THREE THINGS FRIDAY: the only place

Friday, 30 May 2014
I hope it's not rude to say that the two things that define Jo's blog, The Only Place, for me are pizza and London! Jo takes beautiful pictures and it's embarrassing how many tweets we've shared about food. In fact, I might have to stop reading her blog for fear of my 'London restaurants to try' list getting a little out of hand (hint: her weekend involves pizza, of course).

EAT: pizza! there has to be pizza at least once over the weekend. Preferably from somewhere new we've hunted down but, if not, Franco Manca every time.

DO: wander around London with my camera in hand; I love markets and I've got New Covent Garden flower market next on the list.

LISTEN: The Mother We Share by Chvrches 

I love discovering new music - have you heard of Chvrches? I've actually heard this song on the radio a couple of times but keep missing the name. BRB, going to listen to the rest of their album. Thanks Jo!


Wednesday, 28 May 2014
I'm an unapologetic bath person. We've always been this way, my family and I. In fact, I probably didn't have a shower at home until I was about 12 years old! There's something so soothing and comforting about a bath and it's my daily indulgence; some people go to the pub after work, but give me a hot bubble bath and a magazine and I'm not moving for anyone. From bath bombs to salts, oils and foams, I've tried 'em all so when a new one comes along I get just a little bit excited.

The Bathory is a brand spanking new bespoke bath soak service with a fully customisable selection of of salts designed to either bask, soothe or detox thanks to a special blend of ingredients. Choose your mix and then comes the fun part: you can add three different essential oils, from calming chamomile and relaxing lavender to invigorating lemon and sensual sandalwood. Then the bathing wizards at The Bathory's HQ hand-blend your creation and package it in a beautiful violet glass bottle. I chose lavender, rosemary and bergamot and it smells heavenly. 

I'm a total sucker for beautiful packaging and anything customisable, so it was exciting to see the little brown bag stamped with my choice of ingredients. If my name had been on the bottle, I would be buying them left, right and centre for friends, family and special occasions. As it stands, each bottle costs $30/£18 plus p+p (and they suggest using about a quarter per bath) so I'll be restraining myself for now.

FRUGAL RECIPES: quesadillas

Monday, 26 May 2014
Have you been paid yet? I haven't! Which is why we're whipping out this frugal recipe for a Bank Holiday Monday in need of a boost. Have you made quesadillas before? They are the easiest thing and somehow, toasting a plain tortilla in a pan with a squidge of melted cheese transforms a boring base into something amazing! This isn't so much a recipe as a quick foodie tip, but a packet of tortillas and a good grating of cheese can easily perk up the 'waiting for payday' slump.

THE TECHNIQUE: The only constant you need is cheese, to bind it together. Scatter cheese on one half of a large tortilla, followed by any ingredients you want to add and then another light layer of cheese. Fold in half and pop in a heated pan. As the cheese melts, the two halves will stick together and you can flip it over to brown the other side.

THE ULTIMATE: Thomasina Miers' (of Wahaca fame) broad bean, pea and new potato quesadillas. OMG is all.

THE RESOURCEFUL: Quesadillas were made for leftovers. Try shredded chicken from your Sunday Roast, a few salad leaves and some avocado or a spoonful of bolognese sauce with a sprinkle of paprika.

THE CHEAP & CHEERFUL: If you're really strapped for cash, a generous sprinkle of cheese and some diced red onion works a treat. I was going to call this one 'the last resort', but really sometimes all you want is a bit of cheese and onion, hey?

THREE THINGS FRIDAY: berry diaries

Friday, 23 May 2014
To liven up my Friday posts and discover some new weekend haunts, I decided to ask a few friends to give me their favourite things to EAT, DO and LISTEN. I'm hoping to make this into a regular feature and have a few blogger friends lined up; if you'd like to contribute, please get in touch!

First up is the lovely Lulu of Berry Diaries, a South African in London with a lovely outlook on life and a blog full of mindful posts on yoga, health and her everyday adventures. Lulu's three things take us to Daylesford Organic's farm in Gloucestershire - wouldn't you love to visit?

EAT: a wood-fired pizza from the oven outside.

DO: go to a yoga class in the Bamford Haybarn.

LISTEN: Happy by Pharrell Williams, because I'm yet to meet anyone who hasn't felt happy when visiting Daylesford!

Wouldn't it be fun to create a feel good mixtape for a sunny weekend road trip to the Cotswolds? Thanks Lulu! Daylesford Farm is definitely on my summer to-do list.

FRUGAL RECIPES: spicy sausage and broccoli spaghetti

Wednesday, 21 May 2014
This is one of my favourite recipes because the perfect marriage of spicy sausage, garlicky broccoli and silky spaghetti is a lovely thing. It's also seriously cheap to make, and the recipe can be easily adjusted for 1 person or 12 (although you would need a very large pan)!

Ingredients for 2
Half a large head of broccoli
3 cloves of garlic
2 butcher's sausages
2tbsp olive oil
150g spaghetti
Plus chilli flakes and salt & pepper to taste

First, pop your spaghetti on to cook with boiling water and a pinch of salt.

Squeeze the sausages out of their skins and roll into small meatballs (warning: this might make you want to go veggie and, actually, this recipe is equally tasty without the meat). Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the meatballs until they turn crispy and golden. Set aside and reserve for later.

Meanwhile, blanch half a head of broccoli in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until al dente (or longer if you prefer) and drain.

Finely slice the garlic cloves and fry in the pan you cooked your meatballs in with the remainder of the olive oil and a hearty shake of chilli flakes. After about a minute, transfer the broccoli to the pan with the garlic and enjoy that sizzling sound and add the sausages back to the pan after another minute.

When your spaghetti is al dente, drain and throw into the pan with the broccoli and sausages. Stir everything through (tongs would come in handy here, I tell myself every time I get to this point) and serve immediately. A little grated lemon zest also adds a super tasty, fresh flavour.

This dish is perfect for busy weeknights as you can get the whole thing on the table in about 15 minutes (hence the hurried iPhone pictures) and the cost comes out at £0.92 for 2 people, excluding the olive oil, chilli flakes and salt & pepper.

FRUGAL TIP: Don't throw away the stems! Not only are they delicious with a hint of sweetness and a crunch that just begs to be dipped in hummus, broccoli stems are also packed with the same nutrients as the broccoli head - iron, magnesium and calcium to name a few.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Last week, my maternal grandmother passed away unexpectedly. It was just 2 months ago that I last saw her in Kuala Lumpur; she was still wearing bright red lipstick to lunch, eating all of the carbs, adopting stray puppies and pushing her way behind the counter at her favourite restaurant to gossip with the staff and taste their new recipes. Only a month previous to that, she killed a cobra in the garden with a spade. She was 84. All of these things offer only a glimpse of the amazing woman she was: the matriarch of our family, a strong mother to 5 children and the ultimate example of growing old with grace and glamour.

p.s. that's her in the middle looking like a Chinese Jackie O, with my mum in front of her in the little checked shorts.


Monday, 19 May 2014
Lately, my hair has been really bothering me. I've been experiencing a lot of build up (from hard London water, not product build up) that's left it lank and lacklustre even the day after it's been washed. I've even tried that reverse washing routine, where you use your conditioner first and then shampoo (didn't work for me). Last week I went to Boots in search of a clarifying shampoo to deep clean my hair, but I wasn't particularly impressed with the offering. After about 20 minutes, I ended up choosing a surprising shampoo that has worked wonders for my limp locks and is pretty easy on the pursestrings too!

So it turns out Johnson's baby shampoo is not just for babies! Plus, it's cheap as chips and it smells really nice - it was actually the lavender scent that drew me to it as I was on the lookout for some relaxing lavender products. My hair is fairly fine but I have a lot of it - this stuff makes sure my hair is extra clean without weighing it down at all. Plus, baby shampoo can wear all sorts of other uses like cleaning make-up brushes, standing in for shaving gel and even for hand washing delicate items of clothing. Definitely one to try, and if you don't like it on your hair, it will muck in around the house too!


Friday, 16 May 2014

It's amazing how quickly a change in routine can nix your habits (good or bad) in record time. Last weekend, a couple moved into our flat and in just a week, we are seeing an improvement in our everyday habits. Where we once didn't need to be considerate to our space, except for each other, we now have double the amount of people living in our home, meaning some of the smallest tasks go a long way in keeping everywhere a nice space to share together. 

Now we make sure we: 

1. Empty the dish rack before cooking so there's no excuse to leave those dirty dishes lingering.

2. Pop shoes we aren't wearing into a basket in the hallway to clear up our landing space and create a calmer feeling when you walk in the door. 

3. Don't leave clothes hanging on the back of the bathroom door so that everyone has space to hang their towels (I was a big culprit for this one). 

4. Tidy up common areas, which has drastically reduced the 'stuff' piles we would ignore for weeks on end. 

I've also discovered a newfound respect for our bedroom. Now it's not just where we sleep, it's our haven where we can spend a little alone time and relax. This means that after 2 1/2 years in this little home of ours, we finally have shelves in our bedroom and my books don't live on a cardboard box on the floor anymore. And I'm using our bedroom a lot more in the evenings too; watching a programme in bed while I moisturise (something I never bothered to do), turning on my computer for a quick blog post (like this one!) and even a spot of pre-bed yoga inspired by Che's daily yoga challenge

All of this is contributing to feeling much calmer and less stressed (argh, dishes need to be done, argh keep tripping over those books, argh anxiety levels are reaching peak!) and giving me the intention to go forward into next week in the same way. Yes, it's only been a week, but it's surprising what you can do in 7 days! Let's keep these good intentions going, people! What are yours for the week ahead?

UNLIKELY STYLE ICON: amelia earhart

Wednesday, 14 May 2014
I like finding style inspiration in unlikely places, and I happened upon the picture below of Amelia Earhart in a plunging tunic top and was struck by how modern she looks. Save for the aviator goggles, she wouldn't look out of place on a New York City street in 2014; actually, at first glance I thought it was Lou Doillon!


Monday, 12 May 2014
Mark Nixon's collection of Much Loved bears arrived in the post this week and really struck a chord with me. The beautifully shot images of teddy bears (and bunnies and more!) that have been cuddled within an inch of their lives really struck a chord with me, as did the sweet descriptions that accompany them. I've had my yellow bunny Gund since I was born - she has been across the world with me, on airplanes with me, to the doctor with me (not for a while, mind you) and her loveworn details are testament to my affection for her. Long live the teddy!


Friday, 9 May 2014

Lately I’ve been doing a little work with Sian Zeng, an awesome London-based design studio I discovered via Design*Sponge. I retweeted the interview and Sian reached out to me, which was super exciting and a perfect match! Yellow is absolutely my favourite colour and an instant spring pick-me-up, so to celebrate my favourite season, Sian is running a giveaway to win one of her super cute illustrated bears. All you have to do is tweet (@sianzengstudio) or instagram (@sianzeng) a picture of how you’re using yellow this spring, along with the hashtag #sianzenglovesyellow, and we’ll pick our favourite. It could be a bunch of flowers or a new cushion – I even got my favourite yellow skirt out for a spin this week. I can’t wait to see your entries!


Wednesday, 7 May 2014
When I was younger, I lived in Japan and attended an international school with pupils from all over the world. In my class, there were Japanese girls, a couple of Brits and Aussies, a Nigerian, a girl from Swaziland, a Colombian and so on. Every year we had a fair called the Festival of Nations, with booths selling food from all over the world, games and performances. My best friend was from Vietnam and one year, I remember spending days at her house while her mum and a group of friends' mums rolled hundreds of these spring rolls to sell as we greedily hovered in the kitchen trying to secret some away to upstairs. They're wonderfully fresh, easy to make and super healthy, plus the fillings can be adapted to whatever you have on hand and I think they would make a lovely light supper for the spring weather we're having at the moment.

You will need:
Spring roll rice papers, which you can find at Oriental supermarkets
Vermicelli or mung bean noodles
Handfuls of mint, coriander and Thai basil
Lettuce - iceberg or round work well
Protein - cooked prawns, roast pork, shredded chicken or tofu

You can also add:
Shredded vegetables like carrot, courgette, cucumber

First, boil the kettle and cook your noodles according to the packet instructions (usually about 10 minutes or so) until they're soft. Strain and add a little lime juice to stop them sticking together.

Next, prep all your ingredients and lay them out on a plate. If you have people over, it can be fun to make your own spring rolls at the table so everyone can put whatever they like in them.

For dipping sauce, I like a dash of fish sauce diluted with water, a teaspoon of brown sugar, chopped chillies and a squeeze of fresh lime. You could also use soy sauce, sweet chilli or make a quick peanut dip with peanut butter, coriander, lime and a little soy - a splash of water will loosen it up if you need.

The wrappers come dried and are quite brittle, so be careful with them. They need to be soaked in hot water for around 20 seconds each before they become malleable. Use a shallow dish - a roasting tray or saucepan will do. I would suggest holding onto the very edge while you dip it in the water so as not to lose it and then repeat while holding onto the other edge. Take the paper out of the water and lay flat on your plate. Assemble your ingredients in the middle - you want to use less than you think or they won't stay together. Roll like a burrito, folding in the ends and turning it over on itself. It can be a little tenuous rolling spring roll after spring roll - I suggest rolling one and eating it straight away while it's fresh! They are best eaten immediately, though, and won't taste good after more then a few hours, as the wrapper starts to dry out.

#1DAY12PICS: may

Monday, 5 May 2014
It's a bank holiday this weekend which means things got a little lazy on Saturday, when Michelle scheduled the third round of her fun #1day12pics photo challenge (see my March entry here). It was a classic hangover Saturday where I didn't get out of bed until late morning, scarfed my brunch without thought for a picture and drove back from my friend's house to take a nap and eat Thai food in front of the TV. Yesterday was another day altogether, though, so I'm much happier to share it here! The morning light (and the previous night's 9pm bedtime) had me up bright and early - I even pottered about on the balcony de-potting dead plants before Sunday morning bootcamp. Then it was off in the car to IKEA, where we fit an inordinate amount of stuff in the car and I spent a late night eating ice cream and trying to put it all together before writing up this blog post and collapsing into freshly changed sheets to watch this.

If you'd like to follow me, I'm on bloglovin.


Friday, 2 May 2014

It’s the weekend! And a bank holiday to boot! Do you have any nice plans? I have a fun night out planned with girlfriends from work, brunch, boot camp and a big spring clean of the flat before our new flatmates move in next week! There is A LOT to do, and I see a mammoth IKEA haul in my future, too.

Lately my mood has been so much better and I’m feeling a lot more relaxed. Maybe it’s the upturn in the weather (well, before yesterday’s washout), fun projects at work or the fact that I’ve had a lovely last few weeks with lots of time off work (hey, three day weekend, can we see you every weekend?), but I’m using it as a starting point to just be happier. No, we can’t all be happy all of the time, but I’m thinking it’s time to get back that half full glass again.{image}