Sunday, March 29, 2015

project 365: week 13

81. After getting home from a night visiting my friend, we had a happy half hour as a family, sat in the bedroom planning the week ahead. I have a bad habit of needing to feel constantly productive, and especially when I am away from home during the week, as I was last week, it was good for the three of us just to share some time in the early afternoon sunlight, chatting, and just being.

82. The shades of spring brightening up the study, these beautiful two-tone tulips have been adding colour to our week.

83. Got back to the hotel late from visiting my cousin, but was determined to make use of the gym, so a very late night trip. Having the thought of some races lined up is giving me a much greater incentive to persist with trying to improve my stamina.

84. Home at last, and the "I forgot to take a photo" shot of my bedside table.

85. Text my Grandad from work saying that I was a busy bee, and then managed to amuse myself greatly by sending him this picture saying that I even looked like a bee. Alas he didn't get the picture until much later, so I think he was little perplexed as to what on earth I had gone to work wearing!

86. Friday night movie night with The Husband. We made these again, with the leftover mixture from the freezer, tidied the kitchen and then went and curled up under the covers with a film, and Millie for company. Fabulous start to the weekend.

87. A lovely afternoon ordering a photo album from our Australia trip, was so great to go back through the pictures of our trip, and though it was tricky to pick favourites, I'm really looking forward to the book arriving. It was also an excuse to lift out our honeymoon album for inspiration, and so an afternoon filled with reminders of happy holidays. We fueled our endeavours with some more of the Hotel Chocolat chocolates that I received for my birthday. These caramel shortbread ones were lovely, such a treat.

Linking in with The Boy and Me

Friday, March 27, 2015

word of the week #13

It has been a week filled with meetings, all of them good. Meeting up with my closest friend for a night of chatting and celebrating her new job. After I arrived home the next morning The Husband and I then went to visit some good friends and had the wonderful experience of meeting their beautiful new son. Cuddles with a 4 day old baby are a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

To London a few times this week for a number of meetings, which also offered the opportunity to meet (or at least see) some great people speak about some interesting subjects. It felt like a real privilege to be able to attend one of the events earlier in the week, and hear some really well-respected people talk.

I also managed to take the chance to go and meet up with some family who live in London on the night I was staying down there. So much nicer to spend the evening with my cousin, his partner and their gorgeous little boy, reading bedtime stories and doing jigsaws, than eating room service by myself.

And then after a train home from London, with the promise of seeing my parents and Grandad for the first time in a few days. The weekend is here, and it started in the best way, being met from the train by The Husband and Millie, and then a family walk home.

Monday, March 23, 2015

recipe: enchiladas

This is not a particularly complicated dish, but it was tasty, and a success (not a guarantee by any means when I cook) so I thought I would share it. Partly because it was simple, partly because I happened to have some pictures - albeit not the best food photography you will have ever seen, and partly because I had an urge to post something tonight and this was a title I had saved in my drafts folder as a prompt for just such an occasion.

Making this was actually borne out of an accidental opening of a tin of kidney beans (a case of mistaken identity, they were falsely accused of being chopped tomatoes). Not wanting to let them go to waste I found this recipe in one of the three Hairy Bikers books that live permanently on the stand next to my oven and adapted it as the kidney beans I had opened weren't in chilli sauce. Recipe located, I got the rest of the ingredients the following day (bar the lime) and this made a lovely Saturday night supper for The Husband and I. Rather than making the four portions the recipe calls for, I just did two, with added spiced potato wedges from a recipe in one of their other books for the ever-hungry husband. The rest of the mixture has gone in the freezer ready for another night - batch cooking always makes me happy.

My splodging of salsa and sour cream seemed somewhat lacking in the aesthetics department, but it was really tasty. In other news, and as part of my developing 30th birthday plans, I have just signed up for a 5k and a 10k run over the next 6 months - eek!


Serves 4, Prep Time 20 Minutes, Cooking Time 50 Minutes


450g beef mince (extra lean*)
1 medium onion
2 garlic cloves
400g can of kidney beans (drained)
400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
1tsp dried chilli flakes
1tsp cayenne pepper
1tsp paprika
400ml beef stock (made with 1 beef stock cube)
8 tortilla wraps
50g cheddar cheese (half fat*)
150g creme fraiche (half fat*)
3 tbsp tomato salsa
fresh coriander
lime wedges (optional)

*reduced fat options included in original recipe as it is a healthy eating/calorie counting cook book - use whichever options suit you!


  • Chop onion and garlic. Fry in large non-stick pan with beef mince. Break up mince with a wooden spoon and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika and tomato puree and stir well. Pour over the beef stock, season well with salt and pepper, and mix. 
  • Heat until simmering, then reduce heat and leave to simmer on low heat for 25-30 minutes, until mixture has reduced and thickened. While mixture is simmering preheat oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Spray/brush a small amount of oil into a large shallow ovenproof dish.
  • Place an 1/8th of the mixture in a tortilla wrap, top with an 1/8th of the cheese, and then fold the wrap up and place in dish. I tend to put the filling in the middle, fold up the bottom, fold over either side, leave the top open and place the wrap folded side down in the dish. Repeat until all 8 wraps are made and mixture is used up.
  • Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 5 minutes.
  • Before serving spoon over the creme fraiche, salsa, coriander, and lime wedges if using.
  • Season with black pepper and serve.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

365: week 12

74. Some home baking as part of our Mother's Day meal. Definitely started to feel like spring serving up this cake, especially on my favourite floral cake stand.

75. Visited a different part of London with work today and was brilliant to see some different sights as I travelled. The buildings around Westminster are beautiful, I love the history within the walls.

76. In the process of sorting out lots of the belongings we have stored in a spare bedroom. I found my clarinet from when I used at school and decided to order some new reeds and have a play. Lucky I did as Millie also found the old reeds and decided to have a play of her own.

77. Waiting to travel to dinner with friends after work. This building has popped up before in my 365 project this year, I do find it beautiful.

78. An antipasto platter out for dinner with The Husband before we went to watch a comedy show. One of those meals where I felt like I ordered exactly the right dish - no food envy here!

79. My attempts at a photo of the solar eclipse were somewhat scuppered by the clouds putting in an appearance. I still quite liked the photo although it wasn't as impressive as many of the others I saw!

80. Flowers and cake tied up with brown paper and string for a visit to my friend who has just got a brilliant new job. I love using brown paper to wrap up flowers and make them them look a bit more special.

Linking up with The Boy and Me

Friday, March 20, 2015

word of the week #12

There seems to have been an abundance of food this week. Baking on Saturday, ready for a family gathering at our house on Sunday for Mother's Day. The left-overs became a picnic for the train that night, as I headed to London for a few days of meetings. Buffet lunches, tea and biscuits and room service dinner. Since getting home I have met up with friends for a meal out after work, then again last night with The Husband before we attended a comedy gig. 

Looking back on the week it feels gluttonous, and excessive. All of the meals enjoyable, and celebratory (except perhaps the room service!) but too much all in one week. I am craving simple dishes, home-cooked food, and as spring officially starts, a desire for lighter, fresher fare.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

adventures before thirty

(Taken from the title of a novel by Algernon Blackwood. Originally published in 1923, when it was called Episodes Before Thirty, I bought a copy for The Husband, who collects old books, as a 29th birthday present.)

As I mentioned, I don't really worry about aging or growing older. However I have been thinking in recent weeks that my next birthday is quite a significant one, and talking with friends in particular has caused me to reflect a little more on the year ahead. I have a very close friend from university, and we were born within a week of each other. Last September marked ten years of our friendship (we met on the first day, in our halls of residence, and unlike so many of those freshers' week friendships this one has absolutely stood the test of time). In the run up to our birthdays we reminisced about previous milestones, the end of our teenage years, turning 21, and laughed at how distant thirty had seemed all that time ago.

I am still feeling very positive about the years ahead, and very happy with my life as it stands, never having been one to have a 'life plan' or certain goals with achieve-by dates. As another close friend  said to me, on reflection she feels at a good stage in her life. We are both married, own our homes, have stable jobs and while I don't view any of those things as being more or less successful than the alternatives, for me (and my risk-averse, homebody personality) I found that what she said resonated. Actually I can reflect on my life, and feel content with the big stuff like home, work, and of course my relationships with family and friends. Things feel well suited to me and that is a fortunate position to be in.

Perhaps influenced by the world of blogging, and the wider Internet, and the obsession of these mediums with lists of evey kind, I have been mulling over the idea of drawing up a thirty things to do before I'm thirty list. I noticed many people do similar lists around New Year and I have been increasingly tempted. Today is, genuinely just by chance when I checked half an hour ago, 330 days until my 30th birthday, which spurred me on to write this burgeoning post today. However, never being one to rush a decision (see above - risk-averse  homebody) I actually plan to commit to a list in a months time, so it will be 30 things in 300 days. In the meantime, it's over to you - what would you put on my list?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

365: week 11

67. Sunday afternoon with The Husband, chatting over a cheeseboard.

68. Bags packed on Monday night ready for a few days working away. Still adore the new handbag I got for my birthday, makes me smile every time I use it. 

69. Something about this caught my eye as I waited for the train early in the morning.

70. A very boring picture of my room service dinner on Wednesday night!

71. Spotted this patterned arch as I walked Millie late in the evening. 

72. Friday was movie night curled up in the study with The Husband and Millie. Happy way to start the weekend.

73. Beautiful roses we bought as a Mother's Day gift.

Linking in with The Boy and Me

Friday, March 13, 2015

word of the week #11

A particularly poor illustration - I was tempted to not put it up at all, but I thought at the least it might make you smile. It is supposed to say turf - just for clarification.

I have been away for most of the week, and in the meantime my fabulous step-dad Mal, and my incredible Grandad have both given our back lawn a makeover. After Millie's repeated bouts of digging last summer, a spate she has thankfully seemed to put behind her, our lawn was looking rather derelict.

Advised by the more green-fingered members of our family (Mal) that March was an optimum time for turf laying, we took up his very kind offer to replace the bare, patchy ground with some lush new turf. And so it was that I went away to London only to return three days later to a bare back garden filled with freshly turned over earth. Today I got home to a lovely lawn. In the interim we have gained a skip, lost lots of rubbish, and of course had a delivery of ready grown grass. 

I'm looking forward to the months ahead working on the back garden. After last year's makeover of our front garden, it will be lovely to do something similar in the back. I can sense an expansion of the herb garden, maybe even venturing into a vegetable patch; I can sense spring.

Monday, March 09, 2015

the year in books: march

I covered some good books in February. I really enjoyed them all, although they were all very different too. First up was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I thought it was a great book, and found the academic context really interesting too. I found Don a likeable character, well written, and will be interested to read the sequel at some point in the future.

"Restaurants are minefields for the socially inept, and I was nervous as always in these situations. But we got off to an excellent start when we both arrived at exactly 7:00 PM as arranged. Poor synchronization is a huge waste of time."

The next book was the first non-fiction I have read in a while and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is a really fascinating read, although perhaps not the best one to read on a commute, as I alternated between vigorous nodding in agreement, and snivelling into the pages. I thought this was a brilliant book about a subject that I am very interested in, and Atul Gawande expressed incredibly eloquently some difficult and challenging ideas.

“our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer; that the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life; that we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.” 

The final book in February was another tear jerker, although only at the very end, but goodness me did I bawl! I adored The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and looking back on the year, it remained one of my favourite reads . I wondered if this would be a let down but it absolutely wasn't, though it has made me want to go back to the first book and read it all over again. I cannot recommend these books enough!

"When I looked at the sun and saw it glow on my hands. When a rosebud appeared where there had not been one before. It was in the people who stopped and talked of this and that over the garden wall. And just when I thought my life was done, it came time and time again at the hospice. It has been everywhere, my happiness – when my mother sang for me to dance, when my father took my hand to keep me safe – but it was such a small, plain thing that I mistook it for something ordinary and failed to see. We expect our happiness to come with a sign and bells, but it doesn’t."

My first book for March is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I'm intrigued to see how I fare with this, as it sounds similar to concept as Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which I didn't love as much as everyone else seemed to. I found the plot difficult to engage with, although the writing was incredible, so I wonder if this will be the same.

Linking up with Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

365: week 10

60. Still feeling like winter on a walk with Millie. Clearly the black and white photo habit was hard to shake!

61. Colour coordinated stationery on the bedside table, shades of turquoise and teal.

62. Feeling under the weather today, Millie joined me for a snuggle under a blanket.

63. Some artwork and sculptures have been put on display in the hotel I was staying at, this by the lifts caught my eye, but I wasn't brave enough to try winding the key!

64. Loved the colours of the light as I walked through London at night.

65. An early morning walk to the train station, and I finally took a quick snap of this tree, they line the street near the station and I love the seed pods hanging off them, almost like baubles.

66. Home at last and beautiful flowers that The Husband brought home on Friday brightening up the hallway this weekend.

Linking in with The Boy and Me

Friday, March 06, 2015

word of the week #10

 It has been a funny old week. Last Sunday night I came down with the bug that has been going around, and it has knocked me for six. It was compounded by multiple trips to London, there and back on Monday, then there again Wednesday until Friday. Work has been busy and the cloud of the cold just made everything feel like wading through quicksand. Even before I got ill the weekend seemed to fly by at an alarming pace, and looking back now I can't quite believe we have reached Friday already.

I managed to get on top of things by today, but this week has felt like a battle to get to this point. It doesn't seem to have stuck around, and I am very grateful for that. Fingers crossed I don't seem to have passed it on to The Husband either, which is always something to be thankful for, one of the unexpected benefits of working away so much! As it is I am home, feeling much better and we are off to a quiz with my oldest friend and her family tonight. The fog has definitely lifted.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

first things first

The first of March.

The first birthday of this blog - happy birthday to this little corner of the internet and thank you so much to all of you who have visited over the past twelve months. 

The first visit to a new local pub with very good friends for Sunday lunch, then back to their house for coffee and chats. They are due to have their first baby any day now so it was an exciting visit. The next time we see them they could very well have an addition to the family, which is a fabulous thought.

The first time in a while we have taken Millie on the long route near our house. After our trip to the nature reserve on Valentine's Day we are trying to get in some longer walks at the weekend, and it was nice to be out for over an hour, chatting and watching her bounce in and out of the undergrowth. It was bitterly cold though, and we were glad to get in and warm tonight.

The first day in a while I haven't stuck to the to-do list. I recently downloaded a to-do list app on my phone and have become a bit of a convert. I am finding it quite addictive, and as a result getting lots more done. I thought I would miss writing out my list on paper, but I enjoy the fact that I can set certain tasks, such as walking Millie, and making lunch, to recur daily, so that I can cross them off when they are achieved, but automatically have a new list ready the next day. It has made a real difference in lots of ways. My weekly ironing task has meant that each weekend I get up early and get it done, so we no longer have a huge backlog of washing and ironing to get through. I have also begun to add in new habits, such as daily yoga, and am sticking to it far more successfully than previously. As I mentioned recently, I am trying to introduce these positive changes step-by-step, and so I started the daily yoga two weeks ago, last week I added in daily meditation, and from next week I have added in the couch-to-5k runs three times a week. However, for all of the positives, I am trying to be careful that it doesn't become detrimental.

The first thing that made me think a bit more carefully was when, ironically enough, the website I am using for the daily yoga course published this article. It gave me pause for thought, and so I started to try and make sure that I didn't spend every free moment trying to tick off another task. I made sure that I let myself relax and enjoy time off. I definitely found it easier to do when I was able to think that I'd done everything I needed to do that day, but worked more on not looking ahead and seeing if I could make a start on tomorrow's, or next week's, or one of those random jobs that is on the list but doesn't have a time limit. Today didn't work out so well though. I have been cleaning the house each weekend, and had planned to do it this afternoon after lunch with friends. Gradually lunch became coffee, we had an extended catch up, suddenly it was early evening, and we got home and headed out to walk the dog. I couldn't work out why I felt troubled, we'd had a lovely day, we were enjoying the last of the light on a walk, and yet I had this sense of guilt because I hadn't ticked off the cleaning, and I knew we would run out of time to get it done. The Husband wisely pointed out that we had barely been home this week, we are both doing lots of long days next week, and that nothing will spoil if we don't get the hoover out tonight. As he sagely commented, a to-do-list is great for keeping us on track, but when we are doing jobs for the sake of ticking them off a list, rather than because they need doing, it becomes a burden.

At first I agreed, but still felt a little disconcerted. I felt a bit of a failure for not having achieved enough. Since getting home from the walk, I re-read that article above as well as a few blogs that were full of the lovely, hopeful things people have said about March. The positive sense of spring ahead, and the small joys that each day brings. In February (and for a few days at the start of January), I joined in with Amanda's celebrating dailiness project on twitter, and the pictures on this post are some of the things that were worth celebrating in recent weeks. Mostly it seems to be Millie, food and flowers! It made me realise that the hoovering may not be done, and the list may be unfinished, but it has been a wonderful day. Far better to appreciate that than worry about housework.

The first of March has been a day of small pleasures rather than productivity, and that is no bad thing at all.

365: week 9

53. Out for coffee with The Husband before we visited Escape Room - I promise a post on these will come soon! I adore them, but they need a bit of explanation I think. This was also just after I had spotted that Jane had invited me to take part in the 5 day black and white photo project, hence the sudden attempts at monochrome picture taking!

54. At a conference today I was waiting for a session to start, and managed to snap this of the jug of iced water on the table before anyone else arrived. For some reason it caught my eye!

55. In a week where I was looking for black and white inspiration, the bright red light on this building stood out. Not my best picture as I was surreptitiously trying to take it as I walked along with some colleagues, I'm still a secret snapper!

56. Those eyes, that nose, what's not to love?! 

57. Waiting at the train station with Millie for The Husband to come home. This was another potential black and white effort!

58. Not the best shot tonight. What disappoints me most, is just how much I saw that I wanted to take pictures of. I was in London for the day, and walking to and from the station there were so many incredible sights, but I didn't have time to stop in either direction, and this offering feels a bit bland in comparison. I am back there next week with more time so hopefully I will have some more promising contributions!

59. Some lovely Hotel Chocolat treats I got as a birthday gift from my Dad. They were perfect on Saturday afternoon, shared with The Husband with a coffee and Only Connect.

Linking in with The Boy and Me