Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The March Edit

Okay, so March started off a bit shit. I was all set to spend the first weekend in Chicago. I had a hotel room all to myself. I had plans to meet friends. I had a ticket to HAMILTON. But it was not to be. Winter Storm Riley blasted the northeast of the USA and as a result, all the flights out of LaGuardia got cancelled. Oh, and I didn't find out until I'd already gone to the train station to get my train to the airport. 

Whilst I know that it's far better to have had the flight cancelled than to have flown in dangerous conditions, I lost out on quite a bit of $$$$ and ended up spending the weekend in Stamford barely leaving the house as the weather was so bad and it just put me in a right funk. And I'd taken a tonne of books out of the library on a whim the week before and none of them were wowing me and I was just BORED.

But the rest of the month picked up quite a bit. I realised that with my own trips planned and my mum and sister coming to visit, I didn't have too many free weekends left and that I better make the most of it and visit New York a little bit more. So I've checked out the Brooklyn Bridge again (one of my favourites), DUMBO, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and China town. This weekend I'm going back and hopefully checking out the Smorgasburg food market as it opens again for the summer.

So despite the weather not being great, I've really tried to make the most of the month. That being said, I'm glad to see the end of it. 



What I've been reading...

My favourite book this month was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It follows Eleanor who leads what appears to be a very organised and simple life. But things happen that shake up her routine and we find out that she may be hiding a darker past. This book was gripping, sad, heartwarming and hilarious all in one go. I'd really recommend it! And after I said I wasn't going to buy a copy of Ruby Tandoh's Eat Up in the US, I found a cheap copy of it online and can't wait to get stuck into it, though I did say I'd read all my library books first.

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Sunday, 25 March 2018

Recipe: Rosemary and Cheddar Soda Bread

My latest hobby is bread baking. It's ideal because I have a lot of long evenings in Stamford that I need to fill with something, and bread baking is often a relatively long process. However, one type of loaf that I hadn't tried was soda bread, which is always considered to be the easiest type of bread to bake as it involves no kneading and no proving. So I set out to read lots of different recipes to learn some more about it. I ended up knocking a few recipes together to come up with this one, based on what I had available and what sounded good. 


So here we have my recipe for cheddar and rosemary Irish soda bread. St Paddy's day may be behind us, but I promise that this bread will be enjoyed all year round. I've made this twice in the past week and has gotten the approval of my friends as we snacked on it whilst watching old Come Dine With Me episodes (god I love that show). This bread can go from ingredients to on the table in under an hour so ideal for those who are short on time but don't want to miss out on the pure joy of homemade bread.


Ingredients:

1 cup of bread flour or plain flour
1 cup of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary
1 cup of cheddar cheese, grated
1 + 1/2 cups of buttermilk


Method:

1. Preheat an oven to 220 Celsius / 425 Fahrenheit / gas mark 7 and grease or line with baking paper.
2. Combine the flours, baking soda, salt, rosemary and cheese in a large bowl. Mix until combined and form a well in the middle of the mixture. 
3. Pour 1 cup of buttermilk into the well and with one hand, begin to stir the flour mixture into the buttermilk. 
4. Try to totally combine the dough together, if it is too dry then slowly add the other half cup of buttermilk, though you may not need it. The ideal consistency is sticky and rough. 
5. Transfer onto the baking parchment in a rough circle and score the top of the loaf with a knife/razor blade in a cross shape.
6. Bake for 20 minutes and then turn off the oven, leave the bread in the oven for a further 5 minutes and then take it out of the oven. 


My favourite way to eat this bread is fresh out of the oven, spread with butter and a little bit of salt. It would also work excellently with soup or stew. If you're feeling particularly fancy, spread it with mashed avocado and a poached egg on a weekend afternoon. 

Happy baking! 

Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell
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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

How to Cut Animal Testing Out of Your Make-up Bag

When I stopped buying beauty products that are tested on animals, I thought that it seemed like a really big decision. And that it was going to be hard. And now it's 5 years later (already?!) and it's easy breezy. So to celebrate my 5-year cruelty-free anniversary, I've compiled a list of my best tips for making the transition as easy as possible. It's something that I'd really recommend doing. Whilst I try to remain open-minded, I just cannot justify the use of animal testing in cosmetics when there are so many great brands producing great products without it. I don't think that a mac lipstick or a Revlon lipstick justify it.

So these are my tips for anyone looking to stop buying beauty products tested on animals. I promise it's easier than you think.


1. Check out own-brand items

Generally, most own-branded items will not be tested on animals. From places like Boots, Superdrug, supermarkets etc. This is great news for you because this stuff is often the cheapest. Excellent for things like shower gels, toothpaste, hairspray, shaving foam, nail polish remover etc. You have to try Sainsbury's shaving foam. It smells AMAZING. Superdrug is also my go to for skincare. I love their naturally radiant range and it's cheap too. 

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

What I Ate in a Week: Vegetarian

Going vegetarian has always been something that I've toyed with the idea of but never been able to fully commit to. I've struggled with my eating in the past and have always been a little scared to approach a veggie lifestyle in case it resulted in a spiral in unhealthy behaviour. I recently watched a Ted Talk video that discussed how reducing your meat intake still has an impact. Whilst I know that it's not all that is needed, I was much more comfortable with the idea of having several meat-free days a week than with the idea of converting totally. 

However, I wanted to try eating vegetarian for a week just to prove to myself that I was capable of it. And I did it! Honestly, it was much easier than I thought it would be, in fact, I hardly noticed it. That being said, I didn't eat out during this week. And I do tend to eat only meat meals when in restaurants. But I digress. I wanted to share this post to open about a discussion about vegetarianism on my blog. I also wanted to show that real life isn't all Instagram friendly meals and 'whole foods'. Life is frozen chips and whatever is in the freezer after a long day.

Realising how much I didn't miss meat when I stopped eating it, had really inspired me to begin to really cut meat out of my diet.


Saturday
Breakfast: Orange juice, bran flakes and satsumas. 
Lunch: Sweet potato, carrot and coconut milk soup with pitta bread. 
Dinner: Mac and cheese with a side salad.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah oh nah nah.

Half of my heart is Savannah oh nah nah. 

Wait? What do you mean those aren't the lyrics?

When Jess and I went to Charleston for the weekend, we could pass up the opportunity to sneak across the state border to Georgia. Savannah is a beautiful, relaxed city located about 2 hours from Charleston. The two cities are very similar but also very different. Savannah is like Charlestons, cooler, more relaxed younger sister.


When looking at things to do in the south, plantations come up time and time again. And we were both a little uncomfortable with the idea of visiting one. We took our time to select one that would not ignore how those plantations came to be. We settled on the Wormsloe Estate which has this beautiful driveway covered in Spanish moss. The night before I went to check the opening hours and we found they were closed on Mondays (the day we were planning on going). We decided to go by anyway to take some photos with the Spanish moss and realised it was actually open for the holiday. However, we'd already planned out our schedule without going in so we didn't have time to properly go in. 

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

For The Love of Bread

When it comes to food, my favourites are often the simplest. 

That's not to say that I don't enjoy exotic spices and rich textures. 

But there's something special about the sweet tang of freshly picked raspberries, the crunch of freshly fried chips and the smooth flavour of good vanilla ice cream. 

And bread, don't get me started on bread. In fact do, because this is a blog post about bread. A love story to bread. An ode to bread. Bread.

There's just something so magical about good bread.

Freshly baked bread, warm from the oven, laden with salted Lurpak. Butter slightly melting into the bread with cool unmelted patches.


The crisp, outer edge of a grilled cheese sandwich. The crunch of the bread with oozing cheese so hot that it almost burns your mouth but crucially cold enough that it doesn't. Eaten with pleasure and speed at peak hunger. Buttery fingers cleaned later and crumbs brushed from the corners of the mouth. 

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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Charleston Travel Diary

Now there's one thing the US has got on the UK: a bank holiday in February. Not that they call them bank holidays, but still the idea is there. February 19th was Presidents' Day, a national holiday celebrated on the closest Monday to George Washington's birthday. I don't get a lot of time off of work but I love to travel so this is something you just have to take advantage of. Luckily, I had Jess as a travel buddy. We both took the Tuesday as a holiday from work too and began planning our long weekend in Charleston and Savannah.


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Sunday, 4 March 2018

The February Edit

If I go fully by what Twitter has to say, February has been a super quick month for everyone. And I mean, that's true. It's the shortest month though, are any of us surprised? February has been, for the most part, a really good month for me. I spent a lot of time with my friends, ate some good food and had a little holiday. What more can I ask for?


What I've been up to...

February has been a really busy month, which means that it's gone by really fast. Not that I'm complaining!

At the beginning of the month, I headed up to the University of Connecticut to spend the weekend there with my friends who are there on a year abroad. We went to go see their men's basketball team play against Cincinnati. They lost, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. I also got introduced to proper dorms for the first time and dining hall food. Oh.... and I ate tater tots, a classic American dish, for the first time.

The weekend after that, those same friends came to visit me in Stamford. We had a slow morning, went to the mall and watched The Post at the cinema. It was a good movie but very slow. Then my friends made mac and cheese for dinner and we drank wine and watched movies.

I still haven't gotten around to writing a big post about it, but Jess and I spent Presidents' Day weekend in Charleston and took a day trip to Savannah. Meaning I've ticked off another two states and grabbed some winter sun whilst I was at it. I have a lot of photos to get through but there will be posts soon I promise!

I'm writing this on the last weekend of February and I am planning to just relax this weekend. I'm heading to Chicago next weekend to start off March with a bang and I am excited!

What I've been cooking/baking...

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