Sunday, July 20, 2014

My Week on 2 Wheels: #womens100

My cycling and associated love of womens focused riding is pretty well documented on this blog as well as my twitter and Instagram accounts too. I writing today's edition of the back of a ride that has both enhanced and broken that lovin' feeling.

It had to be Rapha for the Rapha Women's 100

The ride I did today I chose to do with T rather than one of the organised women's rides. That suits my ethos as one of the key things I find tough about some of the rhetoric around women and sport seems to forget that some of us enjoy going out to play with boys as well as girls. We did London to Southend and then a few extra clicks to make up my 100km. And it's at this point I should tell you a few things. Firstly. I ride a single speed bike. That means it's much harder to get up hills, and I can't go any faster than I freewheel down them. Secondly, the route today had a total ascent of almost 1000 metres.

Job done

Busted. Broken. A bit beaten. Today I had my first ever emotionally challenging ride as well as physically challenging. I've heard runners talk about the various emotions of running and how much your mindset can alter the result, but never xperienced it for myself. Today I seriously considered blowing the savings I have for a shiny new bike on something sparkly and expensive. Not doing long rides and bowing out.

Epic & well earned ice cream

Rides like today remind me I'm not invincible. They take me out of my comfort zone and for many reasons I should be celebrating that, I learned a lot. I don't know if I like what I learned though. And for this reason, the #womens100 was worth doing.

Sport and activity and fitness is so different for every person and every woman but I think it's ok for it to be a hardship sometimes. Despite feeling beaten at the end of my ride, I still clocked my 100km, and therefore I still made it happen. Finding it tough or not enjoyable doesn't make me weaker or inferior to any other girl or guy, it just means that today, I learned some hard lessons.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Christmas in July: Craft & DIY Planning

If you missed it, the first installment of this mini series, I was talking about utilising the sales to kick start your Christmas shopping. All in the name of getting a good deal and preventing the crush on your pay packet in November and December, check it out right HERE.

The next topic up is DIY and Crafting and this is the first of two posts on the subject. I've given plenty of homemade gifts over the last few years, sometimes more necessity than choice when cash has been a bit on the tight side, but as we roll forward I do enjoy the unique and personal nature of homemade gifts. The next post will be a few ideas and inspirations for homemade gifts, but today I wanted to give planning them a mention.

Many a year has gone by where I've had good intentions to make such and such, and then it's December and I've had parties to organise, events to attend, wrapping to do and travel plans to finalise. Lo and behold, I have only the time to do instant gifts. And so follows my own personal guide to planning craft or DIY gifts and a few good reasons to think about it now, and not in November!

Today. Made a half arsed start so now I'm going to finish this dress.
Getting my stitch on to try and get my head around pattern cutting once more

  1. Make a list- List all the ideas you have, then try and match them to people you know you want to give a gift to- it's no good making 20 different glittery rose scented soaps when you have a lot of men who need gifts or worse- forgetting someone!
  2. Trial and error- Craft or DIy gifts can be really cost effective and they're deeply personal too but after a certain age, you're family will only be so forgiving of lumpy clay or frayed seams. If you've never knitted before, give it a go whilst topping up your tan this bank holiday, decide if it's a realistic choice. If you don't normally bake, is giving cake and sweets going to be super stressful?! I want to learn to crochet this summer. Mostly because of the below. But if I haven't grasped it by September (in time for Pinterest worthy evenings with candles, cookies and beautiful crafted products) I will be revising my plans
  3. IMG_2669 Foodie ideas should always be tried and tested, extra hard when they involve chocolate and marshmallow 
  4. Some crafts are weather or season sensitive. I want to make candles in jars, and I intend to spray paint the jars. Yes, I could do this inside my rented flat, but I could also have a lot less stressful time by taking a cardboard box out on the terrace on a sunny July Saturday afternoon and spraying within that, not worrying to hard about spillage, mess or accidents, Equally crafts such as sewing, knitting or crochet might be best enjoyed on a certain evening each week when you have the living room to yourself or when a favourite crime drama series comes on each week. By planning what needs doing and when, you may find yourself with a little more time to enjoy parties, festivities and not rushing around like a person possessed in December when realising that it's rained for 2 weeks solid and spray paint doesn't come out of cream carpet!
  5. Supply stocks- on the above note, don't wait all year to realise you need to buy a whole herd's worth of wool or source cinnamon oil which the world and their cat have tried to buy and is therefore sold out. Try buying one set of supplies per month- Candle making wax, wicks and scents in July. Wool, threads and hooks in August. Sugar, cellophane and food colour in September for example. 
  6. Parcels a-go-go Deliveries are a standing joke with my colleagues at the office. But it does save on Red Cards of Doom
  7. And another note to time- booze makes a great present or at least it does for my family *cough* functioning alcoholics *cough*. But boozey creations often take weeks or months to mature. Especially true of fruit gins or vodkas. I am making some Limoncello this year, and it's a process I'll be starting in September to optimise results having missed out last year because I only came across the recipe in early December. 
  8. Happy fucking Friday. #fuckofffriday #fuckitfriday Because crafting should always come with....
  9. Storage- A last note on the list, storage. We're incredibly lucky the the flat we currently occupy is an older building and has TONS of storage both inside and out. This affords me the luxury of being able to put supplies or ingredients into airtight boxes and get the out of the way, and to be able to store bottles of maturing flavoured oils and to keep ready a stash of sale purchased gifts. We've also lived in places where it's struggle for 2 of us to store our clothes and (my) shoes let alone anything else. If you're short on space, it's worth asking friends and family if they might be able to keep hold of a box of something for you. If you make some flavoured vodka, box it up and might it fit in a loft corner until December? Might a friend who also likes to sew or knit mind an extra basket living in their study with your wool or fabric in it? If you work in a liberal office, is there a spare cupboard or corner that they wouldn't mind you using? 
And finally, Pinterest. I just joined Pinterest- always one step ahead of the game me! And there are some really brilliant ideas and some examples of beautiful crafts and projects. Truly, beautiful. But it's so easy to be sucked into idealistic ideas. Do you really have enough time and disposible income to have 3 or 4 tries at making that wreath how you want it? Whether, like me you work full time or perhaps you don't but you have other limits on your time like children or projects or a dog, take some time away from all those supercute ideas to think about how much time you really have to dedicate to making things around your job/partner/business/cycling commitments/enjoyment of Grey's Anatomy binges and if your budget means that buying a gift is a better option.

Because we've all been here:


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat: Americana

I follow quite a few US food/lifestyle blogs and sometimes I see things, and I just know. I know I have to try them, and this was one of those. Pretzel wrapped hotdogs. Yes. Really. A hotdog, wrapped and baked in it's own chewy, bready pretzel dough casing.

looking back on this picture, I can SMELL all the bread gooness right there

I saw this amazing feat of baking inspiration on How Sweet It Is, and her full recipe for a jalapeno version is right HERE. The best thing- it's actually a very easy recipe, it uses some pretty standard store cupboard ingredients and the result is just, good. All round, super yummy, amazing, foodie goodness.

I love Saturdays

I know the original recipe is linked below, but for speedy reference here's the basic destructions:
1.5 cups warm water
2.25 tsp of active dry yeast (or 1 7g sachet)
4.5 cups plain flour
4 tbsp butter (melted/softened)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp salt

0.25 cup baking soda
large pan of gently boiling water
1 egg for eggwash
8-10 hot dogs

Ad flour, yeast & salt to bowl
Combine water, honey, oil & salt in a jug, add to flour and mix
Add butter, knead for approx 5-10 mins until dough is well combines and pulling away from surface
Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise (until doubled in size) for 45mins-1hr
Knock back gently and divide into 8-10 long strips roughly 35-40 cm in length
Wind dough around hotdogs and pinch ends to secure

Boil water and add baking soda
drop dough wrapped dogs into the water fro roughly 45 seconds each (do this 1 or 2 at a time)

Place on baking tray
Place on baking tray, liberally egg wash and if you want to (you should) sprinkle with coarse salt
Bake for 15-20 mins (until dark brown) at 200 degrees

Now. Please.

So as you can see, I couldn't resist the urge to go full scale Americana, hotdogs encased in pretzel just wasn't enough. The potato skins are quite simple cheese, some chopped onion and a spoon of creme fraiche (and this is T's plate, which is why there's a lot on it). But can we take a second to focus on these....

Yes, that is an onion ring. Wrapped in bacon.

I spied these on a Danish blog (and I now can't find the link, shout if it's you please). And whilst I don't speak Danish, I can manage wrapping rings of onion in strips of streaky bacon and grilling on both sides. Show stealer! These were epic. The original recipe I saw also suggested dipping the onion in chili or barbecue sauce before wrapping in bacon. I didn't but I so would.


All this with a healthy side of barbecue sauce and another of American mustard and one happy Saturday was made. I feel like I should also add the disclaimer that I cycled over 100km the following day, so I don't feel too badly for eating all the carbs and for the joy of fresh food, lunch was one of my super speedy spinach, sugar snap pea & mushroom soups.

You can thank me when you have a food baby.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Christmas in July: Sale Shopping

Yeah, I know. Christmas. In July. But here's the thing, it's a really good time to be getting organised for Christmas and since I'm finding a little more time at the moment (thank you gardening leave), it's been the perfect opportunity to avoid the 1st December scurry to sort presents and work out how to pay for it all.

I'm actually intending a short series of Christmas in July posts over the coming weeks. I hope that this will be helpful for you, as these are various tricks and ideas I've found really help avoid the frazzled feeling of Decembers passed. Please do leave your own suggestions in the comments- I'd love to hear how you manage a stress free festive period.

Lots of people I know set some cash aside each month in the year specifically for Christmas gifts and socialising. I can't recommend this enough- kissing goodbye to all of your November pay is likely to really limit your ability to enjoy any kind of social engagement in December or worse, I've read a worrying amount about people accruing debt to cover the cost of the festive period. Frightening. So even if you have started yet, it's not too late- even £10 per month from now until November would be £50 which might cover a night out or Christmas party or some of your Christmas gifts, perhaps a particular gift for someone special.

Another thing you can do to ease Christmas, and the one I wanted to chip in on today is sale shopping. Right now, my inbox is just bursting with companies desperate to tell me about their summer sale. I *may* ahem have placed a little ASOS sale order myself last week, and a very pretty pair of shoes *might* also have arrived today too.

Hit the @asos sale and got the best fitting denim leggings and these bits!
sneaky sale order

But aside the gifts for you, had you stopped to think about that really cool iPad case that is half price and that would be perfect for your sister? The watch above is destined for a friend of mine.

Gift sets like these miniatures are often reduced to clear around now, and make great additions to hampers or Secret Santa gifts

What about the Christmas themed Yankee candles that everybody is neglecting, but that you mother-in-law might really like? And the body butter that happens to have a shower gel of the same flavour both in the sale- they might make a great gift set if nicely wrapped for a friend.

Half price or 1/3 off luxury skincare- great for you, great for gift for someone you know well

The idea of shopping the sales with gifts in mind is not new, and it's also dependent on storage- this time last year, it would have been super difficult for me to stash away gifts or wrapping or goodies, especially since I knew I was moving house in the September, but if you have a drawer that you know needs clearing out, go do it this weekend and make space for a stash to make your life easier come December.

A few things to keep in mind:

1. Keep a list of gifts bought and for whom/what you have them in mind- it's always good to have a spare or too, but don't overbuy or miss someone important!

2. Look for specifics- Buying for the sake of buying something doesn't achieve much. Start thinking on who you need to find gifts for and look for a specific item on a good deal

3. Use discount codes to find the best price. If it's a great deal on sale, could you find free delivery or is there a good cash back incentive available anywhere?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat: Feeling Inspired

Something slightly different for this week's edition of Chloe Likes To Eat, and in response to an exclamation I'm often bombarded with by friends, colleagues or on Twitter- I just don't feel inspired! The other thing I hear a lot and I'm guilty of myself- We just eat the same things over and over.

As the daughter of a chef, I've always been a bit spoiled for food. When my dad came out of trade, he remained very much in our family kitchen and I've always eaten well as a consequence. I learned whilst I was away from home studying that I'd rather learn to cook than eat badly and as a 'proper' adult I finally found my feet and realised I like to cook and take pleasure in creating good food- and by good I mean tasty and well balanced rather than restaurant appropriate. But it isn't always easy to look in the fridge and create something interesting for dinner. There are plenty of evenings after a hectic day of work and training and commitments where I grate a courgette, cook some pasta, stir in some pesto and collapse on the sofa- and there's been a lot of that just lately thanks to balancing the management of my exit from my current management job and the beginning of the shiny new business I'm taking on this year. So where does it end?

My start point is often right here. In the virtual world.

Foodie inspiration
A not bad way to spend a weekend morning

I've been using Bloglovin for a long time, but one feature I hadn't made use of until more recently is the 'Popular' section. You can see what's popular on a general level but also in categories such as Fashion or (naturally) Food & Drink. This can be a great way to discover posts from blogs you choose not to follow for whatever reason or to find new blogs you might love to follow. I use the 'Like this post' function to save any posts I want to retain ideas from and they appear on my profile for my perusal at a later date.

As well as an idea to help find inspiration, I also wanted to use this edition to share some of my liked posts and blogs- ideas which have set my little mind a running down a food filled track...

Summery Savouries:
Onion rings wrapped in bacon - what else do you want me to say? (Pst, this site is in Danish, but the pictures provide pretty self explanatory instructions)
Sweetcorn & Jalepeno enchiladas - an American recipe that I have plans to tweak for my own taste but a good starting point for a potentially easy dinner, and a flavour I never play much with- it's not that I don't like the idea of of Mexican, I just have little experience.
Spiced lentils with egg - We all seem a little hung up with baked eggs at the moment, but I like the idea of adding an Indian/Asian theme to it for a more savoury brunch and from the usual avocado ideas
10 ways to use your slow cooker this summer - The Americans love slow cookers, which is great for me, as I'm certainly guilty of neglecting this much loved tool in the summer compared to the 5 meals out of 6 approach in November. There's a few lighter ways to enjoy slow cooked foods for the warmer months that spurred me on to dust mine off.

Sandwich Salsa Fried Egg Gammon homemade Bread
Super Sandwich- inspired by some of the US Superbowl snacks doing the rounds on so many of the posts at the time

I rarely cook a recipe as it's written, this no more true than with American recipes as I often find they use ingredients that aren't so common place in the UK and/or a lot of premade ingredients. What I do love is seeing an dish or a recipe and giving the dish a go however which way I want. Sometimes, it's just good to make something you've never tried or would never normally.

Chilled out lunch
A favourite salad, but also inspired by a kale & chickpea dish I'd seen on my Bloglovin feed a couple of months previously

Sweet Treats:
Overnight cinnamon rolls - I'd never thought to try this chelsea bun-esque bites of loveliness and they're actually very simple. Bonus points for not using annoying ingredients!
Raspberry lemon yoghurt popsicles - I made some awesome ice lollies using Fruitbroo iced tea in June and now have lolly molds, so I thought this was a great idea. I used natural yoghurt and some frozen berries that weren't frozen when my flatmate left the freezer door open. Great for a not your usual iced lolly.
Flourless peanut butter cooker (FOR ONE) - I love the idea of being able to knock together a sweet treat where there isn't a whole batch or temptation left after my intial fix. A cookie recipe for one?! Hell yeah. Apparently cutting flour out of your life is a good thing, I don't really care, I just have this book marked for next time T has gone off away and I want dessert!

Fruitbroo Mint/Elderflower lollies
Recent forays into ice lollies

What works for one person, may not work for another and that's especially important with food- no two people have exactly the same taste and what you fancy is probably going to differ wildly to the person sat next to you on the sofa as on the bus or in your office, but just sometimes, a foodie post, from a blog you've never read before might send your mind whirling as to the possibilities. Give it a go- I dare you!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What I Wore: Cream Dreams

Dress- eBay, heels- Clarks via Spartoo, Necklace- F21

Above for an army function I had to attend this week. A cocktail party that basically turned into a lock in at The London Club. Also, when was the last cocktail party you went to, that had bugling going on in the middle of the street just off Oxford Street... Yes really...

Told ya! Also, buglers doing Skyfall- who said the Army didn't have a sense of humour!

I do love this dress, but I've shown it on the blog before- I wore it for T's passing out ceremony last year, so I should probably cut to the much more interesting bit of the post...

When I pulled this dress on on Thursday afternoon, it was having made some exciting plans very real. I handed in my notice at my current job and broke the news to my (totally amazing) team (of whom I'm super proud).

For some people, finding their perfect job is about a career or a profession. For some people the jobs they find themselves in (a bit like I did after graduating) are the start of a path they both love and choose to follow. For me, taking a proper job after growing up in a family of small business turned out to not really be for me.

I'm not leaving my job under a dark cloud, and I don't hate my job in the sense that it makes me miserable and unhappy. I just realised when I was offered the chance to head up a new business, that I'm not very good at and being an employee in a position where I can only take ownership over little elements of my job and that I'll always be subject to not knowing what's going to happen next week in a business growth and management context, let alone next month or next year.

September 1st 2014 is a Big Day for me, and it's the start of a new chapter for me. It's exciting and it's terrifying and it's a secret dream come true. For me, it's back to business. Business as usual. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

June In Review

June has now been and gone and we're over the half way point in the year. 2014 is shaping up to be both interesting and challenging for me, in a number of areas of my life. But right now, let's stick with the month of June!

The biggest event for me was a holiday. A much needed fortnight on the Costa del Sol doing nothing but swim, read, eat and drink. Blissful. I also made a special friend who shared my love of lounging....

This handsome creature decided to take over T's sunlounger after attempting to come into the flat this morning. #newfriends

I had a couple of pretty epic scheduling fails on the blog whilst I was away. If you saw me tweeting about but couldn't see- I dedicated a whole entire Chloe Likes To Eat to breakfast, especially aimed at those of you on the move in the morning. You can catch it HERE and tell me breakfast doesn't look appealing....

Orange marmalade breakfast jar
Orange themed breakfast

And this one, all about Fruitbroo's new Iced Tea. Predictably, I did something else with it, other than make iced tea! 

Fruitbroo Iced Tea post right HERE

Since I spent a fair amount of time sitting on my behind in Spain, it's not really a surprise that I didn't manage to cycle all that far in June. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to see when I got home that not only is cycling to work on 19 occasions of 20 good for the soul but it seems to leave with a better 'baseline' of fitness. I was sincerely expecting the for cycle post-holiday to be hard work, and was pleasantly surprised.

June in kilometres

I also have some great riding planned for July, so never fear, I'll be back on it and in the interim June was also a month of reviews inc this Rapha Base Layer tank top and the offerings from H&M

And lastly, a note on simplicity. I posted about feeling a bit boring in my sartorial (ha ha ha) choices and on realising that simplicity and boring are not the same, and simple can be good. You can read it HERE.

And I leave you with another picture of my friend from Spain. I wanted to bring him home so badly.

So... I'm going nowhere for a while. #catspam
Snoozing on my lap

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Chloe Likes To Eat: A Little Weekend Treat

This weekend just gone I zipped up to visit my parents. For reasons that will become clear in the coming weeks, I had a fair bit of chatting do with them, and a visit to my parents also always means lots of good food and often a glass (or five) of wine too (see my birthday for reference...). This weekend was another special treat, having ditched the hound for a haircut, we headed out for lunch.

Warm roasted cashew with slat, pepper & chilli. The Anchor Sutton Cambs

Fresh bread. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs

Any meal that starts with carbs AND still warm cashew nuts is fine by me. As with most good service, the staff at The Anchor, Sutton were happy to let us order these 'Pre-Dinner' nibbles whilst we deliberated the menu.

Fresh bread with butter & oil starter. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs

I love bread. Really I do- soft, comforting, with the protective crunchy crust....

On to main courses. We all had issues deciding on main courses, mostly because we all felt a bit spoiled for choices. Whilst the (regularly) changing menu came out as an A4 sheet of paper, there were at 10-12 starters and 8-10 mains from which to choose. I kept it classic, as did my mum with haddock and chips. Often a great test of the basics. The Anchor is gastro pub in styling and their saturday lunch menu, although more aimed at pub classics, is certainly well styled with a additions such as a rather good looking haloumi salad I saw wending it's way to another table and the sea bass which my dad demolished and is picture below.

haddock & chips with pea purée. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs

Haddock & Chips with Pea Puree. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs

Seabass main course. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs

I had been warned to leave room for dessert, which is pretty high praise coming from my mum. She's generally into her savoury courses but even she recommended the desserts. It's clear that The Anchor have a passionate and talented pastry chef in their kitchen, since the dessert menu and desserts themselves were most definitely the highlight of the day. We opted to share two desserts between three of us....

Broken Banoffee Pie dessert with banana chips. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs.
Broken Banoffee Pie- Pound cake, caramel/toffee sauce, caramelised banana, banana chips, whipped cream & coconut ice cream

Not only beautiful but really really delicious. The banoffee pie was a real departure from the norm for my mum and I, neither of us are usually fans, but the sparsely added cream and the unusual pound cake base topped with banana that still had some bite was perfection. Sweet without being sickly and a whole world of great flavours. The coconut ice cream was an especial highlight as it had flaked coconut running through and such a great, strong coconut flavour.

Chocolate Delice with White Chocolate Snow, Mango Ice Cream & pistachio. Dessert. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs.
Chocolate delice, white chocolate snow, mango ice cream and a pistachio cream

My dad had me at advantage on this one, since he'd had it before, but no less lovely for it. A perfect sized portion of very rich delice and the mango not too sickly to cut through the richness. In my opinion, the 'snow' was more style than substance as it lacked flavour and didn't add much, but it neither did it take away from anything which leaves the 'pistachio'. We're all quite sure it was supposed to be pistachio something (the green on the plate) and whilst very tasty.... it tasted suspiciously almond-y. Like marzipan almost. It was lovely, but between the three of us, we struggled to remember or work out exactly what it was.

Not a bad way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon in Cambridgeshire, I can assure you. Helped down with this...

Puglian Chardonnay. The Anchor, Sutton, Cambs