Sunday, 18 August 2013

23. My top 5 favourite cleaning products!

Hello everyone, as promised I am about to share my favourite cleaning products with you all. These are essentials that everyone should have in their cleaning cupboard. I honestly couldn't live without them.They have helped me through some tough stains. Even if you're not a complete clean freak like me (I couldn't go to sleep after my 18th birthday party until I cleaned the entire kitchen, took out all the mess like wrapping paper and hoovered up all the party popper streamers despite the fact it was past midnight and my gal pals had offered to help tidy up but I refused to accept as they were guests). I swear I will make this post reasonably short. Note: the items are not ranked in any order of preference, I have just numbered them for ease of reading and because I like lists :)

1) Dettol- It smells lush and I love the satisfaction of it being antiseptic and it just had to be in the list as I'd say Dettol is one of the founding fathers of the cleaning product world.

2) Cif- A total lifesaver and brings back things from the dead. I love using it for rust stains which are left behind by aerosols on bathroom shelves

3) Dettol Surface Cleaner- Unlike so many other spray cleaners, this one is odourless and colourless so doesn't leave a horrible apple/lemon smell after you've cleaned the kitchen. It leaves our cooker and worktops spotless :)

4) Mr Muscle Window and Glass cleaner- It is a gorgeous shade of green and I love how it leaves no streaks behind on mirrors, windows and the microwave/oven doors. An absolute essential when you have lots of windows like we do!

5)Vax Bare Floor Pro Steam Cleaner- A Godsend! My Mum has Parkinson's and I've always been wary of her slipping on a wet floor so after seeing this on a TV advert, I decided to be brave and invest. It costs £99.99, comes with a free 2 year guarantee, 2 bottles of detergent three reuseable mop pads which you can put in the washing machine and a stand. The steam mop is incredibly lightweight (it weighs 5.5kg), takes 2 minutes to assemble (trust me I am the world's biggest failure at flat pack furniture and even I managed it) and it is just so quick and simple to use. The detergent is lemon based but doesn't have that strong, sickly scent and the Vax cleaner kills 99.9% of bacteria for up to 7 days. I love it and wish I had purchased one sooner. The delivery was free and quick (only took 2 working days). There's no need to spend hours faffing about with a bucket and a mop, it's so neat and tidy!

See, told you it would be a reasonably short post. Hope you've all picked up some cleaning tips and found this post useful. Take care.


Mancunian Sheep x

Thursday, 15 August 2013

22. Super easy okra curry recipe (V)

Hello everyone, it's the Mancunian Sheep. Slightly unusual post for you guys but earlier today I was cooking dinner for my Mum and I when I decided to share this recipe with you. My Mum started to teach me how to cook when I was 13 and I love it. Since she got Parkinson's a decade ago, there are a very limited number of activities that we can both enjoy together but we are very passionate about cooking and I've had countless hours of fun in the kitchen with her. I love it when she's well enough to cook or at least partially cook a meal because I don't really like eating my own food. Don't get me wrong, I haven't given anyone food poisoning (yet) and I've tasted far worse things (*cough* the chicken at the restaurant Rice in Piccadilly Gardens *cough*). This basic recipe is adapted from my Mum's but my method is slightly different from hers. I know several people who aren't very keen on Okra as they are quite slimy but I love their distinct smell, appearance and flavour. I've made this curry hundreds of times and it is foolproof! Anyway, I hope you give this recipe a go and if you do, comment below and feel free to add some photos. Enjoy cooking and eating this meal! :)


Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 500g fresh okra (it does seem like a lot but like spinach, okra wilts a bit when you cook it)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil/sunflower oil/ghee/butter/olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (my Mum makes her own curry powder that contains extra hot red chilli powder, tumeric, ground coriander and ground cumin but you can simply purchase it from most supermarkets)
  • A handful of cumin seeds
  • Season to your own taste
  1. Wash and the slice the okra. Peel the onion and slice it. Cut the tomatoes. I tend to cut each okra into 3 or 4 pieces and remove the top and pointy bit at the bottom.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and soften but don't brown. Add the tomatoes.
  3. To the pan, add the ground coriander and curry powder. Stir to form a curry paste.
  4. Add the okra. Combine the okra and curry paste by stirring and scatter the cumin seeds all over the curry.
  5. Cover the pan and leave for 20 minutes on a low heat. Stir halfway to ensure the okra at the top cook and the ones at the bottom don't burn and stick to the pan.
  6. Season and serve with chappati/naan bread.
So there you have it. My top 5 cleaning products and RHS Tatton Park flower show posts will be up very soon so keep your eyes peeled over the weekend. Also, let me know if you enjoy recipe posts and I will make it a regular thing (see also my apple pie recipe post which will be ideal now the weather is finally cooling down). Anyway, I am off to bed now as I have a busy day tomorrow because my best friend is coming over and we will be cooking a Mexican feast and watching Lord of the Rings. Don't you just love those Old El Paso kits? :D I am currently reading The Fault in Our Stars and it's really good so far, I've laughed out loud a few times despite cancer being the main theme of the novel. I finished reading A Street Cat Named Bob a couple of days ago and I must admit it completely changed my attitude towards homeless people having pets. Before reading the book, I used to feel really annoyed at homeless people who had dogs because I thought why are they making them suffer too but now I've realised that sometimes their animal companions are the only company they have and how they are a distraction to the miserable reality that they face on a daily basis with life on the streets and living hand to mouth. I am aiming to read three books a week during the remainder of my summer holidays. This week's books are A Street Cat Named Bob, The Fault in Our Stars and Life of Pi. Feel free to comment below if you've read any of them. Anyway, I had better stop rambling and get to bed. Take care everyone!

Mancunian Sheep x

Sunday, 11 August 2013

21. Fasting and fashion finds!

Hello all. You're already probably thinking what a weird title but all will become clear over the course of the post. I hope you're all well and those of you who are Muslims, I hope you all have a wonderful Ramadan and a beautiful Eid and make sure you carry that spiritual feeling with you and continue with the good habits you've picked up during the holy month. I'm guilty of this as usually I find it really difficult to wake up for Fajr (the first prayer of the day which is currently at ~4am) because I have to wake up to give my Mum her tablets at 2am and 6am so my sleep is disturbed anyway but I'm going to try my very hardest to carry on praying before sunrise all the time from now on. Also, Ramadan has really helped me to stop swearing and reduce my caffeine intake and I am going to keep that up as best as I can. However, I may treat myself to a cheeky Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks during Cafe Crawls and when I am studying hard for second year in the uni library :P I've surprisingly been quite busy and have managed to do quite a few exciting things whilst not eating for 18 hours a day for a month.  During Ramadan, I delivered three campus tours as a student ambassador. Admittedly, the days when I was working were the hardest fasts because I was just so thirsty from walking around for about 45 minutes so I salute all of you adults who work full time and people who work in industries like retail where you are on your feet most of the time because I don't know how you manage it. Apart from that, fasting wasn't difficult but it was really hard to eat something at 3am after eating dinner at like 10pm so most days, I just had water for Suhur (the meal which Muslims eat before sunrise to "close" their fast). Another difficulty I came across during Ramadan was when I injured my back. Being the genius that I am, I lifted a bin bag containing garden waste when we had the front garden cleared of grass and weeds but I didn't realise how heavy it would be and how high the wheelie bin actually was. Now I am quite curvy but my upper body strength is non-existent and if I'm honest, Jenny would have had a better chance of lifting that bag (of course I would never do that as I am against child labour). The pain was awful but praying really helped as even the GP told me to stay as active as possible. I'm reluctant to take painkillers and try and do some physical activity and use ibuprofen/codeine as a last resort because codeine tastes so bitter that it makes me feel like I'm having poison. Eid was on Friday and I have quite a busy week starting tomorrow but I'm going to try and fit in a run or two this week to see if I can manage a jog without too much pain. 

Apart from killing myself, I also read The Hunger Games trilogy which links to the fasting part of this post, obviously. You don't understand how excited I am for Catching Fire to be released in cinemas now. November needs to hurry the hell up! It was my favourite book of the trilogy as there were so many twists and turns but I felt the endings of Catching Fire and Mockingjay were abrupt because she completely changed the plot in one chapter and personally, the reader should have been eased into it more. For those of you who have read the books, what did you think of them? The ending of the final book irritated me too because it just seemed too unlikely. I also read The Great Gatsby which was amazing and I've been frantically trying to find a 1920's style frock online which is appropriate for a Muslim girl to wear without flashing the flesh but alas, I have had no such luck. My favourite character in The Great Gatsby is Jordan because she's headstrong and it's nice to see a successful sportswoman in an era where that wasn't commonplace. My favourite characters in The Hunger Games are Cinna because he is just so cool and composed. I also like Peeta because he is a baker :D and he's just so innocent and loyal to Katniss and he genuinely loves and cares about her. I love Katniss because like Jordan she's strong and her own person and I love how much she cares for her younger sister, Primrose. Who are your favourite characters if you've read the books mentioned above and if you haven't, what have you been reading and would you recommend them? Not to let the biologist in me disappear for almost 4 months, I also read a book called What A Plant Knows which was great. It walked the reader through the science behind the senses and gave some fascinating examples of certain species who contact the world around them in incredible ways like the Venus Flytrap which has to have two hairs touched in quick succession to snap shut and orchids which know what time of the day it is. I would recommend it to you even if you are not a life scientist because it is written in layman's terms. 

Aside from reading, I have been watching a lot of 8 out of 10 Cats. I love the special episode where 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown. I love statistics so find it interesting, I've also realised that Jimmy Carr's wonderful, contagious laugh could cure you even if you were on your deathbed and I've realised how cute Jon Richardson is. Jon Richardson is my ideal husband, I love how he spent his twenties cleaning skirting boards and he used to be a chef too. Talking of cleaning, I bought a Vax Steam Mop for my Mum as an Eid present because I worry that she might have a fall when she's using a traditional mop and the floor is wet and slippery. It is great. I highly recommend it to those of you who love cleaning. I might do a post on my favourite cleaning products seeing as many other girls do blog posts on their favourite beauty products, why not cleaning products too? Here is Jon.

Mate, look at that face! What a cutie.
Talking of comedians, I know many people dislike Frankie Boyle but I love him because he is blunt. He's also an incredible man as he's doing a lot of campaigning to bring attention to the horror that is Guantanamo Bay. Please take a thorough look at this website and share it on your social media too:  Just take a minute to put yourselves in the shoes of Shaker and the other prisoners, their families and their friends. Is it right that in this day and age, innocent men are being held in what I call hell on Earth while murderers, paedophiles and rapists freely roam our streets? No it isn't. Frankie and many others are participating in a fast which relates to the hunger strike the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay started 6 months ago. They are being tortured and force fed and held without trial. Obama has "failed" to close this despicable torture chamber but there are 7 billion of us who can change that. I pray that Allah continues to give the prisoners and their loved ones their incredible strength and patience and I hope that their reward and freedom happen as quickly as possible. It's beyond me how the guards and the politicians sleep at night knowing what they are doing to Shaker Aamer and the others.

Now for the other topic of this of this post! I have recently done quite a bit of online shopping because retail therapy is the best therapy for my back and thought I'd share some of my fashion finds with you! Below, there is a link for the product, a short description and a photo that I took where available.

Ooh, two fashion favourites in one photo hey?! 

1a) Grey bird print scarf. Unfortunately, there isn't a link available for the exact scarf I am wearing because I purchased it from the Country Living exhibition at the RHS Tatton Park flower show (I am going to upload a separate post on the flower show as it will contain lots of photos and this post is long enough as it is) but as ever, I'm not one to disappoint so here is a link for a very similar scarf: I asked the lovely lady at the stall if the company allowed customers to purchase products online as they are based in Cambridge but unfortunately not. My scarf was a bargain at £9 and it will go with so many outfits!
1b) Tee and Cake periodic table sweatshirt. This has to be the best thing in my wardrobe. I saw it online and fell in love. I know I'm a biologist but the chemist inside me from my A-level days had to purchase this. When it arrived, I couldn't stop stroking it as the material is just luxuriously soft and it's so comfortable. I'm a size 10-12 and I purchased the jumper in a medium size and it is oversized but that's how I like my clothing. Here is the link to the jumper:
They also do a periodic table t-shirt if that's more your thing ladies! 

 2) Rope Hand Chain. I don't have a photo of me wearing this as I haven't actually worn it yet but when I do I will upload it onto my Instagram page. If you have Instagram and would like to follow me, my username is shazia_4. Talking of Instagram, it was where I was inspired to buy this item. I love Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, she is so beautiful and she and Jason make the cutest couple! Anyway, Rosie uploaded a photo of herself wearing a Jacquie Aiche hand chain and I can't afford one of those so I found this on Asos which was an absolute bargain and even cheaper with the student discount! :D
(I know I should shorten my links as it looks scruffy but I'm quite paranoid of shortened links because I'm wary of them being spam/a virus. I would never do that to you guys but for those of you who worry far too much like me, I upload the full link and will continue to do so).
3) Ugg Mosaic flip flops. I love my Ugg boots during winter and I know they are hardly the best looking shoes but they keep my feet so nice and toasty in the grim Manchester weather. Ugg uses materials of a fine quality which is why their products are always finished to a high standard and last long so that's why I bought these. Also, green is my favourite colour and I love the pattern too. I purchased mine from Schuh, however they have sold out unfortunately but here's a link to an alternative stockist:

Well I hope you have enjoyed this rather long post (I swear I never intend to make them this long but I just love sharing things with you guys). Keep your eyes peeled for my RHS Tatton Park post which should be up within the next week. As ever, feel free to comment below and remember to follow this blog, my Twitter and Instagram accounts too. Before I go, I baked a White Chocolate and Raspberry Melting Cake for Eid from John Whaite Bakes which is the recipe book written by John Whaite, the winner of the Great British Bake 2012. If you haven't already bought his book then I highly recommend it especially if you love fruit like me as he has many recipes that include lovely fresh fruit. I slightly altered this recipe as John simply topped his cake with icing sugar but I used the leftover white chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries to decorate. 
Anyway, I am going to go and relax for the rest of this lovely Sunday evening and start reading A Streetcat Named Bob. Take care everyone!
Love, Mancunian Sheep x