4 Slow Cooker Meals That Are Saving My Life Right Now

slow cooker

[Photo by yvonne lee harijanto]

As you may have heard me moan about, we don’t currently have a kitchen. The people who owned this house before us took everything but the kitchen sink with them and, since we’re doing a bit of remodelling to get some more space and allow me that wine fridge I’ve always wanted, we’re on hold with actually building said kitchen. My current set up is an old chest of drawers in the garage, upon which sits my microwave, toaster, kettle and slow cooker. And do you know what? It could be worse. There’s a lot you can do with a slow cooker, which means we’re not constantly eating takeaways and ready meals. Here’s the five slow cooker meals we’ve been eating on rotation and which are very much saving my life right now. 

Harissa Chicken Stew

  • 4 chicken breasts 
  • 2 carrots, chopped into chunks 
  • 1 can coconut milk 
  • 1 jar harissa paste
  • big slosh of soy sauce
  • generous squeeze of honey

Drop everything into the slow cooker, give it a stir and cook on high for at least 4 hours. If you’re cooking for more than 6, I’d drop it down to low. Serve with salads, flatbreads and couscous. 

Lamb Madras Curry 

  • 500g diced lamb 
  • 1 jar of passata 
  • 1/2 jar madras curry paste

Mix everything together and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for up to 8 hours. Serve with mini naan breads cooked in the toaster or microwave rice. 

Sort-of Chicken Fajitas 

  • 2 peppers, sliced  
  • 300g mushrooms, sliced 
  • 1 onion, sliced 
  • 6 chicken breasts 
  • 250g Nandos Lemon & Herb sauce 

Put all the veg at the bottom and lay the chicken on top. Pour over the sauce and cook on high for 4 hours or low for up to 8 hours. Remove the chicken and shred before returning to the slow cooker and stirring through the sauce. Serve with tortilla wraps, fresh crunchy lettuce and grated cheese. 

Sausage and Bean Stew 

  • 1 packet of sausages 
  • 1 can of kidney beans 
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • glass of red wine
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1 tsp. dried basil 
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano 
  • big pinch of sugar 

Ideally, brown your sausages before adding to the slow cooker but you can skip this step if you’re surviving in a garage kitchen like me. Throw everything else in the slow cooker with the sausages (browned or not) and cook on low for up to 8 hours. Serve with crusty bread and the rest of the red wine. 

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This Too Shall Pass…

flowers

[Photo by Julia Janeta]

This is maybe the biggest first world problem that I have ever experienced, but let it be known that house renovation is no fun at all. When we were waiting for the keys, I would spend hours imagining what everything would be like once we had finished. There was no denying the big project in front of us; the carpets were vomit-worthy and there was no kitchen to speak of, but it didn’t quite occur to me just how long that would take. I knew I wouldn’t be sitting in a fully decorated house just a couple of weeks in, but I also didn’t know just how awful it is to live in a house full of brick dust.

We are coming up to the end of our second full week without a kitchen and our first full week of living inside a building site, with a couple of weeks left (at least) before we get any sense of normalcy back. Not including the bathroom refit that needs to be undertaken. Because as soon as we start to fix one thing, another problem presents itself. That is the way with houses, it would appear. 

Of course, this is hardly a real hardship. No one is dying. We are safe and warm and we have food, even if we do have to go to the garage to get it. But it is a massive bummer. Everything is in chaos and I don’t live well in chaos. Tuna, particularly, does not live well in chaos and is most put out that every time she pokes her head out from underneath the bed where she is taking refuge it all looks different again. I feel gross from all the microwave meals and takeaways that I have eaten over the past couple of weeks – I miss freshly cooked vegetables. Like I said, first world problems. But they are my problems nonetheless. 

It’s times like this that I know I need to take solace in my Grandma’s oft-used mantra: This too shall pass. 

For it shall. It’s true of everything, of course. It may be the only true thing that I really know, for sure. Whether it is pain or pleasure, this too shall pass. So endure or enjoy (or both) and know that the only thing that is certain in this life is that things will change. The building work will be done and I will be back to baking pies. The building work will pass and the house will become beautiful. The building work will be done and we will be on to the next challenge, perhaps harking back to this time as an easy, breezy period of life compared to what lies ahead. We cannot be sure, but we can be sure that whatever comes next will pass, too. And so on so on. This too shall pass. 

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June Book Reviews

june books

The Girls by Emma Cline* 

During the dying days of the 1960s, lonely teenager Evie Boyd spots an unusual group of older girls in the park and is immediately drawn to them – their kooky dress, their devil-may-care attitude and the frisson of danger that surrounds them. Soon, she is caught up in their circle – a soon-to-be infamous cult hidden on a ranch in the California hills – and obsessed with Suzanne, a ring leader who answers only to Russell, the enigmatic and mysterious (and very creepy) head of the cult. Evie is drawn more and more into their world, abandoning her mundane, every day life – but she might very well be in real danger. 

This is the book I was most excited for in 2016 and it did not disappoint. I’ve seen reviews which claim it is overwritten, but I found the prose very powerful and the observations on teenage girl-dom to be sharp and cutting. For those who want to read more about the Manson family, on which this cult is not-so-subtly based, this may not be the book for you – the horrors they enacted and the bizarre machinations of the cult itself are a backdrop for Evie’s coming of age story – and she is far more fascinated by Suzanne than by Russell, the Charles Manson figure. This book was compelling and intense; if you’re looking for a juicy summer read, then let this be it.

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger*

There’s obviously something in the water because this is also a book which takes inspiration from The Manson Family, but in a rather different way. Anna runs away to Los Angeles after fighting with her mother, staying with her glamorous but deceitful older sister. She begins researching the Manson girls, becoming obsessed with their lives and the way their stories mirror her own. This isn’t a book where much happens, but it captures the feeling of being a teenage girl, of having to grow up, of fighting with your parents so perfectly, of being at once amazed and disillusioned with the world all so perfectly. LA, like New York, crops up in a lot of stories but this one felt very real – at once dreamy and devastatingly ugly all at once. This isn’t a glamorous Hollywood tale, it’s a very real and nuanced look at fame, sex and violence, all through the eyes of a sometimes precocious, sometimes immature teenage girl. 

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson  

David has always been an outsider, labelled a freak by school bullies. His parents think it’s because he’s gay but only David and his two best friends know the truth – he wants to be a girl. Leo has just one girl – keep his head down and stay invisible. This new school is a new opportunity for him, but his best laid plans are about to go awry when he catches the eye of the most beautiful girl in the year. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, the two form an unlikely friendship but when the secrets they’ve shared threaten to expose them, it’s time for some drastic action. 

Oh, how I cried at the end of this book. I sobbed. I smeared mascara all over my face. But they were happy tears. I adored David and Leo, and their friends and families. I didn’t want to leave them, even though I was leaving them in such a good place. This book tugged at all of my heart strings, and I want everyone to read it. I do think it’s kind of an unrealistic portrayal of the realities of life for trans youth; although David is bullied at school, he has supportive friends and family and although the struggles and hardships are hinted at, there is also a bit of a rose-tinted ending. That said, I loved this book and I really think that everyone should read it – it’s one that’s going to stick with me for a while. 

Longbourn by Jo Baker 

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.

We all know what happens in Pride & Prejudice, but what happens below the stairs? Sarah is the housemaid for the Bennett family, an orphan living a life of hardship under the watchful eye of Mrs Hill, the housekeeper. Just as the Bennett girls worry for their future, so do the servants downstairs who are at the mercy of whoever takes over Longbourn once Mr Bennett passes on. Amongst the day-to-day monotony of emptying bed pans and scrubbing dresses, a new footman arrives and turns life downstairs at Longbourn upside down. There’s romance, heartbreak and intrigue – just as in the original, with a familiar cast of characters making their appearance as the backdrop for Sarah’s story. Fans of Austen may be disappointed by the tone, which is far more dour and serious than Austen’s own playful comedy of manners style but the love story is quite, well, lovely and there’s a good bit of gossip to keep you turning to the last page. 

Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe*

I love Nina Stibbe. Her work is charming, quirky, entertaining and just down right British. She manages to capture all the little oddities of Britain gone by, in a really original way, and her cast of characters are always lovable and eccentric. Paradise Lodge is no different – although I urge you to read both Love, Nina and Man at the Helm before you pick this up. Lizzie Vogel, aged 15, gets a job at the local old folk’s home – a totally unsuitable job for a schoolgirl but she is determined and soon finds herself quite at home there. The place is in shambles, and as Lizzie tries to navigate a complicated home life, a disastrous school life and her job at Paradise Lodge both hilarity and drama ensues. A truly lovely read that will warm your heart (and make you start saving for retriement!). 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. BOOKS MARKED WITH A * WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. 

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10 People Who Make My Internet Better

internet

The Internet can be a scary place. It has brought me almost everything good in my life, but it also breaks my heart on an almost daily basis. There is a lot of hatred out there and, if you have ever found yourself lost in the comment section of basically any article about women every, it can be easy to feel like the big, bad world is really an awful place. But, the thing is, you can choose your Internet. You can follow the trolls and read the comments and let it get you down Or you can find the good people that make the Internet, and the world, a better place. There are, thankfully, far more of them than the trolls and gremlins would have you believe. Here’s a few of my favourites to get you started: 

Sarah Von Bargen 

I have been following Sarah’s wonderful blog, Yes and Yes, for years. It is a lovely place of positivity and sensible advice and a little bit of silliness in just the right quantities. Want to know more about being a solo lady traveller? Sarah’s got you. Want to read uplifting and inspiring true life stories? Sarah’s got you. Want to see pictures of cats dressed as literary figures? Sarah’s got you. She’s also really wonderful at amplifying and shouting about her awesome Internet friends (like Alexandra Franzen, who has the kind of grace and wisdom that I hope to one day acquire) so her blog and social channels are a really great place to start if you want to make yourself a better Internet. 

Bodyposipanda 

I only discovered Megan and her awesome Instagram recently, thanks to Laura’s awesome Don’t Salt My Game podcast (go and listen!) but I’m already hooked. The clue is in the name, and Megan is all about spreading the body positive message so if you’re feeling a little down then this is a great place to go to get a little bit of pizzazz back. Megan fights diet culture, shares joyful selfies and has awesome purple hair. Is there anything more you need to know? 

Laura Jane Williams

You may have come across Laura’s wonderful blog Superlatively Rude or her new book Becoming but if not, I really urge you to check them out. She is maybe the most honest person on the Internet, and tells her own story in such a raw and open way; her writing is a little bit addictive and her unashamed sharing of her own ‘flaws’ and mistakes will definitely make you feel better about your own struggles. She also has a great podcast with some lovely guests, all with the message that none of us is fucking up the way we think we are. As a bonus, she shares the best links in the morning as commute reads, which I am always saving for later – so if you’re after some good reading material then definitely check out Laura’s Twitter account

Elliot Wake 

Elliot describes himself as ‘a queer biracial trans man who writes books & lifts weights & loves humans of all genders’ and I don’t think I need to give any further introduction. His books are brilliant and well worth checking out if you like dark, twisted, queer fiction (which I very much do), but it’s really Elliot’s Twitter feed that I want to point you in the direction of – because it’s one of my favourites. He’s tweeting about his transition using the hashtag #WakeUpElliot which goes from touching, to informative, to funny to surprising to inspiring. Interspersed with tweets about writing, conversations with his boyfriend and rants about LGBTQ+ issues, his Twitter is definitely something that everyone needs in their life. 

The Guyliner 

Humour with substance, and some excellent gif work. The Guyliner is an anonymous writer who pens excellent Guardian Blind Date takedowns and a great advice column for the Gay Times. His observations about pop culture, celebrity ridiculousness and just daily life always make me laugh. 

Ashley C. Ford 

I am a total Ashley C. Ford fan girl. I will read everything she has ever written and listen to every podcast she appears on because I just love her signature mix of thoughtfulness, gentleness, compassion and humour. She’s also great at sharing brilliant articles and other cool people so she’s another brilliant person to start following if you want to improve your Internet. All the good stuff here, I promise. 

Arched Eyebrow 

If you like fierce and stylish women, which I know you do, then you will love Arched Eyebrow – the fatshion blog and accompanying Twitter and Instagram of Bethany Rutter. Her outfits are always on point, her rants are unapologetic and she is truly a champion of other awesome fat women. Her Internet presence is powerful and colourful and exactly what we need more of in the world. 

Mallory Ortberg 

I find Mallory Ortberg‘s brand of humour so unbelievably funny – she is a highlight of my Twitter feed and my Internet in general. It’s hard to put my finger on but it’s feminist, slightly bizarre, quick-witted and just damn hilarious. The perfect mix of ‘high’ culture and ‘low’ culture. Basically, if you like The Hairpin or The Toast (duh) then you need to be following Mallory. Plus, her Dear Prudence advice column is pretty excellent, too. 

Doug the Pug 

Okay, who doesn’t want to see a pug dressed in a funny outfit? No one, that’s who. Doug the Pug is guaranteed to bring smiles to your day. #puglife

Amanda Nelson 

Amanda is the managing editor of my favourite book-ish site, Book Riot, which is dedicated to diversity in the book world – so you can imagine why following her would be rad. She shares excellent book recommendations, isn’t afraid to call out bullshit she sees in the book world (and the regular world) as well as book news, cool articles and generally fun, funny things. Oh, and she has a parenting newsletter called Madame Ovary, which I am so there for. She’s just a delight, basically. 

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Strawberry, Rhubarb & Pistachio Crumble

Rhubarb, Strawberry & Pistachio Crumbles // Amy Elizabeth

This is my favourite time of year. June just feels so full of promise – and when the sun is shining, there’s no other time I like better. I think a big part of it, however, is the delicious produce that’s available at this time of year. British asparagus season is a true highlight of my year, and I have no shame about that. I try to avoid my favourite summer produce at any other time – raspberries, strawberries, asparagus and all that good stuff just can’t live up to their summer promise at any other time. That moment when you catch the scent of fresh, sweet, ripe strawberries? Is one of the very best things about being alive, I’m pretty sure of it. 

Rhubarb, Strawberry & Pistachio Crumbles // Amy Elizabeth

These little puddings are the perfect way to showcase some of the very best of June – tart rhubarb, super sweet strawberries and a lovely, buttery crumble punctuated with creamy, nutty pistachios. You can make them all as one big pudding to serve a group or pop them into ramekins for individual desserts – either for a fancy dinner party situation or just to sit in front of the telly on a summer evening (especially when the weather doesn’t quite match up to how summery this tastes…). 

Rhubarb, Strawberry & Pistachio Crumbles // Amy Elizabeth

Strawberry, Rhubarb & Pistachio Crumble
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For the fruit filling
  1. 250g strawberries, quartered
  2. 250g rhubarb, in 1cm chunks
  3. 85g caster sugar
For the crumble topping
  1. 200g plain flour
  2. 100g unsalted butter, in 1cm cubes
  3. 100g soft brown sugar
  4. 85g pistachios, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Place the strawberries, rhubarb and caster sugar into a pan over a low heat and gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Taste and add more sugar if required. Turn off the heat and leave to one side.
  3. Place the flour, butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and rub together with the tips of your fingers until soft and crumbly. Mix through the pistachio pieces.
  4. Spoon the fruit into individual ramekins or a baking dish. Top with the crumble and bake for 25-30 minutes until the topping is golden brown and the fruit filling is piping hot.
  5. Serve with ice cream or a drizzle of double cream.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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Five Years in Leeds

leeds town hall

Photos by Jenna Woodward Photography

As of today, I’ve lived in Leeds for five whole years. In that time, Leeds has become more a home to me than any other place ever has been. I went from feeling lost and lonely in this city, to being unable to imagine myself anywhere else. It is fitting, it feels, that we moved into our new home this weekend, too. Right now, I feel a little lost in between these four walls – everything I own is in boxes (although slowly less so) and there is no kitchen and it doesn’t feel like home. But it will do, in time. One day, I think I’ll find it difficult to imagine myself anywhere other than this home that we are building, slowly but surely. 

In that time, I have become more myself than I ever have been, too. I suppose we are all becoming more ourselves every day, but I am comfortable with myself now in a way I definitely wasn’t when I first moved here. I’ve grown up here, properly, and learnt things about myself and found my way. I am grateful to this city, for helping me with that. 

leeds friends

I am also grateful to Leeds for bringing me so many of my favourite people. People who are as close to me as my family. We’re all transplants here, thrown together by luck and circumstance. When I moved here, they opened their arms to me and I hope that I have been able to do the same for others when they have made their way here, too. This family is not an exclusive one – we have our history together, sure, but that everyone is always so welcoming is my favourite thing about them.

So, Leeds. Here’s to another five years together, eh? 

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8 Books I Am Excited About Right Now

I have a real book buying habit. I have a pile of books next to my bed and plenty of unread books on my Kindle, but I can’t seem to stop picking up new titles. It’s tough when there are so many good-looking books coming out this year! Here’s 8 books that will definitely be coming home with me soon… 

2016 books 1

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye 

Reader, I murdered him… 

A re-telling of Jane Eyre with a sinister twist. Jane Steele identifies strongly with the heroine of her favourite novel, Jane Eyre; she, too, is an orphan who has suffered cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. But this Jane is just a little bit more badass – she’s a vigilante serial killer righting wrongs on behalf of London’s have-nots. Basically, you just have to say ‘vigilante serial killer Jane Eyre’ to me and I am so there. 

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti 

Jessica Valenti was the woman that introduced me to feminism – when I read her book, Full Frontal Feminism, my life was changed forever. This is her memoir, exploring the very real toll that sexism has played in Valenti’s life. I’m expecting her signature mix of shock, humour and self-recognition in this, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott 

I love Megan Abbott’s work – particularly Dare Me which I read at the beginning of last year. In her latest book, she tells the tale of Katie and Eric Knox, who have dedicated their life to the burgeoning Olympic career of their daughter Devon. When a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just before a crucial competition, their world is rocked and Katie finds herself drawn to the crime… Abbott writes so well, her books are all-consuming and I’m excited to read her latest.  

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay 

There’s no doubt in my mind that Roxane Gay is one of our greatest writers – she is thoughtful, empathic, and incredibly astute. Everything I read by her moves me to tears. I think that will be doubly true of her latest book, described as ‘a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself’. 

2016 books 2

Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe 

There is something so cosy about Nina Stibbe’s books. Her first, Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life, is one of my favourite books of all time and one I keep coming back to when I need something to warm my heart. Her characters are vivid, interesting and very, very British. Her newest book tells the story of Lizzie, a 15 year old who finds herself working in a chaotic old people’s home in the 1970s. I just know it’s going to be wonderful. 

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances, and Figuring Out Who the Hell I am by Laura Jane Williams 

If you hang out on the internet, you’ve probably come across Laura’s blog – Superlatively Rude. She’s achingly honest, and committed to sharing her stories, however painful, embarrassing or uplifting. This true life memoir is sure to hit you right in the feels, as she charts how she came to really figure out who the hell she is via sexual excess, a vow of celibacy in an Italian convent and everything in between. 

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer 

I’m a big fan of Amy Schumer’s comedy – she’s smart, satirical and completely unapologetic. Her first book promises to leave you ‘nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably’. Sign me up. 

Bad Boy: A Novel by Elliot Wake 

A story about a trans boy written by a trans boy. Formerly writing under ‘Leah Raeder’, his previous books have been intense and provocative (I loved Black Iris) and this is billed as the most groundbreaking yet. Sexual fluidity, drugs and revenge – in a romance novel? Yes, please. 

P.S. You might also want to check out the books I was excited about at the beginning of the year – some of these are out now (and out soon!). 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION.

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Our New Home!

home

 

Oh, hey there! Welcome to our new home! 

At the moment it’s empty and filled with horrible-looking carpets. Hopefully, in a few months time, everything will be shiny and new and stylish. 

We’ve spent all of our pennies on furniture and DIY tools. We’ve been spending every waking moment stripping wallpaper, sanding skirting boards and painting walls. 

It’s going to be worth it, right? 

On the first day, I was very enthusiastic. I was ready for the challenge. But then I had to wake up and do it all again the next day. And the day after that. 

There goes my dreams of ‘flipping’ houses and becoming an ethical yet incredibly wealthy property mogul. 

I’m not even really sure what a mogul is… 

Right now, my vision feels so far away. So much of it is in boxes and in the garage and in my head. I want it on the walls and floors. 

But it will happen. And then I can have parties and sleepovers and supper clubs and afternoon naps on the sofa and evenings curled up in my reading chair. 

Yes. The chair will be solely dedicated to reading. And maybe to putting clothes on. I’m only human. 

I’m worried about living without a kitchen. I’m dreaming of pot plants. I’m tired, but happy. 

Watch this space… 

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May

may

Celebrating our first wedding anniversary. 

Enjoying the calm before the storm of DIY… 

Collecting the keys to our new house. 

Getting very acquainted with the wallpaper stripper… 

Picking paint colours and floors. That’s the exciting bit. 

Brunching on vegan food with Emma and Jo at In Defence of Plants. 

Hoping for more blue skies and sunshine than grey clouds and rain. 

Buying my dream bar cart (although it won’t be in use for weeks…). 

Wearing high-waisted jeans and bodies. Trying to ignore the fashion ‘rules’. 

Exercising my democratic right to vote. I’ll never get bored of it. 

Stuffing my face with six courses of desserts with Cheryl & Katie. 

Meeting baby Bella and baby Meredith for the first time. So many baby cuddles. 

Reading my 50th book of the year! 

Starting (and re-starting) a new baby blanket for another new arrival! 

Baking with sprinkles. So much fun. 

Suffering from my second major cold of the year. And hopefully the last for a while. 

Watching the new season of Alway Sunny. I shouldn’t laugh, but I do. 

Drinking pre-mixed margaritas. Not as good as home-made, but a darn sight easier. 

Wishing for another NYC holiday. Not this year, but maybe next. 

Feeling tired but grateful. Ready for the next stage. 

How about you? 

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Weekend Link Love

flowers

[Photo by Leonardo Wong

Hey pals! How are you getting on? I hope you’re enjoying this wonderful Bank Holiday weekend. I’m up to my eyes in DIY and am taking a fun trip to IKEA today, so whilst you read this I’ll probably be in a flatpack-induced meltdown. But still, we have the keys and the house is ours! Which is definitely something. We have no kitchen and a terrible bathroom and the worst carpets that the world has ever seen, but they are all ours. Is anyone interested in progress reports on the new house as we do it up, or are you kind of bored of me talking about it now? Maybe don’t tell me of it’s the latter and I’ll live in blissful ignorance. I am trying to squeeze some fun out of the weekend (what, you mean sanding skirting boards isn’t the most thrills anyone has ever had?!) with a little date with my girls to watch Reign tomorrow, and maybe a takeaway pizza tonight. Who says I don’t know how to party? Let’s see what the Internet has offered up for us this week, shall we? 

 

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