Snuggly essay days, shopping and a new job

Liverpool is absolutely freezing now, and to make matters worse, we currently don’t have a working washing machine. Not exactly ideal given that I go away next week, but then it’s a brilliant excuse to get a few ’emergency’ jumpers. I spent most of Sunday huddled up under my giraffe print throw, hot water bottle tucked under my feet and copious thermal cups of coffee on hand, to get me through my essay research. For some reason, I’m not feeling that dedicated to it at the moment. It might be because I have a slightly more important personal statement to narrow down (47 lines is a puny amount for a PGCE application!) and the essay deadline seems ages away. Either way, it was a relatively relaxing day snuggled up with the textbooks. Yeah goodbye social life!

I absolutely adore these slouchy socks!

Welcome to third year

Yesterday I went to Cheshire Oaks with two of my friends on my course. Luckily, one of the girls was our taxi for the day (I’m repaying her with a coffee and loan of a textbook today) so we didn’t have to faff around with buses etc. We went mainly to go to TGI Fridays, but the discounted shopping was another bonus. Lunch was lovely, in fact the whole day was brill as it was an excuse to get out the house and just relax for a bit. We were out for about five hours in total, but it was worth the break. I bought some stuff in Boots to try out – some hair putty to style my short crop, a new lippy and liner for nights out and a cute every day nail polish. I’m toying with the idea of doing a few beauty reviews on them in the future, so keep an eye out. I did get some leggings in H&M, but I think I’m going to either return or exchange them as they’re too big when I go into town tomorrow after work.

My beauty treats

Today was my first shift as a viewing clerk for my housing agency. It went pretty well given that it was my first one, we only had one wrong set of keys (not my fault) and two locked bedrooms which the master keys wouldn’t open. My next shift is on Thursday and I’ll be on my own for that one, which I’m weirdly excited about it. Not so keen on the timing though as I’m out Wednesday night and have a 9am lecture to attend before the viewing. Excellent excuse for not staying out ridiculously late though! The only negative about the viewings is that I’ve left my lovely Radley umbrella in one of the properties! All the tenants have been notified about it but I can not remember where I put it down. Hopefully I’ll get it back, but if not, I’ll get a cheap one in Primark tomorrow (just in case) and ask for a new one for Christmas.

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New nibbles!

This is actually the box that I got nearly a fortnight ago, it just takes me a while to get through a box now third year has well and truly kicked in. I’m taking a break out of my rather successful weekend of research to finally give my review on the NibbleBox (it’s been finished for nearly a week now) as I need to write about something other than Mussolini. After this week, I’m going back to just getting one box a fortnight as this weeks GoodyBox was a repeat of everything I’ve had before, and when I checked the website, there was only one thing I hadn’t tried yet. It didn’t seem worthwhile paying £3.89 when I only wanted one thing and I much prefer the treats available in the NibbleBox. Anyway, back to the NibbleBox. This time it contained some of the new punnets that have recently been added and I was really looking forward to sampling them.

New Chocolate Pretzel – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: chocolate sauce and poppyseed pretzels. Now I know that so far my track record with pretzels has been a bit hit and miss, however the chocolate sauce made all the difference. The sauce wasn’t sickly (and I ate every last drop of the stuff) and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the pretzels were when dipped in the sauce. I’m not a huge lover of sweet and savory combined, but this got a big thumbs up from me! It’s not one to eat in polite company though (at least not if you’re as messy as I am), the sauce is just too nice. Plus they’d probably want to sample it.

Mumbai Masala – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: baked curry bites, spicy chickpeas and masala cashews. As soon as I saw this in my box, I knew I was going to love it. I’ve loved the baked bites and cashews in every punnet they’ve previously featured, and they did not disappoint. If anyone knows of a place I can get different flavoured cashews, I will love you forever. I was intrigued by the chickpeas – I love them in curry etc, but I’ve never had them cold. They were also wonderful. Most definitely a winner from Graze!

New Banana Spilt – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: fudge pieces, honey almond slivers, pumpkin seeds and banana coins. I can safely say I’ve never had a banana split quite like this. I guess I’m boring and unimaginative, seeing as I’d settle for banana, ice cream and maybe some sauce. This was a delightful little snack that put a smile on my face as I was in the process of manic bread baking. The flavours were delicious. I wasn’t a hundred percent certain on the dried banana as I’ve always avoided it in the past. Mostly because I like fresh banana and the dried form looks rather pathetic. When eating a selection of the punnet together, it tastes lovely, so I may try it again in future. The rest of the punnet tipped the move into ‘love’ rather than a mere ‘like’ as the almond, pumpkin seeds and fudge pieces were very autumnal and refreshing.

New Apricotti Biscotti – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: amaretti drops, dark chocolate coated apricots and green raisins. I took this punnet into lecture on Tuesday and it went down relatively well (with the ones who actually eat fruit). This was probably the most sophisticated punnet I’ve had from Graze – the dark chocolate and marzipan flavoured drops made it seem very luxurious. I did find that the chocolate masked the taste of the apricots, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I still really enjoyed the punnet.

Now when you compare the delights of this box, to some of the rather lack-luster punnets from the GoodyBox, it’s quite obvious why I opted to save some money, especially with my upcoming trip to Berlin and then the festive season begins in earnest! Despite my best efforts, I am getting more and more excited for Christmas, but that’s mainly because I can’t wait to spoil my loved ones and I’ve got a couple more markets planned. Also my mum is coming down for a festive girly weekend next month and I’m so excited for that. Well that’s my break up, now back to this essay…

Comfy charity chic

Seeing as I’ve starting adding a bit more fashion into this blog, I’ve been thinking even more about the combinations that I can make with my minimal wardrobe. It truly is tiny, but after my recent trip home and frequently lucky shifts (I’ve left work every shift for the past few weeks with either a piece of clothing or a book), I’ve run out of hangers. All that means is I need to get some more (hangers) the next time I’m in Wilkinson’s.

Super slouchy

Wednesday was my day off uni. I hit the gym in the morning, getting up earlier than usual to make it an hour toning session, and then did some essay work before heading into Oxfam for my shift in the afternoon. My eyelids unfortunately have flared up again, so I’ve been keeping my make up to a minimum. This for me means I either wear none at all (as I did Wednesday) or just some eyeshadow/eyeliner (Friday was the first time since it flared up on Tuesday that I did this). The weather wasn’t as bad as it has been recently, but I still felt like I wanted to wear something floaty, but not feel swamped. Now I know the photo doesn’t really show this outfit perfectly (I only have this one mirror in my room) but my figure wasn’t removed or mutilated by the jumper because of the dress underneath. I’d seen one of the other flutes at band in an outfit similar and decided to be brave and try it at work. The dress and jumper were both purchased from my Oxfam shop, but originate from Primark (jumper) and Influence (dress). I teamed it with my black floral headband (Claire’s), M&M earrings (Tynemouth market, Sweet Returns), chunky black boots (Schuh), leather jacket and giraffe hat. I felt really comfortable in this outfit and I will wear it for uni sometime when the weather stops being so naff as I actually felt tall and slender in this outfit, which was the complete opposite of what I expected!

Another Oxfam purchase! Another Oxfam purchase!

On Thursday the weather was truly dire and I had to complete another bit of training for my Christmas temp job, so I wanted to look a bit smarter and this dress seemed ideal. I bought it the day before in Oxfam (see I wasn’t exaggerating) for £3.99. The tag inside say Uttaml London (any suggestions?) but I’m not really bothered about brands etc. Instead it’s all about the comfort for me and this dress is superb. I’d been eyeing it up all afternoon and tried it after three hours of wondering, to find it fits like a glove. It feels lovely against my skin and I know I could wear a long-sleeved top underneath when the weather gets even colder (which I’m dreading). I was a bit unsure about the sleeves as they are rather flouncy, but they soften the patterns on the dress and balance out my figure. It is very different to my usual style, with the belted waist and broad neckline, but as I’ve said I absolutely love it and felt like a sophisticated student when I was in the agency. I should point out that I’m going to be a viewing clerk for the student housing agency I rent with – so there’s no official uniform etc, I just wanted to look a bit less ‘studenty’. I wore my brown floral headband (Claire’s), Penny Farthing earrings (eBay), brown tights (Sainsbury’s), pink DM’s and big winter coat (M&S), so I still looked pretty studenty, but I also felt rather feminine.

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And back to my studenty look. In honour of the McBusted tickets coming on sale today (roll on the Easter hols!) I wore my McFly 10th Anniversary Tour t-shirt. I also knew that all I would be doing today would be lectures and the essay work (fun times) so the emphasis was more on comfort. I wore my favourite shorts which I have been getting a new size of for the past three years. They are from Dorothy Perkins and by far the best denim shorts I’ve owned as they have a decent length on the legs, despite being high-waisted. I say that because it still amazes me the amount of high-waisted shorts available which show more bum than they cover. Anyway because the weather was merely blustery, rather than gale force and lashing rain, I opted for my long and slouchy Marks and Spencer’s knitted cardigan. This is another of my Oxfam bargains – it’s a deep blue with flecks of reds, yellows and greens running through it, meaning it goes with practical everything. It’s not a chunky knit, but it’s still really warm and it reminds me of the ones my mum and Grandma have knitted for me over the years (which I still wear back home). The tights are the ones I bought in Primark on Sunday as I fancied seeing what they looked and felt like. They aren’t as thick as my usual Primark favourites, but my legs were still kept warm and I think they added a bit of colour to the outfit, especially when paired with my pink DMs. Yes there the beauties are! All the outfit then needed was some funky earrings (I opted for my yellow duckies), my giraffe hat and my big slouch Accessories bag that I use for uni. That bag is another Oxfam find which I love because I can fit everything I need (and tonnes more that I don’t) in yet it still stays really light.

I don’t imagine I’ll be wearing anything particularly post-worthy over the weekend, which is why I opted to do this now. Also it leaves me with no excuse for not doing my application and research! I am going to get my hair cut tomorrow so we’ll see if it changes drastically. I am using a new hairdresser after all because otherwise it wouldn’t be cut when I’m home until after New Year.

 

Simple but effective

I’ve been working on two essays over the week alongside my PGCE personal statement, so I felt it was time to brighten up my day by painting my nails. Yesterday I treated myself to some new make up, which naturally including some nail varnish. It’s a similar colour to my last nail art post, but more of a pinkish red this time. I did warn you that I like red nails!

Not bad for a first attempt at stripes

For this look I used Rimmel ‘Stronger’ base coat, Barry M Matte Vanilla and Barry M Raspberry. The stripes were achieved with the help of my housemates striping tape.

After applying my base coat, I used the Matte paint on my ring finger. This is a lovely nude colour and ideal for this seasons ‘fairytale grunge’ look. The matte finish is great, but obviously the effect doesn’t last if you apply a top coat and most varnish doesn’t last long without a top coat. A wonderful dilemma. However, OPI do a matte version of their ‘Nail Envy’ and I’m pretty sure we have some of that back home, so it’ll be interesting to see how the two work together. Unfortunately I won’t be able to try this theory out until I break up for Christmas.

Base coat and Matte Vanilla

Once this had dried, I applied the tape. Now this was a bit of a faff, I’m not going to lie, but then again I do struggle with scissors (I blame being left-handed). I remembered my housemate saying that the tape works best if you leave extra at both ends, to make it even easier when you have to remove it. I decided on doing a crossover pattern because it reminded me of woolly jumpers and winter, I imagined it would look pretty and it suited the colours I’d chosen. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I tried to make my lines run parallel and have an equal space between them. By the time I got to my left hand, I was losing the will a bit. However once I was happy with the pattern, I painted over it with one coat of ‘Raspberry’.

Now I had a little panic as I was painting them as I didn’t want to leave it on too long in case I removed the polish with the tape, but at the same time I didn’t want to be premature and ruin the whole thing. Frankly I didn’t fancy faffing with the tape again that soon. However I ended up waiting a lot longer with my left hand because I got a phone call and it didn’t ruin a thing. I worry far too easily. When it came to removing the tape, I reversed the application (removed the last direction first) and everything went smoothly. After that, I painted the rest of my finger nails with one coat of ‘Raspberry’. I added one coat of base as my top coat, which added a hint of shimmer to the overall effect (if you focus really hard) to finish the look. I’d like to point out that I used only one coat for each polish (base, matte, raspberry, base) and that it so far has survived a day with minimal chipping (I’ve done a fair bit of typing as well). I’m certainly considering ordering some striping tape online as it’s readily available from the likes of eBay and Amazon from as low as 99p (+pp) and I’ve already had compliments on it. Overall, it took me about thirty minutes to do (excluding the phone call and baring in mind that I didn’t have a clue about using the tape) and I know I’ll get quicker with practice.

Minus the top coat

MKS – a complete circle for the Sugababes and an epic night out

Last night my housemate and I went to Manchester to see MKS aka Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan aka Sugababes version one. Now as a kid, I adored this band, although I’ll admit I mainly got into their music just as Siobhan left and Heidi joined. Version three (when Mutya left) was a bit of a let down and then they broke up fairly soon after that anyway. Regardless, they were definitely one of my favourite bands and I love listening to the albums. I’m currently uploading all the ones on my laptop to my phone so I can boogie along to them whilst walking to uni. Anyway, we were very lucky with the tickets as I won them in a competition with Heat Radio – a very simple, email when ‘Overload’ played, but I nearly missed out after an hour of waiting, thanks to technology and tea. Thankfully, I was just in time and got to choose which event I attended. I opted for Manchester because it was the closest to uni and would therefore minimise travel cost and the risk of lecture avoidance.

This outfit is one of my bargain combos as both the top and skirt were bought in the sales. The crop top was only £3 in the New Look sale last month, and the skirt was £5 from Boohoo. I love the skirt as it looks brilliant with crops as it sits nicely on my waist, without being über short on the legs. I wore my super thick black tights from Primark because we’d be doing a fair bit of walking to and from public transport. I know it probably looks like I’ve underdressed for the weather, but I also roast in venue halls and having never been to The Ritz in Manchester, I opted for taking a jacket that could be chucked on if I got cold inside, but also wouldn’t be bulky for carrying if I didn’t. The leather jacket is from Oasis and I honestly don’t know how I survived up until this year without this jacket – it’s my go-to going-out jacket as it adds an edge to just about every outfit. Seeing as it’s November (and making sure that we know it’s well and truly winter) I wore my giraffe hat from Mum and green giraffe scarf which I got in Oxford. See, geordies can dress appropriately! I kept the accessories simple – just a floral headband, duck earrings, River Island watch and heart bangle. After much deliberation (I really struggled on which shoes to wear) I opted for my purple Doc Martin boots as they are nice and comfy (the gig was standing) and it didn’t matter if they got a little scuffed as they’re three years old now, whereas there was no way I was letting my pink DM shoes get trampled on!

We got the train from South Parkway to Manchester Oxford Road and treated ourselves to tea in Pizza Express. It was literally three minutes down the road from the venue and we got a seat straight away. The food was lovely – I had Cavatappi Formaggi, which is their version of Mac and Cheese (ultimate comfort food which I’m going to make some day soon) and the one of their Dolcetti desserts of chocolate brownie and a mocha. I think in future if I get a dessert from there, I’ll go with that option as it’s the perfect portion of desert and the coffee wasn’t too bad either. My housemate got a hot toddy to warm herself up because it was pretty nippy outside. The service was excellent and after a quick Google Map check, we headed for The Ritz.

When we got there, we realised that it was doors open at 7pm, not the show starting then, which meant that we would be getting the last train home. Not necessarily a problem, but my poor housemate had to be up at 5.30 this morning to go to work! The venue was fab, much prettier than what I was expecting, given that my only previous experience of a similar venue is The Academy in Newcastle back in 2008 and that was dire. The Ritz, however, was like an old ballroom (so suited the name I guess, given that we kept humming ‘Putting on the Ritz’) and it had comfy seats at the back. Well being the boring old farts that we are (and seeing as we had an hour wait until the first act) we sat on a quite comfy sofa at the back where we had excellent views of the stage. The support act, Mike Hough, was very good. His Rihanna mix was great and despite having never heard of him, we were dancing in our seats and loving the gig. I’m going to have a browse for him on YouTube later and I’d probably download his music.

After two hours in the venue, MKS finally came on stage and they were amazing! I was incredibly surprised by how good they were live and I’ve been very lucky with my free concerts over the past three months. I’d forgotten how good their harmonies were and it brought goosebumps at times. They did a mix of their original stuff, music from version two (which Siobhan sang like it was written for her, she was excellent) and then some of their new stuff. I can’t wait for their album to be released next year! I was dead chuffed that they did some of the version two songs, Mum got her concert call for ‘Push the Button’ (her favourite) and we all sang our hearts out. The venue size was just perfect for the concert as it was all genuine fans, it wasn’t rowdy (one of my fears with standing gigs) and I’d definitely consider going their again for a gig. We’ve got our eyes on a few upcoming events in Liverpool, so that’s what I’m going to research in minute (my PGCE application can wait until tonight at this rate).

    

Coming home was an experience as it was the 23.27 train from Oxford Road to South Parkway and took an hour to get back. After about twenty minutes the windows were all opened because some geezer had been sick, but other than that, we just struggled to stay awake so we didn’t miss our stop! It was a cheap taxi trip home and then bed by 1.30am. Naturally I opted for more sleep than the gym this morning and did intend to start my application, but I’ll do that after band tonight. It was such a fantastic gig last night and I can’t wait for our next one, whenever it may be!

Liverpool’s ‘Big’ Christmas and Vintage Fair

My comments about Christmas coming too early still stand because frankly it felt a little odd having a festive day alongside a two-minute silence in remembrance (even weirder given that it was in Primark). However, I thoroughly enjoyed my day out with my friend from Amnesty and I’m sure she’ll be blogging about it between the mountain of uni work that is threatening to bury the two of us.

The weather was fairly pleasant this morning, so I ended up going out in one of my favourite outfits. Yes I’m finally ready to reveal myself, rather than a cropped/zoomed photo. Just another dimension to add to the blog seeing as I adore clothes shopping and fashion in general. The jumper is from Sainsbury’s and it is super cosy. The skirt and tights are both Primark’s finest – I do love a good bargain, especially when it’s something I can wear with just about everything in my tiny uni wardrobe. To complete the outfit, I wore my pink Doc Martin shoes (I tend to wear very little else when I leave the house), my Next quilted jacket and my lovely new knitted addition. My incredibly talented mum has knitted me this hat and it arrived in the post yesterday. As you know, I adore giraffes and I’m very impressed with Mum’s skills.

We met before the fair started as we fancied going for a Costa breakfast, mainly because the new festive range is available. I had a skinny Black Forest Gateau hot chocolate and a slice of Christmas cake. That’s one of my favourite festive foods so I thought I might as well go whole hog since I was having a treat breakfast and going to a Christmas fair. Can you believe that I had the last hot chocolate – they’d ran out by 9.45am! It was very tasty and set me up for the day of shopping ahead.

I bought the tickets for the fair through Groupon as we got four tickets for the price of two. It was advertised as ‘Liverpool’s Big Vintage Fair’ and I’m fairly sure there was something about a free Nails Inc nail polish and photos, but instead we got a choice between free mulled wine, mince pie or cupcake. We went with the cupcake option because it was too early in the morning for wine and chocolate is always good. The fair was at the Bluecoat in Liverpool, which is a wonderful building slightly hidden behind Primark. There were a couple of stands in the front courtyard, including a fantastic cosmetic stall. I bought a spiced plum lip balm (I do have a slight obsession with lip balms) and there were a couple of other things that tempted me, but I resisted. We went upstairs first and I have to say we were a little disappointed with the range of products there. For the most part, the items were the same, just at different prices and qualities. There were also some incredibly pushy sellers. Again, a few things caught my eye, including some lovely (but pricey) scarves and long necklaces. I’d quite like to get a statement necklace, but I’m yet to see one that totally steals my heart (and therefore my purse). We had a wander in the stalls downstairs and they were much more impressive. Still very expensive though. It’s almost like people can add another zero to the price tag because it’s ‘vintage’. Sometimes it’s worth it, but for the most part, I struggled to justify the prices some sellers were asking for. There were some cute candles inside china cups (seems to be the new craze along with melted records as dishes) but due to the tiny size of my room, I again couldn’t justify getting them. Same with the lovely cake stands. When I get my own place, I might be able to treat myself to little trinkets like that. In the end, I settled for some bunting for my room, another set for Christmas, and a cute little gingerbread figure which is currently decorating my mug tree. It was a lovely fair, but I’m pleased I only paid £2.50 for it, especially when you consider the size of my favourite markets back home, which are free. As a one-off day out, it was worth it though.

Today’s market purchases

My housemate was meant to be going with us to the fair, but due to a prior commitment, we didn’t meet up with her until after 2pm. Seeing as we’d finished the fair by 11am, we decided to do a bit of shopping since we were already in town. Primark seemed the obvious place to start seeing as it was practically next door and we both wanted to get some more woolies in. We found quite a few bargains in store and I ended up doing one of the cheapest Primark shops I’ve done in a long time. I got a pair of disco shorts for £3 (I’ve fancied a pair for a while, so we’ll see how I wear them), some new PJs for my upcoming uni trip to Berlin, a new set of tights and a winter themed thermal mug for uni. I’m impressed with the PJ shorts as they feel like winceyette, yet are fairly short. This baffled my housemate earlier because ultimately shorts are cold regardless of the material, but I get too hot sometimes, so they should be ideal for my winter trip. I’ll take thick bed socks just to be on the safe side. I love taking my thermal cups into uni – my current one has a cupcake pattern and was part of last year’s house secret Santa gift. This winter themed one (it’s not allowed to be classed as Christmassy yet) is cute and will brighten up my lectures as much as the coffee inside it. I was tempted by some of the Christmas jumpers, but I’ve still got last years so didn’t see the point in getting another, despite there being some very cute ones available.

Primark goodies – minus the disco shorts, they didn’t look good in the photo

We went to Mello Mello for lunch – it’s a veggie/vegan friendly cafe just off the main streets and I’d heard lots of great things about it. Lunch was lovely – I had a feta, salsa and spinach granary sandwich with black pepper crisps and fermented cherry cola. I was a bit unsure about the fermented fruit bit, but I was assured that this is a less harmful way to have fruit and it tasted delicious. Much nicer than other branded stuff. The feta sandwich was scrummy, a bit rich, but then that’s why I chose it as I very rarely have it. If I could remember the way there, I’d definitely go again and they do live bands etc so it should definitely be considered again.

Lunch

We still had a bit of time to kill, so we went over to Lush. As you’ve probably gathered, this is becoming one of my favourite shops. I’d say at least a third of my Christmas list is from there and I could easily add to it. I’m seriously tempted to get their ‘Let the good times roll’ face cleanser and ‘Karma kream’ body lotion. Like I said, if I had the money, I’d stock my bathroom with their products.

As I mentioned, we later met my housemate and her boyfriend to give them their tickets, but we didn’t stay long at the fair with them as we were pretty tired by then. I’ve been in a bit of discomfort today due to my hour-long toning session at the gym yesterday – those core muscles have barely been touched in the past couple of months and were seriously protesting this morning! We went to pick up our Santa suits for the Santa Dash in a few weeks time. A group of six of us from the Amnesty Society at Hope will be participating to raise funds for Amnesty International UK. If you are feeling particularly generous, feel free to donate here, it would be greatly appreciated!

After that it was a bus ride home with all our purchases and plans for another shopping session after our winter deadlines!

Winter is well and truly upon us

The only sign that autumn was ever here, was the changing of the leaves. Aside from that, it’s almost like we jumped straight from glorious sunshine filled days, to cold, blustery darkness. Due to this rather abrupt weather change, I felt the need to rush out and update my winter comforts. I’ve also tried some new recipes over the week, so I’m going to share my favourite with you, because I changed it from the original quite a bit. I should get an A* for effort in essay avoidance.

My winter essay essentials

I’ve already mentioned my growing love for mochas and I’ve now got to the stage where I don’t need to add milk to it, because Options hot chocolate is creamy enough on its own (and the healthiest brand that I like, but others are available). The hot choc and coffee I already had in my room (I get my coffee from my Oxfam store as it’s a reasonable price and fair trade, again others are available) and my mum knitted my wrist warmers back in first year because my house was freezing. I’ve been really lucky with my room for the past two years as it seems to keep the heat the best , and it’s quite cosy, but recently when I was writing my feasibility presentation, I had to get my wrist warmers out, it was that cold at my desk. They’re not the funkiest thing to wear, but when it comes to typing up an essay, they are brilliant for keeping you that little bit warmer.

What I did buy when I went out to Home Bargains (our little cheap shop round the corner of our street) was a new candle and hot water bottle. Now I have an electric blanket on my bed, which has been used nearly every evening this week to heat my bed up before I jump in, but I found this hot water bottle is ideal for keeping me warm while I huddle over my laptop. It’s not a full-sized one, and it looks cute as well, so I quite like having it on my lap while I type or watch tv downstairs. It’s cheaper to boil the kettle in my room (instant heat to the room as well) and sit with that on my knee for a few hours, than it is to heat the whole house, when I’m the only one in most of the day. As for the candle, I love having scented things in my room, be it incense sticks, oils or a candle. I’ve been alternating between this big candle and my oil burner as I’ve had a bit of a cold, and a couple of drops of Olbas oil in with some water on the oil burner is incredibly effective. My new candle smells of a mixture of fresh washing and winter mornings. At least it does to me. I find this is also rather effective for chasing away the chill in my room.

Now for my winter recipes, which to be fair, I will likely use all year. Several of them I can’t share the recipe because I got it from my student cookbook, From Pasta to Pancakes which I have mentioned before in previous posts. So instead I’ll show you how my attempts turned out, give you the link for one recipe I made last weekend, and then give you the recipe for this gorgeous cheese, mushroom and red onion risotto.

In order, that’s a bacon, potato and spring onion salad, ‘magic mushroom’ pasta and pumpkin muffins. The recipe for the muffins is found here. I added mixed fruit peel instead of the nuts and halved all the ingredients because I only had 200g of pumpkin to use. I got 24 cupcake sized muffins out of the mixture and halved the cooking time because cupcakes generally only take a maximum of 20 minutes baking.

Laughing cow, mushroom and onion risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tsp of chopped garlic marinade or a clove of garlic and a tsp of oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 75g of arborio rice
  • 75g of mushrooms (roughly two large closed cup mushrooms)
  • 1 triangle of laughing cow blue cheese

I have adapted this recipe a lot from the one in the book as I don’t use all the ingredients that it suggests and I’d say that it is all down to personal taste. I found the original recipe far too salty. This recipe, I should point out, will feed one person, so multiple the ingredients accordingly.

Firstly, chop up the onion and fry it off with the chopped garlic marinade. Once they’ve softened, add the rice, stirring it around to absorb all the flavours. Next add in a couple of spoonfuls (or one ladle) of stock. I’d suggest that you have about a pint of stock made up, just follow the recommended amount on the packet. Once the first addition of stock has been absorbed, add the mushrooms and stir. For the next twenty or so minutes, keep adding a portion of the stock once the previous lot has been absorbed. Once the rice seems to have softened to your own personal taste, add the triangle of cheese. You can use other variations of cheese, but this produced a lovely rich flavour with a creamy finish. It’s also very healthy at only 25 calories per triangle! The final result should be a lovely rich, sticky risotto. I know this recipe is going to be a firm favourite as it is relatively cheap and easy to make, and kept me full for ages.