Gatsby Glamour at the Prohibition Party, London

11 Jul

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When I was younger I went to see Romeo and Juliet in the cinema. I watched the whirling and twirling of dancers and theatrics, and then promptly threw up outside the cinema and had to go straight to bed. A decade later, I went to see The Great Gatsby, and promptly did the same. It seems I have an allergy to Baz Luhrmann.

However, I haven’t let this put me off the whole Gatsby thang. I loved the book, and the whole mystique of the era draws me in like a moth to a flame. I covet the feathers and jewels and downright drama of the age, and have always dreamt of being a part of it.

I’m currently doing the London thing while a friend is here and so booked us both tickets to the Prohibition Party; a night held at a secret location in London once a month.

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Elle working her magic at the roulette table

The concept is fantastic. You dress up in your best pre-war party gear, and head off to live it up in the 30s. They email you 48 hours before to tell you the location, and off you go.

Our evening was at the Bloomsbury Ballrooms, and it was like stepping back in time. We descended the stairs to be offered a 1930’s inspired cocktail before the doors swept open and we were in a room with roulette tables, a bar and a quartet band.

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We had sorted fancy dress, but to be honest, we were the most underdressed people there. There were feathers and sparkles, feather boas and flapper dresses, and braces aplenty.

When the main room opened we were treated to a cabaret act, a fantastic band and people really got into the spirit of dancing, flapper style.

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Our attempt at Gatsby glamour

The atmosphere was electric, and it was one of the best nights out I have ever had in my city. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been and wants a night out to remember.

“That is the beauty of literature.You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you are not lonely or isolated from anyone. You belong” F Scott Fitzgerald.

Have you been? Or to anything similar?

* Images via

One’s Destination Is Never A Place…

9 Jul

…. but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller.

It’s getting that way again, where my feet become restless and my heart hears the calling of the world around me, and yearns to get out there and do. Traveling is what soothes my soul and makes my heart happy, and I know there I have barely scratched the surface of what I need to explore, and the things I need to experience.

Last Christmas was rough on all of us, with having lost Granddad being so fresh in our minds, and I’ve been dreading the impending winter months, not wanting to feel the hollowness of our loss so strongly again.

So the boy and I are contemplating jetting off to see somewhere new and missing Christmas and New Year in the UK altogether. At first it was just a pipe dream (Imagine if we ditched it? Imagine if we ran away?) But the seed has been planted and I feel the roots taking hold and hopes growing from them.

So I’ve made a list (I’ve checked it twice) and I want your input.

Thailand

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Thailand has always been a place I need to see in my life, and the spark has been recently reignited by a number of friends having visited. Cheap accommodation, crystal clear seas and warm climes are some of the reasons it features so highly.

Costa Rica

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Another one that features highly on my list is Costa Rica. It’s a great place to trip to from the USA so a lot of my friends and family have been, but to me it just looks like paradise.

And also, sloths.

Venezuela

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Random choice for Christmas sun, but Venezuela comes up fairly cheap for flights in December, and sitting just south of the Caribbean, it obviously has its appeal. The angel falls sit inland, but they are a must see for the life bucket list. I must admit to not knowing too much about the area, but would love to explore.

Japan

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There is something mysterious about Japan, and it’s a place I would love to explore. Cherry blossom, snow-capped mountains and a culture like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Where is your favourite place in the world and where would you recommend to a traveller? I want all your tips!

Happy Tummy: Quinoa and Goats Cheese Burgers

7 Jul

I’m a firm believer in you get out what you put in (although I don’t always practice what I preach!) but in the summer its so much easier to eat well, and you always feel better. I absolutely adore quinoa, but am never sure how to cook it other than sticking it in a salad. I first came across this recipe on Pinterest, and have adapted it as I’ve cooked it. Its quick, easy and delicious. Try it out!

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Quinoa and Goats Cheese Burgers

  • 2 1/2 cups/12 oz/340 g cooked quinoa
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup/.5 oz /15 g finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup/.5 oz/15g goats cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup/3.5 oz /100 g bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Throw the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a bowl and add both onions, the goats cheese and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a mixture you can easily form into 1-inch/2.5cm thick burgers.

Heat the oil and fry the patties till they are brown on both sides. Takes about 6 mins on high for both sides.

I served mine with a spoonful of crème fraiche and half an avocado, although I think if you wanted to opt for a meat version a slice of chorizo or parma ham would add a little extra flavour.

Whats your favourite summer recipe?

2014 Travel – London: Staring at the City

6 Jul

Now I’m back in London, I have a friend over from the States for 2 months, and its making me do things differently. I’m experiencing the city through the eyes of a tourist and honestly, you should do it. Even in your own city. There is so much to see and do in a city so rich with culture, and getting the chance to be part of it is amazing.mklm

Yesterday we signed up for the “Alternative London Tour” which casts a path through the rich tapestry that is East London. Starting and finishing in Old Spitalfields Market (one of my favourite places to spend a sleepy Sunday) the tour weaves through Banglatown, Brick Lane and Tower Hamlets to bring you back to the start.

The art we saw was amazing. I don’t really get the view that graffiti is abhorrent – I understand that some kid writing his name in spray paint isn’t ideal for a community, but when you turn a corner and see portraiture by the medium of aerosol paint, you can’t argue that it doesn’t have its place in art history in the same was as Van Gogh or (Londoner) Tracy Emin.

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Each tiny alley or side street taught us something; the ability to look and actually see. Signposts with angel toppers cast from pigeon wings, white walls stenciled with the words “99% of people will not see this” and mosaic tags of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker; all sights we see each day but never really take the time to look at.

We wove through time, from the airy spaced, open windows of the Huguenot workspaces, to the Jewish community site that was wiped out in the Blitz, all presided over by a place of worship that had passed from Catholicism to Judaism and now stands as a Mosque. We stepped through local communities – I love that this area is rich with family run businesses and one off stores, and listened as the passion flowed from our tour guide.  The East of London is a rich dichotemy of culture, and a bustling place to check out in London. Sixty years ago it wouldn’t have been a great place to visit as a tourist, but without taking a trip to Shoreditch you miss a whole, beautiful section of London. The typical London summer weather didn’t even stop us.

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The magic of this tour is born from the experience and passion of the tour guides. The tour is also a “pay what you think its worth” basis, making normally high priced tours accessible to everyone.

If you have 48 hours in London this summer, you need to check this out.

 How do you feel about graffiti as an expression of creativity?

Getting a Handle on Adulthood

1 Jul

A few weeks ago I came across a new blog to love, Aussa Lorens. I giggled and pulled shocked faces while reading her posts, and then laughed out loud when I came across a post titled I Just Can’t, which inspired this post. Take the time to check it out, it will brighten your day.

Sometimes when driving I get an attack of  “What the hell am I doing!?” thoughts, and suddenly realise that age is advancing like wild horses, and there really isn’t anything I can do about it. But there are quite a lot of things that I do that make me realise that however many sprouting grey hairs that offend me while peering in the mirror, I really haven’t got my shit together.

I just can’t…

1# Relax during a massage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a massage, unlike my sister who (direct quote) “doesn’t like people touching” her. I love the whole build-up of going along and thinking how amazingly relaxing its going to be, and how my stresses will be wiped away with the simple touch of a trained set of hands and a splash of funky smelling essential oil, but does it ever happen like that? Nope.

I cannot chill out. when the masseuse says “just breathe deeply and relax” I tense up. I find the repeat in the panpipes music and start humming along, or I worry I might fall asleep and dribble, or I worry I might fart. All in all, not a relaxing experience. Which leads seamlessly into..

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#2 Yoga

If you thought the massage was bad, yoga is a massage on crack. You’re surrounded by a whole host of yoga type women who really get it, can strike a tree pose without getting the giggles, wobbling and falling over, and when it comes to clearing their mind and relaxing at the end, you know they are meditating for sure, and not worrying about the sell by dates of items in the fridge and where they put that Tupperware from lunch last week.

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#3 Go through security or get ID’d without feeling nervous.

I must have a really deep seated problem or been part of Al Quada in a former life, but whenever I go through the customs part of airport security at the exit end, or get ID’d in a bar, I feel nervous. I get sweaty and I feel panicked, for absolutely no reason at all. I am so far past the legal age for drinking that I can’t even remember it, and I have a valid passport and no activity to feel at all guilty for. However this still happens. I’m kind of twitchy, and weird.

4# Wear lip makeup without pulling a funny face

The stickier it is, the worse my face is. Lipstick makes my lips feel dry, and anything glossy and sticky makes me inadvertently smack my lips together, like a fish out of water. It’s not a good look, or very classy.

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5# Go to sleep without checking under the bed

This is a new one, but a year (yes, a year) ago, the boy and I watched the whole of Luther from start to finish (it’s a really good detective series in the UK, with Idris Elba). Anyway, horror or suspense things don’t really bother me, however there was this one episode where a killer snuck into these girls house and hid under the bed for hours before killing them all in their sleep. So now I check under the bed, unless its in my flat where I know that its stuffed so full of winter clothes and duvets that no one is getting in there. You know, JUST IN CASE.

What can’t you get to grips with?

Let Us Read, Let Us Dance – Voltaire

18 Jun

I used to be that kid in school who always had her nose in a book. I didn’t mind what it was; I was a reader, from cereal boxes to classics and everything in between. As I have gotten older my need to read hasn’t diminished, but the time I allocate to it has. I hate to say I’m too busy as I honestly feel that you provide time for the things you value, but after a day in the office I come home to the boy, make dinner, and we chill out together, or I see friends. Reading is a pretty solitary activity (unless you are in a reading club) and it’s hard to share it with other people, so it tends to take a back seat to spending time with people.

But since I have been in New York and found myself with a lot more solitary time, my age-old best friend is back. Evenings are spent curled up on the sofa exploring different people’s lives and taking adventures with new friends, and weekends with no plans become long days laying in a sunny park, visiting lands afar and dreaming big dreams.

So I wanted to talk about a few I have read recently:

Work In Progress:

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This book was a recommendation from my friends Anne and Elle, and is the memoirs of a New York Times food critic. I’m super in love with it as it plays up to my other passion, cooking, and is detailing places in NYC that I have visited in the last few weeks; mentioning streets I have walked down and areas I’ve seen. Its one of those ones you will read really quickly, immersing yourself in until its done and you feel like you might want to start again.

Returned to the Library:

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Was slightly confused by this one. I typically don’t enjoy books that claim to be ‘bestsellers’ I think it gives you a higher expectation in the start, which means you can never fully appreciate it for what it is. I had the same experience with ‘Gone Girl’ (which is still a few chapters read and discarded, waiting for a plane journey or another opportunity to really give it a good go) and I’ve found it hard. The story is pretty anecdotal and quite easy to read – the main character has a colourful history of meetings with Chairman Mao, Reagan and Stalin, but it’s definitely one to decide for yourself.

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Last time I was in California my aunt was reading this and said it was beautiful. I avoided it till now on the basis that it was probably a chick lit style book which I tend to shy away from, but it’s beautiful. So beautiful that I cried on the subway and became one of those people you tend to avoid. The crazies.

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This wasn’t a book I would normally choose, but im glad I did. A son is accused of shooting a senator, and the story shapes around the father and his quest to find out the truth. It’s quite hard to get into but I stayed with it, and felt rewarded that I did.

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I love Bridget. I read her growing up, and then I watched her transform into film, and all the while I understood her and totally got it. I was worried that a book where Mark Darcy is missing wasn’t a book I wanted to read, but it took me less than 48 hours to get through, and the boy presumed me dead for the entire time, so still was I reading it in our room. I love the fact that Fielding has dragged Bridget into the modern age, and loved her tweets.

What are you currently reading? A great place for recommendations is Victoria Writes. And she has a cute kitten too….

Things I’ve Learnt In New York

13 Jun DSC_0075

For a city that speaks the same language, London and New York have a lot more differences than I had intially thought.

  • A biscuit isn’t a biscuit. A cookie is a biscuit. A biscuit is actually a bread roll. The mind boggles.
  • Anything with cheese flavouring tastes really fake and is bright orange.
  • They don’t spell flavouring right.
  • Despite speaking the same language, I am very difficult to understand.
  • A hamper here is a dirty laundry basket. I learnt that one that hard way, presenting a case study on gift hamper success to a large group of people.

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  • It’s not customary to let people off the subway before you get on. It makes me feel very British, and highly irritated.
  • The subway is a whole new beast. It’s not like the tube. It goes all sorts of ways on different days, it stops in funny places, sometimes it doesn’t stop and the announcer man talks so quietly that one can only guess what he said.
  • A pizza pie is a whole pizza, rather than a slice. I thought it was a calzone (it seemed sensible to me)
  • Cockroaches are much bigger than I thought. MUCH BIGGER.

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  • The pound sign isn’t a pound sign. It means the hash sign. Imagine my confusion when on the phone being prompted to press the pound sign. In my head I’m picturing the (£). The American voice on the phone is meaning the (#). Luckily I could call a fuzzy memory from my American colleague and pressed in the nick of time, but I had total phone pressure.
  • The chocolate tastes funny.

Have you been to New York? What did you find different to your city?

2014 Travel – The New York Edit: The Statue of Liberty

12 Jun DSC_0049

The Statue of Liberty has been on my bucket list for the longest of time. Its an iconic monument and ive always felt that it would be a really interesting place to visit. Imagine having left your life and spent months on a boat crossing the ocean; cramped conditions, poverty, sadness, and then out of nowhere, when you feel like you have finally lost the will to live, looms a statuesque woman, holding the torch of liberty and guiding you from the old world to the new. Does anything seem more magical?

I got to New York and booked the visit. Top Tip – and one I didn’t know about – if you want to visit the crown and take in the views from there, you need to book 4 months in advance. Cue huge sad faces from me, and a need to pull my socks up and go visit what I could see.

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The ferry trip was amazing. I was one of the smug few who had got on top of the ferry and headed for the side looking away from the statue, as opposed to the scores of people all hanging off the side where you could see her in the distance. I had actually thought about it, and figured that the boat would have to turn to head towards the island, and therefore I would eventually be on the right side for the money shot. Mwahahahaha. I was. Excellent.

When we got to the island, we were presented with free audio tours (take note, Harry Potter tour and your pricy, on-top-of-the-ticket-price audio tour) and I learnt some pretty amazing things about Lady Liberty herself, I was on statue geek cloud nine.

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I love this photo. It looks like she is presiding over Manhattan

Did you Know? Although she looks like a solid mass, the statue of liberty is actually constructed like a bridge? They built her frame and then cloaked it in large copper sheets, moulded to her shape. So she is actually only the thickness of two pennies. This is due to the speed of the winds in the bay, and to prevent her from cracking under the force.

She is made of copper, which is why she is green. For the first two years, she was the same colour as a penny.

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One of her designers was Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who later went on to lend his name to the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Have you ever been? What icon have you always wanted to visit?

2014 Travel – The New York Edit: Molly’s Cupcakes

11 Jun 2

I flippin’ love cupcakes. The good ones. The ones you bite into and they are soft and full of flavour, covered in frosting, and the more intricate the better. I love the light flavours the most – your lemons, peaches and berry flavours; I’m not a huge fan of the chocolate varieties (I know this makes me a strange person) and I can’t stand the overly sweet ones either. I like my frosting to taste like frosting, not sugar (that’s probably the slightly late to the party diabetic in me, kicking in).

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An example of a fantastic cupcake, as photographed by moi

There are tons of places that do cupcakes really badly though, aren’t there? The ones where you want to drown your sorrows in cake, and are left only partially submerged at the end, or the ones where you have been to the gym and feel a cupcake is the only way forward, and you inhale the calories and are very, very disappointed.

If you are looking for a cupcake like that then this review isn’t for you and I’m sorry (not sorry) that I can’t be of service.

HOWEVER….

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When wandering around my new neighbourhood one Sunday morning a few weeks ago (lost) I stumbled across Molly’s Cupcakes. Sure, a cupcake is perfect breakfast fodder, so I sat down to regroup and munched on a ‘peach cobbler’ cupcake.

Oh.My.Word.

The little shop is packed with fantastic flavours, and the best thing? The frostings are more like whipped cream, and really not too sweet. I took the boy back there when he was visiting, and we split a butterscotch caramel and a lemon meringue. Amazing. Divine.

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MUST EAT ALL THE FLAVOURS!

My only concern? When I go back to London in 2 weeks I might have withdrawal symptoms from these babies.

If you have the good fortune to be in Chicago, Iowa City or New York City, then you absolutely have to stop by. Ive never beenb so excited by anything in my entire life, and if you know me, youll know this is apretty big thing.

As Marie Antionette did or didn’t say, “Let them eat cake!”

Find them here: Molly’s Cupcakes | 228 Bleecker Street | New York City | New York | 10014

2014 Travel – The New York Edit: Murray’s Cheese Bar

9 Jun 2

Everyone knows I LOVE cheese. Its one of those things that features heavily in my day to day, and I often don’t even bother opting for the dessert menu, plumping instead for the cheese.

So imagine my delight when walking down the street in my adopted neighbourhood, I spotted Murray’s Cheese Bar.

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I waited till the boy arrived for his trip and casually pointed it out on a walk around the neighbourhood. “But we can’t JUST have cheese for tea?” I said out loud, while the little voice inside me screamed “WHYEVERNOT?!” “Yes we can” he responded, and my love for him was cemented forever. He gets the cheese.

We went in, and I nearly cried when I looked at the menu. Half is a list of actual meals that include cheese (think heavy on the mac and cheese, people!) and the other half has a Chef’s Selection, and a list of ‘flights’. These are three chesses paired with (if you wish) three wines that compliment, and the menu details the cheese, location and a short description of it, often including words like buttery and unctuous (great word).

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Image sourced from Murray’s Instagram feed

We opted for the chefs selection, 8 meats and cheeses picked for you by the cheese sommelier (1 – what a fantastic job and 2 – sounds like smellier, perfect for cheese :) ). When asked if there was anything I didn’t like I gave a blank and confused look and uttered “I.LIKE.CHEESE” while the boy was less struck for words and explained that he didn’t like blue cheese (I fear there might be something slightly wrong with him but lets gloss over that) I think as the waiter left I totally lost any composure I had and hollered “THE SMELLIER THE BETTER!” – Luckily I was among friends and everyone sympathised with my excitement.

On that note, I didn’t manage to take any photos. I thought I had, and when I got home I was devastated to find that I hadn’t captured anything. So the photos used in this post are from the Instagram feed of Murray’s Cheese Bar (phew!)

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Image credits as above

It was awesome. Soft cheese, hard cheese, semi hard cheese, rinded cheese – it was all there. Pecorino (Italy), Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue (NY), Aged Goat Gouda (Holland)… they were all there. Any paired with some lovely accompaniments like caramel and honey, they were to die for.

My advice? If you have a dairy intolerance, probably best to steer clear. Otherwise, if you are in New York (specifically the West Village) get a table and enjoy a blissful dinner. It’s been the highlight of New York for me so far.

Murray’s Cheese Bar | 264 Bleecker Street | West Village NYC | 646-476-8882

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