Monday, 28 November 2016

Food: The Annual Veggie Christmas Sandwich Round-Up

By annual, I meant that I did a post on this last year and wanted to run the same feature again only not leave it until one week before Christmas. I've never been a big fan of Christmas food and it is by far the worst time of year to be a veggie or vegan. Summer months are fine as you can get through the two barbecues you're actually invited to by sinking G&Ts and eating a few crisps but at Christmas the meat dodge is somewhat harder and the majority of veggie options are downright awful (every Christmas menu I have perused so far looks like it was written by one of those people who irrationally hates vegetarians).

The high-street sandwich offerings are getting better, though. Christmas past saw just a conciliatory brie and cranberry offering but now the horizons have been broadened beyond cheese (the lactose intolerant and vegans - rejoice!). But...are they actually nice? I shelved my carb-phobia and battled through the 3pm post-lunch slump* to bring you my guide to the best meat-free Christmas sandwiches:

1. The Starbucks Veggie Feast Baguette

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Friday, 25 November 2016

Food: Dark Chocolate Figs With Sea Salt

I had some chocolate leftover from my chocolate salad dressing recipe and rather than just eat it, I turned it into something more Instagram-worthy and then ate it!

These are very easy to make and taste amazing - the sea salt is optional but if you've ever had the Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt then you'll know how good a combination it is. Just melt the dark chocolate, dip the figs in, lay on a pie of baking parchment, sprinkle with salt and leave in the fridge for a few hours.

Perfect with a coffee or as a very lazy dessert. You can pretend it's healthy because, well, its just dried fruit and 80% cocoa chocolate which is good for you in small amounts. And it's vegan too! 

dark chocolate dipped figs
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Monday, 14 November 2016

Food: Caramelised Goats Cheese Salad With Dark Chocolate Dressing

Yes, you read the post title correctly. This month Florette challenged me to put together a "swavoury" salad and I obliged. The idea of using chocolate in a salad recipe may seem bizarre but remember that ten years ago we'd never heard of salted caramel and now you can get a salted caramel candle!

This salad is inspired by the goats cheese and honeycomb starter served at Duck and Waffle but with a dark chocolate dressing. Maybe not one to serve to dieting friends but I love the idea of serving this at a dinner party along with a couple of other salad plates for everyone to dip into. Salads may not seem like an obvious winter choice but this one is so hearty and filling. It's like hygge on a plate and is such a painless way to eat your greens.

dark chocolate salad dressing

dark chocolate salad dressing

Ingredients:

Salad -
1 bag Florette Baby Leaf and Rocket
Goats cheese (I used a soft variety but any kind will work)
Blueberries (a handful)
Dried figs (4-5 chopped up)
Baby beetroot (I used a pre-prepared pack)
Pumpkin seeds

Dressing -
Dark chocolate (80% cocoa)
Honey
Balsamic vinegar

Method:

Arrange the leaves, blueberries, dried figs and baby beetroot on your plate. Heat a non stick pan and add the sliced goats cheese, after a minute add a drizzle of runny honey and cook until the cheese is brown and bubbling. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate (I used a quarter of a large bar) in the microwave, stir in the honey and the balsamic vinegar until its at a "dressing consistency" -  I didn't measure my ingredients. Add the goats cheese to the salad, drizzle the dressing over and finish with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.

dark chocolate salad dressing

Have you tried any "swavoury" cooking?

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Friday, 11 November 2016

Fashion: 9 Winter Workwear Buys

I keep realising that I've been working in a proper grown-up job for five (five!) years but that I'm still wearing some of the work clothes that I bought, well, five years ago. As much as I applaud this rare instance of frugality in my life, it's time for an upgrade.

Office-appropriate dressing is something that I struggle with. I don't mean that I turn up to work in a bikini and cowboy boots and fail to realise that this is inappropriate but that it's hard to find clothes that I genuinely love and want to part with my money for which are also suitable for wearing in a rather traditional office environment. All this before we think about the swings between unbearably stuffy and the sometimes ferocious air-con which I guarantee come with any form of working in an office, no matter what the dress code.

So here is my pick of winter work wear, all under £150 and not a grey suit in sight:


Winter Blush

Winter doesn't mean defaulting to a palette of black and grey. Office lighting is invariably unflattering and while I love soft greys for casual wear, in the office they can look drab. This Chanel-esque tweed jacket is perfect for updating a simple shift dress, pair with round-toed courts for a sweet but smart look. Winter coats also do not need to be black - this candy-floss soft pink coat is professional and will make reaching for it while it's still dark at 8am a little bit easier. Beat the outdoor and indoor air-con chill with a long sleeved dress because for some reason most of my work dresses are sleeveless and totally impractical for winter.



Monochrome-ish

Navy is office appropriate and suits everyone, and this dress would work for evenings and weekends too (although once I've work an item to the office it is dead to me). Skirts in tweed and monochrome are a welcome addition to my dress-heavy wardrobe and we all probably have knits to wear them with already but the jewelled collared one is lovely if not. These non-boring black heels are smart but not dull, and might be worth taking home for the weekend now that the party season is (almost) here because they're too nice to live under a desk.

What are you wearing to work this winter? Or are you a lucky person who can wear whatever you want?

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Sunday, 6 November 2016

London: Colombia Road Flower Market

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall"
- F. Scott Fitzgerald


Chillier air and darker mornings aren't yet a sign to abandon all hope and hibernate. Before winter really sets in, the days where the sun shines through the grey city skies and where the air is crisp can be just as beautiful as those now fading mid-summer memories.

Colombia Road is one of my favourite London spots but sometimes the urge to get out the flat and actually head there on a Sunday mornings just isn't there. Living alone makes my motivation very variable but when you wake up too early for a Sunday it's the perfect opportunity to hastily pull on some leggings, grab a big old coat and feel slightly guilty for letting the door of your building slam back into its frame before 8am.

The market runs all year round, between 8am and 2pm but as with most things in the big city, early is better. The streets are quiet, the light is perfect, there are no crowds to push past and there are seats at the counter in Colombia Café where £4 gets you a bagel and a coffee to start the day (usual London prices would only get you the latter). The market changes with the seasons and summer's bright flowers have given way to winter bedding plants and bouquets of orange and reds.

By 9am, I was on my way home with succulents, mini pumpkins and the whole rest of the day to blissfully while away.





Colombia Road Flower Market, Sundays 8am - 2pm
More information here


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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Life: October Round-Up

There are only two months of 2016 left, guys! Autumn is most definitely here now and it's brought with it more doubt about my youthfulness by way of a browse of winter jumpers -  I don't want to wear one with cut-out shoulders, my shoulders have never felt particularly hot and bothered before now (if jumpers with cut-out armpits become on-trend then please let me know). I also keep finding myself making comments about the depreciating value of the pound like an actual adult who maybe understands these things, concerned citizen alert! Scepticism of trends and concern about the economy, didn't this start out as a fashion blog I hear you ask?

November brings with it my yearly black-tie ball at which I always fail to get any pictures of myself looking nice and another chance to play a US Elections Drinking Game of your choice. Although I'm not sure if we need a game as an excuse to drink this year. ANYWAY, here's what the tenth month of our collective annus horribilis looked like:


1. I got my haircut after far too long. My Rosamund-Pike-in-Gone-Girl bob has finally grown out!

2. Avocado toast at the Curious Yellow Kafe in Hoxton.

3. An almond milk matcha latte from Farm Girl (literally the same price as the previous entire meal).

4. Taking a boat trip on the Thames to Greenwich where my parents and I did a tour of the Meantime Brewery. I really wish I could be a Gone Girl "cool girl" and drink beer but...nope.

5. I've finally started running again and it's great for Instagram because it gives me an excuse to stop and wonder how I ever got round a marathon.

6. Stylist Live in Angel where I learned all about Hygge.

7. Yoga with Adriene in London at York Hall. She is just as funny and even more beautiful in real life.

8. Another running shot - I still find this city so beautiful sometimes (mostly before 7am when no one else is out and about), my love affair with London is almost as long and committed as my relationship with Diet Coke.

9. Fashion In Motion celebrating 10 years of House of Holland. So nice but ultimately so detrimental to my youth to have "grown up" with a label. It will always be 2006 in a small part of my heart.



1. I can't remember when I swapped Friday nights out for Saturday morning yoga brunches. A class at the Sky Garden followed by a buffet brunch was a great start to a productive solo Saturday.

2. The views from the Sky Garden on a grey day. I can (almost) see my desk from here (that's a lie because I don't have a window seat).

3. Visiting the Tate Modern's Switch House for the first time - a stone's throw from where I used to live when I first took up residence in Zone 1 as a sweet and naïve 20 year-old.

4. Enjoying peak adulthood in the Tate Modern's bar with a solo Bloody Mary and river views.

5. The launch of Yuu Kitchen in Aldgate - the tofu bao is amazing (my friend's chicken bao looked more amazing but I've told too many people that I'm veggie now to give in to such temptations).

6. Still getting lost around the Barbican Estate - sorry to the residents of Frobisher Crescent for all the bloggers who take outfit photos in the sculpture court. 

7. A cookie from Blondies Kitchen pop-up in Old Street Station - I wanted the gluten free one to kid myself that it was full of health but the Oreo one looked prettier (and I'm not even gluten free anyway).

8. Just chilling in bed with Benedict and some mini pumpkin gourds! I hope Hollywood hasn't changed you, Cumbers (have you been working out?).

9. The National Gallery Halloween late and a visit to my favourite painting which looks much better not through the medium of my smartphone. 

How was your October?

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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Life: Finding Hygge - 5 Tips For Cynical Londoners

Hygge (pron. "hoo-gah") is definitely this autumn's buzzword. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen this pronunciation-challenge on the internet and in the real world. The Danes may be au fait with this concept, relying it on for years gone by to get them through the cold, dark winter months and to make them, despite six-month winters and worse weather than the UK, the happiest nation in the world according to years of UN studies.

When I first read about Hygge I was sceptical. Was it just a new way to sell me things I don't need? A ploy to make me finally light my £60 Diptyque candle? Or just small talk of cosy blankets, cable knits and bowls of steaming soup but without any substance that I could usefully bring to my own life? Against a backdrop of the uncertain later days of 2016, the darkening nights and my social interaction consisting mostly of WhatsApp, could Hygge, in any small way, help me?

Hygge tips for londoners

At Stylist Live I attended the Helen Russell's talk about living more "Danishly" which inspired her book, The Year Of Living Danishly. Having visited Denmark in the summer, I fell in love with the Danes' friendly, laid back attitudes, how a Danish man laughed at my suggestion of chaining up my borrowed bike and how even the children at Legoland seemed more pleasant than their UK counterparts.

Helen shared her insights into a life as Brit in Denmark - how Danes finish work at 3pm, leave their babies sleeping outside cafes and cycle in groups wearing matching Lycra. Now, London isn't rural Juttland and in the social, political and professional spheres the UK is very different to our not-so-far-away Scandinavian neighbour. But, as a cynical, winter-hating Londoner, I now think I can bring some much-needed Hygee into my life this winter even without leaving work at 3pm or wearing any Lycra (matching or otherwise).

Five Hygge-boosting resolutions for the cynical:

1. Treat yourself - Danes live life without denial. I will stop saving half of my wardrobe "for best", start using my Mac lipsticks and if I really want a steaming take-out cup of hot chocolate I'll have one. If our pastries were as good as they are in Denmark, I'd have one of those too. Oh, and I'll light that £60 candle while I'm at it.

2. Be kinder - Hygge is all about being kinder to ourselves, so I'll let myself have one chocolate without it turning into an oh-fuck-it-might-as-well-eat-the-whole-box-and-then-a-family-sized-bag-of-crisps-too. Spread kindness to others, Londoners are thought of as being hard-hearted (because we mostly are!) but holding open a door here, smiling at a stranger there, putting your change in the coffee shop tip jar - little things add up.

3. Play - Danes prioritise play at all ages. As an adult it's easy to forget to play when life often feels a bit "work hard / slump in a heap". I'm definitely signing up for a circus skills class and if active play isn't for you then break out the board games (Drink Shop & Do have a good supply as well as cake) because it's harder to moan about tube strikes and house prices while trying to get a triple word score in Scrabble.

4. Home aesthetics - Danes love their interior design and spent time and money making their homes just so. A beautiful home is a happy home - pleasing design releases dopamine in the brain's reward centre, exercise releases it too but working on your home aesthetic is less sweaty. I'm resolving to finally get a frame for my Chanel poster, to put my pictures on the walls and to clear out the crap one rainy afternoon to make my studio flat feel cosy rather than cramped.

5. Connect - it's easy to feel lonely despite being surrounded by people but at least we have the constant buzz of WhatsApp group chat notifications ("Hen Do!" "Wedding Chat" "Birthday Drinks!") to keep us sane. Or not. For me, the key to "Hygge"is about making connections with others, not cosily watching Netflix under a blanket and saying "look how Hygge I am!". Make a date to actually see your friends, whether it be a quick coffee catch-up, a post work drink (or six) or y'know, just invite them round to your Danishly beautiful home for a good old-fashioned chat and maybe a board game while you're at it.


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