Chocolate Tea Bread recipe

Generally, I'm pretty good at managing our finances - I'm constantly checking the balance in our joint account and I keep tabs on how much all our Direct Debits are and when they come out.  Tom and I both pay a fixed amount into the joint account every month which pays all our bills and is also supposed to pay for our food shops and any dinners out we might have over the month.  I say supposed to because on Monday, with five days left of the month and some bare-looking cupboards I discovered there was only £20 in the joint account.  Considering we actually pay more than we need to into the account in an effort to save for any house/DIY related bits, this was a bit concerning.  Looking in our account I could see that we'd spent £360 on food shops in the three and a half weeks prior, which is definitely more than we need to.  We've been trying to cut out processed foods and eat lots of fresh foods, and when you've loaded up the trolley with fruit and veg, and lots of beef and gammon joints, chicken breasts and mince, you can quickly find the cost of your food shop creeping up.  We plan all of our meals but we also tend to do the odd impulse buying; a new bubble bath for me, an Arnold Schwarzenegger biography for Tom, a bottle of wine here, a crate of beers there.  It all adds up.

Whilst I was getting ready to go to the supermarket on Monday I asked Tom if he could see if there was anything kicking around in the cupboards/fridge/freezer that we could make meals with given a few extra ingredients.  I was super impressed when he came upstairs a few minutes later having planned all of our lunches and dinners for the week, and having worked out that with just a few ingredients we could use up what we already had and eat just fine until payday.  In Asda our shop for the week only cost £13 and Tom whipped up a delicious pea soup when we got home.

Impressed with Tom's 'storecupboard lunch' I decided I wanted to whip up a little Bank Holiday afternoon treat, and right at this moment Amanda from amandauniquely tweeted me to tell me about A Girl Called Jack - an amazing blog by Jack Monroe, specialising in thrifty cooking; yummy, nutritious food, on a budget.  I was significantly wowed by her blog - her 9p carrot, cumin and kidney beanburgers in particular sound amazing.  She's recently been given a book deal by Penguin after she gained popularity blogging about her efforts to feed herself and her son on £10 a week (makes what we spend feel very, very wrong!).  I can't wait to try more of her recipes and start being more sensible about our supermarket bills.

When I came across her 18p chocolate tea bread, and then discovered I had all of the ingredients in my baking cupboard I knew it was meant to be.  After some stirring, kneading and letting it prove in the Bank Holiday sunshine, my chocolate tea bread was ready.  We enjoyed it in the garden with butter and a glass of wine.

I wholeheartedly recommend Jack's recipe for Chocolate Tea Bread, and her blog as a whole.  I will definitely be putting her book on my wishlist when it comes out!

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My diary is rather spiralling out of control at the moment, with every entry full of scribbled engagements and plans.  I know I'm really lucky to have lots of friends to see, events to attend and the means to take weekends away and holidays, but I must admit I am rather looking forward to whenever my next 'quiet period' presents itself! We're away for most of June touring around France and every evening until then is full of appointments and preparations so the next week (before we go) is going to fly by.  July is then a whirlwind of catching up and it's already filling up with some long-promised weekends to visit friends and barbecues (assuming the weather gets the memo).

Whenever I find myself hoping for some periods of calm my mind also inevitably turns to making our home something of a 'sanctuary' in which to find it.  I find myself almost scheduling months in for 'nesting' - I've already figured that August is going to be a time to be 'home' and get more stuck into the long list of DIY we still have to do.  Our next project is the conservatory, which I want to fill with comfy furniture, rugs and lots of plants so it's the perfect place to sit and read in the sunshine (wishful thinking) or come inside to from the garden if it gets chilly or unexpected rain ruins a barbecue (more likely).

This one I spotted on Pinterest is rather ideal but I'm not sure Tom would let me get away with so much pretty...

In classic Rosie style I've of course already started scouting out things to decorate the conservatory with before we've done any of the boring stuff like laying carpet or identifying exactly where the leak is (one of the windows lets in water).  We have a long way to go before it looks anything like the above! I've been looking at buying a sofa bed rather than traditional conservatory furniture as it'll give us another space where guests can stay - though it might not be their first choice as it gets very warm in the summer and very cold in the winter!

I've spotted this rabbit cushion which will surely look perfect atop the sofa...

kissing rabbits cushion | £7
It still smells a little damp and musty in there at the moment (am I tempting you to come and visit?) so a new Rose candle will freshen it up in no time.

wax lyrical candle | £5
Lime is a key colour for homewares this season and this floor lamp will be great for adding a splash of colour.  I want it to feel like a halfway point between the house and the garden so along with lots of plants and the fish tank I'm definitely envisaging lots of green to bring the outside in.

spindle floor lamp | £79
Are you doing any decorating at the moment? Where do you find home inspiration?

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[post contains a sponsored link]


The Raft, Milford on Sea

As I've mentioned on here before, I live close by to Hannah who runs Baileycakes blog, so when she features amazing looking cafés and restaurants they immediately get added to my 'to-visit' list.  The most recent occasion of this was when she featured The Raft in Milford on Sea - their unique, beachcomber-esque décor, not to mention their extremely yummy-sounding menu had me immediately pencilling in a dinner out in my diary on Saturday.  Unfortunately, after a quick phonecall we discovered they were fully-booked on Saturday (apparently they get really busy) and so the next best option was to visit them for lunch on Sunday after a long walk at Barton-on-Sea.

It really was beautiful inside - a mix of beach hut and country manor with the cosiness of your own living room and a few hints of architectural salvage/vintage garden to boot.  We were a bit worried about Bodhi being left in the car so we didn't stay too long but I can imagine whiling away an afternoon here on a sunny day with a chilled glass of wine, watching people go by in the high street (or in their courtyard garden).

Tom and I never pass up an opportunity to have baked Camembert - it's an unspoken rule that if it's on a menu, it's getting ordered - so we had one to share as a starter.  It came with garlic bread fingers which were perfect for dipping in goo-ey cheese.

It was absolutely amazing, and one of the best camemberts I've had; the right mix of delectable, melted centre,  with hints of rosemary and garlic and a harder, flavoursome crust.Tom had a burger for his main, which came with chips in an enamel mug, a crisp salad and a huge burger sandwiched between crusty wedges of bread.  I had onion and cabbage potato cakes which came with bacon lardons, melted cheese, tomatoes and salad.I was expecting it might be a small dish but it really wasn't! After that I was much too full to look at the dessert menu but having had a sneaky peek when we were choosing our mains I will definitely be returning and sampling some of the delights on there as soon as possible (coconut panna cotta with mango jam? Yes please!).  Our starter, mains, a large glass of wine and a pint of beer came to £33 which I think is really reasonable.  I can't wait to go back, I have a feeling it's going to become a real favourite for us.  On the way out I had to take a photo of their lovely happy list, doesn't it make you smile?
If you want to visit The Raft you can check out their website or Facebook.
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Hooting and howling

Yesterday felt like the epitome of a Bank Holiday weekend.  Blue skies, the smell of charcoal in the air, wine chilling in the fridge and Bodhi snoozing in the patch of warm sunlight in the hall.  Because you have that extra day everything seems to move at a slower pace on a Bank Holiday weekend - I feel less guilty about having a day doing nothing (most of Saturday) and my need to meticulously plan the whole weekend lessens because I have a whole extra 24 hours to play with.  For the first time in ages, we had no plans yesterday, and so we decided to go for a long dog walk along the beach and a lunch out.

I find it quite difficult to dress for this weather because, despite the attire of 90% of people at the beach, it is not t-shirts and shorts weather yet (much less shorts and tops off, sorry boys!) I am definitely a 'cold' person and at the slightest hint of a chilly breeze I'm pulling on cardigans and coats.  I decided recently that a trench/mac could be a good thing to add to my wardrobe for these in-betweeny weather days but until then I'm employing the services of my trusty denim jacket.  I added this camel fedora to my bulging hat collection a couple of weeks ago as I had a Topshop voucher.  I think it's going to be having lots of outings over the next few months.

hat: topshop £25 | denim jacket: new look [old] | stripey top: anthropologie [old]
jeans: topshop £40 | brogues: primark [old] | satchel: leather satchel co £82

We went to Barton-on-Sea, which is about five minutes from us.  It was lovely to have a walk by the sea, soak up the sunshine and watch Bodhi having a good run around and sniff!

As usual, after our walk our minds immediately turned to lunch and a cold drink.  We went to The Raft in Milford on Sea, but I'm going to save my photos of that for the next post as it really deserves a post all to itself! Hope you've all had amazing Bank Holiday weekends and managed to soak up some of the sunshine!

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Carex Hands on Awards

Last week I was contacted by Carex to let me know about a fun competition they're having for their 20th birthday.  As part of their birthday celebrations they want to spend 'a day in your hands' - and are looking for words, photos, or videos to show off what your hands go through on a typical day.  Their favourite 20 entries will win £500 worth of Red Letter Day vouchers as well as a year's supply of Carex.  You could put your vouchers towards a hotel escape, a spa weekend, or something more exciting like a powerboat or driving experience (spa all the way for me!)

img credit: saranun.tumblr.com

Since us bloggers are such enthusiastic photographers, writers and video-makers they thought that their competition would be right up your street and have asked me to share the competition with my lovely readers.  I think I might give it an enter myself, especially now I've already picked what I'd choose if I won!

img credit: eerfebottnaw.tumblr.com

I think it's fun to think about all of the things your hands go through in a typical day.  It makes you realise why you need handwash and hand cream, those things work hard! Here are some things my hands get up to:

[+] Giving Bodhi lots of cuddles and strokes
[+] Fumbling in my handbag (usually thinking I've lost my phone when I haven't)
[+] Scrolling through Twitter on my phone
[+] Pressing the shutter on my camera
[+] Turning pages in my book
[+] Flicking pages on my Kindle
[+] Tapping away at the keyboard - blogging or working
[+] Jujjing my hair
[+] Applying make-up
[+] Cupping mugs of green tea
[+] Cooking dinner - slicing, chopping and stirring
[+] Pushing toast into the toaster
[+] Carrying my satchel and my lunchbag
[+] Driving
[+] Counting the lack of money in my purse
[+] Opening letters
[+] Scribbling to-do lists

Wow, hands are busy things! What would be on your list?

If you'd like to enter the Carex competition, visit the Hands on Awards Competition Page.

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[this is a sponsored post]

Shoegazing: Top Three

As some of you might know, myself and some other bloggers have a partnership with Spartoo shoes and do regular work with them, which I feel so lucky to be able to do as I really like them as a company (not to mention the hundreds and thousands of amazing shoes they have!).  I'm forever nosing at their website, especially as they now sell clothes too.  As I spend so much time looking at shoes I thought I'd do a quick round-up of three pairs I'm currently eyeing up.
converse all star dainty basic shoes | £29.95
I used to own loads of pairs of Converse when I was about 16/17 and then I went off them and sold them all on eBay.  Last year when I was in Florida I treated myself to a pair and now I've fallen in love again and wear them all the time!  I want to get another colour and this baby blue pair would be perfect with jeans or summer-y dresses (I live in hope!)

kat maconie lucy sandals | £199
Ah, be still my beating heart! Granted these are quite pricey but I just think they are beautiful.  I love so many of the Kat Maconie shoes but these are my favourites - I'm convinced that they would go with everything and also that they might, probably need to come and live at my house fairly soon.

lola ramona wedges | £96.99

Aren't these just pretty as a peach? I wouldn't know whether to wear them or put them on a shelf and look lovingly them at them.  I love the bow and the stripey wedge!

Have you got your eye on any shoes lately? What are your favourite brands of shoes? (I need some shopping inspiration!)

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Motel Penny dress

Another outfit from my holiday a couple of weeks ago.  I wore this Motel dress to the AX Paris event but I don't think I've taken any proper outfit photos in it since I bought it.  It's an absolute favourite of mine and I love how it can be dressed up or down.  I think the cut and shape is really flattering and it's nice and light for summer wearing.  I think I've worn this necklace in almost every outfit post recently, sorry! I just love the little flash of neon, especially with an otherwise monochrome outfit.

dress: motel £45 | necklace: ebay | shoes: everything5pounds

Looking at these photos actually makes me feel a little bit ouchie as I remember how sunburnt I was on this day! This was the day that Tom went windsurfing and he asked if I would take some photos of him from the beach.  It was such a windy day (as you'd imagine) that I was actually quite chilly sat there in my shorts and t-shirt, also I was obviously deeply concentrating on trying to get some good photos for him, as well as trying to get a snap of some of the tricks of this other awesome windsurfer that was there.

It was so windy that I actually thought I'd got windburn when I got back to the hotel but I quickly realised I'd  actually got really bad sunburn.  I could barely sleep that night and had to get up in the morning and have an ice cold bath.  Ouch!

Not much chance of any sunburn back on UK soil at the moment is there? I can't believe how horrendous the weather is, in less than a month it will be officially summer and it better buck its ideas up then! There were a few people at work going to weddings over the next few weeks, I'm sure you used to be able to get married in May and June and be fairly guaranteed a sunny day!

Tonight I'm off out for a little gathering at a friend's house for some ciders and nibbles.  It's going to be a well-earned end to what feels like it's been quite a long and tiring week.  I think there's something about this grey, dreary weather that puts me in hibernation mode, I've had almost no energy this week and only managed one morning run.  This weekend is our last free weekend before France and I have a to-do list as long as my arm so I'll be holed up in my office for most of it rattling through that.  Tom and I are going to go for dinner in the evening so I will have the thought of pizza to carry me through! How are you spending your bank holiday weekend?

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May 2013 Birchbox Review

At one point a couple of years ago I was subscribed to all four main beauty boxes - Glossybox, Feel Unique, She Said and Boudoir Privé.  In the end I decided to take it down to just one, and for a long time I was a subscriber to the last, Boudoir Privé. Since then, they were acquired by the French company Jolie Box, who in turn were acquired by US based company Birchbox. I've been desperate to try a Birchbox but have been trying not to sign up for any more monthly subscriptions so when I was offered to review the May edition I jumped at the chance.  I really like the packaging; it looks neat and smart and the bow is a nice touch.  Inside, the products are contained within a drawstring bag, which I also think is a nice concept.  A card inside the box explained that in May Birchbox are supporting Fashion Targets Breast Cancer by donating 30% of all sales in their e-shop to the cause, and £5 every time you refer a friend.  Breakthrough Breast Cancer is an amazing cause and I love that they're supporting it so generously. 

The theme for the Max Birchbox is 'Red Carpet Ready' - preparing you for any parties or events you might have this month. Here's what was in my box...

B/Attitude Body Soufflé [Sample size] - Full size RRP £24 - Sample price £6
Kusmi Detox Tea [Sample size] - Full size RRP £13.85 - Sample price £2.20
OPI Nail Lacquer [Sample size] - Full size RRP £11.50 - Sample price £2.90
Make Believe Sunbeam Bronzer - Full size RRP £15
Elemental Herbology Cell Plumping Facial Moisturiser [Sample size] - Full size RRP £42 - Sample price £25
Doctor Duve Anti-Aging and Firming Eye Cream [Sample Size] - Full size RRP £115 - Sample price approx £20

Beauty Box estimated value = £71

With my holiday coming up in a couple of weeks I'm super excited that I've now got a few new bits to stash in my travel bag.  I love taking all my samples with me on holiday and noting down what I'll definitely be buying when I get back! I'm always a sucker for a full-size product so I have to say that the Make Believe bronzer is a favourite of mine in this box.  I use a Bobbi Brown bronzer at the moment but it's the only one I own so this will be a great addition to my make-up collection.  The Body Soufflé also smells heavenly and is really light and creamy - I can see myself buying this again.  The smaller samples are a really nice treat but I must admit I'd be unlikely to spend almost £14 on a tin of tea, £115 on an eye cream or £42 on a moisturiser - they will be a lovely treat but I don't think I'll be going on to buy the full sizes. I don't own any OPI nail varnishes so I'm looking forward to seeing how the sample compares to the other nail polish brands I'm usually loyal to.  Overall I really like the Birchbox I was sent and I'd definitely consider subscribing in future, this one in particular seems to be a high value box so you're definitely getting your money's worth.  Birchbox costs £10 a month (+ P&P) and you can subscribe here.

Do you subscribe to any beauty boxes? Have you tried Birchbox?

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[item in review was gifted]

Ruby Rocks Wedges

Whilst I was away on holiday I took a few outfit posts which I thought I'd share with you interspersed with other bits over the next few days.  You might have seen most of the things in this post already, except for the wedges which are a new wardrobe addition, and I am head over heels for.  This H&M top is becoming a bit of a wardrobe staple as it can be dressed up or down and I adore the colour and lace detail.  I like the way it fits with the neon trend without being too 'in your face' or looking like a giant highlighter pen.

The wedges were kindly sent to me by Barratts just before my holiday.  I was allowed to pick something from their site and I fell in love with these Ruby Rocks wedges.  As I've mentioned before, I love black and gold together and they are so comfortable to walk in.  The laces are ribbon too which I think is a really cute detail.  I think they look okay in a more casual outfit like this one but I also can't wait to wear them with a little black dress.

top: h&m [instore] | necklace: ebay | shorts: vintage/DIY | wedges: ruby rocks at barratts* £35

Looking at these photos now it feels like Rhodes was about a month ago when it's actually under a week since I got back.  It's probably the British weather washing away any memory of sunshine - even my tan is peeling off now too (gross!) Luckily I only have to wait a couple of weeks and then we're going on holiday again, this time to France.  A bit different from our Greece holiday, this time we're going with Tom's Mum and Dad and will be doing lots of exploring, touring and staying in some beautiful holiday homes - as well as lots of eating and drinking (that bit's the same!) I just hope the sun is kinder to us than it was in Greece, I do not want to see more clouds and thunderstorms thankyou very much!

I hope your weeks are good so far - I went to a Body Pump class at the gym last night and I am pretty ache-y today so my Tuesday night is going to involve a glass of vino, a long bubble bath, catching up on last night's Made in Chelsea and maybe tonight's episode of The Valleys (my real guilty pleasure) - I find I spend the entire time I'm watching it feeling utterly horrified at their behaviour but I can't take my eyes off it, proper car crash TV!  I will also be doing a bit of online Filofax hunting, I decided today (despite already buying two diaries as options to replace mine that runs out in a couple of days) that I need a Filofax in my life and now I have all sorts of difficult decisions to make like, what size, what pages, and so on... I guess there are worse things to have to deliberate!

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Christchurch Food Festival - Bake Weekend

Are there annual events in your local area that you look forward to year after year? A particular market, festival or fair that gets marked in the calendar well in advance? For me it's the Christchurch Food Festival.  For two weekends and the week in between, Christchurch gets taken over by markets, stalls, cookery demonstrations and events at local eateries all in celebration of local food.  I was somewhat disappointed when I discovered we'd booked our holiday to be away for the opening weekend, and more disappointed when I discovered that the street market wouldn't be on for the second weekend - sampling all of the yummy foods cooked fresh on the street is the highlight of the event.  Instead, the second weekend was dedicated to baking, and cakes.  As I am quite the cake fan this somewhat took the dent out my disappointment but sadly when we got up on Sunday and got ready to go, it started absolutely pouring down.  We braved the rain to see what was on offer.  A slightly gloomy looking helter skelter stood tall above the fair...

We warmed up with hog roast baps and drinks from the Hop On Inn - a double decker bus converted into a bar.  I decided that there could be nothing more British than drinking a Pimms in the pouring rain!
Of course the main event was the cakes.  As part of the Bake Weekend there'd been a competition with different categories and age brackets.  These cookie monster cupcakes were highly commended in the under-16 category and I thought they were brilliant.

This was the overall winner.  Isn't it amazing? Just... wow!

Tom wanted to eat all of the cakes in the competition so we went next door and treated ourselves to some that were actually for sale.  We headed straight to the Fox's Cupcake Co stall; they're a regular at the food festival and their cakes are always amazing.  I went for Oreo and Tom went for Mint Choc Chip.  Don't they look divine?

We didn't stay much longer as it really did start pouring down.  We visited a friend for a cup of tea and then we might have gone to Waitrose for more snacks and treats - I always think once you've crammed a few naughty things in you may as well continue in the same vein! :) By the way, Hannah at Baileycakes took some amazing photos of the first weekend whilst I was away, so if you want to see those go here.

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