22 February, 2013

Make friends, make friends...

Friendships. Such a commonly used word, such an umbrella term,  covering such a multitude of different concepts. In my 26 years in this world I have experienced so many different types of friend, and it is only with age that I have accepted 3 really important things about friendship:
  • It doesn't have to be a certain way to be worth keeping 
  • It doesn't have to last to be worth having had
  • It can and will change 
Growing up, I believed you had friends and you kept them for life. I also believed that being a friend to someone meant meeting a certain set of values. If you get on with someone, you call them your BFF, you've swapped bracelets and your Mum's are on first name terms, why wouldn't you be mates forever? Aged 16 my experience quickly changed. My best friend from birth (literally - we were born one day apart and our Mum's were at that point close friends) decided she was 16, off to college, and not only didn't want to be my BFF anymore, she didn't actually want to know me at all. It was probably one of the most heart-breaking experiences I'd had up to that point, but it was also a positive loss for me. 'Positive loss' - there's an expression you don't hear often. I'd always lived in her shadow - never as pretty, never as thin, never as cool  - and losing her was so good for me. Quickly after losing my childhood BFF to I still don't know what, I moved on and made new friends, I found confidence on my own and I found actually there's other people out there who I get on better with. Who knew!

Since then I have had a lot of true friends, because when you make friends with me it is never shallow. I don't have time for small talk, but I have all the time in the world for a deep and meaningful with someone willing to open up and give me their time. As a result, I have a lot of good friends, in that they aren't friends just for show or just to party with or there to make sure I'm never alone, but  are really true friends who between them have built up my confidence, helped me move forwards (literally at times), picked me up out of various messes, told me the truth when I have needed to hear it and ultimately helped me make my life so, so much better than it would have been if I'd never found them.

I have also had more shallow friendships, people who have come and gone, and at times I have struggled to accept the going part, but with maturity I have realised that it doesn't matter if they do go at some point, or if the friendships changes and suddenly they aren't your best mate. Being close to someone and then suddenly not being doesn't make them any less of a friend, it just means they were meant to be your friend for that time, in that way - they did something for you then but they can't anymore. It doesn't matter, when you do have life friends who will dance at your wedding, tell you when you're out of line and drive round to your house with emergency wine - the rest can come and go, because it's these staple friends who really matter.

Sometimes you think you have a friend for life and then something, somewhere,suddenly takes them away from you, but then that was just meant to be too. We change and we grow so much, and we don't always do it at the same pace as our friends, or in the same direction. So you let people go. That said, if you find a friend who lifts you up, who will be there for you through the good times and the bad, who doesn't criticise or judge you, who values you, loves you for who you are warts and all, then keep a hold of them. Those friends shouldn't come and go. Those friends should always, always stay.

Tonight I get to see one of my staples. Sometimes you meet someone who is going to change your life for the better, but you don't realise it straight away. Then some time later they become the person who you rely on, who jumps on a train just to come and drink wine with you after a stressful week, who is one of the very, very few people in the world who gives more to you than you give to them (and doesn't ask for it back), who seems to know what's right for you as good as if they were your mother and who makes you wonder what the hell you ever did without them. I went a long time not knowing that sort of friendship, where there is no pressure or expectation on you, just constant understanding, unyielding support and giving from them. I have found friends like that more recently though, as I have I have grown to be more true to myself and become more confident of who I am, and I will do my utmost to always be as good to them as they are to me.

Here's to wine and friendship - cheers.


Guess who's the photogenic one...x

16 February, 2013

Saturday Night INspiration x

If you're wishing your life would change - are you ready to get outside your comfort zone to change it? Do something you have never done, you never know where it might take you. It isn't always easy, but it will always be an experience you otherwise wouldn't have had.


14 February, 2013

Every Day Love: Happy Valentines Day x

People will get dressed up today, go out for expensive meals, shower each other with gifts and declare eternal love. Today, being the operative word - there's no 'today' in 'eternal', is there?

What bothers me about Valentines Day is just that - that we're supposed to vacuum up all the love we have for someone and blast them with it in one day's worth of hot lovin' air, and then tomorrow we can all resume normal service. To me, that's not what Love is about - one day of forced, superficial romance doesn't make a happy heart. Real love doesn't need champagne or diamonds, because when it's real it sparkles all by itself. I will be more than happy today with a bowl of home-cooked pasta, a film and a warm bed, because Love is not a flash bastard, it's a doddery old man still holding his wife's hand after 50 years of marriage.

Appreciating the people you love and taking time out to act on that appreciation is a brilliant concept, as it is so easy to let days and weeks, months and years, go by without stopping to acknowledge what you have right in front of you, but I am all for doing that every single day, or at least in your own time, in your own way.

Every day is Valentines Day for me, not least because I have filled literally my world with hearts, but also because I wake up every morning knowing what I have got and appreciating it. I go to bed every night doing the same. I bake cakes all hours of the day and the reason for that is I need a tangible outlet for my love - the main ingredient of everything I ever make. I send cards all the time, to everyone who I have ever appreciated - hell even one of my best mates got a platonic valentines card today the lucky minx! As much as I will enjoy Valentines Day, if you took it away from me I wouldn't notice, because it's about filling your world with love all year round.

Everyone has a different idea of what Love Is, but while we're all doing different things and celebrating or not celebrating today, I want to share this with you, as it really sums up Love for me.

This is Love x

What do you think 'Love Is'?

Here is some of my everyday Love - Happy Valentines Day x

  • I am so proud of these - hidden heart cupcakes!

13 February, 2013

Moving In: Going to Live with a Booooyyyyy!

You know those lovely and long dead-to-the-world sleeps you get when you go back to the place you call Home? They're incredible, but like a lot of people I only get them at my childhood home. When you go there, you are a child again. You don't need to try or worry or go to your big job or do very much that's hard. For me, it's my haven and there I sleep, switch off, eat and usually get ill. When I visited home just recently, it was all the more pertinent because very soon I'm moving into my first proper home away from home - not into a house with god knows who, but into a home with the one I love. Muuuuum, I'm growing up!

I lied when I said I only have deep sleeps at my Mum's, I also have them in the attic room of my boyfriend's house - black-out blinds, safe and protected, tucked away, up high in his castle. Soon that will be my new haven.

Moving In is one of those big moments you imagine before it happens and you think when it does the world will stop and applaud you, throwing good luck confetti at you feet while trumpets salute you and people coo 'isn't she grown up?!' - somehow in those daydreams, I have always been 4 years old, wearing my Mother's too-big shoes. Now it's happening, I am in fact 26 and actually life's just carrying on as normal, it's just going to be better. It is the start of a big adventure though and while I prepare for what's next, the last chapter of my life quietly closes behind me. Me and that last chapter have been through so much together. We've got in to all sorts of trouble, had all sorts of highs and now it's coming to an end, but all of the experiences I've had have shown me what I don't want, what I do need, growed me the hell up and made me so much stronger than the person I was when I first packed up my Dad's car and waved goodbye to my Mum's house aged 18, with no idea of what Sheffield was going to throw at me or that I'd even end up staying.

Sitting in my childhood bedroom recently, I was very aware that life is going to change. I feel ecstatic happiness that I am going to be waking up every day with the person I love and a real confidence in our future, mixed with a sadness at the era of my life I am saying goodbye to. There's always a child-like fear of the unknown whenever you step into something big and new, but I've learnt so much in the past few years and I am confident now of what makes me tick, what works for me and more importantly I trust that the person I am about to move in with knows and understands those things too.

Us people are complicated messes, so it's important to be both understanding and proactive around each others needs when you move in with someone, and more importantly communicate them. Ignore a niggle and that niggle could be what causes 2 people to wave goodbye to each other a few years down the line. He knows I need a space called mine, we've already ear-marked my baking cupboard, that gorgeous attic room will be my 'playroom' (no, not so much sex swings as a pretty dressing table, a desk where I can write and polka dots on the walls) and I helped him choose our new kitchen (I know right, talk about your good timing)! I won't take away his side of the sofa, Sky Sports is staying and he'll have his space as much as I'll have mine - anything to make this next phase of both our lives as happy as it can be.

I've always been slightly nervous when taking a big step, but this time I am more confident than ever because through all my experiences I have kind of learnt how to be happy, pretty much anywhere, regardless of external things. Beyond that, I've got someone holding my hand again. When I first moved into my current house nearly two years ago to the day, that wasn't quite the case and no-one held my hand, but I was on the verge of growing up - I was on the cusp of changing. I could feel it and even my Mum said so; 'something's coming for you Han' and it did. I took a job that pulled me up short and from which I made a sharp exit a mere 11 months later. That experience was horrendous for me, but man did I grow up. I met a boy. No, I met a man and we have both learnt what an adult relationship is and I think we do pretty well at it. I didn't become Mrs Mark Ruffalo as predicted 2 years ago, but very nearly. I solidified my then newly rediscovered passions for running, baking and writing - all the things that make me 'Me' - and they chiseled me into not so much of a child anymore.

I'm reluctant to say that I am all 'grown-up' as I still have a way to go and really we continue to grow for the rest of our lives, but the person I am today compared with the person I was 2 years ago? Many wouldn't recognise me or rather the self-respecting person I have become and I owe a massive thank you to all those difficult times that came before for bringing me here. I know more shit will come my way, because that's life but now I know I'll not only get through it, I'll actually learn from it. No matter what happens long-term I am me and all that I bring to the table. I am so proud of me now, and if you are proud and confident of the person you are then where life actually takes you doesn't really matter and you'll be okay even when no-one's holding your hand.

So I got myself a new grown-up (kinda) key-ring to match my new grown-up (kinda) life and in a moment not far from now I will walk through a front door and jump into that new life. One small step for Han, one giant leap for Hankind (sorry). I will unlock a door into a life that will throw so much at me - good and tough - that in a few years time I will write a blog post about what I've learnt. As petrified as I am, I can't wait.

Wish me luck everyone, I'm going to live with a boyyyyyyy.


11 February, 2013

Eating Disorder Awareness Week: When I Learnt to Eat Again

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week which works to enhance people's understanding of eating disorders and to help them recognise where someone they know might be in the grip of one. While this concept is a positive one, I think our society has a lot more to do than raise awareness for a week, when we're simultaneously buying magazines with painfully thin models on the cover and are constantly being led to believe that anything above a size 10 ain't cool.

Fad diets are rife at the moment and it appalls me that in a time when our understanding of science and technology has never been better, our approach to eating has never been worse. We understand the science behind our dietary requirements to the nth degree, and most of us have the cash and freedom to adhere to them, yet people still believe a healthy approach to food is to fast for 2 days out of 7, or to cut out one major food group forever, or to just eat as little as possible. No no no! Being healthy is about common sense. Eat 'normal' food in 'normal' portions, listen to your body and what it needs and you might, as if by magic - sorry did I say 'magic' I meant 'science' - find yourself with a healthy AND happy physical self.

I get a little angry with extreme diets, because they encourage something I am passionately against - eating disorders. To me it feels obvious how to approach food, how not to get fat and that super-skinny does not equal attractive. I do have some compassion for the people who aren't there yet though, because my currently healthy approach to food hasn't always been this way. In 2013, aged 26 and a half, my relationship with food is a healthy one. I exercise regularly, eat 3 nutritious meals a day and like my cake and wine as good as the next girl. This has been my attitude towards eating for the best part of 3 years, but before that things weren't good.

I am the classic personality type conducive to eating disorders - ambitious , a perfectionist, with a history of low self-esteem. Throw in a few childhood traumas and a fear of loss, and you've got yourself one extremely anorexic 16 year old. At my worst, at the beginning of my serious battle with food, I didn't eat for 4 months. Literally did not eat to the point I wouldn't have milk in my morning tea, I'd have one bite of the banana my Mum brought me for breakfast and hide the rest, nothing passed my lips during the school day and I would only nibble on the protein/vegetable part of whatever tea my Mum had cooked me. That started in September 2002 and by Christmas of the same year I was barely 6 stone.

Thankfully I got better and gradually my weight crept back on, but my relationship with food remained poor for nearly a decade afterwards. I wasn't stupidly thin anymore, but I didn't eat proper meals, I skipped lunch, I substituted dinner for wine at uni and I binged when I was miserable. The last time I made myself sick following a binge unfortunately wasn't that long ago and I will never not be at risk from the habit.

They say eating disorders are linked to a deep need for control and there seems to be a lot of truth in that. It's no coincidence that when we're finding life a struggle, or are going through big changes, we resist the very first thing we learn to do as babies - eat, feed yourself, fuel yourself to live. I tend to eat in a very 'controlled' way when going through a big life change. Most recently, I lost some weight when I started my current job in October of last year - in a mainly healthy way, still eating 3 meals a day and I was happy and healthy, but my controlled eating did get a bit severe again. I knew it deep down. My life was shifting again and I had a few other battles going on in the background that were a cause of anxiety for me. This Christmas, coming home to my Mum who knows me better than anyone else in the world, she said to me one lunchtime 'you look great Han, but have a bread roll with your soup please because you're on the cusp of something that if it gets a hold could be very dangerous.' She didn't need to say anymore, but she was right. I am healthy and happy now, I really am, but sometimes I need my loved ones to pull me back away from the grips of an eating disorder when they see the first signs.

That will be me for the rest of my life.

I'm not ashamed of my history with eating disorders, but I am ashamed of my society for encouraging this demon in me, and in so many others. I am proud of me now. For me, eating healthily, feeling happy with my body and feeling confident when trying on new clothes is a massive, massive achievement. What's a bigger achievement is that I ate a massive slice of cake yesterday and I didn't even care. The only scales I use are for baking and I'm a big fan of my 'Let them Eat Cake' biscuit tin.

So, the reason I get so angry when yet another friend or acquaintance thinks the next fad diet is going to be good for them, is because I have been far too close to the bad side of that fad diet and I cannot believe that educated, intellectual adults think that just drinking water with syrup or living off bacon without bread is going to give them a healthy body and happy life. They'll get there, they may have their own battles before they do, but for the love of god, world can we please stop thinking that a healthy and happy physical existence needs to be anything other than 'run around a bit, eat your greens and don't have too much cake.' There are so many ways to live healthily, and if you get it right it can ultimately be what forms the foundations of a very happy life.

You can donate to b-eat, get involved in the events taking place this week or just watch this Everybody knows Somebody campaign video. Beyond that you can work hard to resist the distorted perceptions and concepts that promote eating disorders and unhealthy body images today, because for every time you accuse your size 12 body of being 'fat', someone starves themselves to death. Some people will always be bound by the chains of eating disorders, but collectively we have the power to prevent our society from sinking further in the wrong direction.


08 February, 2013

#2 My iPod & I: On a Good Day

The other day I was listening to Last FM's acoustic tag radio, when David Grey came crooning into my headphones, wobbling his head as good as he did 15 years ago. When he did, I got a feeling. Not that tonight's gonna be a good night (although it probably is) but that feeling you get when a song stirs up some memory from somewhere, buried way way down in the depths of the vault that is our past. Usually I understand when a song instigates a feeling of nostalgia in me - good or bad, the memory comes back from the moment or time in my life from when this song first entered it. Not this time though. I couldn't work out what the feeling was, I knew it was some good but also something negative that I couldn't pinpoint, and I still can't.

This morning a similar thing happened, when I went for a lovely long run, and this song that has been on my running playlist since it was founded 3 years ago came on. This time though, I knew exactly what the feelings were and from what time. On a Good Day by Above & Beyond is the song that stuck with me through a really difficult time. Back in my raving days, it was one of my favourites, but while I loved it at the time that wasn't actually a very happy time for me, in the end. Ironically it is also the song that powered me through my first few months of running, when I got up at 6am every day to fight back and show 'them' what I was made of. It came with me as I gradually rediscovered myself and my confidence and while it was hard to listen to at times, it made me fight on.

Now, all those mixed feelings come flooding back every time I hear it. I have a strange affection for the song that served me so well in my early running days, but also a knot of negative emotions that still tie my stomach into a ball when those first bars come in and those lyrics resound. Yet it remains on my running playlist. Because it reminds me of how far I have come and it shows me that no matter how tough things can be, no matter how difficult it might sometimes get, you just have to keep running.



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06 February, 2013

Blog lovin'

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05 February, 2013

A Very Gay Blog Post: YES to gay marriage.

I just had a conversation with my gay best friend that went a little something like this:

Him: 'Sooo....you blogged about porridge...'
Me: 'Yes. Yes I did...I was killing time-'
Him: '-I can see that.'


Today I have something a little more serious to blog about, something to hopefully make him a little more proud. I haven't planned this post and there's a chance I won't even proof read it, because I am typing heart-to-page in a bid to reduce the lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I think of the challenges the gay community already face, day in day out; and like they need another thing to humiliate them, now the country watches as a decision is made on their behalf.

Roundabout now the powers that be will decide if gay marriage is okay. If we, the heterosexuals, should allow homosexuals to participate in one of the same ceremonies that has underpinned the entire structure of our society for centuries. Hmmm it is difficult isn't it? I imagine Hitler felt similar when he wasn't sure whether to let dark-haired people live.

I probably don't have to point out my anger at the very concept that our countries leaders have to come together to vote on gay marriage, and in some instances still question if even the very act of homosexuality is wrong. But it's not an 'act'. It's not a decision. It isn't a choice. Nobody woke up one day and thought 'I am going to graffiti next door then give homosexuality a run for it's money'. Ya know, anything to defy the powers that be. NO. 'They' are a human-being, with free-will, a heart, with feelings - and their heart happens to choose differently. Differently to what? Not to what's 'right', or what's 'normal' or what's 'better', just differently to not being gay.

NOBODY chooses the path of most pain, of that secret they bare as a young boy or girl, the fear of what it will mean for their families, their friendships, their future, if this secret (or they) ever comes out. The utter fear at telling their parents - those who dream of grandkids. The humiliation of telling their friends. The impossibility of telling their colleagues lest it change their treatment and respect in the work place. A 16 year old boy would rather try to take his life than tell his religious parents about being bullied at school on account of his homosexuality. A 21 year old man is a totally different one to his parents because they have no idea of his double life. A 30 year old man alienates his entire family and all but 'disappears' out of a total inability to tell his family 'what' he is. A marriage is faked as one partner silently denies who they really are, because our society still makes it that difficult to be gay. A famous footballer hangs himself.

Nobody chooses to have to go through all these things and therefore homosexuality is not and will never be an act.

Now I don't know about politics and I don't even know that much about the church, but I do know that this 'decision' being made today is not one for either of those things. It is one for the human heart. And my humble human heart sat at her laptop in Sheffield can tell you right now homosexuality is not wrong. I don't need a career in the House of Commons or to be able to walk on water to tell you that those who lead a gay lifestyle should have as much opportunity in equal ways as any heterosexual - including the loving, committed and celebratory institution of marriage.

Some of the greatest, kindest people I know are my gay friends - and they are fantastic company to boot. Should these people be denied an opportunity? No, Mr PM, they should be given more. For their strength, their fearlessness and their incredible ability to overcome one of the toughest challenges fate could have sent their way.

God bless you my lovely homosexuals! I WILL dance at all your weddings, and it will be a triumph over the damn Conservative Party and over everything that has come before for you.

Much love


04 February, 2013

Porridge - but CAN I have some more?!

Porridge! Everybody's doing it. From Gillian McKeith to Dr Christian Jessen, if you ask an expert what you can have for breakfast instead of your usual Kit-Kat, they'll throw this oaty fuel at you faster than you can say 'boring!' Whilst I find both of the afore mentioned nutritionists creepy (in different ways) I am happy to take their advice on this one, as long as I don't have to look directly at their judging scowls.

I am fairly health conscious and actually don't have chocolate for breakfast, except on Christmas Day, my Birthday and whenever Jordan gets married (as a celebration that she'll no longer be out, trying to straddle all our men), but porridge is something I just didn't think I liked, so I've stuck to Muesli, Weetabix or Shreddies - porridge's less attractive younger siblings. Up until very recently that is.

My earliest memory of porridge is camping with my Dad and sisters, him waking us up for breakfast and me gawping at the giant pan of milky, creamy, gloopy mixture being stirred over the gas fire...and promptly receding back into my tent. Eugh. I looked at porridge and I saw school dinners, I saw PRISON, I saw poverty, I saw Oliver! and I saw nothing that I wanted to eat.

More recently my view on porridge has changed. I can't say I have given the food stuff a huge deal of my thoughts (there's only so much to go round) but as an adult, leading a very active very hungry lifestyle, I recently started to wish I liked porridge in the same way I wish I liked coffee and Red Wine. Not one to be defeated, I decided to train myself up. I trained myself to like olives in recent years, surely porridge couldn't be much different?

I started off with stabilisers, investing in a box of Ready Brek which I had always liked as a child, doused with a bit of honey and the occasional scattering of Cocoa (amazing), I was happy to find Ready Brek still goes down as well now as it did when I was 7. Some things just don't change. More recently I have happily progressed to the instant porridge sachets - Oatsos, Dorest Cereal or M&S - flavoured with Honey and Golden Syrup. If I add water instead of Milk, I'm flying and now I actually love the formerly 'far too grown up and boring' breakfast.

I'm still not sure I could stomach the sloppy mess that is old-school porridge, but the quaint little sachets minus the milk are my breakfast equivalent of a plaster with Winne-the-Pooh on, or raisins covered in chocolate.

Now I'm here to rave to you all about Porridge! It seems to be bang on trend at the moment too - all the cool kids are doing it, all the best brands are producing jazzed-up modern-day versions of the traditional meal. From Pret-a-Manger to M&S, not a store in sight is lacking in porridge. It's cheap, it's incredible fuel, it's low in Kcals, high in fibre and equally as affluent in yum-factor. And, sorry to go on about the sachets, but they are PORTABLE! I am going to take them everywhere with me. Like Karl Pilkington and his Monster Munch. I am the Karl Pilkington of the breakfast world.

My latest discovery is Dorest Cereals raspberry flavoured 'Proper Porridge', with added pumpkin seeds and dried raspberries for a super exciting flavour. I am shallow enough to be taken in by the adorable packaging too. Currently in Tesco's for £2.00 (on offer from £2.59) for a box of 10 sachets, I am ecstatic about the discovery. My next 2 working weeks of breakfast is sorted, for 20p a time!

I just did a blog post on PORRIDGE. Now I'm of to burn it off at Netball and can't wait for breakfast tomorrow.

What's your best breakfast?


Porridge of the Week goes to...

You get 10 of these cute sachets per £2.49 box, approx 200 Kcals per serving with 180 mils of semi-skimmed milk!

Add some dried fruit, honey or chocolate chips to make your breakfast EVEN MORE exciting...

03 February, 2013

Confessions of a Bake-a-holic

Baking has taken off hugely over the past few years and it makes a lot of sense that it has - it's like the crazier our world becomes, the more batter we need to whip up in order to stay sane. There's something so therapeutic about the simple processes of measuring, sifting, stirring, pouring, whisking and beating, followed by the satisfaction of having created something beautiful (and hopefully edible) out of a few basic ingredients. When I don my apron, grab my Mason Cash mixing bowl and conjure up all kinds of baked treats, it's a taste of the simple life and it brings me back down to earth after a busy week or a crazy weekend. Baking is grounding, while society changes all the time and the world grows in all kinds of directions, with baking you can go back to a pastime of our grandmothers grandmothers grandmothers grandmothers and it does us good to remember there is life beyond, or rather before, technology, Facebook, Instagram and Playstation.
Ironically, it's the child inside us, helping our Grandma stir the mix, but it's also the grown-up in us, able to appreciate simple things.

I first started baking in my early twenties, when cash was sparse, friends were far and I didn't feel too happy some of the time. I was still learning who I was and didn't know what to do with myself if I wasn't going out getting myself in all kinds of drunken pickles. It was only by coincidence that I also found baking helped to ground me and somehow in a funny way reinstate some self-confidence in me and in what my future should be. Talk about your self-raising flour!

Now it feels obvious to me that I was born to bake - being creative, messy and a food lover, what else would I do?! These days I can be found most weekends in my Cath Kidston apron, covered in flour, and sometimes during the week if I can find the time, which suits me and my cake-loving boyfriend/friends/colleagues down to the ground.. I don't see it as a chore, but as a way of just being quiet and content with something really quite humble. Let's face it, you don't need bright lights and fast cars when when you get a buzz off a batch of self-made muffins.

Over the past few years I have baked all sorts of fine and fancy treats, from giant cookies, cute cupcakes, shortbreads and muffins to layered caramel cakes, themed cakes, fruit cakes, seasonal cakes...but they're for another blog. Sometimes, though, I don't want to do anything fancy and just feel like flinging a really basic war-time style fruit cake in the oven in preparation for the re-introduction of rationing.

This weekend was a busier than usual for me, filled with girly nights out, pink fizz and a trip across the pennines. While I loved every second (and came away miraculously hangover free) I also love the downtime afterwards, getting my feet back on the ground after a crazy 48 hours - and this inevitably involves some baking. It's like the counteract to my unruly wine-drinking. If I can still bake a cake, then it's all going to be okay - 'I can still do life! Even after a litre of Prosseco!'

After a quick shower and unpack, I was straight in the kitchen and whipping up a recipe of my own. I have become more confident in adapting recipes and knowing what will work, and I fancied doing something a little bit different. The very basic mixed fruit and oat muffins definitely brought me back to my calm place and were given an extra twang by adding some Blueberry Yogurt. I also substituted some of the flour for oats as I want to try and pass these off to myself as 'healthy'...

Happy Sunday!


My Cash Mason mixing bowl was a gift from my Mum last year and it is quite literally my pride and joy. Red, big, gorgeous. £14.99 from Dunelm Mill.
These pretty scales were a Christmas present from my Boyfriend - baking with pretty things just makes it so much more fun and there is so much choice around these days. I personally love the powder/pastel ranges with the 50's vibe.
After! 30 minutes in the kitchen, job done.

01 February, 2013

Girls Nights - Ready, Set, Go!

Ladies Nights - you can't beat them. And if you can't beat them, you can't even join them, because they are strictly GIRLS ONLY. Girly nights with my closest mates are few and far between these days as our lives have plonked us in different cities, with different schedules, doing different things and keeping us always so vair busy, but the quality of the occasions on which we do meet more than makes up for the rarity. Instead of lots of average affairs, we have a couple of  humdingers per annum that light us up like fireworks and send others running for cover.

Girls Nights (or should that be 'Ladies'?) are so much more than the fun of the night itself. There's the preparation, the new shoes, the dress, the gifts, the build-up, the beautifying, the baking of cakes and the plumping of cushions ready for us all to finally crash together in the chosen hostesses home, instantly ruin the cushions, crack open the 1st of 15 bottles of White Zinfandel and let the night take care of us.

This weekend I'm reunited with my Manchester ladies, plus one Sheffield and one Liverpool - the Golden Triangle of girls that without fail always out-sparkles even the shapes we pull on the dance-floor. The last time we got together back in December, it involved at least 20 bottles of wine, a huge amount of dancing, cocktails in teapots, mulled wine cupcakes, Harriet-cooked chili, a kitten, present swapping, tummy-ache laughing, an inexplicable amount of 4am fried chicken and a solid half an hour rendition of the Nandos skank to an unfortunate taxi driver, over and over over. I don't need to point out how much I'm looking forward to this weekend's monkeyshines.

As much as the sheer sillyness of Girls Nights is precisely what makes them, there is always that underlying  serious vibe letting us know our friends are always there, always supporting, always laughing, always ready to pour us the next drink, always ready to laugh at us when we hula hoop our way round the chosen city. Good friends are the sparkle in our eyes, the confidence in our step and the laughter in our conversation.

While I'm looking forward to being silly, this time around our gathering is also super special - one of my very best friends in the world got engaged just before Christmas and this weekend we will witness the celebrations. Not just any celebrations! I can honestly say I have never been happier for anyone. The lady in question is one in a billion and deserves every ounce of happiness that comes her way - the girl (girl lady lady girl?! its a minefield!) almost single-handedly pulled me up out of a mess a few years ago and had faith in me when I was showing no signs of having any in myself. Today, I am stronger and happier than ever and I owe so much to her. She, meanwhile, is a beautiful soul inside and out, and soon she'll be tying the knot with her more than worthy match. So while I'm ready for Nando's skank round 2 (or is it 3?!) and at least a year's worth of laughs, this time everything will have that extra frosting and I want us all to remember it (easy on the wine then ladies...).

It's a few hours until kick off and the excitement has really set in - the chances of my feet touching the ground between now and Sunday morning are slim. See you on the other side...

Here's my girls weekend checklist - what's yours?

  • The ensemble - now that these occasions are so special, a new outfit is usually due/a reasonable request. I had some vouchers leftover from Christmas so treated myself to a selection and now have a choice between polka-dot Red Topshop skinny jeans or a burgundy polka-dot tea-dress from H&M (seeing a theme?) with Mary-Jane shoes. Hmmm.
  • Beautifying - sometime around 48 hours before I can usually be found waxing, shaving (no not my face), exfoliating, mani/pedi-ing, moisturising, sometimes tanning and tying myself up in a big fat ribbon ready to be unleashed onto the girls. Well, we can at least smell nice when we see each other.
  • Packing - Girls Night packing is a serious process, miss a single item and your whole night could be hindered. I always make a list and remember to pack spare tights, spare shoes, ALWAYS a plan B outfit, a hoody for when you are still up chatting at 4am and a camera! These are the things so often forgotten but so necessary. Oh, and your toothbrush.
  • WINE - Usually sparkling. Usually pink. When all else is done, the very best bit of a girly weekend is popping to the shops with wet hair, buying your favourite tipple, plonking it in the fridge and knowing that at least 24 hours of undiluted fun waits on the other side of that train/bus/car journey/5pm finish at work.