Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Salads

 
 I'm just beginning to think about leaving behind the thick comforting food of winter in favour of lighter ingredients that are sustaining but dance a little easier on the palate.  I recently came across this healthy chopped salad recipe that ticked all the boxes...protein in the chicken and chickpeas, good fats in the avocado and peppers, lettuce and sweetcorn for crunch and colour.  I made enough to pack away in small mason jars to take to work for lunch...

What are your seasonal transition dishes?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday snacks

Hot off the griddle.. Crostini, asparagus and feta with thyme and black pepper! You know you want to!!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Fun for Friday - Cats on bikes

Yes, this is for real.  A bicycle courier in Philadelphia took his cat on his shoulder whilst he made his deliveries..and filmed it. 


Hope this makes you smile on this very wet Friday!  Happy weekend...xox

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lust Have - Jo Malone Roses Cologne

It's all coming up roses for Jo Malone's new take on the classic rose fragrance that came out in 1996.  Made from seven exquisite roses, with a hint of violet and lemon Charlotte Stockdale has reinvented it for the 21st century with a visual makeover.  This Limited Edition by Charlotte Stockdale is one of only 300 bottles, handpainted and numbered as part of the limited collection. 


They are available exclusively from Selfridges London, Selfridges Manchester Exchange and Selfridges.com for £120. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Capsule Wardrobe - French style

French women have a just reputation for being chic, sophisticated and well-turned-out; even if they're just wearing a pair of jeans and a classic white shirt, they have that je ne sais quoi that women the world over envy and want to emulate. So, when Vogue Paris ran an article on a list of the simple ten essentials that most French woman have, I couldn't get hold of it quickly enough.  I was slightly worried that it would contain elements that would be beyond my budget but the following pieces of clothing can be worn whatever your age and can be bought on any budget.  So here goes...

* Le Chemise Blanc
A basic white shirt is a must - maybe one shorter in cotton and then a longer line silk one to wear over trousers in the evenings.

*Le Jean
Everyone needs a good pair of jeans and the French wear them faded and straight, although I like the skinny look.  Buy whatever you can afford and there are a myriad of brands out there, Current Elliot is the Vogue Paris brand du jour.

*Le Trench
Let's face it, a good trench coat will take you anywhere and a classic from Burberry is a lifetime investment.

*Les Ballerines
Ballerina pumps are an everyday staple.  They walk to work, they hit the town, they work, whatever.  A pair in black and then a coloured pair too (I'm currently coveting this pair in coral).

*Le Cachemire
Cashmere is all about luxury, warmth, comfort and you'll need one of these in soft grey; round neck or V-neck, it's the cut that counts.

*La Petite Robe Noir
Every wardrobe should contain a trusty LBD.  Wear it anywhere, for any occasion.  Dress it up, dress it down.  Heels or flats.  You decide.

*Les Escarpins Noir
Ok, so we've done the ballet flats, now it's the turn of the skyscraper heel. Drop-dead sexy, classic and high, very high.  You cannot go wrong with black patent Laboutins.  As soon as you put them on your legs look longer, you feel more confident, your stride more sexy and strut-worthy.  As for the aches and pains of pinched toes and burning foot pads, ach, no gain without pain, yes?

*Le Tank Top
A classic t-shirt needs no introduction.  Keep it free of logos and colour; white is your t's best colour and sleeveless, so that your blazer fits as it should.  As soon as it starts going grey, bin and buy another.

*Le Pantalon de Smoking
Aka the cigarette pants - in black of course.  It ranks up there with the LBD; never leave home without them.

So, which item of clothing gets your vote?  What's your go-to piece, I'd love to know?






Friday, April 19, 2013

Fiction Friday - The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 
 
A mesmorising and moving debut novel that interweaves the past and present of a young woman,Victoria,  who has a love and gift of flowers.  She uses her knowledge of the Victorian definitions of flowers to enable her to communicate and help others, in their loves and losses, dreams and aspirations, even whilst she battles to come to terms with her own difficult past in the foster-care system.  As she learns more about plants and their hidden messages she begins to compile her own plant dictionary 'Victoria's Dictionary' - click here to download her dictionary.  I really loved this book.  I now am much more careful about buying flowers for myself and others, making sure I'm giving the right message!
 
Having just bought myself some Ranunculus I was relieved to read that it means you are radiant with charms.  Take a look at the dictionary - what flowers would you send and why?
 


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life Lessons

 

 
I recently came across this as I was coasting the internet...I don't know if a 90 year-old really came up with this list, but it's got some worthwhile things to say that bear reflection.

45 Life Lessons, written by a 90 year old

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short not to enjoy it.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
5. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for things that matter.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye… But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful.  Clutter weighs you down in many ways.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to be happy.  But it’s all up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words, ‘In five years, will this matter?’
27. Always choose Life.
28. Forgive but don’t forget.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give Time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d
grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you think you need.
42. The best is yet to come…
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.
 
Which of these speaks to you?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Eating for Comfort (2)


I'd always intended to write a second follow-up post to Eating for Comfort (1) but I've had so many people sharing their views and favourite foods that I'm doing it earlier than I'd initially planned.  Thank you to everyone who has shared their favourite comfort food recipes (especially Wadds - I hope this second post hits the spot!)  Comfort food has to do just that, comfort.  That means hearty dense food, usually with some form of carbs, high on flavour, foods that literally fill your mouth with bulk; foods that have connotations with childhood, forbidden foods and certainly foods that wouldn't necessarily be considered the 'healthy option'.

Now, this particular comfort food didn't make the first cut and I've no idea why as it's a staple in our house, in our family actually.  It's the dish that my kids always ask for and the food that my Mum invariably serves the first night we go back to visit.  It is of course  Mince and Dumplings! (fanfare please!)
When it comes to comfort eating, this dish is spot on; a rich, meaty filling, topped by crispy dumplings.  Now I know that suet isn't exactly diet food, but when it comes to eating for comfort that's totally the point isn't it?  Some people like their dumplings gooey and dense, but in our family we like them browned and crispy on the top, soft and doughy underneath.  Served with mashed potato to soak up the meaty juices, this really is king of the comfort food castle.

Ok.  Next on the hit list is another favourite of mine - altho' slightly contentious at the moment I do agree, but I can't bring myself to apologise for it -   I'm talking about Corned Beef Hash. 


Now I know it doesn't look great (but comfort food is all about the taste, not the look - yes?) and it ticks all the comfort boxes.  Salty corned beef combined with caramelised onions and buttery mashed potato.  I like to mix mine all together and put into a frying pan and leave until a crust has formed on the underneath.  Sometimes I flip a fried egg on top, or baked beans, or if I'm in a real hurry it's just a dollop of tomato ketchup and I'm done. 

Now us northerners have a habit of eating strange foods that other folk shun - I'm talking black pudding, tripe, pigs trotters, ears and cheeks, and this next cut of meat for some reason falls into this bracket - pork belly.  It's an undersung hero, I promise you.  People are put off by the level of fat, but what they don't realise is, that it's this very fat that makes this dish so delicious.  Cooked slowly pork belly is rich, indulgent and a party for the tastebuds.  We often have slabs of this meat, slow cooked, then the crackling crisped at the end as a Sunday dinner but I've recently discovered this way of cooking those thin slices of belly - on a bed of potatoes - and it is quite simply a culinary hug on a plate.
 
  I always rub the pork with Chinese Five Spice which gives it a real depth of flavour, almost aniseedy.  I place them on a bed of potatoes, white and sweet potatoes, doused in garlic oil.  Roast and eat greedily, straight from the tin.

This next dish is a British classic, but with a twist.  I know few sad people that aren't instantly cheered up by a serving of hot chips, salted and sprinkled with vinegar.  Fish and Chips is the go-to instant supper, lunch and anytime snack for most of us.  Not for me.  Sadly, the only fish I can go near are the ones zipping between my toes in the Med so when you guys hit the fish, I go for the battered pineapple ring.  Yes.  You heard right.  Hear me out.  The sweetness of the pineapple combined with the crispy savoury batter is a match made in heaven.  Add to that the soft potato chip and you're onto a winner.  Try it if you don't believe me.  I don't make this.  Only a fish shop will do (if it serves pineapple rings).



Next up are puds....hmmmn...sticky toffee, apple crumble, trifle, bread and butter pud...  What would make your hit list?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Beautiful things

1. Waders scurrying to beat the waves..

2. The salty smell of seaweed drifting on the breeze...

3. A warmth to the sun as it fights through the clouds..

Friday, April 12, 2013

Daydreams

 
 
I'm hoping the rain will soon pass and the sun will shine for the weekend.  This looks like a good place to sit and dream, drink wine and read, doze in the sunshine and make summer plans.  Hope you all have a relaxing and sunny weekend, wherever you are.
 xox
 
image: via here

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Link Love

There's so much wonderful stuff going on out there in the bloggersphere and I don't share as much as I should! I've decided to start a regular slot where I can point you in the direction of some of the small things that have given me pleasure in my internet wanderings...

* Take a rejuvenating little stroll along the seashore.

*  recipe: Limoncello and Strawberry Victoria sponge cake

* at the cinema: midway by Chris Jordan

* d├ęcor: a Brooklyn house renovation

* pinterest: pretty and pink and seaside inspiration

* fashion: forever trends

* travel:  this beautiful house in Santorini is the stuff dreams are made of

* diy: ranunculus tutorial, one of my favourite flowers

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Parisian Living

Every so often I come across a space that completely takes over my imagination.  This beautiful rooftop apartment in Paris has done that lock stock and barrel.  I mean, look at it!  Tasteful, eclectic and in one of the most romantic cities in the world. Take a peek with me...
 Who wouldn't want to live in this gorgeous apartment, with a view over the zinc grey slate roofs of Paris?
 
 Or sip their wine at this table?
 
 Or scour the flea markets and broccante stores for objects d'art for their home?
 
 Or paint their new home in pretty pastels
and drink champagne on this gorgeous terrace?
Wouldn't you like to live here?  I would.
 
Images all from here

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Flower by Kenzo

I'm not saying much...just want to share this as an update from this that I blogged about last week.

 
Hope you enjoyed that! 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Real Food

London has a good number of outdoor food markets, the most famous of course is Borough Market in Bermondsey.  Borough Market is big.  It has everything a foodie could ever want and more, but we recently discovered the Real Food Market on the Southbank and I'm a complete convert.  I have to confess that there's nothing I love more than street food.  This passion for eating on the run has got me into serious trouble in the past - food bought through a train window in then Yugoslavia which tasted divine, but left me unable to leave a loo for 48 hours! Anyway, back to the Real Food Market.  It's a very simple premise:  they deliver food that tastes great, is sustainable and ethically sourced and you buy direct from the producers.  The people behind the food are as entertaining and knowledgeable as their food is delicious.  We rocked up at about noon on Sunday and things were just getting going so there was room to walk between all the stalls and deliberate with watering mouths what we wanted to eat.  In the end we all had something different - sharing is non-negotiable..

 
The girls had Arancini wraps (stuffed risotto balls) from the Arancini Brothers station; Some of us went for the burger from Jacobs Ladder Butchery and Farm (legendary burger!) and some of us went for the pork bap from 'Love me Tender' with homemade apple sauce.  The hog had been roasting for over ten hours and was succulent and sweet with fennel seeds.  I really can't praise it enough.  There are a myriad of stalls selling a huge variety of food that caters to every tastebud.  I think we will be making it a regular Sunday outing, at least until we've tasted everything on offer!
 
 Comte cheese is sold by the Borough Cheese Company.  The Borough Cheese Company sells only one cheese: the French mountain cheese, Comte. In order to get the best Comte they travel to the Franche-Comte in Eastern France every five to six weeks, where they visit Fort St. Antoine home of Marcel Petite, affineurs of Comte cheese. There they select cheese for sale back in the UK.
 This delicious bread comes from The Flour Station which began life in the restaurant Fifteen in London.  Their aim is to bring new standards of baking to London and a wider availability of their handmade artisan breads.  All of their products are hand-made using truly authentic baking methods and they use top-quality, natural ingredients. The dough spends up to 24 hours fermenting and developing before being baked, resulting in bread with improved depth of flavour and a wonderful texture.
 Terry catches his fish daily and brings it straight to the market.  It doesn't get much fresher than that! He operates an artisan, small scale day boat with all fish being sustainably caught. Offering Grade A Native Oysters, lobsters, crab and whatever else he manages to catch, the local fish could include sole, skate, bass, whiting, herrings, cod and huss.
 'Popina' -  “All our products are made daily from scratch. The ingredients we use are sourced for their quality from the UK and around the world. Organic stone ground English flour, English free range and organic eggs, organic British butter and organic raw cane sugar are components that in various combinations comprise the basis of all Popina creations.”
I don't know the name of this producer (sorry!) but I do know that their hot tomato crostini's were flying out.  They serve them with a variety of toppings and this is first on my hit list when I return.

 The Arancini Brothers make their own arancini - traditional Sicilian risotto balls which they serve in wraps with cucumber, tomato, sliced apple, deep-fried crispy shreds of onions, chilli tomato chutney and homemade garlic mayonnaise.  Truly heaven in a wrap...
 Freshly made juices, Mango and Cranberry, Orange and Cranberry, Apple...
 
The Real Food Market is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Southbank Centre,
 Opening hours:
Friday                                 12.00 - 20.00
         Saturday                             11.00 - 20.00          
Sunday                              12.00 - 18.00
 

Friday, April 05, 2013

By my Bedside

Today's Friday Fiction features several of the books that are currently on my nightstand.  I've really got back into reading again, and as it's the holiday I've been powering through novel after novel and loving it.  Instead of slumping on the sofa to watch the latest soap and ending the evening feeling grumpy, I'm opting to take myself on many different journeys that engage my imagination and leave me feeling invigorated.


I particularly liked What have I Done? The story of a headmaster's wife who makes a decision one day that will cost her her children and her seemingly perfect life.

What are you reading? 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

April Moodboard

The sun has finally come out and it's beginning to feel a bit like Spring.  As I wander the streets of London there is Cherry blossom and fragrant Narcissi; it stays light into early evening and I'm beginning to feel a bit like those new shoots coming through soft soil, a wakening to the possibilities, a curiosity and desire to wander and feel the sun on my face.  I want to hang lighter curtains, springclean my home, swop a madeup skin for lighter, natural products; I want to dream about the summer, make plans for laughter and fun...

April Moodboard

What are you dreaming of this April?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Poppies 'n Paris

You know what they say about Paris in the springtime...well I don't know if you've already come across Kenzo's ad-campaign for their new perfume?  It's full of red poppies that float up through the Seine and fill the streets of Paris.  It reminds me of a scene from Britian's Next Top Model series, when they made the models swim underwater and still look beautiful!  Watch it and you'll see what I mean! 


Doesn't that make you feel good?  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

One Pot Wonders - Chicken Basque

The one-pot meal is a lifesaver for busy people.  When I was a student I had a slow-cooker and every morning I would get up extra early and diligently chop vegetables, filling my cooker ready to eat that evening.  The slow-cooker has long gone (maybe I should invest in another..what do you think?)but I'm still a huge fan of the one-pot dinner.  Easter Sunday was a lovely celebration, but lots of cooking and prep, so yesterday I was searching for something easy to prepare and so I turned to my old favourite Delia.  Now when I was in my twenties, Delia was the biggest cook/chef/tv star around.  Her original cookbook still stands on my shelf, well-thumbed and greasy on just about every page, a testament to its success.  The recipe I went to this time was a Basque Chicken with spicy chorizo, peppers and rice.  Easy to prepare, an hour in the oven. Done.



What are your go-to one-pot meals?