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Is it Sunday already? I have no idea where this weekend has gone, in fact, the whole week seems to have just whooshed by.

We’re a bit soggy here as on Friday there was a massive thunder storm (which I will admit had me a tiny bit frightened, it was so loud) and since then it’s hardly stopped raining. Sitting inside watching TV is not as good for the soul as lying in the garden reading and eating ice cream and I’m grouchy about it! It doesn’t take long to become accustomed to the good life!

Today I’m trying to embrace the grey weather by wearing slouchy clothes, drinking buckets of tea, curling up on the sofa and watching the Twilight Zone and eating a roast lamb dinner prepared by Anthony. I’ll also be catching up on all the internet I’ve missed by spending most of last weekend outdoors. If you’re in the same grey-weathered boat then here are some odds and ends from the internet that have caught my eye this week:

This post on being kind to yourself from Tiny Paint Pot

I intend to make a bottle of this ginger beer and go off on an adventure like I’m part of the Famous Five

A delicious, healthy, easy dinner recipe (what more could you want?) from Laughing Latte

A couple of months ago I watched a programme about the history of Iceland and now I am obsessed with going there. And Rachel’s post on her visit to the gorgeous Blue Lagoon has only fuelled the fire.

I plan to make these yummy looking gluten free chicken goujons next time I’m craving some Mcnuggets – a much healthier and much tastier option from Lancashire Food

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Monday Blues Banishers #19

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Hello there!
I gave Monday Blues Banishers a miss last week because I was in a terrible mood all weekend. I’ve been in a terrible mood all this week if I’m being totally honest, but I’ve come out of the other side of it now (thank god) and I’m back to share things that are making me smile this morning.
1) Reading Reborn Susan Sontag’s early diaries. I’m curious (nosey) so I love love love reading diaries and Susan Sontag is so inspiring, even at an early age so these have become a firm favourite and I’m only a few pages in.
2) I have cleared the dirty laundry basket. All the clothes in the house are clean. My wardrobe is bursting at the seams! I feel so accomplished. The choice of clothes is really quite overwhelming.
3) I sat out in the sunshine as much as possible this weekend. I’m thankful for a big dose of vitamin D and some fresh air.
4) Fresh bedding on the bed last night. Is there anything better than climbing into a freshly made bed?
5) I finally feel like I have got my groove back after months and months of feeling a bit ‘out of it’ or ‘off’. It feels good to have some focus and energy.
What about you? What’s making you smile today?

Food: Sprout Hash

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Brunch is my favourite meal. I think it’s everyone’s favourite meal, isn’t it? And my current favourite thing to eat at brunch is sprout hash. It’s quick, easy, and equal parts healthy and delicious. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I much prefer something with eggs and bacon to a big plate of pastries or pancakes (but that doesn’t mean I dislike pastries and pancakes – I’m only human).

I found the idea for sprout hash months ago from Put an Egg on it by Lara Ferroni which is such a good book and such a good idea, it turns out that most things benefit from having an egg whacked on them.

The original recipe is here, but since the first time I tried it I’ve tweaked it and substituted various ingredients depending on what I have on hand and what I feel like eating at that particular time.

The basics of it are as follows though:

Shred sprouts finely

Finely chop an onion

Cook the onion in a frying pan until starting to soften

Add the sprouts, cook on a low heat until tender stirring often

Add crushed garlic and any herbs you fancy, cook for a couple of minutes

Make a well in the middle for your egg (or make separate wells for each egg depending on how many you are feeding), break your egg into the well, put the lid on the pan and cook until the egg is done to your liking (I like mine with a solid white and runny yolk). I don’t have a lid for my pan so I cover it in foil, which takes slightly longer.

In the photo above I substituted the white onion for spring onions, added lots of dill and cooked everything in butter rather than olive oil. Once the egg was cooked I scattered lots more fresh dill. It was the best yet.

Other good additions are smoked paprika, chilli, chorizo, bacon, feta, red onion, parsley and thyme. Yum.

Monday Blues Banishers #14

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I don’t know about you lot but I definitely need five reasons to smile this morning. The prospect of a train to Glasgow hanging over my head has not left me feeling chirpy, especially because it’s half term – a dreadful time for all commuters. I like children, I really do, just not on public transport. Can we not just ban them?

However bleak things may look, there are always reasons for cheeriness and here are mine (I’m going to force myself to remember these on the train):

1)      I am one of those people who anticipates the working week with a certain feeling of dread. I like working, but I also like being at home, in my house, with all my things. I chose the house, I chose my things, and I put my things in places of my choosing within the house that I chose. Why wouldn’t I want to be here?! That’s not the point I’m trying to make here though. My point is that my working week is only Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. By midday on Thursday I’ll be back on my settee for a looooong weekend of doing stuff I choose with things I choose in the house I chose. Phew.

2)      It’s June. It’s actually the summer now and no one can stop me wearing sandals and floppy sunhats.

3)      I have a general ‘good’ feeling at the moment. Do you ever get that? I feel like there are a lot of possibilities, that I can do anything and that something excellent will happen, soon. This is preferable to the other feeling I get, which makes me think I should just stock up on ice cream and never see another living soul again.

4)      Coconut oil has made my skin HAPPY. Of course I had read millions of blogs and pinterest pins extolling its virtues but I never believed it until I tried it myself. It is now my moisturiser of choice. My purse is happy too because a big jar of coconut oil is £6 which is pricey for a cooking oil when you think olive oil is £3 a bottle…but when you compare it to a teeny-tiny double-walled pot of £20 moisturiser it is quite the economy.

5)      Eastenders. I love the Who Killed Lucy Beale storyline with unabashed passion. I refuse to be embarrassed – Ian Beale forever!

Lately

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I feel like I haven’t tended to my little patch of the internet for ages. But I promise it’s all been for a good reason. I started a new job a couple of weeks ago and it involves working nights, in Glasgow. So with getting the hang of a new job, being away from home from Monday lunchtime to Thursday morning, and forcing my body (and mind) to become nocturnal there really hasn’t been much time for blogging!

I’m getting more into the swing of things now so expect regular posting to resume over the next couple of weeks. For now, I thought I’d do a little ‘lately’ post like I’ve seen from my elders and betters in the blogging community. I love these sorts of posts because they include lots of details that don’t really fit anywhere else.

Lately I have been:

Loving:  sleeping in my own bed after a couple a nights a week in a hotel room. We got a memory foam mattress last year and now all other beds feel like beds of nails. I’ve been spoilt forever but it does make coming home a joyous occasion.

Reading: Game of Thrones. I’m currently plodding through book 2 after whizzing through book 1. I have watched all the TV series and I knew I wasn’t going to like the books but I also knew I’d have to read them to compare. I don’t like the books but I find them strangely compelling, despite knowing what’s about to happen all the time, make of that what you will.

Watching: Mad Men. This series is so good, I can’t wait for the next one. I love the clothes, the sets, everything.

Eating: Jambon-Beurre sandwiches from Pret. It’s a bit of baguette with loads of butter on it crammed full of ham and cornichons. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted. Gotta love the French for using butter as a sandwich filling rather than just a lubricant for bread.

Wanting: A haircut. This brief spell of sunshine we’ve experience has made my hair grow super quick and it’s just hit the awkward shoulder length period. The colour could do with a refresher as well. I wish haircuts lasted longer, they are so expensive that they seem like a luxury when in actual fact they are a necessity.

What about you?

 

 

Drinks: Simple Summer Cocktail

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It’s been so rainy lately. It’s played havoc with my ability to run more than twice (sometimes even once) a week and it’s meant we’ve been cooped up in the house watching too much TV and getting grumpy.

Yesterday the sun came out which meant we could sit in the *slightly* overgrown garden and read.

To bring the fancy level up a couple of notches I made a cocktail (can you call it a cocktail if it only has 1 spirit in it? I will anyway).

I don’t drink half as much as I used to anymore. I hardly ever go out, and I like that. Those days are mostly over and done with for me. And I rarely open a bottle of wine after work these days because of the hours I work. In the past me and Anthony would always have a glass or three with dinner but now the desire just isn’t there. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy an occasional tipple, because I do. I quite like not drinking that much because it means when I do it feels like a real treat. That’s exactly what this cocktail felt like.

This is one of many versions of a simple cocktail I usually make when I’m making a spur of the moment drink and I just have to throw together whatever dregs I have.

I was actually pleasantly surprised that I had such a wide choice of spirits on hand yesterday – I had half a bottle of vodka in the freezer, gin, whiskey, triple sec – this makes me a grown up, no?

Anyway, this particular concoction consisted of: a tiny bit of vodka (I’m old), cloudy lemonade, frozen blueberries (more exciting, and much prettier than, ice cubes), and was garnished with cucumber and strawberry slices. As soon as I had taken some photos I dunked the strawberry and cucumber in my glass because cloudy lemonade and cucumber are a match made in heaven. Yum.

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I think this drink would be as good with gin (maybe better, but I fancied a change from my old faithful) and I wish I’d had some fresh mint to hand because that would have made it taste even more sunshiney. Cloudy apple juice works as well as the cloudy lemonade – but it has to be cloudy or else it just doesn’t look as refreshing!

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Of course this drink would be just as lovely without the alcohol, in fact, I think I might give it a try today.

 

Monday Blues Banishers #13

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Good morning!

How were your weekends? Mine was good. It rained or was overcast for the duration here so I took the opportunity to snuggle up on the sofa and watch Netflix and drink too many cups of tea. I also slept like it was my job. I am completely well rested now.

The rain is continuing into the week in my neck of the woods. In fact, I woke up to glorious sunshine so I ran downstairs to hang some wet washing on the line. That was five minutes ago. It’s now raining. I’m not going out there to rescue it, but I could do with remembering why I should be happy on this Monday:

1)      Desperate Housewives. I’ve been watching the final two seasons because I had watched all the rest years ago and then just given up. It’s the perfect fluffy TV show to binge-watch and even though some parts of it make me cringe I still love it. I’m equal parts embarrassed that this is top of my list and desperate to get to my settee where the next episode is on pause waiting for me.

2)      This American Life. I think I’m late to the party on this one but I don’t care. This American Life is my favourite new podcast, in fact it just got picked up by BBC Radio 4 Extra. I haven’t listened to this week’s yet and I can’t wait to have a bubble bath and put it on.

3)      I’m going to make an exciting (and thrifty) vegetable stew later on. I love having something in a pot I can just reheat at mealtimes.

4)      This time last year I was in Italy with Anthony. I have been loving looking through the photos and remembering what a brilliant time we had (even though it makes me a little sad that we won’t be going on holiday this year).

5)      My nails are long and I filed them so they aren’t all crooked and jagged. Today I’m going to paint them and will probably spend the rest of the day staring at them and saying to myself ‘You’re so grown up and put together’ whilst I watch cartoons in my accidentally bleached cleaning leggings and eskimo slippers.

 

What’s making you smile today? I’d love to know.

Monday Blues Banishers #11

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Good morning!

How were your weekends? Mine was glorious.

I did just enough cleaning and exercise to feel productive without feeling hard done by. I made a Mexican bean soup so that I had some food prepped for the week ahead (I’ll sort the rest of the week’s meals out this morning since I don’t leave for work until half past one). I did a food shop so that the fridge and cupboards are stocked with healthy ingredients. I blogged. I got dressed on both days which is usually unheard of.

Buuut, I also managed to squeeze in a bottle of wine, watching films with Anthony, listening to The Archers omnibus (outrageous, tut tut Tom Archer), the Eastenders omnibus (oh, Ian! Why is the world so cruel to you?), a long soak in a bubble bath, two lie ins and an episode of that rubbish but ever so compelling period drama on BBC 1. Whew. Equal parts exhausting and amazing.

Here are some reasons I’ll be smiling this Monday…

1)      We are inching ever closer to another bank holiday! If you’ve read this blog even once before, or met me, or maybe just seen me in the distance on a crowded train then you will without a doubt know that bank holidays are my absolute favourite.

2)      Mad Men! (and to a lesser extent, Game of Thrones) They are back and they are providing us with something to watch every Monday night (or early Tuesday mornings in my case). After we finished The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and series four of Boardwalk Empire life felt a little bit empty. I’m glad we have a couple of programmes to watch regularly again, although if truth be told I could just watch The Sopranos on a loop and ignore the rest. Well, maybe I couldn’t ignore Don Draper and all the fabulous clothes in Mad Men but some episodes are just bleurghhhhh and Peggy drives me nuts.

3)      New clothes. I treated myself to some new (but very budget friendly) clothes from Boohoo on payday and they arrived on Saturday. I was in desperate need of a new dress and the one I chose with a lovely daisy print did not disappoint. I can’t wait to wear it this week.

4)      Old clothes. I delved deep into my wardrobe and found loads of old gems I’d forgotten about. I keep meaning to rotate all the clothes in my wardrobe so that I wear them all, or at least see them occasionally…but I always forget and end up wearing the same few outfits to death. If I did rotate them I wouldn’t be able to find a four year old cardigan wedged at the very back and feel like I’d treated myself, so maybe this way is better. I can’t wait to wear my cardigan this week!

5)      My bedroom is clean and tidy. This made a huge difference to how well I slept last night. I feel like a new woman today! My bedroom is usually the last room I get round to cleaning as mostly the mess is clutter and clothes and nothing so pressing as the disgusting food coated plates stacked up in the kitchen. Yesterday I tidied away all the clutter and the room is now lovely and peaceful.

Health: Running Like a Girl #1

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As promised, here’s my fascinating post on the progress I’ve made from couch potato to couch potato who jogs and sweats at regular intervals throughout the week…

I have signed up for a 5k which is taking place in late June which gives me plenty of time to train. Which is excellent, because I absolutely need plenty of time. I have just hit that point in my life where I’ve realised I can no longer just put on my trainers, decide on a physical pursuit to ace on a whim and then immediately achieve it. I have literally just hit that point. This time last year when the weather got a bit warmer, I woke up one day and decided I wanted to run 5K. Bam. DID IT. NO WALKING. This year there has been a lot of walking. The run to walk ratio is heavily weighted towards walk. And I sweat and my lungs feel like they are bleeding and I swear at small children who stand in my way and make me run round them, thus causing me to run further and over uneven terrain.

There’s a reason things aren’t so easy anymore. In fact, there are three, and two of them are my fault

1)      I am constantly ageing and hurtling towards death at an alarming and never ceasing rate (this one isn’t my fault, c’est la vie).

2)      In the past year I have become largely sedentary. I can blame the blues, I can blame excellent TV shows, I can blame the British climate but the only person truly responsible is me. My fitness has taken a real hit and I know if I’d just moved a little more it wouldn’t be quite so bad.

3)      I have been eating a disgusting amount of disgusting food. Eating like I’m planning on hibernating, eating like I’m growing another human inside me, which I ABSOLUTELY AM NOT but I almost look like I am. This one is also my fault and I am going to put an end to it right this second.

So, rude awakening about the state of my health and fitness levels aside let me fill you in on how my ‘training’ has been going so far.

I have been on three runs so I am by no means an expert and I haven’t broken much ground yet, but I have completed a week of my training plan so I thought it was as apt a time as any to give you an update. My first run was fine, there was a lot of walking but a larger percentage of running plus I discovered a nearby park with a picturesque reservoir and ducks. I managed 5K without much problem (not as speedily or as easily as I would have liked) and I didn’t ache the day after – in fact I walked about four miles to and from Stockport Library and felt all healthy and aglow.

My second run was different, in a bad way. I ran the same route as I did for the first time and I listened to the same playlist and I was b o r e d. In fact, I saw two rats sunbathing on the banks of the reservoir and when I trotted past they jumped in the water in fear (true story) – that was the best part of my run. I walked a lot more and prayed and prayed and prayed silently to Jesus to please, please, please make this run end. But he didn’t oblige and I persevered on to run/walk/hobble 4 miles (5K is 3 miles-ish). I think that physically I could have done a lot more on that run, but my head was not in it, I was so bored and I just wanted it to be over which in turn just made it drag on and on.

My third run was today. I was expecting to get it over with this morning but I got side-tracked by cleaning and by the time I had finished I just knew there would be hoards of children roaming the streets so I decided to push it back to the evening. The park was still packed with dog walkers and fishermen so I just did the one lap and then hit the streets again. Today I still walked quite a lot but on the second half of the run I found I could run much further without stopping than I thought I could. On the first half of the run I was stopping to walk fairly frequently, telling myself I couldn’t run any further, but during the second half I realised I had probably been doing that out of boredom and laziness because when I began pushing myself I saw there was really no reason for me to be stopping every couple of minutes… I could carry on for 6 to 10 minutes and feel just fine. Whilst this had a lot to do with my mentality I think pace also had a bearing on it. When I first leave my house and set off on a run I have such high hopes that I speed off, exhilarated by the sunshine and fresh air and that wears me out quickly because I am not 24 anymore. During the second half of my run I slowed right down, this meant I could comfortably ‘run’ for longer – I don’t mind if I’m slow, at this point I just want to be able to do it, speed can come later. Also, during today’s run I was checking my phone to see how far I’d ran, crossing a road and turning a corner all at the same time and I ran head first into a hedge. I’m pretty sure all the occupants of a red VW Polo saw me and died of laughter. Why am I so clumsy?!

So, that’s how I’m doing. The main thing I am fighting is boredom, and hedges. I find running really boring and yet I really want to be good at it. I don’t know why, I suppose because it’s free and outdoorsy and healthy. Any tips for easing the boredom would be greatly appreciated, but with most things, I am pretty certain it just gets better with time…am I right?

Meet Me in St Louis – The Plaza Stockport

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Last Saturday Anthony and I went to see Meet Me in St Louis at the Plaza in Stockport.

It’s a cinema which first opened in 1932, in the 1960’s it became a bingo hall until 1998 and then in 2005 refurbishment began under the influence of the Plaza Trust to restore the cinema to its former art deco glory.

The Plaza is situated in the centre of Stockport and ever since we moved nearby (about a twenty minute walk away) I have been intrigued by the façade of the building, which is lit up in red and green neon at night time. I got googling and learnt they show a load of old films, are a venue for performances and have a tea room on the top floor (I hear their afternoon teas are something to rave about and can’t wait to sample them some time in the future).

When I learnt that Meet Me in St Louis was showing I decided it was time we experienced the cinema for ourselves.

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We arrived at the cinema to a double bill of Tom and Jerry, much better than trailers! Then there was a pause whilst the organist played tunes from the film we were about to watch and a lady sold ice cream at the front. I took this opportunity to take in the surroundings, the changing lights, the beautiful curtains covering the screen, all the ornate wall decorations and stained glass windows. It was quite something.

The film began and I loved it. I had only seen it once before so was in the nice position of knowing I would enjoy it but not being quite sure of the plot. I do enjoy a good musical, and, as with most old films, I loved the costumes and make up (especially the strange mixture of 1940’s does the 1900’s). The story centres around the Smith family who live in … you guessed it… St Louis. There’s romance and comedy and almost-moving-to-New-York-but-not-at-the-last-second. My favourite parts were those that focused on the younger Smith sisters, especially the Halloween scenes in which the children of the neighbourhood make a giant bonfire in the street and knock on doors to throw flour in people’s faces and shout ‘I HATE YOU’. So funny.

 

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Now, once the film finished a strange thing occurred. The screen cut to black and a giant Union Jack appeared, the National Anthem rang out and then a photograph of the Queen’s face filled the screen. The (largely retired) audience stood as a mark of respect and I felt incredibly awkward for reasons I can’t really untangle into sensible points… When I got home I did some research into this and apparently all films used to finish with the National Anthem back in The Plaza’s heyday. It just felt weird from a modern perspective, I think there’s a reason that today’s blockbusters don’t close with God Save the Queen.

All in all, I had a good time. The Plaza is gorgeous outside and in and it really felt like a special occasion to see an old film on the big screen in such a wonderful setting.

I can’t wait to go back again soon.