Life lately…

Last time I posted I noted how it had been ‘ages’ since my last post.  Well that was 7 months ago.  7 months have passed since I last found time to post, and as I sit now watching Christmas TV reflecting on the past year  realise what a crazy 7 months those have been; it’s no surprise I’ve not been able to post.

I’ve not really been up to much fun to be honest.  I was looking through my photos from this year earlier, and there really weren’t that many.  I have discovered a new talent in making home made marshmallows, and now the kitchen is nearly done I have a dedicated baking cupboard, and I now have red hair, but aside from that it’s been pretty work heavy.

My new job is very demanding and takes up a lot of energy, on top of that I was writing my dissertation for my MBA, which pretty much meant every evening and weekend was spent working on that, going to the library, reading, writing, drawing diagrams, crying, sending desperate texts of ‘I can’t do this’ to my friend, drinking Starbucks and neglecting nearly every other part of my life that wasn’t work.  That finished in October, but a week before it was due in I got really sick with some sort of kidney infection meaning I spent close to 5 days in bed.  I managed to submit, but it wasn’t quite the ceremonious event I thought it would be.

MBA ended, but my health deteriorated.  I was pretty exhausted, and after going back to the doctors as I still didn’t feel right she discovered by BP was something ludicrious like 200/130, so I ended up having many tests, including wearing a 12 hour BP monitor, and had to be referred to a cardiologist.  That took me to December and involved many other tests, including having to collect all my urine for 24 hours.  I am now eagerly awaiting the results to find out my fate….most likely being on BP medication for the rest of my life, which I’m not best pleased about, but it’s better than the alternative!

Thus we arrive at Christmas, and I am wiped out.  If you remember my posts from last year you will recall that I love Christmas, the food, the drinks, the atmosphere, buying and wrapping gifts, decorating the tree, singing carols etc..  Well this year was no exception, and with MBA out of the way, and a nice email confirming I’d passed having winged its way to me, I could finally relax.

So this brings me to today.  Another fantastic Christmas, and a week left before I have to return to work = relaxation, vegging in front of the TV, eating chocolate and resting.

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    Halloween costume

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    sitting on Father Christmas’ knee telling him what I want for Christmas

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    Red hair, much shorter

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    60s make up and hair for first Christmas celebration of the year

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    Birthday cake I made for my niece’s first birthday

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    medical tests

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    Halloween

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    Passing my MBA

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    Kitchen finally finished

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    Maple and honey glazed Ham for Christmas Day evening buffet

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    home made marshmallows

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    hazlenut truffles

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It’s been ages…

It feels like ages since I last posted, primarily because it has been.  Life has just been so hectic that I’ve not even had time to log on to read other’s posts, let alone find the time to write on.

Back at the beginning of April I started a new job in a different department at the Uni where I work as Finance and Operations Manager.  It’s a really great opportunity, and the fact I’m so close to the end of my MBA was what put  me in a position to apply for it.  It has been really full on though – I’m so busy and have to concentrate so hard.  The first few weeks I was coming home exhausted.  I’ve passed that stage now, but am so busy I am constantly thinking about what I need to do.  I think I’m going to be really happy there, but being new is horrible, and I just want to get to the position where I have everything under control like I did in the last job.  It’s one of those jobs I think is going to be really good for me career wise and personally, and make me a much stronger and confident person and provide lots of opportunities.

Alongside that I had to submit the last assignment for my last elective and am trying to work on my dissertation.  I have my final residential school next weekend, a midway report due in June, then a summer of writing up my dissertation (which I’m not looking forward to). So that is, well, mental!  I’m sort of at the stage now where I just want it to end and I want my life back.

Amidst all this, BF has been renovating our kitchen, which has included ripping out the ceiling.  I’m in our living room at the moment where the shelves are stacked with glasses, plates and everything that used to live in a kitchen cupboard until the work is finished and it can return to its rightful place.  The chaos of the kitchen makes it harder to keep the rest of the house tidy too, but I know at the end I’ll have an amazing looking kitchen, so despite the stress of it, it’s worth it.

So that has pretty much been my past 6 weeks!  We’ve made sure we kept Saturday nights free for champagne Saturday so we can actually spend some time together.  I wish I’d had more chance to take photographs of my outfits, but I’ve been leaving the house in a hurry that I’ve not been able to.  Instead, here is a montage from Champagne Saturdays and other things that have consumed my time over the past six weeks.  Hopefully after residential school I’ll have more time to think about what I’m wearing, and when the kitchen is done get back to baking too!

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The last few days

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I am so glad it’s Friday; I’ve only been at work for three days this week, but it seems to have been a long week.  I’m quite behind on studying and have an assignment coming up so need to knuckle down; but at the moment after the cold I had last week, my main motivations are telling me to chill out and rest.  At least the red wine is helping me through the evenings pouring over books and articles, and Miss Maddie is trying her hardest to help me as you will see.

I did some baking on my days off, I tried out two marshmallow fluff recipes, one using melted marshmallows and syrup and one from scratch using egg whites.  Both tasted awesome, but aren’t quite what I was wanting.  I think my candy thermometer isn’t working properly and I always have trouble converting measurements from US cups into imperial or even metric!  I’m going to take a trip to Lakeland tomorrow to see if they sell measuring cups so I won’t need to bother with the conversions anymore, and I think a digital thermometer is the way forward!

I’ve been wearing some nice dresses this week, and I bagged myself a cute little cream blazer that I happened upon when walking through H&M the other day on offer for £15.  Sadly I forgot to check the label (assuming as H&M clothes are so cheap they must all be machine washable)  and it’s dry clean only so soon I’ll have another item to add to the ever increasing pile of clothes I need to get round to taking to the dry cleaners.

I decided to wear the blazer today, and have styled it with one of my favourite (very old and getting a bit shabby) Zara animal print tunic dresses, my favourite boots (as it’s still cold) and a big gold necklace.  I put my hair in a high up messy bun to try not to look too ‘mumsy’.  Fortunately (for the first time in ages) it’s not raining here and so I managed to get away without having to wear a coat over the top (despite the cold!) which I was pleased about as I always feel weird wearing a blazer under a coat!

I’ve had lots of compliments about my outfit today, and also about the cakes and fluff I brought into the office for everyone to sample.  In fact, I think a post-lunch snack may be due 🙂

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It’s still Christmas right???

So, it’s sort of over.  Well the big day is over anyway.  I always feel an element of sadness in the days after Christmas.  I get so excited, spend increasing amounts of time from, let’s face it the start of September once my birthday is over planning, preparing and thinking about it.  This year,  I felt very Christmassy around mid-November, then it seemed to take ages for December, and then suddenly it was here!  All of that, for one day!  But what a day it was!!  We hosted Christmas for the first time this year, and by the evening there were ten of us in our living room around the tree, opening presents, playing games, drinking, eating and generally getting our Christmas on.

Apart from the good company and festivities there were three things that made this Christmas truly awesome…the food, the presents and having my niece here for her first Christmas.

Food

Usually at my parents, my mum doesn’t like us to snack before dinner.  I guess I can understand that.  You spend Christmas morning in the kitchen and so want everyone to be hungry for and enjoy the meal you serve.  I am the opposite, I want people to be so full they need to loosen their belts.  So in addition to the traditional turkey meal, we provided an array of goodies for people to munch on, a lot of which I spent Christmas eve making (before heading out for drinks).  For the evening, we boiled a ham, and served a selection of cheeses, pates, breads and bits….I do love cheese, and the ham was awesome.  I am still feeling the after effects of so much food!

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I would have taken photos of the evening buffet with cheeses etc… except by then the three bottles of fizz we’d got through was kicking in and my plans for taking everlasting memories by way of photos went out the window!

Speaking of tables, I was quite impressed with how our table looked after I’d set it.  I’d bought everyone a little present from my niece – a little plaque with a quote on – ‘Home is where your mum is’ or ‘Dad’s carry photos where their money used to be’ and ‘Grandads are just antique little boys’! I put them on everyone’s plate so they had them over dinner!

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My niece’s first Christmas!

Perhaps told best by photos – let’s just say by the end of the day, she was an expert in unwrapping and had been more spoiled than anyone!

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And finally…the presents!

What an incredibly good girl I must have been in 2013 to get the amazing gifts I got….some I don’t have photos of yet but will post when I’ve taken.  A Vivienne Westwood bass orb necklace, four pairs of shoes, a pair of boots, a superdry top, make up, loads of baking stuff, books, chocolates, including an awesome gingerbread house and mini chocolate basket made by my sis!

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It’s Christmas Eve Eve!!!

I can’t remember exactly why, but ever since we were kids my sister and I have called the day before Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve Eve!  Probably because we both love Christmas.  Only two days to go and I’m so excited I can barely sleep.  There are presents everywhere, I’ve done the pre-Christmas house clean food shop.  Today I need to iron (boo); a sad necessity if I want to wear something nice on the big day!  I also stupidly forgot to buy vanilla essence yesterday at Sainsburys, so, like the song says, it’s on with the boots back out in the snow (well rain)….BF keeps asking why don’t I drive….he’s clearly never been to the supermarket a few days before Christmas before!!!

But prior to that I wanted to post a quick picture of my breakfast.  It’s the first time in about 7 months I’ve made myself on of these; and I’d forgotten how good they were.  Egg toasties with oregano ketchup and a cup of Typhoo!!  Yum all the way!

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Christmas Fizz

Last night we hosted the first of our Christmas events; Christmas fizz.  Four of our friends came over and we all drank some of the finest drinks known to mankind (as Withnail would proclaim).  The dress code was come in an outfit that you feel reflects the inner you.  There was a range of outfits, all equally as glam; from bow-ties to LBDs.  I embraced my inner eccentricity and dressed as a 1920s flapper in a gorgeous sequin and fringe dress.

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As I’ve mentioned before, one rule I always live by is that no one should sit in my house feeling hungry or thirsty. So with a bottle of Etienne Dumont and a bottle of Piper Heidsieck in the fridge I set about making some snacks.  Some I did buy – some samosas and bhajis from the supermarket, but the rest I made.

Strawberries covered in melted dairy milk, puff pastry tart with caramelised onion chutney, pesto and tomato and oregano sauce:

buffet1 and home made mince pies – not sure if it worked that well as I’d not tried it before; and I personally don’t like mince pies so couldn’t taste; but I added a bit of Jack Daniels to the mincemeat.  I actually find mince pies had to make – they always seem to fall apart during the baking process.  However, icing sugar can hide a multitude of sins; and at Christmas, I just say the dusting of sugar is to create a snow effect….now that’s festive.buffet2 Finally, my favourite piece; these cute little strawberry snowmen.  Two of my favourite things, strawberries and icing….I used a cream cheese icing as it’s stiffer than butter icing, and added more vanilla essence than the recipe prescribed.  It tasted like ice cream!IMG_1022With Christmas day just two days away, I’ve got quite a bit of baking to do.  I’m not sure what I’ll be making – a chocolate torte is definitely on the list, and I definitely want to make some more santas.  I’m contemplating cup cakes too….

I may walk into the village tomorrow to pick up some ingredients.  It’s quite cold out, but that just means I get to wear my vintage fur hat! Yay for Christmas!

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Smells like Christmas…

I absolutely love Christmas – the lights, the smells, the sounds, the excitement – I swear even the air smells of Christmas.  My sister and I often can be found sniffing tinsel at this time of the year – not in a weird way, if that’s possible.  But it reminds us of when we were kids and my gran used to put tinsel on her tree.  Of course we’re way too 21st century cosmopolitan and put beads rather than tinsel on our trees, but nothing beats the memories of a good old fashioned 1984 Christmas!!

While I wait for Christmas to come, I’m also waiting for these little deers 😉 to arrive so I can start making Christmas cupcakes:
Sadly I’ve been ill for the past few weeks with Flu, and haven’t baked anything, or done, well anything really; aside from online shopping and watching lame made for TV movies on Xmas 24!!  At least I’ve done loads of my shopping already; and even bought myself a few little treats – things that are pink, sparkly or glam!!

Thank goodness for pork mince!!

So last night I really fancied a burger, but not being able to eat red meat really puts pain to that one.  Then I noticed I had some pork mince in the freezer, so I thought, why not…can’t be that weird.  Turns out it’s not weird at all as when I scoured the internet for a recipe I found loads of them.  Even one by weight watchers, so it could be that I’ve discovered a healthy way of eating burgers (though I’ll probably have chips with them so that will no doubt counteract the goodness!).
It seems there are two primary ways of making pork burgers – one with coriander and one with paprika.  I’m not sure if the two will go together, but I’m going to go for the coriander version primarily because I know this goes well with chilli, and I really want to add some ground chilli flakes to the recipe.
I’ll pretty much guess at quantities as I go along, but so far the ingredients I’ve collated are:
Half a pack of pork mince (so around 175g)
One egg
A red onion
Black onion seeds
Dried coriander
Crushed chillies (in a grinder)
Salt and pepper
Turmeric and Cayenne pepper (just a tad)
Basically, there is no particular technique, just mix it all together in a bowl, form the patties then fry until you get the result you want.  I like medium-well done so fried for around 6 – 8 minutes each side, though turning frequently.   Stick in a bun and, if you’re me, top with cheese.  Mix some oregano and thyme into your ketchup if you want a truly awesome finish!!

Baking obsessed

To relieve the stress that came with my MBA exam, I’ve been baking pretty obsessively lately.  I’ve tried home made hot cross buns, a smarties cake, jar cakes, mint matchmaker type things, and most impressively of all, home made cadburys creme eggs.

They are all still in the ‘need to perfect’ stage, and recipes will follow, but for now…photos of the first attempts!

Baking…one thing that stops me from buying shoes

Last night I attempted a recipe to make home made after-eight mints – they were fairly simple.  I need to perfect a technique to mould them as cutting up the slab cracked the chocolate too much and they looked a bit messy, but taste wise – they were awesome!!!  Would go really well with a cup of tea, or red wine 😉