Monday, 15 January 2018

What January Blues? Lima and a Little Dose of Childhood

For most, January can be a pretty dreary month - the festivity of Christmas is over, the new year has been waved in and the January diet has started. However for me, the month is just one big count down to my birthday! So, with the aim of kicking off the new year in the right way, here are a couple of little recommendations to perk you  up!

To kick us off, this month my friends and I finally had the chance to eat at Lima Fitzrovia, a Michelin starred Peruvian restaurant. We chose food from two set menus - the Andes menu or the Amazon menu - whilst sipping on the restaurant's signature Pisco Sour cocktail. I was very excited as my last experience of Peruvian food (at Pachamama) had been excellent!

The meal started off with a small amuse-bouche and large hunks of brown bread. This was then followed by the black bream ceviche, thinly sliced beef in a yellow aji sauce, beef pachamanca (which literally means 'cooked underground with hot stones') with Andean roots and finished off with a dulce de leche cream and port pudding, dotted with shards of meringue.

Personally, I found the food absolutely delicious! Around the table, we'd all chosen slightly different dishes and (after nabbing a couple of bites off my boyfriend's and friend's plate) I can safely say the octopus starter off the Andes menu and the lamb off of the Amazon menu were also fabulous. The only dish which slightly let the meal down was the pudding - the dulce de leche port mix didn't go down so well with the group of us. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the food! Not only that, but the waitstaff were attentive, friendly and knowledgeable (without being overbearing), which definitely added to the experience. I would most definitely recommend heading there for a taste of Peruvian cuisine.

This month I also finally got a chance to potter down to the V&A to see the 'Winnie the Pooh' exhibition and the 'Opera: Passion, Power and Politics' exhibition.

Now, I know I bang on about the V&A a fair amount on this blog. But this is because I honestly believe it is an absolutely brilliant institution.  We are very lucky in London that so many amazing resources are open and free to the public: the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the  British Library (and of course the Victoria and Albert!) to name just a few. Special exhibitions like the above you do have to pay to enter, but the ticket cost helps support the thousands of other exhibits on show. I've chosen to buy an under-26 V&A membership (which allows me free entry into the special exhibitions) and I have to say I'm so glad I have - I have 'earned back' the cost of the membership many times over and I'm more than happy to support the museum!

ANYWAY. The Winnie the Pooh exhibition was just adorable and surprisingly interesting. I just had no idea that the little portly bear had captured the hearts of so many people all the way around the world. Not only that, but learning about how the illustrations and the words came together to bring the stories to life was really insightful.

As you went around, there were original sketches everywhere and little corners where you could sit and listen to extracts from the books, along with tiny doors and cupboards of 'hunny' to open. The curators had managed to make the exhibition really rather magical.

'Opera: Passion, Power and Politics' was quite a different kettle of fish. On entering the exhibition, I was given a headset which, rather like the Pink Floyd exhibition, cleverly played the relevant soundtrack as I moved around the cases. The exhibition walks you through the (often quite dark) history of opera and the influence it's had on the masses by taking you on a journey through a number of  cities where prominent operas were first performed. Not only used to provide entertainment, the opera was an opportunity to socialise, display your status or even spread social change or political ideas - the independence of Milan from Spanish rule, the social recognition of the 'lower classes' and the independence of women for example.

I thought the exhibition was very cleverly put together - the different music complimented what you were seeing and the undercurrent of gunfire, dock workers' clatter and city life hubber brought the history to life. I had been unsure whether I was going to particularly enjoy the exhibition (mainly as I have no real interest in opera) but it definitely left me wanting to learn more!

So that's it from me for now, but let me know how your new year is going! What places would you recommend to visit over the next month?

Friday, 5 January 2018

New Year, New Me?

Firstly, happy new year! I hope you all had wonderful times over the Christmas period and said farewell to 2017 with a bang!

Now that January has well and truly started in the only way it knows how (queue drizzle, wind and general murkiness) I found myself thinking about the concept of new year's resolutions and whether or not it was particularly worth creating any. Throughout January, the phrase 'New Year, New Me!' gets tossed around more than avocados in a salad bar, but it had me wondering 'was there really that much wrong with the old me?!'.  Well, the answer I've come to is 'no. Not really.'

I mean, there are definitely things I could improve on (do more exercise, cook more, sort out my flat, donate to charity, get promoted, meet more people, make more of an effort with existing friends etc...), but on reflection I realised these were things I should think about everyday. The arbitrary marker of time slipping from one round dozen months into another shouldn't be the only thing that kick starts me into action.

So, bin the over-inflated #goals and the resolution-breaking guilt - here's to doing our best every day.

(...I may have just booked my first ever spin class, but hey, I could have chosen to do that ANY month of the year...)

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Christmas at Kew

On Friday, I finally made it to Christmas at Kew. I really wanted to visit last year, but tickets (at sensible times) sold out very quickly. This year, it was the same story. However, luckily for me, a friend of mine had a couple of spares and so my friend Shreya and I turned up at the Kew gates, ready to experience the magic.

At Christmas, Kew Gardens is dressed up in thousands of twinkling lights in every colour. You follow a winding path through the plants and trees, stopping for mulled wine or treats on the way. The trees sing out carols as you pass and, in one particular section, amazing smells waft over you whilst in another, bubbles floated through the air.

We came across a little wooden hut selling marshmallows in elaborate flavours. I bought a blueberry and gin one which I then toasted over a flaming pit.

Then, we found the funfair! After some cheesy chips and a large hot chocolate, we spun around on an old-fashioned carousel before swinging on some boatswings and sliding down the helter-skelter.

Once we'd spun, swung and slid all of our funfair tokens away, it was time to press on with the trail. As it had got later, the path was fairly empty and so we had a chance to fully absorb what was around us. At one point, we came across a 'wishing tree' where people had written down their wishes and hung them in the branches.

The big finale however was a spectacle like nothing I've ever seen before. The huge Kew green house was lit up with ever-changing lights, whilst the water fountain shot up a screen of water which images danced over whilst music played in time. The overall effect was completely magical! (I'm afraid the pictures just don't do it justice!)

Eventually, as our toes were starting to turn blue, we tore ourselves away from all the dazzling displays and turned to leave. It was safe to say that the magic of Christmas had firmly descended!

Friday, 8 December 2017

DIY Christmas Gifts: How to Make Affordable Pearl Necklaces

This year I wanted to give my girlfriends a Christmas gift which was a little bit more personal. I was keen to make something, but was worried it'd just end up in the back of a draw somewhere (or in the bin...!). In the end (and after a little research), I settled on making freshwater pearl necklaces.

I sourced freshwater pearls from eBay, along with some silk thread, jewelry clasps and threading needles. The pearls were aprox. 5mm in diameter, came on threads 50cm long and, surprisingly, cost less than £4. I bought two of these strands which made a total of 4 necklaces, with pearls to spare.

To create a necklace, I cut a strand of thread about 80cm long. I threaded the clasp onto the thread, before folding the strand in half and knotting the clasp in place. I then proceeded to string the pearls onto the doubled up thread. (Doubling up the thread is a good idea as it'll make the necklace stronger!) By the time I was finished, the total length of the necklace was about 40cm long.

I tied off the pearl strand with a small jump ring so that the clasp would have something secure to grab on to. Finally, I dabbed any knots I had tied with a little superglue to make them extra strong.

So there we have it - a super simple, good quality gift idea for under £15 for four!

 Do you have any good DIY Christmas gift ideas? If so, leave them in the comments below! Also. don't forget to let me know how yours turn out if you decide to give this a go

Monday, 4 December 2017

Selfridges: Sink the Pink Presents the Queens Head

Pantomimes and Christmas go hand in hand like mulled wine and minced pies. However, as we grow older, the cheesy fairy tales  become a little old hat. Well, don't worry, I have the answer! 

On Friday, my friends and I paid a visit to an East London pub. The slightly odd thing? It was in the basement of Selfridges. We had arrived for Sink the Pink's panto which promised to provide an (adult only!) immersive theater experience, with all the glitter and glam that can only be bought by a cast full of drag queens. 

Being the keen beans we are, we were one of the first to arrive. We waited outside the 'pub doors' before rushing to a front table. Settled down, we popped to the bar to pick one of our first complimentary drinks, before gazing around at the be-tinseled  pub surrounding us. 

Before long, the show kicked off. The general premise was that the pub landlady was being interviewed by the local news station  who were covering the annual switch-on of the famous pub Christmas lights. Of course disaster and unexpected events befall the protagonists, broken up by lip-synced songs, live music, impressive dance numbers in sky-scraper heels and general hilarity. 

By the end of the evening, we had sung, danced and laughed our hearts out. Not only that, we'd had what felt like an incredibly good value night! The tickets were £25 which included three complimentary (and quite generous!) drinks and as many bar snacks as we could stuff our faces with.

So if you're looking for something to do to get you in the festive mood, I'd highly recommend giving the Queen's Head a visit - it's running the whole way through December! 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Cèilidh at The Caledonian Club

The sound of bagpipes washed over me as I waited on the corner of a street in Belgravia last Friday. Then, there was the clattering of feet and the rustling of bags as my little sister Lulu and our friend Shreya came rushing towards me. We were on our way to a Cèilidh at the Caledonian Club and, as usual, my sister had arrived half dressed.

Flats were quickly swapped for glittering heels (and hair was swiftly brushed) as we headed towards the source of the mournful pipes. We were ushered through the front door as my sister touched up her eye shadow and put on the sparkling earrings she'd asked me to bring her. (Little sisters, no matter how old, are under the impression they own not one but two wardrobes). We had arrived.

We swept upstairs in a bubble of excited chatter, before collecting our glasses of fizz and heading to the tartan-filled ballroom for a quick catch-up. However before long, the bagpipes started playing again, calling us all in to dinner.

Dinner started with the Selkrik grace, often attributed to Robert Burns:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thanket!

before the haggis and neeps arrived (not pretty to look at but definitely tasty). This was followed by  lamb and then a trio of deserts. It wasn't the best meal I've ever had, but was pretty tasty and definitely good fuel for the dancing to come!

Eventually, we all left the table as the cèilidh band started up in the ballroom and an elderly Scotsman started energetically bustling us into lines of three. The first dance began!

The great thing about cèilidhs is that you really don't have to have to know the dances. The moves are explained at the start of each dance and you're thrown from line to circle to new partner at lightning speed. By the end, most people are gasping for breath and laughing.

The evening's entertainment ended with everyone standing in a circle around the hall singing Auld Lang Syne followed by God Save the Queen. The average Brit I feel, by nature, is not too overtly patriotic, but I thought this was a lovely and rousing way to end the night! However, it did remind me that I needed to brush up on some lyrics in time for New Year's Eve....

As the cèilidh came to a close, we decided it was time to engage in some rather more 'modern' dancing. Therefore, we all headed off to Annabel's where we danced until the early hours under some spectacular Christmas decorations.

I had a great time at The Caledonian Club cèilidh and cannot wait for the next chance to dance the night away!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Delicious Spiced Lamb in Brioche Buns

For Bonfire Night, I went home to my Mum's for a bit of a Bonfire Night Party with family friends. Mum had gone typically all out, setting up a table in the loggia outside, stringing fairy lights everywhere and cooking A LOT of food. She'd gone for wintry comfort food theme - shepherds pie, crumble, spiced apple and the most amazing spiced lamb which had everyone scraping the bottom of the dish.

Unfortunately I don't have a picture as it was quite dark outside and it wasn't the prettiest looking of dishes, but I do have a recipe!

Mum had adapted this from a Tom Kerridge recipe for pulled beef and, if you choose to replicate it, it will be the best thing you eat this winter. Yes, it even beats Christmas Dinner.

For this tasty adaption, you will need:
  • - 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • - 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • - 1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
  • - 1/2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • - 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • - 1/2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • - 1kg lamb, rolled breast and shoulder (you can ask your butcher to help you with this)
  • - 250ml vegetable stock
  • - 50ml brown sauce
  • - 30g brown sugar
  • - Worcestershire sauce 
Start by lightly toasting the coriander, cumin, mustard and peppercorns in a dry pan, before crushing the spices in a pestle and mortar. Mix in the sugar, paprika and cayenne pepper. 

Next, take your lamb and rub the spices into the meat. Then, add the spiced lamb to a roasting tray and pour in your vegetable stock. 

Heat your oven to a low heat (180C) and cook for four hours. 

Once the four hours is up, take out the oven, pour off the juices (save these!) and shred the meat with a pair of forks. Lastly, whip up some sauce by mixing together the brown sauce, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, the sugar and the juices from the roasting tin. Pour this over the meat and you're ready to go! 

Mum served the lamb in brioche buns with 'dry' coleslaw, which is basically just shredded cabbage, onion and carrot. The lamb had enough excess sauce and juice that there was no need for the added mayo. 

After we'd stuffed our faces (and I'd waved around four sparklers. Yes, four. I was very happy.) we headed off to our local fireworks display. As glittering sparks flew through the air, I was suddenly very glad Guy Fawkes had tried and failed to blow up Parliament all those years ago. 

So give the recipe a go and let me know your thoughts! I promise you won't be disappointed! 

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