Sunday, 30 September 2012

Love Where You Live - Blogging Challenge



Earlier this week I posted about loving where I live. It sparked a few conversations (in real life, no less!) and in the comments Kati mentioned she lived in Finland but she didn't think it was very notable. Now, I think Finland sounds very interesting and I reckon she should do a post about it because I, for one, would love to read it.

Examining the readers of Caught My Eye I can see they come from all around the world. It would be great if some of you would blog about where you live. If you don't think it's interesting maybe try and view it through someone elses eyes because I bet there are features you take for granted that are not run-of-the-mill or boring at all.

If you need a little help to get started here are some questions to answer or things to photograph.
  1. Where do you live (it's ok, I don't want your actual address, but more specific than "England" would be good)
  2. How long have you lived there?
  3. What is your favourite thing about living there?
  4. Where do you go when you need a little peace?
  5. If you could go anywhere local right now, where would it be? 
  6. Why?
  7. What would you change about where you lived?
  8. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you and why?
The idea is to sell where you live to someone new and who knows, maybe even yourself. Add lots of pictures and let me know if you do blog about it with a comment here, Twitter or Facebook because I am wonderfully nosy and want to have a look.

Silent Sunday - 30 September 2012




Saturday, 29 September 2012

Random Likings

Phew! It's been pretty busy around here lately. I've seen some great stuff I've been meaning to share for ages and finally, thanks to my son's 5am wake up call (love you, Bear) I get a chance to do it. Dig in.

1.YouTube makeup instruction tutorials
I found this video by Christin Cook and quickly got sucked into watching other makeup instruction tutorials. It's great to try out new techniques and I've been doing my eyelashes like this quite a bit lately, even splurging on my first eye-lash curler (at the grand old age of 38). I think it works best towards the end of the week because I'm a bit sluttish when it comes to removing my mascara properly so it builds up.

There are heaps of other great beauty blogs and tutorials online so it's definitely worth a search if you're feeling a) stuck in a make-up rut and b) procrastinating about starting work and/or clearing out the cupboard under the sink.

    2. James Bond Skyfall


    Due out 26 Oct 2012. Can't wait. Love Bond.



    3. My Slow Cooker


    Fellow Meal Planning Monday-ers will know I love my slow cooker and with the weather shifting into autumn it's getting even more use. If you haven't got one then what are you waiting for?  You can pick a amall 1.5L one up at Argos for just £9.99 at the moment, or a 3.5L one for £11.99. Mine is just your basic bog standard, plug it in, 3 settings job and it's served me fine for years, but you can get fancy-schmancy ones with timers and stuff if you want. I can't rave about slow cooking enough but I will try. It saves time and washing up an you can use it for loads more than just pie fillings, soups and stews.

    There are tonnes of great slow cooking recipes online that use proper ingredients (not just cans of soup) so search around and use the term crock-pot as well. Six Sisters have good tips if you're a slow cooker novice.


    4. Eye bombing (eyebombing.com and www.flickr.com/groups/eyebombing)
    Humanizing the world, one googly eye at a time.

    Stuff like this makes me smile.



    5. Apple Of My Eye
    We can thank Josie and Rachael for this one. Picking up on their Twitter conversation about the singers in this Claims Direct advert and procrastinating about starting work and/or clearing out the cupboard under the sink (no change there) I found that one of the singers is in London based folk band Apple of  my Eye. I'm not a big folk lover, it has to be said, but I found a couple of tunes and really enjoyed it. Worth a listen.



    Thursday, 27 September 2012

    Love Where You Live

    Do you love where you live? Or do you dream of moving? I am somewhere in between the two in that I'd like to move about 15 miles north of where I am, but I also love that I've got some great places right on my doorstep (as well as some not-so-great ones, but I'm nothing if not good at turning a blind eye when it suits me). It took me a little while to settle down when I moved to Wales. I came from this

    Warriewood Beach (picture taken by Philip Johnson )


    to this being the closest beach, and even that is an hour away




    It took a while to re-educate my brain to not see the lack of beaches but the astounding beauty of the mountains and valleys, and now I love where I live. It's not just about the way the place looks, which is very green with lots of fields and mountains (I am quite happily ignoring the industrial estates, closed shops and ugly housing estates which blight so much of South Wales, as they do the rest of the UK), but the people. I love living in a relatively small community where I see someone I know pretty much every time I go to the shops or take one of the kids somewhere. People are friendly, down to earth and have a cracking sense of humour, and I've never ever been made to feel unwelcome.


    I have chosen to live where I do and it's a choice I'm happy with although I'd love to get back to Sydney a whole lot more than I do, with 4 people and the price of flights being what they are, it's just not possible. I honestly never expected to live where I do, but now I can't imagine living anywhere else. Even if we won the lottery tomorrow we'd still stay within around 15-20 miles of where we are.


    Do you love where you live, or would you move in a heartbeat?

    For more information on visiting the area check out
    www.breconbeacons.org
    www.visitwales.co.uk
    www.abergavenny.net
    www.visittorfaen.gov.uk
    www.breconcottages.com


    ETA: If you like this, check out the Love Where You Live blogging challenge and link up!

    Monday, 24 September 2012

    Meal Planning Monday - 24 September 2012





    Hello and welcome to a new week of meals. Sorry if this post looks a little weird. Blogger has changed its format and I'm not used to it yet, being the creature of habit that I am. Last week saw me struck down with pneumonia suffering from a bit of a cold and I just couldn't be bothered a couple of nights. Friday night I was exhaused and still had four kids to feed, so dinner consisted of a platter of oven pizza, chicken goujons and a bottle of tomato sauce for vitamins. Two of them weren't too bothered since they were home when I made some Caramel Marshmallow Popcorn, and the other two were placated with a Milky Bar dessert pudding thing. That's a week's worth of processed food in one meal and we all survived, hooray!

    The ham in coke went really well in the slow cooker, but I wasn't a fan of the cashew chicken and will probably go back to my usual honey-soy recipe next time.

    This week I'm aiming for:

    Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini. Had this the other week and it was really nice.
    Beef and vegetable stir fry with rice noodles
    Fridge Frittata
    Beer marinated sausages, crusty bread, salad, onion relish
    Home made burgers and wedges
    Slow cooker smothered chicken 

    I'm also going to do these Gooey S'mores Cookies this week because my S'mores board is getting very full and I really want to make something from it. 

    So, there you have it. What are you eating this week? Let me know if you've got any recommendations and be sure, as usual, to check out Mrs M's linky for more Meal Planning Monday posts.

    Saturday, 22 September 2012

    Caramel Marshmallow Popcorn

    I pin so many American recipes without the intention of making them. I just love the photos and the sound of them - kind of like window shopping, I guess. I have 5 kids over this afternoon and the weather is pretty rubbish so I thought I'd try this recipe for Caramel Marshmallow Popcorn I found at Chef-in-Training. I was going to do a s'mores version but stuck to this recipe because at least I know this one works.

    These are the instructions but make sure you check out the website as Nikki has some awesome recipes.



    Ingredients

    Instructions

    1. Pop popcorn until done, remove any unpopped kernels.
    2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.
    3. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and marshmallows.
    4. Turn heat to medium and stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.
    5. Pour over popcorn and stir in until popcorn is evenly coated.
    6. Store in an airtight container.

    It  goes all sticky when it cools, and it's worth stirring it again before it cools completely as the sauce sinks to the bottom of the pan. It is gorgeous but very sticky


    Monday, 17 September 2012

    Meal Planning Monday - 17 September 2012

    For some reason this week I didn't cook everything I had planned to. Not sure why, but it means that this week
    Beef Fajitas (from the freezer)
    Turkey Curry (from the freezer) 
    and Baked chicken, broccoli and rice 

    are all back on the menu.

    Joining them are:
    Crock Pot Cashew Chicken from Daydream Kitchen
    Nigella's Ham in Coke in the slow cooker
    Frittata and salad (probably using leftover ham)
    Left overs or fed for selves

    I've got a really busy week this week so the slow cooker will be my secret weapon in getting hot nutritious in front of my family that, frankly, I don't care if they eat or not. I figure I've done my duty by getting it there this week, 'cause that's the sort of mood I'm in.

    Last week's unscheduled successes were Oaty Blackberry Pudding and Nando's Lemon & Herb Peri Peri Seasoning Rub which I did on roasted chicken breasts on Saturday (served with spinach, sweetcorn and peas because that was what was in the freezer), before slicing up leftovers and using it for fajitas on Sunday. I have discovered that my husband will eat pretty much anything if I put it in a wrap and dress it up as a fajita. He's gone from a man who doesn't like leftovers to a man who eats wraps at least once a week.

    Remember to join in the linky at Mrs M's for more meal planning inspiration, and leave me a comment to let me know if you've got any suggestions for future meals.

    Saturday, 15 September 2012

    Oaty Blackberry Pudding

    That's a bit of a strange name but I am not really used to writing down the recipes I make. I tend to keep them in my head filed under "PMS", "random bar of dark chocolate" or "too much SR flour cluttering up the pantry" which is probably why they rarely turn out the same way twice. This one was delicious so I wanted to save it for next time I felt like a good stodgy pudding. 

    Last week I asked on Twitter for a recipe to use with plums I had picked. The lovely Kate sent me a link to Delia's plum and cinnamon oat slices. Unfortunately when I wanted to bake something similar tonight with blackberries picked yesterday I couldn't be arsed was unable to reach my computer so I made up this loosely based on a recipe I use for ANZAC biscuits (well, they've both got oats in them).

    Ingredients
    1C porridge/rolled oats
    1C SR flour
    2/3C sugar (light brown is nice, but whatever you have to hand)
    3/4C ground almonds
    125g butter
    2T golden syrup
    1 egg
    1tsp cinnamon

    Melt golden syrup and butter together. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put half of mixture in a well greased and lined baking dish or tin and smooth out. Sprinkle around 250g clean blackberries. Make sure they're evenly distributed and push into the batter slightly. Cover the berries with the other half of the batter and back 180C / Gas Mark 4 for around 25 mins until the batter bit is cooked. 

    I served them warm with a bit of pouring cream and it was lovely, if somewhat filling. I reckon it could easily be adapted for the slow cooker if you were so inclined. 
      
    This is what it looked like coming out of the oven. I totally forgot to take a pic when it was sliced up, but it is all kind of squidgy and berry yummy-ness, trust me.






    Friday, 14 September 2012

    Random Likings - Pretty Dresses

    There's no shortage of pretty dresses around this week, what with New York Fashion Week's Spring/Summer 2013 collections plus the Toronto film festival. Here are the ones I have bookmarked for all my upcoming red carpet events and the odd supermarket shop. It's just not possible to have too many designer frocks, you know.

    Calvin Klein S/S 2013 (pics from www.wwd.com)


    Carolina Herrera and Diane von Furstenberg (pics from www.wwd.com)



    Victoria Beckham (pics from www.victoriabeckham.com)


    Zac Posen S/S 2013



    Naomi Watts in Ellie Saab, Julianne Hough in Alexander McQueen, and K-Stew in Zuhair Murad at the Toronto International Film Festival




    Tuesday, 11 September 2012

    Random Likings

    Primark press on nails. 
    I know I liked nails last week but these are cheap and idiot-proof about my level of expertise so I like them a lot. 24 nails plus glue for £1 is a bargain in anyone's book and they don't ping off the minute you start doing anything more energetic than admire them, the way some press-on nails do.
       



      LEGO Series 8 Minifigures and movies

      If I went back and had a look I'd probably find LEGO Minifigures make it on here every time there is a new series released. 5 year old has gone off LEGO but 10 year old still as keen as mustard so it's a hotly anticipated event in our household. These came out on 1 September but only for sale in LEGO shops at the moment. Hopefully they'll be more widely available this week because I don't think I can bear the excitement.

      If you're as big a fan as my eldest, here is a movie for your entertainment




      Pinstrosity
      You love Pinterest, now love Pinstrosity. Along the lines of Cake Wrecks, it's the perfect site to help you feel a little more human after looking at some of the Martha Stewartastic efforts on Pinterest. 
      Pinterest project that have gone wrong. Hilarious.

      ETA: Polly at Polymnia has just pointed me in the direction of Regretsy and I've just had a good chuckle.

      Post Pals
      I discovered this organisation via Alice Pyne last week (if you haven't heard of Alice, she's an inspiration. Start with her bucket list here). Post Pals is a great way of supporting sick kids and their families in the most simple way possible - just by reaching out and saying hello. It couldn't be easier and it doesn't have to cost anything so why not give it a go today.


      Blackberries

      I adore blackberry picking. Seriously, it's one of my greatest pleasures. I love that it's free, I love that the kids eat them right off the bush and get plenty of vitamin C, and probably that bit of protein if they don't check for bugs, and I love that it is so short lived. Given that the best blackberry bushes are found off the beaten track, it's normally a quiet and peaceful pastime somewhere with lovely views. I don't mind the scratches and nettle stings (I still haven't managed to completely recognise them despite having lived in the UK for more than 14 years) because the bounty is worth it.




      Monday, 10 September 2012

      Meal Planning Monday - 10 September 2012





      Hello and happy Monday. I have had a pretty good week food wise, having cooked pretty much everything I intended to and no mid-week shopping trips because I was too lazy and/or disorganised. One beauty that was particularly successful were Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies.The eagle eyed among you may remember that they weren't on my meal plan last week, and also that I'm trying to eat more healthily, but ... sod it... sometimes you just have to, you know?

      This week's meals look like:
      Beef Fajitas (in freezer from the other week)
      Turkey and veg curry (in freezer from the other week)
      Beef Stew and herb dumplings ( I have some James Martin Cheese Soda Bread mix in the cupboard I will use for this one)
      Pork in the slow cooker - maybe with cranberries?

      Have a great week and remember to check out more Meal Planning Monday posts on Mrs M's linky.

      Let me know what you're eating and if you've got anything you would recommend for future weeks.

      Sunday, 9 September 2012

      Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies


      When I saw this recipe on Pinterest I pinned it to my board, but only because I liked the sound of it and never because I thought I would actually make them. I thought that even for someone with a sweet tooth like mine they would be too much. At 5am after virtually no sleep, tonnes of sugar sounded like a good idea so I made them.

      The original recipe is from Picky Palate by Jenny Flake. It's a great blog but the strapline is "Original family style recipes for even your pickiest of eaters" and it's pretty much a no brainer that my picky-eaters are going to eat carbs laced with sugar laced with chocolate, but there are plenty of family-friendly recipes on there that contain actual vitamins and minerals and stuff. I will copy the recipe here, but be sure to check out Jenny's blog if you like the sound of it.

      Ingredients (my notes)
      • 2 sticks softened butter (250g)
      • 3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
      • 1 Cup granulated sugar
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla
      • 3 1/2 Cups all purpose flour (I use self raising and omit the baking soda)
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 10 oz bag chocolate chips (no idea what 10oz is but I used 100g which is what I normally use for choc chip cookies and it was fine)
      • 1 bag Oreo Cookies (there were 9 in the packet I used, or maybe it was 10 and I ate one?)

      Directions
      • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180C or gas mark 4).  In a stand or electric mixer cream butter and sugars until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
      • In a separate bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add to wet ingredients along with chocolate chips until just combined. Using a cookie scoop take one scoop of cookie dough and place on top of an Oreo Cookie. Take another scoop of dough and place on bottom of Oreo Cookie. Seal edges together by pressing and cupping in hand until Oreo Cookie is enclosed with dough. Place onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet and bake cookies 9-13 minutes or until cookies are baked to your liking. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.
      Jenny said this recipe made 2 dozen very large cookies and she is right. Because I didn't want that many I divided the dough into 2 equal parts, froze one half rolled up in a sausage in some baking paper to slice off and bake another time, and make 9 (or 10)  Oreo stuffed cookies. 

      You can see from my photo that mine look a little like flying saucers and Jenny's look nicer, but I will vouch for the fact that they taste bloody gorgeous and are worth trying if you don't value your waistline or arteries.

      Silent Sunday... starting again

      9 September 2012

      Friday, 7 September 2012

      Autumn/Winter Shoes

      I am no fashion plate and the fact that I work from home means I infrequently need to make an effort (although since he sits opposite me most days my husband would disagree). I used to live in high heels during the week but five years as a WAHM (that's work-at-home-mum for the uninitiated) has robbed me of any foot stamina I had. I miss heels but it's so rare I go anywhere they are practical that my collection is limited to a few pairs of wedges for summer dresses and a pair of black pumps that look awesome but leave me bleeding and hobbling after 30 minutes.

      Here are some that have tempted me this season:
      Patent + slingback = <3  Next £28



      High heels + suede = doubly impractical for the walk to school. £140 by Alice Temperley at John Lewis


      Or these... Nine West £125

      Christian Louboutin Bibi 140 tartan pump £495 at http://www.net-a-porter.com


      Here is what I probably will buy.
      Topshop £28

       New Look £24.99

      I  may have to find a more affordable version of the Louboutin Bibis though. I love them a lot.

      If you're looking for something totally unsuitable for anywhere other than the runway or the inside of a limo then look at Patricia Sophia's Pinterest board

      Thursday, 6 September 2012

      Quidco!






      Firstly, let me make clear that this isn't a sponsored blog post. No one's asked me to write about Quidco, or cash-back sites in general. This is just me discussing it because I love getting cash back. It makes looking for a bargain easier and spending money less painful.

      Many of you have probably heard of cash-back sites and use them in one guise or another. There's not just Quidco, although this is the one I use, others include Top Cashback and RPoints. There are also ones you can use to fundraise, like Gift for Charity. If you haven't seen them before, basically they are a middle man who offers deals to get you to buy at particular stores. There's a great explanation at Moneywise if you want to know more.

      I've been using Quidco online for four or five years. I don't always remember to do it but the tool bar usually prompts me if I forget. It's generally from places I would buy anyway but occasionally I choose based on the prices I get going through Quidco. For expensive items, like car hire or holidays, it can make a big difference. I've not bought anything like that this year but just by using it for things like books and clothes I've got £244.27 cash back so far this year. For buying things I was going to buy anyway. Bargain, right? I got £70 when I changed my phone over. Everything is exactly the same as if I had done it in a store, only I had an extra £70 in my pocket. It's fab!

      Anyway, Quidco has always been in the background of my PC but now, oh! now I've got the app and I'm in love with it all over again.  Not only can you earn money for "checking in" at various stores (I earned 90p today from the comfort of my chair in Starbucks) you get exclusive discounts like 25% off anything at Dorothy Perkins, or 30% off everything at the Body Shop. You can also register your card and get cash back for shopping in stores. Do you want to pay £50 for those shoes or £35? It's a no brainer.

      I don't care if you use Quidco or one of the other sites, but if you're shopping then you should definitely be using one.


      Tuesday, 4 September 2012

      Random Likings





      From http://iwastesomuchtime.com


      2. Felt Acorns
      How sweet are these acorns! I still get a thrill when I find acorns on the ground, or even just their little hats, but these are possibly even better (though they would almost certainly get lost in my house). Have a look at the other beautiful items from lil fish studios at Maya Made, or check out Etsy.
      From lil fish studios via Maya Made

      3. Flea Market Style
      I love the look of Flea Market Style magazine but since I am on a budget will have to make do with the website for now (they do ship internationally if you're interested). It's definitely worth checking out.

      4. Make Your Own Nail Decals
      This is a DIY with a difference. My nails never look groomed. It doesn't matter how carefully I apply my nail polish, it always chips within days and look rubbish. But this... this I might be able to achieve. There's a full tutorial at Spektor's Nails.
      Picture via Spektor's Nails

      5. Velcro Masks
      I have searched for a website for Velcro Kids, as apparently they do a range of Velcro playsets and things like cardboard play houses, but I can't find an actual site for them. Let me know if you know if you have seen anything in your travels. You can buy these at Play.com


      Monday, 3 September 2012

      Meal Planning Monday - 3 September 2012

      Hello and welcome to what is, for one of my kids, the first day of year 6. The youngest goes back tomorrow and it can't come a minute too soon. I almost planned a week of salads in anticipation of the hot weather that usually arrives to mock us as school goes back, but have not.

      I am sticking with the more veg, less processed food this week. My menu is:

      Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Zucchini Boats
      Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili
      Crepes with spinach, bacon and mushroom
      Fridge Frittata
      Crunchy Chicken Breasts
      Left Overs

      What is most impressive about this is that I actually planned this last Monday - kapow! who says I can't be organised?

      Don't forget to check out Mrs M's linky for more Meal Planning Monday inspiration.