Wednesday, April 29, 2015

spring forward: cherry blossom season

Why does spring seem to take an age to roll around, and when it does, it seems to come all at once? I feel like after the excitement of Christmas,and then the dull stretch of January and February, March and April are the most exciting months. They give me that autumn-feeling, when I'm desperate for the crisp weather and the change of the leaves. So you slog through March, taking peeks at the cherry tree in the garden, which is stubbornly refusing to show any signs of progress, until one morning you wake up, and the whole garden is green again, and the blossom appears literally overnight.

spring cherry blossom
spring cherry blossom
spring cherry blossom

So I apologise if you're sick of seeing a thousand snapshots of cherry blossom plastered all over your Instagram or blog feed - but I really couldn't care less, haha. I'm happy to pretend it's not grey and miserable outside this morning, but spring is fully here - and that means summer weather is just around the corner. 
This is the stunning cherry tree that lives in my dad's garden, and has this stunning white blossom all over it. It lasts about two weeks in this state, and it's already shedding it's petals all over the garden, but for those sunny two weeks, it is alive with bees, which makes me inordinately pleased to hear the background fuzz of them crawling all over the tree.

Monday, April 27, 2015

new in: espresso cups and black coffee

This was sparked out of a conversation I had with the lovely Gemma recently on Twitter (whose blog, Hello Gemma, has had a rebrand, and looks amazing!) about coffee. She was talking of her fear of a milky coffee, whereas I have a fear of people drinking jet black, iced coffee. I don't know how you do it, it filled me with fear until about two months ago, when I suddenly decided that wow, hey, black coffee is actually quite nice?

espresso cups
espresso cups

I think it very much depends on the type of coffee you buy, also. I discovered this amazing coffee in Waitrose when I worked there, the Guatemala Antigua by the brand 360 / Three Sixty. It's an amazing, well balanced blend that tastes excellent when it's freshly brewed, hot and senza milk.  
I tried it once or twice, and decided it really wasn't that bad! And sometimes, you haven't got time to sit and mull over a frothy latte, sometimes you're in a rush in the morning, and you've just got to put your coffee on to brew whilst making your lunch for the day, and then knock it back before running out the door, haha.

This new revelation warranted a new purchase, obviously, so I picked up these adorable little cups in Sainsbury's back in February (I've seen them a lot on blogs and stuff, though, so they probably still do them). I think they're actually supposed to be like Chinese tea cups, because they seemed to be with a lot of stuff around Chinese New Year - however, they make the most perfect espresso cups, I'm obsessed with them. 

I've not disowned my one true love - a sweet, milky latte - though, don't you worry, but I've just realised there are other coffee options out there. It took me about ten years to realised that black coffee was pretty nice, and that I'm perfectly capable of drinking coffee with no sweetener. So it'll probably take me about another ten years to go off milk! haha.

espresso cups

Sunday, April 26, 2015

weekend wanderings #60

new lifestyle blogs to read
  • This week I shared with you my tips for first time runners, which I've unfortunately had to pack in for the mean-time (however, I will definitely take it up when my knee is rested!) and my somewhat unseasonable iced biscuits!
  • If you weren't aware - Sali Hughes makes the most amazing Youtube videos, in which she discusses all things makeup and beauty in a famous (usually a make-up artist's) bathroom, and there is a new one up with Val Garland.
  • Rosie shared with us some photos of her trip around the Dordogne area in France, with some lovely photos of a market in Brive, so perfectly French, it's adorable. She also visited Turenne which looks beautiful. 
  • I'm adding the Horniman museum to my list of places to visit next - I've always been aware of it but never really thought about visiting until I saw Hannah's stunning photos. I'm also having a greenhouse moment again (you'll see next week...) and her photos of the glasshouse at Kew are stunning.
  • Summer is around the corner, and in my house, this means jam making. In the heat of the late summer, my mother can be found stood over a giant cauldron with sugared fruit simmering away - so strawberry jam will forever remind me of summer
  • I need to get more creative with my healthy breakfasts because at the moment I'm downing a fruit juice and scoffing a banana at my desk, and it's just not cutting it! 
  • I'm currently in the progress of planning a little summer break to the north with my friend - we were considering Derbyshire (how very Austen) but recently, Yorkshire has been occupying my thoughts... 
  • I'm crap at photographing birds, but Rachel got a few shots of a lovely woodpecker that frequents her garden!
  • Sarah shows us a beautiful little spot in her local woods that has spring written all over it. 
  • Japan is appealing to me more and more the older I get - I think it's something to do with my obsession with Japanese ceramics or the cherry blossom lined streets. If only it wasn't so far away, and if only I wasn't deathly afraid of flying and earthquakes.. haha... 
  • I really want to have a go at making meringues, it's something I've just never tried but they look really fun and easy - I'm definitely going to try making these rhubarb meringues with ginger cream, they'll be perfect to round off a summer BBQ or picnic...
  • I've got back into knitting again! Hurrah. I had a few months where I just didn't feel like doing it. I kept looking at this jumper I was making for my brother and just couldn't be bothered. But I'm happy again, and browsing patterns again - how adorable are these little double thickness mitts?
  • They're very hipster-Pinterest-y but I absolutely love these golden prism planters, and I had to talk myself out of buying a big copper one in Home Sense the other day..
  • Bethan's mini-playlist is perfect for sunny drives home from work, I've added them into my own playlists!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Q #48

keats quotes

I don't have anything much to say about this post, except I watched Bright Star last weekend, and it was adorable and sad and everything, and now I've been reading a lot of Keats. I really like poetry, but studying something it at college made me hate it - I need to get back to the point where I love it again. Maybe one day I feel about art that way, like I can actively enjoy making it, again - who knows.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Super easy seasonal iced biscuits!

If you're blogger, you should remember to post your content when it's most relevant, really, shouldn't you? Like, who wants a Christmas gift-guide on the 24 December? Anyway, I'm being a shit blogger, because I completely forgot to post my Easter biscuits, and now Easter is almost a month behind us, but hey-ho, I'm showing you them anyway, because they look goddamn adorable, I think.
My mum called me on Good Friday and showed me the biscuits she'd made, asking if she wanted me to help ice them... Who am I to resist?! 

easter biscuits
easter biscuits

The recipe for the biscuits itself, I can take no credit for - my mother made them, and I only iced them! But she reliable informed me that the recipe she used was this one from The Pink Whisk and they tasted amazing when baked to perfection. She also tells me that she used vanilla powder in place of vanilla essence! 
- 1 pack of Royal Icing or Icing Sugar
- Water at room temperature
- Several piping bags (or sandwich/food bags if you're cheap like me haha)
- Several small bowls and teaspoons
- Food colouring
- Cocktail sticks
1. Mix the icing to the instructions on the packet, depending on what brand you use, most of them will tell you how much water to add to the icing sugar. We measured out the water and then added it until I got the consistency I wanted. At this point, you want the icing to be quite thick, thick enough that you can pipe it and it will hold it's shape.
2. Split the mixture between bowls evenly, and add the colouring. For pastel colours, add a very small amount of the colouring, and mix well.
3. Spoon some of the thick icing into the piping bags (leaving some for flooding the biscuits) and pipe around the edge of the the biscuit shape to create an outline. For shapes like the eggs, pipe the desired design (like stripes or zig-zags).
4. Set aside and allow this outline to dry until solid and hard.
5. Add more water to the remaining icing in the bowls to create a more liquid consistency, it should run off the spoon with ease.
6. Using small teaspoons, add a small amount of the runny icing inside the outline you've already made.
7. To move the icing into the corners of the shape, tilt the biscuits or gently move with the back of a teaspoon. This is also where the cocktail sticks come in useful, to push the icing into awkward corners and to get rid of air-bubbles.
8. Allow to dry until completely hard.
These went down an absolute treat in our house, I must say! And there was not one child in sight, haha, but I imagine they would go down very well with kids. I think the yellow chicks and the blue bunnies were my favourites, and if you're interested, we got the biscuit cutters from Waitrose, they do a great selection of seasonal ones for Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.

Have you got a favourite biscuit recipe you go for?
- recipes -

easter biscuits
easter biscuits

Monday, April 20, 2015

on losing weight: tips for first time runners

I've been running on and off since January now - and although I've had to hold it in a bit recently, due to some health problems, it's something I was surprised at how much I loved.
I was posting updates in my couch to 5k weekly updates, but those have stopped and I now just run when I feel like my knee can take it! As a note: my knee was bad before I started running, but the running may have exasperated it. However, I think my tips are all valid! I was an absolute beginner, I'd never run before, outside of the gym - these are a few things that I wish I'd been told before I started running!

tips for first time runners


This doesn't have to be expensive, but get some decent gear. The first few runs, I wore my gym pants, some old trainers, a vest and a hoodie. It was fine, but I found problems, like my phone slipping out of my pocket, and my gym pants getting all muddy because they're not tight like leggings.. After a few runs, I decided to get sorted properly, so I bought a lightweight, warm and zip-up hoodie, with zip pockets (£20) and some running tights (£22). This stuff works a lot better, and even though I feel a little self-conscious in it because I'm not a ~serious runner~, I just stick on my headphones and put on some Queen Bey and I care a lot less. Go to a sports-wear shop, I recommend a place like Decathlon, H&M, Marks and Spencers, or even Tesco, because their stuff is relatively cheap, which is good if you're not convinced you're going to stick at it. I like Decathlon because they have a lot of menswear stuff, and I prefer things that DON'T come exclusively in pink (my pet peeve)!


I never really 'believed' in stretches, I'll be honest. I just figured a warm down was enough, but it really, really isn't. I found that running outdoors uses completely different muscles to the ones that I'm used to exercising, and when I don't do them after running, my legs and thighs are in agony the next day. I don't do them pre-running, but make sure I get a good blood-flow going by walking briskly to the place where I run. I do some hamstring and glute stretches, mostly ones I've found just by googling or on Pinterest.


I don't run on the streets, but I do cross them to get to my route, so be mindful of wearing headphones whilst out and about. Also, if you're running somewhere secluded, try and let someone know when you're going to be back, and where you are going, and if you run at night or very early in the morning, wear high-visibility clothing. 


Where I run is good because it's flat and straight and car-free, and mostly people free (just the odd dog walker, cyclist, other runner, or this one old guy that inline skates verrry slowly...), but it can get a little dull because I run loops of a track with no much to look at apart from the occasional red-kite or puppy that runs across my path. I've learned the hard-way that a bad playlist makes for a less than good run. I shelled out for Spotify premium in January, when it was 99p, for the offline tracks and I've been using it ever since. I went through all their recommended fitness and running playlists and found the tracks I like best and keep me going. They change occasionally when I get bored, but I need something good to listen to!


Some weeks, I repeat the same runs. Before January, I've never ran outside, and I wanted to make sure I could do the runs properly before moving on to the next week. I know this means that the 9-week plan will be longer, but that's okay, I've got the time.


The first few weeks, I couldn't even run for 60 seconds. My first run, I only ran for about 4 minutes out of the 8, and had to walk the rest. Looking back now, I was definitely trying too hard. I was trying to out and out run, when my body just couldn't cope with that. I've run at the gym but outdoors, it feels completely different, so I needed to slow down. After a bit I slowed down to a slow jog, and this works better - it's gentler on my knees, hips and ankles.


I am an incredibly shy and self-conscious person - I hate doing anything that involves me looking sweaty around people, I hate being laughed at or made the centre of attention.. But I've pushed my way through all these self-esteem issues, because sure, a few kids have shouted comments at me, but I just jack my music up and ignore them. Why would I let what they think bother me?
I know these things are all probably very obvious or silly to the well-seasoned runner - but they were things I didn't consider at all when I first set off on that first run on a grey January day...

For more of my On Losing Weight series, click here!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

weekend wanderings #59

lifestyle blogs to read
What are you up to this weekend? 

Keep updated with Uncia + Tigris via Bloglovin'!
Uncia and Tigris

Friday, April 17, 2015

Q #47

quotes 10

I'm not sure where this quote came from, it was one of those things that I found on Pinterest, and saved to my Pinterest board of quotes and other beautiful writings (where I find the gems for this series, usually!). However, I really liked it, in the sense that most people seem to be afraid of like, spiders, or clowns, or falling from a great height, whereas these things have never really bothered me. Sure, I'm a bit afraid of anything worms for some reason, but it's not debilitating. What does paralyse me, though, is the fear when you're left alone with your own thoughts - that freaks me out a lot more than any bug, mountain or clown mask could.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

taking stock #9

taking stock

Making: not a lot! (The picture above is old, unfortunately!) I've barely been knitting. I want to start something small for when travelling.
Cooking: sticky soy sauce chicken thighs in sesame seeds!
Drinking: all the iced coffee.
Reading: at the weekend I decided to reread the Harry Potter series, and I'm loving it.
Wanting: all the chocolate in the house to be gone.
Watching: The new Game of Thrones episode!
Eating: Easter chocolate, still.
Deciding: on whether or not I should buy an iPad...
Wishing: I could get in the gym as often as I did last year.
Enjoying: the travelling I'm doing for work, the responsibility and the new challenges - it's all such a change of pace from my old job!
Waiting: for summer. As always, I'm anticipating the coming season and forgetting to enjoy the current one!
Loving:  weekends.
Needing: to get back on the losing weight train - I've completely lost momentum this year and it's irritating me.
Smelling: my new candle; verbena & eucalyptus - it's amazing.
Wearing: black skinny jeans and a Warehouse blouse.
Thinking: about the future, about money, and cars and houses and adult things...
Hearing: podcasts, I've become a bit obsessed all over again. Any recommendations, leave below..
Feeling: sleepy.
Buying: train tickets, taxi's and hotels. All for work, though!
Getting: summer clothes. Yup...

Monday, April 13, 2015

this week via instagram

I know these kind of posts saturate the blogging world, but I do quite like these little snapshots into someones life, and how they choose to present a face to the world via Instagram. I will admit that I try quite had to get my images looking nice, my Instagram is quite carefully managed. I think thats an odd thing to hear people admit - people want to give off the impression that they live this perfectly curated life, of perfectly angled coffee cups and pastries, of perfectly styled interiors, etc..
I always feel a little bit like I'm not good enough, when I read blogs. I think that is good for me, making me push myself to produce better content and do better for myself: on bad days though, I compare my life to theirs.

This is a very long way of saying: my life isn't like how I show it on Instagram. I mean, sometimes it is, but at the moment, for example, I'm in my PJ's at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon, make-up free, messy hair in a topknot, eating some easter chocolate, drinking an iced coffee and messaging my friend who is at work about how they've leaked the new episodes of Game of Thrones... 
Life isn't a really perfect Instagram shot, it's just me, trying to make things a bit prettier, and thats okay.

this week via instagram

Easter weekend was spent a blur of food, cooking, baking, sleeping in, watching movies, and going on breezy walks with my brother. It was excellent - everything I needed to recharge my batteries and fully enjoy a bank holiday weekend! I've worked retail the past seven years, and I've never fully enjoyed the joys of the long weekend - I suddenly understood why everyone loved it! I made easter biscuits with my mother, walked around the heather gardens at Virginia Water, saw the Cinderella film with my friend, and just generally chilled. It was well needed.

this week via instagram

This week saw me busy at work, I took my first solo business trip up to Sheffield, and sort of loved the city, from what I saw of it. I think it helps when you see somewhere in the sunshine, because it makes me happier. It's just over the Pennines from my mothers family, so I feel an affinity with the views and the accents, despite sticking out like a saw thumb with my home counties pronunciation. I ate dinner alone in Wagamamas, and it wasn't as hideous as I thought, and I was treated to the most stunning sunset over the hills, and I stood in the Meadowhall carpark until the sun colour drained from the sky just to watch it. (Oh, and I also took gratuitous selfies..)

this week via instagram

This weekend has been a slow one, spent curled up on the sofa with coffee (alternating between iced, and hot), eating leftover chocolate, admiring the stunning blossom tree outside, going for lunch at the local revamped garden centre with my mother, and buying the most amazing, locally produced sausage rolls. I sat and devoured the Sunday paper, did some tidying and still, revelled in the joy of the weekend stretching out before me in one long stretch where I can do what I like! The sunshine has been close behind me all week, and I feel like it's pushing me along, edging me into summer with a little thrill of anticipation...

What have you been up to this week, and what do you think about how people present a face to the world on Instagram? I don't find it inauthentic, though some people would disagree -  I look at it as just trying to show your best face, like the difference between you in your PJ's, eating chocolate in the afternoon, or getting all dressed up ready for an evening out..!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

weekend wanderings #58

new lifestyle blogs to read

What are you up to this weekend? I hope you're all having a lovely, sunny time. (:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Q #46

quotes 9

Sometimes I joke that I just want to try everything once, and never settle down, and this quote rang true to me. I want to be everything and nothing, I never want to be tied down, I want to be myself and do whatever I want. Maybe this is why I've never settled down, or maybe I just hate men, as some people have theorised (not true, but hey, give it time!). Now that I've changed my job, and there is the real possibility that I can start saving to move out, I am wondering what my internal monologue thinks about the possibility of putting down roots for good...

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

New In: Olivia Burton Wonderland Watch

I've never really been one for wearing watches - and I'm not really sure why. I went through a phase of wearing a lime green Ice watch, which I still sort of love, but I had grown out of. After breaking my trusty all-black Swatch watch, I received this beautiful little Olivia Burton number for Christmas.

olivia burton wonderland watch 3
I found it really hard to find a watch to suit me - I've got irritatingly large wrists, so women's watches usually look ridiculously small on me, and then men's or unisex ones are too big... I also definitively did not want one that looked gigantic on my wrist, or like a kids watch, also. I was also torn between leather and metal, however I knew empathetically that I didn't want one with a lot of bling, no sparkles or glitter, as this is just not me!
Anyway, I managed to narrow it down to a few Olivia Burton watches and then made my friends wait whilst I uhmed and aahed over which one I actually wanted before going for this one. I'm so glad I went for it - it's smart enough that I can wear it with nice outfits, and casual enough that I can wear it day to day. I just thought I'd share with you some photos, because sometimes the photos you see on websites are a bit dodgy or badly photographed. 

olivia burton wonderland watch 1
olivia burton wonderland watch 2

Sunday, April 05, 2015

an easter weekend

I wasn't very well last night, woke up late, and wanted to just chill with my family - so I am forgoing my usual Weekend Wanderings posts, in favour of a mini run down of things that have made my weekend a good one...

easter biscuits

  • Eating freshly baked, homemade croissants, straight out of the oven, smothered with jam for a very late breakfast with my family. Accompanied by giant mugs of steaming hot coffee, 
  • Catching up with a friend and seeing the new Cinderella film - it's exactly what you expect from a Disney film, that saccharine twee-ness that sometimes you just need to zone out to when you've had a stressful week!
  • Enjoying the small pleasure of a lie-in - first bank holiday weekend I've had completely off (four day weekend!) in about 5 years. I used to get Easter Sunday off in my previous job, but usually worked the bank holidays either side...
  • Watching the garden come back to life a bit with the greenery, the blossom beginning to come out on the trees, and watching the pairs of blackbirds, goldfinches, blue-tits and collared doves that have made it their home (which all made me very happy).
  • Bunches of spring flowers in the house, daffodils in my bedroom, tulips and hyacinths in the living room. 
  • Spending an afternoon doing some Easter baking with my mum - decorating little biscuits and trying our hands at creme-egg brownies, too.  
  • A roast in the oven as we speak, preparing for a good roast later today.
  • And of course, a little pile of chocolate waiting for me this morning when I came downstairs - you're never too old for an chocolate rabbit, are you?
What are you up to this weekend? If it isn't stuffing your face with food, then I don't want to know! haha Hope you're all having a lovely time with or without your family, eating or not, spending time in the sunshine or curled up on the sofa watching Grease, I hope you have a nice long weekend. (:


easter breakfast
easter flowers

Friday, April 03, 2015

Q #45

quotes 7

I love this, in terms of this quote I spoke about a little while ago. I am not a problem to be solved, a thing to be found, an issue to be worked out or something broken that needs fixing. It's this issue I have with the manic pixie dream girl trope - that women are seen as something to be fixed. I have no desire to be worked out, solved, fixed, or helped - I just want to exist and find someone who will exist alongside me. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

sugar-free banana bread recipe

I was recently talking to some bloggers about authenticity in blogging - and to cut a long story short, the way I would describe it is this; some bloggers tell you that they make a recipe, following it to the letter. They sieve the flour, let the eggs sit at room temperature over night, they use the five or six different bowls required, weigh everything to the the .99th of a gram, and never lick the spoon. I am not one of those bloggers. I admit to you, freely, that I never sieve my flour, create as little cleaning up as possible, and always lick the spoon (and before you start on about raw eggs, just pipe down). Basically, I know baking is a science, blah blah blah, but my mother was a chemist, and this is how she raised me. Mother knows best, and all.

This is all rather a long tangent, but I thought you'd like that little analogy, and I thought I would show you my most recent favourite 'throw it all in and shove it in the oven', recipe. Sugar-free banana bread! Banana-anything is my vice, I've heard tell of people that exist that don't like bananas, and I wonder how do you live? What do you put in smoothies? How do you fuel yourself before a run? What do you smother with cream and chocolate sauce and place on a waffle and tell yourself it is healthy because it has fruit in? I'm going off on a tangent again, aren't I? Onto the recipe.

sugar free banana bread with wholemeal flour
sugar free banana bread with wholemeal flour
- 125g self-raising wholemeal flour;
- 1/2 tsp baking powder,
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon;
- 75g sultanas;
- 50g butter, melted;
- 2 tsp vanilla essence;
- 1 egg;
- 1 tbsp milk;
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a small tin with baking parchment.
2. In a large, microwavable bowl, melt your butter in the microwave. Add the vanilla essence, egg, milk and mashed banana.  Mix until everything is mixed together well.
3. Add in the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon) and sultanas and mix well with a wooden spoon.
4. Pour into the lined cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin and then turn out.

Adapted from this BBC Good Food recipe for banana cake (adapted in that their recipe was incredibly badly worded!).
A few notes about this little recipe, it only makes a small amount, but the cake itself is quite a dense one, so I find that I don't get through it very quickly, so don't be fooled into doubling the recipe (like I did once!) unless you've got a lot of people coming over. Obviously, you can also forgo the sultanas if you don't like them, but I place you people in the same category as those that don't like bananas: mad.
I find it's at it's peak when eaten warm from the oven with a bit of butter, or toasted for breakfast with a glass of milk. The brown flour takes some getting used to, but it leaves me feeling full and without that awkward bloated feeling that I get from eating white flour, so I'm pleased with that, too.
Essentially, this cake is really good I'm really pleased to have found this recipe, and its going in my repertoire for future use!

sugar free banana bread with wholemeal flour