WANDERLUST: crystal clear waters in europe

Wednesday, 30 July 2014
You know those turquoise waters you see in the Maldives, South East Asia and the Caribbean? Well, turns out you can find them a little closer to home, too. With this hot summer weather we're having lately, I just want to pack a bag and go!


Monday, 28 July 2014

One of my closest friends got engaged a few weeks ago and when she told me she was coming down to London for the weekend, I knew I had to throw her a surprise party! I decided on a simple evening involving a few bottles of prosecco, crisps and cupcakes as I was actually going to Quill's Modern Calligraphy workshop the afternoon that she was arriving.

I invited our best girlfriends from school and that was that. But then, as always happens with me, I started over-thinking it; but what about dinner? Should we go out for dinner after? But then we'll be having cupcakes before dinner and that's weird. Maybe I'll do some canapés. Yep that'll work, then we can go out for dinner. I'll make a reservation somewhere. Oh, but what time will we be done with drinks..? You can imagine I really got myself into quite a tizzy! So in the end I decided to host the whole shebang at my house.

I've never really made canapés before, but I thought I'd give it a go. Lately I've been really into peaches and prosciutto, so I made these little bites with a couple of ripe peaches, basil and mint leaves and pearls of mozzarella. They are super easy and actually the fiddliest bit is cutting the peaches - after that, it's plain sailing!

We had lots of cold meat and olives and crisps (which a friend brought over after I'd taken these photos, hence the empty bowls you might have spotted!). I also made Siobhan's broad bean and pea dip which was SO delicious and everyone went crazy for it! The best part was that I made everything either Friday night or Saturday morning, so I just had to lay it all out before everyone came over in the evening. My friend was completely surprised, which was the best feeling, and it was one of those perfect evenings (fuelled by prosecco) that feels exactly the same as it did when we were all together 10 years ago!

Oh yes, and for supper I served Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals feta and spinach pie, which I spooned onto puff pastry to make a crispy open tart. You have to make the tomato salad that goes with it. Delish!


Friday, 25 July 2014
A single photo and a story from my week.

Do these things even have a name? Well, lately they've been popping up all over the place in fashion - Fendi said they were cool and suddenly they're now a thing. Trust me, you'll be seeing lots of these on the high street come autumn.

Well, I saw this little guy at work and instantly thought of my Canadian cousin. We used to spend long summers there visiting my mum's sister's family and he had tons of these, lining up on the windowsill, hanging out on the bookshelf and peeping out from goodness knows where else. I took this quick snap and tweeted him and then I just thought, isn't technology so wonderful; you can see something, send a picture to someone across the globe you hardly get to see anymore and they can see it and reply to you, all in the space of 5 minutes? My parents' minds would be blown if they had thought about this when they were my age (my mum's mind would probably still be blown - please get a camera phone Mum!).

Hope you all have a relaxing weekend - I can't wait to share some fun snapshots (and recipes!) from my friend's surprise engagement party next week.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014
For a few months now I've been following the Vegan Before 6 diet. I don't mean to be a talking cliche, but it's changed the way I eat and the way I think about food, too. In 2012 I made a conscious effort to lose weight and, in order to maintain what I achieved, I started doing VB6 back in February.

The basic principle is that you don't eat any animal products until your evening meal. For me, this meant completely rethinking what I put into my body during the day (especially at work) and thinking carefully about what I eat at the end of it. I haven't actually read the book, so I think it's about time I did! But, in the meantime, here are a few things I've learnt (p.s. I feel amazing):

1. Dinner is not a 'cheat meal' - eating well during the day doesn't justify bingeing in the evening. I've found that as I've grown accustomed to eating vegan during the daytime, I'm not desperately hungry in the evenings, I don't crave red meat and I'm keen not to throw my efforts down the drain when faced with unhealthy options.

2. Vegan isn't always healthy - I wouldn't eat over-processed chicken nuggets, so there's no reason why I would choose to eat processed fake meats like tofurkey or fake bacon either. And chips, while vegan, don't make for a nutritious lunch either!

3. It's not as hard as I thought - no, it's not always easy, but I don't miss animal products as much as I thought I would! I have my morning porridge with soy milk, which adds a subtle sweet nuttiness and hummus easily replaces mayonnaise in a wrap full or roasted veg.

4. Build a vegan meal in the same way - I like to include lots of textures and big, chunky vegetables that I eat with a knife and fork so it doesn't just feel like I'm eating the same spoonful over and over again.

5. Take it easy - I'm never too hard on myself and if there's something I really want to eat, like birthday cake at the office, then I have some. If you're not going vegan for ethical reasons, then a bit of mayonnaise by mistake or forgetting there is parmesan in pesto is not going to cause too much of a problem.

The amazing images above are by Raw Vegan Blonde. I actually found her a few months ago on instagram and she created some recipes for me for. All of the recipes and beautiful fruit collages are on Harrods Style Insider, if you would like, and I'm excited to be working together on some salads going up in the next few weeks!

THREE WAYS WITH: rose water

Monday, 21 July 2014
Rose water is a popular ingredient in skincare as it is an anti-inflammatory and a rich source of antioxidants, but it is also an old favourite in cooking too. Widely used in the Middle East and India, the delicate, fragrant flavour lends freshness and depth to classic dishes - here are four ways to try it:

1.  Add it to drinks: a few drops* of rose water will lend a new twist to a glass of prosecco or lemonade. It also goes perfectly with strawberries and raspberries - try making a syrup by boiling a few drops with sugar, water and berries, then strain and add to cocktails or sparkling water.

2. Cupcakes love rose water: fold a few drops into buttercream icing for a subtle hint of flavour and garnish with an (edible - no pesticides!) rose petal.

3. Update your favourite dessert: whip rose water into cream for a new take on Eton Mess or add to warm desserts like rice pudding. Complement with a few crushed pistachios for a sweet that would make Ottolenghi proud.

*go easy with it - too much can taste a bit soapy. It's best to add gradually and taste as you go.


Friday, 18 July 2014
A single photo and a story from my week.

Last weekend I spent a few hours cleaning out my wardrobe - I threw out a whole bin bag of worn out clothes, sent another big bag off to the charity shop and kept a few pieces aside for friends. I was knee deep in piles of clothes, dust flying everywhere and an even bigger mess than when I started and then, poking out from the very back of the wardrobe, I saw those familiar white flowers on their floaty blue background. I pulled the dress out of its hovel, laid it across my lap and smoothed its creases.

This dress must be as old as me. I remember my mum wearing it when I was little, specifically when we lived in New York. There are pictures of us in one of the horse carriages in Central park, that familiar blue fabric worn back then by her instead. I've never been one for vintage clothing - maybe there is a story behind it, but that story is no concern of mine. To me, this dress is different. I remember it being a dress for special occasions; for taking me to ballet recitals, but also for everyday occurrences; an after school treat at Serendipity or a barbecue at our country cabin in Pennsylvania. When I put it on I am so nostalgic for that time in my life and my mum's face every time she sees me wearing it is one of the best.

Do you have a meaningful piece of clothing? Maybe it belonged to your grandma, or maybe you bought it last week but it makes you feel like a million dollars - either way, I'd love to hear about it!


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

 Have you seen all of the fun ice cubes making their way around the internet right now? 2014 is definitely the year of the fancy ice cube! I was going to try my hand at making some over the weekend but I thought these were just too pretty to share! The stripy ones at the top are definitely calling to me - don't you think they look like dessert? {onetwothree}


Monday, 14 July 2014
For me, it's really important to go to bed in a room that is calm, collected and feels like a treat every night. Sometimes I just feel like I'm playing at being an adult, but my bedroom is definitely a more grown-up extension of my style that still surprises me, as our kitchen and living room are quite playful. Here are a couple of tips I've collected over the past few years that promise boutique hotel style on a limited budget.

1. Hang curtains high and wide
Our flat is in a crumbling Victorian mansion block, but we're lucky to have large windows in our bedroom. You can trick the look, though, by hanging curtains up to the ceiling and extending the width out to both sides. See the difference it can make? Even if your windows are set higher in the wall, letting the curtains trail to the floor will frame your space and create the illusion of a bigger window. IKEA make inexpensive curtains in super long lengths that you can hem yourself.

2. Splurge on statement lighting
A big pendant light like our IKEA MASKROS lampshade is really eye-catching and often the first thing people comment on. Our light is strangely placed over by the window, rather than the centre of the room, which dictates the placement of the bed underneath it. I also like how these sconces in Katie's bedroom create a cosy mood that is equally effective.

3. Make the bed!
Maybe this is an obvious one, but making your bed in the morning is the best way to make it in inviting place to crawl into when you get home. The key to making your bed quickly is to make your bed easy to make - a fluffy duvet instead of sheets and blankets means you can just flip it from the corners and it will land perfectly. I like a few different patterns of bedding, but always fairly neutral.

4. Keep it clutter-free
Our room is by no means uncluttered (you should see what was behind me when I took this picture!), but we make an effort to keep the area around the bed neat and tidy. Make use of under-bed storage and keep a woven basket on hand (H&M Home do awesome ones) - I throw odds and ends into it throughout the week and then try and sort it out every weekend.

5. Know what works for your space
We chose a simple, low bed for a Scandi loft feel that highlights the high ceilings. Surprisingly, my room at my parents' house is really small, but a big, high bed makes it look cosy and luxurious instead of swamping the proportions.

*My photos make our walls look a bit scary - I wish I could capture the real colour as beautifully as Jo did for her bloggers at their desk series.


Friday, 11 July 2014
A single photo and a story from my week.

This week, I had the overwhelming urge to tell my mum that I love her, that she is wonderful and that we are lucky to have her. I sent her a text and sealed it with kisses and her sweet reply had me welling up at my desk on Tuesday morning – it was clear to me that she was so grateful for a feeling that took me 20 seconds to convey, that she knew was true and that I know she knows every day, but that having it in writing made it all the more transparent.

I bought this card a few weeks ago for its charming sentiment and beautiful, swirling text and I’ve been thinking lately how it’s not so much a reassurance to myself that I am loved (and delightful, don't you know), but a special reminder that the people in my life need to know that that is how I think of them too.

This weekend, reach out to someone and tell them you think they are wonderful. It will make them (and you) feel untouchable.  

SUNDAY SWITCH-OFF: breakfast + magazines

Wednesday, 9 July 2014
Do you know what I did at the weekend? I downed tools for the morning, switched off my computer, left my phone in a drawer and sat down for some quiet, no electronics allowed quality time with myself. I'm totally guilty of watching something on my computer, with one hand scrolling through twitter and the other flicking through a magazine or writing a list. This is what my Sunday morning looked like:

1. A tasty breakfast. My favourite scrambled eggs always hit the spot, plus a mug of builder's tea and a bowl of fruit.

2. A stack of new books. I flicked through the ones that came in my Amazon order this week, but more on that another day.

3. A to-do list for the month. As well as jotting down the things I wanted to get done today, I added a few extra notes to accomplish by the end of the month - there's a new tough love thing going on in these parts and the most boring tasks are top of the list (taxes, painting window frames, etc. etc.).

4. Red Magazine. This is my absolute favourite magazine; I recommend it to all my friends, I pore over every page, read it word for word, and I'm always a little sad when it's finish. This is the one I always sit down with for breakfast as it's so substantial - fashion you want to buy and wear season after season, interesting features, down-to-earth interviews and actually useful health features beyond the latest fad diets. In fact, Red is the only magazine I don't put in the recycling at the end of the month and I happily re-read each issue with the same voracious interest I had for it the first time around.

I'm hoping to make these tech-free Sunday mornings a regular thing, and not just for breakfast. I plan to try out some new crafts, brainstorm ideas and make things and, of course, I promise to share along the way!


Monday, 7 July 2014

Neon might conjure up ideas of day-glo raves and 80s workout videos but, done right, it can be classic and ladylike too. This is most definitely not a fashion blog, but I ordered this skirt on ASOS last week and I love it too much not to share.

The best way to wear neon right now is to pair the bright colours with whites and neutrals for a pared back finish. Wear it with black and you run the risk of looking like you're going to a hen do in Magaluf, so tread carefully!

Try and look for ethereal, semi-sheer styles in organza and lace for a touch of romance or silk and neoprene for a sporty, modern twist.

More neon: 


Sunday, 6 July 2014

It has now become a yearly tradition to mark my brother’s birthday with a special meal at Al Boccon di’Vino in Richmond. The first year, we were completely bewildered to enter this cosy little world where the walls are lined with crates of wine and you’re brusquely told that “you will eat ahhhntipasti, pahhhhhsta, meat and dessert. You choose naahhhh-thing. Except the wine.” And so you choose the wine and then the food comes thick and fast, plate after plate of mouth-watering delights that you realise still constitutes the antipasti portion of the meal. Seating about 40 people, with two daily services – lunch and dinner – this restaurant is an homage to the Venetian wedding feast and is a sparkling gem in the crown of home cooking and fine, seasonal produce; one that I am reluctant to share, lest we not secure a reservation for the same time next year!

This year we ate:

Grilled aubergine, courgette and peppers in a piquant, yet rich, vinaigrette
Wafer thin curls of Serrano ham, salami and wedges of cantaloupe melon
Crisp bruschetta with garlic and tomato
Butterflied paprika prawns
Scallops in their shell, ruthlessly drowned in garlic olive oil
Rocket salad with smoked salmon and prawns
Rolled beef in a thick tomato sauce
Crisp meatball croquettes
Aubergine parmigiana with griddled asparagus

Fettucine carbonara
Ravioli sprinkled with award-winning parmesan

And then after a marathon of starters and primi platti, the chef and his right hand woman parade a whole roasted lamb through the restaurant before serving up steaming portions to each table, on a family-style platter with a bed of soft, rosemary potatoes.

To finish – pannacotta with syrupy strawberries, a startlingly strong espresso and a homemade limoncello digestive.

Al Boccon di'Vino, 14 Red Lion Street, Richmond TW9 1RW
Reservations essential: 0208 940 9060


Friday, 4 July 2014
A single photo and a story from my week.

On Wednesday night, my boyfriend decided at the last minute to stay over at his friend’s house and I had a completely delicious evening on my own. Of course I would not trade him in for the place to myself every night and first choice on the evening menu every day of the week, but it’s amazing how much more time you have to get shit done when you don’t have a partner, parent or pal to check in with at the end of the day (I do, however, have a pet, who took up a large chunk of said evening).

I worked out (including a reggaeton dance video on YouTube which no one will ever see me do, ever), I washed my hair, I changed the sheets, I wrote down a buttload of blog ideas that I can get started on when my new camera arrives this weekend (!), I made and ate dinner, I communed with this guy and then I settled down to finish Season 1 of Orange is The New Black (oh my gosh, someone please can we talk about this?). And then, I went to bed. I slept in the middle of the bed with all of the pillows and when I woke up I felt SO GOOD that I made a proper breakfast, planned a pretty outfit and stopped in my tracks to snap this picture of the beautiful golden light in our bedroom.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Commuting is no fun when summer comes and it's sticky, sweaty and you're jammed up against someone's armpit with personal space just a distant memory. If you don't have to do this, I am jealous. But, if you do, here are a couple of tips to make your commute a little more bearable.

1. Switch it up - can you take a different route? Can you walk part of your journey? I have two choices - a 40 minute door to door trip on the London Underground or an hour's commute that includes a 30-minute walk and a short train ride. Walking isn't for everyone, but it's cheaper, I get an hour's exercise a day and fresh air is infinitely better than the Northern line. Try getting on/off a couple of stops after your usual station if you can't walk the whole way.

2. Timing - test your commute at a few different times. I found the holy grail of trains which begins at my station, so you always get a seat if you arrive 5 minutes before it leaves. There's only one an hour, so it means I get into work 30 minutes early (ergo 30 minutes less in bed), but I've learned to adjust my morning routine and now I have breakfast in the office and I'm ready to start the day on the dot at 9am. Also, leaving a little earlier every day gives you a safety net for delays to your usual journey, so there's no need to panic about missing your early morning meeting or being late for the start of your shift.

3. Dress the part - There's a lot to be said for loose pieces and natural materials - nothing makes me clammier than a polyester-lined dress. But also, try losing a layer earlier than you usually would (I stopped wearing a scarf in early March and ditched my jacket at the start of spring).

4. Enjoy the time - people are surprised when I tell them I walk an hour a day without music or someone to chat to, but I enjoy it! I see the same dogs every morning and evening walking in the park with their owners, which makes me really happy, and it's fun to see the landscape change through the seasons without mindlessly trotting along while listening to the radio.

5. Treat yourself - I have a friend who only lets herself read when she's doing her morning and evening tube journey, so even if she's reading something amazing, she has to wait until she's on the train to read the next chapter. The same goes for listening to a new album or writing your daily list (if you're lucky enough to have a little elbow room). Creating a habit that goes with your commute will take the intrinsic stress out of your journey and it's amazing how quickly you adapt to new rituals.

6. A sense of humour - there is SO MUCH aggro in the morning rush hour, don't you think? So you're late to work by 15 minutes - what's the problem? You have a job! Hooray! If you're doing the same thing every day and it's making you mad every day, then you need to be re-reading tips 1-5! I think people just like to complain, really, but it makes you feel a lot worse. Take a positive attitude, try and laugh when you go flying into someone's lap and if all else fails, smile. There have been a lot of studies that say smiling makes you feel better, even if you're faking it, and I also remember reading that looking up instead of down also helps you change your mood.

Do you agree with my tips? I'd love to know if you're going to try any of them, or if you have any ideas to share!