30/01/13 - Healthy Courgette Soup

Soup is my go-to simple meal; you can make a big batch when you have a spare hour and eat it for the whole week if you fancy!  Freeze it, refrigerate it, or do what I do and offer it around to your housemates.  It's warm and comforting, and most importantly for students; really cheap.  You just need some vegetables and a kettle, really.  Much more cost-effective and better for you than synthetic tinned soups.

Today's recipe is not one of my own - I borrowed it from the wonderful Gemma of Gemsmaquillage.  But it's really tasty, super healthy and one of the easiest things in the world.  You can find Gemma's recipe on her blog here and I'll pop the video below.  

Personally, I adapted it a little to suit my own tastes; for some reason, I found my soup to be a little bitter so I cooked up some carrots as an afterthought and popped them in to add some sweetness.

As you can see, really simple and perfect to whip up at a weekend for weekday lunchtimes.  I have taken to having a soup starter while my tea cooks, because I have no patience.  My housemates all seem to be suffering with various cold-type symptoms at the moment, so hopefully this will go down well with them, alongside a Lemsip and a hot water bottle.

What's your favourite soup recipe?  I always like to try new things, so pop suggestions down in the comments!

28/01/13 - Temporary Freedom and Leeds

So exams are finally over!  Not that I had any, but the three essays I had to do have been handed in and I am coming to the end of a full week of relaxing.  Well...really it was a full week in which to do advanced reading for this semester, tidy my room, organise my dissertation notes, plan the upcoming year in terms of Performing Arts commitments, go to the gym, look at graduate jobs or MA courses, and any number of other things...but hey ho.  I've chosen drinking wine and watching endless episodes of The OC and Sex and the City over productivity.  Lectures start again on Monday, and I'm quite looking forward to some of my modules so hopefully I'll get back into the swing of being on top of things.

As part of my relaxation week, my housemates and I went over to Leeds for Charlotte's 21st birthday.  It was really fun to do some shopping - I picked up a new foundation and finally treated myself to a Korres lip butter, although I was a little disappointed by the lack of the Rimmel Apocalips anywhere in the city of Leeds.  You can read Charlie's blog-post about her little make-up haul here, and I recommend you do!  We had a delicious lunch in The Slug and Lettuce (which I forgot to photograph) accompanied by a cocktail, and then headed back to Charlotte's parents' house to get ready for the evening.

It was great to have a night out in a new city, and I particularly liked hopping for place to place - at home, we never stay in one club for more than a couple of hours and when I'm at uni, I can get bored only going to one place for the whole night.  There were a lot of cocktails and tequila shots involved, which meant that we were all feeling a bit delicate the next morning.  

So when we got home, I curled up in my duvet, drank my body weight in water and watched girly films all day while I caught up on the blog posts I'd missed recently.  

Hopefully, I'll have a few fun things to blog about soon, so stick around.  I realise I haven't been overly reliable or interesting recently, but if you have any suggestions of what you'd like to read on here, please pop them down in the comments!  Also, what do you think of my dip-dyed/ombred hair?  I really like it, but I'm tempted to go over it again to make it a little more noticeable.

12/01/13 - Film review: Les Misérables

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Anyone who knows me at all well knows that I am huge musical theatre fan.  It's been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember; as long as there's someone singing, I'll probably love it.  So it's not surprising that I was insanely excited to see the much-anticipated 'Les Miserables' film.  Unfortunately, I had an essay due in on the release day (Friday 11th January), but knowing I had tickets booked for the evening was the best motivation possible.

Les Mis is one of my favourite musicals but I've never actually seen it onstage.  I was in a production of it once...but it was the cut-down school's version and I was 11 so that barely counts.  While I have seen the 25th Anniversary Concert DVD and the non-musical film adaptation, seeing this movie on the big screen is the closest I'm going to get to seeing it properly any time soon.  And because we booked tickets online, we got a free poster!  So now I'll have this watching over me from my wall...not bad.

Now onto the actual film.  I'll try and keep this post as spoiler-free as possible for people who don't know the story, although I suspect most people who to go see it will have at least a general idea of the plot.  Basically it's the story of a convict, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who breaks parole and makes a new life for himself, spending the whole film evading Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) who is determined to bring him to justice.  Alongside this, there's the burgeoning romance between Amanda Seyfried's Cosette and Eddie Redmayne's Marius, an idealistic young revolutionary in Paris at the height of the French Revolution.  

The star turn, however, has to be Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Cosette's mother who (unavoidable spoiler, I'm afraid) dies fairly early on in the film.  The song most people will be familiar with is her heart-wrenching ballad 'I Dreamed A Dream'...but trust me, all thoughts of Susan Boyle will be far from your mind as you watch this stunning performance.  In my opinion, that Oscar nomination was well-deserved.

One of the best features of this adaptation is the fact that all the songs were filmed live, rather than prerecorded in a studio and lip-synched on set.  While this is the usual practise and works very well for most musical films, the raw emotion portrayed in the vocal performances is what makes the film and that could never have been put across as effectively through studio recordings.  Some have said it makes the soundtrack a little odd as you are only listening to the powerful acting, but that's a minor qualm.  

As you may be able to guess by the title - which translates literally as 'The Miserable Ones' or 'The Wretched' - and the plot outline, this isn't exactly a feel-good comedy.  I would recommend taking tissues, particularly if you (like me) are prone to tears.  There was a certain moment (I won't say what it was) which, even though I knew it was coming, made me sob.  But then something happened directly after it which I was not prepared for and it just broke me.  I was literally uncontrollably sobbing, which is frankly embarrassing and not easy to do silently.  My friend sitting five seats down from me said he could hear me, and at the end of the film the woman sitting next to me asked if I was okay.  

However, this isn't to say that the film is hideously depressing; yes, there's a lot of death - it's set during the French Revolution, for goodness' sake! - but there are some lovely moments of light relief, particularly when Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter are onscreen, and the overall message of the film asserts that love and compassion are the most important gifts a person can give another.  And I think that's a pretty good message to instill in people.  There are some very stirring lyrics to do not only with love, but freedom and the future as well.  It's hard not to come out of the cinema feeling a little inspired along with being emotionally drained.

Have you seen Les Mis?  Did it live up to your expectations?  Let me know in the comments!

04/01/13 - A perfect end to 2012!

So it's the start of a whole new year.  2012 seemed to whizz by with some incredible highs and some devastating lows.  My life has changed so much in the past twelve months, and I've changed with it.  But that doesn't mean I'm not content.  Earlier in the year, I could never have dreamed that I would be as happy now as I am and I consider myself to be a much stronger person.  I have the most amazing family and friends, and honestly I wouldn't have been able to cope without them - they know who they are, and they know how much I love them!  Now, I promise that's the end of the cringey bit!

Since Christmas, it's been a little bit hectic and that's why this little corner of the Internet has been tad quiet.  Between my cousin's wedding on December 29th (which you can read about here) and spending New Year in Norwich with family friends we haven't seen for about five years, I've been a busy bee!  

New Year's Eve was lovely.  It's always great to catch up with people you haven't seen for a while, and it was nice to have a chilled few nights.  It was very relaxing, involving a lot of board games, champagne and chocolate - what more could you need?  I didn't take any photos unfortunately, but I was too busy recovering from the excitement of the wedding; it was lovely to watch my gorgeous cousin marry her perfect man - I've never seen her happier!

But now I'm home and it won't be long before I'm back to grindstone at university.  The thought of essays are hanging overhead and the Christmas habit of gorging on chocolates is starting to take a toll, so I think it might be time for some New Year's Resolutions.

1) Get a degree.  This is the most important one, as graduation is closing in and terrifying me.  I need to put university work first - writing up notes, essay-planning and wider reading are going to take priority over TV and film watching, online shopping and general procrastination.

2) Spend less money.  This was originally going to be a straightforward attempt to waste less cash on silly luxuries, but after reading this post on Laura's blog, I've been convinced to make it a little more restrictive.  So here we go - my very own spending ban:

  • These rules apply between now and Easter - after that, I will reassess and see how I'm doing;
  • No non-essential beauty items (shampoo and conditioner would be allowed, as would replacing make-up items that I use on a daily/regular basis if they run out or get lost);
  • One clothes purchase a month;
  • One book purchase a month, other than university related books;
  • No unnecessary food - only if I have absolutely no time to go home for lunch;
  • One takeaway and one 'nice' meal out a month (this can also be two takeaways or two meals, depending on the month);
  • No candles/home decor - I'm a sucker for scented things and candles;
  • No magazines unless justified by a really good value free gift.
Let's see how long I can keep it up.  I'm not convinced.

3) Food and exercise.  I intend to cook at least one proper meal a week (this can be a one-off, or something that can then be kept and go towards several other meals), and try two brand new recipes a month.  It's so easy to rely on old favourites because they're easy.  I need to eat something other than chili and soup!  If I can, I'll blog as many of the recipes as I can.
Exercise-wise, I'm not sure if I'll rejoin the gym simply for the money aspect.  But I do want to get bikini-ready for the summer, so I want to get into a habit of doing my 30 Day Shred video, alongside walking more and possibly swimming.  I might have to get back on the treadmill at some point, but we'll see.

So there is it!  My plans for 2013.  I'm not sure how long they'll last, but I'll keep you updated.  I think I'm more likely to actually stick to these if I have the pressure of people knowing I'm failing!  

What are your New Year's resolutions? Pop them in the comments, as I'm always interested to know what other people feel they need to change and improve in their lives...I guess I'm just nosey!  


A photo of Europe bringing in 2013, courtesy of NASA supposedly.

03/01/13 - A beautiful winter wedding!

I've mentioned a few times on here the fact that I was going to be a bridesmaid for my cousin Sarah this December...and if you follow me on Twitter, you're probably fed up to the back teeth of me talking about it!  Well, after all the fittings and excitement and travelling around, the day has finally been and gone.  I don't quite know what to do with myself now that I don't have the wedding to look forward to any more!

As you can probably tell, I am not responsible for the pictures in this post - we all know how bad my photographic skills are.  All the photos are courtesy of Sarah's friend, Fiona Curtlin, who did an amazing job of snapping away through the whole day!  


It was an absolutely gorgeous day, despite the hideous weather!  But even the continuous rain couldn't dampen anyone's mood and it certainly didn't stop the bride looking stunning in ivory and gold with a long trailing veil - Grace Kelly definitely sprung to mind as soon as we all saw her.  As the groom himself so aptly put it; "Phwoar!"  

Despite the initial worry that I wouldn't be able to squeeze into my dress (too many mince pies over Christmas!), everything was fine and the bridesmaids all looked beautiful - if I do say so myself!  Even my curls stayed put right into the reception and until the early hours of the morning, something that never normally happens.

The little jackets and gloves were much appreciated in the chilly December weather - blue bridesmaids and flowergirls don't look good on wedding photos!

The church was gorgeously decorated, and the ceremony itself was really moving with two readings from the bride and groom's respective brothers and a rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah beautifully sung by one of the best men's sister.  I'm not going to pretend that I didn't get a little choked up at points - it was just so brilliant to see Sarah and Jon so happy, after everything that went into planning the day.  

The reception was held at the City Rooms in Leicester, and the whole thing was incredible.  There was a room downstairs where we had drinks before the meal with 'It's a Wonderful Life' projected onto the wall - a really nice festive touch!  Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of the food as I wasn't in possession of my camera at the time, but rest assured it was brilliant.  After eating, there was a seventeen-piece big band playing some swing classics which really got people up on their feet.  There was also the hilarious 'hen dance'; everyone who went on the hen weekend performing a group routine to a mash-up of different songs ending with the bride donning gold MC Hammer pants for the grand finale of 'Can't Touch This'.  Most of the hens were convinced that they couldn't remember it, but it went better than expected and people seemed to enjoy it!  From start to finish, the day was just perfect.

White chocolate icing - perfection!

The newlyweds are currently on their honeymoon in New Zealand, which I'm sure is incredible!  I hope they enjoyed the day as much as everyone else, and I know they're going to have the long and happy life together that they deserve.

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Palmer!