Wednesday, 2 September 2015

LIFESTYLE: Life lately - August

August has been a relatively chilled month in comparison to July. But I still have plenty of great memories and fun photos to share with you! Having gone more lifestyle with this blog I'm using many more of the photos for blog posts, but it does mean I am trying to take more photos in general - which is always a good thing!

First up are these gorgeous wedding photos - these are part of the official photos from Jerry Cliff of Dann's brothers wedding. These candids just fill me with happiness as they are just filled with laughter and love. I'm definitely getting these printed for our home.

Then we received the cutest letter from our niece which I just loved. I mean we should all be spending more time writing letters and thank you notes. They often mean so much to people, and are usually totally under-rated!

Whilst decorating and sorting our house, I grabbed a few photos from around our home and the general chaos and laughter that fills our home.

^^let's be honest.. Archimedes looks super pleased!^^

Plus look at the pretty place we live - some photos from Winchester whilst visiting at the beginning of the month!

I have to admit I really love writing these posts as I really enjoy looking back at the past month and realising just how much we're done and how great our life really is. I would recommend everyone to do this. Whether you have a blog to record it on, or whether you just spend 20 minutes at home looking back through your phone photos to see remember what you've gotten up to in the last month. It just gives you a great opportunity for reflection! And that is no bad thing!

What great things have you been up to?

Monday, 31 August 2015

FOOD: Testing Jamie Oliver's 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

In our home we love the Food Network. We put it on in the background when we get home, and usually have a watch whilst cooking dinner.
We have our firm favourites - Jamie Oliver and Ina Garten - and we have our little jokes about their cooking styles and techniques - Ina uses an insane amount of butter and dill in almost all her recipes, not necessarily a bad thing, and Jamie throws food around all over the place from a great height, and is like an excitable puppy about food; though it is quite fun to watch and quite infectious!

The thing we like about Jamie Oliver is his love for easy to make, quick food for the whole family. Currently we're a little addicted to Jamie's 15 minute meals. I mean a meal for four in 15 minutes! Unbelievable right?!?

Well a week or so ago we decided to put him to the test - ok Dann di, I'm no chef, but I did take the photos!
We both loved the idea of Jamie's 15 minute Chilli Con Carne Meatballs so thought we'd try it. 

Now - before I go through the recipe and how it went, there is a little disclaimer. Jamie doesn't count prep into the 15 minutes - i.e. boiling kettles, getting all the equipment and ingredients out... so have everything you're going to need, out and ready, before you start the timer. We timed that as taking about five minute to get all the surfaces ready and all the ingredients on chopping boards etc.

Right, on to the recipe.
I've linked the one we used but will also put it here so you have fast reference - unfortunately Jamie doesn't have the recipe on his website. We did coucous instead of rice. Just put it in a bowl with two mugs of boiling water and the other ingredients. Cover with a tea towel and let it work its magic.


For the couscous:
1 mug couscous
1 lime
1 pinch of cinnamon

For the meatballs:
400g beef mince
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 small jar peppers
4 spring onions
Bunch of coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
700g passata (we used Spanish Chicken sauce instead)
1 tin kidney beans

1 pinch cumin seeds (we used Cumin powder instead)

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

So how did it go? Well it was a little stressful for Dann as it is a quick dish to make, and as we were timing it as a test the pressure was on. But he did  amazingly well.
One thing to keep in mind, when you pre-heat the pan ready for the sauce, use a deep pan. We used a shallow cast iron one which really keeps it's heat - but also turned the sauce into a hot, bubbling mess! It tasted great - don't worry - but our kitchen was very quickly covered in bright orange splashes! So we switched pans to slow the cooking just a tiny bit and save some of the mess!

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

Jamie Olivers 15 minute chilli con carne meatballs

The Verdict:
Time: 25 minutes
Ok so Dann couldn't do it in the 15 minutes that Jamie can. Possible that the pan swap added a few precious minutes! Perhaps smaller meatballs would have meant they cooked a little faster so saving some time. But overall we are still pretty impressed with that cooking time. All in 30 minutes. And the food?!?!
Well it was lush. It had just the right amount of heat and spice, and was different enough from a traditional chilli con carne that you don't feel cheated. And the couscous - well that was beautiful. We both were a little nervous on how it would turn out, but it cooked perfectly in the water and tasted fab with the sauce.

Would we cook it again?
Hell yes. In fact we are considering doing it for when we have guests next as it was so good!

Would we cook another Jamie's 15 minute meal?
Oh yes. We are definitely going to try some more of his meals, and see how well they stand up to the real life test!

Have you tried a Jamie's 15 minute meal? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

LIFESTYLE: A weekend spent decorating

A weekend of decorating

So we've been decorating for goodness knows how long (well it's since March 9th actually, on and off, just you know, that doesn't have quite the same ring to it!) and we're coming into the final stretch. All of downstairs is now done with just a few odds and ends to get, such as a new dining set for the conservatory, but we have a set that is perfectly fine for the time being.

Upstairs we have finally completed all three bedrooms! A couple of weekends ago we blitzed through the box room and got it looking pretty just in time for our BBQ (which is actually happening today) with some of our friends and family. As we have two sets of siblings staying over, we figured we had a deadline to get the room looking nice.

Now don't get me wrong, this room is far far from complete, as it is essentially empty most of the time, but it feels more like ours with a lick of paint. It still amazes me how something as simple as painting some walls can completely change the feel of a room and make it feel more like it belongs to you.

This room will eventually be a nursery so we (ok, I) decided to go for gender neutral, but bright colours. Orange is pretty much my favourite colour right now and I am loving using it across our home. I think it's a little different so makes a massive impact. The 'glistening aqua' is the same as used in our other spare room but appears much lighter as I only had to use one coat of paint, and contracted against the orange, it just seems to work.
Add bright orange Ikea curtains and we are good to go with a very simple little room.
Here's some photos!!


A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

A weekend of decorating

I'm so looking forward to doing more with this room in the future. I have so many ideas for the furniture and decorations for the room but must wait for the moment!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, 28 August 2015

FASHION: Flats over heels kind of girl

I never thought I would say this, but I love flat shoes more than I love heels. This is a fairly big deal for anyone that knows me.
I was always the one in skyscraper heels for any occasion, work, casual or partying. The higher, the better.
But in recent months I've been rediscovering myself and settling into the more reserved casual Rachel that I am now. And from that, I've found that really I love being comfortable.

Us girls know the pain of a day or evening in killer heels. They can be tight, cause cramp and altogether just painful and uncomfortable. We've all seen the girls dangling their heels from the fingers at 1am after they just couldn't hack it any more, or the ones falling head of heels (ha, did you see what I did there!) in stilettos up to their armpit.

And don't get me wrong, I still think there is a place for heels in every girls life, because just sometimes you need to sashay into the room in a glitzy pair of heels.
But more and more, I'm opting for flat over heels. And not only does it make me much more comfortable, it makes life so much easier. No spare shoes stashed in a handbag, no need for piggybacks to the car, know sinking in the grass.
Plus there are so many amazing types of flats, in a mix of styles for all types of occasion!

I mean I even chose to wear flats to a wedding recently, which is practically unheard of for me. But do you know what? I was comfy all day, and as we were in a pub garden they were much more suitable for the occasion. I could dance and walk around all day without a care in the world. Yes, it means having my maxi dresses taken up just that little bit more, but they were already too long so what's a couple of additional inches?

On top of this, flats are just so much more affordble! You can buy a basic pair of pumps or plimsols from Primark for £3. No they won't last forever, but can you argue with that price? And ease of running around if required.
Maybe some of it comes from the constant broodiness, and future plans for a family so I'm becoming more practical with age, but I don't think that is a bad thing in the slightest!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

LIFESTYLE: 15 things only cat owners will understand

As a cat owner I've come to learn rather quickly that the little fur babies can bring so much joy, and so much aggravation.
Our boys (Archimedes and Dante) are like my little babies and I love them dearly, but you quickly come to realise that cats can cause total anarchy with the swoosh of a tail. But us cat lovers do love sharing our tales of woe and the funny quirks from them that put them solidly in your heart forever.

Here's a few things only cat owners will understand

1. It's perfectly normal to talk to your cat
This is totally  normal behaviour. Especially when there is food around, and you need to explain to your cat that this tuna is not for them

2. They will sit on you when you desperately need to move
Usually after you've been sat for hours binge watching Netflix. Cat decides its the right time for a cuddle, and you instantly need to pee! Your bladder control is really put to the test!

3. But when you want a cuddle, they turn to liquid and escape your clutches
Do you remember that bit from Bugs Bunny with the abominable snowman?

"I will call him George and I will love him and pet him and squeeze him"

Try that with your cat - the struggle is real!

4. They can go to stealthy silence, to sounding like a herd of elephants in 0.2 seconds
Especially true if you have two cats. Stealthily creep up on each other and then attack - usually at the top of the stairs, which results in them rolling down the stairs together like a pair of hippos!

5. Cat fur is a permanent accessory
I don't know how or why, but you can literally walk into my house and have a new fur coat, despite hoovering twice/three times a week and combing our cats almost daily! They just shed hair to mark their territory I'm sure!

6. Being awoken in the middle of the night is common-place
I feel like this is a practice run for when we have kids. Our two especially like walking across our backs as we sleep! Or pouncing!

7. Boxes are never empty for long
Why bother buying all those fancy cat toys - get a box - it will be instantly filled with a cat! Guaranteed.

8. Neither are bags
Unpacking our bags for life after a food shop can be somewhat tricky as you empty, it starts filling with cat!

9. Your sofa is a scratching post - despite owning several large cat scratching posts! 
We even have a scratching post right next to the sofa!! I'm pretty sure they do it just to wind me up.

10. A cat purr is your favourite sound
We have one very loud purring cat, Dante- like you can hear him from across the room. The other is so quiet you have to be right next to his head to hear it, Archimedes. I think I love Archimedes' purr more just because it feels that little more special to hear his purr!

11. A tin opening is your cats favourite sound
It doesn't even need to contain fish - though if it does be prepared for new furry best friends.

12. Your house is filled with ninjas at night
This is especially true for black cat owners, whose cats stealthily navigate the house in the dark of night, and jump out at you from hidden corners!

13. And you learn to keep your feet still under the duvets, at all costs
Pouncing little critters will take the opportunity to dive all over your feet should they twitch under the duvet - a more painful experience in the summer with lighter duvets!

14. Laminate floors bring you insane amounts of entertainment
No traction what so ever, and a full speed running cat - just so much entertainment value.

15. Windy nights lead to crashes and bags inside your home
It just seems to get up their tails and cause them to go all kinds of crazy when there is a storm outside, or one brewing!

What do your cats get up to that makes you love them that little bit more? Share in the comments below!
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