A March Reading List

Supposedly spring is on its way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still freaking freezing outside. There may be daffodils and even some lambs about, but they are hardly basking in the spring sunshine. So I’m continuing my winter hibernation and, if you are too, these are the books I suggest you occupy yourself with…

P1030781 (2)P1030789 (2)

*For something a little special: When God Was a Rabbit, Sarah Winman. I’ve just finished Sarah Winman’s new book, A Year of Marvellous Ways, and to be honest I didn’t love it. The prose is completely beautiful, to the point of being poetic, but the story was lost in the words and I didn’t feel anything for the characters. Happily though, I was reminded of how much I loved her debut – When God Was a Rabbit. Set in two halves with the protagonist Elly as first a child, and then an adult, it follows the lives and loves of her, her brother and their family and friends. The story is  beautifully told and completely captivating, Elly’s voice will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

*For a slice of history: A Dangerous Inheritance, Alison Weir. Anyone searching for historical fiction will be directed straight to Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. I love Philippa Gregory, but after devouring her entire Cousin’s War series, I was left wanting more – which lead me to Alison Weir. A Dangerous Inheritance follows both Lady Katherine Grey, rival to Queen Elizabeth I’s throne, and Kate Plantagent, bastard daughter of Richard III, who are linked by history’s most famous murder mystery, the Princes in the Tower. It’s a completely absorbing story and you just might find yourself learning something along the way.

*For a bit of excitement: The Bones of You, Debbie Howells. I have just finished this new(ish) psychological thriller and I’m still reeling. Set in an idyllic village, The Bones of You is told from the point of view of Kate, a local mother, as she comes to know the Anderson family following the disappearance of their eldest daughter. Debbie Howells creates and tears apart her characters in a complex story of twisted minds and destructive relationships set against a beautiful landscape. The cleverness of the story and her characters is what makes it such a thrilling read, rather than constant action. But, believe me, there’s still plenty of fast-paced action to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Afternoon Tea with the Biscuiteers

When in England, afternoon tea is a must.

Whether you want to have afternoon tea on the Thames while watching the Houses of Parliament and Southbank sail past, or melt into enormous sofas at the Ritz or Savoy, London has an afternoon tea for every occasion. But they all come at a steep price. Today, I have a great alternative for you.

The Biscuiteers, with boutique cafes in Notting Hill and Battersea, is absolutely not to be missed. Starting out as an online biscuit gift company, every biscuit is handmade and individually iced by artists. They are simply the most beautiful biscuits I have ever come across. Their boutique cafes are pretty small but absolutely gorgeous, and they do a London Afternoon Tea!

Their London Afternoon tea includes a selection of their iconic biscuits, alongside finger sandwiches, scones and cakes. We were a little disappointed that there was only one bite-sized scone each (as great scone lovers), but for just £48 for two people it is one of London’s most reasonably priced afternoon teas.

123.png4.JPG5.JPG

The Biscuiteers aren’t limited to biscuits though, they also do chocolate and cake gifts and offer bespoke services so you can commission whatever you want. They’re also not limited to London, they have worldwide shipping so you can enjoy these treats wherever you are.

Even if you can’t make it to their afternoon tea any time soon, their biscuits make incredible gifts – or just something special to treat yourself to!

A London Bucket List

As you all know from my 2016 Goals post, exploring London is one of my resolutions. There’s just so much to do here, you can never run out of inspiration. As promised, I am blogging all of my adventures, but I’ve been creating a mental list of ‘places to visit’ for quite a while now and I thought it was about time I shared.

Whether you live here, are planning a trip or just need some inspiration for your own hometown, I hope this comes in handy!

IMG_0301 (2)

*26 Grains: This is top because it was my obsession with wanting to go here that inspired this blog post! Neal’s Yard is a little crook of Covent Garden that I’m desperate to explore anyway, but 26 Grains serves up London’s prettiest porridge. If you like Instagramming your food, bookmark this one.

*Bob Bob Ricard: This wonderfully eccentric restaurant is decorated in the style of a first-class dining car of an Edwardian train, with Art Deco booths and the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button. It’s a little pricey so best saved for a special occasion.

*Columbia Road Flower Market: A blogger’s favourite. If you haven’t admired pictures of the blooms at Columbia Road, I strongly suggest you do. East London’s flower market is open every Sunday and with independent shops and cafes also lining the street, there’s plenty to explore after picking your bunch.

*Madison: Famed for it’s incredible view of St Pauls, I am cheating a little bit here because I’ve already visited this rooftop bar. But that was a few years ago and I’m itching to go back! With an amazing cocktail menu and plenty of tapas to choose from, this is the perfect stop for evening drinks.

P1020776 (3).JPGIMG_1068 (2)

*National Portrait Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style: I love the National Portrait Gallery, it is easily my favourite museum in London. Their Audrey Hepburn exhibition caused quite a stir last summer (and it was amazing), but I’m now desperate to visit Vogue 100. Celebrating British Vogue’s centenary by showcasing its photography through the years, this one is a magazine junkie’s dream.

*Duck & Waffle: London’s highest restaurant and open 24/7 – I’d love to get up super early and watch the sun rise over London from here. The lift is almost as well known as the restaurant itself, glass-sided and ‘express’, it whizzes you up those 40 floors in unbeatable style!

*Modern Pantry: Apparently, this is the spot to eat amazing eggs. Though to be honest, it was the seating thar first caught my attention. Set in a traffic-free courtyard which acts as a suntrap, it sounds like the perfect place for a casual, alfresco brunch one summery weekend. 

*Go to the ballet: When I was younger, I was a very keen dancer so I’ve been lucky enough to see a few ballets in London. It’s been a few years though, and I’d love to go back. My preference would be The Nutcracker (because is there anything more festive?) but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that looks interesting before next Christmas.       

How to Spend… February

Can anyone else feel that sense of spring in the air? Temperatures are still pretty low, but the days are getting longer, brighter clothes are starting to pop up in the shops and there are even some daffodils blooming. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to wear something other than a jumper and jeans. And there’s plenty to be getting on with until spring fully arrives. With pancakes to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday, cards to be sent on Valentine’s Day and a whole extra day on the 29th – have a great month!

P1030765 (2).JPGIMG_1881 (2)

*Buy yourself freshly cut flowers: You don’t need a Valentine to have flowers in your house this month. Treat yourself! There’s just something so uplifting about having flowers around, they give a sense of life when the weather is still bleak outside. And, when you’re buying flowers for yourself, you can pick your favourites. Skip the clichéd (and extortionate) red roses for some daffodils to remind you that spring is on it’s way.

*Rethink your resolutions: Now is about the time that the New Year’s resolutions become a distant memory. If they are too hard don’t admit defeat, just alter them. Perhaps going to the gym every day was unrealistic, so change it to every other day. If that is what it takes to keep you on track and doing something positive then it’s a good thing, not a failure. Or, perhaps they are a little too easy, so with that confidence the first month has given you – amp them up!

*Create a new bedtime routine: January tends to be a bit crazy, adjusting back into work after the Christmas break, but we’re firmly back in those routines now. With the peace of Christmas (and the large food babies) it was easy to drift off to sleep, but with the worries of work, emails buzzing around our heads and plans forming for the following day, it can be harder to get some proper sleep. Spend some time creating a new bedtime routine to make sure you get to sleep when you need to. Turn off all those electrical devices (resist the temptation to check Instagram before bed!) and have a bath, read a book or make a cup of tea. A proper night’s sleep makes the world of difference the following day.

*Take something up for Lent: Ah, Lent. Just as we’re halfheartedly trying to keep our resolutions on track, we throw Lent into the mix. I always find that giving something up is quite a negative attitude. Telling yourself you can’t have something is guaranteed to make you want that one thing. So, rather than giving up chocolate, take up having fruit instead. You can still have chocolate when you really want it, but you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot less of it. Instead of giving up alcohol, take up making mocktails. Take up running, cooking or even an earlier bedtime. This kind of positive attitude to achieving something will make those 40 days and 40 nights fly past!

Brighton’s Favourite: Cafe Coho

I always jump at the chance to visit Brighton. It’s just such a happening place. Whether you visit in summer to sit on the beach, eat ice creams and pick your favourite beach hut, or in winter to duck in and out of the shops in the Lanes and find the best cafe for tea, there’s always something to do.

After spending the morning wandering around the Lanes, Tiarnan and I felt in need of a spot of lunch. Located in the heart of Brighton’s famous lanes and just two minutes away from the beach, Cafe Coho seemed a great shout.

IMG_1787 (2)

Cafe Coho occupies a Grade II listed building on Ship Street. With free wi-fi and over 60 seats, including outdoor seating with blankets, it’s the perfect place to hide away with a book for a couple of hours. It has also won the accolade ‘Brighton’s Best Loved Cafe’ – a big claim.

The vibe is rustic and friendly. With exposed brickwork and reclaimed wooden surfaces, the seating is a bit squished but that adds to the cosy atmosphere. They also have a pretty good food selection, although I’d recommend stopping by for a snack rather than a full on meal (but I have heard their breakfast is particularly good). It is their coffee they are proudest of, though. With a good selection and the promise of latte art, it’s a fun place to stop for a caffeine pick-me-up.

IMG_1775 (2)IMG_1765 (2)

If I’m honest, I’m not in a tearing hurry to go back. It’s nice, but I prefer the warm, bready smell and delicious cake selection at the Flour Pot Bakery in Sidney Street. But then Brighton is all about the eclectic mix of cafes and if you’re into your coffee, this is a great one to check out.

A Few Favourites: January

So there it is, the first month of 2016 done and dusted. We began the year setting off fireworks at midnight, comparing New Year’s resolutions, taking down the Christmas decorations (sob) and heading back to work.

Despite threats of a serious case of January blues setting in, it’s actually been a fun and busy month. Temperatures have dropped, we’re thanking the high heavens for the car’s seat warmers and even awoke one Sunday morning to a dusting of snow. Tiarnan and I were lucky enough to escape on a spa break, and having massages, chilling in the Jacuzzi and generally being waited on was more than enough to banish any post-Christmas sadness.

So onwards and upwards to February – the month of all things lurve. I plan on spending it under a duvet waiting for winter to pass…

IMG_1799

*Turtlenecks: I have always had two clothing obsessions: white lace and stripes. After banning myself from buying anything stripey (because it really did get that out of control), I seem to have developed a new love… Turtlenecks. They are everywhere at the moment, and with good reason. There’s just nothing warmer! And somehow they manage to keep you feeling toasty while still looking good. I do enjoy a good blanket scarf, but they can leave my hair looking somewhat mad professor-ish. With the turtleneck, you don’t even need a scarf. All hail the turtleneck!

*Kindle: Ah, my Kindle. I’ve had it for over two years and we have a bit of an on-off relationship if I’m honest. It always comes out for summer holidays, but most of the time I just want to hold an actual book. But a combination of countless train journeys and getting back into Game of Thrones (hello enormous books) has made the two of us best friends. I can take it everywhere without even noticing I have it and any book I want to read is only a tap away.

Picture6

*Back to basics make-up: After all the glitter and excitement of festive make-up, I thought I’d be sad to see it go. As it happens, I’ve gone completely the other way. Heavy on skincare, light on make-up has been the way of January. For a polished but minimal look I’ve been absolutely loving my Urban Decay Naked Basics palette. The shades are mainly matte, but still beautifully creamy and so easy to blend. I’ve also been loving my Dermalogica skin smoothing cream, it feels like such a skin treat after a long day!

*The Mae Deli: One of my New Year’s resolutions is to explore London more, and this has to be my favourite January find. I wrote all about it here so I won’t bang on, but it’s such a friendly, welcoming place and everything is super healthy and so delicious. Deliciously Ella has generally been on it this month with her new book as well, and I’m excited to get recipe testing in February!

*The fit life: This month has been all about counteracting the festive indulgences. I’ve been hitting the gym and really enjoying it for the first time in a while. I also took on the 30 day squat challenge and I’ve absolutely loved it, I would highly recommend doing a 30 day challenge to feel great about yourself! Tiarnan and I have been creating healthy dinners together each evening and visiting juice bars to decide on our favourite (I’ll report back on that…) It’s very typical to be all about fitness in January, so let’s hope it continues.

Little Luxuries to Get Through Winter

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. Winter is a bloody miserable time.

We fantasise about hot chocolates, log fires, building snowmen and fresh days with clear blue skies. Sometimes this is the reality. But there’s also the flip side – forgetting your umbrella, freezing on station platforms and a severe vitamin D deficiency. And on top of that, we’re punishing ourselves with New Year’s resolutions rather than hibernating as we should be. We’ve just had ‘Blue Monday’, and I don’t blame us for feeling a bit down.

So to cheer everything up, I’ve come up with a list of little luxuries we need to get through winter. They’re nothing too crazy, just small things to make life that bit more comfortable. Because after all, it is winter and we deserve a treat.

P1030719 (3).JPG

*An enormous scarf: And by enormous, I really do mean enormous. I mean so big it could double up as a picnic blanket. I bought one last year when the cold in Newcastle just got too much and I haven’t looked back. They’re great as a scarf (obviously), but are also the best thing to travel with as they double up as a pillow or a blanket. This Christmas, I even snuck some presents home underneath it! I’ve currently got my eye on this one from Zara.

*Gorgeous knitwear: Spend that little bit more on your knitwear and you won’t regret it. Jumpers are my all time favourite thing (and I have far too many of them), but if you’re savvy and buy good quality ones, they will last for years. Topshop is my favourite place to buy knitwear, they have so many cool designs and aren’t astronomically priced. Top tip: try to avoid buying knitwear online, always test the quality before buying.

P1030718 (2)P1030715 (2)

*Luxurious handcream: Everything drys up in winter. Chapped lips and dry hands are, in my opinion, the absolute worst. Treat yourself to a lovely handcream and keep it on your bedside table or in your handbag so you actually remember to use it. The Soap & Glory handcreams are my all-time favourites, they sink in super quickly, are the perfect portable size and aren’t too pricey (yippee!). Cowshed is another gorgeous brand if you’re looking for something a little special.

*Scented candles: Nothing makes a home cosier than a scented candle. I have a million favourites, but The White Company candles are some of the very best. There’s a huge range of scents, from fruity to spicey to herbal to floral and you can buy everything from cute little tealights to enormous pillar candles. These medium size pillar candles are my favourite, they look gorgeous and smell incredible.

*A new cookbook: Winter is the perfect time for taste testing new recipes – we need delicious food for miserable evenings. Deliciously Ella Every Day landed on my doorstep last week, and I haven’t been so excited by a cookbook in a long time. It focuses on super healthy food that is quick to make with ingredients that are easy to track down and basic equipment. Whether you are mastering a veggie paella or a chocolate fudge cake, nothing warms the soul like food does.

The Pinafore Dress

Pinafore dresses and dungarees are everywhere. They have been for a while. And I’m very happy to admit, I was not at all sure about them when the trend started. Now, I’m in love.

I’m still not convinced that they are the most flattering thing in the world, but there’s just something effortlessly cool about them. When you wear a pinafore dress, you look like you’ve really put some thought into your outfit – but actually you haven’t. You can just throw it on, be warm and comfortable but still look stylish. Win win!

P1030639 (2)

It was this Topshop dress that changed my mind. Isn’t the colour just amazing? I don’t own anything this shade, and it’s so wonderful for autumn and winter. I also love it because it’s made really thick cord, so it’s actually really warm. Paired with a turtle neck (as I’ve done here), it’s perfect for these chilly January days we’re having.

I like to keep the colours pretty neutral, but stripes underneath it would also look amazing. With boots and a nice big scarf, this will be one of my wardrobe staples until spring. If you’re not a fan of the burgundy, they also have a very popular navy option here.

One word of warning for you, it is very short. So perhaps size up or opt for extra thick tights to avoid any accidental flashes!

P1030650 (2)Picture5P1030643 (3)

A Healthy Sunday Breakfast

Sundays are for lazy breakfasts, right?

This morning, Tiarnan and I fancied whipping something up rather than eating yet another bowl of porridge, but with New Year’s resolutions hanging over us we passed on the traditional fry up. Instead, we created an entirely guilt-free feast which (and here’s the best part) is a complete doddle to make! Say hello to our resolution-friendly-but-still-delicious Sunday breakfast creation: tropical smoothies and banana pancakes.

P1030682 (2)

*TROPICAL SMOOTHIE

If I’m honest, yellow smoothies are more Tiarnan’s thing than mine (I’m all about the pink ones, which I shared in A Super Simple Smoothie) but a cup of sunshine is undoubtedly the best way to start a Sunday when it’s miserable outside. This one is super thick and creamy, so you could just blitz up extra and have it for breakfast on its own. However, Sunday is for feasting, and it makes the perfect accompaniment to the pancakes.

For a smoothie that can serve two, all you need is one banana, a couple of handfuls of mango, an equal amount of pineapple, a dollop of vanilla yoghurt and a splash of apple juice. Blitz it it up and you’re done!

This smoothie is a really thick one, as mango and banana are good as smoothie bases alone and yoghurt really bulks it out. If you don’t love that so much, skip the yoghurt or just add more apple juice or pineapple.

P1030693 (2).JPGP1030697 (2)

*BANANA PANCAKES

These pancakes take just two ingredients. Two ingredients. (Although we cheated and used three). However, they are still deliciously light and fluffy and taste like banana bread and french toast rolled into one. They are also super quick and easy to make. And they don’t need to be reserved as a Sunday treat, have them every day if you want!

All you need is one extra ripe banana and two large eggs (and that’s it!).

Mash the banana well until there are no large lumps, then whisk in the two eggs. If you like you can add vanilla (for extra flavouring – we did), baking powder (to make them super light and fluffy) or anything else to flavour them, like cinnamon, honey or cocoa powder.

Pour small amounts of the batter in to a hot frying pan, and flip when the first side is done. Wait for the other side to cook and you’re done! You should manage 6-8 small pancakes. Top with whatever you feel like. I personally love maple syrup and blueberries, but extra banana, honey, cinnamon, granola or whatever takes your fancy will also be delicious.    

The Mae Deli Breakfast

Today I’ve got the best kind of treat for you. A guilt free one.

The Mae Deli has been on my radar ever since it opened late last year. Opened by Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) and her fiance Matthew, Ella is a health goddess to anyone in the know, with her inspiring Instagram and bestselling cookbook. Now, you can enjoy her food without risking a disaster in the kitchen. In fact, you don’t even need to enter a kitchen!

IMG_1649 (2)

I usually find these health cafes over-priced, not that tasty and a bit, well, intimidating. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by The Mae Deli. It is a little on the pricey side I grant you, but I feel that you really get what you pay for. The ingredients are great, the food is delicious and the smoothies are pretty enormous (Tiarnan and I couldn’t finish ours!) The atmosphere is very cosy and welcoming, and the staff are absolutely lovely. Also, Ella and Matthew are running around like everyone else – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fan girl.

We went for breakfast (we’d particularly recommend the avocado on rye bread and the bircher muesli – both delicious!) but they also have plenty of mains for lunch and dinner, and all kinds of sweet treats and snacky options throughout the day. There are also plenty of hot drinks, smoothies and cold pressed juices on offer. And, if you hadn’t quite got your fill, there is Mae granola and rye bread for sale and signed Deliciously Ella cookbooks, so you can take a slice of The Mae Deli/Deliciously Ella life away with you for your own kitchen.

IMG_1652 (2)IMG_1653 (2)

They are in a great location, tucked away just behind Selfridges at Marble Arch. I’m excited for warmer days when we can pop in for a smoothie and enjoy it while strolling around Hyde Park. But while chilly January is still here, I’d highly recommend waiting for a seat (space is a little tight to be prepared to queue), sinking into their baby blue cushions and taking your time over food so delicious, you won’t even realise it’s guilt-free.