Five Happy Things

On Thursday, a chapter of my life closed, and on Friday the next one began. After three years I am no longer a Talented Talker, and right now I don’t have a job to go to. Today I am super excited to fly to San Diego and spend a few weeks soaking up the sun and doing some exploring, before coming back to London and enjoying the summer.

FIVE - HAPPY THINGS

So other than the current frantic packing that I’m doing, what's making me happy this week?

One // Dinner with Erica. Your friends are the foundations that build you up, and I love taking the time and chilling out with them. On Tuesday Erica and I went sampling Italian food at Vapiano and drinking Prosecco. Lovely.

Two // Celebrating my sisters success. I am so proud of my little sister, who will graduate with a degree in speech therapy this summer. She is a perfect example of turning your life around, having dropped out of college years ago, being made redundant and then deciding to change her life. She’s also struggled with a lot of health issues, and she is my inspiration, so to learn she did really well in her exams this week was fantastic news.

Three // Our weekend in York. We had a fantastic weekend in York, wandering the walls, the minster, the Lavender Gardens and dining in the AMAZING The Star Inn The City (thanks for the recommendation. Bee!)

cliffords tower, york

Four // Getting to see my friend Jessica on the way home from York. We were thick as theives as teenagers but since she moved to Pontefract I don't see her enough. We had a fantastic catch up and I'm totally thankful to have had the time.

Five // Looking at honeymoons. We have a lot of life plans running at the same time, and a heap of options, so it depends which one works out. We have been looking a lot at where we should go on our honeymoon, and are currently torn between Vietnam, Japan and St Kitts and Nevis. Each has its own appeal and looks amazing.

Five blogs I love:

Amanda's review of The Rum Kitchen - we went a few weeks ago and loved it so glad to see the Notting Hill branch is as lovely!

The cherry blossom in Ally's post here makes me happy.

Becky's fantastic take on this hot pink skirt, doesn't she look fab?

Kiki's stroll through Keukenhof Gardens, in tulip heaven.

And finally, dreaming about eventually sorting out my terrible nails (it's long overdue!) with this inspiration from Emsy!

Which would you choose for honeymoon? Have you been? Or do you think we should go somewhere else?

Posted on April 27, 2015 and filed under Happy Things.

London Living

If you have never been to London you arrive in the city with a head (and guidebook) full of attractions to see. The Tower of London, the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, the London Eye.. They are all there to be seen and a must do in the city, but there is so much more to London than that.

The diversity of food is incredible. I have never known a city to be so accessible for whatever you want, and with places like Kingly Court offering a multitude of choices for whatever your heart (or tummy) desires, you can eat a different cuisine daily and never run out of new and exciting restaurants to try. Established places offer their favourites, but cool little pop ups sprung up everywhere, tempting you with interesting ways of eating and different cuisines.

For a huge city, the accessibility to outside space is fantastic. Hyde Park, Kensington Park, Finsbury Park – there’s no shortage, but things like the Thames ferry (which takes you from the London Eye as far as the Naval Museum and Cutty Sark at Greenwich) is a great way to see the city from a different angle.

And the theatre scene is next to none. In my time in London I have seen a lot of different theatre shows and musicals, and even though I wouldn’t say the theatre is my thing, I feel like I have widened my horizons. My favourite musical of all time is Wicked and I’ve seen it twice, I absolutely adore it from start to finish.

If you are interested in booking a theatre trip while visiting the UK, or if you are stuck for something to do in the city and want to try something different, then the theatre is a great choice.  For Gilbert and Sullivan lovers, the Pirates of Penzance is currently showing at the opera and the Woman in Black is still running at the Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden.

What are your London recommendations?

* Image created by KRISTJANA S. WILLIAMS, find it here.

Posted on April 25, 2015 and filed under London.

Brunching At Sunday

Let it never be said that nobody knows my favourite meal is brunch. I love it. It means you don’t need to get up early to meet people, its late enough to have some bubbles if you want them, and you can spend leisurely hours catching up with your loved ones in the daylight, with no loud music (forgive me, but I suddenly got old).

Coffee at Sunday

So last weekend, Phill and I woke up and decided we wanted to go for brunch. We had had a fairly disappointing pub roast the week before so wanted breakfast items at a convenient time (read, woke up late).

I had a quick snoop on Timeout and found and article about great brunch places in North London, fantastic, I thought, no schlepping into central!

The usual suspects were there, Caravan, Dishoom, the Grain Store, but then I saw one right by Caledonian Road and Barnsbury station, called Sunday.

Upon arriving at Sunday, we happened upon the hour queue. Obviously we didn’t realise it would be an hour at that point, but my one piece of advice is to go dressed for the weather. As we queued, my feet got colder and colder, and even the dog enjoying brunch with his owners was donning a cape and scarf. My bad.

full english

I cannot recommend this place enough. It was one of the best brunches I have ever had, and I’ve sampled a lot of brunch menus in my (nearly) twenty nine years. The menu was full of really interesting options, and I picked the potato gnocchi with chestnut mushrooms, bacon and poached eggs. Phill chose the traditional Sunday breakfast, and actually went as far as to say it might be the best fry up he had ever eaten. Testament indeed.

potato gnocchi

The gnocchi was buttery and delicious, nothing like the normal gnocchi I get in the supermarket. The egg yolks were a true orange and then bacon was lacking any gristle. It was absolutely amazing.

The place is tiny, so if you go make sure you get there before opening. You can order coffee for the queue and it comes with tiny little complimentary doughnuts. Unfortunately you can’t book a table for the weekend, but don’t let that put you off. It’s absolutely delicious.

Posted on April 24, 2015 and filed under London.

Making Time for Date Nights

Two months ago, we got married. The build up to the day meant saving money and making sure that we were clever with how we spent our wages so that we weren’t left in much debt after the big day.

And what was the first thing that got cut? Date night. I think date nights with your live in partner or spouse are really important, as otherwise you become like ships in the night, living your lives in parallel but not necessarily cohesively.

We have always tried to do date nights; a picnic in the lounge if we really can’t afford it, or dinner out somewhere mid-week. Sometimes at the weekends we go round the markets or walk round the parks; anything to get out of the house, away from the mundane life-min that gets in the way, and spending time together.

When Jacamo got in touch and asked if we wanted to take part in their date night in, we thought it was a great idea. They sent a parcel, and on strict instruction not to open it, it was squirreled away.

thorntons chocolate

On the night, Phill ran me a bath where I soaked with candles and read a few chapters of my book. I love the peace and quiet of being locked away in the dark with the light of the Kindle and the candles to keep me awake, and so when I finally emerged I felt well rested!

He had put together a picnic of salami, cheese and bread and oil to remind us of our mini moon to Matera, and once that was devoured we got started on the chocolates! The wine in the hamper was a brilliant accompaniment, and all in all, it was a lovely night in.

What do you do for date nights? Any ideas are greatly welcomed!

Posted on April 23, 2015 and filed under Lifestyle.

Postcards from Italy: Pisa

After two days exploring Tuscany (if you haven’t caught up, take a read of Arezzo and Florence) it was time to go home. Booked on an evening flight (which was delayed, current story of my life) we decided to get up early and go and have a nose around Pisa, another Italian city on my hit list.

There’s just something about Italy. The architecture, the history, the atmosphere. It’s a country I have fallen in love with and I’m desperate to get back and see Rome, Vesuvius, Naples, Lake Como and Capri, but for the time being Pisa was the last city I would get to see (and probably for the rest of the year, having visited Matera early on in the year too!)

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We arrived in the city and walked the short distance to the Leaning Tower. After reading The Travel Bunny’s post on going up the Tower I was really disappointed to find that the first available tour that day was just after our flight. If you are planning on visiting Pisa read her post, and make sure you book!

The first thing you notice about the Tower is exactly how wonky it is. I wandered around marvelling that someone surely noticed when building.... Its. So. Wonky. The Tower was actually the last building constructed in Cathedral Square, after the Cathedral (Duermo) and the Baptistry, yet the campanile is the most famous in the area. I wonder if they were rushing to get it built in a hurry?

I made Phill do the obligatory ‘holding up the tower’ pose for the camera (on strict instruction to share it here and die) and we giggled at some people doing the ‘tower coming out from between legs’ shot, before moving on to marvel at the wonders of the cathedral.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The cathedral is free, although you have to get a ticket, and well worth your time. The intricacies of the frescos are breathtaking and the detail will blow you away. I’m not really a church person, but there is something so inspiring in the calm haven of the inside of a church, I think. It’s just peaceful.

inside Pisa Cathedral

The Square of Miracles is absolutely beautiful, and the fallen angel that watches over the buildings is pretty spectacular too. Of course it was packed but there was a great feeling in the air; the sun was out, everyone was smiling and there were tons of people taking their Pisa shots.

fallen angel pisa

After soaking up the sights of Pisa, we made our way off for bruschetta in the sun (finally!!) before heading off to the airport. Our Italian adventure, this time, was finished.

Have you been to Italy?

Posted on April 21, 2015 and filed under Travel.

Commenting Systems and Moving to Disqus

I'm having some issues with Squarespace. Mainly that I can't import all my comments to Disqus. Nearly five years of comments that my readers have left, which is really frustrating.

There is a way to import your comments into Disqus, by exporting your blog to Wordpress and then exporting the comments in that way, but after three weeks of trying and of the different platforms pushing me back and forward between each other, I'm giving up.

I need a commenting platform that allows you to see when I have responded and not just think I have ignored you, so please be aware that although any comments left prior to this post have been archived, they unfortunately won't show up on my posts. It will look like I have been talking to myself for five years!

I still appreciate these comments, but at least you will see my responses from now on!


Posted on April 20, 2015 .

Five Happy Things

In difficult situations, you must always search for the silver linings, and although my five happy things are pretty hard this week for reasons I can't go into while still in my current situation, I have an abundance of happies to look to.

One // Finally real life meeting my long time friend Sam. If you want a good blog to read, this South African miss has two; Tech Girl and That Place in My Head. Check them out!

Two // Booking a month in San Diego, leaving a week today. In a fight or flight situation flight is my go to, so I am duly running away to lick my wounds in California. Sadly my husband won't be joining me because work, but I'm off to read some books, read even more blogs and get the suntan that I've been dreaming of all my life.

Three // Making pies, or who ate all the pies, in my case. I've got a cooking streak in me a mile long, and I did my wifely duties this weekend by making a load of ready meals so Phill survives my abandonment, including these pies. I made chicken and chorizo and lamb and mint gravy, and I would love to start a little business supplying the people of London with pies. I might just look into it.

homemade pies

Four // Hanging out in my hometown. This weekend I visited my friend and her teeny tiny baby, and then took my Mum and Sister for lunch on Saturday. They are my two favourite people to hang out with, and we are always laughing. Family is often the best medicine.

tinkers

Five // The Big Chill and Monopoly. I had a great night on Tuesday drinking cocktails in the sun and then heading off to Joes Blogs to play Monopoly. Charlie is one of the funniest people I know, and the team I had were the most fun (read, most drunk) team I have been on. Still dont particularly like Monopoly, but it was great. Plus pizza!

Five Blog Posts I loved reading:

We Took the Road Less Travelled's post on Split in Croatia. My parents went there on their honeymoon years ago, and its always made me want to visit.

Remembering fondly the amount of time I used to spend in Busaba Eathai when I worked in Covent Garden. Thanks In Her 30s for the reminder, will have to go again soon!

I've been getting hungry over this post from Little Brown Books. She has brunching down, and this particular recommendation looks fab!

I've been wondering if I should sign back up to Glossybox after Gemma's review. Are you a box fan?

Erm, Sal's been eating some delicious looking truffles, and I want them. Check them out!

Whats making you happy this week?


Posted on April 20, 2015 and filed under Happy Things.

Taking Time To Relax

You’d think that taking time out and calming yourself would be easy, but sometimes when you have hundreds of deadlines to meet, clients to keep happy or a boss that is more than demanding, it’s hard to just take the time and breathe. But it’s so important. With studies showing that taking time to relax can reduce cases of anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain (source) its silly to assume that the sleep we lose we can just catch back later (you know that saying, I’ll sleep when I’m dead? NO).

So how do I relax? The honest answer is, I find it hard. I work a full time job, I blog, I attend events, and then I have friends and family that I want to spend quality time with. I travel frequently and I socialise, but I’m pretty rubbish at taking the time out and relaxing.

// Yoga. I always thought yoga was a bit washy and am totally guilty of spending my gym time during the meditation period thinking of all the things that need using in my fridge, but I’ve recently found that yoga opens my back out, preventing the crippling head and neck pain I get, and I love it. I stumbled across Yoga With Adrienne, a thirsty day yoga programme with a lady who isn’t too much of a hippy, just goofy and fun, and I have found it way easier to stick to.

// Candles. I have a candle which I love from Bath and Body Works which is fragranced with eucalyptus and mint. As soon as it goes on in the flat and the scent starts to permeate, it calms me. It might now be a Pavlovian response, but whatever helps!

JING tea

// Tea. I’m not going to lie; I’m a huge tea fiend. I don’t drink coffee and hot chocolate is a devil on my sugar levels, so tea is my go to warm drink. I am a loyal slave to Earl Grey, but when JING sent me their loose leaf ear grey to try it upped my tea game. I’m normally the person who forgets its lose leaf and ends up with floaty bits in my cuppa, but the gorgeous glass mug comes with a clever little strainer and lid. It makes tea drinking beautiful and of course I want to be enjoying a prestigious tea that is sipped in fifty Michelin starred restaurants worldwide. Fanceh!

// Sleep. I’ve never been into wild late night parties and I love my bed. Nothing better than a warm shower and an early night, and since we bought a memory foam mattress topper, I’m in cloudy heaven. If you haven’t got one, invest! (And they aren’t as expensive as I had thought, either!

jing tea brewing

// Plants. Bear with me on this one. I used to be a serial killer, my body of choice being poor little plants. It wasn’t intentional, but everything I tried to grow died. My husband bought me a little herb kit to grow from seed for Christmas a few years ago, and as I watched the little buds appearing I was so pleased. I now have a balcony packed with herbs, tomatoes, lavender, heather I was gifted after a wedding and a hyacinth I rescued from the dubious plant seller across the road. Just call me plant RSPCA. I am a reformed criminal.

What do you do to relax?

Tea gifted by JING, but all thoughts, and words, remain my own.

Posted on April 16, 2015 and filed under Thoughts.

Healthy Eating Hacks For Lazy People: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I’m all  for hacks when it comes to being healthy, I hate the gym and despite forcing myself to go every once in a while, I was intensely pleased last week when I finally got to the end of my years gym membership and danced down the street after cancelling it. Admittedly I did tell them I was leaving the country, but really, when they bring the huge personal trainer out to ask why you’re leaving, I’m sure they get told that a lot. Does anyone else find cancelling a gym membership awkward? We have a free gym in our building anyway, so I figured might as well not use that one for free rather than paying to not use one.

Anyway, I digress.

cauliflower crust pizza

I love food. I’m a foodie. I seek out new food experiences and I love eating. But I also want to feel comfortable in my own skin, so pizza every day doesn’t fit in to this plan.

But wait….

And then I discovered cauliflower pizza. Yep, the base is made of three ingredients, cauliflower (processed to a cous cous consistency) egg and mozzarella cheese. I’ve tried subbing cauliflower before on this egg fried rice recipe and it turned out pretty well so I decided, with a bit of trepidation, to give it a try.

It’s so simple. I used a cake dish with a loose bottom to shape my pizza (removing the loose bottom and using it like a huge cookie cutter) and pressed my base in; making sure it wasn’t too thick.

how to make cauliflower crust pizza

After grilling the base, I added my toppings: ham and mushroom for Phill with gammon I had cooked at the weekend and pepperoni for me. It goes back under the grill until the cheese is bubbling, and after letting it cool for ten minutes so that the base hardens to a crust, its ready to go.

And it’s delicious. I’m not going to include the recipe in my post as its someone else’s ingenious discovery, but if you want to try it out for a lower calorie mid-week treat, the recipe is here on Your Lighter Side.

If you try it, I’d love to know how it turns out!

Have you tried making cauliflower pizza?

Posted on April 15, 2015 and filed under Healthy Living.

Postcards from Italy: Florence

With a day exploring Italy already under our belt (if you haven’t caught the first day in Arezzo, it’s here) we decided to head further afield to Florence, a city that has been photographed millions of times, but somewhere I have never visited. As the capital city of Tuscany and considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, I couldn’t miss the chance to see all that gorgeous architecture steeped in so much history.

Optimized-jhjhj.jpg

An hours car journey later (on motorways rather than those tiny little windy Tuscan roads that I can’t handle) we arrived, and attempted to find a parking spot. Lots of horn tooting and one way systems caused utter confusion (the driving is something else in Italy!) but after some gesticulating with an Italian guy we worked out where we could park so we wouldn’t get clamped, because no one wants that on a holiday!

florence piazza

Our first stop was the Ponte Vecchio; a bridge crossing the river, housing some tiny little stores and market stands. The thing I love the most about visiting historical places is that you can almost feel what’s gone on before, maybe it’s just me but I found myself transported back to the days when Rome was in power and Florence would have been a bustling city full of traders; the bridge being at the centre.

ponte vecchie florence
florence

After we had crossed the insanely busy bridge (hello Easter Monday!) we wandered the streets, up and down passing duermo after duermo (they love their churches in Italy) and discovering gorgeous little buildings nestled in the craziness.

florence cathedral

And then we stumbled on the Duermo Cuppola, the Campanile and the Cathedral. Oh. Em. Gee. There’s something really special to me about standing in front of places you have got used to seeing in magazines and on the internet and it took my breath away. The intricacies of the carving and the sheer size of the cathedral (it always blows my mind how they created these huge buildings without mechanics) meant that I was in shutterbug heaven, snapping photos and drinking in the atmosphere, along with apparently the rest of Italy.

florence / firenze
florence cathedral

After all the walking, we stopped to get some lunch because you can't visit Italy without eating pizza, can you? I won't dwell on it too much as I was in good need of a bathroom break so it served a purpose, but needless to say I think we stumbled across a tourist trap which is a shame.

We finished the day with a trip to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a monasteries sat on the top of the Michelangelo hill, providing the most beautiful panoramas across the city.

tuscan sunset

Excuse the terrible photo subject, but I couldn't not include this. That sunset. I haven't added a filter to this at all, it was just that glorious and I was so lucky to actually catch it on camera!

Have you been to Florence?

Posted on April 14, 2015 and filed under Travel.