Tuesday 23 December 2014

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

After weeks of Christmas festivities and more alcohol than I'd care to admit, I was in dire need of sleep. But on reflection, I reminded myself that it's only Christmas once a year, so instead I set my alarm early (well... early by my standards!) and sought out the London Christmas markets - a must see if you visit London over Christmas.

First stop: Winter Wonderland. Despite going back every single year, Winter Wonderland never loses it's charm. There's everything you could ever need - food, craft stalls, ice-skating and rides. When you become hungry, there's so many different types of food on offer, it's quite daunting! In my personal opinion you just can't beat a bit of pork - whether it's hog roast or currywurst. This time we opted for a cup o' pulled pork with a side of sweet potato fries which were very satisfactory given the cold snap in Hyde Park that day.

I love looking at the confectionery stalls. Especially iced biscuits with cheeky messages:

And if you like sweets, then you'll love this game where you can win massive bars of chocolate:

Winter Wonderland is the perfect place for Christmas drinks with friends. My favourite places are the alpine / wooden chalet type huts in the village and the carousel bar which actually moves!

By about 1pm Winter Wonderland was absolutely heaving with people, so we decided to venture elsewhere. Just a short tube ride away, we moved to the South Bank to check out the Christmas markets. It was the perfect time for a hot drink. We found two ladies with a hot chocolate stall who sold a variety of different flavours including; chilli, raspberry, cinnamon rose, orange... We had mint hot chocolate and gingerbread hot chocolate which warmed our hands up nicely.

By this point it was growing dark and getting chilly - which sadly meant that our hot drinks didn't stay hot long... :( Martin invited me back to his where we had plenty more hot drinks and caught up on episodes of The Walking Dead. SO GOOD!

Have you visited any of the London Christmas markets?

Thursday 18 December 2014


I don't know about you, but for me, nothing feels more Christmassy (spelling?) than gingerbread. Whether it's subtlety adding a little something extra to your morning latte, or in glorious crunchy, crumbly biscuit form, that warming, spiced bit of heaven is just what you need when the weather takes a turn for the worst. And did I mention ginger's health benefits? Perfect for combating sickness - both travel and morning sickness - stomach aches, fatigue and colds. But also really good for blood circulation. There really is no better time of the year to indulge in a bit of ginger.

I absolutely love gingerbread. This has become increasingly obvious to everyone around me. Especially this week where I went on what can only be described a gingerbread frenzy. And here's what a gingerbread frenzy looks like:

Twinings gingerbread green tea - I was a bit nervous about this one as I really dislike their lemon and ginger green tea (the ginger in that one is wayyy too spicy to enjoy). But Twinings have got the gingerbread blend absolutely perfect here.

Monin gingerbread syrup - Yep, exactly the sort of thing you'll see in your local coffee shop. But my beef is that said local coffee shops only ever do gingerbread lattes - not hot chocolate - and I'm not a coffee drinker. Not just suited to hot drinks, syrups are also great in cocktails, baking, and as a topping on ice cream. 

Ready Brek gingerbread porridge - This was the first time I'd tried Ready Brek. I'm not a fan of the super sweet varieties of porridge, so was happy that Ready Brek wasn't really sweet. It's a decent porridge, but my only complaint is that I really wouldn't know it was gingerbread porridge unless you told me. It didn't really smell or taste gingery so I felt cheated.

Wax Lyrical Gingerbread candle - I have always loved the idea of a gingerbread candle. I didn't even think they existed. Then I managed to track one down the other day. It's always a bit of a gamble buying candles off the Internet because you never know how good they'll smell. Luckily this one actually DOES smell like gingerbread and it's a nice wintery scent rather than a sickly sweet one.

Do you like gingerbread?

Sunday 14 December 2014

Things I love most about winter

Chunky knitwear with arms long enough to shield fingers from the cold

Christmas cups at Costa and Starbucks

Christmas movies with copious amounts of hot chocolate topped with cream

Wearing my Timberlands in the snow

Layering with over-sized knitwear 

Knitted throws on beds and chairs. And long socks

Minimalist Christmas decorations

Dimmed lights and more candles than you can shake a stick at

Watching our cats play in the snow

Wearing knitted jumper dresses with bare legs

What are your favourite things about this season?

Saturday 6 December 2014

Red velvet cupcake wine and a very warming winter stew

Bonjour! The last few days have passed in a blur of cake, boissons chaudes, crazy French driving and arctic conditions. We didn't expect it to be that cold in Paris - resulting in me wearing pretty much all the clothes I'd packed every single day in order to stay warm. After spending a few days in the city, we caught the last train back to London and used the day after to recuperate. Having the house to ourselves, we went into town to stock up, and made the most of the kitchen. To drink we had this bottle of Red Velvet Cupcake wine which we've found in Marks & Spencer before. Previously we bought it for the novelty factor, but ended up actually really enjoying it's smooth consistency and chocolatey notes.

To start we cooked scallops and chorizo in a lemon garlic butter sauce

We also picked up some cod to make our homemade Spanish inspired fish stew. 
With lots of herbs, tomatoes and paprika, it's the perfect pick-me-up for a chilly day.

Crusty olive bread was ideal for dipping into that wonderfully smokey rich sauce.

To finish, we had chocolate melt in the middle puddings

Having been in Versailles the day before, we watched Marie Antoinette, trying to recognise all the different rooms of the chateau, scarcely believing that we were on French soil less than 24 hours ago! Paris pictures to follow!

Monday 17 November 2014

Back to Shaka Zuku

Shaka Zulu is a South African themed restaurant that never fails to make me feel like royalty. I've been a few times now and wrote about my experiences eating crocodile and zebra here. This time we tried the set menu and went for their two course meal. To start we had springbok carpaccio with a parmesan crust. I know that slices of raw meat isn't to everyone's taste, but it was soft and delicate and the cheese complimented it well.

We drank peach bellinis to see the weekend in.

We weren't overly impressed with the choice of main meals on their set menu. I mean spit roast could have been interesting, but the meat that day didn't really appeal to us. It was one of those meats you just have to be in the mood for, you know? So we went for steak. A classic. I'm used to lots of places doing very over-priced steak and not getting much for your buck, but at Shaka Zulu I was really impressed with the amount of meat on the plate. In fact I struggled to finish it all...but when meat is that good you have to go for it! ;) I opted for medium rare because of the carnivore that I am.

None of the desserts on the set menu screamed out to us, so instead we sat in the bar a while longer before going back to my place. Novelty meats, cocktails and beautiful surroundings... what better way to see in the weekend?!

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Debenhams purse

You know how it is. You have a purse that has been with you for years. It's falling apart and quite frankly, embarrassing to pull out when settling the bill in a restaurant or doing the weekly shop. But because of that emotional attachment - knowing that it has been there for you all these years and has travelled with you from country to country - you just can't bear to part with it. I experienced this first-hand with a purse that had seen me through university, right up until the present day.

Purse shopping was incredibly difficult because no matter how hard I searched, nothing I found matched up to a Mulberry. £200-£300 may sound like a lot of money, but I saw it as an investment. Consider this: I haven't changed my purse since I was seventeen. So it's not like I chop and change at every opportunity I get. A new purse would potentially last me years.

But I had a think about it, and decided that I would rather save the money for travelling and nice meals out. Just when I was about to give up, I discovered this beauty in Debenhams:

Isn't it lovely? This John Rocha purse retails at roughly £30 - a huge saving on what I could have easily spent. I don't know about you, but I find it very Mulberry-esque with the buttery soft leather and the postman's lock fastening.

Although it looks yellowy here, it's actually a cream sort of colour. It's a much smaller purse that what I had before, but still has plenty of space with individual compartments for cards, coins and cash. The interior is really pretty with a grey lining and big white polka dots. It's definitely much more of a grown up purse to suit my 20 something year old self!

My pictures are from the weekend when we were blessed with blue skies one afternoon. The trees in Martin's garden are incredible. The leaves change from green to yellow, to orange, to burnt orange, to a deep red. But never uniformly - they all change colours at different times and the rainbow effect is just beautiful. All the leaves are red now and most of them have fallen to the ground... but they still give that wonderful autumn essence!

Friday 7 November 2014

Yankee Candle advent calendar

It's that time of year again. Halloween has barely passed and already Christmas is already making itself known. The red cups in Starbucks are back, Oxford Street is adorned in lights, and I don't know of anyone whose heart hasn't melted over the new John Lewis Christmas advert.  Less than 50 days now people! Although it still seems a long way off yet, it's never too early to start thinking about advent calendars. Particularly those sought after beauty advent calendars that sell out in record time.You need to get in there quickly.

The Yankee Candle advent calendar I had last year was a novel twist on the usual sorts of advent calendars and was worth every penny. I had my fingers tightly crossed that it'd make a comeback this year and I wasn't disappointed. But it was better. It returned not once but two fold:

Yankee advent "house" - £24.99

How awesome is this design?! Why have a flat pack advent calendar when you can have a house?! The snow, the fairy lights and the foliage all scream Christmas. Candles in this one include; candy cane lane, Christmas garland, snowflake cookie, sugared apple, Christmas cookie, Christmas memories and spiced orange.

Yankee Candle advent calendar  - £21.99

A slightly cheaper option with the shape more in line with last year's wreath. However I can't help but prefer the colouring of last year's. Red is so warming and the ultimate Christmas colour. I'm not so sold on their choice of white this year. Although white makes me think of snow, here it just looks a bit plain. Candles in this include; icicles, angel's wings, snowflake cookie, cranberry ice, Christmas cookie and Christmas garland.

Although I don't have one in my possession yet, I can already see an improvement on last year's. Their 2013 advent calendar didn't contain as many candles - there were only a select few on rotation, meaning you had a lot of 'repeats'. Which was great in some cases, but not so great for the sickly sweet scents which I'm not the biggest fan of. There does seem to be more varied choice this year including some new additions which will be great to try.

Are you feeling Christmassy yet?

Sunday 26 October 2014

Review // Sainsbury's popping candy chocolate spread

At the weekend I like to mix things up a bit and go for a different sort of breakfast to what I'd usually have during the week. With weekends you have the luxury of time - so you can spend a little longer cooking / preparing / enjoying every mouthful. Porridge, toast and cereal - my rushed foods of choice during the working week - are officially outlawed.

I first purchased Sainsbury's popping candy chocolate spread last year and I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the chocolate was. I was led to believe that it was just a limited edition jar - so imagine my surprise when I popped into my local store recently and found the very same product - in bright shiny new packaging - still gracing the shelves:

As a nod to my first year at uni when I lived in halls, I enjoyed my chocolate spread with croissants (my staple diet in my first year... not even joking...). There is nothing more satisfying than sawing a croissant in half, crumbs tumbling everywhere, and spreading that chocolate spread which starts to crackle as soon as it makes contact. Or pulling the flaky pastry apart with your hands, and dipping into chocolate. The crackling in your mouth is an extra bit of fun - and very apt given that we are in firework season!

Having croissants for breakfast really made me excited for my impending Paris trip - not long now! Thanks Sainsbury's for still stocking the awesomeness that is popping candy chocolate spread. Nom.

Friday 17 October 2014

#12 Life as we know it

Recently I've found that time has been moving along far quicker than I would like. The days are so gloomy and filled with drizzle (on Monday we reportedly had a month's worth of rainfall!) that I've forgotten what daylight is! I wake up and it's pitch black outside. Then when I leave the office, guess what... it's pitch black again!

I work full time and have been working late more than I'd like... Meaning that when I get home, blogging is the last thing on my mind. My instincts tell me to eat, shower, and then sit in bed with the duvet pulled high. Some days I'll enjoy a candle. But hey, you get the gist.

We've had a busy few weeks at work what with the launch of our new charity. We were very lucky to get celebrity support to help us spread the word, and we ended up raising over £1.1 million for disadvantaged children. It was weird seeing the likes of Ray Winston, Emma Willis, Olly Murs and so on in the office that day. There's also been lots of red carpet events lately. My top celebrity spot so far has been Keira Knightley even though it was pouring it down that day and made for terrible visibility:

In other news, I coloured my hair pink:

It was a bit of a mad moment as I don't usually like the colour pink... but the colour is growing on me now, and I like it!

I had to take some time out over the weekend, and went for bento and tea:

I used to go to this restaurant in North London with one of my friends yearssss ago so it was nice to be back. For £5.90 it was a far bigger bento box than I remembered! For that price it consisted of:

  •  x6 sushi rolls of your choice
  • Rice and side salad
  • Miso soup or Japanese tea
  • Your choice of meat / fish in a sauce

Their miso soup is a remedy and a half. I could feel the stresses of the week melting away with that very first sip. Protein wise, I opted for salmon teriyaki. It's pretty difficult turning something as awesome as chicken katsu curry down. It played on my mind way more than is healthy, so I hunted chicken katsu curry down at Wasabi later this week:

Any excuse, eh?!

The other night on my way back from drinks with work I found myself craving dessert so I treated myself to some things to enjoy in bed before I went to sleep:

The evenings are getting so cold now that once I'm home I find myself binging on episodes and having copious amounts of of tea all from the comfort of my bed. Ridiculously lazy I know... but exactly what the doctor ordered!

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Cabana Brazilian BBQ

Weekends for me need to have the right balance between going out and staying in. But regardless of what my plans are, food will always play a big part. Last weekend I headed to Cabana, a restaurant specialising in Brazilian barbecue. After browsing through the extensive menu, we opted for the pulled pork sliders and feijoada.

Feijoada is a black bean stew that contains pulled pork, sausage and slow cooked rib meat, and came with biro-biro rice too. No, nothing to do with pens! This is actually rice mixed with garlic, shallots, spring onions and herbs.

Words cannot express how good this dish was! The meat in the stew was so tender - it just melted in your mouth. The rice was something I probably wouldn't usually try - especially when sweet potato fries are on offer! - but it was really tasty and something I'd definitely have again. The dish also came with lemon and herb breadcrumbs and little chip sticks which were great sprinkled on top of everything to give it a little more texture. This was autumn / winter comfort food at its best.

The pulled pork sliders are best described as cheesy little dough balls stuffed with shredded pork. I was a little tentative as I'm not really into hugely cheesy dishes, but the cheese balance was just right. I thought the slider would be mainly dough with a shortage of meat. Wrong! The pulled pork was so generous, it spilled out of the dough onto the plate in the most satisfying of ways.

We also enjoyed Old Mout lime and kiwi cider and a Red Tail Parrot cocktail (strawberry and passion fruit topped with prosecco).

I cannot fault the service. The staff were friendly and always around - you were never left waiting. Inside, the decor was quirty with denim seating, colourful kites and tiles, and hanging plants.

When you get the bill, you get these little ribbons which you are supposed to knot a certain number of times around your wrist. I forget the story behind this (something to do with rivers and wishes??) but the number of knots is apparently significant!

If you haven't been already then what are you waiting for?! Both Westfields in London have a Cabana and I stumbled across one in Covent Garden the other day. I have a feeling I'll be back very soon...

Have you ever been to Cabana?