Saturday, 31 May 2014

Going Greek

I've never been to Greece. I do know, however, that Greek food is delicious - or at least, is meant to be, as I have only ever had variations. Feta, olives, bread, oil, lamb koftas, tzatziki...I am positively drooling as I type.

Fortunately, a little corner of Greece has popped up not too far away from me, and so I've finally  been able to experience Greek street food without having to set foot outside of the country. A month or so ago, I popped in to this little cafe for a bite to eat, and it was my little slice of the Mediterranean on a very drizzly day.

Sula's is a friendly establishment which is still fairly new but is slowly getting a great reputation around the local area surrounding it. At first it seems a little tucked away, between numerous other shop fronts and signs. This does mean that it's somewhat of a hidden gem.

It's low key, friendly and comfortable. No pretentious decor; no big, over-the-top advertising; just a cosy little cafe, with cheerful and inspiring mottos painted onto the walls, bright colours and very friendly staff. I was welcomed in, introduced to the ins and outs of the menu, and left to make my choice..which proved to be very tricky indeed.

The menu sounded delicious, and there was even a visual companion to show you what you could expect - great for people like me who are a little unfamiliar with authentic Greek cuisine! I'm not a huge meat eater, and I am a huge fan of cheese, so in the end I plumped for the Halloumi Gyros; a great whopper of a pitta stuffed with grilled halloumi, grilled tomato, tzatziki, and chips.

It sounded delicious, and I was not disappointed when it arrived, piping hot, incredibly fresh and utterly divine.

I'm just going to let the photos do the talking for the moment:

This was proper home-cooked, easy food. No standing on ceremony - no fancy frills or unnecessary garnishes; a whole meal, conveniently wrapped up and ready to be devoured. This was the sort of meal you just had to get your shoes and socks off for, to get completely stuck in.

Let me tell you, it tasted just as good as it looked. The halloumi was gorgeous and the tzatziki was creamy and the chips were indulgent and topped it all off. I couldn't be graceful; you can't eat a beast like this with elegance. By the end I had sauce all over my hands, round my mouth and on the table. I had to use a knife and fork towards the end because, my goodness, there was so much filling and it just couldn't be contained. The sign, I think, of a delicious, filling and satisfying lunch. I was up to my elbows in Greek food (quite literally).

I was completely satisfied, very happy and immediately couldn't wait to have another. It's incredibly good value too, with my giant wrap costing under five pounds! Sula's whole menu looks delicious and they've recently launched a deli too, so I'll certainly be going back when I can.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Happiness is...#9

It's been a long time since I last shared a 'Happiness is...' post. It's not that I've been unhappy - I just haven't had a moment to step back and take stock of the little things which have been making me smile. Life has been busy; but now I'm going to stop and notice the delights that have been making life a bit better over the last few weeks.

Making simple fruit smoothies and discovering that almond milk is actually really delicious. I need to try out a few more recipes!

Wearing my new brown and gold New Look sandals in the early sunshine - they're so cute (but unfortunately after a little walking, they wipe the smile off my face - they're so painful! Hello blisters...)

Drinking fruit cider in the sun on my local common. A sure-fire signal that warmer weather is finally (hopefully!) on its way.

Trying out new (simple) recipes. I knocked up Sorted's Butterbean & Broccoli soup and it tasted delicious! An easy and cheap meal (even though it may not look overly appetising!)

Beautiful home-grown flowers brightening up my room. After a quick visit, my parents brought them down for me and they added a touch of home to my place. I feel the need for more flowers in my life; it's amazing how blooming marvellous they make me feel (sorry...)

I bade a final farewell to Cambridge this weekend. That didn't make me happy - I will really miss the beautiful city - but I have so many lovely memories of my visits and it will be a special place for me. If you haven't been, I urge you to. You can read my posts on the city here:

One of my colleagues came back from America and brought in a selection of goodies from the US for us to try! I couldn't resist trying out a Twinkie. It was tasty but a little too sweet for me. But it definitely perked up my day!

What's been making you happy recently?


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Simple Smoothies

I follow many healthy eating accounts on Instagram, and this is both a good and bad thing. On the one hand they motivate me, inspire me to try new flavours, and prove I can make delicious meals from scratch. On the other hand, it's not the first thing you want to see after you've just devoured a whole leftover Easter egg, or uploaded another photo of a beast of a burger.

I am feeling more and more inspired by them, however, and have an ever-growing awareness of how much better I feel when I eat natural, simple and fresh foods. Now, I'm not saying I'm ready to ditch the Domino's pizza, ready-made sauces and tinned soups forever - life is too busy and they're just too delicious! But by making a few small changes to my diet I just know I'll feel healthier and happier in the long run. This shouldn't be too difficult for me, as my current diet consists primarily of fruit and veg anyway.

One of my first steps with this was to start making smoothies. Smoothies are everywhere; all over Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter! I've always loved them; I used to drink lots of Innocent smoothies, but never really made my own. And of course homemade is always the best way to go.

So last Sunday, armed with a blender, some fruit and some almond milk (healthier, so I'm told!), I made my first natural smoothie. And boy, was it good.

Nothing could be simpler; just chop up your fruit, throw it into the blender, add your milk or juice and hit the power button. Moments later you have a tall glass full of fresh, fruity goodness. The possibilities are endless, too; concoctions of different fruits, milks and even a dollop of yoghurt or some oats and you're good to go. It's such an easy way to get some fresh fruit into your diet.

So far this week I've made three berry and banana smoothies, each a little different from the last. I want to experiment more, and I know more seasoned healthy eaters will be scoffing at the simplicity of my choices, but it's a good start, and it's better than buying them!

Here's what I used for my really simple Berry & Banana Smoothie:

1 ripe banana, chopped
1/3 glass frozen berries (blackberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries)
5 large strawberries, chopped
1/2 glass unsweetened almond milk

Chuck it all in a blender, whizz until smooth, and enjoy.

It's foolproof!

Later in the week I added a dollop of fat-free Greek-style coconut yoghurt, which made it so creamy, and I made another with fresh blueberries too.

The smoothies are even more refreshing when you use frozen fruit, so I'm looking to invest in some more frozen tubs of berries, mango and other delights to add in. I think it'll be perfect for the summer, and always ready to use! I want to try adding flaked nuts, oats or dessicated coconut, and even a cheeky scoop of Nutella for a treat.

Are you a smoothie fan? What's your favourite flavour?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Little Lip Loves

Let me introduce you to my lip loves. If I'm feeling blue, or revolting, or slightly stressed, sometimes nothing makes me feel better than a slick of lipstick, and these are my staples.

I'm fairly careful when it comes to choosing lip products: nothing too garish; nothing that smells cheap and plastic-y; nothing that will make my teeth look yellow. I'm not bold enough for coral, pillar-box red or deep purple; my favourites are classic pinks; subtle, yet stunning.

After my last slightly serious and heartfelt post, I wanted to do something light, cheerful and a little different. I don't tend to focus on beauty very much on this blog, partly because I don't own many products and also because I really don't know what I'm doing most of the time! So, I thought I would share with you the products which grace my face on a daily basis.

(I've linked each sub-heading to the product page too, so you can take a look if you're intrigued!)

I caved in and bought this lip product after the blogosphere pretty much exploded when they launched. They were everywhere. How could I resist a product which has so many rave reviews? After a little deliberation I opted for the very pretty Elusive. It's a sweet pink; a little lighter than I usually go for, but a favourite with many reviewers. I was a little unsure at first as it was slightly more of a 'candy pink' than I expected, but it grew on me very quickly and now I often reach for it for a little delicate pop of lip colour. The staying power is fantastic, and although I'll admit it is slightly drying for me, it doesn't damage my lips. I am definitely glad I fell for the hype with this one; I can see why it was so popular!

I suppose you could call the the 'original' lip crayon. I was given this as a present two Christmases ago by my parents, who chose the colour after I vaguely mentioned that they looked amazing. It is a bright, deep pink, which looks really gorgeous on. It's definitely not subtle, but it is really beautiful. I save this for when I'm lacking a little colour, or really want to be bold. It works really well wih a simple black eyeliner, and perhaps a little black dress! The formula is fantastic; it stays on for ages and is so silky and smooth I don't even need to use balm beforehand. It looks so sleek too, with beautiful packaging as always! This is my first Clinique product, a collection which I hope to expand soon. This product is quite a bit more expensive than the Revlon version - hence why it was a gift! - but I have used it a lot and I have to say it's well worth it. I'd love to treat myself to another one.

Again, another product which was popped into my Boots basket after hearing all about it on the Internet. I'm not usually a lip-gloss girl but this is more of a liquid lipstick; it's smooth to apply, and gives a great slick of colour. It's not sticky, slimy, or drying. I love the applicator and find it so easy to use. I opted for Celestial, another of my standard simple pinks. It's a little more dusky than the others so far, and is very subtle without being a nude. I haven't heard much about them since their launch over a year ago but I still reach for this countless times in a week; it may even be worth investing in another colour!

This is my all-time favourite. My saviour in times of blandness. My little trick up my sleeve. I first bought this a few years ago, tempted by the promise of long-lasting lip colour, and I was blown away. I have worn it to everything; many of my student events, plenty of family dinners, and even a couple of romantic evenings out. I have a feeling the thoughts on this may be mixed, but I love the felt-tip style pen applicator. It was a little strange at first, but it gives you real precision as you really do get to draw it on. The ink can be a little tacky for a couple of seconds but once it's dry you can layer it up for the impact you want. This colour comes out as a borderline deep pink / tinted red, which is perfect; especially if red is a little too daring! This is one of the only lip-products I've ever used up and repurchased, which says a lot. It's been a staple in my makeup bag for years and if they ever do discontinue it I will be very, very upset.

If I could tell you which one of these products to go for first, it would be the Maxfactor option. Yes, it's a few years older than the more recent products, but it's incredibly easy to use, has a gorgeous colour, and gives me so much confidence.

What are your little lip loves? Let me know if you love (or loathe!) any of my favourite lip products. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

#MHAW2014 - Tackling Anxiety

As some of you may already know, this week is  Mental Health Awareness Week, and the focus this year is on Anxiety. This is a subject close to my heart, and the hearts of many of my friends and fellow bloggers. So what better time to write a post about it?

I've recently become more and more aware of people discussing their experiences with anxiety. I don't know if it's because I started blogging (us creatives seem to be particularly affected by anxiety, as more and more bloggers seem to be discussing the issue openly)  or if people are becoming more comfortable about talking about it in general. One year ago, I probably would have barely heard about it, but now it's flitting up on my twitter feed daily. Thankfully, awareness seems to be increasing.

Anxiety is a complicated issue which manifests itself on many levels, and in different ways. Worrying occasionally, and having a certain, low-lying level of anxiety is normal. Without it, to a certain extent, we wouldn't be motivated at all. It allows us to feel the need to get things done, and is almost all mixed up with natural instincts and 'Fight or Flight'. Unfortunately for many, however, anxiety can be at such a great level that it affects them on a daily basis; constant worrying, fear and anxiousness, often without an obvious cause, can be debilitating and can have a serious affect on physical and mental health, sometimes paving the way for further problems such as depression.

Sadly, it's the most common mental health issue in society today. Adolescents and young adults are suffering from it more and more. In my eyes, it's clear that the modern way of living has had a huge effect on this. For my generation at least, keeping up with expectations, dealing with new pressures, employment (or lack of) and evolving technology can all add pressure to our lives. There is constant pressure from all sorts of sources; and I believe Social Media has a lot to answer for.

It can, in some cases, eventually cause a break down of relationships, physical health, concentration, positivity and confidence. I suppose you could say that it starts to take away the essence of a person, as any mental health issue can, and many start to feel defined by their anxiety. Which just isn't fair.

There's a lot more to it, of course, but it would be hard to cover it all in one blog post and I'm cautious that I don't want to go on for too long. This isn't a Wikipedia page, or NHS advice column, after all.

In order to express how important this topic is to me, I feel it's necessary at least mention that I have had, and continue to have, some experiences with anxiety. I'm not keen on going into much detail though - I want to keep this side of my life private for the time being. However, I do want to say that it's close to my heart and I devour any information about it that I can get my hands on it. 'Know your enemies' they that's what I plan to do.

This post is simply aimed at opening up the topic for consideration or discussion; it's to hopefully start off a little insight into anxiety, its importance and place in society today. I want you to be aware of it, and the possible effects it has on your nearest and dearest, and - potentially - on yourself.

So, this Mental Health Awareness Week, I just want to simply highlight the importance of understanding anxiety and respecting the situations of those affected by it, however chronic or mild. It's a real thing; not just a little worrying here or there. It can be all consuming - whatever form it takes; whether it's Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, OCD or any other type or classification.

I recently stumbled across an article on The National Student documenting some of the harsh and unfair comments received by anxiety sufferers. It's sad, but true. 'Pull yourself together', 'It's not a real issue', 'You're just looking for attention' are not acceptable responses to anxiety, and neither are any of the ones featured int he above article.  Anxiety isn't something you can just 'stop' having, or switch off. It's not something that can be cured by a cup of tea, or a hug (though they certainly help momentarily). It is, in my eyes, an issue that is very hard to understand unless you yourself have experiences of it on any level, or know of someone who does. It's hard to explain, and can be even harder to deal with when you have nobody to talk to about it.

The great news is there is so much out there to make life easier. Simple lifestyle changes such as exercise (Yoga and Pilates in particular), a good diet and relaxation exercises (never underestimate meditation) won't necessarily get rid of anxiety, but they can make it slightly easier to live with, even just for a moment.  I'm currently reading Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman (which I will hopefully review here) and it's already opening my eyes to so many solutions. I'm not saying these are magic cures, but they certainly helps to calm and relax you.

Talking to a good friend or family member can be a huge release too, as hard as that may be. If things are getting difficult or if it's starting to take a toll on areas of your life, there's always the option of visiting your GP, where discussions of medication and therapy options can lead to improvement and a whole new lease of life. It may be intimidating, but it could change your life. It doesn't hurt to get to the bottom of things too; keeping a diary or educating yourself about your problems can get you thinking about how you react to situations and what you can do to help yourself (or others around you who may be struggling).

I don't consider myself anywhere near being an expert, and am wary of getting too personal. I can't stress enough, though,  how important it is not to feel alone. Just typing anxiety into Google can bring up a whole host of sites, posts and advice forums. There is always someone to talk to.

And here's the proof; many of my favourite bloggers have written about their personal experiences with anxiety:

And here are some other sources you might find helpful:

I know that this hasn't been the most in depth post in the world, and I hope you'll forgive me especially if you've found it dull, rambling or somewhat pointless, but I hope at least it has been interesting, informative or thought provoking. Perhaps you even feel a little less alone, or maybe you had no idea what Mental Health Awareness Week was.

For now, though, if you suffer from anxiety, or perhaps think you do, no matter how much; be kind to yourself, don't be scared to get help, and try to educate yourself as much as possible. If you know someone who may be struggling; remember, they can't just 'cheer up' or 'snap out of it'. Just be there, lend an ear, and be as understanding as possible. You might just make someone's life a little less fraught.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Feasting at Bristol Food Connections Festival

It was Bank Holiday Monday. After a fried breakfast, my boyfriend and I set off to visit Bristol Food Connections Festival before I left to go home after a weekend of little visits and adventures.

The Bristol Food Connections Festival ran from the 1st to the 11th May, sharing good food with the people of Bristol and beyond. With food markets, demonstrations from top chefs, and even chocolate tours of the city, there was so much to choose from. Unfortunately we were only able to stop by for a morning, otherwise we might have been able to join in with more!

But back to the food. We headed to the city centre and scouted out each tent, circling the arena and picking our targets.

We sampled cheese, bread and truly the most amazing honey I've ever tasted; drooled over the smell of hot chorizo rolls and fresh pizza, locally-sourced lamb burgers and vegetable paella. Our first stop was a small, tropical looking stall specialising in healthy juices and smoothies. I'm a sucker for freshly squeezed drinks. I had to go for 'Coco-nuts'; cocoa, banana, almond milk and coconut. My other half plumped for a concoction of passion-fruit and mango. To be truthful, it was a little overpriced: I could have easily made it at home. But I will admit, it was tasty and I could tell it was healthy and fresh. In fact, it was so yummy that I have now purchased the ingredients to make the smoothie at home myself. I can't wait to have it for breakfast very, very soon.

While nothing beats sipping on fresh, cold smoothies in the Bristolian sunshine, our tummies started to rumble and grumble and we set out searching for something to satisfy our hunger.

If there's one thing neither of us can resist, it's Spanish food. We spotted a Spanish tent, The Spanish Buffet. nestled in the corner and purchased a small selection of tapas bites; tortilla, houmous and paprika bread, and a small selection of meat nibbles. They were tasty, and fresh, and moreish. I would have happily feasted on tapas all afternoon.

However, we were still keen to sample even more food. I gravitated towards Gopal's Curry Shack, a vegetarian / vegan curry stall which was giving off the most amazing smells, and opted, after much uhm-ing and ah-ing, for the Aloo Gobi. I couldn't resist picking up a Gluten Free onion bajhi too, and threw it in with my delicious curry, complete with fluffy rice and various sprinkled and drizzled toppings. Who can resist some cooling yoghurt? The curry was so fresh and tasty. I was very disappointed when I had finished every last bite and was left with an empty punnet.

Doesn't it look good?

We topped off our visit with a scoop of sheep's milk ice cream from Shepherds. I couldn't resist the peanut butter and chocolate option and, as I ate it walking back up Park Street, I was in positive ecstasy. It was divine. Not overpowering, not too sweet...just right. There were plenty of yummy noises that afternoon.

We couldn't have been luckier with the weather that day. Spending the afternoon sat in one of my favourite cities eating amazing, fresh and local food, and spending time together was the perfect way to end my bank holiday weekend. I'd love to go back again next year!

Now, if only I could get hold of some more of that ice cream...

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Burgundy Blogroll: April

Another month has shot by in an instant. In truth, I feel like I barely had time to sit and read all of the wonderful blog posts which have been going up recently! With Easter and a number of busy weekends, I haven't had a chance to relax with a cup of tea and some chocolate and browse through my favourite posts. However, I have still tried to keep up with things and there have been some true gems which I think are really worth sharing and appreciating!

The beauty of blogging is that it's not just about writing, hauls and scheduling posts. For me, it's equally about reading other people's thoughts, getting inspired, starting a debate or finding peace or comfort in someone else's work. The blogging community is really welcoming and a great place for creativity.

So, here are just four of the posts which I loved last month. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

(As before, all posts are linked in the titles, so you can find them easily!)

Cally at Clothes Circus is one of the very few bloggers who I actually know in person, and her post this month on Finding Inspiration was one which I really enjoyed reading. Cally has talked on her blog about how recently she had a period of time when life was hectic and turbulent, which lead to a lack of blogging activity. We've all  been there; and it's hard sometimes to remind yourself why you blogged in the first place. This post is a great way to go back to basics, think about the things which make you feel inspired and rediscover the passion behind your blog! A great little piece if you're feeling a bit lacklustre or are in need of some encouragement.

I am now, shockingly, at the age where some of my friends are starting to get engaged, and I;m even attending my first wedding as a friend of the bride this summer. It's begun; soon, I will (probably) be attending at least one or two weddings a year, watching people couple up and start planning the biggest day of their lives.Toni at Lemon Freckles recently got married and there have been some wonderful posts on her blog about her special day; but it was this particular post which stood out to me. Her downsized wedding sounds absolutely perfect and even started to make me think about how smaller, personalised weddings can actually be the best way to do things. I really recommend this post - even if you're not aiming to get married any time soon!

I've been reading a lot of posts recently based around the idea of self-acceptance. I think it's a really important subject and one which I am really interested in. I only re-discovered Lyzi's blog, Being Little, recently. I stumbled across it a couple of years ago, before I was an avid blog reader, so when I found it again I was very happy. Lyzi writes beautifully and this post stood out to me because her big voice and personality really shine through. She makes some very good points and I love her consideration of how self-acceptance can sometimes, unfortunately, be seen as arrogance. A great post to start on if you've not visited Being Little before. Plus, she lives in Bristol; and I love Bristol!

Another fantastic post from Darling about the act of blogging. I'm having a true love affair with this blog / online magazine and find many of the posts so inspirational. I keep this particular post up on my browser most of the time to remind me of one of the most important things about blogging: be yourself. It's hard, when bloggers are all raving about the same lip stain, or taking beautiful snaps of peonies and Laduree macarons, to stay true to yourself. This post really highlights how vital it is to step away from idealisms and just be you. I love this piece so much that I'm hoping to write on the subject soon; but in the meantime, I can't recommend reading this enough, especially if you're feeling a little lost.

Nicole from Upbeat Uplifts focuses her posts on staying positive and talking about issues including confidence, anxiety and feeling good. I love her little blog posts and this one really struck a chord with me. The subject is one which is slightly well worn but she starts a really great debate and makes it easy to read and get involved with. The main reason why I love this post so much is the really thought-provoking video included in the post about body image and the media. It's a subject which is really important so it's well worth taking a look. Just a warning though: this may be a trigger for EDs or other issues.  However, it is important to remember that comparing ourselves to images in the media is like wanting to have a pet unicorn, or sprout wings and fly; it's just not possible. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Fry-ups and the Fitzwilliam

I've written a few posts now about my love for the city of Cambridge; its history, culture, shops, restaurants...I've been enjoying my little trips there for a few months now, and so when the time came to travel up there again I knew it would be worthy of another post.

It was a drizzly weekend - the skies were mostly grey and ominous, despite the air beign warm, so I was constantly checking to see whether I had my umbrella. To make a change from our usual 'we'll just wander round and see what we find' attitude, my boyfriend and I made a point of heading to one of Cambridge University's museums; The Fitzwilliam.

That's a fabulous name for a museum, isn't it?

It was even more fabulous inside.

I just love decadent and impressive museum buildings. The outseide even had an element of the British Museum to it.

We didn't manage to see the whole of the museum - we've had many attempts to see every exhibit in other museums and it can be exhausting! - but we made our way around the galleries slowly. Our favourite was the weaponry, with armour and swords and even a rifle with an axe attached! I will have to go back to see some of the other areas. I have to say I didn't love all of the art - but it was a worthwhile visit and there were certainly some gems in there.

After a bit of a browse, we headed down to the cafe to chat about all sorts over a delicious loose-leaf cuppa (tea bags just aren't the same any more!) and a scone with jam and cream - naturally. We were so lost in conversation that we were there until closing time. 

Cambridge really is a gem, and I hope to visit their Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology  next. I do love a bit of history.

The next day, after a mildly disappointing meal at Wildwood the night before, we made our way to Bill's for brunch. At 1pm. Big mistake. I knew it would be busy, but had hoped there may be a table for two lingering in the corner. But, alas, pancakes would have to wait. Luckily, we did spot Harriets Cafe Tearooms just along the street, and nipped in to grab the last table. It was our lucky break of the day; welcoming, friendly and full of tasty food!

Within minutes of sitting down we ordered a hearty brunch and some loose leaf tea (again!).

A Full English for the gentleman, and a Breakfast Ciabatta for the lady.

I ate mine as an open sandwich and stole some mushrooms to eat with my greens. I didn't want to imagine what carnage would ensue if I tried to eat it as a proper sandwich! It was delicious - if a little salty (I'm not used to eating so much salt!) and I was full right up until I arrived home at 10pm that evening. Now if that's not a brunch, I don't know what is! I loved the cheeky hash browns hiding beneath the egg and it was just what I needed. The staff were very friendly and their afternoon teas, which were being served as well, looked like such treats. I have a feeling we may be back.