Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Bird Food: Mushroom & Sweet Potato Soup

Now that I have an almost fully functioning kitchen I wanted to try out my new hob and stockpot by making some soup.

This is a soup which I saw in Rosemary Conley's magazine but the recipe is also online. It serves 4 and is only 108 calories and 0.5% fat per bowl but it's surprisingly filling!

You'll need:
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (I used dried thyme)
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (this is for decoration so I left it out)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat a non-stick pan and dry-fry the onions until soft. (I don't have a non-stick pan so I sprayed a little FryLight into my pan first to stop the onions sticking)

Add the garlic and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, then add the thyme, mushrooms and sweet potatoes and pour in the stock. Add the bay leaves and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked (mine took about 20-25 mins).

Place in a food processor and liquidise until smooth.

Just before serving, stir in the parsley and serve hot or cold with a small crusty multigrain roll or a slice of gluten-free bread. (I had mine with some danish bread).

Do you think you'll give this a try? Let me know how you get on!

Monday, 27 January 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. I joined the gym! I'm not a fan of the actual gym but I like the classes so this week, as part of my bid to be healthier this year, I became a member and went to a Step aerobics class.

2. I've also been having a healthy eating week and I've dropped about 3lbs already! I've swapped my fatty snacks for some that are just as tasty, and my lunch has been this quorn turkey, reduced fat houmous and salad wrap which was delicious!

3. My kitchen is almost finished! I have a hob now too so I can cook actual proper food...

4. ...and my first dish was enchiladas which Allan (and I) loved!

5. I finally got to see 12 Years A Slave and it was brilliant. I have no idea why people would think that was acceptable, but I imagine that people in 150 years time will be confused by some things we do now.

6. Saturday was Burns Night, and as tradition (and my stomach!) dictates we celebrated Rabbie Burns by eating haggis, neeps and tatties (the veggie version for me). Then we did it again on Sunday night too!

7. Allan made Panda this awesome fort out of cardboard boxes from my new kitchen and he loves hiding inside or walking round the ramparts.

8. I got loads for the kitchen this weekend but I love my new hand blender!  I made soup and it's so much easier zapping those onions than chopping them by hand though teary eyes!

9. I also bought loads of other housey things but seemed to go on a cut glass spree! I love it's vintage look and it fits perfectly with the style of my house.

How was your week? What have been your highlights?

Monday, 20 January 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. This photo of Panda has to be one of the cutest ever!

2. Birthday cakes at work are a great idea. It was a colleague's birthday this week and she brought in the hugest cakes!

3. I've really struggled to get a new desk calendar I like for work so I made one of my own! I downloaded this free printable from Landeelu and clipped it to a folded piece of card. So simple!

4. I love cooking with Allan. Not only is it good fun, but we always have great chats whilst we make things (like this tasty veggie cottage pie!) together.

5. We also started a Battlestar Galacticathon. I seem to have so many tv and film series to catch up on, but I'm getting there!

6. One of my resolutions was to be healthier, so I've been planning my meals for next week. I feel really motivated at the moment, so I better act on it because it doesn't always last long!

7. Eating healthier will be much easier now that I have a new oven! For those of you who don't know, I moved house a few months ago and still don't have a fully functioning kitchen, but I am SO EXCITED about having a grill and oven! This'll help me cut down on the microwave meals and takeaways!

8. This isn't a great photo because it was so dark, but I had a lovely cocktail afternoon tea with Lorna, my friend who's just returned from her honeymoon in Malaysia. Nope, not jealous, not at all!

9. This is my new hat. Hat's are cool.

How was your week? What have you loved?

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre

On our way home from our Glen Clova trip Allan took me to a place he loved when he was younger, the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre.

I'm not hugely interested in planes but Allan's face lit up when I said we could go, so how could I let him down?!

And I'm glad I didn't because it turned out to be really good!

I got my own personal guide in the form of Allan, who told me all about the planes and exhibitions. He'd helped out there as a boy and was really impressed with the improvements that have been made since his last visit.

What's a museum without scary mannequins!

Unsurprisingly I loved all the vintage pieces everywhere! We even got to try them on (ignore my dodgy salute)!

It's only £5 for adult entry usually (concessions available & free for children), but we arrived on a free entry day just before Christmas, where we only had to pay if we wanted a present from Santa! We decided to leave the gifts for the kids but we did pop in and wish him a merry Christmas!

There are plenty of interesting things to see for your money and the staff are really friendly and happy to chat or answer any questions, so if you find yourself in the area and fancy an education in aviation, head here!

My Mini-Adventure To Glen Clova

Allan recently whisked me away for the weekend to his favourite place, Glen Clova in the Cairngorms.

I don't go walking often but Allan's a bit of a pro. We had gone for an 8 mile walk around Loch Muick (also in the Cairngorms) back in November to see how I'd handle it and I passed the test which allowed me access to the next level!

As you can see it was pretty cold but it all started off very well with a nice walk along some flat-ish paths.

We even managed to have some fun along the way!

As we went higher the path got a bit more treacherous. Most of it was solid ice at this point, so we used rocks or the snowy sections at the sides for better grip.

We stopped for a break and saw bad weather drawing in.  We went a bit further but this, along with the amount of light left and my asthma causing some problems with my breathing, meant that we had to turn around and head back.

The journey down was a lot easier and we even had some time for some photos before the light disappeared!

When we got back to our home for the night, the Glen Clova Hotel, we headed straight to the bar for a drink and some heat in front of the fire.

After a soak in the bath and some chill-out time we headed down to the bar again for some delicious food. The atmosphere was perfect, there aren't a lot of tables so it was really cosy and friendly.

We headed to our room stuffed full of food and slept like logs! We stayed in the four-poster room which was nice and spacious and comfortable.

The next morning we had a nice big breakfast before hitting the road to Montrose.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My Year Of Cinema 2013

Last year I saw 64 films and when I tallied this year's viewing it turned out to be exactly the same! But I had a few days left so I squeezed in a trip to see 47 Ronin just in the nick of time, taking me up to 65!

Here's the list of films I viewed last year with my top 10 in bold. Are you a cinema-goer? Have you beaten my total? What were your favourites in 2013?

Life Of Pi
The Impossible
Gangster Squad
Les Miserables
Django Unchained
Zero Dark Thirty
Movie 43
I Give It A Year
Warm Bodies
Wreck It Ralph
Hansel & Gretel
Oz The Great And Powerful 
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Welcome To The Punch
The Croods
Side Effects
Safe Haven
Identity Thief 
GI Joe: Retaliation 
Olympus Has Fallen
The Place Beyond The Pines
Spring Breakers
Iron Man 3 
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The Great Gatsby
Fast & Furious 6
The Hangover: Part III
Now You See Me
Much Ado About Nothing
Man Of Steel
Despicable Me 2
World War Z
This Is The End
Pacific Rim
Monsters University
The World's End 
The Wolverine
The Heat
Grown Ups 2
Kick Ass 2
We're The Millers
2 Guns
Pain And Gain
White House Down
Sunshine On Leith
Captain Philips
The Fifth Estate
One Chance 
Jackass Bad Grandpa
Thor: The Dark World
NT Live Frankenstein
Doctor Who 50th Anniversary: The Day of The Doctor
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug
Anchorman 2
47 Ronin

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My Hogmanay 2013

I can't quite believe we are almost halfway through January already! I hope everyone is getting back into the swing of things, or finding a new direction to swing in! (Take that as you wish!)

In my part of the world New Year's Day isn't the big deal, the main event is Hogmanay. My three main ingredients for Hogmanay are as follows:

1. Good company. Friends, family, complete strangers, it doesn't matter as long as they're having fun.
2. Good food. Usually this involves a big pot of something hot and party snacks.
3. Good drink. Well, often it doesn't even have to be that good!

2013 ended with me attending a "Glitz At The Blitz" party with some of Allan's friends, who I'd never met before, but I had a brilliant time!

What a handsome (and rather drunk) couple!

I didn't take a huge amount of photos (seemed a bit weird in a stranger's house!) but the house was decorated with lots of bunting and original wartime pieces including gas masks, helmets, parachutes and ever an air raid siren! Luckily the guard was on for most of the evening so it wasn't massively loud, but the next morning when the guard was removed everyone's hangovers were tested!

There were sloppy joe's, 40's music and lots of kisses at the bells. Everyone put so much effort into their outfits and they were so lovely that I felt totally at ease within no time. Fancy dress Hogmanay's are a winner!

How did you celebrate Hogmanay and New Year?

Monday, 13 January 2014

January Shopping Haul

Since I began saving for my new house I've had no money to buy new clothes and that's ok. In fact I gave away a whole pile of clothes when I moved because my wardrobe was bursting with items that I hadn't worn in a long time. But during that clearout I also realised that I don't actually like a lot of what I have and thought I'd take a small slice of my December wages to freshen things up.

And where do you go if you want a cheap and cheerful new wardrobe? Primark of course!

I wear jeans and vests a lot, so I was happy to find these pretty sheer tops to wear with them for £6 each. Now I have one to go with pretty much everything!

There were a few £8 dresses reduced to £5 and I contemplated buying one I have already in a larger size for comfort, but I went for something new instead.

I couldn't resist this sweatshirt! It's purple which I love and if that initial isn't a sign then I don't know what is!

Finally my bargain slouchies. I love these and put them on straight away when I got home!  The vest was £1, the super cosy bottoms were £3, the slippers are so soft and were £1, and the top with real functioning mitten shaped pockets was £3.

I'm so impressed with my bargain shopping, what do you think? What's been your best January bargain?

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. I've had a pretty crappy week, so Allan cheered me up with a surprise in Lego! Yip, he's a sweetie!

2. We went round to my parents house for tea and Mum had found some of our old toys. I totally remember playing with these!

3. Last Vegas was good fun and it reminded me that life is too short to wait and do things. January is always a good month to remind yourself of that.

4. I also went to see The Railway Man. I haven't read the book, and I overheard some of the audience say that the book was better, but it was interesting to see that side of the effects of war. I'll have to add it to my reading list.

5. On Sunday we went to the beach for some fresh air.  It doesn't get much fresher than that! It was freezing but the sand did a great job of exfoliating my face and we got hot chocolate after!

6. Allan made me a nice Sunday treat in the form of scones with Cornish clotted cream and fresh fruit.  It was a delicious high to end the week on!

Monday, 6 January 2014

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

(Well, week-ish!)

1. Christmas and everything about it! From the food, to spending time with family, to decorations, presents, slippers, being off work, the smells, the sights, the sounds, I bloody love it! This year was even more special as it was my niece's first Christmas, Panda's first Christmas, my first Christmas in my new home and my first Christmas with Allan!

2. My final cinema trip of 2013 was for 47 Ronin. I liked the style and story of the film, and Keanu Reeves was actually quite good!

3. Allan and Panda have become best pals. I've always been the doting mum and avoiding doing anything that I think he won't like, but Allan has been training him really well and he's totally come out of his shell! So snuggles with Panda are now one of my favourite things.

4. My Sky box was full of wonderful old movies over the festive period. Lazy afternoons watching classic movies is pretty much as good as it gets!

5. Over Christmas I've loved catching up with friends who I haven't seen in ages! Leanne was up from London and Sara was down from Stornoway and we talked non-stop.  Allan also saw me tiddly for the first time as a result and found it highly amusing! (This picture is churros from Las Iguanas which were delish)!

6. Sale shopping. Need I say more?

7. For Hogmanay we headed down to Fife for a Glitz At The Blitz party at a friend's house which was awesome. Everybody put so much effort into their outfits and the hosts were great, it was one of my favourite New Year's ever!

8. After months of waiting I finally got my new lampshade for the bedroom! It was out of stock and meant to be in store a few days later but the world ran out of them so it took ages. Ain't it pretty?!

9. So much good tv on recently too (I'd mention Doctor Who but I'm not over Matt Smith being old and leaving yet), but the return of Sherlock wins.

What have you loved this week?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

My ̶R̶e̶s̶o̶l̶u̶t̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ Wishes For 2014

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a great time over the festive period and that 2014 is getting off to a great start!

As with last year there will be no resolutions for me, only wishes for the year ahead. I'm impressed with how well my 2013 wishes worked out so fingers crossed!

Last year I wished for a new home, a new car, trips to both BlytheCon UK and US and a lovely new boyfriend. I moved in August, replaced my car for something terribly sensible, scraped the money together for both trips and, to top it all off, I met Allan in October! So here's to my 2014 wishes!

To finish renovations on my flat

This'll be an expensive year for Chez McKez as my home needs new heating, new windows and a new bathroom.  It's all a bit damp and drafty just now but these are expensive tasks so hopefully I can save towards it throughout the year and it'll be cosier for next winter.

To do more for charity

I'm not sure what form this will take yet, although I've started looking into opportunities through Volunteer Aberdeen, Volunteer Scotland and local charities. I usually do something every year like Race For Life or Live Below The Line but I feel the urge to do something more rewarding this year.

To be healthy

Allan and I have a pact to slim down with the hope of flaunting our new bodies on the beach later in the year. He's an outdoor guy so we'll be heading to the hills regularly, watching what we eat and keeping each other motivated. I'm an indoor girl, who's eaten far too much cakes and sweets and I'm lazy, so this'll be a big challenge but I'm sure I'll feel much better for it!

That doesn't sound like too much to wish for does it? What are your wishes for 2014?

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Maira Gall