Sunday, 23 August 2015

112. August Favourites

Hello everyone, I hope you're all well! It's actually been a year since I posted my first ever monthly favourites on here and I'm so glad that I did as they are my favourite posts to write. This month's favourites have quite a nostalgic feel to them, all will become clear by the end of the post so let's get cracking!

1. Colouring - The older you get, the more stressful life becomes so I was surprised when I saw the colouring for mindfulness range in Waterstones at why such a simple stress busting method hadn't occurred to me before. We all associate colouring books with childhood which was relatively stress free for most of us thankfully so this is such a great concept. It is nice to see a screen-less activity make a comeback and if you're a parent then you can colour in with your little ones. I love Paris and really hope to visit soon which is why I bought the Secret Paris colouring book as it heavily features two of my main interests - food and fashion (you can buy the book here). I included Paperchase in my July favourites (click here for my other July favourites) and I also bought my colouring pencils from there. They are in a really cute cupcake patterned tin which is such a good way to store them so that they don't get damaged or lost. Unfortunately, Paperchase no longer seem to have the cupcake print tin on the website but there are alternative pencil tins such as an Aztec patterned one which you can find here.

 2. Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream - Every summer I seem to fall in love with a new perfume, last year it was Givenchy's Very Irresistible L'Eau en rose and in summer 2013, it was DKNY's Be Delicious Fresh Blossom. My friend Misbah actually bought me Daisy Dream last Christmas but I'd treated myself to Givenchy's Very Irresistible so only got round to using Daisy Dream this month and it is a subtly sweet fresh scent. It's very light so perfect for summer.

Don't worry, I've not lost the lid! It's a silver sphere so the reflection of the camera lens annoyed me which is why I chose a photo without the cap on.

3. Songs from old Bollywood films - Now I did say at the start of this post that it would be rather nostalgic for fellow 90s kids and with colouring and this music favourite, you'll know what I mean. Regular readers will know that I don't listen to Indian music so I surprised myself with how much I like it, I'm actually going to order the Kabhi Khushi Khabi Gham DVD because if the soundtrack is so good then surely the movie has to be too. The second song is one that my cousin and I used to sing along to apparently when we were kids (I'm not surprised we enjoyed it as children because there's a dodgy looking Mickey Mouse in the video) and the lyrics are so adorable, the man is complimenting his wife throughout the entire song.

4. Primark candles - I mentioned a candle in my July favourites too but these smell more summery. Primark have quite a decent candle range, they look nice and although they don't smell as strong as Yankee candles, you can't really moan at such low prices. I bought the sweet vanilla and coconut one from the Primark in Chester (it is so much nicer than the Manchester one as it is less stuffy and chaotic) and I bought the Red Berry and Jasmine one from the Manchester store. I'm really impressed with the sweet vanilla and coconut one because the stronger scent is coconut which is surprising as vanilla can be quite overpowering. The berry one reminds me of my smoothies. I really like the art deco style labels. The coconut one was £2 and the berry one was £1.

5. KitchenAid Raspberry Ice Artisan Stand Mixer - I've wanted one of these since I first set eyes on them whilst watching GBBO back in 2012 and I've put off getting one until we have our kitchen refurbished. For the past month, my mum's been asking me constantly what I want for my graduation/21st birthday and she's suggested a designer handbag but I said no because I have too many bags as it is. I told my mum that I'd like a KitchenAid once we get the kitchen done but she asked me to pick the colour I wanted and order it now so here is my baby:

So far I've used it to make chappati dough, it's made my life so much easier! I also made some marmalade muffins using a recipe featured in the latest Asda magazine.

6. Andy Murray's big news and win - Regular readers will know that I am a huge Andy Murray fan and this month, Andy and Kim announced that they are expecting a baby! I am so excited and happy for them as they will no doubt make fantastic parents.

 I mean just look how loving they are of their Border Terriers, Rusty and Maggie May.

Also, this month, Andy beat Djokovic for the first time in over two years to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal and although he has been playing fantastically well this year, this victory was very much needed psychologically and comes at the perfect time just before the US Open.

Keep smiling Andy!

7. Twinings Blueberry and Apple tea - I've not included a drink in my monthly favourites for ages and although it's still quite warm, I've been loving this fruit tea. I love using blueberries in my bakes and also just topping yoghurt/porridge/granola with them so it's no surprise that I love this blueberry flavoured drink. It smells divine!

As you can see from our kitchen tablecloth, I love fruit.

8. Asda CBY Low Fat Fruit Yoghurts - Continuing with the fruit theme, my food favourite this month are these yoghurts. I just love all things peach/apricot/nectarine this time of year and in fact, peaches/nectarines were one of my August favourites last year which you can find here (some things never change). 

The peach flavour is my favourite but the other two are nice as well.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x

Saturday, 8 August 2015

111. Great British Bake Off Appreciation Post

Hello everyone, I cannot believe that I've not done this post before as I've been religiously watching the show since 2012 which to me is still the best series ever because I just loved John, James and Cathryn and most of the others that year and they were all of a very high calibre. I've met John Whaite, the winner of series 3 twice and he is so lovely! My friend Misbah and I went to the Manchester Cake and Bake Show in 2014 and met John and the winner of series 4, Frances Quinn and two of our other favourite series 4 contestants too - Ali Imdad and Kimberley Wilson.

Apologies that this photo is so blurred!

On Wednesday, the new series kicked off with Cake Week which is my favourite week as that is what I bake the most compared to bread and pastries. I've already chosen my favourite contestants for this series. I really like Marie who was Star Baker this week and also Tamil who made the most beautiful cakes. Nadiya and Flora seem lovely too. If any of you have watched in previous years then Flora may remind you of Martha who was the youngest contestant ever and participated last year.

Apologies that I've not posted a baking post since April because I've not actually had the chance to bake since my Parkinson's Awareness Week bake sale. Last week however, I had a baking day to celebrate the start of GBBO by using recipes from two of my favourite contestants ever, James Morton from Series 3 and Ali Imdad from Series 4.

My friend, Sammia actually bought me James Morton's second recipe book for my 21st birthday. I don't have his first one as I don't really bake bread but that's something that I am hoping to change as shop bought bread is so processed.

I actually really want to read James' book cover to cover because he thoroughly explains why things are done in a certain way when baking and he gives really good tips on what to do when things don't go according to plan as it says in the title. He's so cute, he reminds me of Where's Wally! :) I've only baked James' chocolate orange cookies but there's everything in the book from blackberry macarons to blueberry pizza (I know?!). I can see this becoming one of my favourite recipe books. My cookies went down a storm when I took some for the nurses at the hospital and Sammia said she liked them too. I added both the zest and juice of the orange to the cookie mix for added flavour whereas James only included the zest in his recipe. You can purchase the book here

Ali unfortunately hasn't released a traditional recipe book but he did release a free ebook last year. The best place to find his recipes and news on his other projects is his Facebook page which you can "like" here. He also has a YouTube channel which is where I followed the recipe for his raspberry and Oreo cheesecake brownie tart (trust me, it really is as extravagant and yummy as it sounds). You can watch Ali make the tart here and here is my attempt:

Hope you've enjoyed this post and if you're a regular reader you can already tell that I have given the blog a makeover so let me know what you think!

Until next time, take care. 
Mancunian Sheep x

Thursday, 6 August 2015

110. Summer Book Club Review 3 - One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond

Hello everyone, as promised at the end of my last post, here is my review for One Night in Italy. As the last book I read was set in various countries in Europe, including Italy, I thought I may as well read this next. This is the first book by Lucy Diamond that I have read and she has eight others, I really like the look of one of her other novels mentioned in the back of this book called Sweet Temptation so this certainly won't be the only book of hers that I read. 

The story is centred around Anna, Catherine and Sophie and alternating chapters are written from each main character's perspective. One Night in Italy is funnily enough not set in Italy for the majority of the book as the three women actually reside in Sheffield.

32 year old Anna Morley is a journalist who works for the local newspaper and after visiting her grandmother, Nora, she finds out that the father she has never met is an Italian called Gino. Not only does this revelation change the dynamics of her family life as she sets out on a mission to find her estranged dad, it also improves her career as she is promoted to food writer and restaurant reviewer too. Unfortunately, things aren't looking so good for Anna's love life as she sees her boyfriend, Pete kissing another woman sat by the window in Nando's (classy or what?) at a time when she needed him the most after finding out about her dad. With only her father's name and her mother refusing to speak about him for the entirety of Anna's life, it seems unlikely that she will find Gino but supported by her colleagues, she immerses herself in Italian culture by joining an evening Italian class and also attending cooking courses in the UK and Italy.

Catherine Evans is a devoted mother to twins, Emily and Matthew and wife to GP, Mike. As the twins move out for university, Catherine is heartbroken at how lonely she will be but is trying to remain optimistic as it will mean that she and Mike will be able to spend more time together. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse for Catherine as she discovers Mike has been having an affair and that he never loved her as they met on holiday when they were both at university. Mike admits that he only stayed with her as she fell pregnant. Whilst searching some documents that Mike leaves behind when he comes over to tell her that she needs to move out, Catherine discovers that Mike has also been lying to his patients but she's not sure how to resolve the problem without upsetting the twins. Catherine is a pillar of the community and participates in various voluntary activities but since meeting Mike, she has lost her own identity as he was condescending to her throughout their marriage. She wants to put herself first for once so decides to attend an Italian evening class to regain some of her lost identity.

Sophie Frost left home only a few months before she was supposed to complete her A-levels when she found out that her mum had secretly declined the offer she'd received to study Drama at Manchester. Sophie's parents had instead applied for her to take Business Studies at Sheffield. When Sophie realised, she was livid and decided to get away from them by travelling the world. Whilst living and working at a cafe in Sorrento (which reminds me of my favourite Hey Little Cupcake, Sorrento Cello), Sophie receives a phone call from her cousin, Samantha to say that her father has suffered a major heart attack (A.K.A myocardial infarction). On returning to the UK, Sophie and her parents make amends and her mum helps her to find a job as the teacher of the evening Italian class which is where she meets Anna and Catherine (what a coincidence!). Although it appears that Sophie is finally settling down and is a natural at teaching, her heart has always been in drama but she fears that it is too late.

One Night in Italy really exceeded my expectations as from the title and blurb, I assumed it would be about holiday romances for the three leading ladies but decided to give it a go nonetheless as I love Italy and really want to visit soon. Although there were a couple of things that I predicted such as Catherine's husband and Anna's boyfriend cheating on them, I think if the twists had been something else, the story wouldn't have worked or appeared genuine. Also, the name of each chapter is written in both English and Italian which I found to be a lovely touch. The three main characters of the book are very likeable as are all the others that attend the Italian class and I like how Diamond reveals a snippet of each of their lives too.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading One Night in Italy and despite it being just under 500 pages, I read most of the book in two days. It's one of those books that you can't put down once you start reading.

Rating: 5/5 

This may genuinely be the best piece of chick-lit I've read so far. It was consistently perfect and a very easy and light read which I highly recommend.

As the three books I've reviewed so far this summer have all been fiction, I think some non-fiction is long overdue which is why the next book review will be for Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams.

Until next time, take care.
Mancunian Sheep x