Tuesday 31 January 2012

January instagram

I feel bad for January, a little bit. It's always dark and dreich, and everyone is skint, so counting down the days until the end of the month. But hey, it's over! It's pay day! Bring it on February. 

Here's a little recap of my very chilled month, in instagram form...

1. Getting up on a Monday morning is hard enough... but getting up on a Monday morning when it's -6 degrees outside? Ouch, thanks Scotland!

2. Started a writer's club with my pal Niki, in an attempt to actually finish a book this year! We write in completely different styles (Niki is a plot master, with ace dialogue and gritty scripts & I go "dragons! magic! eee!"), but I think it's going to be a lot of fun. And we had cake.

3. I've been pinning my hair up in a mini beehive-thing a couple of times this month. I like that it's quite different to how I'd normally wear my hair up (not that it looks it from the front!), and it looks ace with a scarf tied round it too.

4. Had a lovely night in with my friend Rae, and she taught me how to make mushroom risotto! It was gorgeous.

5. Drank some Embra beer (from Cornelius) at my Burns supper. The ingredients were "wheat, barley, hops, Scottish water and passion".

6. Post beehive hair (see photo 3). SO MUCH VOLUME. Ridiculous. I was genuinely worried that a bit had started to dreadlock over the course of one day! I had to absolutely drench it in conditioner before I started to look like a normal human again.

7. A trip to our future house! Ours is the second phase they are working on (it's on the left hand side of the photo), but it now has walls and roof, and is all going on schedule for April. We've picked our kitchen, bathroom tiles and flooring now - HOW EXCITING.

8. Feeling inspired after a trip to Dobbie's (to scout shed prices) we drew up plans for our future garden! I draw like a child, clearly, but love the idea of having loads of plants and colour everywhere! We also made the mistake of trying out a massive garden daybed... a bit like this. It was love at first sight (sit). It's hundreds of pounds. Oh dear.

Monday 30 January 2012

Dotty Primark dress

January has been a really, really quiet month for me as I've been trying to stay in as much as possible to save money. So it was a lovely treat to have a Burns night with my friends, and do something fun on a Friday night. (This sounds really pathetic - I am secretly a massive hermit, and have enjoyed my chilled out start to the year!).  

I really like this dress and thought it would be nice to get photos that I could show on here - naively not realising how awkward it is to pose for outfit photos... especially when you have five minutes before you have to leave and have to get your (very patient) boyfriend to take the photos! (Quote from Craig - "stop shutting your eyes like a nutter". Thanks darling).

Anyway! Here's the best of an awkward bunch. Dress from Primark (*bought with vouchers from a press night), cardigan from H&M, and (just visible) my current favourite necklace from Hannah Zakari.

I used one of the nude shadows and brow shaping wax from the Benefit Smokin' Eyes palette. My hair was backcombed into a mini beehive.. but just looks mega scruffy from the front (ha!).

The Burns supper was great, being Scottish is wonderful, and pals are lovely. Happy days.

Friday 27 January 2012

Floral stripey nails

I really like this nail art! I saw it on a blog ages ago (absolutely cannot remember which one - please tell me if it was yours), and I really liked how spring-like it was. It's quite Cath Kidston like too!

I painted the base colour first, then went over this with a white nail pen to add the stripes. I wasn't patient enough when letting my base coat dry, which is why loads of the lines are smudgy/look a bit gritty (oh well). Then on my thumb and ring finger I painted the flowers by doing two big dots (one pink polish, one red polish) and swirling them round with a kirby grip. I added small strokes of green polish to make the leaves, and added a couple of highlights with the white nail pen on the flowers.

Up close the flowers look just like smudges of colour, but I think they have a definite flower-like appearance from a distance. I hope so anyway!

p.s. sorry for my horrendous photoshopping of the background! I took the photo at my desk at work (my main source of natural light during the week!) and forgot to move my super bright mousemat. It was really distracting, so I had to (badly) edit it out.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

How to: make a vanilla cheesecake

I'd never made a cheesecake before and always thought they would be a bit tricky... after all, you are turning cream cheese (yuck) into pudding-esque cake (yum).  I didn't even know you could make them without using an oven! Turns out you can.

So. Ingredients. You'll need to look out a dish in advance - I just used a fairly big cake tin (with a loose base).

  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 125g butter
  • 200g philadelphia cheese
  • 85g icing sugar
  • 300mls double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • some raspberries

Start by crushing up the biscuits - a fun way to do this is by putting the biscuits in a sandwich bag and bashing them with a rolling pin (very satisfying). Then melt the butter and mix the two together. 

Line the bottom of your tin (cake pan) with the mixture. Really squish it down and fill in all gaps. Pop in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the mixture.

Mix together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Make sure it's nice and smooth.

Whip the cream, and then fold it into the cream cheese/sugar mixture. Folding basically means that you want to mix it all together, but gently so that all the air that is now in the mixture (from the whipped cream) stays there. 

Now get the tin from the fridge, and add the mixture on top of the biscuit base. Smooth over using a spatula to get it as even and flat as possible. At this stage you could just pop it in the fridge and have a nice vanilla cheesecake, but I wanted to use raspberries.

 First I squished them through a (very old) sieve, to get the juice.

Then added icing sugar, plus a wee bit of whipped cream (just a spoon or so that I scraped from the bowl) to thicken it up. I just made it up as I went along really - I just wanted it to be thick enough that it wouldn't go EVERYWHERE when poured on top.

Spoon onto the cheesecake in whatever style works for you (I went for splodgy, but it would look lovely and smart with the raspberry syrup all over the top). Add raspberries to decorate and put in the fridge to chill.

I've read lots of different advice on how long to leave cheesecake.. some places say 1 hour, some say 4, some say overnight at least! We left this for about two hours and it was still a little soft when cut into, but very nice nonetheless.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Black Swan in 60 seconds

Something a little different today! My lovely pals Jude, Murray and Niki are taking part in Empire's Done in 60 Seconds, where you remake a film in under a minute (the clue's in the name, I guess).

Grace and elegance.

They've gone for Black Swan and you can see why... Muzza has ballerina written all over him! All of the competition films are up online, and the finalists (top five with the most votes, I believe) get sent down to London to battle it out.. with the winners going to the Empire Movie Awards!

If you'd like to help my friends out then all you have to do is watch their film (which is here!) and click LIKE on the video. I am obviously totally biased, but it is really funny!

p.s. maybe don't watch this if you haven't actually seen Black Swan... it is spoilerific!

Monday 23 January 2012

Chicken pesto burger challenge

One of my favourite places to go in Edinburgh for a burger is the Holyrood 9a - it's an ace wee pub/restaurant that's just round the corner from my work and the food is amazing.. all fresh and mmm and good!

Last week I had such a craving for one of their chicken burgers, but because of our spending-ban (need to save money for the house!), impromptu meals out are out of the question. So I decided to try and recreate it at home. This was the apple of my (hungry) eye...

Not too hard, right? I got my ingredients...

Which were...
  • Crusty white roll
  • Chicken breast fillet
  • Tomato
  • Pesto
  • Mozzarella
  • Rocket (aka argula)
  • Mayonnaise

I started by mixing about two tablespoons of mayonnaise with one and a half of pesto. I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to mayonnaise, and a bit of an addict when it comes to pesto, so I'd recommend just doing this to taste. 

Then I grilled my chicken breast (Craig had quorn burgers instead), and just before it was ready I added mozzarella to melt on top.

Then assembled with salad and pesto-naise and served with chips.

GOODNESS ME. What an incredible dinner. This doesn't feel like real cooking as it's just assembling a few things together.. but it was massively tasty and gave its inspiration a good run for its money!

Monday 16 January 2012

Leithal Weapons vs Cherry Bombers

Hi Edinburgh people! What are you doing on Saturday? (yes, this Saturday!). How about some fast-skating, hard-hitting, home season roller derby?

Auld Reekie Roller Girls launch their home season with the might of the Leithal Weapons vs the Cherry Bombers on January 21st at Meadowbank Sports Centre.

Tickets are £6 in advance (£7 on the door) OR you can buy a season ticket for only £20 which will get you into all four home bouts!

I am just alarmed at how much I might end up spending on merch... eek (sorry future house fund).

Friday 13 January 2012

Totoro kindle cover

Apologies for the two kindle-related posts in a row, but this arrived in the post today & ahh, I couldn't resist!


It's a Totoro kindle case! (Who, if you're not a Studio Ghibli fan, is from My Neighbour Totoro). 

Look at the whiskers!

I got it from Rabbit Smile's etsy shop, and it's just perfect! It's lined inside too so I don't need to worry about the safety of my kindle when I am just chucking my bag around (a very bad habit). 

The shop also has cases from iphones & ipads and they are AMAZING. Look at that pug! & the kindle cases are only £16 (which is very reasonable, considering how ridiculously cute they are).

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Happy thoughts

It's been a crazy week already! I started back at work last Wednesday and we went straight into a project that needed loads of enthusiasm and energy - no sluggish days allowed. It's been quite exhausting but we made it through (phew!), and these things have been helping me beat the January (and being busy!) blues....

1. Hello Kindle

I had been swithering for absolutely AGES about kindles - when they first came out I dismissed them in a "pshaw, original books or nothing" way, but then Craig bought one last year & I started borrowing it to read books he recommended.  I have to admit I was seduced by just how light and convenient it is - and you never run out of books! I got an amazon voucher for Christmas (thanks mum & dad!) and continued to swither for a week or so, then caved and bought it.

I really love it. I was actually expecting to feel a little more shame as a staunch book lover, but I'm just going to embrace it (although I am quite jealous of modern literature students - so many of the classics are free, and they'll never have to suffer the genuine pain of carrying SO MANY heavy books around). Currently I'm reading The Passage by Justin Cronin. It's a bit mental.

2. Sweet treats

Look at all that sugar. Just look at it.
Shh. I know it 'tis the season to be healthy and all, but I won this amazing box of Hotel Chocolat Turkish Delight in a competition over at Katiecakes, and it couldn't have come at a better time. I love turkish delight so much - it reminds me of being little and watching the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (I think I actually forced myself to like it when I was wee because it appeared in the film - ha!). I wouldn't normally buy myself such an indulgent treat so this is lovely (thanks Katie!).

3. Writing!

Hi. I look like this when I am writing. But less red (also, oh, look! I have a webcam now!).
After failing nanowrimo last year (house hunting took over my life in November!), I'm making more of an effort to write at least a few times a week. I'm working on a book (it feels so grown up calling it that!) that is slowly (and sometimes frustratingly) getting a plot in shape, so I'm determined to battle my way through the story and then attempt to edit it! This has been an unexpected benefit of blogging - even if I am just wittering on about nail polish or posting photos of my cat, at least I'm getting into the habit of writing something regularly.

So on top of trying to blog every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (which is going well so far!), I'm also going to try and do something book-related (writing, editing or planning) five times a week. We shall see how it goes, but fingers crossed!

Monday 9 January 2012

Strawberry nails

January is so cold and grey (and a bit boring) so I am attempting to brighten myself up with this nail art - strawberries!

I used Models Own top turquoise and 17 pink grapefruit (which I'm pretty sure came in one of the free gift sets they do all the time). I am pleased with how well they go together!

To do this, just paint your nails as normal with the pink polish and let that dry. Then I used a white nail art pen to draw on the zig zagged bit (where the green was to go), let that dry and then paint over the white very carefully. Painting a white base first really helps the green colour stand out from the pink background.. it's worth taking five minutes to do this!

I am going to make more of an effort to fix up my dry cuticles this year, and have started by buying Lemony Flutter from Lush (along with half their sale stock, eep). I've read loads of reviews absolutely raving about it, so I have pretty high hopes - although I've not noticed much yet. We shall see!

Friday 6 January 2012

How to: make a vegetable pie

Learning to cook continues with dish number two, a massive puff pastry vegetable pie (this was dish number one). Craig is vegetarian (luckily a very relaxed one that doesn't mind me preparing & eating meat in the house!), so I want to learn how to make food that we can both eat (& he is learning how to cook veggie meals too!).

Here's the recipe (it's totally worth it!).

You'll need the following ingredients:
  • root vegetables (I used two carrots, one massive leek, loads of potatoes and one parsnip) - cut these into large bits
  • a packet of ready made puff pastry
  • some milk for brushing over the pie
For the sauce:
  • 175g grated cheddar cheese
  • one onion, finely chopped
  • 40g butter
  • 40g plain flour
  • one pint of milk
  • one tablespoon of mustard

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

Start by boiling your vegetables to soften them up. I just shoved everything in the pot at once, but this was a bad idea as potatoes obviously take more time to cook than leeks! I got round this by spooning out the leeks, carrots & parsnip after 10 minutes, and left the potatoes for another 10 minutes until they were tender. Put all of your vegetables in a bowl and leave them to cool.

Make the sauce by melting the butter, adding the onion and leaving on a low heat for a couple of minutes while the onion softens. Then add in the flour, and give it a good stir to mix with the butter. 

Slowly add in the milk, little by little. Stir between each addition to keep the sauce smooth and stop any lumps forming! Once it's all in, keep stirring for a few minutes while the sauce thickens up. Add the mustard and cheese and mix it all together.

Mix the sauce with the vegetables, and then spoon the mixture into an oven dish.  

Cover the mixture with the puff pastry (I used pastry sheets which meant minimal faff!). Trim the excess mixture around the sides, and sort of smoosh the edge of the pastry to the side of the dish (you can use a fork or your fingers for this bit). 

Make two slots in the lid (for steam to escape) and decorate as you wish! I used the lovely mini heart cutters I got from Ingrid in the bloggers secret santa. Brush the pastry top with milk (this will make it turn a lovely shade of golden brown.

Pop in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes, or until the pie is bubbling and puffed up! 

Mmmm. Hello! 

This is what it looks like on the plate. This recipe made two MASSIVE pies (two oven dishes worth) so we lived off large portions of this for days! It is really, really delicious. I definitely recommend giving it a go!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Back to work

Well, it's been a pretty glorious two weeks. It feels like I've been off work for AGES and despite committing LOADS of holiday time to a set formula of watching movies/chilling out/eating toblerones, I've actually been a bit productive!

It was my birthday and I had two nights out with lovely friends (drinks, dancing, fun!). Then all of a sudden it was Christmas, and Craig & I were travelling across Scotland to see both our families, swap presents and eat loads of tasty food. I watched all Lord of the Rings films in one day after watching the Hobbit trailer, and watched both Deathly Hallows films in a row (with a bit of longing to go back to the wizarding world of Harry Potter). 

I started my New Year resolution a little early by learning how to roast a chicken, and I've already started on future house preparation by priming & painting an ikea bookcase (more on this later!).

So it's been a good run. I've pretty much exhausted sky movies, and I am looking forward to catching up with my work pals. Not looking forward to waking up early though. Secretly I just want to copy Riley and just hide under a duvet...

& tuck myself further under the cover if I think someone is likely to try and move me.

Thank goodness for cups of tea!

Monday 2 January 2012

Benefit Smokin' Eyes

One of my Christmas presents this year (thanks mum!) was the Benefit Smokin' Eyes makeup palette. It's an all in one kit for creating a smoky eye (and a real treat as I still mainly buy cheap makeup, so benefit is always appreciated!).

Inside the kit there's a few different things...

Three different eyeshadows - a light pink highlighter, pewter base and a dark charcoal. Then there's a black pencil eyeliner (which, um, I seem to have lost between using it & taking this photo? Oh dear), a fluff shadow/hard angle brush, brow zings shaping wax, eye brightener and a wee pair of tweezers. Phew.

It also comes with instructions on how to create a smoky eye. I'd normally throw these away and just do my own thing (mainly down to habit/laziness), but I decided to give it a go and follow the instructions by the letter! It's really easy, just layering the shadows, blending, etc. I normally use liquid eyeliner so it was quite strange using the pencil again (I forgot how sharp they can be!), but it was basically straightforward.

Ignore my hair, I am refusing to brush it while I am on holiday
Here's how it looks on! Initially I wasn't sure if it was dark enough for my liking (when I do a smoky eye I tend to use blacks and greys) but looking at this photo I really like the brown!

It is a very subtle smoky eye... still, really easy to use! The kit is also perfect to throw in your bag - it's a good size and there's a massive mirror in the lid.

I liked it a lot! It's available on the Benefit website for £28.50 if you fancy.

Sunday 1 January 2012

Hello 2012!

I hope you all had a wonderful night last night, whatever you got up to!

So here's to another year then! 2011 treated me very well, and I'm excited to see what 2012 has in store. I've got the house to look forward to (I'm so excited I am practically dreaming about it), and I'm already working on my new year's resolution of learning to cook.

Long may the adventures continue! (and er, let's hope that the world doesn't end on December 21st - one day before my birthday!).