A Few Favourites: April

April is a bit of a funny month. We’re so desperate for winter to be at an end that when spring comes along it’s very exciting and very pretty (all those pinks!) but, and let’s be honest here, it’s still so cold. We’ve had sunshine, we’ve had showers, we’ve even had snow.

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Despite the ever unpredictable temperatures, it’s been really fun in London this month. Tiarnan and I are on a mission to find our favourite rooftop bar, which has involved some great views and some great cocktails. We also spent last Sunday by the river cheering on the marathon runners, which was so much fun! I went home feeling so inspired I could have burst, and promptly signed up to a 10k in July. Training has started. Wish me luck…

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*Interiors magazines: I love a good flick through an interiors magazine. I live for the day I own my own house and can do whatever I wish to do with it. But until that day, I’ll just form detailed opinions on other people’s homes. LivingEtc is my favourite because it combines interiors with fashion, I love the style of their features and the whole design of the magazine is just beautiful.

*Origins Clear Improvement Mask: I’ve been loving face masks recently, and this is my favourite. There’s just something so indulgent about a face mask and no better way to pamper yourself. This one from Origins is a charcoal mask, which leaves my face feeling clean, glowing and just so soft.

*The White Company Pomegranate candle: This is a bit of a hangover from winter but I just can’t let go of it yet. It, admittedly, smells like Christmas but the scent isn’t overwhelming and even though I’ve burnt it a lot, it’s lasting amazingly. The White Company have an enormous range of scents and everything from tea lights to enormous pillar candles – there’s something for everyone.

*The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro: I’ve saved the best till last. I’m doing so much reading at the moment on my commute, but this is by far my favourite recent read. It is set in a declining Britain after the Romans have left, centering on an elderly married couple, Axl and Beatrice, as they set off across the country in search of a son they haven’t seen in years. It’s a thought-provoking, clever and ultimately heart-breaking story, which will stay in your thoughts long after you have turned the final page.

Sunday Brunching: Farm Girl

The perfect Sunday always involves pancakes. And today I’ve got a stylish little brunch spot for you all which lets you indulge entirely guilt-free.

In prime location on the Portobello Road, Farm Girl cafe opened last summer to bring the Aussie cafe culture to the heart of Notting Hill. Set back from the main market drag with a cute little courtyard terrace it is hard to stumble upon, but if you do you’re in for a treat.

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Their menu is a health nut’s dream, but Farm Girl puts a nutritional twist on the naughty dishes we all know and love. Their signature offering is a coconut BLT which replaces the bacon with coconut flesh (and tastes convincingly bacon-y, so I am told).

We opted for brunch though, as that really is the star menu. With the classic avocado toast, açai bowl and eggs almost any way amongst others, it’s a tricky choice but we couldn’t miss the buckwheat berry pancakes. They’re refined sugar free (so no munching guilt here) but entirely heavenly.

So soak up the sun at the candy pink courtyard tables or sink into the squishy sofa benches and stay all day, Farm Girl is welcoming, cosy and surprisingly quiet for the heart of Notting Hill. You’ll probably have to queue, but it is definitely worth it.

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The Lazy Oaf Striped Tee

When in doubt, always opt for stripes.

It’s still a little too chilly to just don a t-shirt, but when layered up they are absolutely perfect for spring. And I just think this cute (and quite colourful) little tee is perfect for those sunny spring days.

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This striped find is from Lazy Oaf, a really fun London based label. They have a really quirky selection of clothing, which has a very quick turnaround with plenty of ‘new in’ items all the time (so if you love something – grab it!)

Their clothes use bright colours, bold patterns and are often inspired by cartoons. This is quite a tame offering from their collection, but I love the pop of pink around the neck and on the sleeves. There, unfortunately, aren’t that many sizes left for this tee, but they’ve just released this ‘killer whale’ version if you want to get your hands on one.

They aren’t the cheapest at £30, but the t-shirts are very high quality and the material is actually quite thick. Perfect for when you desperately want to dress for summer but the weather hasn’t quite caught up with you yet!

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Columbia Road Flower Market

Is there anything better than sunshine and flowers?

Columbia Road Flower Market is the place to be in East London on a Sunday. The street comes alive with an endless stream of florists and the crowd packs itself in, all in search of the perfect bunch. From teeny tiny succulents, to enormous house plants and romantic blooms, they have everything – and all at incredible prices!

The market absolutely bursts with atmosphere, with stall holders crying their wares as you squeeze through to grab the best bunch. The street also has some amazing independent shops, with plenty of gardening tools, home accessories, artwork and cafes to keep you busy once you’ve found your blooms. And all of this in the sunshine makes for a pretty perfect Sunday.

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How to Spend… April

My Instagram feed is filled with blossom and blue skies, the showers are pouring, Starbucks have floral cups and it’s light past 5pm – it can only be April!

Easter came and went far too early this year. One minute we were taking down the Christmas decorations, and the next the clocks had gone forward and the Easter bunny had been. I normally don’t take too much notice of Easter, but I was a bit disappointed to not enjoy it more this year (although chocolate eggs and a long weekend will never go unappreciated). I’ll be spending this month consuming the vast quantities of chocolate the Easter bunny oh so kindly sent my way and dreaming of the May bank holiday weekends. Happy April everyone!

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*Have a ‘colour only’ rule: The shops are bringing out their summer clothes and the urge to spend gets greater every day. I have really noticed lately how stuck in a rut I can get with my clothing – black, grey or white (with a hint of navy for good measure) is about as exciting as it gets. Zara may be a beautiful masterclass in monochrome minimalism, but the sun is out and we need to leave those bleak colours behind. From now on, I’m only buying colour (I’ll also be buying white because I just can’t part with it…), and I think you should give it a go as well.

*Spring clean your desk: I’ve never been that enthused by spring cleaning. Cleaning is dull enough, why must we do more just because it’s spring? However, I’ve recently moved offices and was forced to clean out my desk. I’m now at a beautiful new desk with only the bare essentials cluttering it, and my goodness does it make you feel productive! Suddenly everything has a ‘place’, it’s a lovely place to be and just gleams. So rather than dusting, hoovering and scrubbing your house from top to bottom – just start with your desk. And if that’s all you get around to doing, then that’s more than enough.

*Make evening plans: Now it is actually light in the evenings, making plans is so much more fun. Start investigating roof top bars (perhaps preempting summer a little, but just wrap up warm), go for evening runs or just take a walk. We’re finally done with the winter hibernation, so round up the troops and have fun!

Recent Purchases

I’ve accidentally been a bit spendy recently. Not necessarily an enormous shopping spree, but just a book here, a blanket there and a couple of clothing items… before you know it you’ve amassed a nice amount of new “stuff”.

I love shopping full stop, but seeing all of the spring/summer items arriving is just so exciting. Some colour! At last! I’ve made a new rule for myself (which one of these items does break but there you go) – I am only allowed to buy colour. I’m counting white as a colour because I love to wear white in the summertime (quickest way to look tanned), but grey and black are out. Summer is coming and we don’t need any bleak colours bringing us down.

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*Topshop blouse and skirt: So I fell into Topshop and accidentally bought some clothes – what’s new? I am so in love with this diamond pintuck lace blouse, I only ever really wear white in the summer, so to have a new white piece really makes it feel as though winter is at an end. It is perfect for spring because it’s not quite as warm as a jumper, but the long sleeves and high neck protect you from those unexpected breezy days. This Boucle A-line skirt is admittedly a bit more wintery, but at just £26 I thought it was a pretty good price for Topshop, and it’s perfect for when it’s still a little chilly outside.

*Books: I have been quite strict with my Kindle-only rule recently, but I had to get these two in hard copy. This Wind in the Willows is part of Penguin Threads, a collection of gorgeous paperbacks. There are all kinds of classics to choose from in these beautiful covers, from Black Beauty to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore has been doing the rounds on social media recently and that was what drew me in, as I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan. I’ve just turned the last page and loved it – but you’ll have to wait for next month’s reading list to find out more…

*Oliver Bonas throw: Isn’t this throw just so beautiful and colourful? It feels safe with the grey and white base and I love the pop of neon. It’s such a fun thing to have on your bed in the summer, and it’s not too thick and heavy so you won’t expire beneath it. Oliver Bonas is one of my favourite shops to browse in anyway, but only recently have I noticed the homeware. The cushions and throws in their collection are really fun and colourful – they’re all on my wish list!

*NYC haul: Tiarnan went to New York last month, and I sent him with a (rather extensive) shopping list. He came back with the Bath & Body Works three wick candle in Watermelon Lemonade which I absolutely love. Oh why can we not have Bath & Body Works in the UK?! He also bought me the Victoria’s Secret Mayfair Pyjamas, which is still the classic shirt and trouser set – but in a lighter material. Perfect as we are going into summer, now it just needs to get a bit warmer…

An April Reading List

This month’s reading list is filled with adventure stories and beautiful editions. They say “never judge a book by its cover” – but sometimes you just have to have that beautiful book. And they make amazing gifts. I have had more than my fair share of stunning books as presents, they sit proudly on my shelf and I love them. All hail beautiful covers, we need more of them around.

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*For a timeless story: The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. I rarely write about a book that I haven’t actually read here on the blog, but I feel pretty safe to do so with this one. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read the classics I’ve never got round to picking up. It’s not going that well, to be honest. The Wind in the Willows seemed like a safe one to start with – I’m excited to follow the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr Toad and Mr Badger! Also, quick note on just how beautiful this edition is. The Penguin Threads covers are made to look like a work of embroidery, with the threads running through the inside cover. There are loads of classics in the collection, so take your pick and treasure it.

*For a dark, nineteenth century New York: Church of Marvels, Leslie Parry. I have just finished this book and it is such a unique story. I picked it up thinking it would be like The Night Circus but it ended up reminding me more of Les Miserables. It follows three separate narrators – Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler who discovers an abandoned newborn baby, Odile Church, who’s twin sister Belle has disappeared following a devastating fire and Alphie, who wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. These three lives become entwined through the events of one night, and the story gradually unravels the secrets that bring the narrators together. The plot twists and turns and keeps back the biggest surprises right until the very end. Definitely worth a read.

*For the original greats: The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Everyone should read the original fairy tales. We all know and love the Disney versions, but did you ever realise the liberties they took with the original stories? Ariel didn’t just lose her voice, she had her tongue cut out. In Snow White, the Queen is forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes. Sleeping Beauty is raped! You can understand why Disney had to exclude these elements from children’s films, but now it’s time to grow up and find out what really happened. We’re always on the search for a horrifying thriller, but really we need look no further than the original fairy tales.

Creme Egg Rocky Road

Today I’ve got a special bonus post for Easter Monday (you lucky things!). There’s more than enough chocolate around at the moment, but this sugary creation is for all those discounted Creme Eggs. Beware though, you need a serious sweet tooth to fully enjoy this!

We followed this recipe (but skipped the faffing with the food colouring) and they turned out really well. They are super simple and quick to make, and only require a couple of hours in the fridge to firm up.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 150g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tbsps golden syrup
  • 180g mini Creme Eggs
  • 180g mini marshmallows
  • 150g Digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped
  • 6 Creme Eggs

TO MAKE:

Melt the butter. Add the milk chocolate, dark chocolate and golden syrup and continue to mix and melt until it’s a thick consistency. Set aside to cool slightly.

Add the mini Creme Eggs, marshmallows and Digestive biscuits. Stir until everything is well coated.

Line a baking tin with baking parchment and press in the mixture firmly. Cut the Creme Eggs in half and place on top.

Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the top. Leave in the fridge for a couple of hours until firm, cut into chunks and enjoy!

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Bank Holiday Brunching: 26 Grains

It’s been a little while since I last ventured into London on the blog, but today I’m making up for it with a great recommendation.

With the bank holiday weekend happily freeing up a sunny Friday, I decided it was about time I started ticking off some of my London bucket list. Neal’s Yard is a colourful corner of Covent Garden, tightly packed with health food eateries and, of course, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s only small, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.

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For this trip though, we had to sample London’s prettiest porridge. Absolutely dominating Instagram, 26 Grains is a teeny tiny little health cafe serving wholesome, grain based dishes. Don’t be put off by the health side though, everything they serve is ridiculously delicious.

They aren’t limited to enormous bowls of steaming porridge either. As they source their fruit and veg from local producers, their menu changes seasonally. Currently they have an enormous array of porridges (sweet and savoury) as well as bircher muesli, a winter smoothie bowl and lunch bowls if you’ve already had breakfast. They aren’t preachy about health either, and will enquire whether you want almond or whole milk in your coffee (a nice touch, I thought). Definitely worth skipping the main drag of Covent Garden for.

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Sunday Tea and Cake

Sometimes on a Sunday, only tea and cake will do.

After a Saturday raceday for Tiarnan (and countryside trek in pursuit for me) the aches had set in. We couldn’t bear to stay stuck indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon but also couldn’t quite face any serious movement. So we threw on our comfiest trainers and took a drive, in search of cake. We ended up at one of our favourite local cafes, Juliet’s.

They serve whopper slices of cake and have an enormous selection. With tea in cute, mismatched china and a little table tucked in the corner, it’s a pretty perfect way to spend the first Sunday of spring.

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Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s to sunnier days fast approaching…