Smile no. 8

This week has been a smileful week all round, it’s hard trying to pick one thing! I love lists, so here’s a list of things that have made me smile this week…

  • Bake Off is back in a fashion, and that is just great
  • I found a recipe for Banana Blueberry muffins that taste amazing (I’m always throwing out bananas, I like them basically green so as soon as they start getting brown spots I have to find something else to do with them!)
  • I had a day out in London this week with my favourite friends which involved pretending to be highly sophisticated ladies who lunch – we have to pretend because we’re all actually nuts – and a trip to Ben’s Cookies, possibly my favourite cookie-based establishment of all time, and much general hysteria
  • I made a good call at work on Friday, and that always feels good!
  • I passed an exam that is another hurdle towards finishing my degree
  • I re-wrote my recipe book with colourful pens so now it looks awesome
  • Last night we had dinner with friends and just sofa-crashed and chatted all evening which was just wonderful

So lots of smiley things this week, and they are all so smiley that it would be hard to choose just one!


Banana Blueberry Muffins…



On being somebody’s Valentine…

Four years ago I left home to start university. Everyone was busy telling me how much I would love it, how much if would thrive. I, on the other hand, had spent the preceding summer convincing myself that I had not got my A level grades that would secure my place. I had already part filled next year’s application forms, booked a few driving lessons in and applied for a few jobs so the blow might not fall so hard. So when the big fat confirmation letter fell through the letterbox in August, just a month before term was due to start, I found myself in a bit of a pickle.

Just 4 weeks later, I found myself alone in a room that didn’t feel like mine, on a corridor of the most eclectic mix I people I could ever expect to meet. It was almost a perfectly representative sample if every clique from college. The loud and bolshy rugby lad, the crazy party girl, the punky chic into all sorts of weirdness that she felt needed sharing loudly over dinner, the quiet kid that didn’t speak, and then there was the boy next door.

It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. In fact I spent the first few weeks of term convinced his name was Steve (it’s not…) and only really had any interaction over pleasantries such as whose milk this was in the fridge, and could I please borrow a tea bag.

I found myself deeply miserable at uni. I suddenly found myself stressed to the heavens about everything, gave myself gastritis that rendered me a nauseous wreck the majority of the time and realised that my cooking skills did not even stretch to basic at best. I was strongly considering dropping out and seeing if I could defer a year on health grounds. So when I got a text from said boy asking if I’d like to go for a drink sometime, I baulked and knocked it out the park. How could I possibly entertain the notion of dating when I could barely hold myself together for a day of lectures?!

A few months of persistent efforts and truly horrendously awkward dates later, we finally gave up and called it official. This was a boy who would sit with me while I spent hours forcing down tiny meals, with my phone in his hand threatening to call my mum if I didn’t finish that chicken sweet and sour. A boy who had seen me in my PJ’s at 3am fire alarms with bed hair and sleepy eyes, seen my horrific attempts at cooking, heard me throwing up near enough daily, and yet was still interested.

That first year, I told him that I didn’t do valentines day. Mainly because I honestly didn’t really buy all the sappy ‘one-and-only’ stuff. I figured mostly you just ended up with someone convenient and muddled along with them for a while. I thought it was so commercial; after all, why do you need one day to appreciate the person you supposedly love all year round?

To some extent, I still believe that, about the commercialism. However, four years later, having fallen totally head over heels for that boy next door, I can’t say I don’t believe in love anymore. It’s amazing to have someone who is unconditionally there for you, and so in sync with the way you think that there are times when you don’t have to say anything at all. And to be able to celebrate that, and have a day to show them how much that means isn’t all that bad. Not with presents and lavish expense, but with time. Setting aside a little time to spend purely with each other, no distractions. So that was how our valentines day went. We had a lazy morning with American Blueberry Pancakes watching a live-streamed band contest in our PJs. Then we went out for dinner at our favourite local Indian, challenging each other to try something different to our usual order. We’re both massive foodie people, so this was just perfect. We ended our evening curled up on the sofa with a good film. To some, this would seem boring and unimaginative, but for us, just spending time enjoying things we have in common is just fine.

So now, I would say yes, I do ‘do’ valentines day, but I do it my way.


Smile no. 7

The weeks are starting to fly… It is already halfway through February and I’m actually driving home in dusky half light rather than total darkness!

I’m halfway through my final placement now, and life is starting to get scary and busy. Between people coming to view the house, reams of paperwork that come with finishing a course, and just generally living, there hasn’t been a lot of time for much else!

My smile this week is a new discovery. I love finding new things, a new shampoo that smells yummy, a new restaurant, or in this case, a new candle that makes the entire house smell awesome. It’s a honey vanilla one from tesco, and nowhere near as expensive as its Yankee counterpart. I think it actually smells stronger too.


So my evenings this week have been spent basking in a yummy haze of honey-ness… Mmmmmm. I also liked it so much I bought a little car sachet thing too so I can enjoy it all over the place.


Smile no. 6

A few days behind this week… whoops!


I went out for a wander on Saturday, just to pick up a few bits and pieces, and just nipped in to L’Occitane. It’s not a shop I go into usually, it’s a little out of my student price range, but I find that their shea butter hand cream is one of the few that actually stops my knuckles cracking wide open, despite the large amount of handwashing I do in my job. (And it smells really good!)

When I got to the till, I was informed that that particular day, there was a promotion running whereby if I signed up to the emailing list, I would get a little gift bag, and 25% off my next shop. This seemed like a pretty good deal, and for the £8 I spent on my hand cream, I walked out with this lovely little pack also containing comfort cream, toner and cleanser, and a squirt of some very nice perfume on the tissue paper that made my living room smell nice for hours:


For the store, it’s just an easy passing way of getting more advertising to more people, but to me, it’s a little unexpected surprise treat that made my day. People say it’s all about the small things – and for me it really is. This put a smile on my face all afternoon! Simple things please simple minds? I’m not so sure. I reckon the people that can find the smiles in the small things are just happier people!


January… A lookback on 4 weeks of de-choc!

January is a curious month. We approach it every year with a kind of heady optimism. However, for many people, once those first few enthused days if self improvement are up, it slides into a month of disappointment and demotivation. All those goals we set so full of good intentions soon seem unattainable, we fall from our wagons and the the chocolate/wine/sofas creep back in to those oh-so-cold evenings as the rain/snow/cold provides an excuse to not leave the house for the gym again.

I ended 2014 thoroughly glad to see the back of it. It was just not a happy year. I wanted to make sure that this year was a genuine fresh start and clean slate, and while there are lots if scary/stressful things looming, I’m doing my very best to not obsess over them, and to enjoy the excitement in them more instead.

I decided to kick start this with a January focus of just giving my metabolism a bit of TLC. I’m a self-confessed comfort snacker, and chocolate had become a serious vice as 2014 threw its worst at me. So while most of the population went dry and spent January sober, I stowed the Christmas chocolate and along with banishing cake and biscuits to boot, headed for long 4 weeks of forced healthiness.

The first thing I noticed was the sudden need for breakfast. I am the world’s least enamoured when it comes to mornings, and this usually means I will happily trade breakfast for an extra 15 minutes of duvet time. But now that post-dinner chocolate/cake/biscuit munchings were out, I was waking up to find I actually needed food. Like now… before my stomach actually digests itself kind of now.  Ready-brek with honey became a regular feature of my mornings. I tried toast a few times, but found that by 11am, my usual reach for the biscuits cravings were good and back.

I also began to find that my lunch needed a lot more thinking about. I couldn’t just throw in a kitkat, or rely on the staffroom supply of cake and nibbles for afternoon hungry moments. I ended up eating a lot more fruit, and I was planning out more substantial meals. I found a few good new recipes, and rediscovered my love for peanut butter. This has always been my go-to snack when chocolate has been off the menu, and is perfect for that point when you get home but it’s not quite dinner time – hot toast, PB and Tea. If I was requesting my last meal on death row, that would quite probably be my choice.

Combined with far more regular exercise from my dance lessons, I found I had more energy, a more level mood, and just generally felt better. However, with the arrival of February, and the break of my junk food fast came the return of the sugar-feels. I am hopeless when it comes to ‘oh I’ll just have a nibble…’ A nibble becomes a bar/packet/box far too easily. I’m back to square one and it’s a tad depressing. But having allowed myself a fortnight to enjoy the freedom of choice again, I’ve decided to try and be a little more restrictive for the next few months. I want to be in good health when I head off on my travels (not to mention in better shape for graduation photos…!) and am intrigued to see if trying to stick more to my January eating pattern will have any more unexpected benefits if I stick at it for longer.

So here’s to the remainder of February. I’m trying to make fitness a focus this month. So far, I have used my gym membership precisely 100% more than I did in January… I.e. I have made it there twice this month. I need to ramp it up if it’s going to be worth the money, so I’m trying to aim for three times a week. (This was until ballet on Monday destroyed my leg muscles, and now even the stairs are proving a significant challenge!)

This was meant to go up at the beginning of February, but hey ho…!