Recent Wanderings… Leonardo da Vinci at the Science Museum

Last week I took the opportunity of a work trip to London to pop by the Science Museum and visit the new Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. The exhibition showcases models made from his sketches made in 1952 celebrating the 500th anniversary of his birth.

It was very interesting and fascinating to see how some of his ideas have been applied ot modern technical advancements.  I wish I had a better memory to recall all the details I was reading about, but I can’t so based on a few odd memories and some photos of my favourite bits I hope to offer you incentive to visit yourself.

The below photo was of a self propelled vehicle. What I loved most about all these designs was that most of the signs included a note to ‘not workable at the time’, but have since turned out to inspire and look like tings we see today.

This was a miniature version of an armoured vehicle. The section on warfare and battlements was interesting. I found all the drawings were like things I would imagine from the fantasy novels I read.

I loved the atmosphere in the exhibition. The design and layout included many of these hanging with his drawings and writings on.  As I was heading to the museum most people were leaving so when I arrived at the exhibition it was very quiet and was still open for another hour or so. There ended up only being about 5-6 people in the space, which meant I could take the time I needed to look around without feeling other people wanted to get to the same bits. I would definitely go at this time of day again.

This bit just straight up freaked me out! Heads up you walk around a corner and straight into this.

The section on taking inspiration from living organisms was the most interesting to me. There were multiple videos featuring spiders, fish, birds, insects and the like that all related to drawings and models da Vinci made. This section also linked to the modern world most and showed applications in robotics and materials. This was a model of a robotic bird that the video shows taking off and flying like a bird. It was amazing!

I found these instruments beautiful and functional. If I ever live in a large house I would want to get pieces like this and learn how to use them even if putting them on display. There were also interactive things that got you thinking about engineering and how things work. I wouldn’t say it was a lot for kids though and was definitely more reading and looking than practical.

There was way more than I can show here and worth a visit. It really showed what da Vinci did back in the 1400s and how relevant they are today. I will be making the effort to add these trips on to future work trips in the future. It felt great to go and do something cultural for a change.

Becoming a Mindful Chef part 2

Following on from a couple of weeks ago when I went through the vegan box form Mindful Chef, I decided to switch to the classic box, which comes with meat and fish options. I’ve stuck to three meals a week as this feels reasonable and means I can have some super fast and simple meals as well (scrambled eggs I love you).

First up was the above steak dish that I would definitely make again. The topping on the steak was tasty and worked well with the sweet potato and pepper/tomato combo. I need to learn how long it takes to cook steak though as I thought I had kept to the time, but it was under done for me so I have to put it back in the pan for longer. I think I should just butterfly meat if I’m supposed to keep it in one piece.

The next one was this chicken dish. I enjoyed this, but wish it had had more of kick. I would add more harissa I think in the future. Also the squash could have been more done for my tastes, but that is me working on the timing. All the meals take around 30 minutes, but my oven seems to take ages to warm up so I need to allow for that when roasting vegetables.

The pork dish was a surprise hit for me. I was not sure what to expect, but it was super tasty. The rice was also really good. I stopped cooking rice at home as I found it boring, so it’s been great to add it back into my diet in interesting ways. The egg just added to the dish in a really simple way. It was a light, but filling meal.

The fourth week of getting the box I think I was a bit braver and tried some different things.

I went for this chicken dish, even though I am really not a fan of coconut. This used creamed coconut and I didn’t really notice it. It was there, but didn’t overpower the dish, which was great. I think I ended up with this dish being a bit dry (sauce wise), but it worked for me as I am not a huge sauce fan, I just think the spinach probably would have wilted more if I hadn’t been afraid it was going to burn. The wild rice was new to me and was an interesting texture. I liked this dish, but wouldn’t make again unless it comes in the box.

This was another surprise hit. I went for the vegan option this week as didn’t fancy the pork or beef options. This was really tasty and I am definitely a fan of black beans. This was surprisingly spicy, but the millet cooled the dish down. Also it had avocado in and i am always a fan!

The last dish of the week nearly didn’t happen as the bag of ingredients was missing from the box when it arrived. The salmon and coconut milk were there, but not the bag of smaller ingredients. I phoned up the team and they were fab. Although they couldn’t send me a new bag as everything is made up fresh to order, they credited my account for a meal the following week. They also reminded me that they had included the recipe card so I popped out and got the ingredients to make up the dish. I’m glad I did as it was interesting. I wonder if it would have been better with the organic, fresh ingredients that are normally there rather than the supermarket ones I had to get done.

I also won a competition on Instagram in my third week, which meant I won a free box and got some fancy new containers to help with leftovers. I never win raffles, but occasionally I win online competitions, so worth entering when you have time.

I am really impressed with Mindful Chef. They have provided great meals for a very lazy cook. Also when things did go wrong they provided fantastic customer service. I was able to talk to someone on the phone straight away and then follow up with email. I have huge respect for the team and will continue to use this service and recommend it to others for a long time I think.

Simplifying My Style

As well as cooking and makeup I’m looking at my style this year. I really want to be comfortable in the clothes I wear and have them show off my personality more than they currently do.

Clothes have always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve never been a girl who loves clothes shopping and tend to go out a couple of times a year and buy everything I need in one go. I’ve found I end up with a mis-mash of clothes that recently I’ve been struggling to make go together and that I feel comfortable in. I think weight has always been part of my non-love of clothes and continues to influence the way I dress myself. It’s definitely the area of my life I let other peoples opinions overrule my own thoughts and that is something I want to work on changing.

I’m going to start by looking at what I wear to work. I saw this article ages ago and it has been stuck in my mind ever since.

I loved this so much. It resonated with me at my core. I think this is because for so long I have tried to take an interest in fashion, but it is not natural to me. I would much prefer to keep it simple yet stylish. I want to spend my time thinking about and doing the things that are really important to me, rather than worry about the things that aren’t high on my priority list.

So I am creating my own work uniform – black trousers, black t-shirt top, and colourful cardigan with shoes or boots (depending on the weather. For me this keeps things simple, while letting my personality come out through my colourful cardigans.

Outside of work I am also looking to make sure my personality comes through. A lot of the time I am in jeans and tops or sports clothes for swimming. I am going to streamline things a bit more and sort out my cupboard and focus on great fitting jeans and tops. I’ll also make sure I have some smarter pieces or things can be dressed up for those occasional nights out. I will also have some really smart things for really special events like weddings!

I feel really confident about this switch in focus on this area of my life. I am going to go with my gut and wear what feels good to me and shut out the haters. I want to be body positive and this for me means I wear what I want to wear and support what others want to wear too. I don’t think I’ll ever be so confident I will show lots of skin, but I want to be as confident as I am happy to be in everything I wear. This will be a learning and growing process and will probably change as I move through my thirties and I’m looking forward to that, but for now I’m all about simplicity and feeling great!

There are two areas I do want to start cultivating fun pieces to add some quirkiness to my look. This is through fandom t-shirts and jewelry! I’ve already got my eye on these things!

These cat face earrings from Black Heart Creatives (just need to get my ears re-pierced)

 This necklace with my favourite quote inside (not pictured) from The Locket Library

Finding My Face

As well as cooking more this year, I also want to treat myself well by learning to love my face by learning to use makeup properly. Rather than just slapping it on to cover up blemishes. I want to learn what works for me and what makes me feel great about myself. This isn’t about doing it for others, this is about making myself feel good and being confident with it.  So I’ve been looking at my skincare and makeup routines and slowly adjusting and learning about better things that work for me.

Skincare is something I have always struggled with. Having combination skin that is made worse by the amount of chlorine that it has to put up with my swimming made it difficult to find something that works for me. I’ve tried Clinique 3 -step for years and then various spot focused ones to find they work for a bit and then dry my skin out or make it feel greasy. So when the latest trend of at-home parties started MyShowcase I jumped at the chance to ask about finding something for my skin from a company that isn’t just one brand.

That is when I made the switch to Balance Me and I am in love this routine. I started with the cleansing balm and the moisturiser while on my skiing trip in January, then added the serum at a different party to combat the blemishes I still get. These products work really well on my combination skin and make it feel lovely after every use. I still get blemishes as I said, but I am touching my face less and less and not picking at my skin as much which is reducing the amount of blemishes I’m getting.

I also still get some dry skin from my swimming so I also added Orba Vitamin E cream to my routine when my cheeks go dry, again from MyShowcase. This is not an everyday product for me, more like one a week I do the scruba nd follow with the cream as a deep Both brands last for a good amount of time and I’m having a party with my friends this month to learn a bit more and have a giggle with my girls.

Makeup is something I’ve just never really been that bothered about. My main use has been to cover blemishes or to add purple to my face (yes I was that bad!). So this year I am making the effort to learn more and be a bit more adventurous. I’m starting simple by finding an everyday look that is easy to do and builds up my skills. Somethings simple is also to carry around my makeup and reapply or touch up during the day, which is something I’ve never done apart from on a night out and then it was usually only lipstick.

My aim is to use minimal makeup and hopefully be able to use less foundation as my skin gets better and blemishes reduce. This for me is all about making me feel good and even sexy! I’m not looking for anything or for other people to notice, but rather I want to look in mirror and wolf whistle at myself and think ‘damn, I could do anything!’

So these are my basics – primer, foundation, concealer, eye shadow and brow kit. I also use mascara, but am yet to find my one. This is mainly Benefit, but I have switch primer to Smashbox. I love the ease of the Benefit playstick and the staying power of the other products in their range.

I’ve started to use lipstick and have nude Wild About Beauty one for everyday (not in the photo, but on my lips in the photo below) and recently have gone bold with this Clinque Pop lipstick with primer and liner. I’ve got this on lightly in the very first photo in this post. I can build it up to be bolder and have been getting better at this on a few nights out recently. It makes me feel really good and I love how long it lasts if I apply it properly and let it dry before doing anything else, like taking a drink.

I’ve also been working on my eyeliner skills and have made some great strides in the last few months. After seeing several other bloggers praise the Stila Stay All Day liquid liner I finally bit the bullet in the January sales and bought it as well as a purple sparkle version. I’ve been practicing over the last few months and finally feel good about my technique (slowly build it up) and how it looks. I think I prefer the purple as I have quite inset eyes that the black makes them feel quite dark sometimes.  The photo above I have the black on and the photo below I have the purple on. I love how well it stays on, but I’m not a fan of getting it off so it hasn’t become a daily thing for me to wear.


I’m feeling really good about this and I’m making the time to include doing my makeup and skincare everyday (another thing I was really bad at). I have a couple of beauty lessons coming up with the MyShowcase party and a my friend Holly found a voucher to go to the MAC store in Bath for a lesson. I’m looking forward to both!

There are still a few things I need to look into and my find the ones that work for me. Next I think it will be my hair style. I’ve just let it grow since before Christmas and now it needs a really good cut and style. I want something lighter and easier to dry as it’s fine, but thick. I also want to find my go-to products for mascara and perfume. Both of these will add to my daily routine and make me feel really good.

I’m not going to do loads of beauty type posts, but I will continue to share my adventures in making myself feel really good as I want to be part of being body positive and continue my learning in mindfulness in everyday life. I hope you enjoy it too.


Upping my Barista Skills

This last weekend I finally went on a course all about coffee. All my interest in coffee has been built on the last 10 years and I’ve never been on an actual course to learn the skills you need to make good coffee. I don’t count being the whole person at a cupping demonstration as a course, although I did learn a lot! So on Saturday I headed to Rave Coffee in Cirencester for a Barista Skills course.

I really want this art work on a smaller scale for my reading nook. I will also buy some of their old coffee sacks at some point to make cushions!

I was early so waiting in their small cafe area with a lovely flat white with the Signature Blend. It got really busy as they are only open in the mornings on Saturdays, but I did wonder how many they had on the course as it is only a small roasting area. It ended up be 5 plus Donavan who took us through everything. I watch him set up the machine we would be using.

This course was focused on espresso shots and the drinks you can make with an espresso base. It was really interesting to learn about the grind and the ratio of water to beans. I still need to learn about the other brewing methods, but this gave me a good start on that road to be able to understand and learn on my own using websites.

We worked through weighing the beans and adjusting the grinder time. We were using a commercial electric one, but I did ask about grinders for the home and they recommend spending more money on the grinder than any other piece of equipment. I also asked about hand grinders and they recommended one I had been pointed to already and a different one I hadn’t heard of. I also recommended to look at Bella Barista, Coffee Hit and Coffee Forums to find out more about this area.

So my shopping list so far is a new grinder and much better scales!

We then worked through what a coffee shot looks like when split out. This was fun to watch and something I don’t want to attempt myself. They each smelled and tasted completely different and the very last one just was not right as too much water had run through the beans. It was really interesting to see and understand what too much water really means to the taste of coffee.

We then got to practice making quite a few shots each. As we had set up the grinder to do exactly the same each time we only had to press the button and out it came. The next skill was in the flattening out of the bean and the pressing it down with a really nice tamper (another thing to add to the shopping list, but not essential). The put it into the machine and timed the shot. We set the machine to the correct time so that all we needed to focus on was getting the tamper pressure right. I was not brave enough to check the seal of mine by turning it upside down, but I will over a sink when I can control the mess if it goes wrong!

We also learnt about keeping everything clean. This will extend the life of all your equipment and shows a real pride in the skills you are learning and demonstrating. It is a really mark of respect and you can tell and good coffee shop from a bad coffee by how well they keep it all clean, but also by how well they clean between making each drink.

We then moved on to the milk. This is the harder part I think as every machine is different and every type of milk is different. We stuck with whole cows milk to keep it simple. This is all about the steam and getting the foam and then the spin of the milk. It’s all done by feel, although we ha d a thermometer to check our gauge of temperature. It gave me a really appreciation for skill involved in getting this right and I definitely need more practice in the area to get my flat white right. The pouring is also key and was the bit I was even worse at than the steaming, which improved as I had multiple goes.

We talked through each type of drink you can make from an espresso base, starting with the cappuccino, which is the one we concentrated on making as this is the one with the most foam. Donavan made this one as I got so absorbed in this I forgot to take any photos of my own.

We then moved onto the latte and that involves less foam so you focus on heating the milk straight away rather than creating the foam like with the cappuccino.

Then we added the flat white. This was the first time I have ever tasted them all side by side and it was enlightening. The latte tasted watery and weak compared the cappuccino and flat white.

We then looked at the cortado and the ristretto, which reduces the milk much further than the other drinks to the point where there is more espresso than milk. I am definitely a fan of the stronger coffee drinks over the milky drinks.

Overall it was a really great day and I learnt a lot. We also got to meet Dave who is on the Coffee Forum a lot and restores coffee machines. It was really interesting to get more insight into the brands to get and to avoid when it comes to grinders and the espresso machines. This was my first step into the local world of coffee and I love it.

I then went home and waited until the next day to practice as I had a little too much caffeine that day. So on Sunday I practice espresso and milk skills. I think with the addition of scales and a better grinder I will improve my coffee, but otherwise I like how I make espresso.

It’s my milk skills that need drastic improvement and my gauge of temperature is awful! I made this cappuccino like drink liking the milk was hot based on my hands and found when I came to drink it, it really wasn’t hot, but rather the hot side of warm. Some work needed there (or a better machine!).

Seriously though scales and a grinder on my must get soon list as they will benefit all my coffee brewing methods. I am also going to get an aeropress for travel coffee making and work I think. Then when my espresso machine breaks I will look at investing in a better one to take it up another level.

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