31 December 2011

2011 in photos

Top row (left to right): January - first dinner I cooked for Danny, February - pancakes at Giraffe, March - England v Ghana
Second row (left to right): April - mime fancy dress, May - Championship play-off final, June - cocktails at The Clarence Hotel, Dublin (owned by U2!)
Third row (left to right): July - 30 day shred, August - turtles in Mexico, September - back to work blues and lots and lots of rain!
Bottom row (left to right): October - a nice photo of me and Danny for a change!, November - fireworks, December - Max on Christmas morning

Well, there it is - my 2011 in twelve photos.  I'm sure that years go by faster and faster as you get older and this year has definitely been no exception to that!  I can't believe it's going to be 2012 tomorrow!

As 2011 was the year I started my blog, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading, commenting and following - it really means a lot!  And finally - happy new year!  I hope you all have a great evening welcoming in 2012!

15 December 2011

Project 365: #131 Homemade cheese straws

I showed Rob this photo and he said "they look weird"!  Thanks bro!  I was in a bit of a cooking mood at the weekend and decided to make these cheese straws - they're so easy!  All you need to do is get some ready rolled puff pastry, grate some parmesan cheese over half of the sheet and then fold in half.  After this, roll the sheet out to the thickness of a £1 coin and then cut into 1cm wide strips.  Twist them, put them on a baking tray and then whack them in the over for 20 mins at 200 degrees.  And then...... voilà!  Cheese straws that taste as good as the shop bought ones!

Project 365: #130 Sunset at football

For me, Saturday afternoons are quite often filled with watching Reading play football - I'm a season ticket holder with Rob, and it's a good time to have some quality sibling time!  I noticed this beautiful sunset over the ground the other day and just had to take a photo!  I love sunsets!

11 December 2011

Project 365: #129 Bath Christmas Market

I made a promise to myself that when I finished all my exams, I'd take a trip to Bath to visit the Christmas Market.  I'd heard lots of good things about it and since this is the first time I've been able to enjoy the build up to Christmas for four years, I thought I'd try and get into the festive spirit nice and early!  Well, it was absolutely rammed!  A little frustrating at first since it meant it was very difficult to get to the stalls to see what goodies they were selling, but I think we happened to arrive at peak time.  It quietened down a bit later  so we were able to wander around looking at the handmade treats that were being sold.  I got a cute pair of sterling silver Christmas tree earrings (which are subtle enough that I can probably get away with wearing them throughout the year - you wouldn't notice they're trees when it's not Christmas!) and an amazing reindeer wreath for the front door.  Driving was a bit of a pain, since it meant that I couldn't enjoy the mulled wine or cider, but the smell of it wafting over the market made for a truly festive atmosphere - I definitely feel Christmassy now!

10 December 2011

Project 365: #128 Getting in the Christmas spirit

(First thing is first, yes - my screen is raised by a stack of books.  For some reason, my work feel that this is completely satisfactory and there is no need to get us monitor stands!)

What with my office being significantly men heavy and with a lot of us being out at clients regularly, we don't tend to go all out on the Christmas decorations.  I'm in the office right through until Christmas now though, so I decided it was time to get in the festive spirit and start decorating!  This is the start - a nice bit of purple tinsel around my screen - but the tree will be going up this week and I'm also going to pop back into Asda at some point to get the mini fibre optic tree that I saw when I got the tinsel.  For £1.50, I'm pretty sure you can't go wrong with that, and as I sit next to the window, I'm intending on putting it on the windowsill so everyone can see it!  We will look like Christmas is coming - I'm going to make sure of it :)

9 December 2011

Project 365: #127 First mince pie of the year

I'm noticing a bit of a theme to my lunches this week!  I'm a little surprised that I hadn't got started on the mince pies before now since I love them so much, but today was my first one of the year!  Delish :) This one was just a mini one though - I decided that a small mince pie at lunchtime was alright!

Project 365: #126 Christmas soup

Have any of you tried this soup?  Absolutely delicious!  I discovered it last year when I was wandering around M&S looking for some lunch and it's made an appearance back on the shelves now.  Whenever I'm eating it in the office, everyone asks me what's in it - is it a bit childish that I always reply "Christmas!"?  Seriously though, it pretty much does have a Christmas dinner in it - turkey, stuffing, potatoes, parsnips.... yummy!  Definitely recommended :)

8 December 2011

Project 365: #125 Birthday blinis

It was Dad's birthday while I was in Canada so I missed his birthday dinner.  To make up for it, we all went out to celebrate a week later.  A pub near us, Harry's Bar & Kitchen, changed hands a few months ago and since then has been refurbished.  Every time I drive past it's absolutely heaving and my parents have both said it's good so we thought we'd try it out.  The landlord, Mickey, really makes you feel at home and after we'd ordered, he whipped up these little treats (with a candle in one!) and got the whole pub to sing happy birthday to Dad!  Priceless - he was so embarrassed!

5 December 2011

Project 365: #124 Orchid

Orchids are my favourite flowers and my best friend bought me this gorgeous one for my birthday this year.  I thought I was going to have to throw it away when it lost all its flowers and appeared to die after a couple of months, but Mum has religiously been feeding it with orchid food and look at it now!  Beautiful again!  Thanks Mum!

4 December 2011

Project 365: #123 Brrrrrrr!

I knew it was going to be cold in Canada in late November, but I thought everyone was joking when they mentioned snow and sub zero temperatures.  Then I woke up to see this on my laptop one morning!  Snow outside (granted, not much, but still!) and -10 degrees!  There's something about the cold and snow that makes it feel like Christmas - I can't wait! :)

3 December 2011

Project 365: #122 Sephora visit

As much as I whinged about my trip to Canada before going, I was looking forward to one thing – a trip to Sephora! For any of you outside the UK, we don’t have Sephora here so it’s definitely a welcome treat during a visit abroad. I’ve heard that they have stores in other European countries, so I can’t work out why they’ve shunned the UK so far! I think they need to re-evaluate that idea!

Since I visited Quebec last year too, I knew exactly where the store was and made a beeline straight for it as soon as I got into the mall. I spent a bit of time wandering around looking at things before grabbing a basket and cramming it full of goodies. Fellow bloggers, you have definitely had an effect on me (positive for my make-up collection, negative for my bank balance!)! I will do a brief review of each product in turn, but here’s a list of what I picked up:

  • Nails Inc Special Effects overglaze polish (teal black Kensington and The Wyndham overglaze top coat) 
  • bareMinerals SPF15 foundation 
  • bareMinerals Prime Time brightening foundation primer 
  • NARS Larger Than Life lipgloss 
  • dermalogica clean start smart mouth lip shine 
  • benefit BAD gal waterproof mascara 

27 November 2011

Project 365: #121 Popcorn and Skype

Popcorn from a vending machine?  Only in North America!  I decided I wanted a snack before dinner when I got in from work so went to the vending machine in the lobby and this is what I found!  I couldn't resist munching on this while chatting to Danny on Skype. That reminds me - does anyone else find Skype a complete godsend?  I don't know how I'd have coped in Canada without it!

26 November 2011

Project 365: #120 My hotel in Québec

I thought I'd give you all a little tour of my hotel room since it's quite nice!  I booked it myself so I made sure that I booked one of the rooms that was refurbished earlier this year - definitely pleased!  Look at the size of the bed!  I love how big the beds are in North America - I'm sure there's room for at least three people in there!  It's really cosy too - I've definitely been getting a good night's sleep in there!  Next to my bedroom is a small living room - basically with a sofa, a desk, small fridge and microwave, TV and DVD player. Then next to the front door is the bathroom - I'm going to miss this when I go back home!  It's so big and even has two sinks!  A bit comical when it's only me staying here but never mind!  Do you think there's any way I can sneak the tropical rain shower into my suitcase?

25 November 2011

Project 365: #119 A day of travelling

What with all the high security in airports nowadays, I didn't really want to stand around Heathrow trying to get a photo for my blog and looking suspicious so I'm afraid I've had to use a picture from BAA's aviation photo library (who knew they even had such a thing!  A simple Google images search enlightened me!)

When I was booking my flights, I purposely chose one that left around midday so that I wouldn't have to get up too early but would still arrive in Quebec at a reasonable time and therefore wouldn't be too tired for work the next day.  The flights I got worked quite well - an 8 hour flight to Ottawa, followed by an hour's stopover in Ottawa then an hour long flight to Quebec still made me pretty tired but I managed to avoid jet lag for the most part.  I have no doubt that the return journey will be much worse since I arrive back in London at 7.30am, which will be 2.30am Canadian time!

In the end, it was definitely a good job that I wasn't taking photos in Ottawa Airport - I already got pulled to one side by customs and questioned about why I was entering Canada.  Seemingly working for an accountancy firm and doing an audit is a lot more interesting that I ever thought!  Thankfully, after about five minutes they let me go - I was worried I was going to miss my connection!  Fingers crossed my return to the UK is a lot less dramatic!

24 November 2011

Project 365: #118 “I’m leaving on a jet plane” dinner

I mentioned that my trip to Canada meant a few nice dinners out before I left?  Well this was the meal that me and Danny went out for on my penultimate night.  We went to Newbury Manor Hotel again – where we went for exam results in February and August.  The food there is absolutely delicious and I think it’s my new favourite restaurant in Newbury (my favourite was The Square, but it closed down about a year ago – sad times!)

We had three courses (and were both completely stuffed afterwards – eyes bigger than our bellies I think!)  I had scallops with pancetta and vanilla (sounds weird but was lush!) followed by chicken with mushrooms on a bed of spinach and sautéed potatoes then crème brûlée and Danny had oxtail ravioli followed by braised shoulder of lamb with mashed potato and roasted root vegetables then crème brûlée too.  Desserts are my favourite bit of a meal, but I only managed to eat half!  Whoops!  Danny did the same though so I didn’t feel too bad!  By the time we finished, we were both shattered (food comas I think!) so being the rock and roll couple that we are, we went straight home rather than out for drinks like we planned!  Old before our time I think!

23 November 2011

Project 365: #117 Pretty packaging

For those of you who haven't heard of StylistPick, I'll give you a brief explanation.  Basically it's a subscription service (which you only pay for when you have made your first order) - you fill in a questionnaire and then each month you receive an email with accessories tailored for you.  Each item is £39.95 and with your first order, you get £10 off.  Delivery and returns are free.  Sounds great, right?  Well my experience of it has been!

I placed my order on Thursday morning and received this beautiful box on Friday lunchtime.  In my haste, I completely forgot to take a photo of the shoes inside, but I've taken a stock photo from their website (mine are light grey rather than black):

They're so comfy, and for £29.95, you really can't go wrong!  Have you tried StylistPick yet?  What do you think of it?  If you're interested in signing up, click here!

PS.  I have not been paid or asked to write this post and I don't get any reward from doing so, except your lovely comments! :)

22 November 2011

Project 365: #116 Get well soon Mum!

You may remember me mentioning that my mum has been off sick from work for the last three months (hence all the baking hereherehere and here!) with sciatica.  It hasn't been getting any better at all and has sometimes been even worse recently, so she had a lumbar epidural today (to you and me, that's an injection into her spine, between the vertebrae - ouch!)  She gave me a ring after she got out of the hospital to let me know how it was, and said it was the most painful thing she'd ever experienced (this coming from a woman who's had two children and a root canal)  To try and make her feel a bit better, I ordered some flowers from Interflora - it turns out that they do next day delivery!  She was very surprised and happy - job done :)

21 November 2011

Project 365: #115 Bonfire Night


As you may have guessed, Bonfire Night is one of my favourite nights of the year.  I absolutely love it!  I guess I'm just amazed by fireworks and love getting all wrapped up to go outside and watch them - I wish it wasn't just an annual occasion!  I very nearly missed out on fireworks night this year though - Danny's not a big fan and couldn't be persuaded even when I offered to pay for him! Thankfully, in stepped my brother, who also wanted to go to the display at Newbury Racecourse so we had a sibling evening instead. Unsurprisingly, I absolutely loved it :)

Project 365: #114 You have no idea how jealous I am....

You may remember me mentioning (here) that Danny's dad had managed to get two tickets to the recording of Michael Bublé's Christmas show, which will be broadcast on ITV in mid-December.  Well unfortunately for me, Danny's mum and sister Nicola went so I didn't get to go (although I have got an uncut recording of the show so have got to see it all anyway!)  One of Danny's dad's colleagues managed to get an autograph for his wife, and Nicola spent the rest of the following week saying that she couldn't believe that their dad didn't get an autograph for her.  Little did she know that instead, he'd managed to get a birthday card written for her instead!  Her face was a picture when she opened this on her birthday!

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