Thursday, March 19, 2015

Here We Go: 5 Adult Things I've Learned About Moving House

No Chloe Likes To Eat this week, because I've been living on Itsu crystal noodle cups and vegetable soup. This time next week, T will have had 3 days off and be back at work, we will have moved a lot of boxes and furniture, and we'll be in our new place. I will probably be sobbing into boxes I need to unpack and there may or may not be half built flatpack furniture littering the place. So here's a few things I've learned since realising I have to move as an adult with adult stuff rather than a student and 1 bedroom....

1. Even if you're addicted to decluttering- once you pop, you can't stop, you have still have way more stuff think you think you have- because one doesn't just throw away brand new gift bags or extension cords because they will have to go into a box most likely labelled 'stuff'.

Hoping if I do enough packing that I'll forget that there's wine downstairs.

2. You cannot exercise your usual obsession with list making, timelines and definites, you will have no idea what's going on until it's happening- contracts? Errrr.... Keys don't matter right?  And as for ordering a mattress.... what do you mean some companies take 2 weeks to deliver?

3. It's probably not normal practice for you and your partner to spend a Saturday night making scale drawings of your new flat, complete with scale cut outs of the wardrobes you spent the afternoon looking at in Ikea...

Trying to work out how much furniture will fit in our new flat.
And you thought I was kidding

4. Tea will not make it better. Neither will coffee. Cake might do, just for a second, but ultimate salvation looks like this.

Friday- thanks to @distillingine3 and @fevertreemixers
Vodka is the answer. And a major food group.

5. However simple it sounds on paper- put things in boxes, move boxes from one place to another, unpack boxes.... it will never be that simple. Because apparently it's not ok to live on crystal noodle cups and vegetable soup for 3 weeks because you want to pack the saucepans and kitchen utensils. Apparently.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Let's Go Round Again: Getting Back To Running (again)

I have bitched about running, how much I don't like it, and I've read so many blog posts, articles and interviews about the wonder of running whilst in my head thinking: yeah, whatever.

I feel about cycling how many feel about running- it gives me joy, I feel free, I enjoy working hard. But for reasons unknown, running has never given me such joy. That said, I've tried to like it. And I almost got there. In January and early February, something started to click for me. I suspect it has something to do with having a better base level of fitness meaning that I'm not consistently struggling for breath whilst trying to get to grips with the running bit. Then a chest infection struck and then our house move drama kicked off and I turned to the vodka bottle rather than trainers. I know, I know. Not big. Not clever. But it kinda helped.

Friday- thanks to @distillingine3 and @fevertreemixers

Anyway, moan, moan, moan. Whine, whine, whine. And now it's time to get on and get over it. I know for some people shiny new kit is a motivator- and there's no doubt I've had a fair amount of that in the last couple of months (mostly thanks to Helly Hansen) but it's not always the biggest factor in getting me out there. I've never had a huge desire to run a race, so I'm not sold that signing up for a race or event is the answer either. The biggest factor this time has been stress relief and keeping my diet in check.

I'm tired. My knee hurts. My hip hurts. But my @hellyhansen trainers match my nails and it's still all about these epic tights. #thisgirlcan
Moment of appreciation for amazing tights AND my nails matching my trainers

Exercise (not just running) really helps me to manage my stress and whilst I'm not going to moan (again) about everything going on presently, it has in part been a catalyst to get me back on the road, as much as some of the dramas were preventative. Exercise- be it on my bike or my feet, gives me the head space I need to mull things over, and even if I feel like I'm not getting anywhere with the life stuff, I rarely come home from a ride or especially a run feeling like it wasn't worthwhile, however tough, slow or cold it was.

The other thing that exercise- especially running compared with cycling in fact, is my diet. I am my own worst enemy in that I love all sorts of things that should be enjoyed in moderation and that is especially true when I'm either a. on my own (working away at the moment, and 'cooking' for one) and/or b. under pressure. There's been too much booze (because wine is my friend), too much salt and sugar and too many carbs in the last few weeks. Running always makes me crave the things I know are good for me (and that I love, it's just I love them a little less when garlic bread and primitivo are calling my name) like grilled salmon and roasted vegetables or warm spinach and chickpea salads or veg packed soups. I don't just eat them because I've talked myself out of a cheeseboard, I crave them and love them and only really worry about the cheeseboard on Friday night.

There isn't a magic trick that gets you up off your backside and into your trainers, and it's fair to say I think that the first outing (even if it's after just a short break) is the hardest.As mentioned, I've never been sold on the running a race option because I've always been a bit put off by how seriously all these things are taken and because for me, it'll always be a (proverbial) marathon not a sprint. All that said, in a moment of madness last week, I did this.

#thisgirlcan #werunlondon

This Girl Can as a campaign has gone some way to changing some of my thoughts on sport, women in sport and general participation. I knew the figures relating to young women and teenage girls not being active weren't great but they were still shocking to me- the campaign focuses on encouraging women and girls to be active regardless of how they appear, and trying to break through the hatred of being sweaty, hot, red faced, tired, bedraggled, muddy or anything else, and that's incredibly important and incredibly powerful. But there's another judgement we need to break through, and I've been guilty of making it too.

Being invested in something- whether it's a job, a family, a sport or a TV series is not a bad thing. Making others feel lesser or judged because they don't  share the same version of your commitment or enjoyment, that's bad, but if getting up and running a race every Sunday is your thing, that's cool. If you're cracking out 8 hours a week in the pool, I'm pleased for you. Marathon of Pretty Little Liars on Saturday afternoon- where do I sign up.... But it doesn't make me a bad, lesser, or plain lazy person.

This Girl Can has, for me, set the tone for a generation of young women who will hopefully be more active than ever before and take pleasure in that but more importantly, it's the start of reminding us all not to judge and that's just as important whether we're talking of women judging each other or the world at large.

I'll be happy to cross the finish line on June 21st, because I believe that THIS girl can, but to those hoping to beat their personal best or who are training for something bigger, longer or harder- go for it, good luck, train hard, I hope you'll smile back as you overtake me.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chloe Likes To Eat: Chicken, Leek Bacon & Potato Bake

I cook for some extended family with fair regularity, there's usually 5 or six of us around the table, and anything that can be pre-prepared before I go to their flat to cook is always a bonus so I have time to properly catch up with my folks whilst I'm there. This was a new one on them, was easy to pre-prep and could be done in smaller or even individual portions (think pie dish size?) and either frozen par-cooked for an instant dinner or cooked in advance when entertaining.

Potato bake

A pack of chicken or turkey thigh off the bone
 (or 2 chicken breasts, but I prefer thigh meat, and it's cheaper)
A pack of lardons or streaky bacon chopped into chunks
A pack of cream cheese
Couple of spoons of mustard of choice
about 200ml milk
A couple of onions
A couple of leeks
5-8 medium potatoes
Garlic to taste

Peel potatoes and cut into roughly 0.5cm thick discs, boil in pan of water for approx 6-8 mins until they're soft, but be warned they'll fall apart if you over do them. Drain, and leave to cool a little.

Cut chicken & bacon into chunks, chuck them into a large heave base pan to brown off, add onions, leeks, garlic to taste.

Add a pack of cream cheese, turn the heat down so it doesn't burn, stir to melt the cheese, add mustard to taste (I like whole grain for this), and stir in the milk. Heat gently,and you should have a creamy sauce gently bubbling.

Layer cooked potatoes at the bottom of the dish, add a layer of the chicken, bacon & sauce mix, repeat until the tray is full and/or you've used all of the mix and potatoes.

Top with cheese if desired (who doesn't like cheese?!) and bake in the oven for approximate 40 mins at 200 degrees.


Hello comfort food! Serve with roasted wedges of cabbage or veg of choice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Braid Bar

 I have not been paid to write about The Braid Bar, nor offered any other incentives. I won a Twitter competition and this post is an independent review of my experience. I have not been asked or otherwise incentivised to review my experience.  All views and opinions are my own.

I wouldn't say I'm especially good at it, but I like to braid my hair- it's long enough to do a few different styles of braid and I discovered last year that it was the easiest way to keep my hair from tangling in the wind and still get it under my cycle helmet too. Last weekend, I won a free braid courtesy of The Braid Bar at Selfridge's a pop up bar offering a menu of 10 super cool braids with optional embellishments, none of them costing more than £25. Well HELO!

Just had the most fun at @thebraidbar at selfridges. Truly lovely staff and how cool is my hair?!
The Linda Braid 

I had to scurry to fit my appointment in before leaving London for a few weeks, but my oh my am I glad I did. That's my Linda braid- a dutch braid up the back of my head, topped off with (my choice of messy) topknot. I have tried to do a french braid version of this before now, and know that it's a neat way of adding some interest to a topknot, but it also lasts and I wanted to enjoy my braid for as many days as possible!

Optional extras for your braid include hair chalks and little rings to hang from your braid- I would have loved hair chalk, but knew it wouldn't go well with bedlinen, so passed. I stretched my braid out for three days- although I probably should have called it quits after the second, and I had THE most fun at The Braid Bar. Their 2 week stint at Selfridge's came to an end last weekend BUT they're back for this weekend (14/15 March) by appointment or drop in- check out their website for contact details and braid options too-  www.

I'm really hoping to see The Braid Bar pop up again when I'm back in London- for a night out or a little treat, I like the idea of having someone else do a way better job of braiding my hair than I can do myself, without breaking the bank and allowing for a little fun too. Fingers crossed to see them somewhere soon- if not a pop up, how cool would it be if they set up a permanent shop *swoons*

In the absence of the pros, I felt inspired enough to have another go at my french braid version of the Linda this weekend and it actually came out way better than usual, I wonder if my session with the professionals had an effect (wishful thinking much?!)...

Loved my Linda braid so much that I did my own French braid version today (because Dutch braiding screws with my head)
Taking photos of the back of your own head is way less glamorous than getting someone else to do it for you! 

I managed to get 3 days out of this a bit easier than my original Linda, but only because of the braid style. I added a few braids into my topknot too, just for a bit of added interest.

Huge thanks to the girls at The Braid Bar for selecting me to win a braid with their Twitter competition- although I wanted to go, I probably wouldn't have made time had I not won and it was an absolute pleasure. I shall re-iterate here, I wasn't asked to review my experience, no was I paid or offered any other incentive to do so, I just had a really fun time think this is an awesome idea.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

From Where I Stand: The Not So Calm Before The Storm

My Tweets in the last couple of weeks have swung from the rage at having to find somewhere new to live with little warning, to despair of having to consider bidding on how much rent to pay on a slightly shabby one bedroom flat because it has a garden to joy at finding something reasonable and finally to the 'oh shit moments'- it's unfurnished so it's going to be a pricey old month, how do I pack my stuff from 100 miles away and why oh why is it so difficult to deal with energy suppliers?!

Blue and yellow box of doom. On a Saturday. It can only mean one thing- moving house!
Blue and Yellow Box of DOOM

Last time we moved, it was from a real hole of a flat in the less desirable bit of Mile End, when we left, T & I said we would probably look back on our time living there and laugh about it. Eventually. And we're almost at that point, so I'm hoping when I look back on this particular move, then it we'll eventually feel the same. The funny thing is, that I never used to mind moving house so much. There was a certain element of excitement in putting things away in a new space and having new surroundings- the reality of moving 2 working adults as opposed to one student/about to be working adult is a tough one- it's hard work.

10 moves in 6 years means I have packing down to an art.
The last move- my 11th in 6 years

This particular move is made more difficult because we sent the car for scrap in January, so hiring one is going to be necessary. We've also taken something on unfurnished. Now, I'm mega excited to have choices in our furniture (hello bigger bed) but it also means a lot more planning, obviously a greater start up cost and we're trying to co-ordinate all this whilst I'm working away until the weekend we're due to move in. Yes, really.

Trying to work out how much furniture will fit in our new flat.
Floor plans and trying to work out how much wardrobe space we can fit into the space

The upside to having a partner who likes to do everything in minute detail AND who happens to be an engineer is that you get scaled pictures of the floor plan and you spend your Saturday night cutting out pieces of paper the same size as the furniture you like, to see how it will fit.

Managing this move has been a tough one for me because the exit from our current flat has been messy and awkward. Starting with a bombshell announcement of the flat being already advertised whilst away in Paris through to still not knowing if there are confirmed tenants taking over from us when we leave (April could be cripplingly expensive...). It really really doesn't help that I'm not in London either- I'm working away and won't be back at the old flat until the day before we move into the new one. So it was a great joy last week when a lovely lady from my Landlord's estate agent came to take pictures- blazing sunshine and warm enough to sit outside on our terrace with coffee for half an hour and the perfect excuse (keeping out of the photographer's way...). It was a much needed few minutes for headspace

Estate agent taking pics of my current flat = best excuse to sit outside on the terrace with coffee!
Not. Enough. Coffee. In. The. World. 

I'm hoping that although I won't be at home to help with the packing, my 5 zillion pages of spreadsheets and lists that I share with faceache on Google Drive will help make sure we don't forget anything and will leave me a bit more able to do things like run (selfishly) in the absence of my beloved bike since exercise helps me keep my stress in check and stops me craving and eating all the sugary things too. I hope to get better use out of these beauties too, which have been languishing through chest infections and house move drama. Needless to say they came along in my case...

Shiny new @hellyhansen trainers getting an outing on the first run of the week.
Trainers gifted to me by Helly Hansen

And now.... back to the spreadsheets and the black hole of searching the internet for storage fit in the tiniest of gaps in the new bathroom. Rock n fucking roll.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Chloe Likes To Eat: Cooking For One

I'm not great at cooking for one- I wasn't good at it as a student, and then I stopped needing to when I started living with T. For the next couple of weeks, I'm working away, alone. And that means.... cooking for one. Sigh. For anyone else who has the need to cook for one, a few of my favourite tips to minimise the frustration that is cooking for one person when, apparently this doesn't constitute an actual meal...

Friday- thanks to @distillingine3 and @fevertreemixers
So, actual food instead of booze calories....

1. Don't Season
Batch cooking is a great way to avoid take-out temptation, because having instant food in the freezer is always a win, but if you're limited by freezer space, it's not appealing to only have one choice, try cooking out 'base' mixes that can be seasoned and easily added to for variety-
  • Minced beef with passata, tinned tomatoes & tomato puree- brown mince, add puree, stir, add tomatoes & passata and cook down on low heat. 
Obviously, bolognese- defrost, add basil, oregano, garlic and vegetables of choice
Mexican stew- add smoked paprika, sweetcorn, kidney beans, chick peas, black beans (half quantities of the beans left over make a nice salad for a couple of lunches following on)
Moroccan/North African style- add cumin, cinnamon, some dried apricots, a spoonful of harrissa paste and chilli to taste, serve with couscous & roasted vegetables or add chickpeas for bulk. 

  • A large bulk of roasted peppers, red onions, courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes, carrots and/or broccoli- or whatever else you like, and couscous. Mix together and keep refrigerated. 

Great as a lunchtime salad- add spinach leaves or lettuce with a simple dressing of lemon juice, splash of olive oil, and a small amount of crushed chilli
Add some grilled chicken and/or Halloumi for something more filling- add a little lemon juice, salt and pepper to a spoon of yoghurt for a dressing.

It's all about the warm salads at present- CPUs cous flavoured with lemon, chilli, honey and stock + a spinach and red pepper. Salmon to be added...

2. Buy Smaller Quantities
Whilst larger packs of things- especially tinned food are generally cheaper, if you don't want to eat the same thing over and over and/or you end up throwing half away, it's not better value. Opt for smaller quantities of things like chickpeas, passata, sweetcorn or beans so you can mix them up, although things like meat and fish can be frozen, be wary of leaving them in original packaging or sizes- spending half an hour wrapping chicken, fish or mince into individual or small batch size portions is a good way to ensure you can have a little of what you fancy

3. Change it up
Don't be afraid to add to left overs to change them- left over pasta, pesto and veg doesn't just have to be reheated and just because you had roasted vegetable with couscous yesterday, doesn't mean you can't have them with chickpeas or on toast today. If you're in need of inspiration, I've linked some of the most popular Chloe Likes To Eat posts below, and other places I like to seek fridgsperation are Pinterest and Google (the ingredients in my fridge or 'what do with left over....). Sometimes we just need a little shove.

Today's is a pasta salad made with cream cheese and mustard, not Mayo with spinach, gammon home grown rocket #queenofsalads


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

New Favourites: 5 Things I Loved in February

Sorry February, but I'm not sad to see the back of you- house move dramas, chest infections and more house move dramas, scrambling to get stuff done and criss-crossing the south-east.

On the plus side, here's 5 things I loved in February, not including eating all the cheese in Paris (read about that HERE).

Feb Favourites

1. I went along to see what Helly Hansen have in store for this coming year in their training range and was totally blown away by some of the technical advances, particularly in visibility and also the generosity of the team. They sent me home with a vast bag full of new kit, but aside from the colour changing mug (REALLY) these tights are just the best thing ever. Full review to come, but seriously... LOOK at them! On a side note, they're WAY more .... feminine in colour/print than I would normally go for, but there's a bit of an Ice Queen feel to them, which I love.

Feb Favourites Helly Tights

2. I had a huge clear out of some of my costume jewellery, including lots of rings I've had since my that don't fit. It seemed a good excuse to raid the ASOS sale for some new bits and I've been wearing this Me & Zena talons ring pretty much non-stop.

Favourite new ring.

3. The striped top is from Primark, was about £4, and I love it, because green stripes. I had been on the hunt for a new breton style t-shirt for ages, and had hoped to find one in Uniqlo, but their version looked horrendous on me, so I'm glad I braved Primark on a Saturday, just for this t-shirt.

4. Pre-Paris purchase- I didn't go into Uniqlo to buy knitwear, in fact, I have been warned about my very minor knitwear habit recently. But it's pretty. Really pretty,

Feb Favourites Uniqlo Speckled Jumper

5. Sparkly Converse. Enough said? Well no actually, because they were reduced to £35 and they're glittery. I have to keep reminding myself that just because I work solo, doesn't mean it's always appropriate to wear sparkly sneakers... based on my What I Wore post this weekend, I have clearly failed on that front.... But seriously. Glittery sneakers.

Feb Faves Silver Glitter Converse