books

I always wish I was faster at reading. I am pretty speedy – I can finish a short-ish book in a day – but it’s never fast enough. Especially if the plot is good – I want to absorb the whole thing but I also want to find out what happens. Plus, I’ve just started a ’52 books’ challenge on Goodreads and the overachiever in me wants to finish it as soon as possible. I know, I’m the worst. Still, it’s helped me commit to reading some pretty great things – I raided my local Oxfam bookshop this month for some new books which I’m already excited to read!  

Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales

I’ve not read much non-fiction recently, so this was a nice departure for me. For those who don’t know the story of the Bling Ring, this book follows the court case of a bunch of Californian teenagers who robbed the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. It’s an interesting story (which is probably why Sofia Coppola made a movie about it…) and Sales links the case to some wider issues surrounding celebrity culture and social media. I think that it’s perhaps a little out of date – I feel like times have moved on and our relationship with celebrities has changed but there are definitely some salient points made. Plus, reading about these teenagers is entertainment in itself – they are almost caricatures of themselves at points and it’s hard to believe both how they dared to commit the robberies and also that some of the celebrities didn’t even notice because they had so much stuff…

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

This was actually a re-read for me – but it was so long ago that my memory of the book was kind of fuzzy and didn’t stretch much past ‘it’s a classic’. I am so glad that I picked it back up because it truly deserves that description – it’s truly astounding. She seems to love these characters, which makes you love them, too, and she deals with some heart-wrenching topics with a softness and sensitivity that stays with you. The ending is stunning, and will leave you stunned. One thing’s for sure, my next cat is definitely going to be called Catticus Finch. 

Hyperbole & a Half by Allie Brosh 

If you hang out on the Internet often, you’ll probably have seen Allie Brosh’s work – whether you realise it’s her or not. Her hilarious blog gained her Internet fame (rightly so); I have been reduced to both hysterics and tears by it in the past. I was a little disappointed that a lot of the book was reproduced from the blog, but a really funny story told twice is still funny – and a poignant one doesn’t lose anything either. The stories range from touching stories about her adopted dogs, heart-wrenching tales of depression and hilarious anecdotes about a goose loose about the hoose kitchen. I devoured this in a day – it would make a great gift for someone.

One Day by David Nicholls

The hype over this book rather passed me by the first time, but having relatively recently read Starter for Ten, I was convinced to pick this up off the bookshelf. I am *so* glad that I did – I enjoyed this book immensely and now I want to lend it to everybody I know. The characters are perfectly flawed and so wonderfully written, and I was so emotionally invested that I bawled my eyes out by the end. It’s a little cheesy, sure, but that is part of the joy. If you’re after a grown-up love story and a bit of cathartic release then this is definitely one for you. 

 

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meThere are a lot of things that I am. I am still working some of them out, trying to enjoy the traits I like and accept or change the traits I don’t. However, there are something that I know that I am not (and never will be). 

Spontaneous 

Spontaneity is sexy, right? It’s relaxed and fun and easy to get along with. I am not spontaneous in the slightest. I can’t just get up and go at a moment’s notice. I like a proper plan for my day. One of my least attractive traits is my inability to change that plan at a moment’s notice – it make me incredibly anxious and if a new plan isn’t formulated straight away then I get kind of ratty. Or a lot ratty. Spontaneity and me do not mix. 

Rebellious  

I have smoked once. I have never done any kind of drugs. I always obeyed my curfew. I always did my homework on time and got good grades. I didn’t even have a gap year. I am the opposite of rebellious. It probably helps that my parents are super laid back and didn’t give me much to rebel against. Even so, I don’t see the appeal. It’s just not me. 

High Maintenance 

Oftentimes, girls like to prove they’re not high maintenance to appeal to boys, right? I’m the cool, casual girl that doesn’t care about messing up her hair, right? That is not what I’m saying. I *want* to be high maintenance. Or, at least, more high maintenance. Well put together. A little bit glamorous. I try, I really do. But I am so much more comfortable in jeans and flat shoes, and if I put on too much make-up then I look like a clown because I can’t do it properly. I feel like my life would be better if I knew how to contour, but it’s a skill that eludes me and probably always will. 

Patient 

I am not good at waiting for things. Whether that’s an event or an achievement or just dinner, I get anxious or impatient really easily. When I have ideas that I can’t put into action straight away, it makes me nervy. I’m pretty sure it drives Paul mad – but it also means that I get a lot of stuff done. So there’s that. 

Relaxed 

I cannot sit still for two minutes, and most of the time I am multi-tasking. Sometimes it’s not a positive thing – I should probably focus on the movie rather than endlessly scrolling through social media, but other times it’s what makes me productive. I hate to end the day having achieved nothing – I try it sometimes but it doesn’t agree with me. Whether it’s finishing a book, knitting a scarf, baking a cake or writing a blog post, even on my down days I need to get something done or it totally bums me out. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I can work with this rather than against it to make myself satisfied rather than stressed at the end of the weekend. 

What are you not? 

 

 

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(Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel)

This week has been hectic. I’m holding down the fort at work this weekend whilst everyone else has exciting holidays, so it’s safe to say that I’m a little jealous! Plus, I’ve been endlessly browsing Airbnb on the evenings… Let’s be honest and say that saving for a wedding is really boring and I’d much rather be spending the money on weekend trips to Europe.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom – my sister has come to stay this weekend so we can look at University Open Days. I think I’ll always feel like she is too young for that but it’s been quite fun to go back and see the whole process from the start. I definitely teared up a bit when they showed the videos of everyone having fun – she’s going to have the best time and I’m so excited for her. I am a sucker for marketing ploys, that much is clear. Tonight we’re off to MeatLiquor as well – I’ve not been yet so hopefully it lives up to the hype (I’m sure it will).

This week has also been for celebrating with sweet friends – a couple of bottles of bubbles with Katie & Ed on Thursday to celebrate their engagement and the gorgeous wedding of Sally & Todd yesterday. I love weddings and this was possibly the cutest – a proper DIY, eco-friendly, village hall wedding with afternoon tea and plenty of dancing. I had a blast.

What have you been up to this week? 

 

 

 

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curry 2

Paul and I can never agree on curry takeaways. Whilst he likes the sophisticated flavourings of Aartis on Street Lane, I like my takeaway curry to be a little bit dirty. A little bit fluorescent. I like my chicken tikka masala to be bright red and greasy. So wrong, but so right. 

However, when it comes to home-made, I prefer my curries to be wholesome. I don’t claim any authenticity – I don’t grind or roast spices, this curry is not a labour of love but a quick and easy meal that will warm your belly and make you feel a little bit smug (it’s the spinach, it’s a smug food). It also makes a pretty good lunchbox meal, although watch out for envious glares as others poke at their soggy sandwiches. I know it’s not very ‘foodie’ to suggest something is microwave-friendly but this really is – and sometimes that’s okay. Just save the tub from your last takeaway to put it in. Or be nerdy like us and buy a hundred of those little trays from Costco for all your tupperware needs. As you can tell, it gets pretty crazy here… 

curry 3I used a mixture of lentils from Tesco, but this really works with any kind of lentils – you could add chickpeas as well. It’s a real store-cupboard meal – if you cook regularly, you’ll probably have most of the ingredients in already. 

Spinach & Lentil Curry
Serves 3
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For the curry
  1. 150g mixed lentils
  2. 1 onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely grated
  4. 1 tsp. ginger paste or freshly grated ginger
  5. 2 tsp. medium curry powder
  6. 1 can chopped tomatoes
  7. 150g natural yoghurt
  8. 1 tsp. turmeric
  9. 150g fresh spinach
To serve (optional)
  1. Big dollop of natural yoghurt
  2. Freshly chopped coriander
  3. Rice of your choice
  4. Naan breads (obvs)
Instructions
  1. Cook the lentils according to packet instructions and leave to one side.
  2. In a large saucepan on a medium heat, heat some oil and gently fry the onions for 5-10 minutes until soft.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger and curry powder until the onions are well coated. Cook for another minute or so until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes, yoghurt, lentils and turmeric. Stir together.
  5. Add the spinach in handfuls, allowing each amount to wilt down and stir into the sauce before adding the next.
  6. Once all the spinach has been added, turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the curry has thickened.
  7. Serve with an extra dollop of yoghurt, some fresh coriander and all the usual accompaniments (don't forget some bhajis!).
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

 

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lab leeds 4

I am not much of a music-lover. I’d rather listen to a podcast than an album and I know the names of about four chart musicians at any one time. This isn’t a symptom of my growing old, I’ve always been this way – much to the disbelief of my music-obsessed brother. As a result, the number of times I have been to concerts is pretty limited – a few big names here and there, and maybe one or two local bands at The Forum in my mis-spent (but mostly tame) youth. Even so, I was pretty excited when the First Direct Arena opened its doors – I’ve been just the once (for McBusted, obvs) but it’s a great addition to our city and there was a lot of talk about how it was going to rejuvenate the rather neglected area next door. 

lab leeds 1

It’s taken a while to kick in, granted, but LAB is hopefully the first of many ‘cooler’ bars and restaurants to open in the area, giving concert-goers and locals somewhere new to go. Certainly, if you’re looking for somewhere to have a bite to eat before an event, this is the obvious choice – close enough that you can stay in the bar until the very last minute (hopefully missing the queues, and maybe the dodgy warm-up act) and cool enough that you’ll be Instagramming your way through your meal. LAB has that laid-back vibe that all the best bars do, with some cool decor touches – science equipment and vintage medicine bottles – which make it stand out from the rest. Plus, their cocktail menu is pretty exciting. You can’t say much fairer than that. 

lab leeds 2

Food-wise, the menu is fairly limited – burgers and chicken dishes make up the majority but there are some interesting twists on the usual, including the cracked black pepper chips which taste like McCoys writ large (which is a very good thing, believe me). Paul opted for the Beast burger whilst I had the hanging chicken kebab, both of which were very good for the money. I’ll be honest and say that it’s probably not the best burger you’ll have in Leeds (although the jury is out on where you might get that…) but it’s tasty and good quality. The kebab was a little fussy to eat, especially with sauce dripping everywhere – but that doesn’t bother me and I really liked the sticky, sweet jerk BBQ sauce. I was full after just the main course, but I did spy some desserts making their way to other tables which made me wish I’d not worn skinny jeans…

lab leeds 5

For me, however, the cocktails were the definite highlight. The staff were excellent at recommending drinks, and I was happy to go with their choices – a refreshing cucumber gin number for me, and a Fiery Agave for Paul. I’ll admit to being rather jealous of his cocktail, sneaking more than my fair share of sips – made with chilli-infused tequila it was just the right amount of spicy and savoury, and was served with a pretty neat ice cube ball. If you do work nearby, then an after-work cocktail here would be the perfect end to a Friday, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be ordering the Cotton Candy Cosmo on my next visit… 

lab leeds 3

 

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decorating 1My name is Amy and I’m a Rightmove addict. I long for a house of my own to decorate, where I can have opinions on paint colours, cover the walls with subway tiles and persuade Paul that an AGA really is the only way to go… All that being said, there is no way that I can afford any of those things any time soon. My dream house is a just that, a far-off dream. However, don’t cry for me, home-owners of the world, because I actually rather like our little flat.

We’ve lived here 18 months now and we’re slowly but surely starting to put our stamp on things, thanks to a generous landlord and IKEA. There are some things that we can’t change – the weird orange-brown tiles in the kitchen, the static-inducing carpet and the lack of bath in the bathroom (don’t worry, there’s a shower…) but throwing some cushions around and hanging some pictures definitely makes those things a lot more palatable.

We’ve slowly been building up a collection of artwork, picking up pieces from all over the place to hang on the walls and make things our own. I love how affordable and accessible art can be – the word seems to suggest expensive oil paintings and bizarre modern sculptures but we’ve picked up a lot of stuff for under £20, which works well for our budget and for my ever-changing tastes. Whilst I would one day like to invest in some art, I think it would be wiser to wait until we have a home of our own and have put down some roots. 

decorating 2

My go-to place to shop of home decoration is Etsy – there’s so much choice and it’s easy to pick up affordable yet unique prints like our bright pink sugar skull from Print Kitchen and the Shakespeare print from Bookishly (whose stuff is amazing – I want it all!). I’m a big fan of typographic prints, including this one from Elise Joy, which is so simple but such a lovely message. If you follow some creative bloggers, it’s worth keeping an eye out on what they’re producing as I’ve seen a few selling unusual, limited edition prints. 

Another of my favourites is a of Chapel Allerton in 1908 – our home isn’t on there but a few buildings on our road are marked. I think it’s super interesting to imagine what it must have been like to live here over 100 years ago, and people always remark on it when the visit. We picked up the map from Chirpy in Chapel Allerton – a lovely design shop which has lots of affordable framed prints as well as other design bits and pieces. Definitely one for Christmas present shopping! 

decorating 3

Last, but certainly not least, is this fantastic print which was very kindly gifted to us from The Print Foundry. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot that this photo is one that Paul took when we went to Iceland last year of a yarn-bombed bike on the streets of Reykjavik. It’s one of my favourites from the holiday – I just think it captures the spirit of the city and the trip. This is hung in our spare room to greet guests, and I love how colourful it is compared to our other more monochrome prints in the living room – the quality of the print is also brilliant, you can really see the texture of the wool and again, it draws lots of comments! I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more shots that we can get printed – it’s one way to guarantee a unique piece of art! 

 

 

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I’m getting a car today! A little red bug, all ready for me to drive around Leeds – I’ve finished a set of refresher lessons and I’m ready to hit the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still terrified, but a little less terrified than I was before. It’s a lovely end to a rather busy week; going back to work was a shock! Thankfully September is already less busy – like pretty much everyone I’m looking forward to the cosiness of Autumn. Today I’m baking a pie and sorting through my scarves whilst watching Buffy the Vampire Slayers. A pretty good day all round. What about you? 

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Trestle at Friends of Ham, LeedsI am constantly impressed with the Leeds food scene – there’s always something exciting going on and if you’re in the know, you can have some pretty amazing experiences for surprisingly little money. Keep an eye out on Twitter and follow the right people, you might end up eating one of the best meals of your life – which is exactly what happened when I booked myself and Emma some tickets to Trestle

Trestle at Friends of Ham, Leeds

Twelve people. One Table. Unusual locations. That’s what these guys are all about – pop up dining with incredible food in slightly odd locations. It’s exactly my cup of tea, and for just £35 to boot. The events are just once a month, and with just twelve people dining you have to be quick off the draw if you want a space but let me tell you, it’s totally worth it. In August, the table popped up in Friends of Ham‘s new extension – which currently looks a little bit like a construction site as it doesn’t open until the autumn. No problem, of course, as it just gave the night more of a furtive, temporary feel – with fairy lights piled in buckets and lamps hung from bookshelves to light the space. They’d decorated the table beautifully with wild flowers and – most importantly – individual printed menus dictating what delights would grace our plates. 

Trestle at Friends of Ham, Leeds

One of the things I love most about pop up dining is that it’s done by people who are passionate about food – both the chefs and the diners – which makes for an often unique experience, especially for the price. Not only that, but the menu is only created once (or maybe twice) before it’s lost to memory – you can never have that exact same meal again. For those of us who eat out often, the novelty is thrilling. The best food I have ever eaten has been at nights just like this – at Chateau Marmot, Dinner at the Manor and now Trestle – but I can never eat those dishes, that way, again. So it’s best to savour the moment…

Burrata with Grapes at Trestle at Friends of Ham, Leeds

Especially when you are presented with such gorgeous dishes as we were on that Friday night – mouthfuls of creamy burrata punctuated with sweet grapes, a slow-cooked yolk mopped up with fresh bread and salted butter, salty mackerel with fresh fennel and cucumber, soft pigs cheek with crunchy celeriac and apple and perfectly cooked pork belly which is still occupying my daydreams. All topped off with a beautiful strawberry dish that defies explanation – not least because I ate it so fast that I couldn’t remember… Washed down with Slovenian wine – an unusual but incredibly wonderful choice, just solidifying my desire to visit Slovenia as soon as possible. My words cannot possibly do this feast justice. 

Trestle at Friends of Ham, Leeds

If you’re a Leeds resident (or even if you’re not), then Trestle are definitely ones to watch – I’ll certainly be back and I hope to see you there. 

Trestle at Friends of Ham, Leeds

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Doughnut Peaches

French toast is the bomb. When it comes to brunching, it’s the perfect dish – sweet or savoury. It’s decadent but totally easy to achieve. I’ve already made Vanilla Spice French Toast and Lemon & Poppyseed French Toast but I think this version might be the most indulgent of all. It’s basically a dessert that’s socially acceptable at breakfast time. Although, come to my house and any form of dessert is acceptable at breakfast time – there are no rules here. There are, however, soft, sweet roasted peaches and big dollops of vanilla-spiked mascarpone to devour. When are you coming to visit? 

French Toast with Honey Roast Peaches & Mascarpone Cream

French Toast with Honey Roast Peaches and Mascarpone Cream
Serves 4
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For the French Toast
  1. 250g sliced brioche (stale is best!)
  2. 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  3. 75ml double cream
  4. 3 large eggs
  5. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  6. sprinkle of cinnamon
  7. sprinkle of granulated golden sugar
For the Honey-Roast Peaches
  1. 6 doughnut peaches (or 4 regular peaches)
  2. large knob of butter
  3. big squeeze of honey
For the Mascarpone Cream
  1. 120g mascarpone
  2. 50ml double cream
  3. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the French Toast
  1. Lay the brioche slices into a baking dish so that they overlap.
  2. Mix together the milk, cream, eggs and vanilla until you have a smooth mixture.
  3. Pour the mixture over the brioche so you get an even covering.
  4. Using your hands, press down the brioche so that it starts to soak up the mixture and form more of a solid pudding shape.
  5. Put in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or overnight if possible.
  6. Remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  8. Sprinkle the dish with cinnamon and sugar and pop into the oven for 30 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.
For the Honey-Roast Peaches
  1. Whilst the French Toast is baking, halve the peaches and remove the stones. Place in a oven-proof dish.
  2. Put a knob of butter on each peach half and drizzle over some honey - a small dollop for each half is sufficient as the peaches should already be pretty sweet!
  3. Place in the oven after the French Toast has been cooking for 10 minutes - they should take around 20 minutes to roast and become delicious!
For the Mascarpone Cream
  1. Whilst everything is baking in the oven, mix together the mascarpone, cream and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth and well-combined.
  2. Serve the French Toast with a couple of peach halves, a dollop of mascarpone cream and the sweet honey butter sauce from the bottom of the peach dish.
  3. Bask in the praise of your brunch companions.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Yorkshire is pretty wonderful. There’s pretty much everything you could want here in God’s own county – from the mean streets of Leeds to the rolling pastures of the Dales, the bleakness of the moors and the quaint little towns with drystone walls. I’ve made my way around quite a bit of these green & pleasant lands over the past couple of years, but there’s still plenty to explore – including Yorkshire’s coast. So when I was invited to come down to Ox Pasture Hall near Scarborough, I jumped at the chance. 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Ox Pasture Hall is perfectly situated for those wanting to see more of Yorkshire – it’s a five minute drive from Scarborough for those who want to stroll along the beach, but tucked away in the countryside for those who want a quiet break and a ramble in the fields. It’s also not far from York or Whitby, so there’s plenty to do for a longer stay. Oh, and it’s dog friendly for those with pooches (and those who, like me, really want a pooch and will happily coo over other’s pets when out and about…). We were just there for one night, but we managed to walk along the seafront and snack on some proper fish & chips – whetting my appetite to come back to this part of the world! 

Chips at Scarborough Beach

The hotel itself looks like a rustic country house, set in stunning gardens. There’s a log-burning stove in the bar area and a few hints of the old life of this building scattered around the place. It’s very cosy, although we went on a Wednesday so it was a little quiet – which depending on your sensibilities will be a good or a bad thing! Our suite was absolutely beautiful, and incredibly spacious. It was light and airy, and incredibly comfortable – the bed was like sleeping in a cloud. I was very disappointed to go back to my regular bed which has very few cloud-like qualities. 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Let’s talk about the food though, shall we? That’s what you’re really here for, isn’t it? I’ll be honest and say that the afternoon tea was nothing much to write home about; having had some very good afternoon teas in my time, I was a little underwhelmed by the selection. However, that being said, dinner more than redeemed any lingering disappointment from the tea – it was incredible. It’s not cheap, but I was so full afterwards that I couldn’t really manage any breakfast the next day, so it’s easy to get your money’s worth!

Afternoon Tea at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

There are two menus – the A La Carte and Bistro. Since we were feeling fancy, we went for the A La Carte. A surprise ‘amuse bouche’ arrived first – a little cup of more-ish tomato & red pepper soup served with fresh bread and a dollop of garlic sauce. This was followed by Whitby crab for me – a very fresh dish – and ham hock for Paul. I want to sing the praises of the main course, however – a delicious beef dish made up of a slow-cooked joint and steak, which was melt-in-the-mouth and incredibly decadent. The menu changes regularly with the seasons, but if you get the chance then order this dish! There was no room for dessert after all that, which is not my usual modus operandi but needs must! 

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Whitby Crab at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Beef at Ox Pasture Hall Hotel Review, Scarborough, Yorkshire

All in all, we had a wonderful time. It is one of my enduring memories of Bridget Jones that she was a little obsessed with going on a mini-break, which always confused me as a teenager. However, I think if all mini-breaks were like this one then I think I could definitely get on board with her way of thinking. 

Disclaimer: We were offered a complimentary stay and meal at Ox Pasture Hall in return for this review but, as always, I would never lie to you about the cloud-like nature of a bed. That’s serious stuff. 

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