Pancake Day - Raspberry Matcha Pancakes

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Easter is super early this year and, as a result, Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day!) is too. I love making pancakes, they're one of the few things that I do battle with my 1970s electric hob for (the joys of retro living). This year I've been borderline obsessed with all things matcha so obviously had to incorporate matcha into my recipe. I re-stocked my matcha from the Japan Centre at Westfield Stratford and got thinking...

The result? Matcha Cashew Cream Pancakes With Raspberry Chia Jam. Apologies for how ~Pinterest~ that sounds. They're also vegan, gluten and dairy free if that's your thing. If not - they taste great regardless, look very pretty and as far as pancakes go are pretty saintly. Perfect for 9th February or a weekend brunch any time of year. It's bizarre to think that back in the day, pancakes were the ultimate indulgence before a somber Lent period. How times have changed. We're now overwhelmed with choice, convenience and instant gratification. Creme Eggs (they've definitely got smaller, right?) have been in the shops since the first week of January and while pancakes are no longer the most indulgent thing we can eat, making them from scratch (and making them look as pretty as possible) is really satisfying.

 For the pancakes:

Any recipe would work if you have a go-to. I used this one which was very easy and has minimal ingredients. Applesauce isn't really a thing in the UK but you can buy apple puree in the babyfood aisle and try to use the self-service checkout if you're also buying gin, grapes and magazines in the same basket so that no one thinks you're a terrible parent.

For the matcha cashew cream:

Soak 100g (one small bag) or cashew nuts in water overnight. Do not skip this step - it's vital to make the nuts soft and easier to blend. Blend in a blender / NutriBullet with a splash of unsweetened almond milk until a cream forms. Add in half a teaspoon of matcha (matcha is very potent so even if it doesn't look enough it will be) and mix until combined.

For the raspberry chia jam:

Mash 100g of raspberries with a fork. Mix in a tablespoon of chia seeds and leave for 20 minutes to turn into a jam-like consistency.

To make:

Fry your pancakes in coconut oil and place on kitchen paper between cooking each one. Stack the pancakes with a spoonful of cashew cream between each layer. Top with the jam and serve with a few raspberries on the side.

If matcha is not your thing (aside from that we might not be able to be friends), here are some other pancake recipes of mine:

Easy Banana Pancakes
Salted Caramel / Peanut Butter Pancakes

Too lazy to cook? Pancakes out and about:

Granger and Co - Ricotta hotcakes
The Modern Pantry - Ricotta pancakes with berries
The Breakfast Club - American style pancakes


London Winter Run - 31.01.2016

Friday, 5 February 2016

Ending January and getting my 2016 running started - Sunday saw me take part in the London Winter Run - part of Cancer Research UK's Winter Run Series (remember when I tried to persuade you to sign up?). I've never done a winter race before, I'm definitely a guilty-as-charged fair-weather runner but despite the rain, the wind and the general gloom it was a great day. Over 15,000 people took part in the 10km run, starting in Trafalgar Square and looping around the City of London before finishing near Big Ben. Many runners had signs attached to their backs, which, squinting through the rain, revealed who they were running for - whether it be someone fighting cancer or a loved one lost too soon. It sounded cliched but seeing those signs made me far less aggrieved about my increasingly soggy toes and slightly jealous niggle that most of my friends (ok, all of my friends because all 5 of them told me) were still lying in bed.

The race itself is a great one if, like me, you need some motivation to continue running throughout the winter. It's not a serious get-a-PB type race, there are no colour coded start waves and everyone is just allocated a start time via email. I did get a couple of shoves on the rather tight corners by faster runners who had started some way behind me but the atmosphere was really supportive - despite the awful weather there were some cheerers on the route and the volunteers were amazing! The snow cannons didn't have quite as big an impact in the wind and rain but they were there as promised! The route passed a fair few London landmarks, I actually live in the City and it was a bizarre experience to be running on closed roads past St Pauls, The Bank of England and The Guildhall.  There was one water station at 5km which was plenty for a winters' day and at the end, along with polar bear hugs, was the prettiest medal to add to my collection, bottled water and Vita Coco on offer.

I didn't get a PB, far from it, but I loved the atmosphere of the race - London can feel like an isolating place but doing an event like this and realising that you're getting drenched and pounding the pavements with thousands of other people gives you a feel-good buzz like nothing else. A big thank you to Nuffield Health for hosting us bloggers before and after the race in their Covent Garden gym. That post-race shower definitely ranks highly in my fictitious "best showers of my life" list.

A running style #wiwt - for winter runs, I avoid the temptation to pile on loads of layers as once you're out there you don't need them. 
The start line. Loved the snowmen marking out the starting waves.
The medal - the snowflake felt appropriate! Freezing cold, red fingers - model's own.
The polar bear volunteers - ready with hugs and selfie opportunities at the end of the race.

Had to sneak in this official picture! 
How's your running going so far this year?


Mini-Breaks - Destination Ideas

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

I've been on a bit of a mission to defeat the grimness of winter - my ultimate cure? A mini-break. Even one night away from home makes a huge difference to my mood and I always return feeling a mix of exhausted and revitalised from seeing somewhere new. The next best thing to going on a mini-break? Booking and planning one, of course!

I've rounded up my trips to provide some inspiration of where to go and what to see, depending on how much time you have to spare:

0 nights

While you can't see all of Berlin in a day, I had around 6 hours to spare and did my very best. Somewhere on my list of places to re-visit and maybe stay the night next time!

A piece of the Berlin Wall at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. Oh, and I'll go back in summer because -2 degrees is pretty cold.
1 night

Two full days and one night if you time flights well - the ultimate short breaks for when you don't have any precious holiday allowance left. Edinburgh and Glasgow are short flights and pretty hassle-free given that you're not leaving the UK. Jersey might sound like an odd pick for someone under sixty but I loved it and came back feelings so relaxed. Bilbao is a compact and beautiful city - everything can be done in two days with time to spare for leisurely meals.

Michelle and I in Glasgow.
2 nights

One day of annual leave for three days of fun - not a bad deal. Beverley in Yorkshire is a lovely contrast to London and Lisbon is on the same time zone as London and has a beautiful faded charm. I went twice in 2015 - here and here.

The famous Lisbon tram.
3 nights

Three nights gives you a bit longer to explore. Prague is great if you're on a budget as its not in the Eurozone - my friend and I had fun despite being non-beer drinkers (cheap beer possibly explain why there are so many stag do groups...)! Barcelona can be done in four days - I can't wait to visit for a third time this summer.

The coolest rooftop in Barcelona. Even in the rain. 
4 nights

Some cities need a bit more time commitment to get the most out of them. Marrakech is a longer flight and so four nights gave us time to explore in a relaxed manner. Madrid's heat called for a slower pace - and lots of pool time. It has a very different vibe to Barcelona and is much less touristy. If you're an art fan then four nights in Florence is plenty of time to see all the galleries.

Florence rooftops.
Finally, a special mention has to go to Paris

I've visited this city around 10 times now, whether it's been one hectic day or a more leisurely four nights - the French capital has given me a lot of memories and this is the first year I've not had at least one trip planned since 2008 - a bientot, Paris! For food, Benoit has a great lunch menu (literally, the actual menu itself is pretty awesome) and Angelinas may be super touristy but its a must if you have a sweet tooth. If you're a Paris veteran then step off the beaten track - an afternoon petting cats at Cafe Des Chats or a stroll down the Canal Saint Martin. That said, I still whip out my camera for the classic sights (even alone on a rainy day). In 2015 I ran the Semi De Paris and had sunshine for the first visit in a long time! Want something a little more specific? My French pharmacy post is one of my most searched for and my veggie guide is here - L'As Du Falafel is a staple of every Paris trip.

Throwback to my caffeine addiction! Canal Saint Martin in the sunshine.
Coming up in 2016 - Amsterdam, Belfast, Barcelona and Porto! Where else do I need to add to my list?


January Round-Up

Monday, 1 February 2016

I hate the idea of wishing away time. Time passes however you chose to spend it and even if it doesn't seem like it sometimes, every day has the potential to be an amazing one. Really. That said, I am glad that January is over and that the mornings are starting to get a tiny bit lighter. My favourite season is still quite a long way off but it's closer than it was 31 days ago. Here's how January has looked:

1. Lipstick never fails to cheer me up and now that I'm feeling more confident about my smile I'm getting more use out of my collection.

2. Selfridges, a destination that never fails to cheer me up, is currently host to Tastes of Japan - stock up on matcha Kit-Kats, udon and, while not authentically Japanese, these super cute Hello Kitty cupcakes.

3. Empties! Finishing a product is still something high on my list of happy things. Unless its Bioderma which calls for a trip to France to restock.

4. The Winter City Retreat which I blogged about here was a January highlight.

5. Brunch at Dishoom - I'd breakfasted / brunched here a few times and its always great. Fuel for A Winter's Tale at the Garrick Theatre - have to say that this wasn't my favourite Shakespeare adaptation but seeing Dame Judy Dench on stage is always a pleasure and the second half picked up the pace a good deal.

6. Getting creative with oats - check out my three recipes inspired by far away places and how cute is the bento box for taking lunch on the go?

7. Probably my favourite outfit of the month - Kale sweatshirt (this one) and leggings. I used to find it really hard to dress casually but I guess that has changed, although this is about as far as I'll go when it comes to trousers.

8. Pho for lunch - actually ate this two days in a row, it's that good.

9. Frame in Shoreditch for a gentle yoga class. I've also been doing Adrienne's Yoga Camp this month and I've loved her mantras and affirmations.

1. Saturday morning reading - Ethan (the pink plushie) and I love that Benedict Cumberbatch meditates.

2. The tasteful loos at Flesh and Buns for Sophie's birthday brunch.

3. Current reads - Unforgettable by Charlie Maclean for the WI Shoreditch Sisters bookclub (one of the characters is a member in the novel) and Yeonmi Park's In Order To Live. Along with a homemade matcha latte in my milk frother.

4. I love neon art so the Tim Etchells neon sculptures at Bloomberg caught my eye. They are there until the end of March and are well worth a quick visit if you're in the City - "Let's Pretend None Of This Ever Happened" seems appropriate in the geographical location of the financial crisis...

5. Yoga with The Yoga Mela at Stanley Hall - Ciara's class is a great way to start a Saturday morning in a beautiful old building.

6. I've relaunched my Etsy store - Pieces Of Patterns! It's pretty niche but the paper patterns are a reminder that fashion wasn't always fast and disposable.

7. Going out out. First time in over a month that I've ventured out after dark - Kensington's Roof Gardens' James Bond Ball made me feel young and old at the same time and that's totally ok.

8. Sarah and I headed to Cheeky Parlour for a catch-up over their amazing pedicures. Even in the dead of winter having smooth feet and shiny nails is an instant mood fix.

9. Yesterday was my first race of the year. The weather threw out all of the stops for it - cold, wind, rain and a lot of puddles... Add in only having run once since the Royal Parks Half in October it could have been a bit of a disaster but despite not getting my best time and resembling a drowned rat I still enjoyed the race which is the main point, really.


My good deed of the month? I gave blood for the first time - it wasn't painful or scary, I figured that if I can deal with getting a piercing I can do this. One hour of your time in exchange for helping up to three people and getting a biscuit afterwards. Sign up here.

How was January for you?


Working It: Home Workouts - Budget and Small Space Fitness!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hands up who's in full on hibernation mode? Sometimes heading to the gym while it's still dark outside, or going there after work when it's been dark for three hours already is not particularly appealing. Or maybe the gym just isn't your thing - fear not, I've put together my favourite at-home workouts. These are all budget friendly and can be done at any time of the day. As I live in a tiny studio apartment and I figure some of you may have flat mates or live in student accommodation I've also rated them in terms of space and noise - hardcore jumping around isn't really an option when you have neighbours on three side and below you!

1. Yoga With Adrienne

I love these videos - as do a lot of people if you look at the views they clock up! Adrienne's personality shines through and she focuses on all aspects of yoga, not just the phsyical side of it. I do yoga classes regularly and use these videos to supplement my practice and to ensure I get my daily yoga fix. They are suitable for complete beginners, too and whether you have five minutes or a full hour there are so many videos to choose from. You can also pick a need - whether it be a hangover, stress, the winter blues or if you want a chilled bedtime practice. Adrienne feels like an encouraging friend rather than a barking fitness instructor and the videos never fail to make me, in the words of Adrienne, "find what feels good".

Space - if you have room for a yoga mat then you have enough space!

Cost - a yoga mat would be good to have but it's not necessary. They are inexpensive and take up very little room so I would recommend getting one if (like me) you have a hard wooden floor. Tiger has a really nice one at the moment  and TK Maxx had a really good fitness section last time I went.

2. Blogilates

I've been dipping in an out of Cassey's videos for years - there's a huge archive of ones to choose from now and you can pick which body parts to work so if you're new to Blogilates you're definitely in for a treat. I love the ab-focused videos and am always pleasntly surprised with how much harder they are than they first appear to be. Cassey is super cute and very enthusiastic - like Adrienne she brings her personality to the videos although I do find that the chit-chat means that I can only do each one a few times before it gets a bit frustrating!

Space - the mat work videos are perfect for a small space, I'd avoid the HIIT cardio ones in my apartment though!

Cost - again, a yoga mat would be useful but not essential.

3. Fitness Blender

Kelley and Dan are the cutest fitness couple. I love how their videos are really clear and instructive and that they have a very no-frills approach - zero background music and no chit-chat. Sometimes I want zero distractions and a good explanation of how to do a particular move - especially when it comes to weights when there is a lot of scope to go wrong when working out at home. The style is so clean and sometimes this is just what I need (although unlike Adrienne and Cassey you don't feel like you really get to "know" them). The videos are easily searchable and cover a whole spectrum of workouts, from yoga and pilates to hardcore HIIT.

Space - the low impact cardio is perfect for a small space and doesn't make a lot of noise. I love the kettle bell workouts - just make sure you have enough room to swing them!

Cost - the yoga, pilates and low-impact aerobics videos don't need any equiptment. Some workouts do require weights but you can filter these out if you dont have any or look on Amazon for inexpensive ones.

4. Kayla Itsines

Picture from Honestly Fitness
Instagram fitness queen Kayla has recently launched an app (Sweat With Kayla) which guides you through her signature method. The workouts are simple - two seven-minute circuits, each with four workout moves which are done twice each resulting in a 28 minute workout. I was a little sceptical before doing my first circuit but by the end I was seriously sweating - impressive for a workout done in my tiny flat with no equipment! The only downside is that without a video to follow its harder to spot if you may be going wrong, especially if you're not used to some of the moves and I do feel with these that I have to rely on my own motivation - 7 minutes can feel quite long when you're doing burpees and commandos!

Space - I managed to do all three circuits (arms and abs, lower body and full body) in the confines of my flat, even if I did have to improvise a little and use my coffee table as a bench. Some of the moves require jumps so maybe not one to do at 6am...

Cost - the app is free for the first seven days and then is £14.99 per month. I unsubscribed before the trial ended as part of my January frugal kick as with a bit of Google-ing exercises and the timer app on your phone you can re-create the workouts yourself for free (albeit with a less glossy interface). The app lets you share your workouts if that's your thing, take progress pictures and provides meal plans, too. I can see how it would be useful, especially if you commit to the full workout program.


Salad Secrets - Eat Well Feel Good

Thursday, 28 January 2016

This month Florette challenged me to use their new Superfood Salad in a recipe. The superfood salad mix contains baby chard, baby kale, spinach, beetroot and rocket so it's the perfect salad base for getting creative with. As well as being tasty, these leaves are high in Vitamin A which helps the immune system function (vital for this time of year) and Folic Acid which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue (again, a winter essential). The leaves are also a source of Calcium which is great if you don't eat dairy - people seem to think that cow's milk is the only source of calcium but if you don't drink or don't like milk it's still possible to get calcium from a plant-based diet.

Florette sent me a bundle of goodies - I love matcha tea so half this box is already gone and pomegranate morasses seems to crop up in a lot of recipes I've been reading lately so I couldn't wait to try it out myself.

January goodies - how fun does the lemon squeezer look? Ooh, I'm getting excited about kitchen utensils - am I a grown-up now?
I decided to go with a green theme because loading up on greens definitely makes me feel better at this time of year - if the sky is going to insist on being grey then my food can be as colourful as possible (fruits and vegetables, not peanut M&Ms sadly!). I chose a mix of vegetables with different textures, tofu for a source of protein and sunflower seeds for crunch (and Vitamin E to help keep skin healthy against the elements).

Asian-Inspired Superfood Salad (serves 2)

1 bag Florette Superfood Salad
1 small bag each of green peas, broccoli and sugarsnap peas
1 block of basil tofu
Pomegranate molasses, soya sauce and wasabi to dress
Sunflower seeds

Divide the superfood salad leaves between two bowls. Cook the vegetables (I microwaved mine) and add to the salad - toss everything together to warm up the salad and allow the leaves to wilt a little. Slice the tofu thinly and fry in a non-stick pan for two minutes on each side (no need to add oil as the basil tofu is already infused with it). Top the salad with the tofu and make the dressing by mixing the pomegranate molasses, soya sauce and a dash of wasabi paste in a separate dish. Add a final sprinkle of sunflower seeds for a bit of crunch.

The perfect winter lunch - ready in less than ten minutes and packed full of goodness and colour.

Check out the #EatWellFeelGood and #SaladSecrets hashtags on Instagram for more superfood recipe inspiration!


From London With Love

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

London can be hard to love. It's grey and it's expensive and even in the middle of seven million people it can be lonely. 2016 will mark nine years - almost a decade - of living in the capital. The early days of my London romance would be distant memories if Facebook didn't insist on showing me them on an almost daily basis - eliciting the same reaction as when it tells me to say happy birthday to the guy I went on one date with who then both lost his phone and suffered short-term amnesia the day after....

I can no longer pop into Selfridges at 3pm or walk home across Waterloo Bridge at 3am. I know how to pronounce Southwark and six years after jumping into a Regent's Park fountain I'm still relatively healthy. The sparkly novelty of living here has grown into a daily reality of the 9-5 (heh), continued annoyance at the lack of a decent sized supermarket anywhere in Zone 1 and the way my finger too often hovers over my Uber app when, yeah, I probably could make the last tube but I don't really want to. Like a long term relationship, the newness has given way to staying in eating happy-hour Itsu and half-guiltily cancelling date night in favour of Netflix...  I'm obviously not talking about human relationships here (see above paragraph), I just meant that I didn't go to Lumiere because, well, it's a bit cold and I need to talk about Making A Murderer with people I've never met on Twitter...

I've stopped noticing the little things, the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make London...well, London. I've somewhat guiltily let my mind wander on dull afternoons and started thinking about other cities, other places, places that are not London. I've wondered if I'd like to try out another life, another place - my ears pricking up when a friend mentions a friend of a friend who's jacked in the grey for distant shores or when friends share stories of their times in other cities and when Instagram shows me the view from their 50th floor apartment. I start to think about how many boxes I'd need to fit my possessions into...4, 40, 400? And how quickly could I pack up and jet off? And then I stop. Because I don't think I could actually ever leave this city. The one where I've felt more at home than anywhere else. The one that I've run 26 miles through its streets cheered on by people who screamed out my name even though they didn't know me. The one where for a few weeks in 2012 we all became our sparkly best selves and realised how good that felt. The one that will always, somehow, convince me to stay because of all the memories that we've shared and all the ones we are yet to make...

Some snippets of recent wanderings and things that have given me joy:

Spotted in Covent Garden and my John-Lewis-Christmas-advert-hating cold self just melted a little bit.
We do doors well in London. Spotted in Shoreditch.
Hidden side streets which are made for Instagram - Pollock's Toy Museum in Fitzrovia. The streets behind Oxford Circus are remarkably quiet and full of history and fun facts. Many were picked up on the matcha green tea walking tour as we burnt off the calories contained in the matcha treats and exercised our brains, too. 
The Fitzrovia Mural - showing that London life has had the same joys and troubles since 1980. 
Look up when you're passing the Tiger Store at 393 Oxford Street - the Victorian building is topped with a beaver and suddenly the street that I hurry down, avoiding eye contact and inwardly cringing as to why I'm there on a weekend becomes as magical as it did when I was five and on my way to visit my grandfather at Selfridges. 
A happy-looking blue house in Hackney. Slowly working on the parents not having mini heart-attacks every time I mention going to Hackney, Haggerston, Dalston, Brixton etc etc etc because times are changing but the diversity of this city is what makes it so special. 
While most of central becomes a repeating parade of Starbucks - Itsu - Pret - Eat, Neal's Yard retains its hippie roots and is a cheery sight even on a dreary day. 
The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton is a charming way to spend a spare hour. Free entry and an insight into how the middle classes have lived their lives since the 1700s.  
This 1960s flat looks not dissimilar to mine (if I tidied for days and culled a lot of my possessions). Us Londoners at least know how to make an overpriced shoebox stylish...shout out to my old flat where the kitchen was in a cupboard.