29 April 2015

Bye Bye April: My Month in Pictures


Ah it finally feels like Spring doesn't it? This month has really marked the transition into warmer weather and like everyone else in the UK I have making the most of it as you can see by all the flowery outdoorsy pics!

I always love watching the trees turn from winter brown to spring green and our cherry blossom tree added a lovely shade of pink to our garden.  It is such a shame that it only lasts a couple of weeks before it turns brown again.

Warmer weather also calls for a clean up of my wardrobe.  I love season changes. I get to dig out all my strappy tops, floaty dresses and sandals and bag up my winter coats, scarves and thick jumpers.

My mornings are also much happier times of the day. I feel like I am actually waking up at the beginning of the day bright and refreshed, rather than it feeling like the middle of the night tired and groggy. It really makes a difference to my day, its so important to start the day happy.

I have noticed people around me are much happier too, the sun just does that to people doesn't it?  What a happier place we would live in if it was sunny every day! Maybe that's why the Californians are all such lovely people.

Anyway, with the change in weather I was finally able to get started on a new project.  This was a commissioned piece for a client.  They had a couple of bedside tables that needed a little TLC.  I painted them in Annie Sloan 'Old Ochre' just to give them a new lease of life and they looked pretty good, if I do say so myself!

I also did a little shopping to replenish some paint stock (with some exciting new colours) and invested in a few new painting tools (blog post to come). So I am looking forward to giving those a go.

My latest blog goal was to not only post more regularly (every Wednesday and Saturday) but to aim to write more of a variety of posts.  I have therefore written more foodie posts this month and I have really enjoyed it.  I have always had such a passion for cooking and I love finding new recipes to put my own spin on. So expect to see more food/recipe posts in the future.

I am so looking forward to May, its always such a good month for weather and I can't wait to get out in the garden more and get some BBQs on the go.  It will also be our wedding anniversary soon and I have written a little blog series looking back on our big day, which will be online in installments over the bank holiday weekend.

I hope you have had a great April and a blooming (see what I did there?) wonderful start to Spring.

Bye Bye April. Hello May!

xxx


Nicola Bhamra

25 April 2015

Lifestyle & Beauty: My Little Box April 2015

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

After 4 months of My Little Box deliveries, I am still yet to be disappointed about it's contents. This month's box was the 'My Little Dream Box' and centered around goals, wishes and of course.. dreams!

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

I am really starting to get excited about the beauty element of these boxes.  If you remember back to my first My Little Box Review back in December, I wasn't all that fussed about beauty products but these boxes are slowly introducing me to the world of beauty possibilities and I like it! I'm wearing more lipsticks, using more products in my hair and my skincare routine takes a lot longer these days.

So I was particularly pleased when I opened that little canvas pouch to these three lovely little surprises.

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

So this month I got a gorgeous Lip Balm £8.00 from 'Loved By..'  in a very vibrant shade of red, My Little Beauty's Repairing Mask for Dry Ends Hair Mask £7.00 for 100ml and a great Gentle Foam Face Cleanser by Nominoe. £21.15 for 150ml. Can't wait to give these a try!

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

beauty, lifestyle subscription box review

And that brings us to the last, but always my favourite part of the box, the lifestyle component.
I loved opening the 'little surprise' stitched paper cloud, it felt like I was opening a gorgeously wrapped birthday present! And who doesn't love presents!

I was so excited to find a really cute necklace/bracelet by Delphine Pariente £20.00.  The little disc was stamped with the words 'Bonne Etoile' or 'Lucky Star'..

The second lifestyle element was a lovely little rotating stamp and ink pad. The stamp has cute little phrases like 'Don't stop me now!' and 'Made with love'. I can't wait to get stamping all over my stationery.

Honestly, each month I wait for a box that will change my view and stops my subscription but every month each box tops the last. I love this subscription and I am sure you will too if you love looking forward to a little gift in the post each month!

You can subscribe here for just £11.00 a month (plus £3.95 delivery).

Do you subscribe to any beauty boxes? If so I would love to hear your recommendations in the comments below!

xxx

Nicola Bhamra

22 April 2015

Food: Classic Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid-week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese (or spag bol to most of us) has been my favourite dinner for as long as I can remember. I used to beg my mum to make it all the time and I could have probably eaten it every night if I could. I therefore like to think I have perfected my recipe to quite possibly the best spag bol recipe there is.

I don't use carrots or celery in my recipe but I know that a lot of the traditional ones do.  You will also find recipes that use half pork and half beef mince but I like to keep things simple and stick to just beef and sometimes bacon (depending on my mood and what's in my fridge).  I used to cook it for a long time over the hob but a Jamie Oliver recipe suggested cooking it in the oven and I much prefer this method.

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

An easy mid week recipe. Spaghetti Bolognese

Serves 4
Ingredients
500g lean mince beef
1 red onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon (optional)
200ml red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 sprigs of rosemary (leaves picked and finely chopped)
1 beef oxo cube
Spaghetti/pasta

Method
Heat a little oil in a saucepan and add the chopped onion, garlic, rosemary and bacon if using it and fry for 5 minutes.

Add the mince beef and break up with a wooden spoon.

Once brown add the tomato puree and cook on a low heat for 5-6 minutes.

Add the red wine and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the wine has reduced.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the oxo cube.

Bring to the boil and transfer into a casserole dish with a lid. Put into a preheated oven of 180 degrees and cook for 1 hour. After 30 minutes give it a stir and if it's looking a little dry add some water.

Cook the pasta or spaghetti according to the pack instructions.

I always add loads of cheddar cheese on top (much more than the photos)

Serve and enjoy!

 Do you have a go-to classic spag bol recipe? or do you add any extra ingredients in your bolognese? Let me know in the comments below!

Nicola Bhamra

18 April 2015

Upcycling: The 4 basic tools required for upcycling furniture

I discuss the four basic tools that I use to upcycle furniture, sanding tools, paint, paintbrushes and wax
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I haven't written an upcycling post for a while now and since it was the reason I started this blog I thought I should kick myself up the butt a bit.  It is also approaching the warmer months and subsequently the time of year that I get all of my upcycling done. 

In this post I am going to run through all the 4 really simple 'tools of the trade', something that I am often asked about. This is basically everything that I use to upcycle my furniture. I have been starting to gather up my supplies and have been thinking about investing in some more tools to add to my growing collection so I will include those too.

Sandpaper/Sanding tool
I guess logic dictates that I start with the first step of upcycling, sanding.
I could talk forever about how great Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is because it requires zero sanding but I always make sure I have a good collection of different graded sandpaper. This is so that I can use this sand down any nobbly bits to make each piece completely smooth and to rough the paintwork up a bit once it's been painted to create a shabby-chic old worn effect.

Sometimes I completely strip back the varnish from a piece of furniture, usually table tops (like I did here).  For this I prefer to use a power sander as it's just too much work for my weak little arms. I have gone for the Black and Decker Mouse Detail Sander £19.99, it's pointed tip make it really good at getting into all the little crevices. Tip: make sure you wear a face mask and do this outside as it can get messy!

Paint
I love to paint my furniture when upcycling, but it isn't always necessary. My paint of choice is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint £18.95 for a 1 Litre tin.  Mainly because of how easy it is to use, that it requires little to no prep work and comes in a vast range of lovely shades. I have babbled on about how amazing this paint is before here and all my upcycling projects here. And if you don't believe me just ask the professionals!

'Annie sloan paint was invented by angels to make everything fun' 
-Kirstie Allsopp

'Annie Sloan's paint will transform even the drabbest bunker into a haven' 
- World of Interiors

Paintbrushes
The paintbrushes I use are special chalk paint brushes that are designed to hold a good amount of paint and are perfect for achieving a lot of texture. They are easy to get hold of, you can find a good selection here.

I use one really fat one for large areas of furniture and the smaller one to get into the little nooks and crannies (do people still say nooks and crannies?) I use these to apply the wax too - after giving them a good wash!

I would like to branch out of my comfort zone a little and invest in some Annie Sloan flat brushes so that I can get that pristine smooth finish too.


Wax and cloth
I cannot stress how important it is to finish your piece with wax, especially if you are using chalk paint.  I use Annie Sloan Clear Wax and Dark Wax.  A thin layer applied directly to the piece, left over a 24 hour period and then buffed up to a shine using a cloth.

And that is literally it.  You could include stencils, hardware and loose leaf to this list but these are optional extras that add special touches to the finished piece.

I hope this helps those of you thinking about upcycling your own furniture and emphasizes just how easy it is to do yourself.

Do you have any tips on other tools that I should be using? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

xxx

Nicola Bhamra

15 April 2015

Food: Chicken Satay with Rice and Peas

chicken satay recipe, a midweek easy cheap and delicious meal

This is such a simple dish but is a winner winner chicken dinner in our household!

The part that takes the longest time in this recipe is the prep work, and really it doesn't take that long at all!  I got this recipe from the BBC Good Food website (you can find it here) which I found one evening on my laptop with a craving for peanut chicken satay.  After scrolling through pages and pages of pinterest-worthy but oh-so-many-ingredients recipes I decided to change my search words.  Instead I searched 'easy chicken satay recipe' and found this one that was really written for parents to make with their children. A brilliant, fool proof, even a child could do it recipe! Fantastic, I thought. I better not cock this up!

The only thing I changed about this recipe was the method of cooking. Instead of cooking on wooden skewers, I fry the pieces of marinated chicken.  This is solely because I can't get my grill to work. Oh and I didn't bother making the cucumber salad.

chicken satay recipe, a midweek easy cheap and delicious meal

chicken satay recipe, a midweek easy cheap and delicious meal

chicken satay recipe, a midweek easy cheap and delicious meal

chicken satay recipe, a midweek easy cheap and delicious meal

Ingredients
For the marinade:
1 small piece of finely chopped ginger
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp clear honey
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mild curry powder
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter

Everything else:
500g pack diced skinless chicken breast fillets
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp vegetable oil

Method

Firstly prep the marinade.  I like to do this the day before to leave overnight in the fridge but you could do this a few hours before.

In a bowl add the ginger, garlic, lime, honey, soy sauce, curry powder and peanut butter.  Basically everything that makes the marinade to make that easier for you.

If the marinade is a bit thick and dry I add a little bit of water to it to make it more smooth and saucy.

Take two thirds of the marinade out and keep aside (to make the sauce later).

Tip in the diced chicken to the remaining third of marinade, mix together, cover and leave in the fridge.

When you are ready to cook, heat a large frying pan on high heat and add the chicken.  Fry until fully cooked through, turning occasionally.  You want the chicken to go brown and the marinade to caramelize.

Meanwhile tip the leftover marinade into a saucepan and add the coconut milk.  Heat, whilst stirring continuously until the sauce has reduced down.

Once the sauce has reduced and the chicken has cooked through add to some cooked rice and peas.

Serve and enjoy!

Let me know if you have a favourite chicken satay recipe in the comments below or if you give this one a go don't forget to tweet/instagram/send me a pic of the final result.

xxx

Nicola Bhamra

11 April 2015

Lifestyle: My Travel Wishlist

The sun has come out in full force this week and I can't stop dreaming of beaches, pools and bikinis.

We are starving ourselves of a holiday this year due to moving house and all.  I quickly learnt from last time that moving costs money. Lots of money. So we need to save as much as we can and if that means not having a hoilday this year, so be it :)

Therefore, I can only lust after tropical far off locations this year, and that's okay.. I suppose.

After our amazing holiday to Corfu (read all about that here) me and hubby compiled a long list of all the places we would like to visit in our lifetime.  Surprisingly the majority of the list was located in Europe. Brilliant, we both thought - we can knock off a serious amount of our bucket list by not travelling very far at all!

America



Number 1 on our list of places to travel to is the U.S. I know, that's pretty vague. We would like take America, Bonnie and Clyde style (minus the robberies and killings).  Hire a car and drive. The details of this plan have not been finalised but I am thinking San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Athens
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I love Greece.  It is such a great location for a typical sun, sea and beach holiday.  However, I haven't really explored mainland Greece and all the ancient history behind it.  I would love to see Athens and learn all about the notorious Greek gods.

Paris
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Paris is one of those places that everybody seems to have experienced but me. I am yet to be whisked away by a 'knight in shining armour' to this beautiful and very romantic city. To see the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre and eat in the gorgeous little French patisseries would be a dream come true.  It's ridiculous that I haven't been really, since it is so close! Come on hubby, I think I have dropped enough hints now...

Prague
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Steeped in culture and a diverse history, Prague is another one of those European destinations I would love to see.  It doesn't have to be a proper big holiday, just a long weekend will do.  This is the type of city break that I see all the time on sites such as Groupon or Wowcher, so I am pretty sure I could get a good deal.

Bruges

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After watching the film 'In Bruges', starring Colin Farrel and Brendan Gleeson, we have been desperate to visit this beautiful city.  The film must have bought in bucket loads of tourists and therefore hiked up the cost of holidays to this place but I don't care.  I would pay whatever it costs to go here.  Definitely on our Christmas market destination wishlist too.  I have heard they have an amazing one here.

New Zealand

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New Zealand has been on my travel wishlist for a long long time.  It is one of those far off, almost unreachable locations that would definitely require a lot of planning and a lot of saving.  This would also need to be a long holiday due to the lengthy travel time and also because there is just so much to see. It is one of those countries that has literally everything. Beaches, mountains, lakes, woodland... everything and every photo I see of New Zealand literally takes my breath away.

Bora Bora
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Ahhh it wouldnt be a travel wishlist without a tropical island thrown in would it?  Sometimes all I want from a holiday is the hot sun and a white sandy beach.  I always see beautiful images of Bora Bora and it just looks like heaven on earth.  How amazing would it be to stay in one of those cute little huts in the middle of the sea. And what a sea it is, crystal clear waters, perfect for a little swim.  I think a week would be enough here, as much as I love to relax on holiday I would get a little bored if there wasn't much else to do.

Those destinations are on the top of our list but we have so many more place we want to visit, even around the UK like Edinburgh, Devon and Harrogate but I might do a separate blog post on those.

What destinations are on your travel wishlists? And do you have any holidays planned for 2015?  I would love to hear all about them in the comments below. Even if it does simply make me green with envy.

xxx

Nicola Bhamra

08 April 2015

Beauty: 10 really simple beauty tips I wish I had known sooner

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1. Double cleansing is vital to clearer skin
2. Drink more water - it is great for skin, hair and nails
3. Use masking tape as an eyeliner guide
4. Use a proper foundation brush to apply foundation, not your fingers
5. Follow your natural brow shape, and don't go crazy with the tweezers
6. A good quality pair of eyelash curlers are a god send
7. Wash all of your make up brushes regularly
8. There is such a thing as too much hairspray
9. Apply more styling product to wet hair, and less to dry
10. Learn how to curl your hair using straighteners -you won't need to fork out for a curling tong

Do you have any simple beauty tips? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

xxx
Nicola Bhamra

04 April 2015

Home Decor: My Etsy wishlist of useless cat crap


I am absolutely obsessed with my cats, we treat them like our children. Sure, some days I want to kick them across the room but I love them to bits. I am 100% morphing into a crazy old cat lady, much like every other cat owner out there, it's just inevitable, I might as well give in. So it is no surprise that I am forever finding amazing cat related items that I am dying to get. Whatever it is, it's sure to be on my favourites list on Etsy.

Top left to right: 1//2//3//4//5//6//7//8//9//10//11//12//13//14//15//16

xxx

Nicola Bhamra

01 April 2015

Lifestyle: Bye Bye March, My Month in Pictures

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The last month seems to have dragged somewhat. I don't know why, maybe because February was such a busy few weeks and seemed to fly past.  It just seems a long time since I did a 'Month in Pictures' post.

Anyway.. the last few weeks have been pretty awesome.  I have kept up with my promise last month of posting twice a week, every Wednesday and Saturday and I am pretty darn proud of myself for that. Well done me.



































I have also kept my promise of more Bobby and Charlie pics, although because Bobby has been a
needy baby, greedy baby, he has subsequently been papped more often than poor Charlie.

My Instagram feed at this time of year is usually filled with upcycling projects but unfortunately I haven't had the chance to get started on anything yet.  We are in the process of selling our house and had to clear it all out ready for photos and viewings so I am holding off filling my home with old shoddy furniture until the viewings have stopped.

This month also saw the launch of my new little project - digitally printed postcards. I have absolutely loved spending hours at the computer creating hundreds of inspirational quotes, famous song lyrics and funny cat sayings.  I have held off printing them ALL as there are millions so have started with a little collection of 17, and you can find them all HERE. So yeah, they have featured heavily on my Instagram feed this month, and expect to see a lot more of them!

OH and I got nominated for a Liebster Award so there was that. And FYI - our Christmas tree? STILL ALIVE!

xxx

Nicola Bhamra