Tuesday, 17 December 2013

1st Wedding Anniversary

Getting married after a whirlwind romance, many people thought we wouldn't last through our first year of marriage.

I'm glad to say that on Friday we proved them wrong... We happily celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary!

We were lucky enough to both have a long weekend off so decided to do something really special to celebrate.

Friday morning at 0930 I finished work and blearily-eye hopped into Hubby's car, who was waiting outside work to whisk me away. I headed home, changed out of my scrubs and threw myself under the shower and then threw some bits and bobs in a suitcase. We were going away.

I grabbed my pillow and settled down in the passenger seat of the car for a post-nightshift snooze. We were off to Cornwall, but I needed a few hours of sleep. Next thing I knew I'd woken up with tummy rumblings on the A303... home of about 2 million Little Chefs. Feeling nostalgic we stopped for lunch.

I had a burger and Hubby had a veggie burger. To be honest I expected them to be awful, but they were alright. The patty's were still juicy, buns fresh and they had onions rings inside... yum yum yum! They also came with crispy chips and delicious coleslaw. Maybe it was just the exhaustion speaking or maybe Little Chef is tastier than I remember?!

Just after 5pm we arrived at our beautiful little cottage in Cornwall. We stayed in the magical Stargazey, one of the cottages that makes up Woolsdown Cottages near Bude. The cottage was so beautiful that it really deserves its own post... so that's what I'm going to do later on in the week.

We spent the evening drinking Champagne (that we were given on our wedding day), eating posh Waitrose food and lounging in the enormous tin bath.

The next morning we went to the Eden Project, a place I've wanted to go since it opened (and I'll write another post about that too). Another evening was spent watching DVDs, eating delicious food and trying not to drown in that big big big bath!

It was with a heavy heart that we packed up our bits to leave on Sunday, although we had a big smile put on our faces by the lovely family who own the cottage we stayed in... they gave us a cute little bag of goodies to nibble on in the car. So thoughtful!

The drive home was about 5 hours, so a couple of hours in we stopped to stretch our legs. On our wanderings we found a beautiful little bridge and I insisted on a quick game of Pooh sticks. I lost... but it's the taking part that counts, right?

After a long drive we were back at home, with lots of happy memories (and lots of work to make up for!!). I can't wait until the next weekend we get to spend together!!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Last Minute Wedding Planning

This time a year ago it was just a few days until my Wedding. Rather unconventionally I met my husband exactly 3 months to the day before we got married. People still ask how I knew he was the one, but I simply just knew. A year down the line, if I could go back in time, I still wouldn't change my mind.

As you can imagine we didn't have much time to plan a wedding. 

We decided on the 13th of December for a couple of reasons. Firstly it seemed fitting to pick a day that was exactly 3 months since we met, secondly being a week day made it easier to organise as placed weren't booked and finally it means that every year our wedding anniversary will fall in the middle of a yearly meteor shower. Very romantic. 

We knew that we just wanted something small. Both hubby and I can be quite shy. We have also both lost a parent and I recently lost my godmother too. A big wedding wouldn't have been right for us without them. 

At the time we lived close to Brighton. It seemed the perfect place. Lots of places that we could potentially have dinner, hotels for the few relatives who were coming to stay at and I could spend the night before at my best friend's house in Hove.

We decided on the Town Hall. The little rooms are sumptuously decorated and the town hall itself is very grand looking. They're also so helpful (and a bit of a bargain too!).

After that we could do the boring bit of giving notice. No-one told me that they'd split us up into two appointments and ask us both questions about the other. I spelt hubby's middle name wrong and was a bit worried that they'd not let us get married... thankfully they did! Finally we could start to sort out the details...

We bought our simple wedding bands while visiting the in-laws one weekend and hubby bought a suit for the occasion too. That was pretty much all of the stuff hubby had to sort out... I still had quite a lot to do.

The first (and maybe scariest) thing I bought was my dress. I remember going home to tell my dad that I was getting married in 5 weeks time. He was delighted for me, which was wonderful as I was so worried that he'd tell me not to rush things. The next morning one of the girls who works with him, that I've known for ages dragged me "just to look' at a couple of dresses... reminding me that 5 weeks was not a long time. 

I knew we'd be having a small wedding, so as beautiful as big puffy princess dresses are, it just wouldn't have been right. Initially I thought I'd get a 50s style calf length wedding dress but I went along with trying on some other styles. I loved the big princesses dresses and had such fun putting them on, but then I tried on something special. A full length floaty dress with sheer arms and little jewelled straps. Nothing like I had imagined but it was perfect. Even more perfect was the fact that the sample size fitted. So having just gone out to try on dresses for fun by lunchtime that day I had my beautiful wedding dress packed carefully and was carrying it home. Getting shoes ended up being an equally simple (but much less expensive) trip to Debenhams.

At the time of our wedding our youngest niece had recently been discharged from special care and still needed oxygen with her all the time. We needed to find somewhere to have dinner afterwards that meant we wouldn't be exposing her to lots of germs. A very short stroll from the town hall is the Hotel Du Vin. They have a beautiful little private dining room with an open fire and a good wine list. Two things that were very important to us. We decided to book there. 

(I had to pinch the picture from www.myboutiquehotel.com)

At the same time I found they had some very lovely hotel rooms. The nicest room not only had two roll top baths in the bedroom but also a telescope. Perfect for watching the falling stars out of the window! Thankfully the room was still free with only a month or so to go, so we booked that too.

I often wonder what the people at the hotel thought when I was booking things so last minute. I'm sure that they thought I was insane. 

Our invitations were from vista print, which thankfully arrived within a week of ordering them. I had all these dreams of beautiful handmade invitations but with such little time and so many other things going on at work it was never going to happen. I was so pleased with these invitations, it was important to me to have something special to send to the special few invitees and these were perfect.

I had planned to bake a small wedding cake myself and even went as far as buying two cake tins. Retrospectively this idea was complete madness. Luckily, in Costco of all places, we saw these beautiful glazed fruit cakes bursting with dried fruit and nuts. I decided to buy a couple of those and cut one smaller to make the cake layered. I decorated it with ribbon, shimmery dust and snow flakes. It looked beautiful and tasted delicious, not to mention that it probably saved me hours of tears in the kitchen. 

The final thing I had to do was to organise flowers. I didn't have any bridesmaids so I just wanted something little for myself. Two days before the wedding I had been at a study day in Hove, and took a walk to the pretty florist nearest to my friend's house. I explained that I was getting married in two days and wanted a simple wintery bouquet. After the lovely florist lady had got over the shock of my last minute request she promised to make something nice and I told her I'd pick it up the morning of the wedding. 

The next day, the day before the wedding, I just had a few loose ends to tie up. The friend I was staying with met me at my flat and helped me carry the cake, dress and shoes to her house. We popped out the shops in the afternoon and I spent an hour in the lego store picking the mini figures who looked most like us to be bride and groom on our cake. I think that I did pretty well!

With a whole 24 hours to spare I had everything organised and wasn't feeling stressed out in the least. It was the beginning of a perfect wedding...

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

A Family Weekend

I spent a lot of time telling people how much I adore my job, but the massive downside is having to work so many weekends and special occasions and missing out on family time. As I'm working over Christmas we decided to spend this weekend going to see friends and relatives as a pre-Christmas treat.

Friday night we drove down to Kent to visit my Dad. We're usually cursed with the traffic but it took us less than 2 hours. Lucky for us my Dad owns a hotel and a bar so we arrived, dropped our stuff in our room and joined him for a few drinks before bedtime.

We woke up in the morning to a lovely view over the channel. After heading out to find some breakfast we spent the rest of the day travelling around visiting all my friends who have had babies. I love baby cuddles so I had a lovely time, while hubby looked completely petrified and wouldn't hold any of them.

Food is something very special when we visit home. My dad will often say that the only 3 things that give you pleasure in life are love, wine and food. Dinner was a collection of delicious nibbly bits both from my Dad and a friend of his. We had iberico ham, beautiful sweet gruyere cheese, smoked anchovies, saussicon and piles of warm, fresh bread.

My Dad also put together a salmon and crab ceviche. It was so delicious. It makes me wish that I lived close enough to come for dinner more. It's no surprise that dinner out is often so disappointing when the food at home is so wonderful.

On Sunday we jumped back in the car and drove to Milton Keynes to swap Christmas pressies with the in-laws. The best part of the day was getting to see how grown up our little niece is. She's walking and starting to speak as well as growing a little mop of hair.

I was thoroughly spoilt and left with a massive pile of presents including a pasta maker (so watch this space to see the final results...) I had so many presents to pile into the car that I completely forgot to take the slow cooker my mother-in-law has given me, so I'll have to remember that next time.

It was another wonderful weekend spent with wonderful people. Hopefully I can make it three brilliant weekends in a row with this one that's up and coming?

Monday, 9 December 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree!

Finally we found the time to decorate the Christmas tree. It's been tricky this year as our fluffy 4 legged addition to the family has not made things easy for us...

She is obsessed by the tree. She sits under it miaowing for hours at a time, especially if the lights at on. In the interests of trying not to tempt her too much we've left all baubles off the bottom 1/4 of the tree and obviously we've kept the glass baubles packed away.

Most people would be upset at no beautiful glass baubles, but not me. This means I've been able to cover the tree in my favourite (if a little gaudy) glittery baubles. There's something extra festive about glitter.

Last year hubby bought me a little snowman and he has taken pride of place nestling in the tree, hopefully keeping my baubles safe from the kitten.

Last year we had a flashing light up star, but it was a little much even for my fairy light loving tastes. I've replaced it with a glittery star, in keeping with my baubles.

I've seen some gorgeous Christmas bunting and lovely wreaths but I think that this year we'll just stick with the tree and getting out the snow globe. I was hoping to make a yearly snow globe a tradition. Last year we got this light up one from M&S, so I'll have to see if I can find one for this year. Perhaps we'll find one next weekend on our 1st wedding anniversary weekend away...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Finally December is here! It seems that with each passing year I get more and more excited about Christmas and the month of December. This year I'm working over Christmas (3rd year running...), although that's nothing unusual as I used to spend Christmas at work with my Dad every year. In fact there's something special about the mood at work on Christmas day.

I'm trying to make the most of the run up to Christmas by organising lots of fun things to fill my non-working days with. This means December will be hectic, but hopefully awesome.

We kicked off December by having a thoroughly festive Sunday. We got up early and almost totally finished our Christmas shopping. An organisational first. After that we did the most important thing that has to be done on the first weekend of December... We got the tree!

Different people have different tree rules. I like to get mine the first weekend so that I have it up as long as possible.

Since meeting Hubby last year I've been introduced to real trees. Our tree last year was a little lop sided and bald in patches. It had a certain charm, but in all honesty looked a little sad, because of that we decided to get serious about our tree choosing this year. We needed the perfect tree.

Homebase had 15% off everything on Sunday so we headed there and got to tree choosing. We instantly ran to the drop-resistant needle trees in the biggest size and started comparing. Unlike last year there were many fine specimens so we picked one and took it home.

Little did I realise that I'd then come second to the tree and be relegated to the back seat, but it was worth it to get that baby home!

At home we all swung into the festive spirit including the cat who decided to join us in wearing a Christmas jumper. Now before you start worrying about her not enjoying her jumper she purrs like crazy while it's on. Strange kitty.

I can't wait until later in the week when the tree is settled so that we can decorate it with lots of twinkly lights. Squeeee!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Winter Wonderland and the Magical Ice Kingdom

I know that it's been around for years, but I've never been to Winter Wonderland before. I've heard so many wonderful things about it, so this year Hubby and I decided to spend a precious weekend not at work visiting.

Initially we were just going to have a wander around, but after browsing the website I convinced Hubby that we should go to the Magical Ice Kingdom, there's something awe-inspiring about ice sculptures and I loved the idea of getting to see lots of them.

I'm going to be controversial here and say that I hated Winter Wonderland. Maybe it was exceptionally busy when we went but we could hardly move. We just shuffled around squeezed next to all the other stressed, squashed people being repeatedly bashed into by buggies. I have a bit of an issue with dense crowds so it was probably worse for me than most, but I definitely won't be going back.

Although I was incredibly stressed by all the pushing and shoving, there were some lovely bits to our day. The first thing I do when I'm feeling out of sorts is to eat, so that's what we did. I had a mahoosive spicy bratwurst topped with sauerkraut. It was almost enough to make me forget how grumpy all the people made me. It was also nice and warming to stand near the giant BBQ and warm up my cold fingers.

After eating we decided to browse some stalls and find the Winter Wonderland. Fat chance of being able to get close enough to any of the stalls, so we shuffled along, caught in the current of the crowd until we reached the Magical Kingdom of Ice.

I'd brought nice warm gloves and put on two pairs of socks to keep my toes warm. The Magical Kingdom of Ice is a giant refrigerated tent full of ice sculptures. The first few sculptures were some lovely fairytale-esque wild animals and fairy houses made of snow. They were like something from Enid Blyton's imagination.

After that it all got a little bit dark. Scary trolls and goblins wealding weapons were gathering around, back lit in eerie colours.

Next was an Ice Castle. The ice castle contained an ice dungeon with little ice rats, stocks, a prison cell and a head chopping block! The most exciting way out was to climb the castle and slide down the big ice slide. (I felt like a massive kid doing this, but why should they have all the fun?!)

The way out had some more fairytale sculptures that were better suited to my tastes than scary goblins and a dungeon. There was a frog prince, a majestic lion and beautiful swans swimming across an ice lake.

There was even a mini-ice bar almost at the exit, but unfortunately they didn't have any hot chocolate ready and there was no way that I could manage a cold drink. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of hot chocolate, but the free stollen and gingerbread on the way out more than made up for it.

Needing a bit of warming up we headed to try some mulled cider by Koppaberg. Not being able to choose (an eternal dilemma that Hubby and I have) we picked an apple and a mixed fruit. Both were delicious. In a stroke of luck I preferred the mixed fruit which was headily scented with clove while Hubby was a fan of the apple. It was also a lovely touch being able to have a real mug when so many places had paper cups.

After Winter Wonderland we stopped for some noodles and hopped back on the train home, squished, exhausted, but happy.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Cold Days and Hot Chocolate

The other day I was very lucky to have a day off that matched up with an old friend, so we  both hopped on a train and caught up.

The first couple of hours of our day together was spent at the Pig Idea Feast in my last post, but it seemed far too early to call it a day after that so we went for a wander. We walked across the river to the Southbank, probably my favourite place to be in London. It feels like a second home.

Although it's not even December we thought that it would be rude not to browse around the Christmas Market. I managed to stop myself buying anything except a mug of delicious raspberry hot chocolate. Who knew that a squirt of raspberry flavoured syrup could make hot chocolate taste so good?!

We got peckish again after a wander and went to my favourite place to hide with a drink on the Southbank. Benugo Bar and Kitchen at the BFI. Strangely none of my friends had ever been there before I took them, I think because the entrance is on the side of the building a lot of people just walk past. More fool them. The bar is filled with an eclectic mix of cosy sofas and they do some nice nibbles.

We had salt & pepper squid which was tasty and not a bit chewy, sweetcorn pakoras that I adored and eventually chilli sausage rolls which only suffered from me being too full to enjoy them as I'd eaten all the rest before they arrived.

We caught up on what we've both been up to, how work and studying is and our plans for Christmas, although it doesn't seem fair that I'm working and he's going to see family in Brazil. We also had a lovely long wander down memory lane recounting our stories of big family meals and how wonderful it is that sitting down for food brings everyone together. It made me so nostalgic for those days and so hopeful that in the future I'll spend many more meal times surrounded by friends and family.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The Pig Idea Feast

As luck would have it, I was off work on the 21st of November, the day of the Pig Idea Feast in Trafalgar Square.

For those of you who haven't heard of the Pig Idea, it is basically a lot of common sense. They are campaigning to change the rules about feeding catering waste to pigs. This is not only a cheaper option but also very environmentally friendly as we'll be growing less grain to feed pigs and saving the rain forests from being cut down to grow all of this pig food.

If you want to know more go to their website here

A bunch of celebrity chefs and yummy restaurants clubbed together, fed some pigs on catering waste, cooked lots of yummy things and gave them away to the public. On top of that they had lots of cooking demonstrations to fill my head with delicious porky things that I can't cook at home because my husband is a vegetarian. 

It seems the brains behind the idea are Tristan Stewart, a campaigner for reducing reducing food waste and Thomasina Miers, Masterchef winner and founder of the delicious Wahaca.

Bearing that in mind we decided to start at the Wahaca stand where we whizzed through the queue in minutes and were presented with pork pibil tacos. As a massive Wahaca fan I am very familiar with these tasty, juicy treats. In a most unladylike way, with the wind whipping my hair around, I scooped up my taco and tucked in, getting delicious porky taco juice all down my face. If I could have licked my own face afterwards I would. I love the savoury-tangyness added by the pickled red onion on top and the blast of freshness from the big handful of coriander. It was tough not to just get back in that queue for another...

In the interests of trying new things (and having a big appetite), I jumped into another queue. I had 3 queues to choose from and being impatient chose the shortest queue. This was a great idea.

The first thing I was treated to was a Brazillian pulled pork slider from Cabana. Oh my goodness. It was the best slider of my life. The spicy barbecue sauce that they used had so much more depth than the cloying barbecue sauce used by so many people and the little cheesy fluffy bun was perfect. I'll definitely be trying out one of their restaurants in the not too distant future.

Further down the queue was Pizza East, manning their impressive looking wood fired ovens in the background. They treated us to a lovely roast pork belly pizza. It was exactly how I like my pizzas. Thin crusted, slightly charred around the edges, lots of topping but not too much cheese. The crackling on top was mind-blowing too. Thanks to the wind I ended up with it slapping me in the face, but I didn't mind. It was another moment where I wished for a long enough tongue to reach my chin and not waste a bit of the pizza goodness.

Unfortunately after that the food ran out, and I was so looking forward to trying a pork cassoulet and braised pork cheeks with mash. I guess my waistline is grateful that I didn't. 

I think it's important to remember that although it is very easy to be side tracked by thinking that this event was an awesome opportunity for tasty free food, it is also advertising a very sensible campaign which I really think more people should sign up to. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Patty & Bun - Central London

This weekend I was popping into London to catch up with a few uni friends. I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I was in dire need of a Christmas jumper to wear at work on Christmas day and a couple of pairs of PJs.

A trip to Primark was inevitable.

Shopping (especially battling through the crowds of Primark on Oxford St) is hungry work. I had to make sure hubby and I had something filling for lunch. I've recently been working my way through all the trendy, and tasty. new burger places in London, so it seemed like a good time to continue.

We ducked into St Christopher's Place, hidden by the side of Selfridges and strolled over to Patty and Bun. There was a small queue outside, but after about 15-20 minutes we were shown inside.

Patty and Bun is a small room, intentionally sparsely decorated with cute little drawings of spatulas and such like on cardboard boxes mounted on the walls. It's cosy inside, but even though we were sharing a table with another couple it didn't feel too cramped.

The menu is pretty simple. A choice of burgers (including lamb and chicken), chicken wings, salad and fries.

I went for a Smokey Robinson burger, which was a deliciously juicy and meaty medium-rare beef patty with crisp smokey bacon, cheese, (the most delicious) caramelised onions, tomato, lettuce, ketchup and smokey mayo on a brioche bun. The bun didn't fall apart and collected all of the meat juices, but the caramelised onions were the heroes of the burger. Obviously not rushed they were beautifully sweet and yet savoury. I've never had such good onions in a burger.

Hubby went for the portobello mushroom burger. As a vegetarian he usually begrudgingly orders the veggie option and puts up with it. This burger was so good that he inhaled it before I could take a picture and said he wanted to come back for another. I think the really special thing about it was the tarragon mayonnaise and garlic butter. This was paired with a side of rosemary salt fries, I only got a chance to try one, but again hubby said they were pretty amazing.

The reason I didn't eat the fries was the real highlight of lunch. The chicken wings. To paraphrase a well known advert these were not just any chicken wings, they were confit chicken wings with BBQ sauce. They came with a rich, tangy BBQ sauce topped with fresh crunchy spring onions. The skin was deliciously crispy, while the flesh was tasty and succulent. I could have eaten a million of these. In fact I'd happily go back to have just chicken wings.

Usually I'd get grumpy having to queue outside for food, and grumpier at having a slightly wobbly chair to balance on, but even with that this was clearly the tastiest lunch I've had in a long time, and by far the best burger and chicken wings that I have had in my life. What was even more special was seeing my, usually ambivalent about food, husband relishing his delicious lunch and wanting to go back for more.

We'll definitely be back.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Apple Pie Cake

I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like apples, or apple-based desserts. My personal favourite is a rich, buttery apple tarte tatin, but usually if I have to take a dessert to a friend's house I'll make a tasty apple pie. It's quick, easy and always delicious.

Hubby was given a big bag of windfall apples from someone at work. Unfortunately I was so busy with work that I left them a couple of days and had to think of something quick to do with them before my carrier bag of apples turned into a carrier bag of cider.

I have really fond memories of "helping" my Mum in the kitchen when I was younger by eating the apple peel as she cooked apple pies. Another lovely memory I have is of all the moist, delicious apple cakes I ate at my Grandparents' house in the summer. My grandparents had a big apricot tree and two fig trees so the neighbours would help themselves to those and in turn leave these delicious cakes on the doorstep to be eaten after tea.

I guess when I saw these apples I wanted to recreate some happy memories, and not being able to choose I came across a recipe which seemed to combine the two.

Based on a Mary Berry recipe, this produces a delicious moist cake full of tangy, gooey apple. The long cooking time at a low heat means that while the middle stays moist the outside becomes like a pie crust. The best of both worlds.

I think this is best served warm on its own, with ice cream or drizzled with custard. It does pretty well being popped in the microwave to heat up a couple of days after baking.

What I Used...
3-4 cooking apples (about 250g after coring and peeling)
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g vanilla sugar
150g melted butter
2 large eggs
Lemon juice (optional)

How I Did It...

1. Heat a fan assisted oven to 140 degrees C.

2. Butter and flour a small baking tin (this was 20cm). I've never had to line a baking tin, this always works perfectly for me.

3. Peel, core and thickly slice apples. If you're going to leave them for a while mix some lemon juice in to stop them browning.

4. Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs and melted butter together. You'll get quite a thick batter.

5. Put 3/4 of the mixture in the bottom of the tin.

6. Pile on the apples, thicker in the middle of the cake. It seems like a lot of apples but trust the recipe.

7. Spread the last of the batter over the apples. It should just about cover them. If it doesn't reach the edges don't panic... it will sort itself out in the oven.

8. Bake for 1hr 30 - 1hr 45, or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.

Mary Berry uses almond essence and flaked almonds which sounds lovely, but I think this would also be nice with cinnamon, or sprinkled with brown sugar before baking.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

Last night I found out that my husband has been lying to me for over a year.

He can cook.

Really, really well.

Since I've met him he's claimed that cooking isn't his strong point. He's admitted that he can just about follow a recipe, but that's it.

Last night the truth came out.

He made a pumpkin and sage risotto. It was the best risotto I have ever eaten. Not only was it delicious but it was also perfectly seasoned and cooked to the perfect al-dente texture.

He claims that all of this was luck. I don't believe that luck could produce something so scrummy. I'd have happily paid for this in a restaurant and gone back again and again.

I am such a lucky girl to come home from work to such a fabulous dinner.

If you want to have a go at making this, hubby followed this Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall recipe. The only real difference was that we had already roasted our pumpkin so just added it a few minutes before the end.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Bedroom Dreams

Following on from yesterday I've been day-dreaming about the bedroom I'd most love to be having night-dreams in...

I love twinkly fairy lights wrapped around headboards, There's something about the soft light they give that makes everything feel so much more romantic. Like having lots of little candles lit, but with a much smaller chance of setting the whole place on fire. As well as having normal fairy lights I've been thinking about having some more unusual ones dotted around. These Moroccan style lights from notonthehighstreet.com would be lovely around a dressing table.

Recently I've been falling in love with big, thick, cabled knitted blankets. I keep telling myself that I'm going to knit one for myself but I simply can't find a wool that I love enough. Until I find the perfect wool I'll keep cuddling them in shops. I've also seen some adorable knitted cushion covers, which once I get around to knitting a blanket, I'll be knitting to finish the look.

I've also become a bit fed up with having a mix-match of bedroom furniture. We bought cheap pine chests of drawers which I stained a light grey colour myself, I think they're wonderful. The finishing touch that they still need are some pretty ceramic knobs. I'm hoping to replace our battered bedside table with something similar.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Spare Room Sort Out

Last night we had our first overnight guests since we've started living together around a year ago. Before we moved into our last flat Andrew emptied a storage unit he had, so we had a spare room full of loads of boxes of unsorted bits and bobs.

With the nature of how doctor's jobs change Andrew had years of finishing work late on a Tuesday evening in one part of the country and having to move overnight to start his new job on the Wednesday. This means just throwing things into boxes with the aim of sorting them out in the future, but never really getting around to it.

Over the last year I'd say that he's sorted out and disposed of over half of all of the random stuff. There were over 2 large moving boxes of bits to be shredded and boxes upon boxes of free mugs and stationary from conferences and drug companies. Our last flat move in August was a big kick up the bottom to get rid of loads of stuff.

Living near a major airport we've really had to get our acts together and get our spare room sorted, as lots of people want to come and stay the night before a holiday. By sorted I mean at least dig out room for a bed.

We got our bed from Ikea. I was really impressed because the mattresses come all rolled up, so we could fit a double bed and a double mattress in our VW Golf. Unfortunately we didn't remember that Ikea beds are slightly different sizes to normal beds, so we have a bit of an issue with fitted sheets. It's one of their cheaper frames, but I adore it's swirly, romantic headboard. Perfect for twirling fairy lights around.

It's still full of boxes and needs a little sorting out, but it's so nice to have a spare bed and finally be able to let people stay over.

Because of (yet another) unexpected change to my future jobs, we'll be moving again in another 6 months. I'm hoping that will give us the perfect opportunity to have a little clear out of some more stuff and finally get things properly organised.

Once we've moved again I want to start replacing our mismatched, cheap and falling apart furniture with some bits that look nicer together. I keep trawling around second hand furniture shops falling in love with vintage pieces but daren't buy anything nice when so many things get damaged while moving. For now I'll have to satisfy my longing for pretty interiors with Pinterest. *Sighs*

If any one has any tips of anywhere other than my beloved Ikea to find cheap but pretty furniture and interiors bits and bobs I'd love some tips.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Burger & Lobster - Soho

What meal invokes more of a feeling of celebration than a big plate of lobster? I can't think of anything. In fact it's probably such of a celebratory dish in my mind because I also associate it with being so expensive that I could only possibly order it on the most special of occasions.

Not anymore. 

Burger & Lobster is now a small chain of restaurants that have blown the preconception that lobster has to be expensive out of the water.

Expensive or not lobster is still a treat, and as hubby has never had it before I decided to treat him to lobster on his birthday. I'd been here once before with a university friend and was just as impressed this time. 

The Soho restaurant is huge with a big bar stretched along one wall and a massive multi-story lobster tank. The whole place feels very informal with simple wooden tables and no fancy crockery/cutlery/tablecloth set up. There's no need for a menu as there is a choice of 3 things. Burger, lobster or lobster roll, all identically priced at £20. For those with a massive appetite there are always some monster lobsters priced individually on the board. There is however a great little menu of cocktails, matched to go with each of the choices. 

As far as I'm concerned they may as well have called the place Lobster & Lobster, because I'm simply never going to choose anything else. Hubby and I both ordered grilled lobster. 

The lobster comes with crisp skinny fries, a generous side salad and a gravy boat filled with deliciously naughty garlic butter. The lobster itself already has it's claws cracked so all that I needed to do was snap where the cracks were and use my little pointy stick to get the lobster out. 

Last time I went I was given a plastic bib, and I don't know if it's because I looked tidier this time or perhaps they forgot, but I wasn't given a bib this time. This led to much dabbing of garlic butter and lobster splatters on my dress. Next time I think I'll ask, as I definitely saw other people wearing them.

They might have desserts, but both times I've been here I've been far too full to even think about eating anything else. Next time I go I'll keep a look out.

I'll definitely be back for a third time, and I might even stray from my usual habits and have the lobster roll that I've heard so many good things about.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Birthday Day Out

Last week, for hubby's birthday, we decided we'd have a big day out in London. We're less than an hour away and yet we hardly ever go.

To be honest it started as a bit of a disaster. We decided that it would be a lovely idea to go to the Natural History Museum. We like the dinosaurs. Unfortunately we both completely forgot that it was half term. The queues to get in were insane! We scrapped that idea, and similarly the Science museum and ended up having a day of pigging out and wandering around.

A birthday lunch has to be special and what's more special than lobster? We pootled off to Burger Lobster (which deserves it's own post later this week) and stuffed ourselves silly.

After that we had a wander around Covent Garden, peeked in the Apple store and had a nosey in the Royal Opera House. Hubby has never been before, so I'll have to try and find some not-to-expensive tickets for something there.

We made the most of the lack of rain and took a stroll along the river to Blackfriars bridge, crossed over and walked back towards the Southbank Centre. We stopped for a lemonade in the cosy bar of the BFI while we decided what to do next.

After quickly consulting google we found lots of recommendations for hot chocolate at Cafe Vergnano. Never one to miss the opportunity for a nice hot choccie we decided to see if the hype was true. It is. The hot chocolate was so thick and rich it felt as if we were drinking melted chocolate. I'm glad I went for a small one I'd probably have passed out from chocolate overload!

While having my hot chocolate I (kind of) accidentally ended up eavesdropping on a man who looked just like Barney from How I Met Your Mother chatting up a pretty girl. It was cringe-worthy and hysterical at the same time. I think he actually thought he was Barney. I'm not sure if telling girls about all the other women who want to sleep with you actually works as a chat up line, but he sure thought it did.

We wandered a bit more and ended up in the ever-interesting little shop in the Southbank centre that's full of gifty bits. This time of year they have already filled half the store with adorable (and expensive) Christmas decorations. I fell in love with little baubles which looked like balls of yarn (which I'm going to try to make) and a little mountable stag's head covered in multicoloured wool. The most exciting thing in the whole shop was a tongue in cheek children's book called "H is for Hummus"... an alphabet book for the modern (middle class!) parent and child. I'll be remembering that as a gift for some of my friends.

As if we hadn't eaten enough over the day we decided to make the most of being near all kinds of yummy food that we can't get easily at home and stopped for some dim sum before getting the train home. I almost had to roll off the train and down the road to home afterwards... I was so stuffed.

After a bit of a disastrous start, it was a very lovely day.