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Homemade granola

I am a bit obsessed with breakfast. I could eat cereal for every meal if I thought it was nutritionally balanced. (There may have been times in my life when I actually did). It's not that I was doing the Special K diet, because I am not sure coco-pops really count, more that when I am left to my own devices, I'm a super lazy eater, and what is easier to make than cereal and milk. Heck, sometimes I even forgo the milk......a handful of cereal can be the best snack! 

And as kids my brother and I used to fight for the 'top of the milk'. I always won because I've always been a morning person, and as much as he liked the cream, 6am was just not a time he wanted to see. Sometimes if I was feeling sneaky though I used to peel the milk bottle cap off, top up the milk and replace it making him think he'd won. 

But now I am trying to make an effort to eat healthier choices where possible and cereal is one of those choices - no more cocopops and full fat milk for me! I get a bit worried when I read the packets of my shop bought granola sometimes. And whilst I know that there is sugar in here, but at least it's sugar I know about. 

What you'll need:
  • 160g brown sugar
  • 75ml water
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 340g rolled oats
  • 100g chopped nuts/raisins

What you need to do:
  • Preheat oven to 140 degrees. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a microwave-proof bowl, combine brown sugar and water. Microwave 4 minutes, or until sugar is completely dissolved. Add salt and vanilla extract.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts (I used almonds) and raisins, and syrup until thoroughly mixed. Spread the mixture onto the baking sheet and bake 45 minutes or until golden and crunchy. 
  • Let cool completely then break into clumps and store in an airtight container.
I like to have mine with a bit of yoghurt. Or a splash of milk, we have a great dairy in Sheffield and the milk, even the semi skimmed is so creamy it's perfect for cereals. 


Travel: 24 Hours in Berlin

Last weekend one I headed to Berlin with a friend for what turned out to be a super packed 24 of fun. The trip started slightly later than anticipated so we ended up with a day to see the city - once we'd figured out the public transport system.  
We were booked on a free walking tour of the city to see all the historical sights. I am a massive history nerd and I've read a lot about Berlin during the wars and the Cold War, so I was super excited about this part of the day. We started in East Berlin the tour took us to visit the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Humboldt University, Gendarmenmarkt and a few other places. Our guide was really interesting - he clearly loved the city and the way it's fought to reinvent itself over the years but he was also a bit provocative so made us question our opinions too. Which I really loved. It's just a shame we didn't have longer to do the graffiti tour.

We rounded the corner to the Holocaust Memorial at the golden hour which turned what would have been an already moving experience into something beautiful too. Before we went I read about the uproar that there has been about people enjoying it but whilst we were there a group of school children were playing amid the columns and for me it seemed to fit perfectly. 
Sarah pulled a blinder and we ate awesome bacon burgers from Burgermeister. After a 3am start I also had my first Coke in about 9 months. Man it was a good meal. We also stopped by the East Side Gallery before heading out for cocktails. 
The night we had planned was a bar crawl - but we failed at the first hurdle. The first hurdle however happened to be the cutest bar in the world. Fairytale is a tiny bar, hidden behind a door you have to knock to enter, the staff are dressed like they're in a Brothers Grimm story and the champagne cocktail comes in a glass slipper. There are surprises from the minute you open the menu, and a beautiful array of drinks. I had a sake infused gin number that I won't forget in a long time!
We had planned to head down to check out White Trash Fast Food but after a couple of drinks and 24hrs of being awake all resolve to move on left us and we ordered more and more  cocktails until it was officially time for bed! 
My first visit to Berlin might not have been as long as planned (thanks for that EasyJet) but it was an absolute ball and it more certainly won't be my last! 

Tell me, where should  be go on the next visit? 


A wardrobe update with Junction 32

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to pop along to Junction 32 for a shopping spree to update my wardrobe for Autumn. Fittingly the day I picked to go was a rainy, damp, dismal day so I was really in the mood for getting cosy and finding something to snuggle up in.

Junction 32 Outlet Village is somewhere I visited a lot when I lived in Leeds and used to snowboard regularly at Xscape, but I'll be honest, it's not somewhere I've visited that much since I moved to Sheffield so I was really surprised when it took me under an hour to get there. Just a quick jaunt up the M1 and a couple of junctions on the M62 and I was there.

When I used to visit I would be with other people and we'd mostly spend our time in the Billabong store in case we could pick up something for the snowboarding we were about to do so I was quite excited to be there alone, and able to explore. I do my best shopping alone when I can mooch about at my own pace and I don't feel any pressure to buy things. In my head I had all these great intentions to hit up the Nike shop and buy new 'get fit for the winter' gym gear but as soon as I arrived those intentions we out of the window - there were just too many other things calling to me.

I did start out following my good intentions though, I headed to The Nike store but it's right next to Levis and who can resist the call of denim? I've long been after a new pair of skinnies. In my head I have a vision of a pair that fit perfectly on the waist (i.e no muffin top) aren't baggy on the knee and are super skinny on the ankle. The holy grail of skinnies I believe. I've heard that the Levi Curve range might fit this trifecta of requirements but alas it's always been a little out of my price range, the outlet prices however are a bit more affordable. Unfortunately, after trying what seemed like EVERY SINGLE pair of jeans in the shop on (to everyone in retail, I refolded them properly) I found the style I wanted but the size I needed was the only one not in stock.

But I did spot the cutest plaid shirt dress that appealed to my autumn snuggles. I tried it on and I was instantly sold. No faffing. No trying on something else. This was it. Plus, I think after all the trying of jeans the sales assistant might have killed me if I'd not bought anything!

With my dress in hand I headed back out into the drizzle to continue my shopping. I had a mooch around Mango, a little hunt in Le Creuset for something to match our green pans, I may or may not have popped into the Thorntons shop for a little sustenance too. Then I found myself drawn into Clarks by the promise of winter boots and it didn't disappoint.

My current brown boots are falling apart, but much loved so I was overjoyed to find a pair of brown, fleece lined, ankle boots, in just the right size on the shelf. They're distressed, they've got buckles and straps and they don't have much of a heel - which is perfect! They're actually remarkably similar to a pair I'd taken a photo of on a recent wander around town. And so comfortable too! I wore them all round Berlin last weekend and they are just so comfy. Plus they were an absolute steal at £50!

I also picked up some cute individual pieces cutlery to use as photo props, some American sweets for Jim and some Arizona Green Tea - it's my favourite and so hard to come across. But mostly it was just nice to take a couple of hours away from everything to have a bit of a relaxing shop and update my wardrobe a little too.

What have you picked up for Autumn? Tell me your must have purchases! 

What happens when you turn your dog into a throw?

It may have been insinuated in the past that I might creeping dangerously close to becoming a crazy dog lady, and with this new addition to the house I think I've tipped over the edge! 

Yes - what you see before you is a super cozy sofa throw with a giant picture of Flash's face on it. And honestly, what could be more glorious? Nothing, that's what! 

When the team at Zazzle got in touch and asked if I'd like to make something for the house from their photo collection, I knew after about 30 seconds that the photo would be one of the gazillion I have of Flash, and after a quick look around the site I decided on a throw blanket so that I can cuddle up with him all the time.
And honestly it couldn't have been more simple to do! 
You just choose your image from your computer, Instagram account or Google Drive and upload it to Zazzle, then you drag, drop, pinch and zoom it into place until you're happy.  Obviously as it's Flash's little face up there it was perfect right away! 
It arrived after about 10 days which I thought was really fast given that it was custom printed, and it's really soft and cosy too. I'm loving that fact that  it's getting colder so I can justify having it out all the time!

And I think that the little face-sake of the trow likes it too. I turned by back for a second and he'd claimed it as his own!

*I was given the opportunity to try Zazzle for free but all views are my own*

Maker spotlight - Snowbird Artworks

Growing up in Sheffield as a snowboarder might seem a little incongruous. I know we're near the Peaks but they're not exactly littered with ski lifts or runs, so for some it doesn't make sense that my friends and I spent most of our spare time as teenagers on the slopes.

But we had the Ski Village. A ski slope made of plastic and metal on the side of Sheffield's hills. It was where I spent my formative years and it is where I met some of my fastest friends. Because friends who know what it's like to miss the mountains are important to have. 

One of these friends is Zoe from Snowbird Artworks
Zoe's love of the mountains has meant in recent years she has spent her time making me jealous by working 2 seasons in Morzine, and taking a trip round the world,. All this travel has influenced her artwork in the most wonderful way. 

I adore the recent geometric mountains that she has recently added to her repertoire (that pink and blue one up there is to die for), but there will always be a soft spot for her original paintings in my heart - we have one of her show-covered tree scenes in our dining room!  

Zoe and I don't get to see each other very often at the moment as she's living in Wales, but when we do we spend countless hours discussing how we can make moving back to the mountains a reality. We're plumping for a lottery win at the moment, but maybe something slightly more tangible will pop up? Maybe one of you guys would like to give us a chalet, we'd look after it for you! Promise!

In the mean time if you'd like to have a small piece of the mountains in your house and make the dream of Zoe moving back to the mountains you can find Zoe's painting here on Artfinder, or there is a collection of smaller pieces including cards and brooches here on Etsy. Or you could just get in touch on Twitter - SnowbirdArtwork.

Patisserie Rose - a Food Photo Shoot

A couple of weeks ago the lovely Laura asked me to help out with some photographs for her new venture - Patisserie Rose. A beautiful shop filled with macarons in the best flavours like gin and tonic and lavender and honey.

I've been waiting to post these pics until Laura had a chance to get her site up and online. But it was such a fun afternoon. Playing with the beautiful colours, putting together the ingredients and building the scenes. It's definitely something I want to do more of.

What do you think of the results?


National wallpaper week - creating a calm bedroom

Welcome to National Wallpaper week. If, like me, you were raised in the 80's, your thoughts about wallpaper probably aren't that complimentary.  And if you'd recently moved into a house covered in woodchip and peeling yellow wallpaper, you still might have nothing good to say about the stuff. 

But there has been a growing part of my heart that's embracing papered walls, and the more patterned the better in my opinion! We've just decked out our bathroom in bold bright blue paper and when it came to decorating the spare bedroom it's wallpaper that I have turned to again. 

The bedroom as we have it at the moment is functional - there's a big comfy bed, and a wardrobe, but it's not, well, all that nice. The wallpaper in there currently is old and it has the strangest border around the ceiling. But I want to create a super calming environment for our guests. Somewhere, when they visit, they feel at home and relaxed, and somewhere that feels a little bit luxurious. I'm past the days of asking friends to sleep on the sofa with a random blanket I've found in a cupboard. 

I've absolutely fallen in love with this Mirage wallpaper from Graham and Brown. Those trees are a little bit magical and mountainous at the same time. And that shade or greige is just so beautiful too. Used on a couple of accent walls, I can see it being the perfect backdrop to my calming guest bedroom. I've also picked out a couple of other bits that I am convinced are a must in a perfectly restful guest room.   

My perfect room, for me or anyone else, must have luxurious bedding. Fluffy duvets and plumped pillows, layered with cushions for those moments you want to stay up reading. Talking of reading, I always make sure there's a stack of books in the spare room for guests to get started on (but only ones I don't mind going home with them of course.) And every good bedroom needs a bit of candle light, so why not combine it with the relaxing scent of lavender. One of the things I love about fancy hotels is sinking your feet into a soft carpet or rug - I'd love for us to have deep, soft carpets but the next best thing would be a beautiful rug. And if we can't have that, maybe a big pair of woolen socks to pad around cozily in would suffice? Every good room needs blankets. Especially in a house as old as ours, so a pile of throws stacked in the corner for snuggle emergencies make the list. And what would be a calming room be without some mood lighting? Fairy lights draped around the room definitely make the cut here!

So tell me. What else should I be including in my perfect calm guest room? What would make you want to come and stay, and maybe never leave? 

*This is a PR collaboration but all views are my own*

My Octobers Goals

Now I'm not going to be all clich├ęd and say that October is my favourite month because honestly, it's not. It's not cold enough for my liking so I find it's a strange time where you're never sure how many layers to wear and everyone gets obsessed with PSL's, which as a none coffee drinker passes me by!

But it does have it's advantages, besides the fact the changing colours of the leaves make the perfect backdrop for puppy photoshoots. Now it's tights weather it means the search for the perfect denim skirt is back on. I'm struggling to find one that's not too short but not too long, and it's the not too long bit I am struggling with. Why all the knee length skirts? And we get to meet our new nephew, he was born a week or so ago but we've not had the chance to go over to Manchester yet! And I have all these plans to make some perfect autumn cocktails. Because every season should have accompanying drinks, shouldn't it? 

What do you have planned for the month?