This week has been tiring. I’ve been a bit under the weather, and a work trip to London has totally finished me off. Travelling with work always seems like it’s going to be glamorous, until you get there (or when you’re travelling back hungover the next day…). That, combined with a lack of funds before pay day, means that this weekend has been very low key. Today I am cooking up a mega roast dinner and then I’m napping on the sofa. I’m trying to quash my productive urges and bloggers guilt, but it’s not working very well. How is your Sunday working out?
- How many of the top 50 cities to see in your lifetime have you been to? I’m only on about two…
- I may be making roast dinner, but what I’m really craving is this perfect strip steak.
- With Christmas coming up, I’m definitely feeling the squeeze of the 7 unexpected expenses of adulthood.
- If you read one thing this week, make it this: Why I had to Turn Down Band Aid.
- A post about coming off the pill. We need to talk more about contraception. I’ve been taking the pill for almost 8 years – it is quite scary to think about that.
- What do author’s houses look like now? I’m coveting Bram Stoker’s pad.
- Can we just rename it Cheesemas and be done with it? That’s my kind of holiday.
- What’s your favourite food scene on film? Chocolat springs to mind but there are some surprises in the list.
Thanks to various chick lit books and magazine articles, dinner parties always seemed like the bastion on adulthood to my teenage self. I was determined to become a perfect dinner party host; it seemed like the ideal social activity – wine, food and good friends, and all in the comfort of your own home (although there is the small issue of the washing up).
In many ways, adulthood is not how I imagined it, but my one true disappointment is the lack of dinner parties that I was promised. My minuscule dining table just doesn’t lend itself to sophisticated gatherings, and sadly the invites to other’s houses are also few and far between. Dinner is often offered, but a dinner party is scarce to materialise. Which may explain why a large dining room is top of my house-hunting wish list for when the time comes…
That being said, this is a perfect dinner party dessert if you are lucky enough to be involved in such things. It also makes a decadent weeknight dessert if you’re a food blogger who happens to have made a batch of them. They take mere minutes to whip up (you could even cheat and use ready-made caramel sauce if you’re in a rush) and will store nicely in the fridge ready to serve to your guests. Whilst I hesitate to be the first to mention Christmas dinner, these would also be a lovely Christmas Day dessert – make them on Christmas Eve and then gorge yourself silly with very little stress. I know salted caramel is horrible in fashion right now, but there’s a very good reason for it – and there will be few who can resist these gooey, creamy desserts when placed in front of them…
- 65g granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp. water
- 10g unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp. double cream
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. flaked sea salt
- 25g unsalted butter
- 200g milk chocolate
- 200ml double cream
- Flaked sea salt
- In a saucepan over a medium-high heat, mix together 65g sugar and 3 tbsp. water until the sugar has dissolved. Set the spoon to one side and continue to boil until the mixture is a golden-brown colour; resist the urge to stir and swirl the mixture in the pan instead when necessary.
- As soon as you have the desired colour, remove from the heat and add the butter. Swirl the saucepan to incorporate and then stir in the cream.
- Add the salt and vanilla extract and stir until smooth.
- Pour a quarter of the mixture into each ramekin so the bottom is covered and set aside to cool.
- In a bowl over a simmering pan of water, melt together the butter and chocolate.
- Once melted, stir in the cream and mix together until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a jug.
- Pour over the caramel in the ramekins until full.
- Pop in the fridge for half an hour to cool, and then sprinkle over the sea salt. Return to the fridge for another couple of hours until fully set.
My relationship with exercise has always been fraught. I was not a sporty kid – I was awkward, un-coordinated and pretty much incapable of catching or throwing a ball. As a result, I avoided any sort of sport or exercise like the plague, and developed a deeply mistrustful relationship with the whole deal. Thankfully, due to some stroke of genetic luck, I have also always been pretty healthy and relatively slim, so it didn’t seem like too much of a big deal. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I decided to try and kick my butt into gear, and at least try to go to the gym on a semi-regular basis – despite looking like a healthy person, there was no doubt that it was *not* healthy to be panting and wheezing at the top of a hill or particularly steep set of stairs. A lot of people go to the gym to lose weight or tone up; those things feel kind of secondary to me – I am a lot more motivated by the thought of an early grave caused by unfitness. Which is morbid, but whatever works, right?
Exercising is such a strange thing, and yet it’s so important. It feels horrible. It hurts, during and afterwards. I am never motivated to do it. I never, ever feel like going for a run. And part of that is because it is an uncomfortable thing to put your body through, but also I think it’s partly because I remember all those awkward PE lessons – me and running are just not friends. People genuinely laughed when I told them that I was running the Abbey Dash – a 10k race around Leeds. It seems ridiculous, me actively opting to do exercise, but I don’t want that to be the case anymore. I am not a fast runner, or a good runner or a happy runner, but I still ran on Sunday and I am pretty pleased with how it went. I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:05:38 – at least 10 minutes faster than my most optimistic of guesses for what I’d manage on the day.
All this to say, that I’m pretty proud. This isn’t a triumph-over-adversity story. It’s just a getting-shit-done story. Choosing to do something, setting a goal, and then just doing it. I didn’t train as much as I should (see above: I never *want* to go for a run) and I am aching all over as a result, but I made it round and I ran all the way (no walking!). Having that negative relationship with exercise makes it feel impossible at the beginning; those first few runs are slow and you feel like they’ll never get better. All those success stories of people going from couch potatoes to marathon runners feel like utter rubbish. But slowly, things start to change and you can run a little further or a little faster each time. It’s not some revelation, it’s just a slow steady chug towards the end goal, with a lot of blisters along the way. Which is probably a metaphor for life, but is also the reason I’ll be running another 10k in March – and this time, I want to go faster.
Despite drinking quite copious amounts of wine, I know nothing about it. If faced with a wine list, I always opt for Pinot Grigio or, failing that, anything white that says the word ‘dry’ in the description and won’t bankrupt me. At the supermarket, we opt for £10 bottles of white that are on half off offers, the paler the better. That’s about it. I know that words like ‘oaked’ and ‘tannins’ exist, but I am completely stumped as to their use. This is hardly a state of affairs to boast about, so it was with excitement and trepidation that I attended a wine tasting hosted by Latitude at White Cloth Gallery last week.
Upon arrival we were presented with a small wine glass and a booklet listing all of the wines and spirits on offer. Lining the walls of the room were trestle tables – 27 of them – each boasting a selection of wines and liquors to try, with helpful staff members ready to recommend and explain about each of the bottles. It was a little overwhelming, with what felt like hundreds of things to try and no knowledge on what would be best. We made our way around the room, trying a little here and there, choosing as much by label and bottle shape as by provenance or grape variety.
We were there for just two hours, but we managed to try an impressive selection. The liquor room was dangerous – mini (and sometimes not-so-mini) shots of potent and delicious alcohol were thrust into our hands, and we were all a little pink-cheeked and effusive by the end of it. I did pick up some new favourites, handily marked in my booklet so I wouldn’t forget them – although looking back it was definitely the more expensive that tickled our tastebuds. My student self – for whom a bottle of Malibu was the height of sophistication – could never have guessed that I would acquire a taste for unusual and expensive alcohol, but there you have it.
My personal recommendations, were you to want to recreate the experience yourself, would start with the Peller Estate Ice Cuvee – a sparkling iced wine that was delightfully dry but with a hint of sweetness and bubbled deliciously. I also enjoyed the Boutinot ‘Les Cerisieres’ rosé, which was, again, lovely and dry, with a beautiful pale pink colour. The stars of the liquor room were definitely Licor 43 – a warming vanilla liquor – and the Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur with a sweet stem ginger flavour, perfect for a Christmas present, although I also very much enjoyed the Chase Rhubarb Vodka and the Sloe Bloom Gin that we tried.
Whether it’s the alcohol talking (which is very probable) or not, it was a fantastic evening, helped along by wonderful company. Whilst I don’t think I know much more about wine than I started with, I did enjoy the opportunity to try some new varieties, and I’d definitely recommend going along to an event like this. Latitude is a wonderful shop in Leeds, and they host a variety of events so do keep an eye out on them if you’re a Leeds local!
When you read this, I’ll be running through the streets of Leeds, likely in the rain. Yep, the Abbey Dash is finally upon us and hopefully I’ll be able to survive all the way round. If you see me, give me a cheer, yeah? Yesterday was spent carbo-loading and making a playlist to get me all the way round, and catching up on Made in Chelsea. All the drama.
However, the rest of this week has been slightly less virtuous. On Tuesday I ate a large amount of pizza at The Black Swan with Emily and on Friday night I went to a wine tasting at White Cloth Gallery that was very dangerous (but also delicious). So. Much. Alcohol. I’ll tell you all about it later. Plus, as always, all the baking. Next week I need to eat lots of vegetables and do some yoga. How was your week?
- 10 things Buffy the Vampire Slayer Taught Me About Life. Yep.
- I think I want to have a street party now: How to Meet Your Neighbours.
- Would you hire a social media manager for your personal Twitter account?
- It’s time to vote in the Leeds Food and Drink Awards.
- Related: This video explores a bit of our Northern food culture. Chip butties, anyone?
- I really want to eat this ebi raisukaree. How delicious does that look?
- This was an interesting read: What I Learned As a Male Feminist From Setting Up the Dapper Laughs Petition.
- If you enjoyed my snood tutorial, you might also like this knitted cowl tutorial.
- I think I would be more willing to eat fruit if it was all chocolate-dipped clementines.
- This is beautiful: What I’ve Unlearned in my Twenties.
- So is this: A Letter to My Twenty-One Year Old Self.
Let’s be real, November is a depressing month. It’s not soon enough to get properly excited about Christmas (when can I start drinking mulled wine?) and I spend at least 50% of my time with cold hands and feet. Hibernating animals have the right idea, amiright? There is plenty to be happy about, however, even if you end up walking home in the driving rain. So let’s celebrate some of those things! Here are four good things that I’ve been loving recently – I’d love you to share some of yours with me!
1. Christmas Bedding
Okay, I know I said it was too early to get excited about Christmas, but this is the exception to the rule. My sweet friend Katie tipped me off to the cheap Christmas-themed bedding in Primark and I immediately snapped up some grey Fairisle brushed cotton sheets. We’ve just bought a new duvet, too, so it’s like sleeping in a Christmas-sy cloud. Total winner.
2. The Bossypants Audiobook
I have Emma to thank for this one; I’ve been getting bored on my longer runs so I was looking for a decent audiobook to keep me entertained. I remembered Emma’s recommendation and am very glad I downloaded this; I have read the book but it’s a joy to hear Tina Fey reading the words. I can carry my phone around the house and laugh along whilst I’m doing chores, or snigger my way through a slow jog. What a marvel the modern world is, eh?
Bonus: I’ve also been really enjoying the Call Your Girlfriend podcast – smart ladies who use terms like ‘cultural literacy’ when talking about the Kardashians? I am so there. Genuinely, I don’t think many things make me happier than academic feminist analysis of pop culture. I will never be bored of reading think pieces about Taylor Swift. Never.
3. My new KitchenAid
This may be the greatest thing I have ever owned. It’s shiny. It’s beautiful. It makes cakes. I have coveted one for ages, and now it’s sitting on my kitchen counter, highlighting how upsettingly brown my rental kitchen is. White subway tiles, one day you will be mine. It has a double whammy of happiness, too, because it was a gift from work for bringing in so many cakes over the last year, which is genuinely one of the sweetest gestures, is it not? I’m still learning to use it, so if you have any KitchenAid tips or recipes then definitely send them my way!
4. The Bridal Emporium
I have tried very hard not to be a twee bride, gushing about colour schemes and flower arrangements. There’s a lot about weddings that I have had to work my way through (check out my column on the High Tea Cast for more rambling on that topic!) but I am finally allowing myself to get excited about the dress. Partly because it’s not all that much fun to have to pretend otherwise, and partly because I’ve finally found exactly what I want. There’s a darling bridal shop in the Grand Arcade called The Bridal Emporium and Claire, the owner, has made the whole process feel so easy and exciting, whereas before it felt stressful and alien. I feel so much better knowing that I can support a local designer and business owner as well as wear a sparkly dress. I’m going to see the designs next week, so watch this space!
How about you?
I’m sure that I’m not the only one that feels the need to hibernate now that the clocks have gone back and the evenings are pitch black. Pub gardens and picnics in the park have been replaced with nights spend on the sofa, fleecy blanket on hand. In the winter, home becomes a sanctuary, a cosy cocoon to protect you from the harsh vagaries of winter. Rather than heading out into the icy chill, it’s much more preferable to stay indoors – and to make indoors the best place it can be.
UGG Australia are on a mission to inspire people to make the most of their time at home this season, and have collected some recipes and how-to guides for ways to spend your downtime over the coming months to be the best it can be – including some seasonal cocktails from yours truly!
I’ve been a fan of UGG for a long time; I loved in my UGG boots at University and they’re still pulled out of the cupboard when it’s wet and wild outside, and cosiness is the order of the day. They were kind enough to send me these gorgeous slippers, too, which have barely left my feet since. It’s always a disappointment to go from the furry hug of these bad boys to my regular day shoes.
Homemade cocktails feel very decadent, but these are simple to make – whether you’re enjoying them alone or with friends. The cocktails I’ve created use seasonal ingredients which are at their best during the coming months – you can find the recipes here, but here’s a little taste for you:
Citrus fruits are one of my favourite things about winter; although we associate their zesty freshness with summer they are at their best in the darkest months – a little gift from nature, perhaps. This cocktail combines clementine juice with vodka, limoncello and rosemary – and don’t forget the sugar rim!
This Spiced Rum Punch which feels like a warm hug in a glass. You can heat this through gently before serving, or drink as is, but the flavours of cinnamon, orange, apple and dark rum are reminiscent of the best parts of autumn and winter.
As well as these cocktails, you can also pick up tips for blogging, illustration, beauty and a delicious recipe for Wild Blackberry Buns from other bloggers, so you can really make the most of slipper season.
P.S. Find more cocktail recipes right here.This post is in association with UGG Australia and I was compensated for these cocktail recipes, but I promise you that these slippers are the bomb-diggity and these cocktails are delicious and will impress your friends. That sugar rim, in particular. I’m tempted to put it on all of my drinks…
If you’ve been hanging around these parts for any length of time, you’ll know that I’ve made it my mission to knit a plethora of snoods this year. My knitting skills are very basic, and as such I am currently limited to scarves and blankets, or anything else that is straight and simple. Snoods, are therefore a perfect beginner’s project for me – they only take a couple of hours to knock up and look far more impressive than they are. The pattern is super simple to follow and the resulting snood makes a wonderful wooly addition to your wardrobe, or an excellent Christmas gift for the knitwear aficionado in your life.
If you’re looking to take up a craft, then this could be the perfect opportunity – the larger needles and thick wool simplify the process, and once you’ve got the hang of a few stitches then there’s very little way to go wrong. I learnt everything I know from my grandma, but YouTube is a good substitute if your grandparents are unavailable for knitting lessons. I’ve linked to some good tutorials below, if you’re interested.
- 10mm knitting needles
- 2 balls of Rico Creative Twist
- Large sewing needle
1. Cast on 19 stitches
3. Continue with this pattern, always starting and finishing the row with a knit stitch until you’ve finished the ball of wool.
4. Add the second ball of wool and continue as before. Stop when you have a metre or so left of yarn.
5. Cast off.
6. Fold the scarf in half so the two ends are lined up. Using the excess wool, sew together the two ends.
7. Weave in the ends of your yarn and trim any excess wool.
8. Wear your snood with pride!
I sometimes wonder what my 16-year-old self would make of my life now. At that age I longed for a glamorous job, for designer suits to wear to work and a swanky apartment. It was an unrealistic dream; I have since come to realise that even in the high-powered jobs I imagined for myself most people don’t wear designer clothing to work. And that apartment? Totally unachievable for a twenty-something in the current job and employment market. That dream has long faded, to be replaced by something a lot homelier and happier. I didn’t know myself at 16; I would hate that stressful job, I would hate wearing heels to work every day and I would hate living alone, however beautiful my house. So there’s no doubt that my current situation is a lot better by far, but I still wonder what past-Amy might think about it.
That’s not to say my current life is completely without glamour; this week has been pretty exciting. On Tuesday I went to see One Man, Two Guv’nors at Leeds Grand Theatre, and it was absolutely fantastic – proper British slapstick humour. I always love the theatre, it’s one of my favourite places, but this was particularly good – if you get a chance to get tickets then I’d definitely recommend it, even if you’re not usually a theatre-goer. On Thursday we celebrated Bonfire Night at The Mustard Pot; it was so sweet to see all the kids bundled up against the cold, waving sparklers around. I also had my first winter Pimms of the year, which was very welcome now that it’s got frosty. And then on Thursday we got dressed up and went to Manahatta to try out this new addition to the Leeds bar scene; I had lobster, which always makes for a good evening in my opinion.
How was your week?
- I totally agree: What I’ve learnt after 1 year of food blogging.
- Do you live your life on purpose?
- I think we’ve all been waiting for this moment: A Mean Girls Reunion.
- Literary classics get the click-bait treatment. Can you think of anymore?
- Related: Literary characters as lifestyle bloggers.
- Who doesn’t love sticky toffee pudding? No one, that’s who.
- This sounds totally delicious: Brown butter apple pie with a cheddar crust.
- I have a new fashion blog obsession: Zipped.
- Do you use Pinterest for your blog or business? This post is super useful.
- 10 things to do for cheap or free in Copenhagen. So excited already about our trip there in May.
Here I go, brunching again… I would apologise but I’m pretty sure that this recipe will equally suffice for a lunch time snack or a lazy dinner so I think I’m off the hook. Baked beans on toast were a staple of my childhood, simple tinned beans piled high on white bread toast slathered in butter and topped with a handful of grated cheddar cheese. So simple, but so good. This is a bit of a grown-up version, inspired by brunch-time at Mrs Atha’s in Leeds on Saturday. If you haven’t been, you really must – the food is excellent but the surroundings are better, it’s a really gorgeous building with plenty of curios to entertain you whilst you wait for your order to arrive. Rich, smoky and sophisticated – this dish is a total winner and I was inspired to come home and make it for my very next meal. I didn’t, but only because Paul hates beans with a true passion, but as you can see, I didn’t wait long…
- 100g chorizo, sliced
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 400g borlotti beans
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- salt & pepper
- 4-6 slices of toast
- Heat a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and fry for 3-5 minutes until the chorizo has released some oil and has started to brown.
- Add the onions and garlic and fry for another 5 minutes or so, until the onions have softened. Throw in the thyme leaves in the last minute and stir through.
- Pour in the chopped tomatoes, beans, paprika and seasoning. Stir together and turn down the heat.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes until everything is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
- Serve on thick slices of buttered toast.