Monday, 30 June 2014

Barry M - Instant Effects Crackle Nail Varnish


For my last post of June I thought I would go all beauty and show you what I've been loving nail-wise. Since getting my nails nice last summer, I've been treating myself regularly by getting a new nail varnish or two. I've got quite a nice little collection now but my absolute fave is the crackle Instant Effects one by Barry M. I've actually been loving this for about 6 months now ever since a friend introduced me to it. 

I'm aware I'm probably kind of late to the party with this but I will go ahead and talk about why I love it anyway and what I've been wearing with it. Doing my nails has become one of my number one dissertation break and relaxation treats :)



To start I pick my base colour and paint all my nails with this. My favourite is this silver Revlon Top Speed one called 360 Varnished. It's really hard wearing an crisp looking. I watched Celebrity Masterchef while waiting for this to dry - I was so impressed with Millie Mackintosh from Made In Chelsea! She's so nice and can seriously cook!


Once the first layer is fully dry I carefully paint over the top of this with one layer of crackle. This is very important as it cracks and dries sooo fast and goes funny if you do more than one coat. I picked the purple slightly sparkly Barry M crackle. I love the jewellyness of this colour and thought it'd go with quite a few of my other varnishes. 

Finally I do the crucial last stage and paint a clear top coat of Sally Hansen's Double Duty. This stuff is brilliant! I cannot recommend it enough. It's really strong and stops your nails chipping; it's a wee bit more expensive than your average polish but it's so worth it and lasts for ages. I also think it adds an extra special shineyness to your nails when it's on! Basically I just love it.




And that's what I've been up to and what I've been loving! Thanks for reading, speak to you in July :)


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Music and Poetry


This is a bit of an unusual post for me, I normally pre-plan a trip to blog about and know roughly what I'll be doing - so long story short I take my big camera along. This is not one of those posts, I took these pics on my iPhone so please excuse the quality!

My boyfriend was staying at my house and yesterday we decided to go for a drink in Canterbury and mosey about the shops seeing as it was such a beautiful evening.


Just by chance in a shop window we spotted posters for a spoken word poetry and live acoustic music night being held in one of the studenty sandwich shops in the city, called CJ's. So we each said shall we give it a go? And give it a go we did!

By day CJ's is a popular lunch spot with a studenty vibe, they sell hot and cold food and have big wooden benches outside too if the sun is out. 

But every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month CJ's hold a music and poetry night from 7-9pm to showcase local talent, such as singer-songwriters and poets. Jules and I tucked ourselves by the window and waited for everything to start.


There were little tealights on the tables and the doors were open because it was such a lovely night. We saw 3 acts in all, with easy-listening guitar music, singers, a bit of poetry and there was even a bit of audience participation for an added twist.


All in all the night was something refreshingly different and something we have said we will definitely have to do again. If you live in or near Canterbury and want to do something a bit unusual on a Friday evening for no money at all then I highly recommend trying it out.



Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Sweet Chilli Sauce

I am a massive fan of sweet chilli sauce, and I know I'm not alone on this. It makes its way in to my meals probably at least once or twice a week at the moment. It's delicious and so versatile - drizzled over baked salmon, in a chicken stir fry, or at the moment I'm loving dipping little prawn crackers in to it for a light snack as a treat. 

I can get through a bottle of Blue Dragon fairly quickly, and with the help of my boyfriend (who introduced me to it!) we really do go for it.

I was browsing through Frugal Feeding, one of my favourite foodie blogs, and I found a recipe for homemade sweet chilli sauce. It had never really occurred to me to make my own before, I don't know why but it seemed like a lot of faff. But when Nick said that his simple recipe would taste just as good for 1/4 of the cost of a bought bottle, I had to try making my own, with a few very minor adjustments.

This recipe takes 20 mins to make, and it makes one small jar of sauce, but it can easily be doubled. 

Ingredients

200ml water
2 red chillies, I like to keep the seeds in but they can be taken out if you prefer
2 cloves of garlic
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp corn flour

Method

1. Roughly chop the chillies and peel the garlic. Blend the water, chillies, garlic and sugar together in a food processor, or I used a hand blender. Transfer this mixture, which should be a bit chunky, in to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then reduce and simmer for 5 mins.


2. Next, add the corn flour which should be mixed with a little bit of water to make a roux. Stir through the mixture and cook for a further 5 minutes before taking off the hob and allowing to cool. 


3. Once cool, transfer the sauce to a jar and refrigerate. On the off chance that the sauce gets a bit too thick and jelly-like, just add a tiny bit more water without reheating. 


And there you have your own lovely jar of homemade sweet chilli sauce! You can thank me later.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Dissertation Station


This is the current scene in my room at uni. I've been a negligent blogger in the last few days, and for that I apologise. I also blame this: my dissertation. For BA-ers the hell of dissertation is well and truly over, but for the slightly MA student the challenge has only just begun. 

Researching and writing a dissertation is a daunting task and is not for the faint hearted. I've already written one, and his one is meant to be even bigger, better and more intelligent than the last. I need all the help I can get! 

I've spent a relaxing few days away at my boyfriend's family's house which was greatly needed, but now it's back to the big bad grind.

That's what this post is about. I want to give you some dissertation (or even general essay) survival tips. Well, I want to tell you what I find is effective anyway in relieving stress!

1. Tasty treats. This is the undisputed list topper for me. It's so important to have tasty snacks to nibble on and healthy food in the fridge to make a nutritious dinner at the end of the day. I work at home mostly and snack on fruit and yoghurts throughout the day, with the occasional bag of crisps or a few squares of choc. I like to keep well stocked up so I'm never caught short. 

2. Exercise. This is the number one effective method of stress relief. I make sure I jog for an hour at least twice a week. It keeps me healthy and also gets me out in the fresh air.

3. Pampering. From painting my nails to doing a hair mask to having a nice long soak in the bath. It's important to physically relax your body, because you've most likely been hunched over a laptop for hours during the day staring at a screen. Give your eyes and your muscles a break.

4. Have a plan. I don't just mean an essay plan, although that is really very helpful. I'm talking plan your time. Know when the deadline is and have it done at least 24 hours before then. The last minute stress is just too much to bear for me! Also planning regular consultations with your supervisor is highly recommended.

5. Talk to someone lovely. Whether it's with friends over coffees or cocktails, a helpful lecturer, or phoning mum, have a chat with someone who makes you smile. Hopefully they will tell you you are very clever and you can do this thing. It definitely motivates me.

I hope this has helped you or at least been interesting in some way. If you are writing a diss too, let me know what you do to relieve stress, and more importantly I hope it's going well!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Instagram Recommendations


I've decided to do a bit of a different type of post today, a recommendations one! As a sort of celebration for reaching over 1000 followers on Instagram I've decided to pick out 10 of my favourite Insta accounts and tell you why I love them.

I love Instagram for its visuality. You see something pretty or interesting, snap a pic, pop a filter on it if you fancy and boom, you share it with your followers. When you're taking pics on the go on your phone it's great because what you end up with is your own little logbook of your wanderings to remember what you saw, did, ate. I get lots of style, beauty, fitness and recipe inspiration from it and has definitely become one of my favourite social media thingamabobs.

Here are my personal picks of the bunch.

parisinfourmonths

I've lived in Paris and I can say without a doubt it is a very special place. Carin's pictures of the city are stunning as she captures light perfectly, and she posts snaps from all around the city wherever she goes. She has an awful lot of followers and it's clear why!

annahprice

There is quite a lot of food on Instagram. This has divided opinions, but it's absolutely fine by me, so long as it looks good. Which Anna's certainly does. She's a food blogger and this is the account where she displays her yummy looking creations.

tanyacairns

Tanya's pictures always look so feminine and clear. She takes shots of everyday things and life's little joys, such as a walk in the countryside, reading a book or spotting a butterfly sunbathing.

wonderlander

I love Harley's fun and quirky photographs. She's a curvy lady with an eye for stand-out fashion, floral arrangements and her Schnauzer dog is also supremely adorable. She also has a picture with Harry from McFly. What's not to love I say!

lizziebatchelar

I'm a massive baking fan and love whipping up my own creations. Lizzie is a baking magician, regularly posting her latest baking triumphs. Her presentation is so pretty and rustic, I always wish I could just reach out and take a slice!

lottierainbow

I was instantly drawn to Lottie's account because she goes to the uni where I did my undergraduate degree. I always like to see where she's been around Birmingham. In between studying she takes pics of her downtime, which includes a lot of fitness posts, recipe posts, photos of the pretty clothes she's bought and cocktails with friends.

natalieellis23

Beauty and Lifestyle blogger Natalie is not only very stylish and very good at making good beauty recommendations, she also gets out and about and takes her camera with her. Photos from a break in Paris, a trip to the beach or a spending time at home, there's a bit of everything in her portfolio

Saturday, 14 June 2014

What I'm Loving in June

Hello lovely people! I hope this post finds you well. My life at the moment is a whirlwind of dissertation and World Cup in periodic bursts, and although work is rather hard I feel up to the challenge for one last big push before I finish off this Masters. I'm loving the football breaks I'm allowing myself, and I am particularly looking forward to England's first game tonight! 

I've also been buying myself a few little treats and getting stuck in to a few non-work related things to keep me motivated and relax in my down time. Today I'm going to share with you what I've bought and what I've been loving in June so far. 

First up I want to tell you about my proudest purchase: new running shoes! Getting a good pair is really important for me because if I get a pair of poorly fitting shoes I don't get half as much out of my workouts and just end up not wanting to use them at all. I went along to The Running Outlet in Canterbury which is a cute little independent shop which sells all kinds of running gear. The man in the shop who helped me pick my shoes was very friendly and helpful and got me running on the treadmill to see what my footfall was like. I tried about four different pairs that matched my gait and ended up going for these beauties.


I've had Asics before and got on really well with them, but I just wore my old pair completely out so it is about time I upgraded to these. I am really looking forward to taking them out for their first spin, and I'm really glad I spent a bit more for a really lovely pair that I'll use loads. The awesome thing was that the night before I downloaded the new Student Beans app on my phone and noticed that there is a 10% discount for students in this shop (and loads more places, I highly recommend downloading it!) so I saved over £10. 

Next up are a couple of things from my number one favourite shop in Canterbury, Angels. I have spoken about this place a number of times, because it is so good. Rarely do I go in and not come out with something new and pretty to call my own. These shorts were £19, which for a pair so pretty, versatile and well-made is such good value. I have so many tops I could wear with these, and I love the crochet flowers along the bottom. These might be my item of summer 2014!



I also picked up this pretty vest top from Angels at the same time. I thought it looked lovely with the shorts; or I would wear it with a pair of jeans or denim shorts and sandals. I adore this Tiffany blue colour and the little pop of coral on the tie at the back is gorgeous and shouts summer. £15 very well spent.


Finally there are a few other smaller things I've picked up and more general bits and pieces I've been loving lately.


As those who know me well will know, I used to have awful nails because I bit them down until they were red and sore. I still can't believe that that is my thumb! One day about 10 months ago I just decided to quit biting for good, and I haven't looked back since. My nails are so much healthier and stronger and as a treat every now and then I like to buy myself a lovely new nail varnish to try out. This one is another Barry M offering, love a bit of Barry. This one is part of their new limited edition range and is called Bikini. I love it! It's feminine without being too girly and eye-catching without looking too garish. It's somewhere in between purple and blue so it's a bit unusual which I liked; it's probably not going to be around for long though what with it being limited edish, so get on it fast.

During my summery shopping session I grabbed a couple of pieces from River Island. RI isn't the cheapest of high street shops, but they do do lovely accessories, bags, purses, jewellery etc. About a year or so ago I noticed that they had brought out a new range of less expensive jewellery, the stuff that you would wear for about 6 months or less and then just put out. The items in this collection are about £2-3 in price and are really quite cute. Most of the stuff is gold but there are also a few silver and rose gold pieces as well. This thumb ring and these earrings were only £2 each. I'm very much a stud girl when it comes to earrings and I needed a couple of new pairs to update my collection. I thought these were simple and classy and also quite summery. I think they will also go very well with my new shorts!   

As for the thumb ring I really surprised myself with this purchase. I wasn't looking out for rings of any kinds but I just saw this and tried it on and really liked it. For just £2 I thought I'd give it a go for the summer; it feels really nice to wear and I've had several compliments when I have worn it. I reckon it looks pretty cool with this colour nail varnish too.

Aaaand lastly, my latest cookbook acquisition. I love me a new cookbook and I think Jamie is fab. I've caught a couple of his latest money saving meals show on tv and this is the book to accompany the series. In it he shows you how to make tasty and healthy food on a budget, with a couple of treats in there too, and lots of helpful tips and tricks to use up things that might be thrown away.

I've been bookmarking the ones I want to try first so keep your eyes peeled for my attempts in the form of a recipe post.

Thanks for reading! I am now off to enjoy the football and hope you will be doing the same :)




Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup


This is my all time, number one favourite soup. There are so many ways to describe the amazingness of this soup: silky, luxuriant, sweet, savoury and wonderfully inexpensive. Satisfaction served up in a bowl in 30 minutes. 

It's packed full of veggies and with a spicy little kick of chilli it's great for your soul and your health. It's an unusual recipe to put out in June but I'd been craving it for a while and just needed to have a go at making it for the first time. It turned out brilliantly well and I shall be recreating this many more times. 

This recipe will serve 2 hungry people for a hearty lunch or tea, with some lovely bread rolls and butter. 

Ingredients

1 onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 medium butternut
1 medium sweet potato
400ml veg stock
Pinch chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

Method

1. Chop your squash, sweet potato, onion and garlic. *A great tip here!* when you scoop out the seeds of the butternut squash pop them on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and roast at 180c for 20 mins. They're delicious as a snack, in breakfast muffins, on salads, or as a topper for this soup!



2. Sauté the onion and garlic in a little oil until translucent. 


3. Tip in the squash and sweet potato and stir well. Pour over the stock, add a tiny pinch of chilli flakes and season lightly with salt and pepper.



4. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat after this, stir well cover with the pan lid and simmer for 20 mins or until the veg is tender. 

5. Blitz the soup with a hand blender until it is smooth. Top with roasted squash seeds, chilli flakes and season lightly. 


The prettiest and tastiest soup ever. How much do you want to dunk some crusty buttered bread right in there?!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Mexican/Cocktail Night



My best friend Polly came down to see me at uni for 4 days of relaxing, shopping, eating and drinking and a much needed catch up. I look forward to our get togethers more than anything because she is just as silly and has a sense of humour that is equally as odd as mine. We spend most of the time howling with laughter and getting told we're being really loud but we just can't help it and set each other off. 

I left my camera at home for most of the time so I could just relax and enjoy just chattering away, but I did document our Saturday night antics which started off cocktails at a Hawaiian-themed cocktail bar.




Decorated with tribal masks, cheesy murals and light-up puffer fish. We fully embraced the naff theme by sitting in the outside area which we had all to ourselves and ordering some cocktails with very silly names.


I ordered a Pina Colada-esque one. I'm sad that I can't remember what its name was but I know it made us both laugh at the time. I can also report that it was delicious and very very strong and made me rather giggly. The show stealer was Polly's 'Day of the Dead' cocktail which came served in a skull. 










So funny and equally as tasty! We then moved our antics over to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant, Tacos Locos, which has received rave reviews from a handful of reliable sources. We started out with more cocktails - the biggest and nicest Margherita's I've had. The lime and salt round the edge of the glasses really added the finishing touch to the drinks. 


What I really loved besides the drinks choice and the value was the awesome decor which had all sorts of Mexican-y stuff on the ceiling and walls, candles in tequila bottles on the tables. 


And the best thing? the Mexican hats on the tables! Compulsory fajita-eating attire. 





Photography went downhill pretty quickly after this because I was having so much fun, good food and brilliant company. I have that unwelcome feeling of sadness that always follows an amazing weekend and I wish I could have it over again.

And I wish I could have these cocktails again right now too!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Awards

On Saturday night I got to dress up and wear my highest heels for a special awards ceremony at my University. 


My gorgeous and talented friend Frances was nominated for an award for her services to the student community and she invited me as her plus one.



The night kicked off with champagne on arrival always a good start! The atmosphere was so lovely and I could feel the energy and anticipation of all the nervous candidates. The room was decorated beautifully with flowers and candles, and everyone looked so smart in their gowns and suits. 


I happily took on the role of photographer and atmosphere soaker-uperer. The award giving was interspersed with several courses of food, which was all really rather lovely, and there was plenty of white and red wine on the tables.


Frances and her housemate Celia did amazingly well, both winning an award in different categories!

It was brilliant to be a part of and the whole evening was a big success. There was also a magician doing tricks in between awards to keep us all entertained and quite frankly astonished. Money being ripped up before your eyes and then reappearing is just so crazy to behold!



I had such an amazing time and I am so pleased I was asked to go. We even got the flowers on our tables at the end of the night which was the cherry on top of a brilliant night.