into some of my old clothes by next month it would be a victory in itself. It would be like having a whole new wardrobe!

So, thank you, scales . . . for once, you've actually been the wake-up call I needed!

Friday, 1 April 2016

10 THINGS THAT CAN MAKE YOU FEEL OLD . . .

Being 36 is . . . well a lot of the time I forget I'm actually 36 so it's not all that bad. I don't look that old, and I certainly don't act that old so I often feel younger than I am. But there are certain things that are virtually guaranteed to make me (and possibly you also?) feel old . . . and here are some examples!

  • When someone younger tells you they really like that new (insert artist here) song but it's actually a cover version and they don't realise that and you remember the original version like it was yesterday. See also: film remakes. (or "reboots" as they seem to be calling them now...)

  • When someone 10 years younger than you is going on about how old they are. No. Please stop it now.  (If you're 10 years older than me and reading this, I apologise in advance and realise the irony.)

  • When you're talking about a TV programme from your childhood and no one else remembers it. Recently happened to me when Paul Daniels died, and I was trying to describe the TV show Wizbit to one of my colleagues - but when I googled it I found a website which said it had stopped running in 1986, which was the year she was born. AND I ACTUALLY THINK OF HER AS BEING THE SAME AGE AS ME!

  • When you remember recording your favourite songs off the top 40 on a cassette recorder, Betamax vs VHS wars . . . and you still refer to recording programmes on your Tivo or Sky+ as "taping.

  • When you realise that people who have just became legal to drink WERE BORN IN THE MID-NINETIES and you became legal to drink in 1997.

  • When you're on a night out and you're the only one who is not ID'd.

  • And speaking of which, when you're buying a bottle of wine at the self-service checkout in Tesco and the member of staff authorising you are legal to buy alcohol barely even glances at you before stabbing the "customer is clearly over 25" option on the screen. Absolutely gutting.

  • When you realise that the "new" pub you are currently in has had five or six different incarnations in the many years you've been legal to drink . . . and you've been in every version of it. And still prefer the original.

  • When you remember a time when candles were only there for emergency purposes in the event of a powercut. Now you can end up paying 20 quid for one just because it looks and/or smells nice.

  • Grey hair. And not on purpose. I don't even feel like I need to elaborate on this one.

Can you identify? What else makes you feel old?