Monday, 21 January 2013

DeluxeBite

I've never been much of a one for subscription boxes. Even when everyone first started going mad for Glossy Boxes and all the other beauty boxes that were flying around. I'm very much a 'one and done' kind of girl - once I find something that I like and that works for me, then I stick to it until its discontinued or quite simply stops working for me. Then I find something new.

So perhaps understandably, when I was initially contacted by DeluxeBite about reviewing one of their gourmet food hampers I was somewhat hesitant. What if I didn't like the contents? Unlike my attitude to beauty products though, my attitude to food is more of a 'try anything once' approach, so I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

I wasn't disappointed. When my hamper arrived yesterday morning it was met with much excitement by both myself and my mum. Most of this excitement was directed at the venison chorizo, an exotic foodstuff that us Essex heathens have never heard the like of. We're big chorizo eaters in this family, so wanting to waste no time in sampling the wares plans were immediately made for chicken and chorizo pasta. I actually still had the  traditional chorizo that came in the previous hamper (that I never got round to blogging about, woops) so we threw that in for good measure.

You guys, it was awesome. Like, for reals. The venison chorizo is a lot darker in colour than the traditional pork one - in fact it almost looks like black pudding. When you fry it it produces very little fat, unlike normal chorizo which produces quite a lot. It still has the traditional spicy chorizo flavour but the meat itself is much richer so you get more of that flavour coming through. All in all, yummmmm. We fried it up with some diced chicken breast, peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes and served with pasta. Super quick and easy and extremely yummy.

So eager were we to crack into the chorizo-y goodness, I didn't think to snap any pictures before whacking them into the pan! I have pictures of the labels though, so that sort of counts...right?




Some of the other goodies in the hamper include some fancy coffee, some slightly odd 'fruit crisps' and some posh chutneys and relishes. I'm looking forward to the next time we have roast pork so I can slather it in the apple chutney!




In terms of content I would definitely recommend giving DeluxeBites a try, particularly if you are a foodie who is always on the look out for new products. Some of the things in the hamper are ones that I would never have come across otherwise but will definitely buy again - in fact I plan to source more of that chorizo as a matter of urgency. The only cause for hesitation for me is the price, as at £20 a box I personally would find it a little steep. That being said I'd be willing to spend it as a gift for a foodie friend and if I was a real foodie/less of a subscription box phobe I probably wouldn't be quite so quick to balk at the price tag.

Have any of you ever tried foodie subscription boxes? Have you encountered DeluxeBite before?

Lauren xxx

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snowy Sunday

Things I love about snow days:


Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur



Mad puppies in the snow



More mad puppies in the snow



Scorching hot bubble baths



A new series of Call the Midwife



Fluffy jammies and a good book

This weekend has passed in a flurry of snow and a lot of much needed relaxation. I'm still finding my feet at my new job, and getting accustomed to things being all go all of the time. As much as I'm loving it I couldn't wait for the weekend to roll around, particularly as I've been away from home for the last three. There nothing like waking up in your own bed after a good long sleep, is there?

Last night I made a pilgrimage to London in the snow for dinner and drinks with two of my ex housemates, Mark and Jack. It made me realise how much I miss them and the simplicity of male company. With the exception of a couple, the majority of my female friendships revolve around something of an obsessive mindset. He did this, she said that, what do you think that means? Even my mother is guilty of it. Its good to talk about things, but it can get exhausting at times. Boys are simple and uncomplicated. We talk, we laugh, we drink, we rag on each other like siblings, and its just so easy. We went for pizza and beers (or in my case, wine and vodka) in Soho and spent a lovely three hours laughing and catching up. I sometimes feel like I need to justify my overwhelmingly male friend-base, and encounter many a disbelieving stare when I tell people I lived with four boys at university. In truth my nine months at number 3 were the best of my time at university and I have more wonderful memories of them than of any other time. It always good to catch up and its nice that so far we have made the effort to do so - and the easy company of simple-minded male creatures makes a delightful change from the analytic conversation of girls.

Other than my weekend trip to the Big Smoke my only other adventure has been a snowy walk to the shops to stock up on provisions. Nancy had a whale of a time and her new coat (one of her many Christmas presents) has now been well and truly christened. Please do excuse my shocking camera work in the above by the way - a vlogger I am not. As I write this the snow is still falling on my little Essex home and I'm already dreading the journey to work tomorrow. Greater Anglia Rail and London Underground aren't known for their steadfastness in bad weather, in fact several services were cancelled last week due to 'extreme weather conditions' when there was little more than a hard frost on the ground. I will just have to hope for the best. And maybe wear two pairs of tights. I managed to track down a very old pair of bright pink weather-proof walking boots, so at least my feet will be warm and dry and protected from the elements.

How have you spent your snowy weekend?

With all my love,
Lauren xxx

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Still Standing!

Hello my loves!

I am here, and I am alive. And I am also completely exhausted, so this is going to be a very quick update from me! I have now started my new job and am firmly ensconced in the world of digital PR. Its a complete change from my previous job...in fact I can't think of a single parallel to draw between the two, except perhaps that they both involve a slightly traumatic commute. I'm completely loving it so far though and looking forward to learning more as I settle in and find my feet.

I am also back on the Weight Watchers wagon (yes, again) and have a new meeting in LANDAN town, as unfortunately my meeting at home wouldn't have worked out with my new working hours. Work was always a bit of a landmine for me, what with all the goodies lingering in the office, but so far I'm doing really well at the new office...nothing to do with the fact that I'm working on the Weight Watchers campaign, of course! I'm not complaining though, and long may it continue!

I really must go now, I can feel my eyes closing as I type this, but I just wanted to check in to let you know that I'm alive and well. In lieu of an actual update (I promise to be more interesting soon), here are some faves from Pinterest at the moment.


I need to remember this.



Love Frost.



Pretty much my life philosophy.



Love this...



...love this more.


Source: imgfave.com via Lauren on Pinterest

I have very strong friendships.



Harry. Always.



Smart is the new sexy.



Hilarious.


Source: nedhardy.com via Lauren on Pinterest

Couldn't agree more.



I can imagine having this conversation with my dog...


And finally, this little gem...


...which pretty much sums up my life at the moment.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

All my love, 
Lauren xxx

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Weight Watchers Challenge - Sort Your Fridge

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had been invited to be one of the Weight Watchers Blogger Ambassadors for the coming year - an offer I of course jumped at! I blogged last month about how the event we had been invited to attend and the presentation about the New Approach had really opened my eyes to how we're constantly bombarded with 'food porn' and how we're living in a toxic food environment - a post you can read here. I'm planning to write a bit more about some other aspects of the New Approach over the next few weeks, including my new favourite words 'snackification' and 'city-besity', so keep your eyes peeled!



As part of the ambassador scheme I will be set a challenge to undertake every week for the next three months. This week my challenge was to sort out the fridge and to 'de-Christmasify' the contents. My family is probably the world's worst for having a fridge full of junk at the best of times, but after Christmas its particularly horrendous. My mum also does this thing where she doesn't actually check whats in there to start with and instead goes shopping and buys the same thing over and over again, so we end up with four lots of sausages, bacon, cheese, bread, yogurts and God knows what else. All the new stuff gets shoved in the front and the older stuff to the back and as a result doesn't get used in time and we end up throwing out a lot of food, which I hate. I've told my mum that her New Years Resolution is to be better at checking the fridge and only buying what we actually need! 

That being said, clearing out the fridge after Christmas and New Year was no mean feat! The fridge was overflowing with Brie, Stilton and Cheddar, fifteen different types of chocolate, various different dips for breadsticks and crisps, and a million different types of leftover. It looked something like this:


When I was done, it looked more like this:





As I am a tragic loser and I still live in my mother's house, I am unable to take full control of the fridge and what goes in it. Burgers, sausages, cheese, cream cakes and crisps still reside in my kitchen, but I have hidden them from sight in the hope that it removes them from temptation. Healthy food like fruit, soup, veggies and yogurts are now front and center when you open the fridge, with the not-so-Weight-Watchers-friendly things hidden on lower shelves.

The second part of this weeks challenge was to use some of the Christmas leftovers to whip up something yummy and healthy. As there was an awful lot of veg languishing in the bottom drawer I decided to make up a big batch of vegetable curry.

I used:

600g potatoes
2.5 onions
3 peppers (I used two red and one green, but whatever you have will work)
About 1/3 of a pack of green beans, trimmed and chopped
A pack of mushrooms
A small head of cauliflower
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
About 6 'balls' of frozen spinach (fresh is fine of course!)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
About 3/4 of a jar (165g) of Patak's Balti Curry Paste
2 tbsp curry powder (I used medium but whatever you've got)
About 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

I threw in a few dried chilli flakes too, because I'm hardcore.

Peel and chop all the veg. I chopped mine quite large so that it didn't disintegrate into the sauce as it cooked. In a large pot or saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped garlic. Fry off the potatoes, onions and green beans, with the curry powder and plenty of salt and pepper to season. After about ten minutes add the curry paste, the tomatoes and about a pint and a half to two pints of water. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the peppers and mushrooms and leave to simmer for about another 15 or so minutes before adding the cauliflower and cooking for a further 10 or 15 minutes. The spinach should be added around 5 or 10 minutes before you serve. 

The ProPoints value for the entire recipe is 27 and it would make at least 6 medium sized portions, making it 4 ProPoints per serving. Its got a good kick to it but isn't so hot that it will blow your head off. If spice isn't your thing you could always substitute in a milder curry paste. You can also add whatever veggies you have lurking in your fridge or cupboards, just remember to point any starchy veg like potatoes or parsnips. Soups are another great way to use up your leftover veg - I have intentions towards a celeriac and a butternut squash that are currently hiding in the bottom drawer!

What do you do with your leftovers and unused food?

With love, 
Lauren xxxx

Saturday, 5 January 2013

No Legacy Is So Rich As Honesty.


How....how are we already five days into the New Year? Just, how? WHERE IS MY LIFE GOING!? I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm slightly freaking out at the prospect of turning 23 this year, even if it isn't until September. I know a lot of my readers are older than I am, so please don't misread this as me age-bashing anyone out there, but I feel like at 23 I should have more to show for myself. All I really have is my degree. And thats great, but lets be honest, who doesn't have a degree these days? I look at friends and relatives and other bloggers and colleagues and basically anyone I meet, and while I know I shouldn't I still can't help but to compare myself to them in many ways. Here I am staring down the barrel of that terrifying age group 'the mid-twenties' and I have very little to show for my time on our lovely planet earth. By the time my mother was 23 she had her own house and two babies, and while thats not the route I want for myself, I still can't help feeling that slight pang of disappointment that I haven't really achieved anything yet. No car, no flat, no prince charming, no elusive goal weight, no million in the bank, no Mulberry or Louboutin in my wardrobe (yes, my expectations have always been this unrealistic. I'm working on it.) I do however have an exciting opportunity in the form of my new job, which I start in two days, so I'm hoping that doing something that I really enjoy and feel passionately about will help to give me some sort of purpose in my life...as opposed to feeling like the sad old spinster who is still living in her mother's spare room.

Wow, I didn't intend to start this post with a spiel of negativity and 'woe is me' mentality. Just to clarify, I do appreciate how lucky I am and the wonderful things and people in my life. My worries are not necessarily focused on the materialistic, but more what I would have liked to achieve on a personal level. Although lets be honest, the materialistic is often an indicator of achievement, so I guess the two go hand in hand. It also lends itself quite nicely to what I had intended this post to be about (I really need to start planning posts properly, instead of just going off on a complete tangent the second I sit down in front of the computer).

At the beginning of the year, the 'blogosphere' (God, I hate that term) is overflowing with resolutions and goals posts. I had intended to do one myself, but not only did I not have time to sit down and write it, I also didn't have time to think about what I actually wanted my New Years Resolutions to actually be. The age old mantra of 'lose weight' is getting old for me now, so while it is obviously still my intention to eat healthily, follow the Weight Watchers plan, exercise regularly and 'all this noise' as my friend Nicole terms it, I'm choosing not to label that as a resolution in itself. The way I see it, the last digit of the year should not have to change in order for me to be focused on eating right and exercising. That should be my focus every day. 

The generics 'be more organised' and 'save money' aren't really doing it this year for me either. Since starting work my organisational skills have improved tenfold, and while they still leave something to be desired (the concept of getting clothes ready the night before is still alien to me) I tend to be fairly well organised most of the time. And as for saving money....pah. Given the fact that aforementioned dream job comes with a pay cut (and I wasn't earning much before) being able to save anything is a somewhat unrealistic goal. I'm choosing to go with 'spend more wisely' instead of attempting to save a specific amount. So no more frivolity in Boots or Topshop and a serious cut-back on pre-work Hazelnut Lattes and post-work Cabernet Sauvignons. Woe.

So, what are my resolutions and goals for 2013, I hear you cry? To be honest its something I probably shouldn't have to resolve to do at all. It is, quite simply, to be more honest. Don't get me wrong, its not like I am a pathological liar or anything like that, but its something I need to work on. Mostly in regard to being honest with myself, but also being honest with those around me. After reading a lot of blog posts recently, for example Josie's brave post about 'it being ok to not be ok', and Kelly's post about cutting the BS and really being honest with yourself and what you want, I felt like it was time for me to do this as well. I tend to kid myself into believing that I am being honest about everything thats going on with me, but in reality I'm not. If I'm having a bad day or week I tend to steer clear of the blog for instance, because I don't want to drag my negativity on here and ruin anyone else's day. Its only reading posts that aren't all sweetness and light and look-how-perfect-my-life-is that has made me realise that I'm looking at things the wrong way. Because nobody is perfect. Nobody is in a good mood every single day. Nobody is 100% spot-on with diet and exercise every single day. I would never, ever read about someone else's bad day/week/month/year on another blog and think anything other than 'Good for them. They're facing up to their problems and moving past it.' So I don't know why I've had such a block about it on my own blog. I guess part of me is a little ashamed and embarrassed, because after almost three years on Weight Watchers I'm still not there yet. But so what? These three years would have passed anyway, so what does it matter whether I passed them at goal or on my way there? Either of those is still a hell of a lot better than the alternative. I also avoid posting when I'm in a bad mood, when I've had a bad day or I'm just generally feeling a bit glum - but why!? Are any of the people reading this superhuman beings who don't have bad days? Are of you truly, honestly, on 100% top form every moment of every day? Can any of you hand on heart say that you never struggle, never stress, never panic, never feel even a slight bit sorry for yourself for no other reason than just 'because'? No. Of course not. Despite the fact that we all sit behind our computers and communicate (for the most part) solely via the joys of twitter and blogger, we are all human beings. Encouraging and inspiring people on this blog is part of who I am. Overeating and being allergic to exercise is part of who I am. Recovering from depression is part of who I am. Marilyn Monroe once said that 'if you can't handle me at my worst, then you don't deserve me at my best' and I couldn't agree more. So from now on I will endeavour to be completely honest on this blog. If I'm having a bad day, either food and exercise wise, or even just mood-wise, I'll be honest about it. Scout's Honour.

I will also make an effort to be more honest with both myself and the people around me 'in the real world'. I do this thing where I don't really talk about 'feelings' and 'emotions' and all that drama, which really doesn't do me any good. If you're not honest about how you feel at the time, then its difficult to do so later on because to all intents and purposes the people around you don't see it as a big deal. I'm not sure if I'm making much sense here, but to clarify - for example if I'm interviewing for a job, and I underplay to friends and family (and myself) how much I want that job, it then becomes more difficult to show how upset I am in the event that I don't get it. Does that make sense? Probably not. But I know what I'm talking about. And that is whats important. Admitting to the people in my life that I feel a certain way is not going to send them running for the hills - unless I admit that I'm feeling homicidal, and thats a whole other blog post. I need to work on the whole 'having and showing emotions' thing, as opposed to maintaining my impenetrable Ice Queen facade. Don't get me wrong, being an Ice Queen can be kinda fun, but maybe its time to thaw out. Just a little bit though. I don't think I'll ever be comfortable being one of those people who cries all the time. Or ever. 


So there you go - thats my resolution. What are your goals, aims and resolutions for the year ahead?

With all my love,
Lauren xxxxx