Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter joys

Easter has always been a good excuse for me to get together with family, say goodbye to Lenten fasts and feast on juicy roast lamb and chocolate galore. This year we headed up to the not-so-grim north for our Easter festivities, descending on Birkenhead for a long weekend with Frank’s family.

We were treated to beautiful weather, and spent most evenings sipping wine on the patio and watching the birds fuss around the bird feeder while the cats sunned themselves among the shrubs. It’s moments like these that make me wish I had a garden of my own, with a little space to grow salad and vegetables, borders overflowing with flowering shrubs and trellises wound with rambling roses, honeysuckle and clematises.

Instead I make do with plunging fistfuls of fresh daffodils into vases on my windowsills, and roaming around green spaces whenever I can find them. So Frank’s parents’ garden became the focus of my camera lens this weekend (as did Max the cat and a beautiful peacock butterfly, which helpfully paused just long enough for me to snap a few pictures).

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Saturday also saw me resurrecting my scouting skills and helping Frank’s dad put up his new tent. Since retiring last year he’s focussed his attention on a wilderness project, and is keen to do some wild camping with one (or all) of his sons. I’m keen to go camping with Frank sometime, although his distinct lack of expertise in the tent pitching department could make it an interesting endeavour.

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The rest of the weekend was spent mingling with family, discovering Marks and Spencer’s toffee and chocolate hot cross buns (yummers!) and popping along to see Tranmere Rovers play Sheffield United. I wouldn’t call myself a football fan, but I quite enjoy the vigour of a lower league game, along with the passion and loyalty of its supporters.

Enjoying a yummy chocolate and toffee hot cross bun for brekkie :)


With Lent finally over I indulged in my first piece of chocolate for 46 days - a Cadburys cream egg - which made me feel a little nauseous after all those weeks spent avoiding naughty treats. I’m sure I’ll get back up to speed with it soon though!

I hope you all had an equally lovely, relaxing, chocolate-munching Easter! How did you spend your bank holiday weekend?

sally

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Joules Remy dress

Firstly I should apologise for the slightly gloomy backdrop in these photos. I took them on what was apparently the only grotty grey day in Spring, and they seem a little silly now I’m greeted every morning by an electric blue sky and the burst of blossom in the trees!

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This Joules Remy dress came into my life a couple of weeks ago and has been tugged out of my wardrobe several times already, quickly becoming one of my favourite spring work dresses. Working for a charity means I don’t have to dress too corporately for the office, although I try not to get complacent. Lucky for me, this dress seems to tick every box in my ‘calendar of eventualities’, looking equally nice whether it’s paired with a blazer and heels or sandals and sunglasses. I think we’ve all experienced the serendipity of buying a new item of ‘work’ clothing, only to find it nestles comfortably into every facet of our lives. And this is that dress. So far it’s ducked into office meetings, meandered along the river on a Sunday afternoon, perched on the edge of a theatre seat, sat in the pub sipping cold cider and nestled into the sofa for an evening of Vikings (the virtues of which I wrote about yesterday). I can’t think of a single eventuality (bar maybe a wedding) when it wouldn’t be a perfect option for my daily wear.

As with all my favourite Joules bits, the Remy dress is beautifully made, boasting that nautical/ country feel that I’m so fond of in the Joules range. It’s also super comfortable and has some little features – the mini pockets, turn-up sleeves and red binding down the zip – which give it a feeling of quality.

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Dress: Joules at Country House Outdoor* | shoes: Office (old) | hat: old | necklace: Dorothy Perkins (old) | 

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While I love scouring the Joules website for the latest goodies, I also enjoy online boutiques like Country House Outdoor that feature lots of different brands. Much like the internet in general, it leaves you hopping from one item to the next, discovering new companies as you go. In this case I discovered Seasalt’s gorgeous jute bags, which at only £5 meant it leapt straight into my shopping basket and is perfect for lugging down to Sainsbury’s for a mid-week salad binge!

As I write this I’m already planning to wear my Remy dress over the weekend, possibly even (shock horror) without tights given the glorious sunshine we’ve had in London recently. After the long, dark winter I’m enjoying every second of being outside with the birds, the blossom, the daffodils and the sunshine. Bring on the summer!

sally

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

5 reasons why everyone should watch Vikings

I've never been good at keeping up the routine of watching TV series. I'll tune in for a few episodes before losing touch and forgetting about it. I've been keen to sit down and have a regular Sunday evening ritual that doesn't include cleaning or ironing, so late last year I first suggested Frank and I try an episode of Vikings, a new drama on the History Channel that recounts the adventures of Ragnar Lothbrok, the first Viking Warrior to invade the West.

Frank wasn't fussed at the idea. He's Viking mad, but was worried it would be cheesy, inaccurate, poorly made and badly acted. We sat down and watched an episode. And another. And another. Within a few days we'd devoured the entire series, and anxiously tapped our feet in anticipation of season two. Now, every Sunday we don our pyjamas, curl up on the sofa and catch up with the latest episode, barely speaking a word throughout, with eyes wide as saucers, hanging on every word. We're midway through season 2 at the moment, and have just found out it's been commissioned for a third series. Yay!

I've told everyone who will listen how brilliant it is, but thought it was about time I explained why.

1. Lagertha's strength
Lagertha is the wife of the lead character, and the ultimate female role model. Yes, she encapsulates all the characteristics you'd expect of a period drama - loyal wife, devoted mother, hard worker - but she's also strong-willed, independent and all-round badass. Lagertha is a shieldmaiden: a woman who fights alongside the men, and is a force to be reckoned with (she's also gorgeous, with endless enviable hairstyles that I plan to replicate).

Apparently, Viking women weren't always the downtrodden, vulnerable, doe-eyed types you'd assume. In a world where raids, violence and rape were a very real possibility, women played a leading role in defending their families (and themselves). They were also well-respected members of their communities, able to divorce their husbands and often rising to positions of power. Yup - Lagertha is awesome.



2. Ragnar's... everything
The leading man, Ragnar Lothbrok, was the first Viking to sail West (meaning all us English peeps are descended from him and his people).

In the programme, Ragnar's character is fascinating, shattering the perception that Vikings were violent savages (they were actually very clean, loyal and family-oriented). When he wields an axe, Ragnar can murder brutally and without remorse, but he's also witty, inquisitive and curious about other cultures (a trait which ultimately led him to invade England in the first place). He may at times act a little reprehensibly, but Ragnar is the ultimate anti-hero. He also has an impressive undercut, piercing blue eyes and a memorising accent. I love him.



3. Shield walls
"Rape and pilage" spring to mind when I think of the Vikings, but it turns out they weren't just thoughtless bruisers wielding axes. Vikings had strategies and skills when it came to military warfare. Shield walls (where the fighters group together and create a wall with their shields in battle) may seem pretty simple, but in the programme it makes for a far more exciting battle scene than a few random beheadings. Exciting stuff.



4. Rollo's chest
I wouldn't be a true girl if I didn't make reference to a bit of eye candy. In addition to having a girl crush on Lagertha, I'd say Ragnar's brother, Rollo, is pretty high on the "yum" list. After all, what girl wouldn't like a tall, muscly, dark, bearded Viking? Where Ragnar is cultured, inquisitive and a family man, Rollo is impulsive, wild and tormented. As the older brother living in his younger brother's shadow, his character development has some interesting twists and turns. And that chest...



5. Those Scandinavian accents
One of my favourite things about the programme is the accents. The slow, deliberate intonation of Ragnar always has my eyes (and ears) glued to the screen. Hear for yourself.



So how do you watch it? Well, if you have a Lovefilm (Amazon Instant) membership, you can happily tune into both seasons straight away. For those in the US, you can also watch it on the History website. Alternatively, you can buy the DVDs on Amazon. In any case (even if you have to beg, borrow or steal), make sure you watch it!

Have you watched the Vikings? What did you think?

sally

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

On being still

I can't tell you the number of times I've sat down to write a blog post over the last couple of weeks, only to find my mind loses all clarity and commitment. Topics I'd normally whitter on about seem lifeless and dull. Photos are endlessly uploaded but feel disjointed and uninspiring. My mind feels tired and worn. The prospect of writing another post exhausting. It's no surprise I guess. This is my 887th post. That's around 350,000 words I've bashed out on a keyboard. Maybe 7,000 clicks of my camera shutter. 11,000 tweets. That's a lot of words. A lot of blog.

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I love blogging. I really, really do. Sometimes words fire out of me faster than I can type. Other times the momentum wanes, and I'm scraping the furthest corners of my mind for inspiration. Recently I've found myself to be exhausted. Physically and mentally. And I'm disheartened. Disheartened with words, with speech, with diet and exercise. Disheartened with commuting and washing my hair, dressing, and shopping. Disheartened with money, eating and cooking. Disheartened with friends. Disheartened with love.

It's a phase I know. But right now the prospect of bleating on about the sights and sounds of spring, the giddiness of sunshine after so much darkness - it's exhausting. There's no time to do it, even half if it. No inclination. Twirling in full skirts, positioning my tripod, the clatter of high heels on cobbles and hanging out the laundry. Cream teas, sweaty runs and 7am alarms. Eyeliner flicks, painted nails, the marathon of a finished novel. Fresh daffodils in vases, filed paperwork, an emptied dishwasher, kitchen bin, recycling. Conversations with friends, small talk here and there, an album downloaded, a yoga session complete. Legs shaved, eyebrows plucked, roots dyed, fringe trimmed.

Everything demanding my attention. Relentless. When all I want to do is be still.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

sally

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Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Reader survey!

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My little blog has been breezing along for a few years now, and I feel so grateful and humbled to have such loyal readers. I'm keen to make sure I'm writing about the things I'm passionate about, as well as things that are useful and enjoyable to you. So, I've done a little reader survey and I'd be really grateful if you could take a couple of minutes out of your day to take part.

The survey takes less than 5 minutes to complete and you can find it here. Thank you!

sally

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This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.

Monday, 7 April 2014

A few of my favourite things

Activities
It's been a funny few weeks. I feel like I've been endlessly busy, but none of it feels particularly fulfilling or productive. I'd like to say I've been spending lots of time with my friends, sitting in the sunshine, chatting, shopping or visiting museums, but in reality I've managed to slip into a general state of busyness that involves being absorbed by endless tasks: cleaning, polishing, hoovering, cooking, filing, emailing. While I feel like I've got a lot done, there's also a sense that I could perpetually remain in this state of 'busy' without having accomplished much. I'd like to get more of a handle on that.

My 'cats' bought me this adorable 'mother's day' card, which made me smile, even if their handwriting looks suspiciously like my boyfriend's...

Aww. Got a Mother's Day card from my kitty cats :) x

It was nice to see so many Facebook friends change their profile pictures on Mother's Day to childhood snaps with their lovely mams. Here's the one I chose, featuring my first ever pony, Spotty Muldoon (the ugliest pony in Britain as my mum fondly refers to him). I love my dangling stirrups, jelly shoes, wifebeater and Polly the black lab in the background :)

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Frank was away at the Grand National this weekend. I had a long list of yet more busyness to attend to, but ended up shelving it to make way for short naps, soup-making, lounging in front of the telly and a little 4k run on Sunday. I am so behind on my blog tasks too, but find it difficult to force creativity, and feel disappointed in myself when I bash out a less than adequately written post.

Health
I can't deny that I've tried and failed miserably to lose weight over the past few years, and this has started to get me down. I plan to reflect on this a little bit more in an upcoming post, but I'm really, really trying to get a handle on it. On Friday I tapped into the NHS BMI calculator (which constitutes internet bullying according to a colleague - I'm inclined to agree), and I came up as overweight. This felt like a punch in the gut, and I felt quite upset and dejected for the rest of the weekend, which was exacerbated by the absence of Frank to cheer me up. Having given up cake, sweets, chocolate, biscuits and crisps for Lent, plus doing oodles more exercise since moving house, I hoped I might lose even a few pounds, but nothing. Nada. I know portion size is something I need to address, and I simply need to crack on and make even more lifestyle choices to get things moving. Fingers crossed...

On Sunday I did a little 4k run and felt so proud and happy to have sights like Tower Bridge to run past just a few minutes away from my flat. I usually run to work, so this made a nice change and I'll definitely be doing more running routes through south London in future.

A little view from this morning's 4k run. I love running along the river. So much to see! Although I'm always craving the countryside I feel privileged to trot past such beautiful monuments :)

Cooked
While it's not exactly cooking, I had a few Amazon vouchers that were burning a hole in my pockets, so I decided to put them towards a juicer. I'm a little late to the juicing party, but was so excited to set it up at home and use up some of the vegetables and fruit in my kitchen. First up I blitzed a few apples that needed using up, and have since tried a few concoctions, including basil, cucumber, apple and lemon, plus kale, carrot, beetroot and apple. Yum!

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Incidentally, Socks had a whale of a time this weekend, helped largeoly by the juicer box. I've never met a cat so utterly content to spend ALL WEEKEND sitting in a box. Having spent endless dollar on cat toys over the years, I've come to the conclusion that this is the only way to keep her content (apart from when she's busy digging up my plants in the middle of the night).

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I've also been rediscovering my love of avocado, and in particular, mashed avocado and crispy bacon on wholemeal toast. This, in addition to the guacamole I made recently, has made me endlessly happy.

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Frank and I are embarking on a little world cup challenge, where we've stuck a world map on the fridge and plan to tick off recipes from around the globe. Last night I whipped up a moussaka, and it was so deliciously scrummy I can't wait to dive into the leftovers! I need to scour a few recipes and think up my next challenge. I can't wait to expand my horizons with homemade sushi, paella and jerk chicken. Dribble!

To look forward to
Feeling a little despondent and tired, there's only one thing that can drag me out of feeling a little  blue, and that's looking forward to upcoming adventures. Tonight I'm looking forward to catching up with my friend and yoga convert Lauren for some dinner. I'll be hitting the pool a couple of times for some swimming and I have a pub quiz on Thursday with my work colleagues. Yay!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. What are you looking forward to this week?

sally

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Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Mexican themed midweek meal

One of the things that first galvanised mine and Frank's relationship was our mutual love of good food. Since moving in together, meal times have become one of our favourite pastimes (and one we have to be careful not to indulge in too heavily!). I often prefer to bypass an evening spent watching telly, opting instead to sit with a recipe book perched on my knee, wielding a pad of post-it notes and busily bookmarking all the yummy recipes I'd like to try. One of our first joint purchases was a meal planner from Paperchase, which we fill out each Sunday, deciding what we're cooking, who's cooking and when we might be eating out. Planning midweek dinners is often a blessing and a curse. I like to go swimming a couple of times a week, meaning I often don't get home until 8pm, so I need simple, delicious and nutritious recipes that I can whip up from scratch.

Frank and I choose not to eat ready meals, premade food or sauces, but I have to admit that Old El Paso fajita kits are the one exception. One of my favourite tea times is to load the table with salad, fajita filling, wraps, guacamole and cheese, before diving in and concocting the biggest, ooziest, messiest, scrummiest fajita I can. I'm dribbling just a little at the thought of this. I'd never tried any of the other kits available, but recently Old El Paso kindly sent me out a few goodies to try, so Frank and I eagerly penned 'Mexican night' into our weekly planner.

We decided to try the enchilada kit, which is basically a fajita smothered in tomato sauce and cheese and baked in the oven. Yum. The kit itself comes with tomato sauce, fajita spices and wraps.

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I made up the yummy sauce by mixing the tomato sauce with the fajita mix.

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I then fried up some chicken, peppers, mushrooms and onions.

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I mixed in half the sauce and left it to bubble away.

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After warming the fajitas, I placed some of the mixture in each one, rolled them up and placed them in a greased baking dish.

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Once I'd made up all the wraps, I poured over the remaining sauce and dusted (ahem, doused) with grated cheese.

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I also made some homemade guacamole by mashing avocado and mixing it with chopped red onion, tomato, mashed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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After baking the enchiladas for around 10-15 minutes, I dished it up and we eagerly got stuck in.

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To finish off Mexican night, we watched one of my favourite movies, Y Mama Tambien. Have you tried any of the Old El Paso dinner kits? Which one's your favourite?

sally

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Superdry t-shirt and AW14 press day

As much as I love to hog my blog space for pictures of pretty dresses, fluffy cats and beauty goodies, today I'm stepping aside to give the boyfriend a bit of airtime. Frank and I have both been long time Superdry fans, and no man's wardrobe would be complete without a Superdry t-shirt (or three) to brighten things up. T-shirts have to be one of the brand's staples. Every year they bring out even better designs with some stunning colour combinations, and Frank is like a kid in a sweet shop browsing through the different options. After lots of umming and ahhing, he recently came home with this little number, and I have to say it's my favourite one yet. I love the retro logo, neon pink and navy blue detail.

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Superdry t-shirt

Last week Frank and I headed down to the flagship store on Regent Street to have a look at the AW14 collection during their press day. Having spotted some of the goodies on the catwalk back in January, I was keen to see things 'in the thread' so to speak. Naturally the men's t-shirts and checked shirts were high on our list, but I have to admit I was keen to have a good root around in the women's section too.

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One of the guests at the press day put it brilliantly when they said Superdry had 'graduated' this season. They hit the nail firmly on the head, and I was so excited to see some subtler, more feminine incarnations of the brand. The ladies collection features some beautiful embellishment, gorgeous detail, pops of colour and general all-round ah-mazingness. The rotten thing is I have to wait months for them to be on sale. Sigh.

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These jeans will definitely be working their way into my wardrobe!

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Frank was also treated to a beard trim by Gentleman's Tonic, who shaped and sheared his beard to perfection. Now I will be eagerly anticipating the launch. I've never been so keen for winter to come!

Superdry AW14m

sally

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This site contains links to outside sources including paid affiliates. Queenie and the Dew is not responsible for the content of any third party website.