Friday, 31 May 2013

My hair's best friend

Haha these scissors look a bit medieval in the photo here. I dug them out today to spruce my hair up a bit in between 'real' haircuts! If your hair is quite thick and you find it gets heavy in the lengths, you may like to have it thinned out a bit in order to give it some oomph. I occasionally have a quick DIY session on my hair with the old thinning scissors and it makes such a difference. I normally don't do much to my hair beyond washing and rough blow-drying, so it has to be low-maintenance. A bit of thinning through the lengths, from the cheekbone down, helps to give it more life and makes it so much more manageable. That's why I love these scissors!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Surprise beauty: Alternative uses for baby products!

Since becoming a mum I have been introduced to a new world of lotions and potions for me and my little one, and some of these products have been godsends to me. Some of my favourites have been: Bio-oil, which kept my skin supple and eased that awful bump-itch during pregnancy. Also, I'm sure I couldn't have breastfed at all with out the help of Lansinoh cream and its amazing healing properties - it was an absolute must-have and helped me deal with, what was for me, a very painful experience. These days I tend to wash my hair with nice mild baby shampoos, and I love the L'Occitane shea butter 'Mum and Baby Lotion'. We've used Bepanthen nappy ointment since V started getting the occasional bit of nappy rash, which has luckily always been very mild but is an irritation nonetheless. This ointment is nothing short of miraculous in how quickly it clears up redness and sore bits.
Recently when I had a little bit of a head cold and a sniffly nose, the skin around my nose and top lip got quite red and sore from nose-blowing and constant tissue abrasion! So it struck me to try a bit of Bepanthen on the skin to see if it would help. Usually this soreness would hang around for a couple of days then leave me with dry, flaky skin for a few more, but with a liberal coating of Bepanthen it was cleared up literally overnight! I've also discovered this is great on lips plus rough skin patches on elbows and knees. I think the key is that this acts as an excellent barrier cream, while its lanolin content is great for repairing the skin. Bepanthen you are my new surprise beauty hero!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Random Access Memories

Listening to Daft Punk takes me back to my teens when their first album came out, and it was a soundtrack to all of our parties that summer. Amazing!

Now I've been listening the new album and feel that it could easily be my soundtrack to this summer. Pharrell's voice particularly gets me on this track when he chants: 'Sweat... sweat... sweat... Lose yourself to dance!' Ahhhhhhh love it!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Healthy switch-up: bolognese sauce with turkey mince

Although I love red meat, we're always being told to eat less of it for health reasons. I do still eat it perhaps more often than I should, but I do like to vary the proteins that our family eat as much as possible.

In this country, most of us only eat turkey around Christmas time, but I love this versatile meat and try to eat it regularly. It is tasty, lean and often dubbed a 'superfood' by dietitian types. Not to mention how cheap it is. We use turkey steaks, turkey sausages and most frequently turkey mince in our cooking. Here I've replaced the beef in a bolognese sauce with turkey, and we all enjoyed it. I also used rice pasta to vary things as I felt we'd been eating a lot of wheat recently. I try to vary our grains too! I added extra vegetables to the sauce as this is always a good 'sneaky' way to feed everyone their 5 a day.

Do you have any healthy substitutions you like to use in your cooking? Are you a fan of turkey too?

Monday, 27 May 2013

A Sunday Feast

Happy bank holiday weekend! What better excuse to get friends and family together for a bit of a feast? This was our lunch yesterday.
Slow cooked Moroccan spiced lamb with honeyed apricots, wild rice and toasted almonds.
Chicken and pepper skewers with a lemon, honey and sumac glaze.
Tomato and basil salad with green olives, olive oil and balsamic reduction.
Slow cooked BBQ ribs
My sister's roasted aubergines with pomegranate and yoghurt dressing. This is a delicious recipe from Ottolenghi. My sister is an amazing cook.
My dad's spicy prawns with chorizo. This was fantastic - big flavour!

I love having a tapas style meal like this with lots of different dishes to sample. It is particularly good when feeding lots of guests. Most of my own cooking is a bit improvised but let me know if you're interested in making any of these and I'll put the recipes up!

I hope you are all having lovely bank holiday weekends. Ours has been great so far but it looks like torrential rain all day today. Oh well, hopefully there will be a good movie on TV!

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Going Out! And the lunches that follow.

I had a night off last night - hooray! Out I went to my friend's masquerade themed birthday party, and what fun it was. Lots of nice food and wine and catching up with the girls. I may have slightly over-enjoyed myself but I was home before the clock struck twelve (or thereabouts) to be ready for a 6.30 wakeup this morning!

Today the parents-in-law took us out for a huge lunch at Church on the Hill, which was greatly appreciated by my champagne-soaked stomach! This is a place we really like to go at weekends as it is big, family friendly and the food is big, weekend food. Particularly good for pizzas and burgers.

I've had some great weekend fun but realise that I do not miss the rather frequent hangovers of my twenties. Back to cosy family nights in for a while, I think!

Hannah x

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Eating Out: No.1 Chocolate Factory

Today we met some friends at No.1 Chocolate Factory in Glasgow, where we enjoyed lunch and some very chocolatey treats.
I neglected to take any pictures today but here's one from a previous visit.

There is a nice lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, soups and sharing platters. You can also opt for a very nice looking afternoon tea. One thing you need to have when you come here is their Spanish style hot chocolate - it is so decadent that you might not manage anything else!

The cafe itself is spacious, bright and airy. It's in the striking Charing Cross Mansions building and is located on a corner, with windows all around - good for people watching at this busy intersection between the city centre and west end! It's a great place for children and, as you can see, V already enjoys a babycino and asks for 'chocolala' when we go in.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Window as headboard

Another decor update!

We recently had our master bedroom stripped back from polystyrene tiles, textured wallpaper and an oppressive dark colour scheme, to white walls and the original Victorian features. This was extremely refreshing but has left the room looking somewhat of a blank canvas. The way we had our furniture looked just too symmetrical, so we decided to move it all around and put our bed up against the window. So instead of the oversized upholstered headboard we were planning to make, we've ended up with the window as our headboard. I really like it.
I've dressed up our bed as it was also looking very blank with its white sheets. You can see from the view across the road that we live in a classic Glasgow tenement flat!
I love the look of the washed-out rose coloured bedlinen I've seen recently at places like Toast, but it is really pricey. I used this pale pink throw from Ikea to make an inexpensive version of this look. The cushions are from H&M and give a bit of contrasting colour.
From H&M Conscious Collection. These cushion covers were only about £4 each.
Grey throw from John Lewis, pink throw from Ikea
I love my battered old trunks and suitcases. This one was a housewarming gift from friends and tells an interesting story. At one time it travelled with a ballet company, so it still has various travel stickers on it plus inventories of contents that include headdresses, tutus, tights and plastic flowers! The trunk serves as a blanket box at the foot of our bed.
One of our reading lamps is an industrial inspection lamp which hangs from the window frame. I like the stark look of the lamp and its bright orange flex.
And here's the pastel fest of our bed next to the wardrobes I painted. 

The room is still very much unfinished but I will show you what I'm doing as I go along. Hopefully next we can find some nice artwork to adorn our walls. Getting there...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Leaving naps behind?

Increasingly, V has not been in favour of taking a nap during the day. He is still having one most days, but those days when he doesn't are becoming a lot more common! On these days it can be hard to keep him happy right up until bedtime, or stop him falling asleep in his dinner! I am relieved when he does have a nap as it gives me a little time to get on with other things and also means plenty of energy for the rest of the afternoon. Has your little one been napping less recently and, if so, how are you adapting?

Hannah x

Friday, 17 May 2013

Topshop pocket dress and other goodies

It was a gloriously warm and sunny day today. Does the apparent change in seasons make anyone else want to go shopping? I had a few presents to buy and I wanted to get a couple of summery items for myself too. Here's what I bought:
Summerish attire: Navy vest from Dorothy Perkins, coral and gold necklace from Accessorize, pink pocket dress from Topshop.
I'd wanted to buy a bright cotton dress for the summer and found this one in Toppers which is a nice shape and easy to wear. You can see it better here on the Topshop website. I think I should really start wearing slightly longer dresses for the practical purposes of being mother to a small child, but I really liked this even though it may be a teeny bit on the short side. I do love this shape of dress with its cinched waist which is flattering for most of us lady types.
This is just a basic navy vest which I wanted to go with a few skirts I have. I'm often tempted to wear lovely slenderising black on top but navy blue can look a bit softer against pale skin like mine! See it here at Dorothy Perkins.
I thought this necklace was so pretty and would go with anything. My sister said the coral and gold are my colours - I do love these colours and the bridesmaids were dressed in them at my wedding! So I'm sure I'll get plenty of wear from this. It's available here at Accessorize in the turquoise version; I couldn't find the coral one online.
The rest of my shopping was gifts, so I won't reveal those here, but the last thing I picked up was a No.7 powder from Boots. I have used this powder for years and it's brilliant. Having very oily skin, I have tried just about every powder and this is my fave one out there - even better than its counterparts from Chanel and Dior - gasp! So if you're in the market for a new pressed powder to keep summer shine at bay, do try this. No.7 Perfect Light Pressed Powder in the Translucent shade. Luckily I had one of those nice wee No.7 vouchers that come out periodically and make their products even more reasonably priced.

So I've had a nice little day of shopping in the sun. Have you supplemented your summer wardrobe recently too? I'd love to hear about it!

Hannah x

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Make! Indian spiced roast chicken

This is a very simple but effective way to jazz up a chicken. Before roasting the chicken I simply spread a layer of Patak's Tikka Paste all over the chicken, plus a drizzle of chilli oil.
Preparation of this meal was very quick. Above you can see everything ready for the oven. I also roasted some sliced peppers and red onion as an accompaniment. Try this if you want to do something different next time you roast a chicken - it tastes amazing and the skin goes lovely and crispy. Great served with rice, plus a garnish of fresh coriander and lemon wedges.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Make! Rock buns

Rock buns are a bit nostalgic for me because my mum baked them a lot when we were kids. Today they were something I could rustle up quickly before some guests came over. These are quick and easy to make, so now I know why Mum liked making these when she had all us kids under her feet, plus loads of our friends often in the house and lots of visitors always dropping by!

I followed this recipe from BBC Goodfood, except I used sultanas and not chocolate chips. Sultanas are a more classic component of rock buns and on reflection I think I would have used a few more of them than this recipe states. Otherwise a good recipe and nice crumbly buns.

Beyoncé for H&M pencil skirt

My attempts to resist this purchase became futile during a trip to Edinburgh yesterday.

Would I have bought this skirt had it not been endorsed by Beyonce in a very flashy advertising campaign? I'm not entirely sure, but I really do like it and can't wait to wear it.

After seeing this in about a million H&M windows recently I finally gave in. I was extra pleased with my shopping experience when I came away from the counter with this bag:
Sigh. I love you Beyonce, and I honestly think you could sell me just about anything.

Have you bought anything from this H&M collection?

Hannah x

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Make! Waldorf Salad

My first taste of a Waldorf salad was had when I was sixteen and worked in an old-fashioned tearoom. Previously I had always hated celery, but the amazing textures in this salad made me see that crunchy vegetable in a whole new way forever. I love celery now and today something made me want to make a Waldorf salad again. It was part of our Sunday dinner and I made far too much, so half of it went home with my sister. So if you make this you might want to make less than I did, unless you are catering for a wedding or christening or something!
The ingredients:
Sweet crisp apples (I used pink ladies)
Walnut pieces
Mayonnaise (I used extra light to make the salad less fatty)

Chop your apples into small chunks and finely slice the celery.

Add walnuts, some sultanas and enough mayonnaise to coat the ingredients, and stir. Very simple salad with lovely sweet tastes and crunchy textures!

Make! Pulled Pork

Today we had my sister, brother-in-law and kids over for Sunday dinner, so we picked up a shoulder of pork from the supermarket and made pulled pork. This was the first time I'd made this at home but it is so easy and a delicious way to eat a very cheap cut of meat. Points for economy and taste: ding ding!

I preheated the oven to 200 degrees and made my own barbecue marinade to baste the joint in. I'm a 'throw it in' cook so quantities are guessed roughly. If you make this, just make it to your taste!

BBQ marinade for pulled pork:
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
2tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp garlic oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
dash worcestershire sauce
sprinkling of oregano

I basted the shoulder of pork with the marinade and put it in the oven at 200 degrees. After 1 hour I turned the oven down to 170 and left it to cook for at least 3 more hours.

The joint came out looking like this, and after 20 minutes left to rest, it was tender and easy to shred apart with 2 forks.
I served the pulled pork with a big green salad, a waldorf salad, fresh white bread and my spicy BBQ sauce.
BBQ sauce is very easy to make with ingredients from your cupboards. Just make it to your taste. I used:
tomato ketchup
malt vinegar
dark soy sauce
worcestershire sauce
smoked paprika
tabasco sauce

I will make this meal again as it's cheap, easy, and so tasty! Do you have any tips for cooking cheap cuts of meat?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Date Nights: Rock Lobster

The combination of oysters and wine always makes me giddy, and it would ideally be the start of every evening out for me! A recent date night pictured here was spent at Rock Lobster, a new-ish seafood restaurant here in Glasgow. The food was superb and was complimented by its gorgeous courtyard setting in a hidden nook of the Merchant City area. Glasgow is generally not the place for alfresco dining but eating by the floor-to-ceiling windows here in Virginia Court on a bright spring evening was the next best thing. And I must give mention to the wine list which featured a few of our favourites. See the menu on their website here.

For a relaxed but special meal, a good-looking restaurant and friendly service, I'd urge you to pay this place a visit. Can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Eating Out: Babylon Cafe

Yesterday we spent our bank holiday out and about walking, shopping and lunching in town, then drinking endless cups of tea outside a local cafe as V slept in his buggy. Totally lovely!

The spot we chose to eat lunch was a central Glasgow eatery we love, Babylon Cafe. Housed in a railway arch on the southern edge of the river, it's not much to look at from the outside, but it's the smell of the food that will draw you in rather than the cafe's appearance!

With a menu drawn from Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian culinary traditions you can expect a lot of kebabs, grilled and barbecued meats, warming stews, plus lovely platters of hummus and falafel, stuffed vine leaves and so on. At the end of your meal you can enjoy a strong Turkish coffee and maybe some of the amazing middle-eastern sweets that a too-sweet tooth like mine always struggles to resist! Yesterday I had spicy bbq chicken with loads of salad, my husband had a lamb shawarma pizza and our son had a lamb kebab wrap. The portions are very generous and together with drinks our bill came to around £25. Good value for money.

One thing we love about Babylon in addition to its great food is the family-friendly atmosphere. There are always other families there when we go in and they cater well to young children. It is big inside so there's lots of space for larger groups and they provide high chairs and a kids' menu. I think the only thing they lack is possibly a baby-changing table as I seem to remember once changing my son on the floor in the disabled loo. But it is still a great place to eat as a family and I wouldn't let this put me off.

Babylon Cafe comes highly recommended by me! What kind of restaurants do you like visiting with your family?

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Novel & Nails

The novel: My current bedtime reading is Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil.
Fun fact about me: I am a librarian by (former) profession. Before I had my son I worked as a secondary school librarian, which was a wonderful job. Now, when I have the luxury of a bit of free time I'll get stuck into a good book, and I plan to include a books section on my blog in the near future.

The nails: Essie's Mint Candy Apple. I've seen this on a few people recently and was prompted to dig my bottle out from the back of the bathroom cabinet. It's a lovely shade!

Are you reading anything good just now, or have you discovered any gorgeous new nail colours for spring/summer?

Hannah x

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Days Out: The David Livingstone Centre

Today we packed a picnic and jumped on a train to visit the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, near Glasgow.

Here is the tenement building where Livingstone grew up in one room with his parents and five siblings. It is now a National Trust for Scotland-owned museum which tells the life story of this fascinating man.

Here is the visitor centre on site, where there is a nice gift shop and cafe. We sat in the pleasant grounds and enjoyed our picnic. There is lots of space for children to play, an explorers' garden, a play park and if you want to take a nice walk from here you can walk to Bothwell Castle along the Clyde walkway.
V was quite excited by this statue of Livingstone fighting off a lion!

This was a lovely, interesting day out and an easy excursion from Glasgow.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Make! Aubergine bake

As I was cooking this, I was calling it a 'melansagne' but it was just too silly to put up as my post title, so here instead is my 'aubergine bake'!

I am not much one for following recipes always and often I tend to make up dishes with what I have around the kitchen. Today's ingredients were what was left before an online grocery shop arrives tomorrow, so I had a few things left to use up including a large packet of lean beef mince, an aubergine and a couple of courgettes. I wanted to make something slightly less heavy than a lasagne, so I came up with this hybrid of a lasagne and one of my favourite Italian dishes, melanzane alla parmagiana. Authentic Italian cooks please look away now!

To make this I prepared my veg in advance, thinly slicing my aubergine and courgettes longways, then sprinkled the slices with salt and left them to drain in a colander for a couple of hours.

I made the sauce by frying 2 garlic cloves and 3 onions, thinly sliced, in olive oil then adding my mince to brown (500g lean beef mince). I then added a tin of tomatoes and some tomato puree, and I would add a dash of red wine now if I'd had any! I added rosemary, thyme and oregano to my sauce and allowed it to simmer while I fried my aubergine and courgette.

I rinsed the salt off my aubergine and courgettes, dried them with kitchen paper, and I then fried the slices in batches in a hot pan with olive oil. I like to fry them until soft and a little browned for flavour.

When all was ready, I layered my veg and sauce in an ovenproof dish. First a layer of the sauce, then a layer of sliced veg, and repeat until it's all layered up. I also added in the middle a layer of fresh basil leaves. On the top I sprinked a mixture of grated cheeses to cover the surface. The small pieces of cheese I had left were mature cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan, and all together were just enough to top the dish.

The dish was then baked in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for 30 minutes. I ate mine on its own, my husband had his with pasta on the side and our toddler's was chopped up a bit and served on pasta as a sauce. It was really flavoursome and a good midweek meal for the family.
 Aubergine bake accompanied by a mixed selection of pasta from the bottom of packets we had leftover.

I like dreaming up meals from odds and ends we have left in the fridge! do you?