November December Life Lately Catch Up (5)

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the leaves were starting to change colour for Autumn and I distinctly remember making a resolution to get all my Christmas presents sorted out early for once. Suddenly however the Coca Cola truck is back on the TV, everyone’s posting pictures of their tree and there’s even been some snow. I’ve managed to buy one present so far and Christmas is in less than two weeks… here we go again!

It’s been a busy few months though so it’s hardly surprising that Christmas has crept up on me. Here’s a few of the things happening in my life lately:

Meet The Chef

November December Life Lately Catch Up (10)

Last month I attended a ‘meet the chef’ event organised by Gravitas Magazine in partnership with The Chubby Castor, a new restaurant opening next year which has already got foodies in the Cambridgeshire/Lincolnshire area excited! Adebola Adeshina is the man behind it all, a talented and experienced chef from London who is looking to bring the capital city’s dining experience to our countryside doorstep.

November December Life Lately Catch Up (10) November December Life Lately Catch Up (10) November December Life Lately Catch Up (10)

The main event was a cooking demonstration from Ade who told us all about the new restaurant as he set to work producing beautifully fresh platefuls for us to enjoy. He’s passionate about using freshly sourced produce and if the standard of food at The Chubby Castor is in keeping with what he served up on the taster night then we’re in for a real treat!

A Surprise Meal

A few weeks later I offered to treat Oliver to a nice meal somewhere and he told me to surprise him with where I picked! I didn’t want to disappoint so set about looking for somewhere a bit special but affordable and came across The Wicked Witch at Ryhall which had glowing reviews.

November December Life Lately Catch Up

Oliver seemed really excited by the surprise and so on the day I started to get anxious as we followed the sat nav further and further off the beaten track, wondering whether it would be worth the journey or a bit of a let down! To my relief Ryhall turned out to be an idyllic village full of thatched roof cottages – the kind of place perfect for a relaxed country drive or stroll.

November December Life Lately Catch Up

The Wicked Witch did not disappoint either. It was cosy and welcoming with a lunch for less 3 course fine dining menu for less than £20 each. I was one happy little bunny when Oliver said that he said he loved the place and that it was the perfect choice. Maybe I should surprise him more often… then again the pressure to get it right a second time puts me right off that idea!

The Best Find At Dunelm

My mum and I love a good shopping trip for home bits and bobs so we took a drive to my local Dunelm. I was on the lookout for a new throw and after falling in love with their teddy ones (super soft and snuggly) we found something even better, their checked reversible sherpa fleece throw. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the softest, warmest, snuggliest throw I’ve ever found and a complete and utter bargain at £15.

November December Life Lately Catch Up

Adorably the cats have also decided that it’s the best thing since sliced bread. Sookie has actually taken to burrowing in beside me at night when I’m wrapped up in it on the sofa and if I leave the room I return to find that it’s been claimed!

The Top That Wins Christmas!

Jolly Christmas Jumper* (who specialise in quirky organic sweatshirts, hoodies and tshirts) kindly offered to send me one of their pun-tastic festive tops. They have designs such as ‘Rain Deer’ and ‘Cycling Home For Christmas’ but as soon as I laid eyes upon ‘Dragon Sleigher’ I knew it was the one for me!

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Game Of Thrones plus Santa? It’s a no brainer!

November December Life Lately Catch Up

I am now happy in the knowledge that I have appropriate festive attire for the office Christmas Jumper Day, although I’m still expecting to lose the best dressed title to someone wearing fairy lights and tinsel (it happens every year!).

Sunset Strolls

November December Life Lately Catch Up

I caught the most beautiful sunset the other day and it was just so peaceful. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from a life online every now and again to look up and appreciate the real world in all it’s natural beauty, it’s wonderfully calming.

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: The Tshirt featured in this Life Lately post was kindly gifted to me. As always I’ve chosen to feature it because I love it and all thoughts are unbiased and my own!

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Veganuary preparing for the big change

There’s no two ways about it, meat tastes great and I enjoy eating it. Then again there aren’t many things in this world that I’d rate above a lovely baked camembert or a nice bit of Wensleydale with cranberry either…and don’t get me started on milk chocolate.

But…

One day I was letting Facebook autoplay videos and up popped one with a guy explaining why he went vegan. It didn’t share anything graphic, it wasn’t militant or hateful towards meat/dairy eaters, it was just him calmly and matter of factly talking about some of the processes that take place to bring certain foods to our tables and why he has opted out of supporting them.

Something about it resonated with me and got me thinking about my food consumption in a way that nothing else ever has. I’d been toying with the idea of going vegetarian this year but I’d never really understood what all the fuss was about with dairy produce until watching that video. Since then I’ve been unable to shake the feeling that the lifestyle I’m leading doesn’t follow my ethical views.

I wasn’t really sure what to do about it though so rather than making a huge commitment that I’m not prepared for, (and to avoid giving my family a heart attack this Christmas when they are so kindly going to be cooking up a feast) I instead decided that I’d commit to Veganuary, which means maintaining a vegan diet and lifestyle for the whole of January.

Veganuary preparing for the big change

That gives me a bit of leeway until then to learn what I can eat and what I need to avoid, plan breakfasts and lunches and generally get my head in a good place whilst not beating myself up too badly if I make a mistake. It’s a bit of a minefield as it turns out – just about everything you can think of has either egg or milk in it it seems, even Quorn!

Oliver has been extremely supportive which is great. He’s a meat eater through and through but he also has no qualms about trying out vegan recipes with me. His view is that as long as it tastes good and is nutritious and filling then he’s happy to give it a shot! So far we’ve tried vegan Mac and Cheese, Chocolate Banana Bread and Scrambled Tofu together. On my own I’ve made Pesto Pasta and Pea and Mint Soup. All are from Lucy Watson’s cookbook Feed Me Vegan which, along with Pinterest, is pretty much my food bible right now.

Veganuary preparing for the big change

What I’ve also learned so far is that there’s two ways to be vegan though:

  1. Healthily eating a diet consisting mainly of plant based nutritious foods, or
  2. Fake cheese, processed meat substitutes and a shit tonne of carbs.

Lots of new vegans make the mistake of going carb heavy and end up putting on weight in the first few months. After a few days of eating vegan I had definitely fallen into that trap and was feeling horribly bloated so there’s lots for me to work out before Veganuary.

Veganuary preparing for the big change

I’m not looking to put a strict label on things right now, but drastically cutting down on my consumption of animal derived products is something that I want to do and I’m going to see where it leads, so I think Veganuary will be a good way to start off the year.

Anyway that’s where I am. I just wanted to put something on here to talk it through really and explain why you might see me posting vegan recipes on Instagram one day and then wonder why I’m posting a picture of some milk chocolate the next. I have a few blog posts to go up from things I did in November that definitely weren’t even vegetarian and I’m still going to post them on here because I did them and enjoyed them and I think you might too!

Veganuary preparing for the big change

I also promise that if I do decide to become a fully fledged vegan in the future that I won’t be a dick about it. It’s all new and interesting right now as I learn things and naturally I want to talk and share my experiences as I go through them and I’m sure that will continue during Veganuary, but I don’t want to become a preachy type who shouts down anyone that doesn’t share the same views as me. Ultimately I’m making a personal choice and I won’t impose my decisions and views on anyone else.

On the other hand if anyone is going through a similar process right now and wants to talk about it, I’m more than happy to chat either in the comments below or on my Twitter account @lovedbylaurac . I’m also finding the website www.veganuary.com a really helpful, non judgemental resource for prepping for Veganuary, so it’s worth taking a look if you’re going vegan or are vegan curious!

Note: All of the food pictures in this post are vegan recipes that I’ve tried over the past few weeks, even the chocolate banana bread thanks to Bourneville Chocolate which is dairy free!

LovedByLaura

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Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

This year I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to. It wasn’t for lack of inspiration though, far from it in fact. The root cause was simply that my laptop was so incredibly slow and unreliable. I’d boot up my laptop ready to write a cracking post only to feel all my motivation drain away as I stared at a loading screen for 10 minutes. I was spending a silly amount of time dealing with frozen screens or having to redo lost work because my computer crashed halfway through saving. Anyone who’s experienced that knows how soul destroying it can be!

Added to this, I had begun to dread all the fiddly and time consuming admin tasks that go into the making of a good, informative post. Taking pictures and writing the main copy is the fun bit that I enjoy but I’m really not such a fan of continually clicking between tabs to copy and paste links and fact check information, it all felt like a proper chore.

Simple Tech Upgrades to Speed Up Blogging Tasks

Over the past few months though I’ve made some really simple, cost effective tech upgrades to help improve the situation and make things easier. I’m very happy to say that it’s worked and I’m getting back into the swing of things now and feeling much more motivated.

Here’s what I did and how you can do it to!

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

A super speedy laptop – for £138

Although I’d love to replace my laptop with an all signing all dancing Apple iMac or MacBook Pro they come with a far too hefty price tag. I opted for a far simpler and more cost effective solution; I replaced my laptop hard drive with an SSD (solid state drive) for £138. I got this one which my lovely boyfriend (who is far more knowledgeable on computer hardware than I am) recommended for me.

I won’t try and pretend that I know the technical details which explain why an SSD card boosts performance and is better than the standard one you get in your laptop (to be honest for all I know there are little elves sitting atop unicorns casting spells in there). I’ll just tell you instead that it’s well worth the investment and will make your laptop seem brand new again.

Mine boots up in 10 seconds flat now, I don’t get any horrible laggy freezes anymore and even heavy duty apps like Photoshop run with ease.

Basically when I tell my laptop to do something it just does it now without any delays or grumbles and that’s all I’ve ever wanted!

The swop was really straighforward, a bit like changing a sim card on your phone, so there’s not much technical know-how needed. Just remember that if you are going to change your hard drive then you’ll lose everything from the old one, so make sure you back everything up first and have a way to remember your passwords as you’ll need to set everything up again. Here’s a helpful guide I found which tells you everything you need to do step by step.

Going Dual Screen

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

If you’re unfamiliar with dual screen set ups, it basically means that you have an extra monitor running from your computer (be that a desktop or laptop) so you can display and use more than one internet page/programme at a time.

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

This is handy if you’re in the middle of writing something and want to refer to reading materials or insert links into the post. Instead of having to toggle between tabs all the time you can just have the web page/email open on one monitor and your draft blog post open on the other screen. Another way I use it is to have all my photos open in a folder on one monitor so that as I’m writing my post I can refer to them and then drag and drop them in, again without having to continually click back and forth on on screen.

Getting A Mouse

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

It’s not all that practical using a mouse when you’re using your laptop on the sofa but now that I’ve sorted out a proper office space with a desk I felt it was about time I got one. I opted for a USB plug in mouse over a wireless one because I don’t want to have to change batteries all the time and don’t mind the extra cable.

It’s such a small change, but I just find it so much easier to scroll through things and navigate with a proper mouse, plus I don’t get that weird numb finger feeling that comes with using a touchpad for too long anymore!

Making my office space more comfortable

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

It’s very distracting when you don’t feel comfortable and so if you’re going to spend a long time at a screen it makes sense to get a good supportive chair.

Simple Tech Upgrades To Speed Up Blogging Tasks

On a recent trip to Ikea I found an affordable, super comfy chair that was perfect for my desk space. It’s a funky acrylic design in a curved shape which I have finished off with a faux sheepskin from Ikea. Although it’s supposed to be a rug I’ve used it as a throw and it means that everytime I sit down I feel like I’m getting a big furry hug – a huge improvement on the fold out wooden low back chair I was using before!

(I know I’m stretching it a bit by calling ‘buying a chair’ a tech upgrade, but to be fair to me it was flat packed and came with instructions so that’s technical enough for my liking!)

I hope that some of you find this post on my recent tech upgrades helpful – if you’d like to see more about blogging on LovedByLaura let me know what sort of topics you’d like me to cover in the comments!

(Please note that this post isn’t sponsored, it’s all just stuff I’ve purchased myself over the last few months!)

Shop The Post

Logitech M90 Optical Mouse
Crucial MX300 SSD Drive
HP 24″ Monitor
Desk Chair
Faux Sheepskin Rug
Logitech M90 Optical Mouse
Crucial MX300 SSD Drive
HP 24″ Monitor
Desk Chair
Faux Sheepskin Rug
Logitech M90 Optical Mouse
Crucial MX300 SSD Drive
HP 24″ Monitor
Desk Chair
Faux Sheepskin Rug

LovedByLaura

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The Indulgence Gift Box | Harrods Christmas Hampers

A visit to Harrods department store in London would not be complete for me without at least ten minutes spent gazing longingly at their Christmas Hampers and Gift Boxes. As a total foodie with a taste for the finer things in life (if not always the money to back it up!) they epitomise my dream luxury gift. Gourmet treats, beautiful packaging embossed with the iconic Harrods logo and the general feeling that in being gifted one, someone is letting you know just how much you mean to them!

Well pinch me please because as the title of this post probably gives away, I felt very special indeed when Harrods themselves contacted me to ask if I’d like to receive a gift handpicked especially for me from their newly released Christmas selection.

I chose to keep the contents as a surprise to make opening it even more of a pleasure. The huge cardboard box that it came in gave nothing away, but just look what I found inside!

 

The Indulgence Gift Box | Harrods Christmas Hampers

Harrods had obviously done their research on my favourite past-time because they had chosen to send me their Indulgence Gift Box*, otherwise known as the Pamper Hamper! It’s the only hamper in their Christmas collection to feature relaxing pampering products from one of my favourites Molton Brown in addition to a selection of gourmet food and drink items – what a match made in heaven!

Let’s take a closer look shall we?

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

I was thrilled to see not one but two large boxes of luxury truffles, a truly decadent treat that I enjoy on only the rarest occassions usually! My favourite flavour Marc De Champagne features in one of the boxes but I’m equally looking forward to trying the liquid centered passion fruit caramel truffles, they sound scrumptious!

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

There are are two mini bottles of Harrod’s own Premier Cru Champagne. Each bottle would fill a champagne glass I believe making these perfect for toasting the festive season with a loved one.

From Molton Brown there’s a full sized scented candle in Rhubarb and Rose which smells just wonderful – really sweet but fruity at the same time…

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

…accompanied by their Rose and Rhubarb Handcream….

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

…and a full sized bottle of Rose Body Wash. I was really pleased to see this in there as I adore Molton Brown bath and shower body washes. Not only do they foam up into a really good lather but they always smell amazing too.

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

If I’m honest I’d have liked to see a few extra items included as it’s a huge box which gave me the impression upon opening it that I was going to keep finding more goodies as I dug through the cardboard padding. In fact, most of the items were displayed in the top layer and only the bottles of champagne were concealed underneath. However it IS a beautiful keepsake box and because of it’s generous size I think I’m going to use it as a blanket box so that I can keep it on display in my living room!

Harrods Indulgence Gift Box Christmas Hamper

You can view the full selection of Harrods Christmas hampers here. Prices start at a very reasonable £35 for a champagne and truffles gift box and go all the way up to a mind blowing £5000 for The Ultimate Harrods Christmas Hamper, which contains everything from caviar to smoked duck, Louis Roederer Champagne and rare Malt Whiskey!

Thank you Harrods, I feel well and truly spoiled…

…and isn’t that just how you want to make someone special feel on Christmas Day?

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: As mentioned above Harrods very kindly gifted me the Indulgence Gift Box so that I could share my honest thoughts with you. All views are, as always, my very own.

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The team at Amara know that I love the current copper trend and invited me to pick and style some of their gorgeous homeware pieces. After scrolling their site for hours and creating a wishlist as long as my arm I finally whittled it down to a few items which I knew would add the finishing touches to my lounge. Here’s what I chose!

Cushions and Candles

My Copper Home Picks from Amara | Interiors

I have way too many cushions but couldn’t resist adding this copper and grey one* to the mix. The metallic message written across it makes me smile as I know it’s supposed to be whimsical but I can’t help reading it as “Find a place… and get lost!” Either way, it’s a snuggly squishy cushion and also makes an excellent pillow. (No YOU fall asleep on the sofa every night!)

My Copper Home Picks from Amara | Interiors

My Copper Home Picks from Amara | Interiors

Always a lover of a good scented candle or five, this one from A by Amara* smells insanely good. With notes of fig leaf, amber and wood it’s earthy and delicious. The candle is encased in a beautiful ceramic pot which, being copper and gray, perfectly fits with my colour scheme.

My Copper Home Picks from Amara | Interiors

£50 is a lot to spend on a candle but this one comes in a beautiful black presentation box and feels wonderfully luxurious, so I reckon it would make an excellent Christmas present for someone lucky. They also do a scented candle of Sicilian Lemon and Sea Salt which is encased in…wait for it…a copper and marble design. Shut up and take my money!

A Contemporary Clock

My Copper Home Picks from Amara | Interiors

I’ve been on the lookout for a wall clock for a while and when I saw this one* I knew it was the one. It’s minimalist and sleek and although I might one day attempt hanging it up (banging nails into my nice smooth walls frightens the life out of me!) for now it looks rather good just stood on a pile of books.

A Copper Wishlist

If that’s whet your appetite for the copper trend, here are my other picks from Amara’s current copper collection.

Amara Copper Trend Wishlist

 

  1. A by Amara Copper Candle Holders, Set of 2 £25
  2. Acid Burnt Cushion, £70
  3. Tank Low Ball Glasses, Set of 2 £50
  4. Palm Decorative Dish, £350 (I know, couldn’t resist including this one even though it’s SO expensive!)
  5. Copper Bird Tree Decorations, Set of 2 £10
  6. Cutipol Duna 24 Piece Cutlery Set, £269
  7. Frama E27 Table Light, £69
  8. Umbra Trigg Small Copper Wall Planters, Set of 2 £25
  9. Tom Dixon London Candle Giftset, £60

P.s. A Bit of Chemistry!

As I was compiling my wishlist I couldn’t decide whether copper and rose gold were the same thing. No. It turns out that they aren’t.

Copper is actually a metal in it’s own right and tends to have a more orange tinge to it compared to the pinker hue of rose gold, whereas rose gold is what we call an alloy metal, in this case copper and gold mixed together. That lovely rosiness is caused by the chemical reaction that takes place during the process.

So technically my copper titled post contains some items which are rose gold, but they all work so well together that I’ve left them in!

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: Items marked with an asterisk are PR samples, however as always rest assured that all thoughts expressed are my own unbiased opinions.

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