Saturday, 31 December 2011

...and Looking Back

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1 year (that’s 4 seasons, 12 months, 365 days, 8766 hours and countless memories...) summarised in just 9 small pictures - a year like any other, 2011 has brought upheaval and disaster, change and progress, losses and lessons. Enough said. It’s time now to accept that 2011 has come to an end and welcome 2012 with open arms. Wishing you peace, joy and success in the new year. For this year, that’s it from me. Happy New Year to you all.

xxx

Friday, 30 December 2011

Looking Forward..

As much as I love that pre-Christmas euphoria, I hate this deflating post-Christmas lull - the perpetuating sense of loss that all good things for the year have drawn to a close. Do you get that? I find London (and England, for that matter) quite depressing in the winter, especially once the glitterati of the Christmas magic has paled and all that's left is…well, gloom and greyness. Grey (light-less) buildings, grey skies and grey post-flu complexions… so it's no wonder I'm turning time and time again to the gifts and cards that brought such a smile to my face this year. Nostalgia (albeit very recent-history), if you may. For somebody who's known me no longer than 5 months, the boyfriend managed to find almost everything that's known to bring a smile to my face. "Covering all bases" was his exact terminology. I'm going to call it the five "s" rule, a very cliche-but-cute guide to gift-buying your way into a girl's good books.


Something(s) soft - n.b. the presence of three cuddly cuties here.


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Something smelly.


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Something sparkly - a small piece of jewellery is a win-win really. It's a keepsake for life.


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Something special (nothing quite beats something personalised or bespoke) and…


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…something sweet (it is Christmas after all!).


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It's the last day of 2011 tomorrow. No doubt a day for reflection, for quiet relapse into what this year has given, and taken, and what you hope to achieve in the next. If you've been reading here for while, you'll have accompanied me on my journey through the highs and the lows - through the losses and the lessons. When we go through tough times, it's hard to say whether we'll ever be the same again; whether we'll ever forget what we lost. All we know is that you've got to take what comes your way with grace, with courage, with appreciation. Look at problems as a test of your resilience rather than an obstacle in your path. And never, ever give up. 2011 is one I will never forget because I've finally found what I was looking for. Until tomorrow, happy Friday to you all.


xxx

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Out of My Christmas Coma

Nothing like a 4am wake up to snap you out of your Christmas coma ey? It's the 27th today, Christmas done, presents opened, leftovers consumed, pounds gained, sales commenced and first shift back at work completed. Is it just me or does it feel like that was a helluvalota hype for just one day?! I'm not going to lie (and I'm going to try my ABSOLUTE hardest not to gloat), but I've had the best Christmas I could ever imagine. I've been absolutely spoilt - by my friends, by my family and of course by my boyfriend. Even though I didn't let slip even one clue about what I might like for Christmas, he did me proud :) More tomorrow.

xxx

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Sunday, 25 December 2011

It's the 25th!

Wishing you all peace, joy and lots of love this Christmas. Enjoy every last second of it. xxx

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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Monday, 19 December 2011

Lazy Days, Lovely Days

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Jeez, one WHOLE week and no update? I really do need to up my game. Since term ended at university, I've been hell-bent and totally intent on trying to use my time to catch up on all the things I don't have time for during term time; like clearing out my closet in prep for some sneaky pieces from the January sales and ploughing through stacks of reading and making a dent in the gift-buying marathon that beckons. Wanna hear the news though? I haven't even scratched the top of the mountain. Because as soon as I finish work and I realise I don't have to leg it out like a maniac for the next train into London, all I really want to do is snuggle down and read novels from under the duvet. Or eat warm cheesecake-marbled chocolate brownies with melting vanilla ice-cream. Or just bumble around with the boyfriend doing nothing.
But then that's how it should be right, that's what holidays are for? I feel SO tired out by the fullness of my timetable over the past few months that I think it's really caught up on me. I'm fried, so-to-speak, and to top it off I seem to have one of 'those bugs that are goin' around' (damn Boots customers that spread their germs left, right and centre). So in truth this break couldn't have been more welcome. Unfortunately for me the bf is working crazy hours over the next week, but fortunately for mum, that means she has her Team S (that's me and her, in case you wonder. Sadhana + Seema = Team S) to combat the mounting Christmas challenge. And boy is there a TON of work to be done. I'm up and out of here but only for now - because I promise to be back a little sooner than last time with some reviews (films, restaurants, bars and shows) and girly stocking-filler ideas (take hints, boyfriends, brothers and fathers). Until then, wishing you a Happy 19th December. Keep smiling.
xxx

Recipe: Cheesecake-marbled Chocolate Brownies

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These have to be the best dessert ever imaginable for the minimal effort and ingredient that goes into making them. A little melting here, a little mixing there... et voila. You have a brownie so deeply comforting and rich in its taste, you'd think they've taken hours of toil to make. Here goes:


Ingredients (for brownie batter)

4 oz unsalted butter
3 oz dark chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup plain flour

(for cheesecake mix)

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Plus

1/2 cup chocolate chips

To make them:

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1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and butter an 8 inch square baking tin.

2. Heat butter and chocolate in a saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted.

3. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined.

4. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

5. Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

6. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

7. Sprinkle chocolate chips over cheesecake/brownie batter swirl.

8. Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with good-quality vanilla ice-cream.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Recipe: Macaroni Cheese

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I s'pose mac 'n' cheese needs no introduction, no explanation, no justification. It is, just, comfort food at its most… well, comforting. And unfortunately, as it can be classed as neither British nor American (and most definitely not Italian), it's pretty hard pushed to find its place on any restaurant menus. Alas, home-made it will be. Creamy, cheesy pasta with a crisp, bubbling top... mmmmmmmmmm. Enjoy.


Ingredients (serves 4)

500g macaroni
80g butter
80g plain flour
1.2l milk
500g cheddar cheese
100g parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

What to do


1. Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes; drain well and set aside.


2. Melt the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan slightly larger than that used for the macaroni. Add the flour and stir to form a roux, cooking for a few minutes.


3. Gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Cook for 10-15 minutes to a thickened and smooth sauce.


4. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to hot.


5. Remove the sauce from the hob, add 350g of the cheese and stir until the cheese is well combined and melted. Season to taste.


6. Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well. Transfer to a deep suitably-sized ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and the parmesan and place the dish under the hot grill. Cook until the cheese is browned and bubbling. Serve straightaway (but try not to burn your mouth because you're too keen.)

A Magical Monday


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It's days like this that I feel so utterly grateful for a birthday on Christmas day - I've had the week/weekend from heaven; dinners, drinks, shisha, flowers, presents, Monday morning off and lots of Christmas magic. And in my state of total overwhelmed-ness, I'm just glad I can give something back under the pretext of Christmas without feeling like a complete idiot. In all truth, I've been spoilt rotten for the 22 Christmases I've been alive (including the one I was born; I guarantee mum kissed me 'til I was blue in the face, she was THAT pleased to see a girl) - but I can feel this one's going to be special. 2011 has been a year of extremes to say the least; the first half showed me some of toughest times while the second half is bringing me some of my happiest. I've lost good people from my life, but equally, I've made some special friends too. They say that for everything you have missed, you have gained something else and for everything you gain, you lose something else. And I guess it's true, I know it's only because of what I've been through that I'm able to appreciate so fully what I have in my life today. So today's message, lovely readers, is that you should count your blessings, not your bank balance; remember what you have, not what you don't and never forget that you might have ten reasons to frown, but you'll always have one hundred to smile; maybe you just need reminding. Happy 12th December to you all.
xxx

P.S. The recipe is finally HERE. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy, I know! But it was too good to keep to myself. Enjoy.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

8th of December

Over-crowded, bustling shopping centres, sub-zero temperatures and the chilly winter wind pinching at your cheeks; toffee-nut lattes, half-opened advent calendars and lights everywhere you look; December is well and truly here. I'm super-charged with the xmas energy this year - my birthday shenanigans commence this weekend and I'm having the time of my life coming up with little ideas to fulfil "24 surprises" for the boyfriend; it's really getting me in the mood. Christmas, to me, has always felt like a time to give without any restraint; a season to exchange gifts, share food and appreciate, really appreciate, the loved ones you have in your life. For lack of any more words, I'm leaving you with more festive pictures, a snap-shot update of Christmas proceedings over the past week. I intend on sharing the fool-proof (trust me, even I didn't mess it up!) recipe for this wondrous macaroni cheese at some point in the next few days, as well as a few film reviews and more mushy tales of my first Christmas with the man (cue: reach for sick bucket) Until next time, wishing you a Happy 8th. Enjoy it.


xxx


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Saturday, 3 December 2011

The 25 Days of Christmas

Another week, another AWOL - I'm sorry :( It's been an absolutely manic one, what with the Christmas rush at work, the end of term scurry at university and of course the child-like impatience to get into gear for the festive period now that it's finally hit December. It's finally hit December! And it officially looks like Santa has puked all over my house - red bauble, tinsel, gift wrap and fairy lights galore. It looks beautiful though and oh-so-magical. It's my first Christmas with the mister, and as new love goes (cheesy and totally OTT), we know this one's going to be a memorable one. I've planned 24 surprises for him, one for each day leading up to Christmas (I'm taking Christmas day off though, can't be stealing Santa's thunder now can I? ;) ) Ahhhh I do love Christmas. I've got the weekend off work, the icing on the cake, so I'm off to begin my day, leaving you with a small sneaky-peak into my xmas euphoria. Have a wonderful weekend, whatever it is you're up to - and if you're not already, I'm sure a bit of Arthur Christmas will get you into the festive spirit. Enjoy!


xxx


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Sunday, 27 November 2011

Some Sunday Love

I remember a time when it’d come to 3pm on Sunday afternoon and I'd be filled with this inexplicable dread of the full week looming ahead, that same sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach as when you wave loved ones good bye (I class the weekend as a 'loved one', okay?!). But now? Now it's my one day of down time, catch up time, fix-up-and-get-my-life-in-order time. It's my day to spend with the family, with the bf, cooking, chilling and just doing as I please. I love Sundays. I mean when else is it really acceptable to crawl into (your unmade) bed following the fattest lunch you could possibly imagine, and just stay put until you're feel ready to take on the world (and the washing up) again? Exactly. I haven't accomplished anything on my to-do list (nope, haven't proof read essay on Leviathan, haven't applied for a minimum of three internships nor have I been job searching - oopsie), but I reckon, just because it's a Sunday, and Sundays are meant for lazing, I can forgive myself. It's nice to start the week with a head start - and I'm definitely looking forward to this one. I'll be back tomorrow (hopefully with a stomach full of sushi and a new hair style), but for now, here's wishing you a happy Sunday - hope you're rested, relaxed and re-energised.


xxx


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Thursday, 24 November 2011

I've Cheated, I Won't Lie

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It's official, my 21-year-long highly exclusive intensely romantic relationship with Bollywood has been dirtied. Tampered. Changed forever. I've cheated and I can't lie anymore. Who'd have thought three months with the bf would be enough to have me knowing who set fire to the rain and who found love in a hopeless place? And to make me feel worse, I can't even say I don't feel an ever so slight swelling of pride within my being each time I recognise a tune on the radio/in a club/at work. It's a sublime sense of satisfaction, a small slither of smugness that seeps through my heart. Absolutely brilliant. Yup, Amy, Sunita, Rob - what you couldn't accomplish in ten years has been accomplished by another in three months. I will no longer spend nights out asking you "what song is this?!"


xxx


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

An Orange Wednesday At Last

I’m off for my first Orange Wednesday date in an age. Can’t tell you what I’m seeing though ‘cause that’s a surprise (yeah for me as well, I don’t actually know what I’m seeing - I just haven’t had the time to ask). I have one day off work in the next ten, two essays to submit, a stack of reading to plough through and the whole of the Leviathan to digest (if you don’t know what it is, you’re better off not knowing, trust me). But who caaaaaaares, it’s half way to the weekend, five days ‘til payday and seven ‘til the start of December. And no I’m not sad enough to be counting down the (only flipping) 31 days ‘til Xmas (eeeeeek!) Jeez, whadya actually take me for??


xxx


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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hurry Up Christmas, Hurry Up.

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It's days like these that make me wonder where the colour's gone from the skies. As much as I'm trying not to wish time away, I can't wait for December to begin; it feels like it's high time we have something to look forward to, no? But then November always tends to long out a bit doesn't it? Ahhh hurry up already December, hurry up carol singers and Christmas parties, colourful cards and useless presents. Hurry up toasty winter evenings and tipsy Christmas nights. We've been waiting long enough already. Hurry up.


xxx

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Blues

I think I have post-holiday blues. It's dull, dreary and grey outside. I miss my mum. It's cold. I can't be bothered to do anything. It's grey. I'm awfully jet lagged still. Did I mention it's grey? Urghhhhh. I feel I've been working like a robot the past few months and I knew that the minute I stopped for a break, I wouldn't be able to pick myself up again. And it's official. I've lost my mojo. My will to do anything. I've done next to nothing the past few days and yet I feel SO tired. All I just want is to leg it out the country asap to a place with white sands, blue skies and golden sunsets. Someone remind me what we're actually doing in England puh-lease?!


I've got the last of my holiday photos for you today - I've been pouring over these endlessly in a desperate bid to cheer myself up, draw some energy from their vibrancy. Alas. These were taken in Vadodara, mum's home city, in the state of Gujarat, home to almost 1.6 million people. It's a gem of a city, extremely clean by India's standards, vibrant, bustling and beautiful.


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