I'm Back!


Hello! It's definitely been a while. As I explained in my previous post, my computer broke a few months ago leaving me totally in the lurch. Well the good news is that Amazon decided to refund me and I have a brand new sparkly laptop. The bad news is that it was impossible to get back into my old laptop and although I had backed up most of my documents, some photos I had planned on sharing on here did get lost.

I'm excited now to get back up to date and get posting again! Have you noticed any changes? If you are viewing this in your reader you should head to my blog directly and check out the absolutely beauiful blog layout designed for me by Kaelah of The Clueless Girl. I'm so happy with it, and excited to finally put it to good use!

So what have I been doing lately? Well, mostly work. A lot of baking! The new house has also been keeping me busy, we have been moved in for 8 months now and the bulk of the decorating is done. We just have a few bits to finish up but I am so happy we have come so far with it in such a short space after moving in with the only piece of furniture we had was a bed. I'm looking forward to sharing some detailed room tour photos with you shortly!

This weekend we are heading off on a trip I have been so excited about for a year now. My lovely friend Dawn of Inanity and the Girl is getting married in Las Vegas. Dawn's husband to be is another good friend of ours and we can't wait to share in their excitement! So we are heading to Vegas for 5 nights and then to New York for 5 more nights with 2 of our good friends and neighbours. Can't wait to get snapping with my camera again and share it all with you! Do you have any recommendations for Vegas?







A little break



I don't know if any of you have noticed but it's been entirely too quiet over here lately! You may also have noticed that I have a beautiful, completely gorgeous new layout. Well, unfortunately at the precise moment my blog was due to be picked up again, my laptop broke. My one year old laptop. Sigh, so unless someone wants to give me a laptop this blog is going to remain pretty quiet for a while.

I can't justify buying a new one, and even at that I can't afford one. Hp I hate you.  I'll hopefully be back soon! Thanks for being patient. 



A little shopping trip...

My sister and I went shopping last week around the city centre and these are a few things I picked up. I can't resist Primark at the minute for cute tshirts and pjs. Nothing practical or you know, that I actually NEED but irresistibly cute. Also a few bits from Paperchase. I can spend money in there so fast you wouldn't believe it. 



















All of the above are from Primark, the photos below are items from Paperchase. 










Recipe: Lentil, Carrot and Ham soup.

Hello everyone! Thanks for all of your lovely comments on my meal planning post. I mentioned in it that I like to make a big pot of soup once a week, and this is my favourite soup of all time. I love lentil soup, and it's so easy to make. I use my mum's recipe (or guidelines I should say, she never really has a proper recipe for anything). I tend to improvise a little on this so if you're a few grams short of lentils or you have more carrots to use up just go for it. Soup is simple and adaptable. These measurements make a pretty large pot of soup, probably a good 6 or 7 generous bowls in there so either half it or you can always freeze some for a super quick lunch as you can reheat soup from frozen.

I use a hand liquidizer for this, they can be picked up for around £5 in Sainsburys and for me are a must have kitchen item. 



Carrot, lentil and ham soup.

Ingredients: 

- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion
- 4 large carrots 
- 400g red split lentils
- 1 stock cube (2 if you are not using a stock pot)
- 1 stock pot (optional but highly recommended - these stock pots are my cooking saviours, they add a richness you just cannot get with stock cubes alone). 
- 150g Shredded ham, you can shred ham yourself from a leftover roast or Sainsburys sells shredded ham hock in packs of 150g for £2.30/2 packs for £3.
- Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Stick your full kettle on so your stock will soon be ready to go. Dice your onion and cook in olive oil until soft and lightly browned. Be careful not to burn, the onions are the base for your soup and if they are burnt your soup will taste burnt. 



2. Peel and chop your carrots, add to the onions in the pan and fry for around 2-4 minutes on a medium heat to release the flavour. While the carrots are frying, make up your stock. I usually add around 2 litres as this is a huge pot of soup. I use only 1 stock cube because I add a stock pot at the end of cooking however if you are using only cubes then use two cubes in mixes of 1litre stock at a time. 



3. After adding the stock to the pot, weigh out and add your lentils. Put the lid on your pot and cook for around 10-12 minutes on a low to medium heat. 



4. Check with a knife to ensure your carrots are cooked, if not then leave the mix cooking for a few minutes more. If they are ready, take your hand liquidizer and go to work. Liquidise it all. I like my soup to be a little thick, but not too much. If you find this too thin, at this point you can add more lentils and cook for a few minutes then liquidize again until you are happy. 



5. Once you have finished liquidizing your soup add the ham and cook for a further 8 minutes, stirring occassionally. If you're adding a stock pot then do so at this point. Season to taste and serve!


Enjoy!

Making life easier through Meal Planning - App review.


Hello lovelies, it seems like forever since I posted on here. As well as working overdrive with the business lately, Ali and I have been spending any free time at all working on our home. It's coming together and look out for a home tour on here shortly. I have a little review for you today which I really enjoyed writing - and hopefully it will make your life a little easier!

One of the things I've been struggling with since I started working from home is cooking. Now, I absolutely love cooking (and eating) but when you work in a kitchen all day, then spend a good while after work cleaning it, you really don’t fancy thinking about what to eat and it’s usually not until Ali comes home after 6 that I even give a thought to dinner. Oops, I've got loads of meat in the freezer but forgot to defrost any of it, we have no fresh veg, let’s get a takeaway. Having a takeaway more than one night a week is slightly soul destroying when you love to cook and aren't even really getting one for a treat any more but just for pure convenience.

Well, I’ve found my salvation from dodgy kebabs! Meal planning. Meal planning, meal planning, meal planning. It’s amazing, how did I never do this before? Something so simple that I didn’t bother with before has now meant we:

1. Have a tasty home cooked meal 6 days a week.
2. Have less wastage because I only buy fresh food I know I will use.
3. Save money on that wastage and on takeaways.
4. Actually use my beloved cook books/favourite food websites for their intended purpose instead of just staring longingly at the photos in them.
5. Spend less time driving to the shop to pick up something quick to cook because I feel so awful at having had so many damn takeaway dinners!

So, what I do. I sit down on a Monday (my day off) and go through either my recipe books or my favourite websites for recipes and decide on what we will eat for dinner each night of the week, then I go and do a weekly food shop. Not rocket science but it makes my life so much more simple. I’m not quite so good as to plan my lunches, but I usually have some of what’s left from the night before or something quick. Once day a week I will make a massive pot of soup and that does a few lunches. I’m also trying to recapture my love of baking as a hobby rather than just a job so I like to choose something to bake each week as well. 

The way I was doing this before was just on a piece of paper, which is fine, but meant a lot of flicking back and forth between pages and hoping I didn't miss out any of my ingredients on my grocery  list. 

I was recently asked by Argos to collaborate with them on a review of some apps, and so I decided to give some food apps a go, trying them out on an apple ipad. These are a few that I really think are worth looking at. I've found using the iPad for my meal planning has saved me a lot of time and made me more adventurous with my cooking.

1.The Practical – Paprika.

app review

I’m just going to dive right in with the complete package here. This app does everything you would need from a meal planning app. It is the bees knees, seriously. Described as a ‘recipe planning app’, it allows you to browse your favourite food websites within the app and add recipes to your favourites – adding details such as category and ratings. Once you have done this, you can move to the meal calendar section of the app and add in the meals for breakfast, lunch dinner etc for the next week. 

app review app review

One of my favourite features of Paprika is that you can also easily and quickly compile grocery shopping lists from your chosen recipes. Conveniently, you can also view a list of top rated recipes by all users which is great for giving you some ideas rather than just starting by searching for ‘chicken’ as I am often guilty of doing. This way, you can easily widen your cooking repertoire without having to spend forever trawling through an endless list of samey meal ideas. The built in timer is also a godsend if like me, you have a habit of leaving things in the oven just a little too long.

Paprika is available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android Nook and Kindle Fire and is priced at £2.99. 

2.The eye candy – Look & Cook. 

app review

For me, the selling point of this app how much it reminds me of flicking through the glossy photos in my cookbook collection. It’s one of my favourite rituals of cooking. Sure, my creations don’t always look just as idyllic but it is often what helps me choose what meals I’ll attempt! Look & Cook is incredibly simple to use, you select a category of food and are then presented with a ton of gorgeous photos to look through, with the meal name and details (serving size, time to cook etc) along the bottom. Although there are only 51 recipes within this app, they are all meals that would impress but are still on a pretty simple skill level.

The photo is the main focus of your attention. By then clicking on the meal you choose, you get a recipe and all the details you would need to feed those caramelized banana French toast cravings. 

app review

app review

The app is sweet and simple, and also includes their ‘Clean Screen’ technology, if you are fed up covering your phone/tablet in food (mostly all of my cake books are covered in flour at all times), then you will love this. This is essentially a voice activation tool that allows you to follow the recipe without actually touching the screen. You can also switch the recipe from reading look to cook mode, increasing the text size so it can be easily read from the kitchen counter. Like Paprika, Look & Cook also has inbuilt timers.

Look & Cook is available for the iPad, and is free to download (though their website does say that it is only free for a limited time).

3. The Money Saver – Love your Leftovers.

app review

This is a wonderful little app that allows you to find recipes by entering what food you have that you need to use up. Although I like to only buy what I need, sometimes food comes in silly sizes so I have a lot of leftovers and this is a wonderful tool for finding something tasty to create with them. I use this lot for soup ideas, finding that if I have a lot of veg left over it will create a lovely pot of soup that can be used for lunches or portioned and frozen for another busy day!

app review

app review

Love your Leftovers is available on iPad, IPhone, Ipod Touch and is free.

4. The little luxury –Primrose Bakery Cupcake and Cake Recipes. 

app review app review

app review app review

I’m a big fan of the Primrose Bakery cookbooks so this is simply an indulgence app for me. I’ve tried the majority of recipes in their books and never had a failure (at least not when I haven’t done something silly like forgotten to add the baking powder). It’s got nothing healthy in it, just cakes and sweet treats. Can’t complain about that! 

In this app you can find plenty of recipes for cupcakes, cakes, biscuits, icings – but the added bonus is the videos that come with it. Simple and short video tutorials to show you how to frost your cupcakes, crumb coat your layer cakes and really practical guides such as how to make your own piping bags. I love this little app, and really recommend it along with the Primrose Bakery cookbooks if you are a cake enthusiast like myself.

Primrose Bakery is available for iPad, iPhone and Ipod touch and is priced at £2.49.


Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review and will check out the apps. I'm having great time trying new recipes and have a few to share with you in the next few weeks including triple chocolate banana bundt cake! Please note that this post was made in association with Argos

Sing to the Moon

DSCF3075

DSCF3074 DSCF3072

Dress - Primark
Cardigan - M&S
Boots - Topshop
Necklace - Emily Loves Vintage

It seems like everyone and their dog has fallen in love with this Primark dress. I've been itching to find it since I saw the A/W previews in the summer. I now have it in the red one above, a navy and green one and most recently a brighter red tartan. Addicted isn't the word, I just love tartan and plaid and those collars are impossible to resist. Annoyingly the sizing on these dresses is bonkers, I've heard loads of people saying that they have sized up. The arms are really tight, I'm tempted to turn them into shift dresses actually! 

DSCF3080

DSCF3078


My boots were a Topshop bargain with 20% off and the necklace is from one of my favourites Emily Loves Vintage. I'm trying to get back into blogging (oh here we go again eh!) - it's just finding the time between work and house stuff (the to do list is never ending). Also my camera was being derp on some weird setting and I didn't notice until later. Oops. Anywhow, it feels good to be back :) Have a lovely lovely song.



House to Home.

Oh wow, I haven't updated this in a long time! Where have I been? Well, on top if working 6am-god knows most days, Ali and I have been working on something else as well. We bought our first home together! I absolutely love our home am looking forward to making lots of new memories here. We moved in a month ago now and we are still unpacking. We were completely starting from scratch, the only furniture we owned was my bed and an ikea expedit unit that I've been dragging from home to home for 5 years. So our lives have been filled with ikea trips, paint buying and sofa searching (who knew a sofa made in the UK would take 10 weeks to deliver?!).

We've made good progress but still have a lot to do. I am really keen to get our office set up so we have somewhere functional to work out of. Luckily for me the kitchen in the new house is far bigger than our little flat so I've been enjoying working in that, and there's also a garage that's been converted to studio space for me to store all of my business stuff which makes such a nice difference.

Lola is still settling in and getting used to living across 2 floors,  we are going to have to get a stair gate or something or we'll never be able to control where she runs off to - plus stairs are bad for her wee back! Our bedroom is almost done, and the spare room too. Our living room is upstairs and all we have done (well, all my dad has done) is wallpaper it as it's going to take so long for the sofa to arrive. There is lots of space in the kitchen for a sofa and tv though so we've been living off a very comfortable (I was surprised!) ikea 2 seater.

So please excuse me if I am quiet here, work is absolutely hectic at the moment (which is fab) but trying to find spare time is difficult and at the moment it's all going on DIY! Do you have any tips for decorating or making a new house your home? If you do please share! Below are a few snapshots of home life lately.

Now that we finally have the keys in hand I can tell you Ali and I just bought our first home together :) we just got the keys today. Can't wait to start a new part of our lives together.

Home sweet home You know you've moved in when the kettle follows

Want this wallpaper for the wee feature wall/fireplace wall in our living room (all other walls plain) I think it's 60s and cool also I love grey and yellow but I've a feeling other people will hate it. Yay/nay? Lovely present from @sweet_sobriquet :) so overwhelmed by how thoughtful this was! My house smells fab.

Werk

Living room colours Whoops, this photo shows it a bit better. 60s living room progress :)

#lolathesausage is helping me frame some @krisatomic prints for the spare bedroom :)

Culture night looked awesome, was sorry to miss it but I've had the most hectic work day ever! Hello bed

Out of the spare room and into our actual bedroom for the first night. Still a good bit to do in both rooms but getting there.

So ready for you bed  upload

Bits and bobs I need to find a place for



Blogger Slumber Party at The Malone Lodge Hotel!


Sometimes I just can't deny that being a blogger has it's perks. I'm a member of FABB which is a group of Fashion and Beauty Bloggers in N.Ireland. We've all had some great nights out together doing reviews and talking nonstop abut make up, and when we were invited along to a 'Blogger Slumber Party' at the Malone Lodge, well try to imagine a facebook group full of excited girls - slumber party! 

The Malone Lodge Hotel is a beautiful 119 room hotel located just off the Malone Road (not far from the city centre!) in Belfast. It's right near my house, but I couldn't resist a night in a hotel bed! The hotel has refurbished it's banquet hall and such a beautiful venue for weddings, parties, anything you can think of! There's also a new restaurant open in the hotel, Knife & Fork Grill, although the restaurant has it's own door and is accessible to the public and not just hotel guests. 

Our huge group of bloggers arrived on Friday evening to a champagne reception, and shown to our gorgeous rooms. We were told to get into our pjs and head down to the lobby! On our beds there was a gift of a super cosy onesie courtesy of Bank. After leaving our stuff off and heading back downstairs we were shown around the hotel. Walking through a full restaurant in your pjs is definitely an experience! Haha! 


Malone Lodge Slumber Party Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Once we had looked around the gorgeous hotel we were led to our own relaxing pamper room! Tables of champagne, cocktails, cupcakes, a huge bed for us all to chill out on (several double beds pushed together - bliss!).

After having a few drinks, we headed into a candlelit room next door which was laid with beautiful tables for us to eat at and a selection of deli food from Knife & Fork (which is also available for takeaway! Good to know!). The food was just amazing. 

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Over the course of the evening we were treated to a slumber party to die for. We had skin treatments provided by Skin Medi Spa. I had an Elemis hand massage which was a welcomed treat since my hands are such a mess from my job. We planted ourselves on the massive bed, had a make up demonstration by Rebecca Bryson MUA (a fellow Fabb girl and make up artist) and watched Breakfast at Tiffany's while eating popcorn and chatting about anything and everything!

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party Malone Lodge Slumber Party

We were so comfortable and well looked after that I don't think the staff expected us to stay in our pamper rooms that late! We headed to bed around 1:30am, I snuck up to visit Dawn who was staying in the bridal suite. I am obsessed with hotels, I love them. To me, there's nothing more luxurious than staying in a hotel bed. I slept like a starfish that night. 

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

We all met up in the morning for a cooked breakfast at Knife and Fork (delish!) and eventually we all head our seperate ways, I don't think any of us wanted to leave! 

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

Malone Lodge Slumber Party

I'd really recommend Malone Lodge if you are planning a visit to Belfast. For me it's in the perfect location, it's a 10 minute bus ride from the city centre, but it's in an area that has loads of lovely pubs to visit but is still calm and relaxed. The Botanic Gardens are just down the road and so is the Ulster Museum and Queens University. If you want to see what it's actually like to live in Belfast, and not be stuck in the manic city centre, then this is where you should stay for sure. I actually had never stayed in any Belfast hotels before beacuse I live here, but it's something I would do again. I feel refreshed and like I have been on a mini holiday but without any of the stress of travelling.

Big thank you to all the staff of Malone Lodge who looked after us so well, and to Anna who invited us along. We had a great time, I think you'll have trouble keeping us away! For anyone wanting to visit Belfast, do check Malone Lodge out and bear in mind it is very close to many of the places I've suggested in my Belfast guide