WORDS TO LIVE BY: indieberries' live simply poster

Friday, 30 January 2015

Instead of a PHOTO FOR FRIDAY, I thought I'd shared some words to live by for the weekend.

My friend Ché, who I actually met through blogging, is such an inspiring girl. She's a maker, entrepreneur, yogi and all-round awesome, uplifting person who is also hilarious. She posted this print in her notonthehighstreet.com shop and I was instantly drawn to it.

Inspired by her sweet message, here are some ways to live simply this weekend:

Go for a walk: grab a friend, partner, spare dog, lace up your trainers and get outside for some fresh air. It's a free way to catch up with friends and family and you'll have time to actually talk instead of getting distracted by the hustle of a restaurant or coffee shop.

Try a new recipe: my frugal recipes are the pinnacle of simple living. Bonus points if you can get ahead on meals for the week or packed lunches. I like making a big batch of this tomato sauce; it goes with everything from Friday night meatballs to quinoa and veggies scarfed down at my desk.

Clean your house: I know...probably the last thing you want to do on your day off, but when was the last time you really cleaned your house. A couple of months ago I got behind our media unit and spent a good few hours untangling the mass of unused cables, dust bunnies and stray dvds. It was gross but it felt so good. Unless cleaning isn't your jam, then maybe just leave it until next weekend ;)

Write a letter: I'm notoriously bad at keeping in touch - I don't love to talk on the phone and I wholeheartedly avoid Skype. This weekend I'm finally going to write my entry for the bicycle and then put together a couple of little packages for friends overseas.

Make a proper breakfast: during the week I usually eat breakfast when I get to work, so it's something microwavable like porridge or, lately, fruit and yoghurt has been my jam. What I really like is savoury breakfast though (always eggs), which it's not all that easy (or pleasant) to eat at your desk! On Saturday mornings I make a point to really go for it, always with a pot of tea for multiple top-ups while I read a magazine. (My favourite breakfast posts.)

Go gardening: My mum, the fountain of all knowledge, says bulb planting season is upon us. It's an actual thing that gardening is good for you and can relieve anxiety and depression; even a little herb garden on your windowsill or a terrarium in your living room is fun to put together. Perfect excuse to head to the garden centre!

VALENTINE'S DAY DIY: mini gift boxes

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

I love a good Valentine's craft and this one is particularly adorable, so excuse the amount of photos - I just couldn't pick my favourites! This little DIY was destined as a guest post for Polly's blog, A Rowan Tree, while she's travelling the world, but I just couldn't get it done over there. I'm sharing some of my favourite Valentine's DIYs over on her blog though, so pop over there if you want to make something a big bigger for that special someone (and some guy-friendly ideas as well)!

These tiny gift boxes are made from little matchboxes I got from eBay. I collected a bunch of crafting scraps and sat down with a cup of tea for a few hours to make these. I got a bit obsessed and before I knew it the whole afternoon had passed! I used magazine pages, wrapping paper leftovers and some old greetings cards - the Anthropologie catalogue turned out a few beauties too! I just used double sided sticky tape to secure the paper and made sure to cut out little rectangles as lining too.

They really are tiny, so they would make a perfect box for little rings, sweets and love notes. The trouble is, I love them all so much, it's going to be a bit difficult giving them away!

FRUGAL RECIPES: butternut squash w/ quick-pickled onions

Monday, 26 January 2015

Even though it's still gloomy and cold, I've had enough stodgy food for a while, particularly after glutting my way through the whole of December. This recipe is fresh and zingy, but a hint of chilli and soft, caramelised butternut squash makes sure it still counts as comfort food.

I suppose it's not so much a recipe as a bringing together of ingredients, but first things first you have to make your pickled onions. These aren't like the ones you normally get on the countertop in the fish and chip shop - they're tangy and sour with a hint of sweetness. And they only take about half an hour to make! I followed this recipe from The Kitchn - the  most  helpful tip is to finely slice your onion into rings, which makes them easier to fish out of the jar later on. I like to let mine marinade overnight, but they can be ready in as little as half an hour! They will keep for a few weeks in a sterilised glass jar (just pop in boiling water for a few minutes and leave to dry on a clean kitchen towel) and they are great with everything from sandwiches and salads to heartier meals like pulled pork.

All you have to do now is roast the butternut squash in the oven for about an hour at 180C. I like to drizzle mine with olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. Hearty herbs like rosemary and sage would also be lovely, as well as a good handful of garlic cloves.

When the edges are starting to brown and the squash is soft, serve on a plate with crumbled feta cheese, coriander and the pickled onions. It's squash season at the moment, so I made 8-10 lunch-sized servings for £4 (40p each).


Wednesday, 21 January 2015
I've had a couple of disposable cameras knocking around in my bag for absolutely ages and I finally used them up on New Year's Eve. One of them seems to be about 3 years old! I had them developed this week and it was so fun to see how the pictures turned out.

{top to bottom: Richmond Park, Christmas Day; Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur; our old flatmate; morning glow; New Year's Eve}

I love these kids of pictures - they always capture people at their happiest. No pouting, occasional closed eyes. They are so expensive though! I think the cameras themselves cost about £4 and the developing was £6.99 per roll...anyone know if you can get them developed for cheaper than that? Maybe online?


Monday, 19 January 2015

Caroline kindly sent me a copy of the print issue of 91 Magazine just before Christmas and I just got round to reading it over the weekend. I wish I'd contributed as I'd love to see my work in print, but the issue is a beauty anyway with sweet home tours, decorating ideas and easy DIYs (I'm in love with the planters on the cover by The Lovely Drawer).

There are still some issues left so make sure you order one for your own little piece of 91 Magazine. If you'd like to see what I've contributed in the past, check out my snippets from issue 8 and issue 11.


Friday, 16 January 2015

You guys all know my big passion in life is food, but my job in retail is largely fashion-centric. Last year I put the cogs in motion to create more lifestyle content at work and I found the incredible Raw Vegan Blonde on Instagram. Over the course of the year she created exclusive recipes and fruit and vegetable collages for us and this week I wrote a story, bringing together all the recipes in one post. It was really exciting to look back over the posts and realise how much I achieved last year, so this week I’m reflecting on making goals to achieve the things you want. This time last year I wasn’t doing any food writing at all (and I had only just started my blog!), so I’m feeling a bit sentimental today. Thanks for stopping by!

If you’re interested in raw and/or vegan food or if you just want to see some beautiful images like the one above, you can read the full story on Style Insider

KEEPING IN TOUCH: the bicycle

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

I lived in three different countries when I was growing up so as a result I have a lot of friends that I don't get to see very often, some of them I haven't seen for nearly 10 years! I try to keep in touch over Facebook, but sometimes the day-to-day stuff I end up writing isn't all that interesting when our lives are so different now, we don't know each other's friends and correspondence is sporadic. It seems shallow, but these short snippets of conversation aren't all that engaging.

Just before Christmas, a strange parcel dropped onto my doormat. I'm an internet shopping fiend, but the envelope was postmarked Australia and I was sure I hadn't ordered anything from there lately! I opened it to reveal a strange, nondescript journal, but when I looked inside the penny dropped.

A few years ago, a couple of my old school friends from Japan had the idea to start a journal that we would write in and send across the world to each other. I don't know if you ever did this, but when I was in high school we used to stock up on blank notebooks and write notes to each other during class, then pass them onto each other to read and reply. I have stacks of these books hidden away, so this new version was such a fun reminder.

The rules are simple: each person fills in at least 1 one page, but no more than 2 and then sends it onto a new continent. Entries can include anything from writing and sketches to photographs, newspaper clippings and so on.

Don't you think it's such a fun idea? Does it inspire you to start something similar? I think it would be fun to write postcards, with each person adding another postcard to the bundle when they get it. It really warmed my heart to read through all my friends' entries (some of the girls I don't even know, so it was fun to get to know a little more about my friends' friends). I'm just waiting for something noteworthy to happen now before I pass it on!


Monday, 12 January 2015
When I started writing this blog last January, I came up with the tagline in pursuit of the good life. I wanted my blog to be about learning new skills, trying new things and taking time to appreciate the little things that make everyday life that little bit more exciting. So far, I've improved my daily commute, discussed why I think staying late at the office isn't healthy or productive, taken the time to appreciate slow Sunday mornings and shared some of my favourite recipes for eating well on a budget. So far, so good, but I think this is my favourite life-improver so far: BorrowMyDoggy.

The premise is basically internet dating for dog owners and dog lovers. You sign up and browse the profiles of dogs in your area and then fix up a meeting to see if you're a good fit. Some dog owners are looking for people to walk their dogs during the day while they're out at work, some want you to take them for a weekend romp and some even need dog sitters while they go on holiday! We decided to try it out because we are just CUCKOO for dogs. We're hoping to get a dog in a couple of years' time, so it's the perfect opportunity to meet lots of different breeds to see what would fit best into our lives. What do you get out of it? Well, meeting dogs. DUH!

We walk Jack, the Wire Haired Fox Terrier in these photos, about once a week before work as he lives super close to us and I think his owner is just happy to have an undisturbed 30 minutes in the morning to drink coffee and read the paper, while Maddie, a gorgeous, lively Staffordshire Bull Terrier who we take out for longer walks at the weekend, is such an outgoing and friendly dog who can fetch a ball all day long, her owner just wanted to share her fun loving spirit with people who love, but can't have their own dogs.

After walking the dogs, we both just feel so happy and relaxed. It's definitely an endorphin high! And when you're walking a dog people always smile at you and you automatically get to be part of the 'dog owners club' in the park. If you love dogs, I can't recommend BorrowMyDoggy enough.


Friday, 9 January 2015

What are you supposed to do with flamingo cocktail stirrers that are just too cute for words? Stick them in a bright flower arrangement, of course!

I did this little jar of flowers for my New Year's Eve party, which was a lot of fun! I was so nervous about hosting people - something about that night that just adds so much pressure! We ended up having a couple of my school friends and their boyfriends over for dinner, along with my cousin who lives with us and his girlfriend who's visiting. I had to work all day but Darren was off so he whipped up a bumper batch of his epic pulled pork and we made a bunch of sides including crunchy slaw, black bean and tomato salsa, guacamole and some pink pickled onions I made which really knock your socks off.

My friend made a batch of mojitos and then I made everyone do tequila shots! Everyone headed off at about 1am and we (surprisingly) managed to do a bit of tidying up before falling into bed. The hangover was totally worth it for the round of bacon sandwiches we had the next morning, although I'm not in any rush to host NYE again anytime soon!


Wednesday, 7 January 2015
The Christmas decorations have come down, the chocolate has all been eaten...seems like the holidays are well and truly over! I have the biggest problem with unpacking - whether I'm away for a night or a month, my bags tend to stay at the bottom of the bed for just a little longer than they should. A whole box of presents came back with me this Christmas, so I made it my pre-New Year resolution to avoid the clutter and make space for all my new acquisitions before the year was officially over. All in all, this year's gifts were of a practical nature so it was quite easy to slot them into place.

My mum gave me two gorgeous ceramics from a designer called Felicity Jones - they are made from the most beautifully delicate clay, imprinted with real flowers. The smaller one is an egg cup, while the larger is designed to hold a tea light, and the clay is so wafer-thin you just can see the flickering glow of the flame through it. 

From Father Christmas, a healthy balance of books about dogs, booze and chocolate (not pictured because it had already found a home...in my belly). 

I left my brother a not-so-subtle hint that I wanted a set of Falconware pie dishes - there's a great catering shop in Clapham North that sells them for their proper price, not the inflated figures you find in posh kitchen shops, so I was pleasantly surprised with an extra set of plates as well! They've already made a star appearance at our New Year's Eve party, when Darren served up his famous pulled pork with all the trimmings. 

My mum did all of her Christmas shopping at Petersham Nurseries this year, where she was so taken with these glass dog ornaments that everyone in the family got one!

And last, but probably most importantly, my boyfriend gave me a brand new diary to start the year off in suitably bright style (and a hot water bottle - life will never be the same again). I've yet to dig out the post-it note I started scrawling dates on back in the middle of December so I can start pencilling in plans for 2015 - next on my to-do list!

Oh and not forgetting the new camera lens, which I used to take these photos on a day that was much darker than these pictures would suggest! What were your favourite gifts this year? 


Monday, 5 January 2015

Despite the picture above, my new year's resolutions actually aren't particularly fitness-related, but I thought I would start 2015 off with a nice, bright picture!

I tend not to make specific resolutions before January 1st as I like to spend Christmas relaxing with friends and family and not worrying too much about rules for the start of the next year (I spend enough time doing that the rest of the time!) - actually, I wrote nearly that exact same sentence in my first blog post at the start of last year!

Last year, I set myself the goal of learning, which sounds so cheesy, but I took a course in sub-editing, took on new responsibilities at work and started using my camera in manual mode, so I think I did sort of okay.

This year, I want to focus less on achievements and more on enjoying and appreciating everything that I already have. Of course I have a list of things I want to do in 2015 - travelling, making, seeing (more on that later), but for now, I will just keep this short and sweet and say that 2015 is my year to just chill out, be good to myself and do the things I most want to do, not the things I should do. You?