Travels in Zadar, Croatia

I can’t believe it’s already been 2 weeks since I was in Croatia.  The last few weeks have been completely hectic, it feels like it’s relentless at the moment, I’ve still got a few more busy weekends before I finally get a breather.  On top of it all I started a new job last Monday, I feel like I need another holiday already!

Croatia was absolutely beautiful and we managed to fit quite a lot into our 4 days and 4 nights.  When I visit a country I love to see as much as I can and really get a feel for the things that make that country unique.  I get bored and restless and feel like I’m not making the most of my destination if I’m not out and about seeing things – Great in concept, but kind of tiring!

Zadar is a small and pretty town located at the opposite end of Croatia to Dubrovnik.  Zadar is big enough that there are plenty of restaurants, bars and shops to browse and yet small enough that it still has plenty of charm and is easy to navigate around by foot.  It’s still very cheap too, we were paying about £1.50 a pint, I’d overestimated how much spending money we’d need and we ended up changing half of our money back into £££s at the airport! Bonus!

There are plenty of things to see and do in Zadar; here’s everything that we managed to squeeze into our trip:

  • Climbed the bell tower at St. Donat’s church for panoramic views across Zadar and its islands.
  • Watched the incredible sunset from the steps of the Sea Organ (an installation that plays musical notes in time with the waves as the sea laps under the steps).
  • Walked across the solar-powered Sun Salutation installation.
  • Drank Croatian beer in the bar next to Zadar’s Roman Forum whilst watching Croatia play in the World Cup on tv.
  • Took a bus ride to the village of Nin and Nin’s Lagoon.
  • Took a day excursion to the absolutely breathtaking Plitvice National Park.
  • Took a ferry from Zadar to neighbouring island Preko and lounged on the beach.

06

08

10

65

77

IMG_4503

27

31

40

39

49

52

55

IMG_4497

69

Happy holiday memories!

Dreaming of stylish, calm and airy Scandinavian home interiors

Living in fully-furnished, rented property doesn’t allow me a great deal of flexibility when it comes to my home’s interior.  In fact the only furniture that me and Alex own is an Ikea desk, a TV cabinet (from Homesense… I love it!) and 3 small nesting tables (bought second hand from Gumtree).  But that doesn’t stop me from constantly planning what I want my future home to look like, buying little accessories and generally lusting over interiors I see on Pinterest.

My favourite style is definitely clean, airy, uncrowded Scandinavian interior design.  I love the simplicity of the plain white backdrops and the way colour splash accessories and furniture bring the room alive and add so much character.

Here are a few of my favourite Scandinavian inspired interiors that I’ve happened across during recent browsing adventures.

interiors1.) I love greenery and plants in the home, especially the kitchen.  The low hung lights over the worktops are lovely too.  Image from: http://erikolsson.se

2.) Calming whites and greys complemented by gold details.  I want to know where that light shade is from! Beautiful!  Image from: www.homepolish.com

3.) Fairly simple and clean interior but the artwork and cushions bring a splash of interest and colour to the design.  Clean and uncluttered with a fantastic sofa! Image from: http://thedesignfiles.net

4.) Love the mix of patterns and textures in this photo. There’s an eclectic mix of colours and patterns and yet the clean white walls and pale sofa stop the room appearing cluttered or messy. Love the way this room looks like everything’s casually been thrown together and yet looks PERFECT! (Can you tell how much I want a pale grey sofa yet?!) Image from: http://myscandinavianhome.blogspot.co.uk

5.) I can imagine this bright, colourful, airy kitchen in a family home.  How could anyone ever be sad with a pretty kitchen with a sunny yellow wall and mismatched multi-coloured chairs? Image from: www.besthousedesign.com

6.) This room stays stylish and classic whilst looking homey and lived in.  The books, ornaments and artwork personalise the room without altering the style or looking messy.  Think this is the same rug as in image 2?! Image from: http://www.minted.com

 

On a different note, I’m off to Croatia for 4 days on Monday (and the weather forecast says thunderstorms and rain every day that we’re there!)  Can’t wait to try out my new camera whilst I’m away, prepare to be bombarded with holiday snaps when I’m back. :)

10 Things you should know before adopting a house rabbit

If you’re thinking about adopting a pet rabbit, or more specifically, a house rabbit like Darwin, it’s important that you know exactly what you’re in for before you take the plunge.

DSCF0376

DSCF0520

With their huge, dark, doe eyes, twitchy little noses, fluffy cottontails and big, dopey floppy ears, there’s no denying that rabbits are extremely cute and you’ll fall head over heels in love with your new pet straight away.  But beyond all the innocent, fluffy, cuteness there is a very determined, sometimes obnoxious and often destructive little creature just waiting for you to scoop them up and skip home with them in your arms before they show you their true colours!

Here are ten things that anyone considering getting a house rabbit should be fully aware of before they adopt their new pet.

1)  Their fur gets.. EVERYWHERE

Rabbits moult.  And I don’t just mean now and then, they shed fur constantly. Be prepared to pick rabbit fur out of every meal you make and expect to leave the house dressed in an extra layer of rabbit fur over every outfit.  If you have wooden floorboards or laminate flooring then expect the corners of every room to have rabbit fur tumbleweeds knocking about, and if you have carpets you will soon be stepping upon a bouncy carpet of soft, fluffy rabbit fur. (This occasionally needs to be attacked with a brush to get up the hair that the hoover just can’t tackle.  On the plus side, once you’ve completed this arduous task you will have a few large balls of rabbit fur, probably enough to knit a jumper if you so wished!)

2)  They can be pretty picky eaters

I always had the impression rabbits would munch away on most kinds of vegetables/salad quite happily.  A small lettuce is about 50p, a couple of carrots 30p… but no, such common, cheap vegetables are not for our little one.  He made it abundantly clear from very early on that he had an acquired taste for more upper-class greenery… kale to be precise, lots and lots of tasty kale.   I can’t say I’ve ever eaten kale before myself, and yet I buy 2 bags a week from our local supermarket.  No other vegetable that we’ve tried him with has been greeted with the same enthusiasm as a bag of curly kale.

3)  You can’t always cuddle them

Darwin is very affectionate.  He loves jumping onto the sofa, snuggling up next to you and continually nudging your hand until you pet him.  As long as you’re rubbing his little bunny head the dope will sit there for hours on end.  But if you try to pick him up? He’ll make you pay.  As soon as you lift his little thrashing paws off the ground he squirms, kicks, wriggles and scratches until he’s back down on the ground.  Cuddling is ALWAYS on his terms and his terms only.

4) Your house will need ‘bunny proofing’

If you’re extremely house proud then a rabbit may not be the pet for you.  When they first arrive in your home they will be extremely curious about everything, and how do they check new things out? They sink their sharp little teeth into them of course!  Be prepared for it to take a couple of months to lay down the ground rules with your bunny and bunny proof each room that they’re allowed in.  For the first year that we had Darwin our TV stand was wrapped in wire mesh that was held in place by cable ties… it was a monstrosity!! We eventually bought a new wooden, enclosed TV unit with doors and hard plastic casing to cover any wires that were still exposed.

5) They will STILL occasionally eat your belongings

Bunnies seem to have some weird fetish with rubber, leather and electrical cables, they just can’t help themselves from chewing away on them.  Despite our best efforts at keeping everything chewable out of his reach Darwin has sneaked a cheeky nibble on a laptop cable, a phone charger, the wire for the house phone, the hoover cord, numerous extension cables, my handbags and the sole of nearly every shoe we own.

6) They’re persistent little buggers

For such small little creatures they do have good memories.  All those things you really don’t want to remember, like the location of your favourite shoes with the oh-so-tasty rubber soles, or the entrance to that dark little passage behind the sofa where it’s impossible to get at them, or the fact that once they got into that cupboard that you really don’t want them scratching around in… they will never forget!

7)  They have attitude

You jump up for the sixteenth time to prevent your bunny from trying to dig and chew his way through the clever blockade you’ve made to stop him getting behind the sofa, you’re pretty annoyed already and as you approach your rabbit he does a quick 180 and lunges at you in a threatening manner.  This makes you jump and you’re a little bit wary, you hesitate, he turns back and begins to chew away again so you try to push him away, what does he do now? He GROWLS and stands his ground. Yes. That’s right. The rabbit GROWLS.

8) They will make you do silly things

Darwin gets very excited when he sees me first thing in the mornings.  I come downstairs, open the curtains and then let him out of his cage for a run around, the first thing he’ll do is run over to me and stand up and scratch at my legs until I run.  We then do about 10 laps of the front room with him leaping around at my heels and scratching at my feet if I stand still for too long.  The neighbours must think I have a really retarded morning exercise routine.

9) They’re prone to episodes of weirdness

Some days you’ll wake up and greet your bunny and you’ll notice instantly that they’re in a weird mood.  Rabbits do this bizarre thing that is known as a ‘binky’.  When rabbits binky they may suddenly jump straight up in the air and do a 180 whilst twitching and twisting their head and body…. they may also do it whilst bolting at top speed from room to room.  If you’ve not seen it happen before then you may at first wonder if your rabbit is in some sort of pain, or a little insane. Don’t worry though, it just means they’re in a super good mood!  The little weirdos!

10) No matter what they do you’ll love them to pieces

Your house will be in tatters, you’ll be known as the crazy rabbit lady who’s always covered in fur and leaping around in the front room in her pajamas.  You’ll be spending all your money on kale and replacement mobile phone and laptop chargers… and will your bunny be grateful? No they’ll probably still growl at you and refuse to let you cuddle them, and yet you’ll find yourself irrevocably and deeply committed to the little adorable bugger.

Smoky Leek and Asparagus Risotto Recipe

Risotto is one of those meals that I always thought was WAY top much hassle to start cookin’ up after getting back from work… until recently.  Once I’d got this recipe down to a tee I realised I could have it on the table in about half an hour, it’s actually pretty damn quick to whip up, and absolutely delicious.

I was looking at recipes for vegetarian risottos but none of them excited me that much so I created my own with my favourite ingredients. The ricotta and smoked cheese add a little bit of creamy, cheesy indulgence to a green, veggie risotto.  I used ricotta but this can be substituted for marscapone, sour cream, creme fraiche, or even cream cheese.

risotto title risotto1

risotto3

Smoky Leek and Asparagus Risotto – Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 litre of vegetable stock

3 cloves of garlic

1 onion

1 large leek

1 pack/bunch of asparagus (about 12-15 spears)

1 cup of risotto rice

1 tablespoon ricotta

60g of grated smoked applewood cheese

Tablespoon olive oil

Salt/Pepper/Parsley

Rind and juice of half a lemon (optional)

 

Method:

1) First off, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan as you chop up your onions and leeks.

2) Fry the onions and leeks until soft and starting to go clear.

3) In a separate saucepan bring 1 litre of stock to the boil and then turn down to simmer.

4) Add your minced garlic cloves and risotto rice to the pan with the leeks and onions.  Cook until the very ends of the grains of risotto rice have turned clear.

5) Keeping the pan on the heat, add half a cup of stock and stir until it’s all been absorbed into the rice. Continue doing this half a cup of stock at a time.

6) When you only have a couple of half cups of stock left to add snap the ends off the asparagus spears and chop the asparagus into pieces about 1.5cm big.  Add the asparagus to the pan with the penultimate half cup of stock.  Add the final amount of stock and continue stirring until it’s absorbed.  The risotto should be of a thick, creamy consistency.

7) Take the risotto off the heat.  Season with salt, pepper and parsley.  Stir in a large tablespoonful of ricotta.  Add the juice and rind of half a lemon (optional)

8) Finally, stir through the grated Smoked Applewood cheese and serve.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

 

May’s Reading List

booksmay

Really getting into this reading thing.

I’ve actually had to hold myself back from starting the next book on my list as I find myself disabled from doing anything else once I’ve started reading a new book.  I just can’t bring myself to do anything else with my time until I’ve finished whatever I’m reading.  It’s very bad for productivity!

The latest two books I’ve read read are ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith and ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey.

1) ‘White Teeth’ by Zadie Smith

In my last book review post I talked about Zadie Smith’s latest novel ‘NW’ and said that it wasn’t really my cup of tea.  A friend persuaded me that her previous work was quite different and lent me her debut novel ‘White Teeth’.  Having not really enjoyed ‘NW’ I did put this book on the back burner for a while, especially as it’s a particularly thick one.  Hearing Zadie Smith name dropped by Lena Dunham in her TV show ‘Girls’ persuaded me that if Lena liked her I should definitely give her another go.  So I got stuck in.

Would I now read another Zadie Smith book? Definitely.  This book totally changed my opinion, I can’t believe this was her debut!  The book follows the lives of two intertwined families from different cultures living in North London.  It begins in 1975 when we see Archie attempt to take his own life.  When he is foiled by a halal butcher who is irritated that he is blocking up his business’ delivery area Archie realises he didn’t actually want to die and sets off on his journey to improve and enjoy his life.

The book follows the intertwined lives of Archie’s family and his best friend Samad’s family. It’s written beautifully and explores themes of cultural identity and faith with an equal mix of humour and poignance.  If you like books with vibrant and thought-provoking characters then ‘White Teeth’ will blow your mind.

2) ‘A Million Little Pieces’ by James Frey

‘A Million Little Pieces’ is excruciatingly painful to read in places… in a good way… I think?!  The ‘story’ starts with the main character, James, waking up on board an aeroplane with his front 4 teeth missing, covered in blood, urine and sick, with no recollection of how he got there.

I say ‘story’ as although the book was published as a memoir there was some outrage when The Smoking Gun uncovered the ‘truth’ behind the book and published an article titled ‘A Million Little Lies: Exposing Frey’s Fiction Addiction‘ which accuses Frey of embellishing details and wholly fabricating parts of the book.  I read into it a little and it’s still unclear to me exactly how much of the book is true and how much is fictional, I think Frey was a little vague!

Whether fact or fiction A Million Little Pieces is an exciting, emotional, and uncomfortable read.  The book begins with Frey coming home in pieces after a drug and alcohol fuelled binge.  Aware that his life has spiralled shockingly out of control and that his body is close to giving up Frey allows his parents to check him into rehab.

The book follows Frey’s difficult and painful journey through rehab.  The language the book is written in is easy to read, and yet the subject matter is far from easy – it’s downright torturous at times!  There were times when I had to pause from reading as I was gritting my teeth and wincing too much.  Whether fact or fiction A Million Little Pieces is one hell of a roller coaster ride and not one for the squeamish or fainthearted.

White Chocolate, Raspberry and Marscapone Tarts // Triple Layer Lemon and Blueberry Cake

I’ve been doing the rounds recently visiting family over Easter… and such events always call for baking.

Pinterest has not disappointed me of late and here are a couple of my favourite bakes that I’ve made recently.

Raspberry and Marscapone Tarts (recipe from: Sips and Spoonfuls Blog)

These tarts are so quick and easy to whip up, they’re great if you’re looking for a simple and yet impressive looking pudding that you can make one-handed whilst cooking up your main meal with the other hand.

GetInline GetInline-1

Triple Layer Lemon and Blueberry Cake (Recipe from: Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Now I don’t often make huge cakes like this one or else me and Alex would be the size of sumo wrestlers.  But it was Alex’s mum’s 50th birthday, so I made an exception.  Baking for an occasion or for someone else always makes me break out in a sweat because I know if it all goes terribly wrong I’ll have a mental breakdown (and possibly a bit of a tantrum..) But this recipe did not fail me in my time of need, despite the fact that it was the first triple-layer cake I’ve ever made, and despite the fact that I accidently using self-raising flour (AND baking powder) instead of plain flour… phew!  I usually end up pretty angry when trying to perform an all-over frosting as well, but the consistency of this cream cheese frosting was perfect, no slipping and sliding cake layers and best of all, no mess, instead of dripping off the frosting stayed exactly where it was meant to.

And best of all, it tasted DELICIOUS.  The cake is fairly tart, maybe even a tiny touch bitter because of how much lemon juice and rind is in the cake, but the cream cheese frosting is super sweet and sets it off perfectly. Can’t wait for another great excuse to bake this one again.

image(5)

Going veggie

lisa-simpson

So me and Alex have decided to go vegetarian. I guess it’s been a long time coming and for two people that love their food it is quite a big challenge – but I think we can do it.

I guess it started because of my fussiness with meat.  I’ve never liked beef, lamb, or even pork.  I love chicken, especially roast chicken, and I LOVE fish/seafood.  Alex ate all meat, but after we moved in together we began eating less and less.  For a start it’s expensive, especially if you want good quality meat.  The only chicken we could regularly afford was frozen chicken breasts that are full of water and go a bit rubbery when you fry them off… yuck.  And I hate to think what kind of a life those chickens had.  We gradually began eating less and less meat and more and more vegetables and meat replacement products (veggie burgers… quorn mince.. quorn chicken pieces, etc).  Until recently when we’d more or less stopped eating meat unless we were eating out or eating takeout.

We’d both been toying with the idea of going veggie for a few years, and then I watched a documentary on Netflix called ‘Vegucated’.  Alex came downstairs halfway through me watching it and was like “What’s wrong, you look really upset?!” I rewound the program to show him the clip of how baby chicks are put on a production line, picked up by their leg to check their sex and then slung on either one pile or the other.  The pile of female chicks live an awful life of pain before being killed, whilst the male chicks are either bagged up (alive) and thrown away like trash or minced up alive in a big machine and turned into animal feed.  That’s just a tiny snippet of where our meat comes from, horrific. I know the show’s set in America and some standards are different over here, but still, I don’t enjoy eating meat enough to support an industry like that. If you don’t have to eat animals then why do it?  There’s plenty of health benefits of becoming vegetarian too.

I know if I kept chickens or pigs myself and got to know each of their little quirks and personalities that I’d never be able to kill them or send them to the slaughter house.  I guess it’s easy to disassociate the packaged up meat that you get in supermarkets with little animals with real characters and personalities – but if I know I’d never eat them if I saw the animal when it was a live then surely I’m just burying my head in the sand by still eating meat.  I’m not very good at expressing myself on issues like these.. but hopefully you understand what I’m trying to say!

I’m not going to lie though, tofu from the chinese takeaway just can’t match salt’n’pepper chicken.  And pizza just doesn’t taste as good without the spicy chicken or pepperoni, ahhh, I guess it’ll take some getting used to.

In the meantime, feel free to follow my vegetarian Pinterest board for veggie inspiration – making vegetarianism delicious one recipe at a time.

If anyone knows of any great vegetarian recipes then I’d love to know them!