Friday, 30 January 2015

Shopping For One (or Shopping On A Budget)

I'm writing this as a bit of a companion to my Cooking For One series. When you're buying food for yourself it can be really tricky not to go over board and buy everything you want, only for it to go off before you've had a chance to eat it. Over the past year of buying my own food, and having almost no waste, here's what I've picked up.

1) Know your space. If you're like me and are at university sharing a tiny kitchen with three (or more) other people, you've got to watch out and make sure you're only using as much space as you're assigned. If everyone's big shop falls on the same day, you need to know that everyone will have enough room in the fridge and freezer for their bits and bobs. Store cupboard stuff is easier to stock up on, and keeping spares in a box in your room is always an option if you're running out of space.

2) Check dates. This is my one big bug-bear with budget shops like ALDI - they don't put dates on any of their fresh fruit and veg. I don't hold a lot in store by best before dates, but it does give you an indication of how fresh the product is. Food almost always lasts longer than its BBE (best before end), but if the BBE is dated for a couple of days in the future, don't expect it to last for a week and a half.

Berries are the one big exception to the 'don't worry too much about the BBE' rule. If they're out of season, they'll go off pretty quickly, sometimes even before the expiry (depending on how you keep them). Be aware when you buy them you'll have to eat them in a couple of days.

Bread is another funny one. You can mostly ignore the date, especially if you're going to freeze it, and just check for mould if you're using out of date bread. Stale bread can also be used in various recipes etc. 

3) Expect a similar diet. Almost every night of the week I eat some variation of chopped veg, stir fried, with tomato sauce. To mix it up I add different seasonings, and pair it with variations of pasta, rice and tortillas. Cooking this way means I know what veg I need so when I buy it I know I'll use it up. 

4) Quorn. A lot of people turn their noses up at Quorn or other meat-free alternatives, but it's cheap and if you flavour it right it doesn't taste too dissimilar. Meat is expensive, and cooking from frozen is always a little risky. I always have a pack of mince, chicken and sausages in the freezer - and they're almost always on a 3 for £5 deal.

5) Pick your priorities. Personally, I save money on chopped tomatoes by buying the cheapest version and eek out my portions with water, but add more flavour with a tomato puree. Similarly I choose not to buy milk and use water in my porridge instead. When it comes to herbal tea I splurge and get something more expensive. It's all about balancing out what does and doesn't matter to you - and don't just pick brands you've always used if there's something cheaper you've never tried.

6) Staples. Seasonings (salt, pepper, mixed herbs, chili powder, cinnamon, curry powder) will make the world of difference to your food. Rice, spaghetti, pasta, noodles, lentils and chickpeas are all cheap and are great for bulking out meals and adding carbs. I love lazy garlic and chili too as they're a quick way to give a meal a zing. Olive oil is essential to every meal I make.

7) Snacks. Don't forget these or else you'll kick yourself. Something sweet for after dinner and something salty for a mid-day treat. Different spreads for toast can be a great way to accommodate for snacks without having to spend extra money. Things you can take on the go are also really useful - and whilst a packed of nuts might be expensive you'll thank yourself when you're out and about and fancy a nibble!

8) Eggs and Baked Beans. I almost always have a packet of eggs on the go, and a couple of tins of baked beans in the cupboard. Eggs are a great way to have a quick, healthy meal, and pared with some baked beans makes a really nice little brunch or brinner! Eggs can bulk out old rice, make a quick and simple omelette, or, if you're feeling fancy, a baked frittata. Beans work great in chilli recipes, or add them to a curry to eek it out a little.

9) Don't go overboard! You can always do an extra small shop if you're running low, but chances are buying a range of fruit and veg each week will last. I go through one large carrot a week, one parsnip, an aubergine can last a week and a half, a packet of spinach, a punnet of mushrooms, a broccoli, some green beans, a couple of peppers and a packet of cherry tomatoes. That all comes in easily under £10. Add in some oranges, a bunch of bananas and maybe some grapes you've got a nice healthy mix of stuff to keep you going for lunches and dinners for a week.

10) Cheese, Gromit. I love cheese. Cheddar and feta are fridge staples, and halloumi makes a great and filling change too. Never spend more than £2.50 on a nice block of cheddar, though, as you can almost always get it on a deal.

Those are my tips and tricks for shopping on a budget for one. If you've got any suggestions, tweet me @VickiMaitland or leave a comment below. If you follow me on Instagram (@vickimaitland) I often post pictures of my food - as well as sneak previews for the blog post.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

On Roller Coasters

In the immortal words of Mr Ronan Keeting - life is a roller coaster, you've just got to ride it. This is exactly how life, and in particular student life, has been for me over the past three weeks since term started. 

Week one of term I went out 4/7 nights, week two I had three birthdays and a couple of other parties and now, at the start of week three I'm stressing out over all the reading I've got to do. I like to think I'm pretty good at time management, and there's no way I could have started the reading any earlier than I did, but it's still bugging me. I'm currenty typing this post from the library, on my phone, with my work in front of me.

I love my degree, and, although I'm fed up with the academic system, I'm not quite done with learning yet. So I'm accepting that some weeks I'll have nothing but fun and others I'll have nothing but stress, in the hopes that it'll all balance out in the end (and will hopefully delay life for a smidge longer).

To close, I'm going to (poorly) quote from John Green: a roller coaster that only goes up isn't very fun. We often look at life as a series of peaks and troughs, but at the end of the day I'd much prefer a middling roller coaster than one that only. Ranked slowly up, or one the was perpetutLly rushing down. I'll see you on Friday, by which point I hope my upwards coaster will have leveled out, and you'll get a better quality blog post.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Cooking For One: Lunchbox CousCous Salad

This is a really quick lunch to prepare either in the morning or the night before. As usual, you can pretty much switch out any of the vegetables and dressings I’ve included, but this is how I like it best.

1 serving of CousCous (about 30-50g dried)
1/5 Pepper (I chose orange)
4 Cherry/Plum Tomatoes
Large Handful of Spinach
5-6 Pitted Olives
1cm thick strip of Feta
Balsamic Vinegar

1) Pour your coucous into your lunchbox, then pour in boiling water so it just covers the couscous.
2) Chuck your handful of spinach on top then put the lid on your lunchbox. The steam from the water will wilt the spinach.
3) While your couscous is fluffing up, chop up your pepper, tomatoes, olives and any other veg you’re including.
4) Scrape a fork through your couscous and spinach mix. If your couscous is ready, add in your other ingredients and mix it up.
5) Crumble in your feta and drizzle the whole thing with balsamic vinegar.
6) Place a sheet of cling film over top of the whole thing. Now you can fill up the rest of your box with whatever else you want: a banana, a couple of oranges, a chocolate bar – and don’t forget a fork!

In total this takes about 5 minutes to make and is really delicious and filling. If you want to make it even more healthy, you can swap out the couscous for quinoa (but it will take a little longer to cook) and add in kale rather than spinach. Adding chopped hardboiled egg is a great way to add extra protein if you don’t like feta or can’t eat dairy. Carrots, beetroot and cucumber all go really well with this mix too (and I probably would have used them if I’d had any in!). This keeps well in the fridge too, so if you know you'll be in a rush in the morning you can make it up the night before.

Let me know if you try out this dish by tweeting me @VickiMaitland or levaing a comment below.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: To Rise Again At A Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Life for Paul C. O'Rouke has somewhat plateaued. True, he owns a private dental practice in Manhattan, but he is working with his ex-girlfriend and has very few friendships outside of his interactions with molars and (rare) gym visits. Then, one day, he discovers that someone has made him a website - for all intents and purposes 'stealing his online identity'. Not only this, the but the person purporting to be Paul C. O'Rouke (DDS) is spouting what appears to be highly religious (and worryingly anti-semitic) statements  from an unknown religion - highly offensive to Paul's atheist tendencies. Paul's attempt to regain ownership over his own life morphs into an existential debate with religion at it's heart.

This book is billed as a comedy, and it is funny, but don't expect to be laughing out loud as you read. The humour is focused around the ridiculously mundane nuances of everyday life. It's a very dry comedy which prompts a chuckle or a groan of recognition rather than a big belly laugh.

It relies a lot on the reader recognising similar traits with Paul, but for the most part he is an unlikable character. Most of the empathy in the book is directed towards his increasingly exasperated staff who attempt to pull Paul away from his 'me-machiene' (the term he uses to describe his iPhone) and back towards his neglected patients. Paul is self-obsessed and constantly yo-yo's between blaming the world (specifically, the Red Sox, his ex-girlfriends, their family, and their varying religions) for his life problems, and blaming himself in a cycle of self-admiration and self-loathing.

It's clear to see why this novel was one of only two American novels to be shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker prize. It's very well crafted - if somewhat dense to read - and the character development is done expertly.

Overall, for me, this book didn't inspire the existential debate that it hopes to, but it did inspire me to think about my oral hygiene. If there's one thing reading 400 pages about dentistry will do, it will make you think about flossing!

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris was published by Penguin in 2014.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Busy Busy Busy! And Semester T.B.R

As anyone who's a university knows, the start of term is always super busy - prepping to start new modules and lots of socialising really eats into otherwise abundant free time.

Personally, I've been running around everywhere since I got back to university last weekend. Any free time I've had I've sat down with my current read (S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst - incredible but really difficult to read!) and tried to chill out.

All of this is trying to apologise for the late upload of this blog post. Sorry!

One of my big goals this year is to read for pleasure during my semester. This semester I don't have that many books to read (although I do have a lot of short stories and theoretical texts). I'm hoping to use the time I would normally spend closely reading a novel for my course to read for pleasure instead.

To account for course reading and socialising, I'm giving myself the goal of one book a fortnight. This really should be doable, it just relies on my getting off the laptop and opening up a book!!

Here the the books I'm planning on reading over the semester. I'm also thinking about picking up Yes Please by Amy Poehler in order to join in with Estee's book club!

My sister got me this for Christmas, and I've heard good things about it.

I've been wanting to read this ever since it came out, and especially after reading her essay on 'Why We Should All Be Feminists'

I bought this book for my bestie as a Christmas present, but I loved it so much I picked up another copy for myself!

This is the outer case for the book. Below is the book inside.

It looks like an old library book - with notes scribbled in the margins and loads of bits of paper stuck in from two students exchanging research notes. Two stories in one book!

Another book that my sister got me for Christmas - I've picked it up already and am enjoying so far!

There you have it! In order to make me get mroe organised, I'm going to tell you next weeks posts! Tuesday's post is (hopefully) going to be a book review - either S. if I finish it, If I Stay (which I'm also currently reading) or To Rise Again At A Decent Hour. Next Friday will be a Taylor Swift inspired make-up look (using cruelty free, drugstore products).

As always, if you've read any of these books or have any recommendations, you can leave a comment below or tweet me @VickiMaitland. I'm also vickimaitland over on Instagram, and I've been posting loads of pictures of the inside of S. so if you're interested in it it'd be well worth a browse!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Standing Resolute

Today is the final deadline for my dissertation.

Yesterday (for you, today for me) I handed it in. Admittedly I had a mad moment and forgot that I had printed it double sided so the binder for it is too big, but it's gone.

It was a really strange moment when I slotted it into the hand-in box. On the one hand, intense relief that it was all over. On the other, fear that there was nothing else I could do now.

Now that that part of my life is over and done with, I feel like I can finally start the new year. Happy 2015!

With that in mind, I thought I'd share my goals for 2015.

1) Graduate with at least a 2:1 - I'm on target for this, and as much as I would love a 1st this is a more realistic goal for me.

2) Find a full time job - I'm not in a huge hurry to move out from my folks house for real, but I want to start looking towards that, so a job is vital.

3) Get work experience in a field I'm interested in - Literary organisations, charities, publishing houses all appeal. But I need to get my foot in the door with an internship.

4) Keep up blogging! - I was so proud of myself for completing blogmas - and thank you to everyone who stuck it out with me! This little blog means so much to me, and I'd love to grow it over the year. With that in mind, I'll be sticking to my Tuesday/Friday schedule.

5) Write more - I'm doing another creative writing module this year, so this shouldn't be a problem, but I'd also like to write more casually.

6) Practise Self Care - this involves doing pilates every day, eating well, keeping my room tidy, flossing, keeping up my language learning (I'm using Duolingo to learn French and Itallian), reading widely, maintaining skin care etc. Things that make me feel good about myself.

That's all for now - let me know your goals for 2015! You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter - I'm @vickimaitland everywhere!

Friday, 9 January 2015

EssieButton Inspired Every Day Make-up Look (High Street, Cruelty Free)

If you follow me on either Instagram or Twitter then you'll have seen my sneak peeks of this blog post. I have been a huge fan of EssieButton ever  since I discovered her channel at end of last year - Estee always looks so put together. Over the past week I've been trying out a few looks to emulate her neutral, clean style and I think I've finally cracked it. This is my cruelty free, high street tale on Estee's classic look.

Estee, if you're reading this, I love you girl and let me know what you think!

These are all the products and brushes I used.
My brushes are all from My Make Up Brush Set.

I'd already moisturised my face and allowed that to soak in before I started on this look, so I'm starting with a primer. As Estee mentioned in a recent video, she became a huge primer fan over 2014.

I'm using B. Illuminating Primer. You can see my review here.

I dot this over my face and them massage it in - focusing on areas which would naturally catch the light (forehead, bridge of the nose, under eye and cheek bones, chin).


Next up is concealer. Estee always looks bright-eyed and flawless, so I couldn't miss out this step.

I'm using the concealer palette from TopShop. This palette is great as you can really build the coverage up, although I find it does crease up by the time I've finished applying the rest of my make-up, so I have to buff that out with my finger. If you've got darker skin than me (mine is a light/medium with yellow/orange undertones) then you'll struggle with the palette, as even the darkest shade is still relatively light.

I start out with the yellow colour to neutralise any dark undereye circles. Then I go in with the lighest nude shade. I press this all under my eyes. This is where most of the brightening and concealing happens. Finally I use the darkest shade to even out my eye lids and the redness around my nose.

I'm just using a light pressed powder all over my face to stop any excess shine, even out my skin stone and to help my concealer stay in place. Estee raves about the Tarte amazonian clay powder, but as I'm working on a budget I'm just using my E.L.F Pressed Powder in the shade Sand.

As you can see, the sunlight came out to interrupt this action shot!
Estee had quite a pale complexion, so I'm skipping any bronzing or contouring. She always has rosy cheeks, though, so I'm going in with the blusher. This is M&S Limited Collection in Cinnamon. Estee would normally use a pinker blush than this, but this was the only shade I had to hand.

Estee's brows always look pretty perfect. She doesn't go too hard with the brow pencil, but does give them a little extra definition, so I'm going to do the same. I just fill the center of my brows at the height of the arch to give them more shape.

This is B. Brow Kit in the shade Dark Brown

On to the eyes! In her December Favourites video, she mentions how much she'd been loving the Charlotte Tilbury Fallen Angel Palette, and I think that TopShop's Smokey Eye Palette in Golden Aurora is a pretty good dupe. The lightest shade is a little pinker and the bronze is slightly browner than in Charlotte's palette, but the tones are all about right and they work really well together.

I start by applying the lighest shade in the corners of my eye and over my brow bone. I've worn this all over my eye in the past and it gives a really gorgeous neutral shimmer. If you want an even more neutral version of this look, you can apply this pink all over, use the taupe in the crease, and the brown as an eyeliner (so if you're in school and you have a no make-up policy by really want to wear make-up, this would be a pretty good way to get around that).

Estee loves a taupe eye, so I'm applying the satin taupe shade all over the lid.

Finally, I'm using the brown in the crease. I only apply this delicately, and just follow the shape of my eye.

To line my eyes, I use an angled brush in the black shadow shade. I start at the highest point of my lash line and draw a straight line out, then fill in till it meets my lash line.

Using a fluffy brush I blend all of this out. This give it a really flawless look, as well as softening and smudging the eye liner.

Estee's has quite a light mascara look, so I cover my top lashes and the outer corner of my bottom lashes. I use my E.L.F Waterproof, Lengthening and Volumising mascara.

Finally onto lips! Estee raves about the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain, but as that isn't a cruelty free brand I'm going to use Barry M's Cor Balmy. As I'm loving purple at the moment, I'm using it in the shade Currant Bun.

Here's the finished look:

Let me know if you try it out! Tweet me @VickiMaitland, or tag me in your Instagram pics!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Cooking For One: Mediterranean Tuna Pasta

This is one of the quickest, most delicious dishes I've ever thrown together, so I thought I would share it with you!

These are only some of the ingredients (I wrote this post at Uni and took the picture at home, and we didn't have all the ingredients), but if you were working with a smaller budget this is all you'd need. 

1/2 Red Onion - diced
1/5 Pepper (colour of your choice, I chose orange) - diced
5-6 Green Beans - chopped
1cm disk of Aubergine - diced
1.5" Courgette - diced
2-3 Mushrooms - diced
1/2 can of Chopped Tomatoes
2 handfuls Kale
1/4-1/2 can Tuna Chunks
5-6 Olives
Spalsh of Balsamic Vinegar

2 handfuls Wholewheat Pasta
1cm strip of Feta

1) Boil a kettle of water.
2) Put both a saucepan and a frying pan on the hob on a high heat.
3) Pour the boiling water into the saucepan, and add your pasta.
4) Add a splash of Olive Oil to your frying pan then add the onions.
5) Turn the heat down and cook till translucent.
6) Add the remaining ingredients in order listed above.
7) When the pasta is cooked (check instructions on pack, but usually 8-10 minutes) drain and add to frying pan.
8) Crumble in some feta and stir everything together. Serve and enjoy!

You'll notice that there are quite a lot of ingredients for this dish, but don't let that put you off! You're only using an inch or so of courgette, one disk of aubergine, a handful of the rest etc, so there's loads left for other meals. Even if I use them every night, it usually takes me a week to get through each of the ingredients. Let me know if you try out this dish by tweeting me @VickiMaitland or leaving a comment below!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Fourteen Favourites of 2014

Another year has ended and I can't quite believe it! I was always told that the older you get the quicker the years pass, but I hadn't realised it would be starting so early.

2014 has been a bit of a funny one for me. Although for the vast majority of it I've had a blast, it;s not always been an easy ride.

However, I'm not going to let that get me down, so I thought I'd do a re-cap of fourteen of my favourite things of 2014. I've got an awful memory, so I'm sure a lot of these things will be from the latter half of the year.

  • Sziget Festival - This was both the best and worst week of my life. On the one hand I had never felt so alone and betrayed, on the other I got to see a ridiculous amount of amazing acts, eat some delicious food and meet some lovely people.
  • Kitzbuhel Holiday - This was the first family holiday that we've spent abroad and in a hotel (excluding our trip to Disneyland Paris). It was a lovely week, and the staff atthe hotel were incredible.
  • The LCR - my uni nightclub gets a bit of stick, but I love it. Every night there is a night to remember.
  • Obvious Child - I loved loved loved this film. Loved it. It was just so wonderful to see a film where a woman wasn't judged for her sexuality, where none/few of the women wore make-up and where relationships were realistic.
  • Yellow Flicker Beat by Lorde - This song is such an anthem for me. I could (and have) listen to it on repeat for hours.
  • La Roux - I saw her twice this year. I had forgotten about her during her five year hiatus from the music industry but I'm so glad that she was playing at Sziget so I got to hear her again. I saw her when she played at my university, and she was supported by Meanwhile who were the best support act I've seen.
  • Taylor Swift - Need I say more? 2014 has been the year of Swifty, and I've loved the music she's put out (although I'm yet to listen to the whole of 1989).
  • Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness - I can't believe it has taken me so long to read these books. Review is here.
  • Woman's World by Grahame Rawle - A 'graphic novel' using cut outs from 1950's women's magazines. Sad, funny, very good. I don't want to say too much because any plot information is basically a spoiler.
  • TopShop Golden Aurora Smokey Eye Pallette - I only got this for Christmas, but I've worn it every day since then and I love it. It has the perfect collection of shades for my skin tone, and considering how badly I was hitting pad on my E.L.F pallette this was much needed.
  • E.L.F Liquid Eyeliner - I don't think this is a stand out product, but it's cheap and does the job. I wear it every day pretty much and it hasn't let me down yet, so I think it deserves a place in my favourites for the year!
Skin Care
  • B. Exfoliating Cleanser - Like I said in my review, I've grown to love this product the more I use it, and I'll definitely be re-purchasing it this year.
  • Marmite! This is a bit of an odd one, but I love Marmite and have it on my toast every morning without fail. 
  • Pukka Tea - as you can tell from my post all about tea, I love Pukka. Well worth the money and I drink it every day.
There are my top fourteen of 2014. I had to cut out a lot (espcecially books and skin care) in order to fit everything in. 

What have been your favourites from the past year - and do you have any resolutions for 2015? Tweet me @VickiMaitland, or leave a comment below. I also have an Instagram now - you can find me by searching vickimaitland.