Speedy London Breakfast: Gail’s

Today is my first London post! While I don’t live in London (yet…) I do spend a large chunk of my week there, working at the office and camping in my boyfriend’s room. This post will be the first of many!

An early wake up call and an hour to spare before work called for a breakfast stop. Luckily, I knew just the place.

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Popping up all over London now, Gail’s Artisan Bakery was originally founded when it proved impossible to find the perfect loaf of bread in the UK’s capital. Fortunately for us, with Gail’s on the block that is no longer a problem.

Gail’s entices you with naughty delights and a quiet space to sit and enjoy your treats. You can choose from a vast selection of breads (of course!) but also pastries, cakes, sandwiches and excellent coffee. Although the Gail’s we visited is surrounded by offices and building sites, you wouldn’t know it looking out of the window, as they have an outdoor seating area enclosed by greenery.

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As it was quite early in the morning and we didn’t have a lot of time, we didn’t opt for the brunch menu (but if you have more time, you definitely should!) Instead, we couldn’t resist the pastry selection.

After much (much) debate over which to choose and how many, we settled for the classic croissant, a pain au chocolat and an almond croissant.

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As we had hoped, they did not disappoint. The pastry was beautifully flaky and they made for a very filling, delicious breakfast! The staff are really friendly and if you go there reasonably early on a weekday morning, like we did, then you pretty much get the entire place to yourself and (more importantly) first choice of the pastries.

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If dragging yourself out of bed to go out for breakfast isn’t your thing, then I imagine the cake selection for a lazy afternoon tea would be an equally special treat. Just pick a time, grab some friends and share the bread and cake around … what more could you ask for?!

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October Favourites

October has been a busy, busy month. I got a job and started it a week later, I set up this blog and I’ve been rushing backwards and forwards between London and Kent, trying to find a new routine. I’m not quite there yet, and I’m living a strange mish mash life of living at home, living as a student (with my boyfriend in his student digs) and being a proper grown up with a proper job. It’s all been very weird but fun!

October has been a month of copious Pretty Little Liars episodes (I’m only on Season 2 and I do not want to talk about it with anyone for fear of it being ruined for me, so we are not going to discuss it here either), warming Starbucks dates after work and shopping the sales. It’s also started to get a lot colder and I’m pulling out all of my favourite coats again. I love coats, and I love falling back in love with my collection at this time of year. The current one I’m favouring is a camel coat I bought at a market in Australia four years ago. My ultimate favourite is my Barbour, but I’m leaving that in the wardrobe for the moment because I feel that pulling it out is to admit that winter really is here.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. Here are the things that I’ve been loving this month…

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Mulberry Continental Wallet

Now, I admit that this is a pricey favourite to kick off with, and I had decided originally to not include it at all. However, having used (and loved) it for a few months now, I have some things to say about it that I would loved to have known before I bought it.

I bought this purse at Bicester Village back in the summer with some of my birthday money. As you can see, I clearly did not purchase it while I was in a practical mood. It’s beautiful, but it’s hardly a classic colour, there’s a big plaque on the front that can scratch easily and (worse of all) I went for the smooth leather, rather than the classic grain. The soft leather purses with a printed grain effect were there as well, but somehow they just didn’t feel as luxurious. It seemed so beautiful and delicate that I was too scared to use the thing for a whole month.

However, it has now been knocking around in my bag for several months and I just had to report on how it was doing. Amazingly, it is holding up really well. I was convinced that after a week in my bag, it would be scratched, stained and ruined. While that is probably an exaggeration, it turns out that I didn’t have to worry. As long as you think through what else is in there with it (think especially carefully about keeping your keys far, far away!), the soft, scratchable leather is absolutely fine. As for the colour, your purse doesn’t necessarily have to match everything, like a handbag does, so if you want to get a daring colour – go for it!

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Lush Baths

I don’t want to chat on too much here because it’s a bit of a spoiler of another upcoming post (keep your eyes peeled for a Lush haul!) but I’m not normally a bath gal. I find them boring. But for some reason, this month I have been loving baths and Lush has a big part in that. I’m steadily working my way through the range and I promise to report back, but here’s the cute little Sparkly Pumpkin – perfect for Halloween! Word of warning: be wary of the glitter.

Olivia Burton Big Dial Watch

This was another 21st birthday present which I was so happy to receive having lusted after it for months. After much deliberation I chose the big dial style (despite having tiny wrists) and the navy and rose gold colour way (despite knowing that black would be far more sensible). I also chose it knowing that I hate wearing watches and bracelets on my left wrist, but I’m right handed so they just get in the way, I get annoyed with them and then I never wear them. However, this watch has overcome all of the above problems.

Yes, the watch face is large, but it doesn’t completely swamp my tiny wrists and (more importantly) it doesn’t ever get in the way and it’s not annoying to wear. I’ve also not had any problems with the colour and I wear it every single day. To be honest, navy can be taken for black from a distance anyway, so that’s actually made it a really good option.

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All the neutral shades!

Summer is a time for brights, which is fun, but not really for me when it comes to make-up. I much prefer and feel far more comfortable in neutral shades, and I feel that autumn is really the time that you can wear them without looking just … boring.

For nails I have been obsessed with Essie’s Limo-scene. I have spent a really long time looking for the perfect nude nail varnish, and while Essie’s Vanity Fairest is another nice option, it’s a little bit too pink and it has shimmer in it. Limo-scene is slightly whiter, without making it look like you’re wearing Tippex, with a nice shine to its finish but nothing too drastic. Great for when you want to look professional!

I’m not normally one for lipgloss, but the L’Oreal GlamShine Stain Splash in Lolita is the exception. It has a really nice, shiny finish (without making your lips look like they could double as mirrors), it isn’t sticky at all and the colour is a perfect ‘your lips but better’ shade for me. I’m also obsessed with the smell which is like artificial berries, perhaps not to everyone’s taste but I love it. I always find this a great option for when you can’t be bothered to wear lipstick but you still want to look nice.

Finally, a very unoriginal favourite but I love it so much I couldn’t not include it: Mac’s Velvet Teddy. If you’ve been wanting to try this amidst the hype for it a few months ago but haven’t bought it yet, I urge you to go and get it! It’s one of their Matte lipsticks, and I was worried that this would make it drying but it doesn’t at all. You don’t need to constantly reapply as it fades really nicely throughout the day. While it is a brown lipstick, it has more than enough pink in there to make it really flattering and not too scary to wear. I could go on and on!

I hope you all had a wonderful October, I’m looking forward to November, even though it’s definitely getting a lot darker and colder now!

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

These cupcakes are absolutely perfect for Halloween next week and even … I’m going to say it … Christmas!! They are chocolate orange marbled cupcakes with chocolate buttercream icing and lots of sprinkles. The perfect treat for all of the dark, cold, long evenings we have to look forward to.

Now, while I am a devoted Bake Off fan and a lover of large wedges of cake, I’m unfortunately not a gifted baker. Part of the problem is that I am part of a family of enthusiastic and talented bakers. My mum is the best at birthday cakes (always has been, always will be) and my sister makes absolutely exceptional scones. Me on the other hand, I prefer to sit back and let them do the work.

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So for this blog post I roped my sister in, as if I hadn’t it would have ended in complete disaster. This is also her own recipe, so not letting her join in seemed a little unfair.

CHOCOLATE ORANGE CUPCAKES
Makes 16 small cupcakes.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 100g butter (at room temperature)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 93g flour (a weird measurement which will make sense later)
  • 2 eggs
  • 7g cocoa powder
  • Zest of half an orange
  • Dessert spoon of freshly squeezed orange juice

For the icing:

  • 300g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g butter (room temperature)
  • 40g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 40ml milk
  • Festive decorations!

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan or 350 Fahrenheit.

Using two mixing bowls, place half of the butter and sugar and 1 egg in each. Put 50g for flour in one bowl and 43g of flour in the other.

In the bowl that has less flour, sift in the cocoa powder. In the other, put in the orange zest and juice and mix until well incorporated.

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Get two tablespoons and two teaspoons (a pair for each mixture) and spoon the mixture into the cupcakes cases, putting in half orange mix and half chocolate. The cases need to be about 3/4 full.

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Using another, clean teaspoon, swirl the two mixtures together in the cupcake cases while being careful to not just mix them into a chocolatey orangey mess.

Put them in the oven for 10-15 minutes (keep an eye on them!)

When they are golden in colour and bounce back when you touch them, they are ready. Place on a wire rack to cool.

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For the icing, simply put all of the ingredients into a bowl (apart from the decorations obviously) and mix together. Wait until the cupcakes are completely cool before icing them. We used a piping bag but feel free to just dollop it on and smooth out using a spoon or a knife.

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Finally, get decorating! This is always my favourite part of making cupcakes, but especially when you have a seasonal theme to follow. We found our scary faces sugar decorations, golden stars, bronze sprinkles and the cupcake cases in Waitrose, but pretty much all supermarkets do great ones and you can find all sorts online.

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Sit back with a nice cup of tea and enjoy!

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Also, a quick final note… I’m going to be playing around with my scheduling a little bit just to work out what I like best. I’m going to start posting on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 6pm and see how I go. Three posts a week is quite a lot to churn out, so it might not stay that way, but for now that’s the plan!

Sunday Brunch: Graze Kitchen and Bar

I’m sorry if it’s painful to talk about the weekend on Wednesday, when it just seems so far away… But this brunch was too good to not share with you!

My sister, Rosie, and I often go cruising down the high street where we live with our eyes peeled for new eateries. It seems to be the thing of the moment for our hometown: a new day, a new cafe opens up. While we’ve been promising to go to a few now, there was one that we had to visit as soon as we spotted it.

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Previously a very dodgy pub, this cute little building on the bridge overlooking the river has completely turned itself around into an all day eatery. Graze Kitchen and Bar opens early to provide busy commuters with espressos and pastries and then stays open into the night offering sharing platters and cocktails. Choosing when to go was a tricky decision!

However, rumour had it that their brunch menu was the best, and what better day to brunch than a Sunday?!

We arrived reasonably early and got in easily. The dining space is fairly small but nicely spread out, so we didn’t feel as though we were sharing our fellow brunchers’ coffees and conversations. We sat by the window and watched the world go by.

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The menu is varied and (to our pleasant surprise) not too expensive. If you are in a hurry you can opt for the bircher muesli or pastry selection, or if you have more time you can go for the full ‘graze breakfast’ (essentially a full English with a more original name).

We, of course, had plenty of time so I chose the graze breakfast and Rosie went for the American Pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. These delicious offerings shared the table with a luxury hot chocolate, a pot of tea and apple juice.

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The portion sizes are generous and service is quick but not rushed. The poached eggs were OK but nothing to write home about but this was the Graze brunch’s only downfall. Happily, there were so many marshmallows on top of the hot chocolate that drinking it was a bit of a challenge at first (the only way a hot chocolate should be)!

So if you’re in the area, skip Starbucks or the Waitrose cafe and walk that bit further up the high street for Graze. It is 100% worth it.

Book Reviews: Young Adult Fiction

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Now, before I start this book review (or in fact any book reviews), I have a confession to make. I am a book snob. It’s what spending three years doing an English Literature degree does to you.

I used to be a real snob, and would only read classics. I got over that once I went to uni, but still completely avoided the ‘Young Adult’ section of any book shop that I went into. I don’t care what other people choose to read, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pick any YA up and take it seriously. I read so much of it as a young teenager that I simply felt too old for it.

I then finished my degree. The one thing that an English Literature degree does is completely exhaust you of reading. The summer began, the time that I usually read as many books as I can squeeze in, and I just couldn’t read anymore. So I went on a hunt for an ‘easy’ read and this finally pushed me towards to YA section.

My first stop was Amy Alward’s ‘The Potion Diaries’. To be honest, I was attracted by the cover (it’s just so pretty!) This was an unusual choice for me because not only was it YA, but it’s also fantasy. The story follows a young alchemist called Samantha Kemi, who joins the kingdom’s Wilde Hunt to find a cure for the princess, who has poisoned herself with a love potion.

It’s a fun read and the tale bounds along, keeping up a high pace but it’s nothing major. I found the characters to be a bit flat and there’s no real sense of time – they just jump from one expedition to the next. However, it was exactly what I was looking for. While the conclusion isn’t exactly surprising (three guesses for how the love interest part of the plot turns out…) it’s an easy read and the story line bursts with imagination. I really enjoyed the magical parts of the plot and the fact it was focused on alchemists – I don’t usually read books like it so that made it really fun and a bit different.

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Next up, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. Another YA of course, but this one is more realistic and takes place in a school. It follows the love of Violet and Finch, who meet on top of the school’s bell tower as they both consider taking their own lives. As the front cover says, it’s ‘the story of a girl who learns to live from a boy who wants to die’.

This book was amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so strongly about a book, and felt really sad when I finished it (that’s when you can tell it was great!) While I thought Violet was a bit of a drip, Finch’s character really made this book for me. He was such a well written character and I could really imagine interacting with him in real life.

I’ve seen really mixed reactions to this book, as it deals with mental illness which is always a tricky and emotionally charged subject. I can see other people’s points that Finch is defined by bipolar, suggesting that he is his illness which is a terrible way to consider people that actually suffer from it. I tried not to get too caught up in this though and just enjoyed the book and Finch for what they were.

So there was my experimentation with YA this summer. I really enjoyed both but I can’t decide what to read next… I know that The Fault in Our Stars is the really obvious choice, and I’ve never watched the film but I’m not really one for super sad books. Once I’ve made up my mind, I will keep you posted!

Hello!!

Hello! Welcome to my new blog. It seems that the whole world is setting up a blog these days so having been a long time admirer of the blogging world, I thought it was about time I did my own.

My name is Sarah and I am a recent graduate of Newcastle University, launched into the real world to fend for myself. I have just got a job at The Field magazine as Editorial Assistant (a miracle that I thank my lucky stars for daily). Magazines, as you may or may not know, is a tough old industry to break into, so in the age old situation of “beggars can’t be choosers”, my job is part-time. While I’m having a great time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, after just one week I’ve discovered that Tuesdays and Fridays are a bit dull. OK, perhaps not the Fridays (when are Fridays ever dull?), but definitely Tuesdays.

It turned out that a boring Tuesday was exactly what I needed to finally kick start me into writing the blog that I’ve been umming and ahhing about for well over a year.

So – here it is! Expect ramblings about books (I love books), food (I also love food!) and a bit of beauty and fashion if I ever feel that my photography skills are up for that challenge. I also plan to talk all things magazines to pass on what I’m learning, my ongoing struggle with running (the thing that I really do love but remembering that can be freaking hard at times) and whatever else takes my fancy!

Hope you enjoy! Lots of love, Sarah x