Monday, 17 January 2011

7 Things you might not have known about me - meme!

I was so touched that @Mummiafelice tagged me in her blog post, that I have decided to reciprocate, even though I'm not sure there are seven interesting things about me, let alone things you don't already know if you occasionally glance over my blog. But ne'ermind - read on, you might learn something!

Chillin on Laguna Grande
1. My favourite place in the world to visit (so far) is the Amazon Rainforest. I went around the world in 2009 and we spent a week in the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was beyond beautiful, and we were lucky to have an extremely rare opportunity to canoe for a day, catch our own dinner and then camp out in primary rainforest.

I was very happy to see amazing sites like toucans in flight, pink river dolphins displaying and everyone's favourite, the Yellow Handed Titi Monkey.

2.  I love art and I love all forms of crafting, but contrary to what is written in the popular press, calling me 'British Artist Laura Hadland' might be a bit of a stretch. I have never sold a work of art and all of my craft projects tend to be done as presents for my friends. However, I cannot deny that I am the current Guinness World Record holder for the Biggest Toast Mosaic. I made it for our Sandra, but it was the result of a competition win and therefore not strictly my own endeavour on all levels. The record stands though and I have a fabby certificate to show for it.

3. My favourite animals are probably cats. I have three cats, their names are Gaia, Gypsy-Moo and Morrighan. Morrighan is also known as the Comping Kitten and has won several prizes in her short life, including being named ASDA's Happiest Pet in Britain. I am a proud mummy indeed.

4. I love doing things for silly reasons. One of my favourites to date was going on holiday with friends to Westward Ho! purely for the reason that it's the only place in the country with punctuation in the name.

5. I used to be the lead singer in a Metal band called Quaggamilk. We weren't very good and it didn't last very long, but my metal gwarrr-scream was once compared to that of Phil Anselmo, the lead singer of Pantera. I am proud of this fact.

6. By night, I may be a mouthy, annoying pint-drinking Northern oaf, but by day I am a mild mannered museum curator. I curate archaeological, historical, numismatic and Egyptological collections. I love my job, my collections and my museums with an absolute passion. So much so, that for our second wedding (that's another story) we got married at work! In Leicester's beautiful 14th century Guildhall. It was a very special day and I was proud to have the opportunity.

7. I love animals a lot. So much so, I have been truthfully claiming for over a decade now that I am made of goats. Actually, in Westward Ho! (see point 4) we were at a farm place and we heard a room where they were trying to make new Lo-Lo's out of goats! Loving animals this much becomes problematic and occasionally irritating for my husband as I will literally endeavour to stroke every single animal that I see, without exception. I was renowned at uni for chasing squirrels because I wanted them.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Vegetarian Special: Winter Cobbler

I thought I'd add in another cheeky post today because I just made a winter cobbler and it was so nom! This is a great little recipe if you've got vegetarians to entertain, or like us, you don't remember to buy meat very often! I think most of the veg would be interchangeable, so if you've got some squash, or turnip, or any bulky veg then chuck it in.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from one featured on the Morrisons website that Google pointed me towards. Naturally, I just read it through and thought 'that's what I thought'! This savoury cobbler consists of a mixture of veg, sauteed down first. I used onions, garlic, potato, leek, parsnip, swede, carrot and some of the frozen lovage stalks from our freezer instead of celery. Once sauteed down, I threw in a rosemary sprig, some tomato puree, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some stock.

Leaving the base to simmer, I made up the scone recipe as per the morrisons site, although I swapped the parmesan for stilton and probably put in much more than they recommended. I also used water instead of milk. I'm glad I used their recipe, the scones were lovely and light and really soaked up the sauce when you eat the cobbler.

Once the veg has all simmered together and are all soft, the recipe recommends to add some gravy granuales to thicken the sauce slightly. I used to do this years ago, but husband thinks it's a bit sacriligious. He's a real gravy man, however, this once I snuck it in. Don't forget to use veggie gravy granuales if you're cooking for veggies!! Then you whack it all in an ovenproof dish, shape the scones (I just cut the dough into 8) and plonk them on the top, stick in the oven at 200C for 25 minutes.

I let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving and it tasted NOM! Glad I'm having that for my lunch tomorrow!

Cheat's Cookery

Today I spontaneously decided to bake. You know how it is, you get nice new jars to put things away tidily in the cupboard, but the dry ingredient cupboard is already full! You must get rid of some of the packets and bags of random ingredients that accumulate over time. So, a cunning plan forms...

My main ingredient had to be apple, as I had a baking apple in the bowl that has been hanging around for a little while, and yet another jar of apple puree that needed to be disposed of. This made me think of apple turnovers, which immediately suggested to me the packet mix of puff pastry that I had bought some months ago, on a whim, purely because it was reduced to just a few pence at the supermarket.

So off I went. I thought I'd test out a mix of turnovers, apple tarts and random apple pastry creations. I put the requisite amount of water in the puff pastry mix. I had my doubts about it, hence why it has not already been used. The packet requires you to roll in the layers yourself, by rolling it out, folding it up in thirds and then rerolling. I dutifully did this several times, stuck the oven on to heat and go on with my improvised filling.

I put a few spoonfuls of apple puree in a bowl, added a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, then finely chopped my peeled half of bramley apple and added the pieces. Noticing that my apple puree was unsweetened, I added have a teaspoon of splenda, to give sweetness but without bumping up the calories (probably a bit late for that, but there you go). Then I put together all my sweet treats, topped the turnovers with a fake egg spray (another wonder cheat ingredient) and threw a small pinch of caster sugar over the lot for that crunchy top.

And it all came out pretty well! I think perhaps I would have benefited from sweetening the pastry and perhaps I should have rolled a few more layers in it. The pastry was nice and light and quite flaky, but certainly didn't have that proper puff pastry rise to it. The egg spray worked well, but seemed to brown at a slightly quicker rate than I would have liked for my pastry to cook thoroughly. The filling is tasty, but not too sweet. All in all, a success. Now I just need to find people to give the apple food away to so I don't eat it all...

Finally, I must confess that in reality, the real reason for baking today was that I got a shiny new, big glass bowl for baking in. A proper one, like what Delia has. And I hadn't used it yet. Using up ingredients in the cupboard was just to make me feel better about randomly making sweet food.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

REVIEW: Chic Unique Vintage Locket

Lovely Lizzie at Chic Unique has sent me a beautiful locket to review. Chic Unique make beautiful, handcrafted jewellery that is exactly what it says on the tin.

Lizzie is happy to provide a full custom design service to create an amazing, bespoke piece of jewellery to your exact specifications that fits your budget. As well as this, you can find some lovely things in the online shop, but hurry, these one off creations won't be around forever!

The thing I love about Lizzie's work is the real sense of individuality of the pieces. From vintage chic to modern unique, there really is something everybody will like. A lot of her work is fabulously kitsch - who wouldn't want a pair of cutesy loveheart sweet earrings? And the price is seriously right, these earrings, for example are just £6.00 and postage is FREE, worldwide!! Lizzie's service is also excellent and I think that if you followed her on Twitter you'd see what a lovely person you are giving your custom to!

The locket I received is a gorgeous vintage style cameo locket. This is perfect for all you retro girls out there. It came presented beautifully in an understated, but classic black box, which really made the colours of the piece stand out. The cameo itself is a rich, vibrant pink and it is attached to a locket which is actually sizeable enough to fit a reasonably sized picture in. It would also fit a beloved's lock of hair very comfortably, so this really is one for all you romantics out there.

The locket has delicate tracery embossed on both sides, and the whole thing came with a generous 20" chain, so it'll be perfect to wear with a balconette bra and vintage top, or even a sultry corset for your more daring Victorian fan. However, this locket isn't just for the vintage lover. The detailing on this piece mean that it would be a great addition to a smart work outfit or something casual, but modern worn about town. Whatever I wear it with, I know it'll be a talking piece.

Sorry about the dodgy flash. Stupid camera.

Keeping it fun and ZUMBA!!

This week was my first full week back to normal life. Back at work, and the possibility of budget cuts being announced. This meant that there was a potential for me to hole up on the sofa and refuse to stick to my New Year's Resolution of trying new things and doing things I've not done for ages, in the general pursuit of having fun.

But I kept my spirits high, and the week was far less painful than it could have been. I've managed to try quite a few new things and keep the motivation levels high. This was after quite a slow day on Monday where the smallest things got to me which kickstarted a conscious effort at positivity for the rest of the week. It was funny really, the sheer volume of tiny annoying things that happened on Monday (including the alarm tag being left on my new coat, forgetting my water for the gym, my new jogging bottoms being too short when I put them on at the gym, and so on) but it makes me wonder if that is how many stupid things happen every day, but I just don't notice...

Anyway, in terms of fun, I had a great afternoon being shown around Brooksby Agricultural College's animal care section on Thursday. That was new and old experiences put together and I loved it! I got to hold ferrets and play with cats and dogs, hold some beautiful snakes including what I think was a Rainbow Python and a very sweet cornsnake. New experiences included holding a rather large Nile Monitor Lizard, a bearded dragon, a musk turtle and stroking the Office Chicken. Good times.

On the exercise regime this week there were also some new experiences.

Monday 10th January
* 1/2 hour personal trainer session discussing stretches and cardio exercise. Approx 100 cals burned.
* 2k row at level 10, 11 mins 20 secs, 106 cal
* 19 minute cycle, 5.5k at level 4, 101 cal
* 0.5k walk at 15% incline for 6 or 7 minutes

Tuesday 11th January
* 9 minutes on the cross trainer, 0.5k, 70 cal
* I tried my first ever Zumba class. This is a mix of aerobics and dance, inspired mainly, but not exclusively by Latino styles of music. It's an interesting class because the instructor does not shout out any instructions, they just dance and you try to copy them! In the session I tried, we did some routines to lots of Reggaeton, salsa, techno-salsa (!), Cha Cha, Cuban style music and even that Greek song that gets faster and faster!

I absolutely loved the Zumba class. It was quite high intensity, and it really got you red in the face and a bit puffed, but it wasn't too much that you felt like you might die! It took me a while to get the hang of some of the routines, probably because I've not done any dance or aerobics for ages, but I'm really looking forward to going regularly and getting the hang of the routines so that I perhaps look less like a dervish of flailing limbs at some point in the future. Research on the internet suggests I burned about 500 cals during this class.

Wednesday 12th January
Legs, Bums and Tums was cancelled - :(
* 2k row, 11 min 02 secs (13 SECONDS OFF MONDAY's TIME - WOOP!), 104 cals
* 9 min walk, 15% incline, 75 cal
* 40 leg presses, 30 bicep curls on 5kg weight, 30 tricep curls, 30 arm presses, leg stretches.

Friday 14th January
* I tried my first ever Body Combat class! An aerobic class with moves drawn from mixed martial arts, including kickboxing, Tai Chi etc. This one really got the heart pumping over an hour session. There were lots of kicks and punches and even a couple of jump kicks. Add this to an absolutely terrifying instructor who looks like some kind of slender Amazon warrior and you have a pretty interesting class.

It did make me realise that my 4 year old, battered trainers are probably going to have to go. My toes are aching from them this morning, plus during the class I was having visions of my shoe flying off during a particularly vigorous kick and hitting a fellow attendee in the face. I am reasonably sure that this is against gym etiquette and should probably be avoided. This means I will get to have another relatively unexplored experience - shopping for trainers!

The internet seems to indicate that I would have burned about 6-700 cals during that class.

Other new or fun experiences this week include using the perks of my gym membership for free DVD hire, which meant last night we spent the evening in watching a film together, which was very lovely. And today, the plan is to actually go into town on a Saturday, do some book and charity shop shopping and then treat ourselves to a lovely lunch and a few drinks - normally something we reserve for when I am off on leave during the week.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Getting Active

I joined the gym just over a fortnight ago, but I thought I'd start keeping a record of my exercising from the beginning of January. Not really for the interest of anyone else reading this, but mainly so I can remember what I was doing and see if I start improving!!

Monday 3rd January
* 2k row, 10min 45 secs, 106cals
* 3.4k cycle, 12 mins, 68 cals
* Free weight machine thingies - 30 leg curls, 30 lateral raises, 30 bicep curls (on the machine's lowest setting 2.5kg - GRRRRR!!! LOL), 50 leg press

Tuesday 4th January
* 1k walk, 10% incline, 13 mins, 160 cals
* 4k cycle, 13 mins, 65 cals
* Free weights - 30 lateral raises, 30 biceps on 2.5kg - and 5 reps on 5kg (woop woop!), 30 thigh press

Thursday 6th January
* My first 1/2 hour 'Core' exercise class! Focusing on the abs area in the main, we did a jog and a stretch, then lots of sit uppy, stretch, weighty, pilates bally type things that will undoubtedly make my tummy hurt tomorrow!
* 18 mins on the walking machine (yes I know it's the running machine for some people, but that really isn't my style, trust me!). 1.5km at roughly an 11% incline throughout, about 120m climbed, roughly 120cals burned.

I think for my next trick I will try another class and I don't seem to have touched the cross trainer yet this year, so I shall get back on that!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Looking to the Future

Happy New Year everyone! Here we are, in 2011. I had a great NYE last night at the pub with hubby and a mate, topped off with an excellent 3am cross country walk home, complete with singing the Greatful Dead at the top of our voices.

Looking back, it has been a pretty packed year. Despite not going on holiday, we've still managed to squeeze in some fun experiences. There have been lots of walks in the park, picnics, BBQs - mainly thanks to the heavenly weather we received earlier in 2010, if anyone can stil remember! Of course, 2010 will always be the year that we broke a Guinness World Record by making the world's biggest toast mosaic in homage to my mother in law's 50th birthday. Following that, I discovered what it was like to be continuously phoned by journalists for a week, to be a question on Have I Got News For You and to be referred to as 'British Artist, Laura Hadland'. Lol!

Following the toast mosaic, I made more smaller mosaics for the Daily Mail, and of course the Avatar Blu-ray mosaic, which I felt actually qualified as a proper artwork and I am still pretty proud of it!

In Extreme Housewifery terms, as if giant artworks wasn't enough, there was a good deal of vegetable growing, a return to baking and generally a lot of good food was made. On top of my housewifing, I also received a small sort-of promotion at work, which was nice having been working in the same place for 5 years.

And now looking forward to 2011, it is time to plan. I think Extreme Housewifery this year should be all about trying new things, or doing fun things that I don't do often enough at the moment! Singing loudly in the dark seems to have been an appropriate start to the year, so now I just need to set some more goals. I think next week I'll be able to squeeze in some ice skating. I desperately want us to be able to go to California to see our friends, which will definitely be a new experience. And of course, I will be a regular gym goer, all being well, so hopefully I will try out being fit and toned for the first time lol!

Following the spirit of the competition forum, I have also written my 'Eleventh Heaven' list for 2011. This is my wishlist of prizes I would like to win this year. I've decided this year I'm going to do competitions selfishly, for things that hubby and I want. I've spent three years entering competitions to try and win presents for friends and family, but I think this year is going to be about winning stuff for us instead. I don't know if the universe will approve of this, karma-wise, but perhaps I can do lots of good deeds to offset my selfishness! So this is the list:
1. Holiday
2. Laptop or netbook
3. Food hamper
4. Kinect or PS Move
5. EA Sports Active 2
6. A DVD of a film we want to watch!
7. Knitting/Craft/Crochet goodies
8. New clothes
9. Fancy shoes
10. An ipod
11. A haircut/makeover/spa thingy for pampering!

Don't want much, do I?

I don't think I want to set myself too many rigid goals for the year, as I tend to have a short attention span with such things. However, I think there are certain ideas floating around that I want to get on with this year:

* Go camping
* Do more random acts of kindness
* Complete more crafty projects
* Visit a random event, like a competitive eating competition or some such!
* Decorate the hallway and maybe the bathroom
* Grow sweetcorn and other things!

Christmas Challenge: The Results!

You'll probably not be surprised to know that the Christmas Challenge was comprehensively failed! Of my 6lbs target, I managed to lose a solitary single pound! However, one good thing has come out of it - I have joined the gym!

I'm going to Fitness First for Women in the city centre, which has been a bit of a pain while I've been off over Christmas, but will return to being convenient when I'm back at work and in town every day. I've been enjoying it so far. Only had the chance to try one of the classes: Legs Bums and Tums, again the programme has been off a bit over Christmas, so I will get to try the Body Pump and Body Balance classes soon I hope.

So watch this space, hopefully 2011 will see me getting fitter and more toned! I've had all me measurements done, so at such time as I make a bit of progress I shall post and let you all know!
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