RSS Feed

Tag Archives: winter

Recipe – Sausage and Beer Casserole

Ahhhhhh hello half term! This break could not have come soon enough for me and I plan on making the most of it. I started today with a lovely lie in then eggs and smoked salmon – a perfect start.


Today’s recipe is a lovely seasonal dish that you can make for a crowd or some extra portions for the freezer. You can also add a twist depending on what sausages or beer you decide to use!


A glug of olive oil

6 sausages

I onion, roughly chopped

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

A tray of mushrooms, sliced

1 can or bottle of beer

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Mixed herbs (fresh or dried)

Salt and pepper

A handful of green beans

How to make it

  • Begin by lightly frying the sausages in a large pan with the oil until browned on all sides
  • Add the onion and garlic and fry for another 5 minutes


  • Next, add the mushrooms for another few minutes


  • Pour in the beer, chopped tomatoes, herbs and a good helping of salt and pepper

IMG_3404 IMG_3405

  • Mix well and leave to simmer for about half an hour
  • Add your green beans (I also threw in a handful of shredded carrot I had in the fridge)


  • Serve with crispy potatoes or mash

IMG_3409 IMG_3410

Sunday Catch-up #6

I am in the final week before half term and it really can’t come soon enough! I am more than ready for Spring to arrive now…lighter mornings, warmer days and daffodils and tulips everywhere.

We have had my Dad and Ian’s parents and Grandad to visit this weekend so have been cooking and cleaning in preparation for seeing them. On the plus side, we’ve got a tidy house and have eaten some lovely food but this hosting lark is tiring stuff!

This week I have been…

Making: a real effort to practise my Pilates stretches every day

Going: outside each morning to enjoy the sprinklings of snow we have had this week


Wearing: the tartan scarf my Mum bought me for Christmas

Eating: homemade burgers with bacon jam, guacamole and served in lovely brioche buns


Drinking: these sachets of Options hot chocolate


Reading: a new book based in Paris with lots of foodie details


Watching: the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we’ve had


Buying: berries for breakfast this week


Planning: places to visit when Ian and I take a little mini-break over half term

Cooking: tom yum soup…almost ready to share this one on the blog


Baking: a new cheesecake brownie hybrid

Writing: angry emails to the council after they cut down one of our trees without permission!

Favouriting: some new manicure ideas using my new nail stickers

Working on: feeling more confident

Trying to decide: what to do when our friends visits at the weekend

Wishing: my Mum a lovely trip to Iceland and hoping she gets a glimpse of the Northern Lights

Enjoying: my new iPhone6

Needing: to knuckle down and get an essay written for a qualification I’m trying to do this year

Feeling: fully relaxed after a daytime bath…the ultimate in indulgence no?

Giggling at: Ian embracing his ‘man-mask’!


Current TV Favourites

We’ve had a very grown-up/ slighty boring day of getting stuff done. You know, the kind of thing that you don’t look forward to but that gives you a real sense of achievement when you have gotten it out of the way. Today I have been for a run, done some laundry, upgraded my phone contract (new iPhone…yay!), got a headlight bulb replaced, bought black tights, restocked the fridge, and baked some cupcakes and a quiche – phew!

Seeing as it is absolutely freezing at the moment, the only thing I look forward to doing in the evening is snuggling down on the sofa underneath a fleece blanket with a brew to watch something good on TV. Here are my current TV/ Netflix faves:

  • Girls – a series I love! We are only a few episodes in to the new series but it looks a good’un and never fails to make me laugh. Hannah is such a great character, especially when there is a scene where she dances!


  • Broadchurch – not quite as gripping as the first series in my opinion but it is making me long for a day at the beach! I was expecting this to be a brand new storyline but it is so heavily linked to the last one that I find myself a bit lost sometimes as I can’t quite remember the different characters and their stories from almost a year ago. I think if I had watched the two series in closer succession I would enjoy it more.


  • Suits – we are watching this on Netflix and it is very slick and witty but there does seem to be a bit of a formula for each episode as they can feel quite similar. I love a good legal drama though and this is easy viewing.


  • The Hotel – this is a love/ hate programme as it always makes me cringe but is somewhat captivating viewing on a Sunday evening! It sometimes feels like this is set 10 or more years ago but you cannot fault Mark’s efforts to entertain. I shudder at the food they serve though…deep fried eggs anyone?!


  • Grey’s Anatomy – Ian’s not a fan but I love this show and am on Series 6 now. I tend to have this on in the background when I get home and start blogging or marking books. The storylines are great although there are a few tearjerkers.


  • Cucumber – I’ve only seen two episodes of this and am yet to make up my mind. I think it is trying much too hard to shock and provoke as gay characters just aren’t that unusual nowadays. I do however like the storyline with the main character so will continue watching a little longer (I don’t plan on watching the two spin-off shows though.)


  • The Great British Sewing Bee – not strictly underway yet but I did watch their recap show last week which has got me all excited about the new series starting soon. I know nothing about making clothes but that didn’t stop me getting hooked on the last series and the beautiful Patrick!


Finally, there are three series I am really looking forward to over the next few months: Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Better Call Saul (the Breaking Bad spin-off show)

Are there any other must-see shows I’m missing?!

Sunday Catch-up #4

I seem to have spent this week feeling constantly tired so have been trying to switch off a bit earlier and read before bed in the hope of a more restful night’s sleep. It feels like it’s working but I could just do with an hour or so more in bed each morning before that alarm starts to blare!

This week I have been…

Making: A start on my next cross stitch pattern


Going: For lunch dates with Ian

Wearing: My hair straight this weekend


Eating: Burgers, sweet potato fries and blue cheese slaw (a day off the diet, clearly!)


Drinking: This delicious, if a tad too sweet, Rose Milk Tea picked up on a whim from the Chinese supermarket


Reading: Gone Girl (a bit late to the party I know!)


Watching: American Sniper at the cinema – I really enjoyed it

Buying: Space NK goodies


Planning: Places to eat at and visit along the East Coast


Cooking: Roasted vegetables, in an attempt to cut down on carbs in the evening


Baking: Parma Violet Cupcakes

Writing: More to-do lists…I think I’ve found the only way to keep me organised!

Favouriting: H&M homeware…so much I want to buy for our house

Working on: Reducing our never-ending laundry pile

Trying to decide: What colour to paint my nails tonight #firstworldproblems

Wishing: That Page 3 really had disappeared rather than using this issue to create a huge publicity stunt…seriously, who still reads The Sun?!

Enjoying: Burning my new Yankee Candles…I know they are really festive but they smell so good!


Needing: More sleep

Feeling: Grateful to my Dad for filling our freezer with his home-cooked food…these mozzarella-stuffed meatballs were amazing!


Giggling at: How ridiculous we all look wearing Liverpool hats to cheer on our team!


Recipe – Pearl Barley Risotto

Brrrrrrr – it’s a cold one this weekend! We woke up to more snow but alas, it doesn’t seem to be settling. I’m having a lazy afternoon today. We’ve been to IKEA this morning (meatballs mmmmmm) and bought a few goodies and are meeting my brother for dinner tonight.

Today’s recipe is a twist on a risotto but it still retains that creamy, comforting feeling that a big bowl of risotto provides. Pearl barley makes a nice change to rice and is a good source as fibre as well as providing a slightly nutty flavour and interesting texture. I decided to make a mushroom and bacon risotto but as long as you have pearl barley and a good stock, you can play around with these ingredients to include other meat, fish or veggies.



A good glug of olive oil

1 box of chestnut mushroom, sliced

1 onion, diced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped

200g of pearl barley

About 750ml of chicken of vegetable stock

Half a teaspoon of dried thyme

Salt and pepper

A handful of fresh parsley, chopped

A sprinkling of Parmesan or a strong cheddar

How to make it

  • Begin by lightly frying the sliced mushrooms in oil until lightly browned before setting to one side


  • In the pan, add some more oil and gently cook the onion, garlic and bacon until the onions have started to soften and turn translucent
  • Next, add the pearl barley and stir well


  • Start adding the stock in small amounts. Stir well and when the barley has absorbed most of the stock repeat until the pearl barley is soft


  • Add the mushrooms again, the thyme and season well
  • Before serving, stir through the fresh parsley (stalks and all!)


  • I served mine with a sprinkling of strong, sharp cheddar cheese


Sunday Catch-up #2

Round Two of my weekly summary post! It has been a good week: adjusting to being back at work again, trying to blog every day, catching up with friends and finishing off the leftover Christmas chocolates!

This week I have been…

Making: an effort to reply to all my texts and emails

Going: back to work

Wearing: a new pair of Chelsea boots (my anniversary present from my husband!)


Eating: Bacon Cheeseburger from our local pub


Drinking: these lovely syrups in my coffee


Reading: lots of research papers for work

Watching: Grey’s Anatomy – my guilty pleasure before Ian gets home from work

Buying: some treats from Space NK

Planning: our meals for the week


Cooking: a delicious chicken, chorizo and chickpea stew


Baking: nothing this week either!

Writing: in my new journal every night before I go to bed


Favouriting: Vivianna Does Makeup’s New York Vlog. One of my favourite bloggers in one of my favourite cities

Working on: my blogging schedule so I can post every day


Trying to decide: on the route we want to take for our American road trip this summer

Wishing: we still had our Christmas decorations up…they just made the house look so cosy!

Enjoying: my ‘Disco Nails’ manicure


Needing: more sleep – struggling with these late nights and early mornings

Feeling: really happy after a day with this little one!


Giggling at: the conversations Ian and I had over dinner when we went out to celebrate our anniversary. Eleven years on and he still has me in fits of laughter most days!

I hope you’ve had a great week…roll on the next one! x

The Christmas Tag

I don’t usually do these blogger tags that do the rounds but I am always willing to make an exception for anything Christmas related. Especially, as I spent last night decorating our house!

DSCN0478 DSCN0477

1) What is your favourite Christmas movie?

It has to be a tie between Love Actually (which we watched this year as we put up our Christmas tree) and Elf (which I am watching with my class next week!) I have to admit to having the Sky Christmas film channel on in the background for most of December though.


2) Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

I wish I could say Christmas Day but we have a new tradition now where we open one present on Christmas Eve which is always Christmas pyjamas to wear that night and on Christmas morning…I don’t think it’s cheating too much!


3) Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?

Lots! The waking up to discover my previously empty stocking full of presents, the food, time with family and the occasional time it has actually snowed on Christmas Day.

4) Favourite festive food?

All of it! Smoked salmon in the morning, crispy potatoes roasted in goose fat, spiced red cabbage, snowballs, mulled wine, cheese and biscuits, stollen, Quality Street, chocolate yule log…I could go on!


5) Favourite Christmas gift?

In recent years, it would have to be my Kitchen Aid which takes pride of place in my cabinet. However, my most beloved item would have to be my Tiny Tears doll which I loved and still have back at my parents’ house.

6) Favourite Christmas scent?

Apart from the smell of the Christmas dinner cooking, it would have to be the Christmas candles I start burning from November onwards. My current favourite is a ‘Mulled Wine’ scent that fills the room.


7) Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Apart from a cheesy film in Christmas pjs, it sort of depends if we are spending the festive period at our house or at one of our parents’. If we are at home, then our village church holds a lovely evening carol service which we follow with a walk up to the local pub for a few drinks.

8) What tops your tree?

A big silver star


9) As a kid what was the one crazy, wild, extravagent gift you always asked for but never received?

A puppy…and I am still asking for one now!

10) What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

All of it! Some time off work to just relax with family and friends is good for the soul and I intend to enjoy every minute of it! x

Recipe – Mac ‘n’ Cauliflower Cheese

Hello! I hope you are having a good weekend. We have a quiet one planned before several busy weekends and festive plans start kicking in. I’ve been to get my hair cut and coloured this morning in Bath where I had a wander and bought a ‘coatigan’…yeah, I’m not 100% sure what it is either but it’s cosy and fluffy!

Today’s recipe is classic cold weather food although I for one could (and do!) eat mac ‘n’ cheese all year round. Any guilt you may feel at eating a plate of pasta and cheese is eased slightly with the addition of cauliflower and it really does add an extra flavour and texture to the dish. I kept mine veggie this time but if I made it again, I would try adding some bacon and maybe some spinach or broccoli florets too. I’ve stuck to Cheddar and Parmesan cheese for this recipe but it could be good to mix these up and experiment with some flavoured cheese as well.

I will hold my hands up and say that today’s recipe is one inspired by a Jamie Oliver dish my friend told me about where everything is cooked over one pan and the need to make a roux from scratch is avoided making this a perfect mid-week quick supper.



350-400g of macaroni

1 whole cauliflower (remove the leaves and cut into small florets)

300g Cheese (I used about 200g of Cheddar and 100g of Parmesan)

200g tub of crème fraîche

Salt and pepper

A bunch of fresh parsley

Another handful of grated cheese for the topping (optional but necessary!)

How to make it

  • In large pan of boiling water, add the pasta and cauliflower florets
  • Place a large bowl over the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water, and add the cheese and crème fraîche


  • Now, the theory is that in the time the pasta and cauliflower takes to cook, the steam from the pan should melt the cheese and crème fraîche to create a smooth cheese sauce! This did work for me although I did have to remove the bowl and give the pasta the occasional stir to ensure it didn’t stick together.


  • Once you have a lovely smooth cheese sauce, season well and add a generous amount of chopped parsley

DSCN0438 DSCN0440

  • Remove the cheese sauce and drain the pasta and cauliflower
  • In a large ovenproof dish, mix the cheese sauce through the pasta – you could serve it like this but I think you have to go for a crispy topping!

DSCN0443 DSCN0444

  • Sprinkle over some grated cheese and pop it under the grill until the top has turned golden brown and crispy

DSCN0445 DSCN0446

You can enjoy this with a nice green salad but I prefer mine piled high in a bowl with a final sprinkling of fresh parsley whilst catching up on Gogglebox on the sofa! x


Recipe – Meatloaf

A dish which always makes me think of The Simpsons, meatloaf is a great midweek treat that is simple to make and tastes good! I kept my first attempt quite simple but you could easily mix up the flavours and textures by adding different vegetables, herbs or using different meat.


This made a large meatloaf so Ian and I had this over two evenings, served with veggies and new potatoes and it can be enjoyed warm or cold for picnics too.



A 500g tray of beef mince

1 onion, finely chopped

4-5 rashers of smoked bacon or pancetta, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 egg

A squeeze of tomato puree

Salt and pepper

A bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

6 tablespoons of grated Parmesan

50g of breadcrumbs

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 190°C, Gas Mark 5 and line your loaf tin with greaseproof paper
  • Separate 2 tablespoons of both the Parmesan and breadcrumbs and set aside for later
  • In a large mixing bowl, add all the other ingredientsloaf10
  • The best way to combine this is by hand so roll your sleeves up, remove your rings and get stuck in!loaf11
  • Once combined, press the mixture into a loaf tinloaf12
  • Top with the remaining Parmesan and breadcrumbsloaf3
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the topping is golden brownloaf4
  • Lift out of the tin using the greaseproof paper and allow to cool slightly before slicing and servingloaf5

Beauty Review – December Birchbox

I’m feeling like somewhat of a cliché today. After writing my 2014 resolutions post yesterday, I have been a busy bee! I was up and out for a run (suffice to say, I struggled!) this morning, out and about doing various admin tasks this afternoon and then arranged several appointments with builders to continue with our home improvements. This may not last long but I am embracing this enthusiasm while it lasts!


Today’s rather belated post has been on my to-do list since before Christmas but you know how crazy things get in December and I accidentally tidied away this Birchbox so have only really sat down and had a proper look through it today. I think opening my beauty advent calendar throughout last month made me forget the December Birchbox had arrived but it was definitely a nice surprise to find it again!


As expected, the emphasis was on sparkles and Christmas parties which is slightly redundant now but a good selection of products nonetheless. Birchbox seem to have ditched their magazine completely now and a set of postcards arrive with every delivery with a lifestyle article, hair or make-up tutorial and this month also had some lovely gift tags to use!


Here was my first peek in the bag:


First up, the Non-Aerosol Hairspray by Number 4. I have a very low-key hair care routine and hate using anything that leaves my hair feeling dry, crunchy or full of product. However, the fact that this is a botanical-rich formula and not out of a can means I will give it a go!


Next, Nail Glitter by Nail Rock – a brand I have seen online but not yet tried myself. I love trying out a new nail product and although I have lots of glitter nail varnishes I have never tried this approach to a sparkly manicure. I received a lovely navy blue nail varnish and a bright blue pot of glitter, which conveniently left tiny pieces of glitter everywhere! I think this colour combination is great and will result in a statement textured manicure – it’s on my to-do list!

birch1 birch2

A slightly unusual product next – a Twistband in a pretty pastel blue colour. This hairband claims not to leave those annoying creases in your hair and I think it looks rather nice and ribbon-like.


A bit of luxury in the form of this pomegranate face mask by luxe brand Delarom. I love trying out new face products and this will be a Sunday night treat before going back to work again.


Next, a beautifully scented body lotion by BeeKind. As you may have guessed from the name, this contains honey as well as a lemon scent. It actually smells just like Lockets but I like how refreshing it is.


Finally, my favourite product in this month’s box was this shimmery powder by Alima Pure. It’s not a brand I have heard of before but I love this nude colour and it has just the right amount of shimmer to be noticed without being too glittery. I think it would look lovely worn alone as an eyeshadow or used as a highlighter.

birch3 birch4 birch5

Overall, this wasn’t too Christmassy and I can see myself using all of the products included…a nice little bit of pampering to start the new year! x