The Joy of the New

Aha! So that's where they have hidden the food...

Aha! So that’s where they have hidden the cat food…

So long January (almost) – glad to see the back of you.

Actually, scratch that. I’ve rather been enjoying 2013 so far (not least because I have my May wedding to look forward to) and there have been plenty of new and interesting experiences…

Many a Friday night has been spent sans wine, as have many other evenings. And you know what? Sobriety is OK. I won’t, however, be turning into an evangelical teetotaller as I’ve yet to find a soft drink that goes as well with cheese.

I wrote a piece of flash fiction. It is as it sounds, a very, very short story. The definition of short varies, but my story was 100 words and I wrote it for a competition to win a residential writing course. If anyone else is interested, I’m not afraid of competition (!) so here’s the link.

I had a Brazilian blow-dry. I now possess wavy, rather than curly hair. I’m pleased with the results but would caution any prospective customers to try the treatment out via a deals website. I don’t think the treatment is worth full price at all.

I took to using electrical appliance on my face to tighten it up. Ooh it hurts so is therefore good for me? One week in and I think I see a difference on the nose to mouth lines and my complexion looks brighter. However, it’s not particularly a scientific, controlled experiment. Maybe the better skin is down to all the fruit and veg I’ve been eating?

The cat was forced onto a diet. Unlike we humans, it’s much easier for a cat to diet, seeing as he gets no say in the matter. We weighed him and its turns out he has two pounds too heavy – pretty significant when you’re a wee beastie.*

As cakes have been absent of late, I made soda bread. Healthy baking hmm?
250g plain flour
250g wholemeal flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp salt
400ml buttermilk, or use 200g plain live yoghurt made up to 400ml with water

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Sift the flours and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl. Add in the salt and make a well in the centre. Add in the buttermilk or yoghurt and bring together quickly. It will be pretty sticky. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a minute.

Place in a 20cm round non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin and mark the top with a cross. Cook for 40-45 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. (You’ll know it’s cooked as it will sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Serve warm with butter and raspberry jam.

My final new experience of January takes place on Monday. I’m going to an NLP session to cure (hopefully) my addiction to blasted diet coke (ahem – two litres a day…)

 

*We’re a day past Burns Night; I had to throw in a Rabbie reference somewhere.

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A 60-Second Facelift; Can it Work?

Yikes, the lack of wine drinking and cake baking has left me with plenty of time on my hands to surf the net, fall for the hype and purchase skincare products…

I am now the proud owner of a Rio 60-second face lift thingie. One of the (many) advantages of the world wide web is the wealth of reviews you find online so I did read these before pressing the ‘order’ button and the vast majority were positive.

Motive for buying? A desire to look fresh-faced and unlined for my wedding especially as I’m older than your average bride.

Basically you press the device on various parts of your face and it causes the muscles to contract. Exercised muscles stop sagging, allegedly. It is pretty uncomfortable and it doesn’t half hurt your teeth, but in the four days I’ve been using it, I have noticed an effect around my eyes and on the nose-to-mouth lines. I shall report back…

I’m back at my pre-Christmas weight. I made up my own diet; eating between three to eight ‘superfoods’ a day and sticking to about 1,400 calories (try myfitnesspal.com for a great calorie counting app).

Superfoods are a marketing concept, but spinach, berries, broccoli and oily fish are very good for you and they give you great skin too. I may well trademark my concept and write a diet book (as the world DEFINITELY needs another diet book, non?).

Lordie… January Blues…

Image

Doing double time on the detox – cakes and wine are playing a much less significant role in my life these days, money spending is at a minimum (I’ve got a wedding to pay for, for heaven’s sake!) and, as I’ve been fairly organised so far, I can’t even write any more lists for said wedding.

Dull, dull double dull!

So, post-work I’m forced to find other ways to entertain myself, such as tidying up the kitchen cupboards. Most of it was tedious, but the ordering of the baking cupboard was joyful and it is now a thing of beauty, which leads me neatly on to another top ten list (thank you Lesley Carter) – the baking essentials:

  1. Digital scales for precise measuring

  2. Cup measures so you can easily use American recipes as well as British ones

  3. Vanilla extract/paste for delicious flavouring

  4. 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate (so many lovely things to create with it)

  5. A good, solid mixing bowl

  6. Condensed milk (see dark chocolate above)

  7. Soft brown sugar

  8. Icing sugar

  9. Stork margarine – use half and half with unsalted butter for lusciously light cakes

  10. ANYTHING from Lakeland.

Mama Nature 3: Straight Hair Mission 1

hair 09_01_2013So, one Brazilian BLOW-DRY treatment later [I feel I must keep emphasising the second word of this treatment or readers may fear I’m about to share a little too much information about my grooming habits] and am I frizz-free, swishing glossy locks over my shoulder a la haircare ads?

Ah, the things we curly girls have done to fight what Mama Nature bestowed on us! First there was chemical straightening, then came serums closely followed by ceramic straighteners (leaving burn marks on carpets up and down the country). I always viewed the after pictures in the serum & straightener ads with suspicion. Those girls really didn’t look as if they’d ever been curly tops in the first place.

Anyway, post-Brazilian I washed my hair, I let it dry naturally, I peered at it every five minutes or so. Was it springing up, were curls coming back? Was that a touch of frizz on top? Well, yes and no… If you aren’t prepared to spend 40 minutes drying your hair, if it gets wet in between washes and if you go to the gym or walk in fresh air/wind frequently – welcome back frizz, your holiday from my hair hasn’t been a long one…

To be fair, I’m a little less curly.  My hair does feel as if it’s in good condition. I’m taking a little more time over hair care. But I’m also very glad that I didn’t spend the full whack on a Brazilian blow-dry (upwards of £150) and I probably won’t do it again.

It's just pics of wine and cake for me this month... January; a fun-free zone

It’s just pics of wine and cake for me this month… January; a fun-free zone

Quick skincare news flash – anyone else on the frankly dull January detox? Are you wine free but willpower wobbling? A good friend pointed me in the direction of a website where you can download an app called Drink Mirror (android phone app only at the moment, but they are promising an iPhone one soon) which shows you what your skin might look look like after a glass or two or three.

Needless to say, it ain’t pretty… Willpower back on track.

New Year Shortbread

Happy New Year y’all – health and happiness I hope is yours in 2013…

I was going to write a piece about this being the year of our wedding and my feelings about the approaching nuptials. It would have been philosophical, meaningful and thoughtful. It might even have made sentimentally-minded readers cry (though that might be more related to delayed hangovers than anything else).

But, the urge to blog baking efforts triumphed once more. It’s new year and I’m Scottish so of course, I’m going to blog a shortbread recipe! It’s kind of a last-ditch extravaganza of excess before the usual January healthy eating/wedding diet stuff kicks in (sorry to be a cliché).

A few tips – when you don’t have many ingredients for a recipe, you need to make sure they are the best so very good quality butter and organic flour is a must. I’m a shortbread purist too, so I would never recommend any other ingredients other than flour, butter and sugar (though the odd batch with added chopped up chocolate is OK).

Butter Shortbread

  • 125g butter (you can use salted or unsalted)
  • 140g plain flour
  • 40g cornflour
  • 60g caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease and line an 8” square baking tin with grease-proof paper. Beat together the butter and sugar and then add the flour. Combine and then turn onto a clean work surface and knead together briefly (you don’t want to overwork shortbread).

Press into the tin and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes (you want the top to be light golden) and then mark into squares while still warm. Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes and then gently ease out the marked squares. Press them into a saucer of caster sugar to give them a sugar topping and allow to cool completely.

Enjoy with a cup of tea (or for extra decadence – a wee sherry.)