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Monday, 8 September 2014

Back to school

At this time of year many of us get that 'back to school' feeling, even if we left education long ago. I certainly still had it when I was working at the cinema and of course it can't be avoided now I'm a teacher.
As we come into September I get an urge to buy clothes more strongly than at any other point in the year. Autumn is my favourite time of year for clothes. In the winter I am usually full of cold and just don't care. I love the idea of summer dressing but the weather is so unpredictable that I often end up wearing that floaty skirt only once.
Autumn however is where I come into my own. Macs, leaf colours, wool tights, brogues, not cold enough for jumpers...yes, all this I can deal with!
So here are some of the Autumn bits and pieces I have been eyeing up...and have bought!


Oasis


  • Longer Length Climbing Bird Shadow Dress
     
    Oasis
     
     
    Bold Printed Slim Fit Cotton Trousers
     
    La Redoute
     
     
     
    Pure Cotton Checked Dress with 3/4 Sleeves
     
    La Redoute
     
     
     
    Marks and Spencer
     
     

    Wednesday, 27 August 2014

    Snapping through the Summer

    Today's song: New Order- True Faith

    Warning! This post features a picture of fish!

    Ah the Summer Holidays! Everyone has an opinion on them. Mine is that they are pretty great. That might be because I get six weeks off though...

    As the holidays are coming to the end I decided to share some pictures from my phone showing the things I've been up to.

     
     
    Clearing out my classroom. I'm in the same classroom next year but it has been refitted over the summer. New furniture etc. I'm excited because the new furniture is moveable and so my layout can be more flexible. The bad news was that I had to move everything out of the room and now it needs to be moved back in! I tried to go in yesterday but the caretaker told me it wasn't ready- slightly stressful with only 3 working days left before the start of term. Never mind, it will all be worth it in the end.
     
     

    Getting my first Hello Fresh box. Hello Fresh are a great company who send the exact ingredients to make three meals for two people. This means there are no left overs hanging around in your fridge. They release the recipes for the following week before they take your money so you can choose whether to have the box or not that week. It's £39 for three meals for two people. I have had it twice so far and will probably continue to have it as a treat maybe once a month. The produce is good quality, the meals are easy to prepare and delicious. My favourite so far has been butterflied chicken with sweet potato.

     
    Eating Go Ahead snacks with BzzAgent. I've been part of a few campaigns with BzzAgent recently. The Go Ahead one has been one of my favourites as I discovered Chocolate Orange thins! These are such a great snack if you are feeling like a treat. I will be picking some of these up to have on my break at school.
    I'd really recommend signing up to BzzAgent if you enjoy discovering new products too.
     
     
    Settling into the new flat. Edd and I are now homeowners! The flat still isn't quite as we want it but we are certainly settled in. I was excited when Halifax sent us a little new mortgage gift pack containing chocolates, wine and a handy tool kit. How thoughtful!
     
     
     
    Feeding the ducks. If you live in or around Birmingham you may have experienced the joy of Cannon Hill Park. It's got a lovely arts centre, tennis courts etc etc. My friend and I spent a lovely sunny afternoon feeding the ducks!
    
     

     
    Baking. I haven't done as much baking as intended this summer but I did make Gin and Tonic cupcakes from this lovely blog. Using tonic water in sponge is a revelation.
     
     
     
    Mini golf. I'm a pretty big mini golf fan. This is also at Cannon Hill Park and it's a lot of fun. You can do 18 or 36 holes. Believe me, 36 holes takes some time! You've got to love a mini golf course that includes waterfalls.
     
     
    Birmingham's best food? Birmingham's most recent Michelin starred restaurant is also number one on Trip Advisor at the moment. Edd and I had the 5 course tasting menu last summer (before it got a star, we're cool) and returned this summer, basically instead of going on holiday. It's not cheap but it is incredible. My favourites were the brown shrimps, the wood pigeon and the dark chocolate. 
     

    Le Monde. Another foodie treat this summer was at new fish restaurant Le Monde in Brindley Place. I believe there is also one in Cardiff. They specialise in fish but also have a great selection of meat and vegetarian options. I had scallop and prawn skewers to start and then this beast of a fish. You can have it deboned and filleted but I was feeling badass. We both left with huge smiles on our faces so it was pretty darn good.

    Wednesday, 4 June 2014

    Santa Maria fajitas and corn chips

    Today's song: George Ezra- Budapest




    I recently received an exciting parcel from BzzAgent. It contained lots of goodies from Santa Maria (previously Discovery ). Now I love Fajitas so I was really excited to get stuck in!




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    Last week, I decided to have Chicken Fajitas as a half term treat. They're super easy to make...

    1. Chop some chicken and a red onion. Mix with the Fajita seasoning sachet and oil.

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    2. Fry chicken and onions until browned and then add a sliced red pepper. Fry for about 5 minutes and check chicken is cooked through.

    3. Heat your tortilla wraps in the microwave.


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    4. Build up your fajita!



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    We used the salsa that Santa Maria had sent. It was chunky and flavourful. We also had some guacamole in the fridge! I usually have lettuce on a fajita but I'd forgotten to buy any, boo.

    I also decided to add the exciting corn chips from the packet. These are an interesting concept. Heat, Spice and Shake Corn Chips are plain, but you can add whichever of their flavour sachets you like. They'd sent me the Smokey BBQ. Basically you heat the chips in the microwave and then add the flavour sachet. It was a bit annoying because there were no heating instructions so you just have to keep checking. They were tasty anyway, and added a good texture to the fajitas.


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    The fajita seasoning sachet flavour was 'mild' but I thought it had a bit of a kick! I like that but it isn't that good if you don't like spice. I suppose you wouldn't be having fajitas in that case. Overall, I really enjoyed my fajita meal and the chips were a great addition.

    The only item I didn't use was the Five Peppers seasoning grinder- I'm going to use it tomorrow to season my lamb salad!

    *Goodness me these photos are dreadful. Sorry about that, I was over excited! Foooood.

    .

    Tuesday, 27 May 2014

    Afternoon Tea at Hotel La Tour

    Today's song: Elbow- The Birds

    It was in a state of great excitement that Edd and I set off to Hotel La Tour last Saturday. I had heard marvellous things about it via Twitter and various blogs and now we were finally going to see for ourselves. It was our five year anniversary last week and this seemed a fitting way to celebrate. I was particularly interested in the Rarebit dip and interesting cocktails I had heard so much about.

    Hotel La Tour is a newish, shiny hotel near where the HS2 rail station will be if that ever happens. Edd and I have been twice before for food and the second time was better than the first. The hotel has a vaguely airport-ish vibe to it which is a clever nod to the name without being cheesy. The afternoon tea is available daily in the bar which is attached to the restaurant and is about nineteen pound per person without alcohol.

    Edd and I started with a glass of champagne and decided to have a cocktail later (I don't think people usually have a second alcoholic drink as this seemed to cause much confusion amongst the staff- they were worried we thought the alcoholic drinks were complimentary).

    Our food arrived and was placed on a stylish stand. We both had earl grey tea and this was served in a giant teapot! But onto the food...

     
    The savoury (i.e. less interesting) section had the standard set of dainty sandwiches, which were all fine. But what about the exciting dip? It was as good as I've heard and better. A cheesy Welsh Rarebit sauce with delicious breadsticks to dip it in!! Nom nom nom! I could have eaten it all day. I spotted on the bar snacks menu that you can buy this separately so I may have to do so.


     

    The scones were dinky which is good. Two plain and two fruit. A good amount of jam and cream.

    By this time I needed a little break, so we sipped our teas and champagnes and undid belt buckles etc. Onto the exciting selection of cakes and desserts. From what I could tell from internet reviews these
    change seasonally instead of just chucking the same old cupcakes out all the time.


    I started with the honey and almond marshmallow. Nice texture but I didn't get the honey. Next, the fruit tart and then the brownie. Both fine. I was saving the best til last....


    Lemon curd topped with swiss meringue. Oh my. This was delightful and I was glad I had a little break before eating it so I could fully enjoy it!!


    All in all this was a lovely way to spend an afternoon for a special treat. This is definitely the best afternoon tea I have experienced. Thank you Hotel La Tour!



    We paid for this ourselves and are not connected in any way with Hotel La Tour.
     
     
     
     
     
     


    Tuesday, 15 April 2014

    Meat-Free Tuesdays

    Today's Song: Elbow- One Day Like This

    For the past few months, I have been trying to eat at least one meat-free evening meal per week. It's not really health based but mainly about expanding my food horizons! Avoiding meat means being adventurous or being bored. We started by using quorn instead of meat in curries/fajitas etc but quickly realized that it didn't agree with Edd for some reason.

    Luckily it's 2014 and Pinterest exists! BBC Good Food has also been super helpful as it always is. I sent off for a PETA booklet but it basically said 'use quorn'. Thanks PETA but I'm trying to be imaginative here!

    So, here are some of my favourite meat-free meals. Most of them are very simple and use basic ingredients that you can get in Tesco or similar.

    Gnocchi and Tomato Bake

    Gnocchi & tomato bake

    This is from BBC Good Food. I don't really like pasta and gnocchi is an excellent alternative. I haven't tried making my own yet. The sauce in this recipe is delicious and contains lots of tomatoes. I don't use as much cheese as in the picture.

    Quinoa and Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes


    quinoa stuffed wp Quinoa and Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes + Giveaway

    This is from a website called Diethood which I found via Pinterest. It was my first attempt at using Quinoa which gets a bit of stick for being a sort of hippyish middle-class thing to eat. "Oh Saskia loves quinoa, she'd rather eat it than chips any day!"  (The implication being that your child is more civilised  than most and so, by extension, you are a better parent) But it's actually really delicious, filling and soaks up  flavours like no one's business. This is a great website anyway- stuffed peppers also feature!

    Spinach and Goats Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms.

    Spinach & Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms


    From Joyful Healthy Eats. What an inspiring website name! I'm trying this for tea tonight. I've never liked mushrooms much so I'm hoping stuffing them with lots of my favourite things will help.

    So there we go! Polenta is also very useful, microwaveable lentil packs, beetroot, ready roll puff pastry and pesto. And cheese. Lots of cheese. If you eat meat free food, please feel free to point me in the direction of some delicious recipes.

    Note: If I have a child I'm going to call it Saskia and fully expect it to eat quinoa for dinner and sliced peppers for snacks.

    Saturday, 15 March 2014

    A flattering dress for a mellow day

    Today's song: Elbow- My Sad Captains

    Dress: Oasis, Tights: M+S, Shoes:M+S

    I am feeling very happy to be wearing this dress today! I bought it in the Christmas sale without trying it on and was disappointed to find it didn't quite fit. Too much indulgence over Christmas!

    I've been a bit too scared to try it on since then. However, after exercising most days since then and the scales telling me I've lost some weight, today seemed like a good day. And it fits! Hurrah! Still a tad tight around the upper body but nothing terrible. At least it zips up, sob.

    I have been trying to be more healthy this year. Exercise and eating properly went out the window when I was doing my PGCE so there is no wonder I put weight on. Plus too much cake in the staff room and an inability to refuse chocolate. I've been much better since January and am enjoying exercising when I get in in the evening. I don't think my diet is too unhealthy. I do enjoy a treat on the weekend- crisps are my weakness but I have given them up for lent as I do every year. So I am feeling pretty vibrant, strong and healthy at the moment! Important when you have long days.

    I originally bought this dress for school but it is rather too low! It looks okay in these photos but it wouldn't pass the leaning across a table test.


    Sunday, 9 March 2014

    Graduation! Part two.

    Today's song: The Jam- That's Entertainment

    Friday was a very special day. I got up early, donned a cap and gown and graduated with a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. I finished the course in July and started my job in September but had to wait til March to graduate for some reason!

    I have graduated before, after my degree (and blogged about it here!) but I just remember feeling rather tired and a bit gloomy and worried about the future. So I was determined to really enjoy this occasion and look a little more alive in the photos!

    It was held at the Symphony Hall which is such a grand venue. My course is rather small and isn't actually at BCU but is accredited by it. We were the second group to go across the stage, shake hands with the mayor and collect our certificates. I felt extremely proud as I heard my name called!

    Afterwards, I found my coursemates, chatted to the course director and then found my parents. Edd didn't come to the ceremony but he met us straight after to take photos.

     
     
    Here I am looking windswept! I really liked my gown, the post graduate ones are more detailed which make you feel a bit badass!
     
    Please note the flat shoes. I genuinely do not know how some girls got across the stage. I would be paranoid about tripping over in heels.
     
     
    After I had given my gown back, my parents, Edd and I headed for lunch at Marco Pierre Whites at the top of the Cube. Well if you can't splash out on your graduation when can you?! I had beetroot and goats cheese salad, sea bass and then crème Brule. All gorgeous and three courses was twenty five pounds.
     
    My parents headed home. Edd and I headed home to get changed, then took advantage of the fizz Friday offer at Bar Epernay. Then we met friends from my PGCE, ate and drank cocktails at Coast to Coast and finished off with a bit of dancing! All in all, a perfect way to celebrate becoming a teacher.
     
    It is exciting to write about I here as I have recorded every step of the way- from my degree, working at the cinema, work experience, retaking GCSEs, applying for the course, taking the course, getting a job and now having the certificate to show for it! The school was recently ofsteded and I am pleased to say my lesson was good with outstanding features!