A Day on Lake Como

Where? When? Why?

I recently went to Milan with my boyfriend and we took a day trip to Varenna on Lake Como. We wanted to get out of the city and hang out on the lake.

Morning

We got the half 10 train from Centrale station: you have to buy a ticket for a specific time so we just bought a single in the morning so we wouldn’t be restricted. They cost 6.70 euro each way so pretty cheap! Top tip: sit on the right hand side for the best view. Annoying it started raining just as we were pulling up to Varenna. I was NOT appropriately dressed for rain in just a sundress and sandles. We ended up running through the town in the pouring rain trying to find somewhere to hide. After hiding under a porch for a while we made our way to the centre to look at the church and the main square.

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Lunch

As it was still raining we decided to have a long lunch at a café with a beautiful lakeview. We decided on Nilus which was cheap and cheerful. I had lots of pasta, dessert, and more glasses of the house red than I should at lunch!

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Afternoon

When the sun came out, Varenna was absolutely beautiful. We went for a walk around lakeside and it was stunning. The colours of the houses were so pretty and there were so many people sitting on the beaches, swimming in the lake, and paddling.

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We went to visit the Villa Monastero. It is one of the two villas in Varenna that you can visit but this one looked bigger and better.  We got the house and garden tickets (8 euros each). The garden was so green and beautiful but I would probably give the house a miss if I was going again. The views over the lake were amazing and it was so quiet in the gardens that we could really relax and take lots of pictures.

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After we left the Villa we decided to head back to Milan. You can buy the tickets from the little tourist information centre that is attached to the station but it closes at 4pm and then you can buy the tickets on the train.

All in all, was such a good day! The lake was so lovely and there were lots of pretty little restaurants and shops. Apparently Varenna gets super busy with weddings in the summer but in June it was perfect.

Check out what I did on the rest of the trip! Oh, and my posts on the Yorkshire Coast and Amsterdam.

 

 

 

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Turning 26

I recently had my 26th birthday and every birthday makes me think about the previous year and everything that is to come.

26 felt like a big number as it is moving very steadily into the late-20s and that seems very grown-up. The land of mortgages, serious relationships, kids, savings accounts, and gardening gloves. I currently only have one of these sorted – the boyfriend – and I have pretty much zero desire for the rest. Realising this has been a good thing! I feel less concerned that my life doesn’t look like that of all of my school friends or what my Grandmother expects.

Things I have learnt in the past year:

1. It IS okay not to be doing the aforementioned ‘grown up’ things IF you don’t want to or aren’t ready for them. Other people’s expectations are just that, theirs.

2. Always get a birthday cake. Even if it is a little one. Birthdays without a cake aren’t the same.

3.Diet and fitness are – annoying – pretty damn important as you get older. My metabolism is not what it was 10 years ago and I like to be able to run for the bus without collapsing. So, more bulgur wheat and yoga for me!

4. Making a big life change can be liberating but pretty damn scary. When I got my PhD funding and I made the decision to leave my nice, safe office job and great flat in a beautiful city for the unknown – I was terrified. However, it has been the best choice I’ve ever made.

5. Being in a long distance relationship sucks but it can work. It is also very hard  to keep both parties happy and secure in the longevity of the relationship. Yet, I don’t regret starting the PhD and moving away.IMG_3720

6. Have something in your life that isn’t work. I used to work all day then come home for the typical evening of making dinner for myself and settling down to watch TV. Every night. So that is one of the reasons I started this blog: it gives me another focus that both isn’t work but is productive. It makes evenings and weekends feel more useful and I enjoy it.

7. Doing a PhD requires strict budgeting and that is rubbish! One way I’ve managed to keep to it is meal planning. It stops me hitting up Just Eat or eating a huge bowl full of pasta covered in cheese. I just take like 5 minutes a week to think about my lunch and dinners and it saves me a ton of money.

8. I was never really a pet person until my parents rescued a dog in January. I didn’t realise you could love something as much as I do that silly, old dog. I’m not shopping for dog collars and treats for my own dog just yet – they are a bit too much of a committment but give it 10 years.Lisabeth Westwood

9. Gilmore Girls is always great. Especially when you binge-watch 10 episodes in a day.

10. Being happy comes in many forms! What makes my boyfriend happy is hearing the wind blowing through trees in the countryside. While I think that is nice it doesn’t exactly set my world alight but I love drinking a cup of coffee watching YouTube or playing fetch with my parent’s dog. Lisabeth Westwood

Recipe: Mars Bar Cookies

I love cookies so much. Baking them, eating raw cookie dough, and (when I can restrain myself) the baked cookies! There are so many ways of customising cookies and I really like these because they have chunks of Mars Bar in them! I make these all the time – probably far too often – and I thought I would share them all with you. They are really easy to make and are perfect for afternoon snacks or an evening treat. Let me know how yours’ turn out!

Ingredients

Lisabeth Westwood cookies

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Mars Bar
  • 150g self raising flour (sifted)
  • 75g soft butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder

Makes about 12-15 cookies.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius (fan)
  2. Cream the butter and the sugars together with a wooden spoon or an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Once smooth, add the egg and mix together.

4. Add the flour and the cocoa powder then stir until combined fully.

5. Chop the Mars Bar length-ways and then into small sections

6. Mix to combine and then put it to cool in the fridge for 10 minutes.

7. Either line an oven tray with greaseproof paper or use a tray like in the photos.

8. Use a spoon to create equal sized balls of dough.Lisabeth Westwood cookies

9. Put in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes

10. Cool and eat!!!

 

I hope you enjoy these food posts. Check out my chilli con carne recipe: it is SO good!

A Day in the Life of Lisabeth

The blog is taking a personal turn! I thought over the next few months I’d share a bit more about my life as a PhD student, in Leeds and today, I’m starting with the life of Lisabeth on a Sunday! You’ll see everything I get up to  and I hope you like it.

The Morning

I always have an alarm set so today I got up at 8.30 and scrolled through Twitter before getting up and ready for the day. My morning skincare routine is pretty minimal (and all Superdrug at the moment – they are Cruelty Free and cheap!) but it leaves my skin feeling clean and fresh.

Lisabeth Westwood Skincare

I had a HUGE dinner last night so I wasn’t that hungry so I made myself a coffee and a smoothie. I have a Magic Bullet which is like the NutriBullet’s little sister (I got mine from Debenhams and I’ll do a review post on it soon) and I had a banana and berry smoothie whilst my coffee was brewing. Then I sipped on my coffee whilst catching up on some YouTube (loving Fleur de Force!).

The rest of the morning involved backing up photos (the thought of losing my holiday snaps is too hard to bear),  cleaning the house, blog post planning, and putting on some make up. I’m only nipping to the shops today so I went for something pretty minimal.

Lisabeth Westwood makeup
Look how battered my Hoola is…you can tell it is well loved.

The Afternoon

After coming back from the supermarket I made some lunch. Most people would have photographed it but I didn’t because it looked really weird. I followed a recipe for a healthy tomato soup and it ended up have a very odd foam on the top. Tasted okay but looked SO SO gross.

I then started packing for my holiday! I’m going to Milan on Wednesday for 4 days with my boyfriend and I’m so looking forward to it. I love doing travel posts (Amsterdam, Yorkshire Coast) so I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures to share on here. We don’t have much planned but B has bought a guidebook so we’ll go through that on the flight!

As I have a big exam tomorrow (eek!) I did some preparation for that and then started running my bath. Baths are a weekend treat for me and I want to be all pampered for my holiday so I’m went the whole hog with hair and face masks, exfoliating – the lot!

Lisabeth Westwood skincare

The Evening

The evening – like the rest of the day – was pretty chilled. I made a bean stew and had it with a baked sweet potato and caught up on Versailles. Versailles is a TV show set at the court of Louis XIV and it is completely ridiculous but I am hooked. I love the men’s long flowing locks, the silly sex scenes, and that no one even attempts a French accent.

I then painted my nails with a Body Shop varnish I got in their Advent Calendar last year and relaxed with a book in bed. I’m currently reading Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks which is so good! Faulks wrote Birdsong and if you haven’t read that then you definitely should: it is a modern classic all about WWI.

Lisabeth Westwood nails
Big foot!!

And that was my Sunday! It was low key because I am trying to limit my spending before my trip to Milan but I love having a day to be by myself and to do the things that make me happy.

Recipe: Chilli Con Carne

Chilli is my favourite home-cooked meal: it was one of the first things I learnt to cook when I went to university and I made it almost every week! My and my old housemates would make a big pot with some rice and garlic bread (with wine of course): they were some of the best evenings for me. What is better than eating good food with good company.

Chilli is everything you want in a food: it is spicy, comforting, and delicious. What’s even better is that it goes with rice, pasta, baked potatoes – pretty much anything really so it is a really versatile dish. It is perfect for lunchboxes, autumn evenings, dining alfresco on a summer’s night.

If you were to come to my house for dinner the chances are that I’d be whipping up a batch of chilli. I mostly make vegan chillis but I thought I’d share my recipe for the meaty version.

Ingredients

chilli ingredients face on

  •  500g beef mince
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 red pepper
  • Half a carrot
  • 400g can of kidney beans
  • 500g carton of passata
  • 1 tsp each of cumin, chilli flakes, cinnamon
  • Optional: chocolate, tomato purée, beef stock cube

Serves

This makes a HUGE panful so this will last me for about 5 servings but it depends on your portion size.

Method

  1. Chop all the vegetables. I chop the onions finely and the rest roughly diced.
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion. Sauté for about 6 mins, stirring frequently until lightly browned.
  3. Then add the spices and garlic with 3 tablespoons of cold water. Stir well.chilli spices

Note: I like spicy food so you might want to change the quantity of the chilli flakes according to your preference.

4. Cook for several minutes until the spices are cooked through. Then add the vegetables and stir well to mix and cover all the veg with the spices.

chilli veg

5. Cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes then add the mince. Lightly brown the mince.

6. Add the passata. Then fill the carton with cold water and add this to the pan. Stir well. If you are adding any of the optional ingredients, do so now. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Turn the hob down to a simmer and leave for 15 minutes.

chilli no kidneys

8. Drain and rinse the kidney beans; add them to the pan and stir well.

chilli kidneys

9. Leave for as long as you can on a low simmer. Stirring every so often to ensure the chilli does not stick to the pan.

10. Serve with whatever carbs and accoutrements you like (sour cream, grated cheese etc.)

chilli finished

 

I hope you all like this recipe and I’m going to go tuck in a big bowl right now!

Check out my post about my favourite food blogs!

 

My Favourite Food Blogs

I think we can all agree that food is awesome.

I love cooking (particularly baking), eating out, and I’d snack all day if I could. However, my love of cheese and my very sweet tooth means that my cravings tend to be less on the healthy side. So, I started looking at food blogs for inspiration for new meals and ways to make the things I love a little bit better for me.

Oh She Glows

from oh she glows
Photo from Oh She Glows

This has got to be my favourite. The recipes tend to be vegan which is great for me as my sister is vegan and I like to make new things for her when she visits. Her recipe for vegan chilli is delicious and is a firm favourite of mine although I haven’t tried the cashew sour cream. Her recipes are easy to follow and don’t have too many ingredients (I’m skint so the fewer the better!). There is an app too!

Minimalist Baker

from minimalist baker.jpg
Photo from Minimalist Baker

As with Oh She Glows, the Minimalist Baker writes recipes that require 10 ingredients or less or take less than half an hour to make. That is a win/win combination for me as, although I love cooking, I don’t want to spend all evening in the kitchen. However, because the recipes tend to be for vegan baking they can often include items that aren’t very easy for me to find in my (tiny) local supermarket or they can be out of my price range (the PhD budget is pretty tight) but they are great for inspiration.

A Couple Cooks

From a couple cooks.jpg
Photo from A Couple Cooks

This blog is run by a husband and wife team and provides the biggest range of recipes of the three blogs I’m discussing. The recipes are mostly plant based and cover lots of different cuisines. The photography is beautiful and the website is easy to navigate. They also include snippets of personal life with stories and background to recipes and I really like learning about their lives as well as the food they make.

A Beautiful Mess

abeautifulmess
Photo from Oh She Glows

ABM is a lifestyle blog so recipes don’t come around as often as with dedicated food blogs but when they do they are great! They do quite a lot of drink (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) recipes and lots of food that would be suitable for parties or entertaining. I also like the seasonal recipes they bring out around Christmas and Easter. ABM is one of my fave lifestyle blogs so I’d definitely recommend that you check them out.

 Who are your favourite food bloggers?

A Weekend on the Yorkshire Coast

Dracula, goths, Captain Cook, fish and chips. Four things that you might associate with Whitby, the seaside town. This travel post is all about the Yorkshire Coast and the Moors and will give you the low down on things to do and places to see.

When? Where? Why?

In April, me and the boyfriend, B, decided to take a little trip to North Yorkshire. As I’m a PhD student I can’t afford to go on lots of holidays abroad so we have been having lots of mini breaks around the UK instead.

IMG_3968
Struggling with my borrowed coat.

Day 1: Saturday

B had never been to the North York Moors and I knew that he’d love it there. The landscape is dramatic (it kinda feels like the apocalypse has happened it is so quiet and empty) and you are often the only person on the road with a 360 degree view of the moors.

The Morning

We drove from Leeds to Robin Hood’s Bay which is a small seaside town south of Whitby.

The little streets were steep and you could walk down to the pebbly beach to eat an icecream. We went into the little museum and learnt all about the history of smuggling. There isn’t a great deal to do there but it is perfect if you want nice walks and a sea breeze.

The Afternoon

Then we headed back inland towards where we were staying that night. We popped through Goathland (famous for being where Heartbeat was filmed) before going to Castleton – the village where our AirBnB was. The little cottage was perfect (and only £50 a night) and apparently is the oldest in the village. It was teeny tiny and had such a comfortable bed. Definitely recommend it to anyone.

The Evening

That evening we went to the Eskdale Inn pub for dinner. It was full of locals and was a lovely atmosphere. The food was so good too: one of the best burgers I have ever had. It had bacon jam and brie on it – YUM. There were no street light so toddling back to the cottage after a couple of drinks was fun!

Day 2: Sunday

The Morning

We cooked ourselves some sausages and scrambled egg in the little kitchen before setting off for our day’s adventures.

IMG_3993
Staithes

Cars aren’t allowed in the town centre so it was so quiet and calm. There were lots of little craft shops and cafes. It was a beautiful day and you could see so far out into the North Sea. We stopped to share a cider toffee ice cream before heading to Whitby.

staithes 2
Staithes

The Afternoon

Both of us had been to Whitby town centre before so we spent most of our time up by the Abbey and St Mary’s Church. There were such amazing views!

The Abbey was Benedictine and built after the Norman Conquest but is now impressive ruins. Most of the outer walls remain but the roof and insides are gone. It is stunningly beautiful.

After the obligatory fish and chips we headed back home. It was a lovely weekend! There is so much more to explore in North Yorkshire too: I can’t wait to go back.

Check out my travel post about Amsterdam!