Sunday, 25 September 2016

Mint & Beetroot Yoghurt Dip


I'm holding on to the last few days of summer with this one, I know. It's such a good addition to salads (warm chicken salads especially), and being used as a dip with warm, crusty bread, that I couldn't not share it. It would, in my opinion, make the ideal BBQ dip accompaniment, but even if we aren't lucky enough to barbecue for a fair few months, this dense little dip is a great side plate to add to your antipasti platter, which I'm sure you'll agree is a delicacy to enjoy all year round...

This recipe makes a large tub full, so it's perfect to make on a Sunday and include in your lunches throughout the week.

You'll need:
  • 2 beetroots (I used pickled ones here)
  • 400g Greek yoghurt (I use Fage)
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt
Chop your beetroot and place in a food processor. Tear off your fresh mint leaves until you have a decent handful and add with the beetroot. Then, chuck everything else into the processor and blend until you have a smooth consistency. I like seeing bits of mint flaked through the dip.

I love it with:
  • Torn chicken
  • As a dip with chopped carrots and cucumber 
  • New potatoes
  • Baby spinach salad  
Provided you keep this refrigerated in an air tight container, it should keep for around four to five days.

I came across this article on the NHS website about the benefits of beetroot, and it's really interesting - there's quite a bit of evidence to suggest it can help lower cholesterol and has also been linked to an improved performance in sports - give it a read and let me know what you think...


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Saturday, 24 September 2016

Life Lately...

Interior porn... new plants & candles in our new living room 
I haven't ever done one of these types of posts before, namely because I've usually been lucky enough to be able to fit blogging into my normal schedule. However, over the past eight weeks or so, life has been a little mad, and I haven't been able to work on my blog as much as I'd have liked to - but that's because some amazing things have happened recently that have taken over. BUT, I'm back, and there are some really, truly great things I've got planned on here - so watch this space!

So what's been going on?

Well firstly, I got a new job!

New routines 

You know what it's like when you start a new job, your brain is fried for the first few weeks taking everything in and in some cases you have to adjust routines which is what I've been doing.

I'm working on some incredible projects at the moment that are really igniting a big passion of mine and I feel really lucky to be working where I am.



Home sweet home...

Secondly, we decided to do a 'bit' of DIY on the house which turned into a pretty mammoth series of tasks... including two 100 year old fire places being knocked through and a complete repaint of the whole downstairs, stairway, hall and landing. We lived in the house whilst this was going on, which meant that for a few weeks our lives were surrounded by dust sheets, rubble and thick, black dust. That dust gets everywhere, I swear.

Because we didn't move out whilst this was going on, it meant our little space was turned on its head, with armchairs and shoe racks in the bathroom and having to eat in the bedroom.

All the painting and redecorating and getting stuff back to normal was done after work and on the (rare) weekends where we didn't have any plans, so it took longer than expected.

Most of it's all done now, and I can't tell you how pleased I am to be sat writing this on my sofa without a dust sheet!


Vitamin Sea

Also.... In August/early September I was away in Portugal for just over two weeks, so naturally, blogging took a back seat (there was sun to be soaked up and gin to drink). It was so nice to go away with all my family and just chill. We ate so much good food both in restaurants in just sat out in the sun on our patio. I missioned it on a few sweaty runs on the beach and hilly sessions around our villa. I also read loads, and have managed to keep this up since coming back which I'm proud of, as it's something that nearly always falls by the wayside, but I think it's so important to take ten, fifteen, twenty minutes for yourself and lose yourself in a good book. I find it helps me go to sleep too so I've been reading before bed.






So, anyway, that's a little life update on where I've been at over the past few weeks and keep your eyes peeled for lots more; I've got a load up my sleeve!

Franks xx
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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Sunday Roast @ Saison, West Disbury


When I left university and waved goodbye to my student house, Didsbury became home. West Didsbury to be precise. It was the first place outside of Bristol that felt homely and comforting and like the sort of place I would like to live.

I must've liked it, as I lived there for three years and am still a huge advocate of everything it has to offer - Burton Road, the river, the cafes, independent shops and restaurants that keep popping up, I love it!

One restaurant I was particularly intrigued by was Saison, having known it as the Violet Hour when I lived there. Anyway, they got in touch with me via a group on Facebook and asked if I'd like to come down and give them a try - and I jumped at the chance to get back on Burton Road!


It was the day after we'd got back from Portugal and although it was still (surprisingly) warm in Manchester, we were both craving something really hearty and homely, so roast dinner it was.

BUT before we tucked into roasts, we ordered drinks & went to town on the starter menu.

We shared two dishes - the five spice chicken lollipops with a hoisin glaze, and the Didsbury eggs.



I was a little nervous about getting the chicken dish as anything meaty described as a lollipop doesn't quite sit right with me but oh my god these were delicious: just look at the detail in the picture above! The meat was so tender and the sauce was a perfect addition.

The Didsbury eggs were phenomenal; I'm partial to a Scotch egg most of the time but these were fab - crunchy on the outer edge, with a soft black pudding sausage middle, wrapped around a boiled quail's egg, with a runny yolk - ideal!


After some lovely rioja and beer for James, our roasts arrived. I went for chicken, and James went for beef. The beef is cooked medium rare and both come with Saison's 'signature stuffing' which.is.LUSHHH. So so good.




You also get a heap of seasonal veg, crispy on the outside / fluffy on the inside potatoes, and a huge Yorkshire pudding. Oh and an insane red wine gravy.

Now, I love holiday food as much as the next person (fresh seafood, abundance of bright fruit & veg etc), but it was so lovely after a week of eating this to tuck into a warming, wholesome roast; I was craving it massively.

We definitely didn't need pudding, but when we saw the specials board mention a chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice-cream and raspberries, we had it have it.



We dove right in and finished it in minutes (there's always room for dessert!). My favourite bit was the gooey layer on top of the cake, mixed with a spoonful of ice-cream. It was delicious. The perfect way to round off a roast!

We sat in the window and watched Burton Road bustle away; it was a great way to see of a Sunday. The atmosphere in Saison is soo chilled and relaxing, I'd absolutely recommend going for a roast, or a cosy drink in the window. Thanks for having me, Saison!


*Saison very kindly paid for my food. I paid for my drinks. All opinions are genuine and have not been influenced by their generosity - they really do do great roasts!
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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Advice + Tips for Your First Photoshoot


I don’t know if you’ve ever done a photoshoot before?

I had my first experience a few weeks back. You might have seen my excitable posts all over Instagram and Twitter… I’d never done one and so when the tim Tim Marner team got in touch, I jumped at the chance. Tim Marner are 'the best' creative agency in Manchester, they’ve got a really cool studio that looks like a pretty normal office block but when you enter it, it’s like a treasure trove of Alice In Wonderland type rooms, stairways and floorspace.

When I’d confirmed and we’d got a date in place, I started to get nervous and excited - I really didn’t know what to expect. When I got my call sheet through, I was amazed. I’d given the team a quick overview on what my blog was about (I’d suggested shooting images that I could then use on here), and they’d nailed it. I wanted to get across my ethos and attitude with food, health and fitness, so the word balance was thrown about a bit! The shot list I got sent back was adventurous to say the least; think donuts on my head, balancing wine and green juice and having a watermelon for a face.


However, like I said, it was my first shoot so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. As a beginner ‘model’ (although I would never call myself that..), I know I would have appreciated hearing these tips from someone who’d done it before, so I thought I’d impart my wisdom. If you’re thinking about doing a shoot / nervous about doing a shoot / interested to hear about a first timer’s shoot, grab a cup of tea and delve in…


CONFIDENCE

I really cannot stress this piece of advice enough. This was without a doubt the thing I lacked the most. It’s also really hard to just ‘get’ confident if this is an alien environment to you (like it was for me). I’d say that in all honesty, two double g&t’s would have really helped here, but that won’t help you and is probably not socially acceptable. What I would say though, is (and without trying to sound controvertial), I found it a little bit comforting to try and put myself in the mindset of having had two g&t’s. I’m not talking slurring words or slut-dropping in the studio, but just that nice, comfortable feeling you have when you’re finishing drink number one after work on a Friday. You’re not self-conscious, you’re confident; you’re warm and know that you look good.

It’s so easy to take a ‘good’ photo of yourself, from the comfort of your bedroom or wherever. Like with a selfie, for example. You control the angle and lighting. You can do your make up a certain way, show the ‘best’ side of you, enhance things with a good bit of Valencia filter. All this narcissistic comfort is abruptedly taken away from you on a shoot - your make up is done a particular way, someone else is taking the photo, you’re moving around the floor at their direction. I’d urge you to discount ‘seflie-mode’ from the day and embrace having someone (a professional no less, don’t forget!) take your picture for you. It’s refreshing, to say the least.

So, from someone who sort-of regrets the outcome of their ‘natural’ shots because they just simply couldn’t relax (I don’t think they reflect the ‘me’ that I was too nervous / scared to be on the shoot - I wasn’t confident enough), please, take it from me - act confident. Act like you really absolutely love yourself and that you’re the best thing on this earth because it will only show up in the pictures as well earned confidence. Trust me.

NB: If you’re really struggling with the whole confidence thing when doing ‘natural’ shots, I found it so much easier / more comfortable doing shots where I had a prop (i.e watermelon, donuts), or a particular look - it helped me focus and I just instinctively revolved the shot around that, so I’d recommend adding in some props if you think you’ll struggle!



FORGET ABOUT THE ROOM

Forget about the people in the room; the photographer, the make up artist re-touching your lips, the team running about to make sure lighting is ok… I know this is hard. Believe me I do! But, leading on from point one above, try and do this as much as you can. Block the team out from being a group of people ‘looking at me oh my god’ and view them for what they are employed to do. The whole shoot will be so much better if you think transactionally, and not emotionally. The room is yours at that point, and the people in it are there to make it happen - they do this day in, day out, so don’t let them put you off :)



BE YOU

Photographs are a beautiful way of visually capturing who you are, in a particular moment. Is there a particular trait you want to show off? Perhaps there’s a certain way you want to be perceived from this photograph? It’s art, and thinking about it this way really helped me ease into the poses a lot more.



BRING MORE CLOTHES THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED

If you’re not being dressed for the shoot (that is, if the photographer isn’t bringing a costume for you), and you’re going to be wearing your own clothes, bring as many as possible. Bring more than you think is necessary. Kay had a real eye for pairing activewear that I wouldn’t usually go for, and having surplus clothing definitely helped when we had to move around looks and also provided a real platform for inspiration - the way certain clothes fit you can help mould and determine the poses and expressions in the shoot.

BE REAL

Not going to lie, I had a couple of good old spots on my chin on the morning of my shoot (thanks, gods of fate!). I was nervous (embarrassed?) about the girls doing my make up and also what they’d look like on film. I needn’t have worried. Your make up artist is there to hide unwanted blemishes and is working with camera lighting and the shoot theme in mind, so don’t worry if you think it looks a little full on. It also reassured me when I saw the raw pictures on camera that in fact you couldn’t see them and again when I was sent the final edits. It comforted me to know that ‘real models’ must face the spot / bad skin / bad hair day and we just don’t see that when we see glossy versions in magazines.



LAUGH IT OFF

Unless you’re a model, how often are you going to have a team (I repeat, team) of people, fussing over you - doing your hair (I love it when people play with my hair), chatting to you, making you feel really special, doing your make up etc? Embrace it! It’s so much fun jumping around, being a kid and doing something you’d never normally do - welcome it with open arms.

I definitely found the shoot challenging and sometimes (at first) uncomfortable, but by the end of the shoot I’d really relaxed into it and regretted being so self-conscious at the start. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, extended my boundaries and I can whole heartedly say that I look at pictures of myself differently now. I don’t think I’m as critical.



Top and bottoms - MyProtein
I honestly can’t convey how comforting and friendly the team (Kay (Photographer and Art Director), Tim (Creative Director), Gaz (Art Director), Patsy (make up artist) and Jackie (hair stylist)) were.

After just one day (and a few texts), I felt like I’d known Kay for years, she’s so nice. If I called Tim “wacky” he’d probably laugh or look at me with jokey disdain that I’m not edgy enough to come up with an adjective to suit his demeaner. I realise this isn’t doing him justice! He’s insane in front of the camera, the phrase work the room could not be more apt, he’s a baller and I love what he’s about. Patsy and Jackie put me at ease and were so easy to chat to. It was like being in the dressing room with two friends catching up over a coffee. As far as teams go, they’re definitely up there with the most dynamic and friendly.

You can see their write up of working with me, and more pics from the shoot by reading their blog, here - I'd love to know what you think :)

If you are considering doing a shoot I’d absolutely recommend booking in with Tim Marner. They specialise in fitness photography (how cool are these shots here?), but also do branding, video production, advertising, graphic design and build websites - they really are a talented bunch. It’s amazing what they can do with their studio to transform the space; I challenge you to give them a brief they can’t execute! Give them a cheeky follow on all the usual channels on @timmarner too.

Thanks again to all the crew, I’ll wear my Tim Marner snapback with pride!


HUGE thanks to MyProtein too, who sent me some amazing clothes to wear for the shoot - pictured above :) They've got some lush new clothes at the moment, including a gorgeous b&w marbled effect sports bra, which I'll be posting on Social soon - so keep your eye out.

If you have any other tips for a beginner on a photoshoot, please send them my way!
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