If you follow me on Goodreads (you should!) it will come as no surprise that i've discovered a new reading obsession at the moment. I am officially hooked on Hannah Swensen mysteries. Never heard of them? I wouldn't be surprised as i've yet to see them in a bookstore (though we have a healthy amount in my library). They're set in Minnesota USA and I have to admit, a tad twee. The murders are a bit predictable and the characters have that American charm, but lets be frank, I'm not reading for the killing, I'm reading for the baking.
The mysteries are lead by main character Hannah, who owns her own bakery and cafe, the cookie jar, and peppered throughout are little gems of recipes so that you can bake the delicious morsels they're talking about. I've made a total of 4 baked recipes in the space of two weeks since starting to read these stories and I would have made more if it weren't for the fact James would have complained that there were too many choices in the house!
Now, since reducing our animal product consumption I have been on a mission to veganise my favourite baked goods, so I decided to do that with Hannah's recipes too. The first one I tried was her Blue Blueberry Muffins, so called because you mix blueberry pie filling into the batter. I've never actually made blueberry muffins before that I thought tasted like blueberry, as one of the characters says, they taste like a vanilla cake with the odd blueberry throughout, but these taste like blueberry! They lose their blue tinge when cooked, but they smell and taste amazing. The crunchy crumb on top adds texture and they are perfect for a mid morning snack.
The recipe is a little complicated as I dont think i've ever come across blueberry pie filling in the UK so you do have to make that, but it's fairly straightforward. I have stuck to cup measures just because i have several cup measures in my kitchen and find them quite easy, if you don't have one, feel free to convert or just use your favourite tea cup as a measure.
On my 30th birthday this year I decided to take on a 365 project, I knew that 30 was a special year to me, over the past few months I had really grown into myself, I was starting to better understand who I am, what I want from life, and what makes me truly happy. I wanted to commemorate that by recording the thing that drew me the most each day. It could be a sketch, a doodle, a painting, I just wanted to create each day to remember this year.
I merrily set about drawing my first drawing, and my second, and then it happened. I hit a snag.
I learnt something new about myself within days of starting my project, I learnt that I get stage fright when it comes to sharing what I create on Instagram. There is something about sharing online which creates enough pressure that I am scared to put onto paper what I want. It felt like I was performing in some way and I just could not get past it. I promptly decided that perhaps sharing online wasn't the way forward for me.
There is always this discussion in the online art community about "accountability" and using Instagram to make you do something, I decided that day that I don't need to be accountable to anyone but myself, and that I would go forward how I wanted. When I feel under pressure I run away from it, it loses its fun and becomes a chore, where as when there is no pressure I will sketch and doodle to my heart's content.
I had also made a little plan for myself whereby I would work through my sketchbooks one by one, filling each page in turn and seeing my progression through the pages. That fast went out the window too. I am not a one book kinda gal. I love paper, I will not philosophise about it too much as it could completely take over this post, but I love paper, and notebooks, and using whichever one I fancy for however long I feel, before moving on. It is the way I am with notebooks and planners, and evidently with sketchbooks. I couldn't force myself to stay in just one sketchbook, so I decided not to, I have my sketchbook for random bits, and ideas, and proper pieces of work, and I supplement that with my journals. I've just got into Traveler's notebooks, more on that in a post soon, but I have found them the perfect place to journal, or do single little drawings for when the whim takes me.
So, what of my 365? I still try to draw everyday, it may take me 400 or 500 days to complete my 365, but I really couldn't care less. I like that I record things when there are things to record, and I am not just drawing for drawing's sake. I work full time on top of running my shop, so some days the inclination is just not there and that is A-OK!
I like to think that rather than pushing for 365 days of drawing and risking burn out, I am instead fostering a healthy habit. I still post my occasional doodles onto my feed, but it isn't an everyday thing, and that makes me happy.
Today's March Meet the Maker prompt is achievements, and it got me thinking about what i would consider to be my biggest achievement so far. I've not made a secret of the fact that my art journey has been a tumultuous one. If you had told me at 18 that I would open a shop with illustrated products that i had made myself I would laugh in your face, albeit nervously, as a teenager I was discouraged from an artistic path to the point where I shied away from it, so for me my biggest achievement is this, my presence on the internet where I share my creativity.
As a child I loved to create, my favourite TV show growing up was Art Attack with Neil Buchanan (I wasn't so fond of The Head though, he was creepy) I loved watching Neil make things, paint and draw and always had a plentiful supply of art materials to hand. Coloured pencils were my absolute favourite.
When I moved up to senior school however that all changed. I went from having great fun creating things, to painting and drawing creating anxiety over what my teacher would say. From my very first piece of homework my teacher was negative, her comments full of derision, she would draw big lines through my work ruining the good bits as well as the not so good. At the time we had just moved back up to Lincolnshire after a couple of years in Northamptonshire, I was at a new school with very few friends and I was also put in a random group because they didn't have my SATs results yet, that first piece of homework was done at my Grandma's where we were staying while we were waiting for the people we had bought our house from to move out (they were being difficult!) and I worked really hard on it, so her big red lines were heartbreaking. It continued over the next 3 years, I remember feeling the dread in my third year that i had the same teacher yet again, and the only respite I remember having was when we briefly had substitutes cover her classes.
When it came time to choose GCSE topics she said i would be wasting my time taking art, and that i would never make anything of my lack of skill. I soon gave up and listened to her, I must not be any good. I dropped doodling, I stopped watching art shows (I couldn't bear to watch Art Attack or Smart anymore) and I feigned disinterest. Secretly I still yearned to create, to play with colour and line and produce something that I at least thought was good, but her voice was always there, critiquing. I would visit my friends who were working on their GCSE projects and feel mournful that I just wasn't good enough, but i'd look at theirs and fail to see where mine fell down.
I took the path of working towards a career in books or science, aced my English exams, went on to do A Levels and a degree and in that time I drew one picture. One. It was a sketch of a teddy bear which I had received for my 21st birthday. I never showed that picture to anyone, because there inside my head was that voice again, critiquing.
By the time i finished my degree I needed a new creative outlet, so I started knitting and created this blog, I ventured into sewing and then decided I wanted to print my own fabrics to turn into knitting bags, if you look back far enough you can find them. To design fabric I needed to draw, so I bit the bullet and bought a tiny sketchbook and started to put pencil to paper. I designed some Alice in Wonderland patterns that I loved, but when it came to the idea of selling them I just couldn't do it. That little voice kept telling me they weren't good enough, my Dad encouraged me to open a shop (the original iteration of my current Etsy shop) but I chickened out, parents are always supposed to think your stuff is great right?!
Fast forward to 2015, my life had gone through some major upheavals and I needed an outlet, something to do that allowed my creativity to grow. My natural instinct is and has always been to reach for the art materials when I felt troubled but I had always shrugged off what I was doing like I was ashamed. I had started drawing little pictures in my filofax, the changes to my life had been so great that at that point, the little voice in my head was critiquing everything I did so I was less bothered about it picking apart my art (Newsflash, that was my anxiety in my head there). I'd draw things I'd eaten or done or bought that day. My cousin had bought me a beautiful notebook which had handmade paper inside and I decided to keep my recipe planning for this blog in there, complete with drawing the process and the finished article. Determined to get over my mental block I shared a drawing I had done for my kitchenaid mixer in a planner facebook group, it was a new toy that I wanted to make a note of using in my filofax and Bake Off had just started back on the telly so I wanted to mark that too. It blew up! I got requests to turn that drawing into stickers, so I started doing some more drawings, banners, florals, envelopes and more, and sharing them. The overwhelming positive response from the planner community finally made that woman's voice die, people loved my little drawings and the shame fell away. I only wish I had shared something sooner.
From there it has taken me a while (2 years to be exact) to get to a point where I was happy to create art, call it art, and sell it as art, Last year i tentatively posted my prints in my shop and made my first sale. My first sale of a piece of art from someone who doesn't know me, isn't obliged by being family to say something is worthy of putting on the wall. The feeling was euphoric! It is from there that my rebrand has stemmed. No longer am I just The Librarian, and my shop The Library Designs, I am embracing the direction my creative path is leading and rebranding my shop to be Georgina The Librarian, Illustration. Over the next few weeks you will slowly start to see my new branding appear over on etsy to fall in line with this website. I'm very excited about this new direction, it finally feels like I am embracing something I have hidden from for years.
This is a big leap for me, but I have never been so sure of the step i needed to take. And to that teacher, *blows raspberry*!
It is no secret in this little space of the internet of mine, that I love food. I have always loved food of all kinds, especially if they're sweet, and when I look back most of my memories revolve around food. My mum cooking, baking, teaching me how to whip up our favourite family recipes, be it the traditional Lincolnshire Plum Bread, the perfect Victoria Sponge, or something brought home from her work as a school cook.
Food is central to my life.
Now, I am not going to say that everyone who's life revolves around food has an unhealthy relationship with it because I'm pretty sure that not everyone does, but a couple of years ago i realised that I in fact do have an unhealthy relationship with it. Food makes me happy, making it, consuming it, sharing it with others, but it had started to have an impact. I was feeling sluggish and run down after eating, I had previously battled with a chilli intolerance which was starting to subside but in its place I seemed to be reacting to anything and everything. Bread made me hiccup, dairy made me bloat, and meat made me feel sick. Alongside this James was mysteriously vomiting, and was referred to several nutritionists.
I distinctly remember the first thing I started to go off of were potatoes, they were starchy and there were just so many of them. I found myself craving green vegetables like no other and one of the illest times I have ever been was when on holiday in the US in 2015 where I felt so undernourished I was miserable and constantly nauseous.
It has taken me a long time to add everything together and come to a decision, about a year ago I started to make some changes, I swapped regular milk for oat and coconut, I went for free from bread in a bid to eat just a tiny morsel without hiccupping, and after James was told he could no longer process iron properly, we reduced our red meat consumption to an occasional treat.
A few months on I am now completely dairy free. I have converted my baking to vegan recipes, and now Ben and Jerry's is available in vegan form I am happy to finally be able to enjoy my favourites without dairy. I have found my favourite substitutes (hello Oatly Barista and Tesco grated dairy free mozzarella) and my favourite sources for recipes (Minimalist Baker is fantastic!) and i'm actually finding it, easy.
Throughout this process I have been doing more and more research into a plant based lifestyle. Spurred on by some of my favourite people taking the plunge (ONR, In Colourful Company Ladies, Holly Exley and Frannerd to name a few) I have been researching more and more about vegan and plant based ways of living. With James's lack of meat consumption and my lack of dairy it feels like we're pretty much half way there already so i don't think it is out of my reach. I am going to strive to reduce our animal product consumption down to bare minimums, and only on special treat days. increase our plant intake and hopefully feel even better for it.
I have already noticed the benefits, I ate a pizza last night (not the one above, that beauty is from Zizzi's and is completely vegan. Last night's was mushroom and black olive, best topping combo ever, if only to be beaten by the love it or hate it inclusion of pineapple) and felt zero ill effects, no bloat, no bluergh and no asthmatic coughing from the cheese.
I hope that this will be the start of a new lease of life for me, i'm not going to punish myself if I don't manage it all the time (got to improve on that healthy me-food relationship) but I am going to strive to be better when it comes to animal consumption, and consider my choices a little more.
This week has been one of real achievements for me, I finally feel like I am ready to get back to "normal". I have a bank holiday weekend ahead of me, with little planned, but what is planned will be relaxing, fun and with friends. This is the life I have craved for the past two years and have been too busy worrying about to enjoy.
So this week has been a mixed bag of highs and lows, I have kept on top of my anxiety consistently and feel strong, however I have had a couple of blips, and I have some big events coming up that I know are going to challenge me, so I am going to try and keep this blogging thing rolling throughout that. Slow and steady wins this particular race at the moment.
But lets just have a little moment to "Yay!" that in posting this I managed to reach my monthly goal of two posts this month, who knows I might even manage three! I am excited!
So without further a do, here is what has made this week shine...
- Laughing out loud.
I am that person that rarely laughs out loud, I occasionally will do a sort of Marge Simpson chuckle, but a real belly laugh doesn't happen often for me, especially lately. Well tis past weekend I did a lot of this, we spent the evening in Leeds with some friends to celebrate James's birthday (28! Where have the years gone, one of our friends reminded me he will be 30 next year!) and we had a fab time, eating great food, bowling (i lost by a large margin), shooting pool and generally having a good time. It was like the ultimate treat for my brain.
- Capsule Wardobe-ing. Sort of.
I say sort of because I haven't gone whole hog on this, but I cleared out probably half of my wardrobe in the past week. Got rid of lots of things that no longer fit, were no longer my style and I just didn't reach for. It has been So. Damn. Cleansing. I hadn't realised quite how much I was carrying around with me just by owning lots of clothing that didn't make me feel happy.
I haven't gone so far as to take out of season things out of my wardrobe because our weather is so changeable but it is nice to look in there and know that I am happy to wear everything.
- Finding my planner groove, and creating new designs.
I am going to try really hard not to turn this whole blog into planner central, because the whole point of a lifestyle blog is that it covers multiple topics, but I am really loving my setup right now and am seriously considering doing a post or video about it. Going back to the DIY inserts i mentioned in my last post has been like coming home, they are perfectly tailored for how my mind works and I do a little happy dance whenever I use them. Something about this just makes me want to create, I have always been a creative person but right now I find myself reaching for a pen whenever I have a minute of downtime and that never fails to bring a smile to my face.
- US P.O.Boxes
This is a weird one and completely superficial but if, like me, you are always lusting after things that do not ship out of the continental US, you need to check out Vyking Ship. They effectively provide you with a US address, you have all your bits and bobs sent to it and they consolidate them and send them on to you. It is absolutely fantastic for those items you have to remove from your cart because they don't ship them overseas. I have used a couple of these companies for materials for the shop and by far Vyking Ship is the best, their customer service is amazing, they photograph everything they receive at no extra cost and the forwarding costs so far have been the cheapest. (This isn't sponsored, but if you do want to set up an account with them you can get $5 off your first shipment by putting 4159 in the referral box) It is life changing! Currently I have Rifle Paper Co, Papersource, Sephora and Madewell orders planned for after my Birthday.
- Healthy eating. Big time!
This one sort of leads on from my last one where I mentioned my morning smoothie. James and I have made a promise to ourselves that we are going to make more of an effort to eat clean. We aren't going full on whole30 or back to paleo, but we are making sure at least half of our weeknight meals are healthier. So far I am loving Jamie's Everyday Super Food, Anna Jones's A Modern Way To Cook and River Cottage Veg Everyday for this, and we picked up Cook Nourish Glow last week while grocery shopping to dip into as well. You know when James lets me buy a healthy cookbook during the weekly shop that it has got serious!
This weekend I will be:
Reading: The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window and Disappeared - I have joined a new reading group so I am reading this in readiness!
Eating: Tea and Cake, James and I are having a little day out sofa shopping on saturday and have already decided we will have a little treat in the middle.
Spending my time: In the down moments I plan to organise my recipe books (possibly a post to come there) and making note of all our favourite recipes and which page they are on because it is a pain to try and remember where each one is. This blog isn't called The Librarian for nothin'!
Have a fantastic weekend! :)
This week has been really interesting for me, I have felt happy and light and in control in a way I haven't for a very long time, so I wanted to document those happy moments with a post to ease myself back into things a bit. Here is what has made me happy this week.
- The Sunshine! There is absolutely no doubt that sunshine has been a big contributor to my mood this week, it has felt bright and like spring is nearly here, and i cannot get enough of that feeling.
- Lemon water and green smoothies. I have been trying to get myself back on track for the past month health wise, i have been cycling on our indoor bike most days and going for the odd walk when it wasn't too damp or wet (asthma hell when it is!) but still something wasn't quite right and in my heart of hearts i knew it was what i was putting into my body. I had been watching a few of Ashley from That is All's videos on youtube as we share a love for Rifle Paper Co. and she mentioned a while back that she had started a detox plan where she was drinking lemon water in the morning and shared a recipe for a great green smoothie. Now i love baked goods far too much to go whole hog on this but i have implemented drinking lemon water on the regular and making sure i have a few green smoothies a week and I am feeling full of energy so I will be keeping it up!
- Planning in my Kikki K planner. I received my Kikki K wellness planner at the beginning of February and it has taken me a while to figure out how i wanted to set it up. I knew i didn't want to use the inserts that came in it as I am using a smaller planner as a wellness planner, but what i really love are the Inkwell Press inserts, unfortunately they 1. don't currently ship to the UK and 2. are completely sold out, so I had to improvise.
After a lot of mooching on pinterest and instagram i think i have it just how i want it. I made myself some watercolour and floral themed inserts and used Rifle Paper Co wrapping paper (bought from MoonKo, my new favourite shop in Sheffield) to make dividers and I think I have found peace. I still love my Erin Condren planners for journalling and memory keeping, but day to day I am loving my Kikki K! As soon as Inkwell press release new inserts though i am on that!!
- Finding my reading mojo again. This is the big one really, I have really let my reading habit slip over the past few months, and when i was reading I wasn't enjoying it as much, i didn't become deeply emersed in the fictional world while reading which is the thing i love most about it. Over the past few weeks I have read some great books that have got me back into that groove, and I am back to updating my Goodreads again. Mainly I have been reading on my iPad but I have also been loving audiobooks for while my hands are busy or i am driving, I am currently working my way through the Harry Potter books using Audible, I signed up and got a free first credit and now I am officially hooked!
This weekend I will be:
Reading: Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch, its a real hoot!
Eating: Cinnamon rolls, I have been meaning to bake them for weeks!
Spending my time: Relaxing with family, my sister and her partner and my aunt are back home to visit so we have a family meal to cook and its mothers day!
I hope you have a fabulous weekend!
So in case you missed it, I have been a little absent lately, if you follow my social media it may not have appeared so, but definitely in this little space I have been. I wasn't sure whether to write about it or not because I generally try and keep this a jolly little place but I realised that in order for 2016 to be different I need to discuss what happened, I need to process how I have been affected and develop a way to control it. Also being honest, blogging is one of my "homeworks" (I'll get into that more soon).
For pretty much the whole of 2015 I had been struggling with ever increasing stress. I can't remember when it started, probably I have been stressed for a long time but over the past year it has continued to increase, and has now morphed into anxiety. I know anxiety seems to be the thing to have at the moment, but I wanted to share my experience. As young professionals it is so easy to become overwhelmed, and it is important to understand your limits.
You may recall that at the end of 2014 I had a major allergic reaction, I had hives covering my whole body and was in A&E twice in 24 hours unable to breathe., as a result of that I have been on a high dose of anti-histamines ever since. That allergic reaction also triggered (I'm not a doctor so forgive me if this is wrong, but it is my understanding) underlying mild asthma, previously so mild i didn't even know i had it, and made it into a roaring monster, that was why I couldn't breathe.
It took several months to try and sort out my medication, get me to the point where I could breathe when outside in the cold, and still now if it rains my capacities are vastly reduced. My fitness was obliterated but me being me I kept trying to find ways I could keep moving, countryside walks, cycling in the summer, and an exercise bike for the colder damper days.
Now I can understand why you may be thinking "so what?" at this point, lots of people have asthma, but to go from being perfectly healthy and full of life to not even being able to go out to the dustbin without taking your inhaler is hard. Really hard. All of this I generally managed, I am a highly organised individual and I generally had a schedule to manage.
On top of my health issues I was also going through a crazy time at work, I've mentioned several times about big projects I had been working on, and they have been constant for the past year, the past 6 months particularly so. I had also been covering two full time jobs, my own and a maternity leave cover, and although I do not blame my work because we were all very stretched and understaffed, I did not have enough support.
I went on holiday at the end of August, a trip which should have been a break, a trip my family and I have been dreaming of for years, but as we were going to Florida it was pretty full on. We crammed as much into a week as possible, and the combination of exhaustion, jet lag and working right up until the night before we flew left me spinning out of control. My carefully maintained control over my world was thrown out of balance and as much as i desperately attempted to claw it back I could not.
My stress levels were so high when i came back from my holiday that I kept believing I was having asthma attacks, which turned out to be panic attacks and eventually I was so unable to cope that i broke down and sobbed in the stack at work with my team around me. They were amazing, and told me enough was enough and it was time to do something about the situation. I couldn't cope, I had lost all concentration and my memory was a black hole.
After seeing my doctor they diagnosed work based stress and I had to be referred to occupational health, work were pretty good at this point, I was determined to keep going for as long as I could because the nature of my job is that if I am not there to do it there is no-one else to pick up the slack, It is just waiting when you come back so taking time off just made me panic all the more. Carefully I managed my workload and learnt to delegate and prioritise it properly. Now two months on I am awaiting my first CBT appointment, my workload has been reduced by my maternity leave colleague returning and I am beginning to know when I am pushing myself too hard.
Throughout all of this I lost the ability to do the things I loved, the only one I kept up was my Etsy shop (because I knew if i closed that I would be admitting defeat) I stopped blogging, I stopped reading, I stopped baking or cooking anything except a cycle of repeated basics. My personal library grew dusty and for the first time in my life I could be found sitting staring mindlessly at the television for stretches at a time (I'm really not a TV person, this was a bad sign!)
As part of my CBT homework getting back to those things I love is on the cards, I have spent my christmas break reading christmas mysteries, baking cookies and mince pies and dipping my toe back into the online world in a real way. I have filmed a few snippets of my break which I hope to turn into a vlog (though I don't talk in it, because I forgot to, duh!) and maybe that will be something that will develop a little more during 2016. I am thriving designing items for my shop and hope to grow into making greetings cards this year, and finally, I want to write. I want to share adventures and happy moments and I hope that you will share with me.
See you soon!
So, lets kick off all things holiday with my prep beforehand. I think I have mentioned before that I hadn't been on a proper out of this country holiday for many many years before we went to Florida. Usually in that sort of position i would have been hyper organised, researching everything under the sun. I bought the guide books but didn't have time to read them, I scouted out shopping locations but didn't really figure out what i wanted to buy, and I had a mountain of paperwork for the journey. I really felt like my prep skills were way off! I even did a mad last minute dash around the shops a week or so beforehand and I may have had to buy a new suitcase the night before I went!
One thing I did remember to prepare for was the beauty side of things. I suppose it is the blogger in me, I wanted to make sure my skin was ready. I did a bit of research and picked up a couple of new things on the market to try out, as well as using some old favourites.
St Tropez in shower gradual tan sounded like an absolute life saver to me. I absolutely hate waiting for body moisturiser to sink in, so was not enjoying every day applications. I have to admit though, as much as I loved the concept of this it streaked every single time. Maybe if you have an amazing extractor fan in your bathroom and it doesn't get all foggy in there you would be ok, but I found the moisture in the air just made this stuff run down my legs. I ended up going back to my old faithful, St Tropez Everyday gradual tan instead. If you are very fair skinned, the sort that burns before it tans, this is the most natural colour for a tanning product I have found. It is more expensive than say the Dove version, but I find this to sink in fairly quickly, apply evenly and the colour that develops is never too far towards any colour spectrum. It just looks natural.
One product I knew I would have to break out was the Burt's Bees Coconut Foot Cream. My feet are not my favourite feature and though i try my best to keep them in tip top condition, a couple of months of wearing my Birkenstocks had left them a bit dry on the heels. This stuff is great though, within a couple of applications I thought my toes were pretty much flip flop worthy! I would definitely recommend this one.
To go along with the treatment my feet were getting, I gave my toes a bit of a polish too. I wanted something soft that complimented my planned outfits so went for this Essie number, Salt Water Happy from the summer collection. I always think you can't go wrong with Essie, they are my favourite brand and their polish stays on my toes for weeks. I picked up their Gel Setter top coat to go with this, and I really like it, it goes on slightly thicker than a normal polish and when capping the ends of your nails really does seem to last longer without chipping.
I am a fan of gel nail polish, I don't get my nails done regularly because i worry it will ruin them but I did get a gel manicure a few days before my holiday. Unfortunately one pesky nail just would not stay on, I hate when the polish splits and peels, so i had to perform a hasty removal late on the night before our flight! At that point it was Essie to the rescue, a light slick of polish had me looking neat and holiday ready again.
This Veet Spawax stripless wax kit was the thing I was most excited to try before my holiday. I had heard so much about it and as I am no stranger to at home hair removal I loved the idea of this, you melt the wax, smooth it on and pull it off, the wax itself acts as the strip!
I had been prepping my legs well for a few weeks before hand with my favourite body scrub, the Soap and Glory Breakfast Scrub as I was regularly tanning by that point, and I wasn't worried about this hurting as I regularly epilate my legs. My first few goes I used this on my legs and underarms and though it was great for use on my legs, I wouldn't try my underarms again. The main problem I had was applying the wax thickly enough and consistently so that it formed a complete strip. This was easy to do after a couple of tries on a long flat surface like your legs, but applying it to the underarms meant it was uneven and I kept managing to rip it in half when removing, which became quite painful. If you are thinking of investing in this, by all means do, but be prepared to practice!
Overall I was a little disappointed by some of these, and I do sort of wish I had stuck to my old faithfuls, but then if you can't try new things when you're going on holiday, when can you?!
Do you have a set holiday prep routine that you have down to an art or are you like me, bumbling along trying to cram too much in?
If you follow any of my social media channels it will not come as a surprise to hear that I like coffee, I like it sweet and syrupy, I like it full bodied and artfully decorated, and I like it iced with whipped cream. I have built myself a little Sunday morning routine lately, it tends to be the day I do the most work on my shop and I like to get up early so that I can get plenty done. My first stop has become coffee, a steaming mug sweetened with a syrup or a drizzle, either brewed in my mocha pot or run through my fancy espresso machine. It has become a Sunday morning tradition.
I love my little Sunday routine, but I will be honest a few months ago I rarely drank coffee it didn't come in a branded cup. I am really picky, I hate instant coffee, even the fanciest brands just don't get it right when it comes to instant coffee (no offence to Littles, my go to for instant, it is probably our hard water that still makes it taste funky). I often would be too lazy to make proper coffee at home, I hadn't perfected the art of steaming my coconut milk just right, so I would simply go without, I classed myself as a tea drinker and that was that. When Beanies asked if I wanted to try their coffee, I thought i would give it a try but I didn't have high hopes, I didn't think it would make me a regular coffee drinker.
My ground coffee game changed the day I received my parcel. I am officially the girl that uses a cafetiere and takes up a whole shelf in the kitchen cupboard at the office, I wander back and forth with my little Bodum pot wafting amazing smelling real coffee around. This stuff was that good that i didn't care if it looked pretentious!
The flavour I got was Pecan Pie, I love pecan pie, this coffee had some strong memories to live up to and man did it blow me away. I honestly cannot get over the smell!! I can't help it, whenever I open this bag I have to have a sniff, I drink my coffee sniffing before every sip. It truly smells amazing, and the best part about the smell is that it actually translates into true flavour.
Though Beanies did send me this bag to try, I have since picked up the cinder toffee ground coffee from the supermarket (also amazing!), and I am itching to try some more flavours. I currently have Irish coffee, christmas pudding and death by chocolate all sitting in my basket on their website waiting for me to hit the button.
For now I am rapidly working my way through this bag, and finally feeling like i have found my at home coffee fix!
Have you tried Beanies coffee? Do you have any other amazing brands you recommend I try?
It is pretty safe to say that August was a really busy month for me, one of the busiest I have experienced in a long time, and I have found it oh so very hard to get back into my normal routine.
I had a crazy busy month in the shop and received over 50 orders! For only opening in July I was super proud of that, and it kept me really busy. In the run up to my holiday Bert had to be dashed to the Vets as we thought he had lost an eye (he hadn't thankfully!) and we had a major crisis at work and my line manager was on holiday. All pretty stressful stuff. Add a whirlwind holiday on top and you have the recipe for needing a week in bed.
At the moment I find myself sat at the computer staring at it, mind completely blank. I forget to do things, like season the pork for today's dinner. I am really hoping that at some point soon jet lag will finally die a death (today is the first day since I got home where I have actually managed to stay awake through the whole afternoon) I will get back into my work groove and finally start creating again.
I have about 4 different going on holiday posts planned, a Sephora haul, a carry on post etc. I am going to space them out though so this space doesn't get too florida heavy. If you are the sort of person who doesn't holiday much and then oh my god is going on holiday in less than 2 months and hasn't done anything at all, then these will be for you, as that was me in a nutshell. I hadn't been on a flying somewhere holiday for about 7 years, and I chose to try and cram Florida into a week. Mad I know! My experience was that I a) overpacked b) didn't plan enough and c) needed to get far more rest prior to the trip. I will go into it all in another post, but it sure was an experience!
I have put a few things in place ready for that time when my brain will kick into gear and I will start needing to make things. I ordered some studio lights the other day, something I have been considering for a while. Our home, though lovely, isn't ideally suited to taking photos, when I take the shots for my midweek meals series I am actually cooking them on a midweek evening, I often have to adjust the exposure as the evening ticks on. I have also been seriously considering getting back into youtube for a while, mainly to have another outlet for my planner loving side, but there is nowhere I can film with consistent lighting while I spend an hour sticking stickers in my diary, so lights have been purchased, they should be here next week.
Speaking of planner stuff I may have gone a little craft crazy and stocked up on a few art supplies, I have so many ideas bubbling in my head, I just currently lack the concentration to actually doodle them. My shop, which you will now see has a button on the sidebar, will also feature in a special blog post, where I go through how I opened it. I really struggled to find the info i needed when I opened, so I thought talking through my experience would be useful.
So, readers old and new, lots planned, fingers crossed I manage it all this September!
So this weeks midweek is technically closer to the weekend, but I wanted to hold back because I am making this today for our tea and thought for some weird reason that meant I had to post it on the same day. Weird right?
Today we have my all time favourite comfort food, the food I judge a restaurant by, the beautifully simple creation that can make a rubbish day better, Macaroni Cheese. If this is on the menu, I order it. It has completely put me off many a restaurant loved by all (Byron's Mac is awful, burgers good, mac not so). If i don't know what to make for tea and is raining outside I reach for my cheese.
This recipe is absurdly simple, and open to variation. I have only two stipulations, you must use at least one of each type of cheese, and you must add a large grind of black pepper. Trust me.
You will need:
50g plain flour
6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon chopped into slices
1 pot cream cheese
1 small block of strong relatively hard cheese (I use Extra mature cheddar)
1 block hard pungent cheese
- Start frying your bacon, you need it low and slow that it goes really crispy and the fat renders.
- Set your macaroni on to boil in oiled and salted water.
- In a saucepan, melt your butter over a low heat. Once melted add your flour and stir, cook for a few minutes before gradually adding the milk. Stir all of the milk into the flour/butter paste before adding more.
- Grate your cheeses. I have not specified amounts for these because it entirely depends how cheesy you like your macaroni cheese, what is absolutely essential is that you use a minimum of 3 cheeses, soft cream cheese, extra mature cheddar and parmesan are the basics. I often use more, adding gruyere and goats cheese into mine (I do not recommend blue cheese such as stilton or dolchelatte), the basics will do if you don't have more to hand though, and you need a ratio of 1 part parmesan to 2 parts soft cheese to 3 parts cheddar.
- Once all of the milk is incorporated, mix in your grated cheeses. Remove the pan from the heat and stir, letting the residual heat melt it all together.
- Add your bacon, and this is important, also add the rendered bacon grease into the mix. you are not going to add any salt to the sauce so you need as much of that bacon flavour as possible. Stir.
- Drain your pasta and add your completed sauce to the pan the pasta was cooking in. The little bits of residual starch water in the pan will help make the dish super smooth.
- Now the most important step of all. Pepper. Do not skimp on this step, it is important to add this once everything is mixed together so that you can taste it as you go and get the right amount. I like mine to be highly speckled once stirred, and for the heat to complement the sharpness of the cheese. In all honesty, all macaroni cheese is inferior if it does not contain a good grind of pepper.
I make a huge batch of this and attempt to store it for a few days, usually it lasts until the next day if I am lucky, sometimes James eats it all before i even get a leftovers packed lunch out of it!
Let me know if you have a favourite cheese combo for this in the comments!
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