Friday, 31 January 2014

Foodie Friday - Soy, lemon & five-spice roast chicken

by Bex

This was a great healthy alternative to the usual roast with all the trimmings.  Nik is always in charge of roasts and we both loved this one!  The recipe suggests serving with rice and steamed greens or stir fried veg but we had rice and steamed sprouts, I absolutely love sprouts and it made it feel a bit more like a roast dinner for me.  The sauce to go with the chicken was extremely tangy and strongly flavoured, I was not at all convinced until I tried it over the chicken with the rice and it really works, so delish!

This is another recipe from my BBC Good Food magazine subscription which I love!

Serves 4
thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced
1 large chicken (appx 1.8-2kg), untied
2 bunches spring onions
1 bulb garlic cut across the middle
1 lemon, halved plus 4 wedges
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbsp sunflower oil
salt & pepper
1 tbsp sunflower oil to drizzle
1-2 tsp golden caster sugar
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
fragrant rice & green vegetables to serve

Put most of the sliced ginger into a large roasting tin then sit the chicken on top.  Stuff the chicken with remaining ginger, the green ends from one bunch of onions, half of the garlic and half a lemon.  Mix the five-spice, 2 tbsp oil and seasoning then rub all over the chicken.  Nestle the other half of the garlic bulb next to the chicken and drizzle all with 1 tbsp oil.  Loosely re-tie the legs and set aside at room temp for 30 mins or so.

Heat the oven to 190oC (170 fan) and roast the chicken for 1 hour.  Toss the lemon wedges and spring onion ends into the pan juices then roast for 30 mins more or until the meat is cooked at the thickest part of the thigh and the lemon wedges are sticky.

Lift the chicken from the pan and set aside, uncovered, to rest.

Spoon away any excess fat from the pan, then place on a medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Add 1 tsp sugar, the soy, hoisin, juice from the remaining half lemon and any resting juices.  Simmer for a few mins until it thickens slightly then check the seasoning and add more sugar if needed.  Serve with the chicken, rice and vegetables.

It doesn't look great on the plate as I particularly love the leg & thigh meat which doesn't make for such a pretty photo but it tasted amazing!  :)  As I was a bit weary of the strong sauce at first, I didn't have much but soon drizzled it all over my sprouts too!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Greener Together Campaign - 2nd hand clothes

by Bex

Before Christmas I was invited to be the case study for a style feature for the Evening Times to promote promote second hand shops and charity shops as an alternative to buying new things as part of the Scottish Government's Greener Together campaign (which I have talked about previously when I made this seasonal soup).

I had a great day with Adele from Stripe helping me select outfits and Ross from Imagine Wedding Images taking the photos.  We went along to Oxfam on Byres road who kindly let us browse around their shop taking photos.  At the time we were looking for things you could wear to a Christmas party instead of buying a brand new outfit, it's better for the environment and saves money!  We found quite a few great bits but actually there were a lot more than just Christmas party options.

Photo by Ross Brownlee

I spotted a couple of sparkly tops, maxi skirts and this cute black beaded bag which was just £5.99...

Photo by Ross Brownlee

We ended up with quite a selection to try on for some photos (although sadly the purple dress was a size 10)...

Photo by Ross Brownlee

And this print dress (£14.99) and sparkly blazer (£9.99 - I bought this!) looked fab together...

Photo by Ross Brownlee

After we'd finished scouting out the glitzy evening ideas I stayed and had a look around and soon spotted some other gems!  I have always loved charity shops for trinkets, ceramics and glassware.  I had great fun collecting mis-matched glass & crystal vases for our wedding and I found some great decanters and bottles for my Halloween party 'Poison Bar' too!  I've never spent much time looking at the clothes though but this time I found so much great stuff!  I'll definitely be exploring more of my local charity shops and scouting out more clothing finds after this experience.  (Although they've always been great to find stuff for good old pub golf!)

I fell in love with these Oxfam cards which, although new, are super cheap (most were around £1-1.50) and there were loads of great designs and they're all for charity :)

I LOVE browsing the trinkets you find in charity shops and I came home with yet another vase, sorry Nik, for just £1.99, a lovely wooden star Christmas tree ornament and these cute little stainless steel ice-cream bowls, £2.99 for the set.

Of course, I couldn't resist some accessories and had to purchase that cute little bag and these gorgeous chunky beads (£2.99).

But by far the best purchase was this Gannex camel wool coat which I snapped up for a mere £24.99!  One of the fun things about shopping in second hand shops is looking for things you can style differently or even upcycle into a completely different garment.  (You know I love a bit of upcycling!)  I've styled this coat so many different ways already, adding a different belt and wearing it open with both dressy and more casual outfits.  It's so versatile!

I've worn it LOADS, I'd even go so far as to say it was my new favourite - worn open to show the oversize style or closed with a black belt to cinch in my waist.  I love thinking of ways to style second hand pieces to you get more use out of them.

So, do any of you shop in charity shops?  Any great finds recently?  Let me know in the comments, I love bargains, especially 2nd hand ones :)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

January Joy - Social Media Clean Out

by Bex

I've been sorting out my Pinterest boards recently.  I had 72 boards and it was annoying having to scroll through them all to choose the right one every time I want to pin something new.  I would usually prefer to have lots and lots of sub-categories to organise my pins into but when on a pinning spree of different things it's easier if there are fewer boards.  Now that you can search your own pins I'm less concerned about finding things I've pinned so I don't need as many separate categories although I should get better at writing my own captions, I tend to just pin it and leave whatever's already written and some of them can be a bit random!

I got rid of a lot of boards merging most of the more specific ones into my Fashion/Style I love, Home Sweet Home, Random and Ideas boards.  I also merged my Girl Crushes into my Hotness board which was previously all male and merged some of my travel boards into just 2 - places I want to go and places I've been.  I'm now down to 48 boards.

Next month will also see the return of Pin It Do It every Wednesday.  I still regularly look at my Pinterest boards when I need inspiration for an outfit, a recipe or a craft project.  It even sometimes reminds me of things I have in my wardrobe, giving me new ideas on how to wear them.  I love it!

A quick search for more winter maxi style inspiration

As far as decluttering my other social media, I've also been whittling down the people I follow on Twitter and Facebook.  Something I've been meaning to do for a while.  Basically if you're not tweeting/sharing stuff I'm actually interested in then what's the point?  I keep missing things I'm actually interested in because I follow so many people/businesses.  I've kept all my real friends of course but general acquaintances on facebook or people who followed me on Twitter who I followed back but never actually converse with me or share anything I like are gone or going.

It feels good to have a clear out, even if I really should be focussing on clearing out our home instead!  I have to say though, I've gained so much from Pinterest and Twitter, I daren't think about what life would be like at the moment without the friends I've met on Twitter and without having Pinterest to inspire so many projects which are perfect for keeping me busy and blogging when life gets a bit much.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

January Joy - Treat yourself - Sugar & Vice jewellery

by Bex

I can't wait to show you these fab Sugar & Vice pieces I treated myself to recently!  I've wanted a name necklace for a long time (I have a silver one in Arabic) and have seen a few designs I like, including this more dainty one on my wish list (although I could never decide between Bex or Becky) but I also liked these very different acrylic ones from Tatty Devine but I never really liked the fonts available and they don't have a green I love.

I was recently informed of a similar brand who also work with acrylic, Sugar & Vice.  Miss WestEndGirl showed me their instagram account after I admired her unicorn necklace at the brilliant Christmas event at Brel.  It turns out they have more colour options for their name necklaces and a much bigger choice of fonts for their double stacked name necklaces.  Not only that but they are cheaper and they happened to have my perfect colour of green AND it's glittery!

I had to place a custom order as I ended up deciding to choose a random word rather than my name and since I am also obsessed with dragonflies, I went with Dragonfly.  Unfortunately this proved to be one letter too long as the limit is 8 letters but a quick email conversation later (I also asked if they could make me a dragonfly charm to hang off it) and I was informed that it was possible to do 9 letters AND the charm for just an extra £4!  Perfect!

Thanks to Sarah for taking these pictures for me!

I absolutely love it!!

Since they also had a sale on I had a quick browse and bought this fab holly necklace for just £9.10 which I've put away ready for next Christmas!  :)

I'm also loving their new collections - Mermaid and Gems.  I'd definitely recommend you check them out!  I've worn my name necklace loads already (particularly with this jumper with the low neckline to really show it off)!  :)  I wore it for the first time to Lynsay's #MDBlovesGlasgow vintage hair & make-up event with Miss Dixiebelle which was so much fun and I picked up some great tips!

Outfit details:
Jumper - Miss Sixty @ TK Maxx
Jeans - Dorothy Perkins
Shoes - Nine West
Necklace - Sugar & Vice
Hat - Jasper Conran @ Debenhams
Scarf - Zara

Monday, 27 January 2014

January Joy - Tidy Up & Clear Out

by Bex

I'm taking part in January Joy again and two of this weeks' prompts are Tidy Up and Clear Out.

I have a big list of things that need to be tidied up and cleared out before we have to move in the summer.  The problem is, when it comes to that kind of thing, I'm very good at it - when the mood strikes!  Instead of getting on with the more important jobs like clearing out the spare room, I keep finding more fun jobs to do instead!  For example, organising the books in the living room into a rainbow...

Obviously essential!  ;)

I also recently sorted out our alcohol cupboard.  Yes, we have an alcohol cupboard!  I love cocktails and ever since I was a student, I've had a bit of a collection of weird & wonderful cocktail ingredients, boosted by my parents' collection when they moved to Saudi Arabia.  I think some of the bottles in there are the same age as I am!  Since starting my little bar in my student flat, I've slowly added more to my collection as and when needed for certain recipes (food or drink).

I also keep my cocktail recipe books in there along with straws, cocktail sticks, shot glasses, decanters and mixing sticks/pounders.  I rearranged the top two shelves so that all the fruity, interesting bottles lower down so it's easier to see what we have and all the boring but essential, usual ones at the top - brandy, vodka, gin rums, whiskys, port and sherry.  I wish I took a before picture as it was a bit of a jumbled mess before

I love being able to mix up a random cocktail if the mood strikes and I'm pretty good at making fruity punches for parties too, I love tasty fruit punch.  Nik's actually the best cocktail mixer though and makes a mean Mojito!  I have invented a couple of cocktails myself before - Peachy Keen and Sour Cherry & Almond and this weekend I made another - The Orchard so look out for that one in a couple of weeks, it's lovely!

Having seen Rebecca's home featured in Good Homes magazine recently inspired me to want to finish off our rooms properly, there are lots of little bits I have been meaning to do for ages now and I'd like to perfect them all before we have to leave this flat.  I love living here and would like to have some great photos of the place all properly finished to remember it by.  I need to finish the rainbow paper bunting for the spare room and finish the de-cluttering I started when Mum was here.  I want to turn it into a proper room rather than a place to store stuff which just gets tidied when we have people staying with us.

Our bedroom, too, could do with perking up a bit.  Obviously I don't want to make any big changes or spend any money since we will probably be moving in 7 months but I think we could do with brightening it up a bit.  I also want to convert my letter press tray into a jewellery holder like I originally planned.  The nail varnishes didn't work out - one fell off as the shelves are so narrow and it burst!  Luckily it didn't leave much of a mess - just a little drop on the curtain and carpet but they're hidden in the corner!  Watch this space, if the right mood strikes of course!

Friday, 24 January 2014

My first magazine style feature...

by Bex

...Kinda.  I am in i-on Glasgow magazine this month after being photographed at the Urban Bar & Brasserie event last year.  They got in touch to ask about my outfit and it's now in the magazine!  It's a fab picture of Lynsay (Miss WestEndGirl) and me together :)


As mentioned above, my outfit details are:
Blazer - Primark
Strapless Top - H&M
Jeans - Oasis

And the rest:
Coat - Jasper Conran at Debenhams
Boots - Office
Earrings - Debenhams
Fingerless Gloves - M&S
Flower (worn as brooch) - H&M
Ring - ebay

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Healthy Mushroom Stroganoff recipe

by Bex

When I was shopping recently I spotted a massive box of mushrooms reduced to just £1.30 and thought I could make a mushroom stroganoff.  As I couldn't be bothered looking up a recipe in the supermarket, I just guessed that I had most things I would need at home (having made beef stroganoff before I remembered it's made with mustard and paprika and some kind of cream) the only thing I didn't have was cream so I bought half fat crème fraiche to keep it healthier.

Rather than just completely make it up, I googled and read about 4 recipes before deciding what to include in my own.  I ended up taking bits from each and at one point I was worried I'd ruined it as it didn't smell great and I thought maybe I should have kept it simple but by the time it was finished and I tasted it, I loved it!  Since I used the crème fraiche it's pretty healthy too!  :)

Serves 3-4
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped (I also added a shallot as I had some left over)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g mushrooms, sliced/quartered (I used chestnut mushrooms and quartered the smaller ones)
salt & pepper
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp tomato puree
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp sherry or white wine
200ml beef stock (or vegetable if you want to keep it veggie friendly)
2 tbsp lemon juice
150ml crème fraiche
extra black pepper (optional)
parmesan (optional)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wide saucepan and cook the onions and garlic over a medium heat for about 5 mins.  Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5-7 minutes until browned.  Season with salt & pepper.

Remember, they shrink a lot!

Add the mustards, tomato puree, paprika, thyme and sherry and mix thoroughly into the mushrooms.  Add the stock and 1 tbsp of the lemon juice.

Simmer until the sauce thickens then remove from the heat and add the other tbsp of lemon juice and the creme fraiche (I also added more black pepper as I like it peppery) and stir through.

Serve with rice (I used brown microwave rice and it was actually nice!) and grate over some parmesan if you like.  I was really pleased with it and it was really easy to make.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

January Joy - Read something new

by Bex

Today's Florence Finds' January Joy prompt is 'read something new'. I absolutely love reading and I've talked about Goodreads before and my reading challenges for the last 2 years.  This year I am aiming for 40 books again and I've already got quite a list of ones which I plan to read.  My full 'to read' list has around 300 books on it so I'm trying to think about the ones I want to read this year and putting them in my 2014 list.

As for reading something new, I am always reading new things as I never read books twice (I don't know why as I enjoy watching my favourite films more than once but I just don't get the same enjoyment out of a book, even one I love, after I've already read it).  I also read a pretty varied range of genres, although I know what I tend to like and tend to stick to that if I just want an easy read to escape into, something which has been particularly important over the last year.  I struggled with a couple of books which, although recommended and I could appreciate the writing and anticipate them being a good read, they just took too much concentration and have been placed back on my 'to read' list.

My usual favourites are crime/thriller novels, I just love how they grab me from the start and I get sucked in and can't wait to find what will happen/who dunnit!  Perfect for escaping real life and distracting myself from difficult times, they make me want to keep reading and hide away under my duvet whilst I enjoy them.

Another genre (if it even counts as one) I particularly enjoy are the young adult books I've been reading over the last couple of years.  Quite a few of them have been trilogies which is even better as they keep my attention for longer.  Most have been either dystopian futuristic stories (Divergent, The Hunger Games, Delirium.) or fantasy, magical stories (The Magician's Guild, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, City of Bones) and I've loved them all.  Some of them are so imaginative and descriptive, they take me away into other worlds - the thing I love most about reading.

Other books I read in 2012 include: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Fried Green Tomatoes, War Horse and We Need to Talk About Kevin - I'm just not sure exactly which genres they all fit into.  I would never rule out a particular genre or type of book without having tried it.  Although I didn't think I would ever like a historical book, I loved War Horse for the relationships throughout as well as the overall story.  I cried for an hour when I finished it, the same as when I read My Sister's Keeper - some books just get me so emotional!

Last year I read fewer books (it was a particularly tough year which I thought would make me read more but it seems that when I am very down, I have trouble concentrating enough even for easy reads and prefer to wallow in front of films) but a higher proportion of YA although I also read some good old 'chick lit' along with The Great Gatsby and Life of Pi, 2 books which have been on my 'to read list' for quite some time, as was Pride & Prejudice which I read last week.  I loved Life of Pi and found Gatsby to be difficult to get into but was glad I persevered.  P&P was similar, it took me a while to get used to the language and I found myself having to re-read lines to understand what was being said.  Had I tried to read it when not in the mood for such a book I don't think I would have finished it.

I love talking about books I've read and hearing others' opinions and respect that not everyone likes the same books as me.  I will continue to read books I think I will enjoy without any regard for what may be perceived from my choices and keep trying new genres and keeping my reading choices varied, even if I do tend to go back to YA and crime novels in between reading other books ;)

If you have any recommendations of books you think I would enjoy, please leave a comment below, I'm always open to suggestions.  And you can follow me on Goodreads, if you wish to keep up with my book lists and ratings.

Monday, 20 January 2014

My Secret Santa Gifts

by Bex

My first secret santa gift arrived a couple of weeks before Christmas.  I say first as something went wrong with the form and Anna K's details didn't register so when I matched everyone up I had no idea she had taken part!  When she tweeted her excitement after I started sending match emails I panicked and gave her me!  It meant I'd have 2 people to buy for but since they were both such fabulous people I was quite delighted anyway!  ;)

So, anyway, my gift from Anna was opened almost immediately!  It contained some delicious homemade biscuits (which didn't last long!) and a card explaining how she is not a crafty person but does know people and she had chosen me some gifts she thought I'd love.

Bless her she even gift wrapped the gift receipt!
She was so right!  She bought me 3 gorgeous gifts which are so perfectly me!  I received a lovely deep green cowl neck top, a black obsidian statement necklace and a green dragonfly cookie cutter!

Sadly, although I am ultra flattered that she thought I was a medium, the top was far too small for me and despite trying on the XL in store it was still awfully snug and not at all flattering for my shape (which I am genuinely gutted about as I do love it!).  However, as she had sent me the gift receipt, I managed to swap it for these beauties below...

Dyrberg Kern earrings

I had a scout around House of Fraser looking for something alternative and spotted these earrings (yes my first stop after the Phase Eight section was the jewellery section of course!).  So actually, Anna even managed to give me something else I love - shopping!  :)  Thank you lovely Mrs K!

As for my other gift, I received these stunning green champagne flutes from Amanda M!

I opened this gift on Christmas day since it only arrived the day before so resisting the temptation was easy as I was so busy making food anyway!  I'd had a sneaky suspicion that the package contained some kind of matching items (I was thinking candlesticks) as they were very similarly shaped and wrapped in lovely green sparkly patterned brown paper with candy canes.

We used them on Christmas day for our Champagne and have since enjoyed bucks fizz and Prosecco out of them when indulging in all the leftover Christmas & birthday fizz!  :)

Thanks so much for my pressies ladies, they are truly loved and wonderful, thoughtful gifts, both of which came with personal and lovely sentimental cards, also very appreciated!  xx
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