Eating My Way Around: Iberica, Marylebone

When asked what my favourite thing to eat out is, I’m always strike by the enormity of the question. All those cuisines, all the different cultures available to experience and I have to choose just one? I tend to deliberate but eventually the choice is.... Tapas.

I love tapas because there are so many chances to try different things. I’m adventurous with food, but I can get overwhelmed with certain cuisines, not wanting to pick something that I can’t eat or may be disappointed with. Tapas cures that concern and offers you bursts of flavour and textures in small quantities, satisfying all sorts of food cravings in one meal.

And Iberica is one of my favourites. Right round the corner from my office, its great local tapas bar for lunch meetings and Friday indulgences, and I love how their tapas selection is more than your average chorizo and cheese of some of the more mainstream places.

My picks?

Serrano Ham Croquettes.

When I was small we used to holiday with my grandparents in Portugal, and my favourite thing to do was to cross the border to a small Spanish town called Ayamonte and sit in a tapas place with little tables that backed onto a large church. We would sit for hours as he drank his beer and we ate these delicious little ham and cheese croquettes, and when we tired of grown up talk we would run up and down the beautiful steps of the old church.

serrano ham croquettes

Crispy confit of Suckling Pig with Apple Puree

This is so delicious. The belly pork is tender and light and contrasts against the crack of the paper thin skin. The apple puree adds a sharpness, and every time we go we order this. It’s the showstopper by a mile.

Fried chorizo Lollipops with Pear Alioli Sauce

One of the more unusual items on the menu, and also one of my favourites. The pear in the alioli is subtle, and the lollipops have just the right amount of batter round them. They’re a crowd pleaser and a constant reorder.

Where is your favourite tapas place or dish? Give me recommendations!

Leaving Rituals

It’s come to that time again, the moments I have practiced time and time again, where I have to pull my hair out trying to locate my passport and sit on my suitcase to close it after cramming in never ending purchases, ready to fly home to London.

Home.

To me, San Diego feels most like home. Dogs, cousins, friends, the ocean – there is so much here that anchors me and makes me feel at home. Sure, I don’t have a US passport and I live in the UK, but I have a huge amount of family and loved ones here, and it just makes me feel most at peace. Because I don’t think home is a place, but a feeling.


So I’ve started the rituals. Started to pack, said the first few goodbyes, snatched a little weep and so on and so forth. The plan is lunch with friends and Baby Oscar, a last pick up of my cousin from school and then a walk on the beach with the dogs (one of my all-time favourite things to do) before showering and leaving for the airport.

Things to look forward to:

One / In the imminent future, I get to spent time watching movies. What else do you do on a ten hour flight? I watched The Fault in Our Stars, Noah and 22 Jump Street on the way out, so excited to see what my options are on the way home!

Two / Seeing my boyfriend. It's been three weeks and the time difference is a pain for trying to keep in touch.

Three / Iceland in November.

Four / its nearly payday again!!

Five / taking a trip to see my sister at University. She is in her third year and just moved.

What are your rituals for leaving home (going back to Uni, maybe living in a different country) and what are you looking forward to?


Posted on October 15, 2014 and filed under Thoughts.

Balboa Park, San Diego

This weekend we took a trip to Balboa Park, mainly because I see it on all the tourist recommendations and have never taken the time to visit, other than to the Zoo. The pictures always make it look like a relaxing haven with a Spanish feel, and has been on my list of to dos for such a long time.

Sculptors Guild, Balboa Park

Sculptors Guild, Balboa Park

It’s a 1200 acre park in San Diego, built for the World Exposition in 1915, and is made up of gardens, paths, museums and pretty backdrops, as well as the home of the Zoo. On a sunny weekend it’s great to stroll through the promenades and marvel at the architecture, stopping at the Japanese tea room for a cup of tea and a browse in the serenity gardens.

Arty sculptures in the sculpture garden

Arty sculptures in the sculpture garden

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We visited the Botanical Building which was absolutely stunning; a wooden structure housing orchids and other tropical plants with a large reflecting pool to one side. Although it was really busy, it was the prettiest part of the trip.

The Botanical Building and pond at Balboa Park

The Botanical Building and pond at Balboa Park

Inside the Botanical Building at Balboa Park

Inside the Botanical Building at Balboa Park

There was a Glass Arts Exhibition going on so we meandered the streets looking at the stalls and shopfronts, with the chalk coloured paving slabs and the gorgeous bougainvillea lining the roofs.

I’ve been to the zoo before, so we gave that a miss as zoos make me sad. The San Diego zoo does a lot for wildlife and rehabits endangered species so I know zoos aren’t all bad but I just feel really sorry for the animals.

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Okapi at the Zoo

Okapi at the Zoo

My cousin making friends a few years ago at the Zoo

My cousin making friends a few years ago at the Zoo

All in all, a trip to Balboa Park is well worth half a day in the sun!

What did you do this weekend?

Posted on October 13, 2014 and filed under Travel.

The Teenage Advice Column

We were out at dinner last night and my Uncle asked me what advice I would give to my fifteen yer old cousin. I thought for a while, and then came up with this:

One / Keep a language. I dropped French as soon as I could, but now, at 28, I wish I had kept it. languages open the world for you, make you a more exciting prospect at a job interview and often command higher salaries. The world is your oyster.

Two / Alcohol isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I know this sounds like an old person comment (and coming from a girl who doesn’t drink much for health reasons) but I remember the binge drinking sickness of my teens and that enduring feeling that I might die. I was always too sensible to be one of those girls who couldn’t remember getting home, but people put themselves in such dangerous situations, and I now know my limit. For sure.

Three / Those girls who are super cool and really mean at school? They’ll peak in high school, I promise you. When you are pushing thirty you will look back at all you have achieved; at your career and your life, and they will be stuck in their high school high days. Trust me, because Facebook lets you see it all now.

What advice would you give to a fifteen year old from your experience?

Posted on October 9, 2014 .

Top 5 in San Diego (You Won't Find SeaWorld)

I’ve been coming to San Diego for years, and there is so much I like to do when I’m here. Places I like to eat (although I always feel sad when I come back and my favourites have closed), people I like to see and things I like to do, so I thought I would share them.

You won’t find SeaWorld or the San Diego Zoo on my list – these are the alternative, non touristy attractions. Don’t get me wrong, if you are travelling with kids or it’s your first time to the area then they are well worth doing, but in my opinion they just have a sad feel about them. I especially hate that the killer whales have so little space, and if you have seen Blackfish (on Netflix) you might understand.

So here are my five favourite things to do when I’m here, in no particular order as I love them all!

One / Point Loma, Cabrillo National Park and Rosecrans

About a forty minute drive north, Point Loma is absolutely beautiful. You can see over to Tijuana in the south, and it has a really relaxed vibe about it. visit the National Park and take a trip up the lighthouse, as well as stopping into the tiny museum telling you all about Cabrillo and his discovery of San Diego (not sure how a place can be discovered when there are already people there, but OK).

Lighthouse - Cabrillo National Park, Point Loma.San Diego, CA

Further down you can trip to the tide pools which are great fun for kids, and see fish, crabs and other crustaceans teeming in the waters here. It’s really relaxing, and very pretty. On the way out you’ll see Rosecrans, the cemetery for veterans. I can never help but think if you have to be buried somewhere, then on a hill in the sunshine overlooking the ocean isn’t a bad place to be.

You have to pay a $5 charge to get in at the bottom, but this covers parking, all the above mentioned and is valid for seven days, which I think is really reasonable.

Two / Coronado Beach and the Hotel Del

Always in the top ten most beautiful beaches in the US, Coronado is a gorgeous place to take a walk in the afternoon.

Hotel Del Coronado

White sand and lapping waves make it like paradise, and it’s great to take a walk through the Hotel Del, made famous by the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like It Hot. Lunch there is idyllic with delicious food and a sea view in the sunshine, and this weekend we had great fun watching all the weddings that were going in.

 

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Three / La Jolla Shores and Cove

La Jolla is a must in every trip. I love to take the car down to the cove and go sit on the rocks listening to the waves. It’s my happy place, and a trip that I take time and time again. You can walk the seawall and see the seals on their protected beach, as well as walk the rocks and poke around in in the rock pools.

The salty air and gentle breeze is calming, and a great place to go and reflext. There’s plenty of places to grab food, but the coast toast at Brockton Villa is the best (and most calorific) brunch there is.

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Four / Torrey Pines State Reserve

I love to hike the State Reserve (it’s not too strenuous!) and see the views down to La Jolla and up to Point Loma.

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The reserve is absolutely beautiful and you can take a few different walks, ending up at Flat Rock and walking back along the beach.

Five / Del Mar Bluffs

This one is particularly personal to me as it's so close to home, but there is nothing I like more than walking along the bluffs (the cliffs).

The train line runs along and you can track it almost as far as the State Reserve, listening to the waves and looking at all the amazing (and super expensive) houses that line it.

My sister and I walk along and place reservations on which house we would live in, and my Uncle runs the track. It’s so peaceful, and a great place to walk.

The best thing about San Diego is just the ability to get outside. The sun is always shining and the weather is balmy, so I love to walk the beaches or the parks and just enjoy them.

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Have you ever visited? Where is your favourite place to go?

Posted on October 7, 2014 and filed under Travel.

The Best of the Weekend

One / Acai bowls. My favourite place for breakfast in San Diego is the Sambazon Acai Café in Cardiff-By-The-Sea. Acai berry smoothies make the base of the bowl, and then strawberries, granola and banana (in my case) are added to the top for delicious goodness. The café is always packed with surfers, and the bowls are amazing.

Sunset on Dog Beach, Del Mar, California

Sunset on Dog Beach, Del Mar, California

Two / Family time. This weekend I had dinner with my youngest cousin Emily on Friday (she is 15, so we made our own pizza). Mine was a Brussels sprout and bacon re made choice, but was amazing! Then on Sunday my cousin Sam came back from college for an hour and we walked the dogs round the neighbourhood.                                        

Three / The sun. Its been amazing this weekend, and allowed me to be outside, which is my absolute favourite.

Sunshine and beach times, Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Sunshine and beach times, Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

Four / Sale shopping. I found a top for $7 this weekend, which is the equivalent of four English pounds. Fabulous.

Five / The ocean. The ocean grounds me and makes me relax. I love the feeling of the sand between your toes and the cool breeze paired with the freezing water. I love to just walk along the water line, and its even more fun to take the dogs down to dog beach and play in the water with them.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

Six / Knowing that I don’t have to be in London for another 10 days! I love California and everything that it means to me, and although I  love my flat and my job, this is where my heart belongs, and every time I leave I leave a piece of me behind.

How was your weekend?

Posted on October 6, 2014 and filed under Best of the weekend.

Iceland Style

I know I’ve mentioned a few times, but I have a trip booked to Iceland with my best friend in November, and its something I’m super excited about (especially after reading Lauren’s guide). What I’m not good with however, is dressing for winter. In London you have to circumnavigate the complex ecosystem that is the tube during winter; freezing from the house to the tube, rainforest tropical during travel and then freezing from the tube to the office, where you finally get back to normal. Add in a high speed gale or soaking from the Gods, and you have winter in London.

Iceland, not so much. Snow isn’t really that common in England, and the cold is never my friend.

So when the lovely people at Superdry got in touch, all I could think of was the upcoming Iceland edit, and what I was going to wear, especially only with hand luggage allowance.

What do you think of the coat I chose? I opted for a fur hood and shearling lined parka, and I think I love it.

Our itinerary will take us to the Golden Circle, on a tour to (hopefully) see the Northern Lights, and a trip to the Blue Lagoon.

Have you been to Iceland? What would you like to see?

Posted on October 5, 2014 and filed under Fashion.

There's No Day Like Today - 30 Before 30 Update

2014 was intended to be something different for me. 2013 was really tough, with my Grandfather being diagnosed with cancer and dying in a short two and a half months, and the shadow of sadness that cast meant that the rest of the year was spend surviving, rather than embracing. We scattered his ashes on Christmas Day and spend a sombre New Year counting out the seconds of what had been the saddest year so far. When midnight chimed, I vowed to do something with 2014 and prove that the world didn’t end because our world with him had. For that to have happened would have been an injustice to his memory.

My vow was to spend 2014 living with purpose, and embracing what I had. My youth, my career, my life. And boy, I have.

And thus I kicked off my 30 before 30 list. I have 18 months before the big event, and a whole heap more things to achieve. So here is my progress so far:

1) Visit a UNESCO Heritage site ✔ Bergen, Norway: March 2014 (Read the Norway Edit here)

2) Visit Cambodia, a country that has had me captivated for the last decade. I bought my first Lonely Planet Guide in a closing down sale, and thus began my obsession for guidebooks and my desire to visit Cambodia.

3) Visit Vancouver and cycle the 10k seawall ✔ April 2014 (Read the Vancouver Edit here)

4) Buy a DSLR camera and take a class so I can use it properly - half way there, I have the camera but yet to complete the class.

5) Live and work in another country ✔ May and June 2014 when I spent the best summer ever in NYC. (Read one of many New York posts here)

6) Appreciate my own city more, and do three touristy things that I wouldn’t normally do - Part of the way there; I attended a guided walk round London's graffiti scene and have two more to complete.

7) Learn another language.

8) Go to Disney: ✔ I’ve done this twice now, and I'm not going again. I love you Minnie, but I don’t love kids who have consumed that amount of sugar.

My love for Minnie Mouse is now cemented. We are one.

My love for Minnie Mouse is now cemented. We are one.

9) Learn how to make sushi ✔ November 2013, in London

10) Be less afraid. Afraid to do things, afraid of my own opinion and afraid of what other people think. I'm getting there with this one as I get older, but I still really care sometimes and I hurt my own feelings, unnecessarily.

11) Plant a vegetable or herb garden and actually be able to use the produce ✔ Although I would like to do more. I have basil, parsley and chives, but my tomato and chilli plants went in too late and haven't grown fruit. I'll try again next year.

12) Ride a horse – this is a big one as they terrify me.

13) Visit Paris, France ✔ August 2014 (Read the Paris Edit here)

14) Get fit enough to run 10k.

15) Visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights - this is booked and paid for for November!

16) Learn how to make cocktails ✔ We had tons of fun this summer at Battersea Power Station, read more here.

17) Walk the Inca Trail in Peru.

18) Do something for someone less fortunate ✔ In New York I bought a $20 Shake Shack voucher for a homeless man. He cried, I cried, but I want to, and will, do more.

19) Go grape stomping in a winery.

20) Take a surf lesson ✔ Check and check, went through that pain on one of my trips to San Diego.

21) See the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower and the Bridge of Sighs in Venice ✔ All done, but went to Venice as a child and would love to go again.

22) Stay in a treehouse.

23) Have savings.

24) Get another tattoo.

25) Visit one of my nearest and dearest in Hong Kong.

26) Learn how to and successfully knit something.

27) Learn to make French macarons ✔

28) Ride a motorbike.

29) Carve a pumpkin so it actually looks like something.

30) Live life with purpose.

What's on your bucket / 30 before 30 list?

Posted on October 3, 2014 and filed under Bucket List.

Pork Pie Piggies - Learning to Cook

The institution that is the Great British Bake Off wraps up soon and, like every year, it makes me want to bake. I watched the episode where they made Baked Alaska in incredulous horror, but the breads, pies and cakes make me yearn for a huge country kitchen and a cleaner to wipe the flour and powdered sugar off the surfaces when I am done.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the skill to do some of these things, and I would never win master baker. Luckily I love to take classes and learn how to do new things (read about our sushi class here) and so does my best friend, so for her birthday we had booked onto a pork pie class with the fabulous Jojo and I was excited to take another one of her classes (read about the macaroon afternoon here).

I had too much fun to take photos, so this was the best one I got!

I had too much fun to take photos, so this was the best one I got!

I love pork pies. They remind me of picnics as a child where my mum would take out box upon box of goodies; finger sandwiches, chicken drumsticks and pork pies, and we would play in the sun while the mothers chatted.

We had a fantastic time. Jojo taught us how to make the hot water pastry and mince the meat, and gladly left out the jelly as it would have taken too long to set. I always pull the jelly out of the pie anyway, as it makes me feel a bit sick, so that was a welcome discovery. We ate warm pies and left with the bounty of our class, to enjoy at home.

If you are ever in London and looking for something a little different to do then I would really recommend a class with Jojo. She is fantastically fun and enthusiastic, great at cookery (even Stephen Fry has attended her classes!) and the relaxed atmosphere provides a really enjoyable evening.

Have you ever made pies from scratch? Or done a cookery class?

Fashionably Fit - Don't You Just LOVE The Gym?

The summer is most definitely over in the UK, save a few glimmers of sunlight and mornings that make you believe that the weather might stay balmy a little longer. The autumn is coming and the leaves are becoming crisp.

Not where I am. I’ve been in Southern California for the past few days and will remain here a good few more weeks, and this isn’t doing wonders for the state of my waistline. At home I can almost resign myself to the fact that the weather is turning, the jumpers are being reached for and no one can see my doughy stomach and the almost translucent state of my skin. 2014 hasn’t been a great year for willpower or waistline, in my case.

But now I am here, and the weather is touching 100, and all I want to do is head down to the beach and read a book. But being a huge drama llama, I am not comfortable doing so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a size 20. However I am no toned yoga bunny either, and here in San Diego, they’re everywhere. Skinny minnies with sculpted abs and tightly tones tushes, and to be honest, I want in on what they’ve got.

 

 

Headphones - Beats By Dre, Drifit Trousers - Nike, Workout Top - eBay, Trainers - George, Sports Bra - The North Face.

Headphones - Beats By Dre, Drifit Trousers - Nike, Workout Top - eBay, Trainers - George, Sports Bra - The North Face.

But I know, it doesn’t come without hard work. For the most part I eat very well (contrary to what the cocktail classes and culinary delights living here on the blog tell you) but I’m not a fan of the dreaded gym. The idea of being sweaty makes me cringe, and I’m not a lover of not being able to breathe or looking like I’m about to go into cardiac arrest. So the fact I don’t look like Shakira is more to do with my love of cheese and hatred of the gym, rather than vice versa. But here in the States I am in a girl heavy house with my cousins off at college, and the three of us are aiming to work harder. Eating fresh, working out and moving more are the three goals, but it helps if you get to wear something pretty, doesn’t it? There’s nothing worse than a baggy old t-shirt and trainers that look like the dog had a tussle with them.

So when the people at Sportsshoes got in touch to see if I wanted to try some Nike gear, I was sceptical that I wasn’t their target audience. I didn’t think that a blog post road testing sports gear was that credible coming from a couch potato, but their tag line got me>

This is the season when many women obsess about their bikini body; at SportsShoes we think that, rather than worrying too much about dieting, the best solution for body confidence is to don some colourful, high performance kit and go for a run in the sun.  

Well OK. I’m not that worried about dieting which is probably part of the problem, but body confidence is where I’m aiming, and I like colourful things. Not so much running, but we can deal with that later.

I’m so pleased I did. The Nike Dri fit trousers are the best thing ever for working out as they somehow manage to make you not feel sweaty, and add that to the fact that they make you look about half a stone lighter and are dead comfy, I’m sold.

I’m pretty sure that the nicer your workout clothes are, the more likely you are to wear them, so given that statement I should be down the gym all day every day, shouldn’t i?

RIGHT.

What motivates you to work out? Do you have some sportswear that makes it all bearable?

This post was brought to you in collaboration with Sportsshoes; all views are my own.

Posted on October 1, 2014 and filed under Fitness.