everything else

STUFF FOR SALE

Hey guys,

Just dropping by to let you know that I have some clothes for sale over on my twitter.

I’m really hard on money right now so there’s nothing like a good old clear out! I have shoes, scarves and some plus size clothing, too!

CLICK HERE FOR MY TWITTER

Anything you would be able to purchase would really help us out. Times are tough.

Please note that the prices are inclusive of postage for the UK, but I would need to add a bit on for other countries.

Thanks so much in advance!

Kirsten xo

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GREAT BRITISH BAKE-OFF TECHNICAL CHALLENGE TWO: VIENNESE WHIRLS

It feels very strange to be writing this post, especially so late, for one particular reason: I thought I had already written it. I was certain I had, in fact. But it appears I had not, so on we go.

Episode two of The Great British Bake-Off was biscuit week, and the technical was Viennese Whirls. This delighted me to no end, not because I like Viennese Whirls (which I don’t usually, in fact), but because I had attempted them before with a mixed rate of success, and I always like to give things another go.

The first time I made Vinnese Whirls several years ago, I had not softened my butter nearly enough, which we saw was an issue with the contestants on the show. I did continue to make them, however, but both my husband and I had to squeeze the piping bag together to get the mixture out. This made massive whirls that would fill you up after eating just half.

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This was my first attempt way back then.

This time I was determined not to make the same mistakes.

Here is Mary Berry’s recipe:

Ingredients

For the jam

For the biscuits

For the filling

Method

  1. For the jam, put the raspberries in a small, deep-sided saucepan and crush them using a potato masher. Add the sugar and bring to the boil over a low heat. When the sugar is melted, increase the heat and boil for a further 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour into a shallow container (pass it through a sieve if you’d rather not have seeds in your jam). Leave to cool and set.

  2. For the biscuits, preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5. Line 3 baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment. Using a 5cm/2in round cutter as a guide, draw 8 circles on each sheet of paper, spaced well apart. Turn the paper over so the pencil marks are underneath.

  3. Measure the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cornflour and beat well, until thoroughly mixed. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe 24 swirled rounds (not rosettes), inside the circles on the baking sheets.

  4. Bake in the centre of the oven for 13—15 minutes, until a pale golden-brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely and harden.

  5. For the filling, measure the butter into a bowl and sift the icing sugar on top. Add the vanilla extract and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric whisk until very light and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.

  6. Spoon a little jam onto the flat side of 12 of the biscuits and place jam-side up on a cooling rack. Pipe the buttercream over the jam and sandwich with the remaining biscuits. Dust with icing sugar to finish.

 

 

So I started on the whirls, this time making sure that the butter was super soft before adding everything else to it.

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Here’s my mix in the piping bag. I don’t know what it is, but I just love a tight, full, piping bag.

I unfortunately didn’t manage to get any photos of my piping before I put them in the oven, as I got carried away with making them and caught up in everything that I was doing, which included starting on the jam.

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In the interest of trying to do everything that the contestants did, I wanted to make my own jam as well. This made me extremely nervous, as I have tried to make jam so, so many times in the past, and burnt it every single time. However, I decided to follow Mary’s recipe to a tee, and I finally made amazing jam!

In the photo above you can see my crushed raspberry and preserving sugar mix in the pan before melting.

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And this was my jam cooling down.

I’m not joking guys, I nearly cried it was so good. When you finally are able to crack doing something you haven’t been able to master up until that point it just feels so good.

Once it was cooled, I made up the buttercream filling, and started adding the icing and jam to the biscuits. Unlike Mary advised, I added each to each side and sandwiched them together, which I just found easier than piping directly onto the jam.

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[Can you spot the one that my husband tried to put jam on?]

And here are the finished products:

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I’m not gonna lie, I was so proud of these.

They were delicious, and promptly devoured in a couple of days between myself, my husband, my friend, and my daughter.

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Did you see Wednesday’s episode? Looks like I’ve got some steamed dumplings to deal with next… that should be interesting!

Kirsten xo

When Life Takes Over

So this is my first post in 10 days. That may not seem like a lot, but to me it feels like I’ve been off of WordPress for an eternity. This is where I come for my serenity, but recently there have been things happening that have forced me away from that.

For one, a couple of my family members have been very ill and I have spent a lot of time thinking/worrying about them, and talking to them. That might seem like a silly thing to give as an excuse, but when you have anxiety, so much of your mind is filled up with worry  all the time, so more stuff on top of that makes you lack the motivation to do much… of anything, really.

I also had my friend stay for a few days, which was nice, but it always stressful tryna look after even one more person in your house and tidy up after it, etc.

But there was something pretty exciting that happened too: my little [or not-so-little] girl started her first day at nursery. This was a very big deal. We used to live in a small town with not much to do, and I spent 6 months off work on maternity. My husband then became a stay at home Dad from then until last year, and I have been a stay at home Mum for a year now.
I still am a stay at home Mum, but Emmie now spends 15 hours a week at nursery, and that’s a pretty big change to adapt to! She stresses me out to no end, and I’m sure I will enjoy having a little time to myself, but it’s also very strange to be in a quiet house without her when she’s there. I know she’ll make tons of friends, though, and it’s good for her to be around kids her own age and have things to do.

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The thing I keep ending up crying over is the fact that this is her life until she’s 18 now! There will never be another extended period of time where she does nothing but stay at home with us, except for summer holidays… she’ll be at nursery, then infant school, then primary school, then high school, then sixth form, and I just know these years will fly! I’m gonna miss my little bean.

 

Anyway, with all this going on I’ve not made an effort to find time to blog.

I have however, been making an effort to still get up and put some makeup on (well, some days, anyway) so I’ve got a few posts lined up for you today. In the meantime, here’s a couple of pics of my face in case you missed me 😛

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Kirsten xo

Hometown Glory

This weekend I have had my Mum and Nan down visiting me from Scotland. They were only staying for two nights so we’ve been pretty relaxed and enjoying the beautiful weather England has bestowed on us.

On Saturday we decided to have a wander around Gloucester Quays and then a drink at the Docks. After that we went to a garden centre a little way out of town for some lunch and so I could get some stuff to plant out my seedlings I have sown this Spring, as they’re getting pretty big now. It was a beautiful sunny day, only getting overcast once while we were having a drink.

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Once we got home, we pitched Emmie’s new play tent in the garden and while she and her Nana were playing, I did some gardening. I now have all my Courgette and Squash seedlings planted out now it’s warm enough for the soil to be at the right temperature. Emmie also got to pot her own tomato plant, so that’s joined our little garden plant family.

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I hope the weather has been beautiful where you are.

K xo

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day people!

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On this particular day I thought I’d chat a bit about something very close to my little family’s hearts: the environment.

One thing that Elliot and I have bonded over and share a strong moral obligation to is our earth. When we first met we got really deep into discussion about heavy topics fairly quickly, and two of those things were astronomy and palaeontology. We chatted a lot about theology, science and our religious and spiritual beliefs and found that we were just completely in sync with each other. One of the elements that comprised the discourse around these topics were earth as it is now, and where we fit in it. We found that we both cared about it deeply, although I had a lot more to learn than he.

We are super recyclers and composters, and I am always dishwashing jars and tubs which I’m sure I can use at a later date. I am seriously a major jar hoarder, in particular. We started collecting jars initially about 3 years ago to use for our wedding, as I wanted our centrepieces to be rustic wildflowers in jam jars. We did this with plenty to spare, but somehow I never stopped using them.

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I get very wary that glass, although widely recycled, sometimes ends up not being so, and so I’m determined to get the most out of it. As I sit at my desk at the minute, I actually have five jars on here alone – one for felt tips, one for Emmie’s felt tips, one for pencils, one for paintbrushes and one for makeup brushes.
We have a teeny tiny kitchen, and 2 glass cabinets, which in one I keep my grains. To try and make these look nicer behind the glass I move all my grains to jars – I have big ones for pasta, rice and flour, and smaller ones for arborio, cous cous, quinoa, lentils, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, you name it! My husband is getting seriously annoyed with our overflowing drawer of jars which I “don’t need”, but I somehow can’t stop! One of our gifts to friends and family this year were jars on jars on jars of homemade vegan salted caramel sauce – just to get rid of them!

I can’t believe I just spent so much time talking about jars.

Anyway, my point was that we like to conserve and preserve. When we lived in Scotland we were in a flat, and one of the things we both felt completely lacking in was a garden. Ell has always been into nature, whereas I’m more of a city girl, but he started to convert me on the subject many moons back, and we started delving into it more.

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(Us last summer at the Lochwinnoch RSPB Park)

By far one of the greatest things my husband did for me was got me over my biggest fear – bees. For as long as I could remember I was deathly afraid of bees; it did not matter how many times I was told “keep still and it’ll leave you alone”, “it doesn’t want to hurt you” – if I saw or heard a bee I was OUT OF THERE. In fact, I couldn’t even look at pictures of bees without having nightmares.  Elliot would tell me about how our honey bees were dying and how big a deal it was, and even though I understood, it just wouldn’t connect for me. Then, one day, I was sat at the window in our flat and I noticed a bee on the outside ledge. I squirmed away even though the window was closed, because NOPE. But when I went back a few hours later, it was still there. I could tell it was alive, but it was barely moving. Its wings would only give small flaps every so often, and I started feeling… concerned?
I asked Ell and he said “it’s still too cold for them. It’ll probably die soon.” I was so saddened. Even though I was petrified I couldn’t just watch this little thing die! So I started googling, and we found out that when you encounter a cold honey bee the best thing you can do is give them a small amount of honey or sugar water every so often. It will help them gain their depleted energy back which the cold has drained from them, and then it should hopefully be able to find its way home. I went and mixed up some sugar water, and made Ell put some drops outside from a teaspoon. The bee really slowly walked toward it, and then from my safe place behind the glass, I watched it. I saw its tongue come out and drink up the droplet slowly. I watched it for ages, and ages. Then, it did a big flutter of its wings and flew. I felt so proud and relieved to be able to help this tiny little thing.

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From that point onward, I started watching documentaries about bees left, right and centre, and even read a book called The Bees by Laline Paull. This book is actually a thriller, written from a bee’s perspective. It’s truly super, super weird, but actually one of the best books I have ever read, and I feel like it helped me understand their nature and ecology a whole lot more. You should definitely read it.

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The next year, we discovered we had bees living in the attic of our block of flats. We probably should have done something about it, but to be honest I was worried as I know that relocating a queen and her hive is a massive ordeal for them and many of them die off. So, I just used to sit and watch them from our kitchen table.

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My heart still flutters in my chest when I encounter them, but in the past year I have successfully let one crawl over me without flinching, let one crawl onto my hand to get out of a friend’s hair, and just yesterday I calmly removed one that found its way into my living room.
One of my hopes for the future is that we can have a bee hive, as Elliot has always wanted one, and I think now I may be able to handle it.

The other thing that we have decided to venture into this Spring is growing our own fruit and veg. Even if we could do this in any small way we thought would help us, as we’re also vegetarians. Now, we have a communal maintained garden so we can’t plant directly, so we decided to start off with a few things to test the waters this year, and then potentially we can do something bigger in the future. This Spring we have gone for Courgettes, Butternut Squash and Strawberries. We  are also growing Sunflowers and Lavender alongside it just to have some prettier things to grow, and to introduce Emmie to gardening, nature and watching things grow.
So far, I have been super pleased with how things are coming along. Our sunflowers and Lavender have shot up, and though they were slow to start we are now struggling to contain our Squash and Courgettes. They can’t be planted out until June, but I think I’m going to need to move them to their planters before I can acclimatise them outdoors, taking up loads of room in my hallway – eek! The strawberries we did not start from sprout, but actually decided to sow ourselves, which we later found out was a super hard thing to do. We have however managed to get a few going, so hopefully they will continue onwards and upwards. Here’s our progress so far:

Lavender

 

Strawberries

 

Sunflowers

 

Squash and Courgette

 

The nicest thing in doing this, by far, has been watching how excited Emmie gets as they grow. She has been with me every step of the way through sowing, watering, and will help me plant them out and *HOPEFULLY* harvesting too.

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We’re trying so hard to give her a thorough appreciation for nature and the wildlife that inhabits it. She is so caring and wonderful, and I have found her recently sat on the path in the garden picking up bugs and going “Hi, buggy! It’s okay, don’t be scared!” We unfortunately found a cold little dead bee last month, and she insisted on being the one to move it. She is always super gentle and knows that the insects live in our grass and in the cracks of the paving slabs, so she watches intently if we ever have to move them out of our way and into a safe place.

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Talking of insects leads me on to one of my other great loves at the minute, which is a newfound love of mine: birds.

Since moving from Scotland to England I have been obsessed with the birds that are around our area, and most frequently visit out garden. We live in a semi-rural area, but our garden in particular is very large and quiet as our house is at the back of a path and away from the road. This means we get loads of bird visitors which I can view from my living room window. I started off my constantly asking Ell, “what’s that one?!” about birds which are probably common knowledge for most, and now I do my own research.
As the weather got warmer, I started noticing lots of birds flocking to my next door neighbour’s garden, so I decided to see if I could entice some over here (I know, I know, selfish), and Emmie and I made some home-made bird feeders.

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They worked, and that same afternoon we had blue tits in our garden!

My favourite bird in our garden however, is my little robin. I say “my” but of course it can’t possibly be “mine”. Yes, yes, I’m a crazy bird lady – my husband tells me all the time. We first noticed the robin over the winter; it would come every so often in search of food and sometimes I’d see it on the fence. But since about late February it visits our garden every single day and is in there most of the day, picking at our seeds or pulling up worms from the ground. As nesting season came in, I even caught it and some magpies pulling at our doormat for some material for their nests!

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Even in the course of writing this blog post, I went over to my bedroom window to check on my strawberry seeds – as you do – and found him sat on top of the shelter over our front door, where I didn’t even know it sat.

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When it sees me now, it tends to turn its head to look up at me, then stays where it is, whereas before it would just fly away all the time. I love him a little bit.

Our most frequent visitors are the robin, and Starlings, of which I recently found out a group of is called a murmuration. So yes, we get murmurations of Starlings.

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However we really have had all sorts: blue tits, robins, starlings, wood pigeons, blackbirds, magpies, a wagtail, seagulls, and most recently Goldfinches, which I saw yesterday and had to pull out my book to identify. I’ve since realised by their song that they are living in a tree a garden over.

So yes, this has been a rather long post, hasn’t it? But on Earth Day I thought it would be nice to write about something we care a lot about. It’s been really fun in these past 6 months discovering more and more about nature, and I really would encourage people to do more of it. In the UK we are losing wildlife at a drastic rate due to urbanisation and controlled gardening, so it really does help to be feeding your local birds, or growing flowers which will sustain bees and butterflies, which are on the decline (these were the species which made me choose lavender). Even if you can’t do this at home, you can help by visiting local RSPB centres or nature reserves, and teaching your kids more about the world.

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(Elliot and Emmie last month in the Forest of Dean)

I hope this post can help people to think a little bit more about what we can do to help our rapidly decaying planet, and hopefully allow you to enjoy doing so at the same time!

K xo

 

From the beginning, then…

Hello, hello, hello and HELLO!

My name is Kirsten and welcome to my blog! I have a blog!

Okay, okay, confession time. Over the years I have started several blogs, none of which I have kept up to date and then have fizzled out, only to be left on the shelves at the very back of the “unknown wordpress users” library. No more! This will be my turn-around. Or maybe it won’t. No pressure…. eek.

So, introductions?

My name is Kirsten (I believe I’ve already stated that), I’m 25, bisexual, married, a stay at home human and puppy mother, and I live in the South West of England. I have a degree in English Studies, and before becoming a SAHM was an Office Supervisor.

I’ve been with my husband/best friend/weirdo Ell for coming up to 7 years and we’ve been married for almost 2.

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Here we are looking dashing on our wedding day. Don’t we scrub up well? But, for the sake of verity, let’s choose a more realistic image:

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Yup. Pretty much me being a weirdo and him smiling along with it wondering why he married me.

We also have a 3 year old daughter who’s pretty much the coolest, cutest, funniest kid you ever laid eyes on.

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That’s her whipping while wearing a Star Wars top. Yep. That’s our daughter.

Aaaaaannnnyyywaaayyyyyy

Reasons for starting this blog. Are you ready for the cliché? Okay, here comes the cliché:
I’m starting a blog because I have things to say. Yep. That’s it. Okay, maybe you need a little more.

I have struggled with my weight for years. I’m a stereotypical girl who has grown up big in a society that pressures us to be as small as possible. I have grown up under the direct influence of women who have been yo-yo dieters, and to whom size is/was everything. I want to make it very clear now that I place no blame on these women. The onus lies on a society and fashion and beauty industries whose standards and income are reliant on female self-hatred. In any case, I grew up hating myself because even though I ate a relatively HEALTHY diet (funnily enough, fat girls sometimes eat the same as skinny girls and still turn out larger) I did not look like the women who are placed on pedestals as the epitome of beauty and femininity.

**CW**
This lead to heartache and mental health issues. It led to starving, restricting, purging. It led to attempts on my life. All in the name of beauty… or rather, what I (and most others) perceived beauty to be.

The constant struggle I had growing up was in my supreme love for women. Not only was society trying to push us into boxes of how we looked, but of how we THOUGHT. This is something that has only dawned on me years later. It is not enough for them to want you to hate yourself: they want you to hate other women. They want it to be so thoroughly engrained in you that FAT is the enemy. That not FITTING IN is the enemy. That fucking BODY HAIR is the enemy. It’s not good enough if you try to fit into these moulds, you have to make other women feel that way too. Of COURSE you should be shaming the fat woman sat in McDonalds. Of COURSE you should be shaming the woman with leg hair at the pool. Of COURSE you should be shaming that girl at school who doesn’t pluck her “unruly” eyebrows. Being anything other than skinny, bodily hair free, made up (but not TOO made up) is a problem.

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*rolls eyes*

I never felt this way, and for this I felt there was something wrong with ME. I would look at fat women and think of them in the same ways I did anyone else. I would notice them if something struck me about them- “oh, I like her skirt!”, “oh, her lipstick is amazing!”, but when people I interacted with wanted to shame other girls on appearance- on weight, on hair colour, on style – I never really got it. I was desperately trying to lose weight, desperately trying to look just “normal”, when I had fat women in my life who were gorgeous. Who I wish I looked like. Who I wish I was. This was at war with my weightloss. The thoughts clashed in my head every single day, and it took me years upon years to realise that all of that, all of the thoughts that coloured my days, were a product of clever societal pressure mixed in with mental illness.

I have taken time to work on my MH issues. I will never be fully there as it is an ongoing battle. However, I now know that my MH issues do not spawn from the fact that I am fat. They are not mutually exclusive. I am mentally ill and fat. I have been mentally ill and skinny.

I am now at a place where I have been fat positive for about a year and a half. How did I discover this? The influence of fat women. I became engrossed with plus sized bloggers and their lives, how they could be so happy and gorgeous and stylish in an internet world that was going to tell them they weren’t. That paved the way for me. People have never been attractive IN SPITE OF their size to me, they’ve just been attractive. I questioned my motives for following these women. Was it because they were different? No. It’s because they looked like me. They weren’t “waiting for summer bodies” to put on bikinis. They weren’t standing at the back of photos because they were fat. They weren’t promoting weight loss products or “BEFORE” stories. They were whole people. They are whole people. I wanted to be whole too, and it suddenly dawned on me that that didn’t come from looking how society wanted me to, it came from being unapologetically me.

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So, a year and a half later I am here. It’s been difficult. Fat positivity has led me to fight more demons that were inside of me than I knew were there. It forced me to open my eyes to what was going on around me, how many abnormal behaviours society promotes all in the journey of “beauty”. It came to dominate my feminism. I’m aware that in terms of fat activism I am at the lower end of the spectrum. I’m a UK 18-20 which means, if I’m lucky, I can walk into some straight-sized stores and find something. But, it’s still not been easy in world where a 12 is plus size representation. Now I’m confident, and ready to continue my journey in public.

Come and dive in with me.

K xo