Friday, October 17, 2014

Halloween on a Budget - Decorations from EuroGiant!


Hi!

I needed some notebooks (lord knows I don't have enough already) - so I decided to nip in to EuroGiant in Longford.

I got these super neon A5 notebooks for €1.50 each. The camera freaked out a bit at the neon-ness (neon-ity?) of them.


Then, instead of leaving.............I did this.


Halloween is probably still my all-time favourite holiday (although I've been feeling Christmassy since August this year) and we haven't had a chance to celebrate it at all over the past few years. In 2012, my dear father-in-law passed away in September so we felt it would have been in poor taste to celebrate Halloween. Last year, something else took my attention away from decorating properly:


I was still recovering from surgery and had zero interest in decorations. I vaguely remember sticking on a pumpkin light and putting a banner up in the hall. The boys are 1 now, so we thought it was about time we brought a little spookiness back to the house! I was sick of the same old decorations year after year so I got completely over-excited when I saw the display of stuff in EuroGiant today. I swore blind that I was not going to spend more than €25, so here's what I got for my buck (prices are in captions):

Wooden Wall Plaque, €1.50

Wooden Wall Hanging, €1.

Felt Wall Hanging, €1.50

Light-up Spider on Web, €1.50

Skeleton Tinsel Garland, €1.

Black Cat Popcorn Holders, €1 each (I ended up with 3 of these, no idea why)

Bat Gel Window Stickers, €1

Happy Halloween Gel Window Sticker, €1.50

16 Halloween Balloons, €1.50

2 Pumpkin Paper Lampshades, €1.50

Pumpkin Tinsel Wall Hanging, €1.00

Tealight Holders, €2 each

Sequin Bat Garland, €1.00

Glow in the dark Nail polish (not varnish. NEVER varnish), €1.50

Overall I spent €25.50 including the notebooks. The quality of the stuff is pretty bloody amazing considering the price - the wooden wall hangings in particular are seriously impressive. My light-up spider doesn't work, but I can't say I'm overly bothered. EuroGiant have a huge selection of battery operated lights in all kinds of spooky shapes but to be honest, I've a pain in my hoop replacing batteries in children's toys the past few weeks so I'm not a fan of decorations that need batteries anyway.

I AM a fan of EuroGiant, and I can not wait to see what they have in store for Christmas this year. I'll be in again for a wander the minute the Christmas stock hits. This wasn't a sponsored post or anything, I just wanted to show you that you don't need to spend a fortune to go all out for Halloween. It doesn't have to be another thing to dread spending money on.

Dealz, I think you've just been bumped to second place in my "favourite places to go with a tenner" list.




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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

National Curry Week! Slow Cooked Chicken Tikka

Hi!

This week, October 13-19, is National Curry Week!

I love a good curry, but I find some of the jars of sauce too sweet or too salty. When I got my slow cooker (this one), I spent hours googling slow cooker recipes. This is a recipe I had written down on a bit of notepaper - I've no idea where it came from, and I have tweaked it, so here's my version of a slow-cooked chicken tikka.


Ingredients:







* 3-4 chicken breasts, chopped.
* 1 white onion, chopped.
* 1 tblsp fresh ginger, grated.
* 1 can chopped tomatoes.
* 100ml coconut milk (light or regular).
* 1 tblsp cumin.
* 1 tblsp tikka powder.
* 1 tsp turmeric.
* 1/2 tblsp chilli powder.




Method:

1. Put everything into the slow cooker.


Seriously, that's it. Throw everything in, stick it on High for 4 hours or Low for 8 hours, and you're done! Regarding the coconut milk* - I personally don't like it, so I used 100ml of reduced fat coconut milk - I couldn't taste it when it was done. This recipe served 2 adults and one child.

If you want a creamier tikka, stir in a few spoons of natural yogurt right before serving. Serve with boiled rice and some fresh parsley on top.

So yum!

Has anyone got any nice curry recipes?




*With regard to the coconut milk, if you're following Slimming World - a 400ml can of Blue Dragon reduced fat coconut milk is roughly 15 Syns. You definitely do not need a full can - half a can is lots (7.5 Syns), but that's for the entire recipe, so divide that up between however many portions you get. For Weightwatchers, a 400ml can of reduced fat coconut milk is usually 13pp, but do check.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Review of The Wet Brush & My Hair History!

***Wet Brush provided in exchange for honest review. Opinions 100% honest & 100% mine.***

Hi!

My hair is heavy, thick, and naturally curly. Any little hint of warmth or humidity at all and it grows to 3-4 times its original size - Monica Geller looked mild in comparison. When I came home from nights out years ago, I'd be greeted with my sister going "oh my god, your HAIR". Massive. It's massive. It actually gets to the point where I can't be bothered doing anything with it, because it gets so tangled. Case in point - this picture from a couple of years ago when it was probably at its longest. I had straightened it that morning and gone out in the rain for about three minutes.


I cut it short after that, but started to grow it again in 2011 when we got engaged. On our wedding day, I had it curled - but I also had a bloody side fringe that was too short and that I was fiddling with all day. In half of the pictures from that day it's hanging in my eyes.


My hair hasn't really changed all that much over the last 20 years - here's some hair history.


"But, wait," you may say, "where are the late 1990s picures? The ones from your formative, teenage years?" - well, I was pretty much a professional camera avoider after the age of 12. The late 1990s involved a lot of Glints hair dye, a lot of Wella plum colours (they earned me the nickname Dot Cotton), and at one point two bleached stripes with Stargazer red over them.

In the 1990s, I also had my only dalliance with very short hair. That phase began after I watched this movie:


My Nancy obsession was born.



When I started trying to grow it out, all hell broke loose. I really, really do not have the right hair for short hair. Don't ask what I was supposed to be here - a vampire bride? No idea.


You'd think I would have learned my lesson to stop messing with my hair, but nope. During the summer this year, it was way too long, way too fuzzy, way too hard to manage, so I lost patience with it one morning and did this:


Yup, chopped it all off. In fairness it didn't turn out too bad after I straightened it:


That's all well and good when I have time to straighten it, but 6 days out of 7, I don't. As you can see by the earlier pictures above, my hair is naturally thick and fluffy. I'm also still suffering a bit of hair loss after having the boys last year, so I do tend to shed a bit. Enter The Wet Brush.


The Wet Brush was something I'd heard about in passing - mainly from Aisling's blog. I was delighted to be asked to try it, mainly because the Tangle Teezer and I did not get along and I've been looking for an alternative.

I actually binned my Tangle Teezer after the second use - I shed anyway, but it took so much hair with it that I couldn't even see the brush anymore. I found the lack of a handle a pure nuisance, and kept getting it caught in the back of my hair.


The Wet Brush claims to "quickly and painlessly detangle even the thickest, most stubborn hair thanks to its revolutionary bristles." It has a rubberized, non-slip finish so it's easy to manage with wet hands. It's suitable for people of all ages, including young children.

So, does it work?  On the left is the amount of hair I lose after brushing with a regular paddle brush. On the right is the amount lost after using the Wet Brush.


So, yes, it works. It REALLY works. When I felt the bristles initially, I thought there was no way in hell that it would untangle my knotty mop. Not only did it untangle it far quicker than anything else I've tried, but it didn't hurt at all (unlike that blasted Tangle Teezer that scraped my scalp and ripped the hair from my head). I've been using this brush for about a month now and it has made washing my hair far less of a chore - anything that makes my life easier is very welcome when I have two one-year-olds to look after.

I haven't tried it on extensions, but the next time I wear my clip-ins I will update. It's a gorgeous brush, it comes in a range of colours (I was sent this really cool matte metallic blue one) and I will definitely be picking up a couple to put in Christmas boxes.

If your hair is the bane of your life - give The Wet Brush a go. I promise, if it was rubbish, I'd tell you. It's not. It's bloody amazing.


Keep an eye out for it in chemists across Ireland - in the meantime you can find it at Sally Express for €10.49.

Status: Holy Grail.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Books I Read in September

Hi!

Septembers books were mostly the results of a huge Netgalley binge - I won't be doing that again in a hurry, it's much nicer to pick and choose books at my own leisure. I ended up with a list of stuff to review and felt like it was a chore. Not fun! In future, I'll only be requesting things that I really, really want to read.

The total amount read in September was 13 - 11 of those were within the first two weeks, then I completely lost my reading mojo and only read two in the last fortnight.

I'll start with the Netgalley approvals, firstly the two I read for Rick O'Shea's Book Club:


Martin Amis: The Zone of Interest
This story is set in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. It's told from the point of view of three people in the camp - Paul Doll (Camp Commandant) thinks of the entire Holocaust as an inconvenience; Szmul (a Jewish prisoner), works to dispose the "pieces", or bodies, and knows his days are numbered. Thomsen (a Nazi Civil Servant) is obsessed with Doll's wife and tries to woo her while simultaneously driving Doll mad. I didn't enoy this book. The majority of it went over my head and I found it hard to follow. I still couldn't put it down - it was weirdly enthralling - but I wouldn't read it again, nor would I seek Amis out in the future. I didn't like his style of writing at all and the whole thing had a Monty Python/Allo Allo feel to it, whether intentional or not.

Emily St. John Mandel - Station Eleven
If you had told me that I'd end up loving a book about a post-apocalyptic Travelling Symphony who perform Shakespeare for survivers of the Georgia Flu, I'd have laughed you out of it. This is an amazing little book - it begins with actor Arthur Leander dying on stage during a production of King Lear, then goes forward 15 years into the future after 90% of the population has been wiped out by the disease. The book links 5 people connected to Arthur in some way and goes back & forth over their lives. One of my favourites of the year!


Sarah Belle - Miss Spelled
On the night of Lou and Aiden's one year Anniversary, Aiden proposes. All is going well until someone from Lou's past shows up with the potential to destroy her happiness - so she turns to a spell from an Internet Witch to try and erase him from her past. Only....she erases a whole lot more, and now Aiden is engaged to someone else and has no clue who she is. Can she put it right? I enjoyed this, it was a cute read.

Jill Steeples - Hopelessly Devoted To You
Ruby is engaged to Finn, but is afraid to tell him that she wants to call the wedding off. When she finally plucks up the courage, he storms out and falls down the stairs. When he wakes from a coma, he seems like a completely different person - even his accent has changed. He can't remember Ruby breaking up with him, but with this "New Finn", does she want to break up? I didn't like this book - it had a deal-breaker for me - Ruby repeatedly says no to sex and Finn responds with:  "It'll be fine, we'll be quick. god, you are so beautiful, Ruby. How the hell am I supposed to resist you?" and does it anyway. The repeated references to his new accent making him sound like Hugh Jackman smacked of fanfic.

Brenda Novak - A Matter of Grave Concern
Aldersgate School of Medicine, London, 1830. Abigail Hale hires "The London Supply Company" - Grave Robbers to the rest of us - to supply her with a corpse to enable the students of the medical school to practice. Outspoken, arrogant Max Wilder crosses Abigail and doesn't expect her to stand up to him - but what is he hiding? As Abigail and Max get closer, secrets are revealed that could threaten all their lives. This was a bit more Mills & Boon than I would have liked, but it was enjoyable even if some parts were a bit twee and predictable.

Celeste Ng - Everything I Never Told You
Set in 1977, this is the story of a family dealing with terrible grief and sadness after they discover their oldest daughter Lydia has died under mysterious circumstances. It follows the lives of Marilyn and James, and we see how they deal with prejudice over James' race (Chinese) and how Marilyn gives up on her dream of being a doctor to raise a family, pushing her dream on to Lydia. Parts of it are achingly sad, but it's a really good read and beautifully written.


Emma Taylor - Anastasia
Cinderella. With lesbians. This took just under an hour to read, and I did enjoy it - there was a hell of a lot packed into such a small book! A curse, a ball, a fatal sickness, a spirit in a tree - it was a fun read.

Fiona Valpy - The French For Christmas
Evie has had a tough year. She has lost her baby, and her marriage has fallen apart. When she gets the opportunity to go to France and spend Christmas alone in her friend's holiday cottage, she decides to go. She brings her Grandmother's cookbook and learns to ive and love again with the help of new friends and good food. This was alright - it had too many food analogies for me ("his accent was as chewy as a slice of tarte tatin") and the insta-love was unconvincing. It lacked Christmas atmosphere, but France came off really well.

Jimmy Wayne - Walk To Beautiful
This is the true story of Jimmy Wayne. Jimmy grew up in care after his parents left him. He vowed that if he made it in the music business, that he would give back - he's a popular Country Music star now, so he's going to walk from a foster home in Nashville to a foster home in Phoenix (1700 miles). This is Jimmy's life story - and it's an amazing, inspirational one. It stayed with me for a long time after reading it.

Next up are two books that I've owned for a while but hadn't read:


Scott Lobdell, Paul Lee & Fabian Nicieza - Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Slayer, Interrupted 
This is a comic that I got in a big order of used books online a few years ago. I came across it while looking for Halloween reads - there are two stories in it, the first one "Dawn and the Happy Bear" features a young Dawn Summers receiving the gift of a cursed teddy bear mistakenly meant for Buffy. The second, "Slayer, Interrupted" is reminiscent of the actual episode "Normal Again" but not as good. Dawn finds Buffy's diary and outs her to their parents as a Slayer. She is committed to a mental institution where there are strange goings-on. We get a fleeting glance at a pre-Buffy Willow, and a look at Giles coming face-to-face with his Ripper self.

Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
This is narrated by 18 year old Mary Katherine (Merricat) Blackwood, who lives with her sister Constance and old Uncle Julian in a big house secluded from the rest of the town. The rest of Merricat's family fell foul of a terrible poisoning incident - for which Constance was charged but acquitted. The townsfolk dislike the Blackwoods intensely, and the girls receive few visitors - until one day, cousin Charles shows up looking for information on the family fortune. When Charles sees how the girls live, he decides that it's time for a few changes - but Merricat won't take that lying down... brilliant book, I'm sorry I didn't read it years earlier!

I bought two books in September (well.....not including boot sale ones.....):


Louise O'Neill - Only Ever Yours
Freida is an "eve" - one of a number of girls created for men. Women are not born anymore, they are created and programmed. Every year, from the school they inhabit, ten will be chosen as companions to bear children. Others will become concubines - their only role is to pleasure men. The remainder are stripped of their vanity and remain in the school as chastities, helpers to the upcoming batches of eves. The eves are obsessed with their looks, their weight, their appearance in general - when one starts to put on weight she is immediately ostracised. They are in constant competition with each other and will stop at nothing to make sure they get the position they want. Intelligence is punished. Asking questions is punished. Termination date is 40. The girls names don't even have capital letters, they aren't that important. This book was absolutely fantastic, I think it should be compulsory reading for teenagers.

Donna Tartt - The Goldfinch
I don't have much luck with award winning books, so lord knows why I decided that I was going to tackle this - when kindle estimated that it would take over 12 hours to read, I almost had a spontaneous poo. The Goldfinch in question is a painting, stolen from an art gallery by 13 year old Theo Decker after he is instructed to take it by a dying man. The gallery has been bombed, and Theo's mother, center of his universe, is dead. What follows is the story of Theo's life, and how the painting brings him in contact with many different people. I really liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I know that some people feel the ending was long-winded, but to be honest, I was after reading over 700 pages, I was just glad to SEE the ending. I would recommend it - it's not a life-changer or anything, but it was a good read.


So - that's it for this month. My favourites were Station Eleven, We Have Always Lived in the Castle,  and Only Ever Yours.

I decided that for October, I'm only going to read books that fit in with a Halloween/Scary/Spooky theme, so I've been scouring Goodreads lists and Youtube videos for inspiration. Here's hoping that the mojo I lost after The Goldfinch will make a reappearance soon!

If you want to read my Goodreads reviews of all the books above, go to the "Books 2014" tab at the top of the page and click the individual book covers to go to the reviews.

Sticking with the Halloween theme for a second, what's your favourite spooky book?




Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Slimming World Burger in a Bowl with Cheesy Airfried Chips!

Hi!

I love chips. Love them. Garlic chips, spicy chips, taco chips - any chips. Since I started following the Slimming World plan, I make homemade chips about once a week. They're especially nice if you use the cheese from the Healthy Extra A list and melt it on top - delicious!

The burger in a bowl was something I hadn't tried before, so when I got the Slimming World Fakeaways book it was one of the first things I wanted to try. My recipe is for one person but could very much serve two, I'm just a bit of a pig.


Firstly, get your chips on. I used one large white potato per person (my eldest wanted chips but not mince). Out of all the potatoes I've tried, Maris Piper definitely make the best Slimming World chips, and are fantastic in the Airfryer. I didn't have any this time, so I used whites. Peel them and chop into chunky chips. While you're doing that, boil the kettle.


Rinse the chips, and put in a saucepan of boiling water for 5-7 minutes. Do not let them cook fully. After that, drain them and return them to the saucepan. Shake vigourously, this has a huge effect on the finish of the cooked chips.


Spray the chips with frylight, then put them in the Airfryer basket. Cook them at 200 for 20 minutes. If you're using an oven, just cook them as you would normal oven chips.

Now - for the burger in a bowl, here's what you need:


* 1/2 a white onion, chopped.
* 200g mince or quorn mince.
* Lettuce, shredded.
* 1/2 a red onion, sliced.
* A few gherkins & cherry tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, all chopped.
* 1 garlic clove, crushed.
* Frylight, salt & pepper.

Method:


Spray a large pan or saucepan with frylight.
Add the mince, white onion and garlic, fry until mince is browned.
Season with salt & pepper.


If you want to make a burger sauce to go with it, mix 1 tblsp extra light mayonnaise with 1 tblsp of ketchup. Add a dash of paprika and a tiny nip of mustard powder. I completely overdid mine and it was way too hot. If you make the sauce, it'll cost you 2 Syns. (It's more like 1.5 but I always go with 2 to be safe).

Assemble your salad - lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and gherkins. Place the mince on top and spoon the sauce over.


At this point, the Airfried chips should be done. They should be crunchy on the outside with a golden colour on the parts that were "fluffed up" when you shook them dry. Like this - I promise they're not polluted with salt, I use Lo Salt!


To make the chips extra tasty, use 30g of cheddar or 40g or mozzarella or reduced fat cheddar, sprinkle over the chips, and pop them in the microwave for 45 seconds. If they need more time, pop them back in for 10 seconds at a time.


It's not something you're going to be having daily, or even weekly. But it's bloody delicious and it's a lovely alternative to a burger and chips from the chipper.