Friday, 27 February 2015

Lazy Girl's Bara Brith

When it's cold and grey, and a little miserable outside, nothing lifts my spirits like a good baking session. I pop the radio on, tie my hair up and don my pinny to while away a few hours in the kitchen. This recipe is great because not only is it easy to bake in the first place (add a few tweaks) but it delivers on taste too, and slathered with a little butter is enough to brighten even the grey-est of moods. The name Bara comes from the Welsh word for bread, as it is traditionally baked in a loaf tin. And I first fell in love with this Welsh delicacy aged 7, on a school trip to a local open air museum with it's very own Victorian PopTy (Bakery). It was love at first bite.

The lazy girl label comes from tweaking a few ingredients to what you might have in your cupboard already, so when the moment takes you, this scrummy fruit loaf can be rustled up at the drop of a hat. The usual self-raising wholemeal has been substituted for white self-raising, soft brown sugar for standard caster sugar, and rather than worrying about having fresh lemons in your kitchen, a spoonful of squeezy Jif lemon leftover from pancake day will suffice. I apologise in advance to any Welsh ladies' relatives who may be turning in their graves at my meddling with such a classic recipe. I mean no offence. I just love cake, and sometimes I need right now!!

You will need:

300g Dried Mixed Fruit.
400ml hot tea (black)
350g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1tsp lemon juice
100g caster sugar
1 egg

If you're not champing at the bit for a cake fix and can wait a few hours then, steeping the fruit in hot tea and leaving it to soak overnight is ideal. If you really can't wait that long, then simply a couple of hours will be enough but, the cake won't be as moist.

The rest is simply the work of moments. First things first, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 or 180c. Add the rest of the ingredients together, in a large mixing bowl. Then draining with a slotted spoon add the soaked mixed fruit, making sure to keep the tea to add in a second.
Slowly begin to mix everything together, adding the reserved cold tea bit by bit, until the mix loosely drops from the spoon. (Don't worry if you use it all. This is sometimes not necessary.)

Pour the mixture into a loaf tin and bake in the oven for 45-55 mins.

This scrumptious fruit loaf is best served warm, slathered in butter and with a good strong cup of tea to wash it all down.
Yum! You know where to find me on St David's Day.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Hexies: My latest crafting addiction...

I know things have been a little slow here on the blog lately. Needless to say, I've been whole heartedly embracing the 'Go Slow' mentality recently. The day job has been taking over a little, and by the time I come in the door, I'm almost instantly ready to crawl into bed.

A little light crafting in the evenings, snuggled up infront of the telly has certainly been helping to lift my mood, and switch my brain off from anything work related. I've been going through piles of scraps which have been saved in bundles in our spare room. Not bearing to part with them, in fear that they may come in handy one day. And they most certainly did. For any thrift-loving crafter, a hexi-quilt is the perfect excuse to use up any left over scraps from a recent project, and even better, each little piece of fabric can tell a story. From that favourite pair of pyjamas that have seen better days, to a left over scrap from a project you gifted to someone else but wish you'd kept for yourself.

You may have noticed on my instagram feed, that I finished my very first hexi quilt just before Christmas. Many an evening is spent snuggled under it with my dear husband, in our draughty living room. It now permanently lives on our bed too.

It's such a great sense of achievement seeing a pile of paper pieces turn into lots of lovely tacked little hexagons all lined up in my favourite Emma Bridgewater tin. It's even more rewarding to see them in all their glory as a quilt too. And what's even better is that they can be taken anywhere with me, so long as I can rest my little tin on my lap. The husband is much happier too, as I can quickly tidy away my mess at the end of the evening, packing all my sewing bits into my dinky little Peter Rabbit house tin, and I can sort all my hexies into colours too.

You'll be surprised how many hexies you can tackle whilst watching an episode of Friends on Netflix, or in half an hour whilst dinner is in the oven. I was even more surprised that I managed to complete a Moses basket sized topper in just over a fortnight's worth of evenings. I can't wait to see the look on my friends face when I give it to her before she goes on maternity leave in a couple of weeks.
This lovely blog post was one of my main sources of inspiration whilst learning to make my first hexi-quilt. Not to mention the fact that she uses the cutest fabrics.

So what are you waiting for? If you're looking for a craft project that won't leave you chained to your sewing machine, yet gives you the biggest creative fix, then this is definitely one for you.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the quilt as it grows and grows. Enjoy your weekend lovelies.

Hannah. x


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Wednesday Bliss: Looking forward to...

This week has been a strange one. Not really filled with anything exciting. Just hum-drum day to day stuff...a comforting meal in the oven, a cuddle on the sofa watching Broadchurch, tackling a mountain of laundry. But nevertheless, my attempt to slow down last week has finally started to pay off.
On Sunday, myself and the Mr enjoyed a lovely chilled out day which began with a scrumptious breakfast of French Toast and coffee, followed by a trip Aldi for our fortnightly shop (well, there is only two of us) listening to Stephen & Emma on the Radio. We then vegged on the sofa watching Netflix before strolling into town to catch an afternoon showing of "Selma", where we munched handfuls of sweet popcorn. And finally, we returned home to prepare lunches for the working week ahead before crawling into bed for an early night.

So, this week I am still very much in a cosy and leisurely mood. Here's a few things that will help lift me over that horrible hump in the middle of the week, and bring me safely towards to comfort of the weekend.

No plans. Yes, that's right. Having nothing planned. Absolutely nada. Zip! My day off during the week usually falls on a Thursday and this week I am pleased to say, I have literally nothing planned. No doctors appointments, no errands to run, no important phonecalls to make. I cannot wait! I'll probably fill the day with lots of other nice things but for now, I'm feeling quite content in the knowledge that I'll just see how the day pans out.

Spring! I can feel it. It's just around the corner. Shrove Tuesday has been and gone, much to the delight of my waistline. Bunches of daffodils are finally starting to appear at my local greengrocer. And the days are slowly starting to get longer. No more walking home from work in the dark. Yippee! I'm craving those days where I can sleep with the window open, and snuggle down in my duvet against the early morning chill. Or an evening where I venture out for milk in just a chunky cardigan wrapped tightly around me. Come on Spring. Hurry uppppp!

Birthdays. I turn 26 in exactly 6 days!! I've always been a big kid when it comes to Birthdays but this year feels a little different. I've been rather grown up and asked for 'tasks' rather than gifts. From my husband, a home cooked meal, so I don't have to lift a finger...and from my sister, a birthday cake made by her own fair hand (my sister makes the best cakes). We will be sharing a special birthday lunch at my parents house, and then travelling up to London a week or so later to stay with my eldest sister, and visit Harry Potter World! Yaaaaaay! See I told you I was a big kid.

So, let's use this week ahead to hunker down, and find out the little things that make our day a tiny bit brighter. Or slow down and take a look at the things which you didn't realise had happened at all but, actually turned your day around for the better.

Have a lovely week ahead. I'll catch up with you all soon.
Hannah. x

P.S. Check out this lovely blog I discovered while perusing Pinterest. I may not be able to understand the Finnish but, her pictures are truly beautiful. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wednesday Bliss: Slowing Down

This weeks theme for Wednesday Bliss is all about slowing down and appreciating the simple things in life. As you all know too well, this is something that is particularly close to my heart, and one of the main objectives I set myself when starting up this blog. 

This week has been full of lots of lovely things but, nevertheless I have been taking the time to indulge and enjoy the weeks events with a full heart breathing in every last lovely second of it.

Long & languid breakfasts. I'm more than guilty of being an espresso on the go kind of girl. (I blame my Italian colleagues for this habit.) Downing a hot coffee hit in one, whilst my porridge is spinning in the microwave. However, this week I've been making an effort to take a little more time. Such a simple act of mindless stirring with a wooden spoon making my porridge in a saucepan, and preparing my morning coffee in a cup and saucer completely changes my mood. I can go from fraught, rushed and snappy, to chilled and feeling positive in a matter of minutes if I change only a couple of things about my morning routine.

Coffee with friends. Normally gulped from a takeaway cup, whilst running to my next errand. But, oh no, not this week. Thursday, just past, I enjoyed a lazy brunch of toasted tea cakes and jam with some lovely inspiring friends. Which soon turned into a hefty lunch of fish finger sandwiches and macaroni cheese, hatching our plans for world domination. Knowing I had nowhere to be, as we scribbled ideas in our notebooks is one of the best feelings.

Evening Telly. Yes, I am one of those people. The sort that schedules social occasions around certain television programmes. And I am not ashamed in the slightest! "I can't tonight, sorry. Wolf Hall is on" has passed my lips on more than one occasion recently. There's nothing quite like the ceremony of rushing to get the kettle on, and hauling the patchwork quilt off the bed, ready to hunker down for the evening, nerding out to a favourite TV programme. 

What are your plans for the next week ahead? Have you had anything to look forward to and help you get over hump day?

Looking forward to catching up with you all soon,
Hannah. x

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Are you feeling Pretty Nostalgic?

I know I am!!

Some of the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a couple of buttons on my sidebar about 'Pretty Nostalgic', so let me tell you all about it.

Pretty Nostalgic is a beautiful quarterly published compendium founded by the fabulous Nicole from South Wales. It features hand-picked content written by passionate contributors, and not just journalists, about a whole range of subjects which celebrate a creative and sustainable lifestyle. (Something we all know I rave about on here.) It doesn't feature any adverts, only promoting the wares of it's dedicated readers and society members, sharing and networking business amongst a growing team of artisans, crafters and generally fascinating people all over the country, and even further afield.

I stumbled across Pretty Nostalgic back in my Uni days amongst the likes of Cross Stitcher and Period Living magazine in my local WHSmith. It immediately caught my eye, striking a chord in my fashion industry exhausted heart with it's thick litho-printed pages, and beautiful images of vintage fashions and lifestyles. It was love at first sight. The magazine has since re-launched itself as a society, inviting its members to get involved in a community of like-minded individuals who crave a slower pace of life, appreciating good quality hand-made products from businesses who may reside on your doorstep.

The Pretty Nostalgic Society's motto is “Spend Wisely, Waste Less, Appreciate More” which is how I try to live my life every day, and is the general ethos of this whole blog also.  

It is passionate about living a sustainable lifestyle too. Paying a fair price for goods, and paying it into the hands of the people that produce those goods, so they can put their money back into the local economy. It's not just about the handmade either, it's about recycling too. From mending a moth-eaten wool jacket, to re-wiring an old radio, or even making a dress from a pattern and not just nipping down to your nearest shopping centre to pick something off the rack.
It's about celebrating our skills as individuals, and passing on a legacy to those that come after us. It's about showing that we are not just a generation of consumers, but showing that we appreciate the time and effort which has gone into making something, so the person that made it might earn a living.

If you're currently reading this, and thinking “Oh my goodness, I know exactly what you mean. I wish more people had this frame of mind.” Then you need The Pretty Nostalgic Society in your life.

  • The compendium is published in March, June, September and December.
  • It costs £12 for each issue, if you buy individually.
  • Or you can subscribe for £40 for the year, or 4 quarterly payments of £10.

Not only will you receive this beautiful publication but you will also be given discounts to Pretty Nostalgic Businesses, as well as being invited to local, regional and national meet-ups, getting a chance to meet like-minded individuals who are just as potty about being a Nostalgianeer as you are.

And just because I love you all so much, here's a sneaky peek at the cover of the next issue, due out in March. Be still my vintage loving, beating heart.

I'll catch up with you all very soon.
Take Care,
Hannah. x

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wednesday Bliss: Go Get 'em Tiger...!

Recently, whenever I've been needed a bit of inspiration all I need to do is log into my Pinterest account, and there it is on my news feed. Just like that...the exact words I needed to hear/read...right on the money. Hey presto!
This might have something to do with the fact my dear friend Charlotte also pins very similar, lovely up-lifting and motivational things, which seem to pop-up but I also like to think it's got something to do with the fact that I'm actually starting to put my own positive plans in motion.
So, the theme for this week's Wednesday Bliss is... Motivation!

Girl Power. I've recently finished reading #GirlBoss and I'm feeling all kinds of fired up. I've been watching TEDtalks like they're going out of fashion and reading lovely positive articles about women being kind to each other, and cheering each other on. No bitching, or moaning will be found here, thank you very much. We only have positive words to say about our fellow woman...OK? 

Wearing my Geek tag with pride. My name is Hannah and I am a self-confessed Harry Potter addict. So, needless to say, I am more than excited about our up-coming visit to Harry Potter Studios tour in Watford. So much so, that I bought myself a Gryffindor t-shirt to wear (with my Gryffindor scarf) whilst I am wandering round taking in every second, and re-living the magic of my childhood.

Be Happy! I've got lots to be happy about right now...some of them big (two close friends having babies...12 hours apart), some of them little (Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley on the same episode of Comic Relief Bake Off) but, nevertheless, I am seeking to find little moments of happiness from each day to the next. Sometimes my melancholy really gets the better of me, and other times it's just a distant memory. Which is why I am determined to use this new dose of motivation to try and find those little moments of happiness everyday...and long may they continue.

So, what are you waiting for? Pay a lovely complement to a female colleague...share with others something you're a little bit nerdy about...and find a happy moment in your hum-drum day. I promise it'll beat that 'Horrible Hump Day' feeling into next week.

See you soon,
Hannah. x

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Favourite Cruelty Free Products

I've never been one for New Years Resolutions. I always thought they were a little bit naff, and for people who were a little bit flaky. My resolution was always not to make resolutions, and thus far it has served me quite well. Until I read somewhere that the trick to making them stick, was not to cut out certain things but, to try to do more of something and put a positive spin on it. So, one of my resolutions this year was to use more cruelty free products. For those of you who aren't familiar, cruelty-free means the product itself nor any of the ingredients have been tested on animals. Win, win all round!

So, what better way to kick things off by sharing with you all a round up of my favourite cruelty-free bath and beauty products. Let's kick things off with my favourite...The Body Shop.  

My mum has been buying their products since before I was a baby (back in the Anita Roddick days), and has passed on her love of them to me. The smell of their Strawberry Lip Butter, and Satsuma Shower Gel transport me back to my childhood every time I get a whiff. This brand was one of the real pioneers of cruelty-free beauty products. They were campaigning against animal testing long before it was cool, or anyone else had cottoned on, and have remained true to their ethics ever since. (Although there has been a little controversy in recent years about their buy out by L'Oreal. Ooer!)
My products of choice have got to be their Raspberry Body Butter, their Honey eau deToilette, and of course that old classic Cocoa Butter Hand & BodyLotion (which I use on my face, just like my mum.)

Who knew high street giants such as; Superdrug and Boots own brand products weren't tested on animals? I didn't, until a very nice hippy friend filled me in on the details. I am now a massive advocate for the “Simply Pure” range from Superdrug. Their Micellar Water is great for removing make-up and is perfect for sensitive skin, and the price tag isn't bad either. As is, the Boots Botanics range. Their Rosewater Toning Spritz has a really delicate scent, and the Ionic Clay Mask makes my face feel like it can finally breathe after layers of make-up and city pollution have attacked. Another thing I also swear by, is their Lavendar Oil. Perfect for dotting on the corner of your pillow if you're having trouble sleeping, or I put a little dab on the collar of my top sometimes to help with the nerves if I have a pretty big meeting coming up.

I am pretty fussy when it comes to make-up. My poor sensitive skin can't just handle any old foundation and concealer without breaking out in massive spots. So when I find something that works, I stick to it like glue. Which made trying out cruelty-free cosmetics a particular challenge. I was chuffed to bits when I discovered e.l.f cosmetics though. Not only are they based in Wales ,with their flagship store in Cardiff but, they are really reasonably priced and the coverage of their base products is amazing. (Just £7.50 for foundation!) I'm really looking forward to trying out a few more of their products too...including the HD Powder, and their brow kits.  

I've also begun to spread the 'cruelty-free' love around our house too, by getting the husband to jump on the bandwagon also. He's a big fan of the OriginalSource shower Gels as they too, smell as divine as The Body Shop ones (and they contain completely vegan ingredients). I'm also using Baylis & Harding hand soaps around the house. And my all time favourite handcream (the smell reminds me of my Grandma) is Crabtree& Evelyn Rosewater Hand Therapy. It's absolute bliss!

If anyone else has got some recommendations for other cruelty-free brands, or products they swear by, I would love to hear from you. Perhaps we could get a bit of a list on the go to help spread the word to other readers.

Catch up with you soon,
Hannah. x