Friday, 28 August 2015

A (Wedding) Weekend In The City

Last weekend was a wedding whirlwind celebrating my friend S's wedding. The celebrations took place over a few days and I definitely had wedding withdrawals once I returned to reality on Monday morning. This was the first time I'd been to a traditional Pakistani wedding so didn't really know what to expect but bright colours, amazing food, family, friends and love was what there was ♥




The Mehndi party took place two days before the wedding in a colourful marquee - us girls all wore bright colourful outfits, hence my scarf. Most people had had their outfits made for them so the chance of turning up in an identical Coast "wedding guest" dress was minimal! After a dance-off between the bride and groom's friends we all took to the dance floor late into the night fuelled by freshly made dosas and kulfi ice cream. The only downside to not having any alcohol was that my feet were in genuine pain by the time I got home!


The following day we got mehndi/henna applied for the wedding ceremony. This was so worth not touching my phone for twenty minutes while it dried. It's still going strong a few days later - I'll definitely miss it once it fades and it was a great way to catch-up with the girls in between the wedding madness!




On Saturday morning I took a break from wedding-ing for The Bloggers Market at The Hoxton Hotel Holborn. Appetiser, Yo Sushi and Krispy Kreme were all on hand to keep us well fed! It was so fun to meet other bloggers and browse the rails of clothing and the hotel itself is awesome. I didn't stay very long because, well, there was a wedding to get ready for...





Finally, the wedding ceremony. East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf provided a beautiful venue - the whole room smelled of jasmine - those centre pieces, wow!  We had a three course meal (including my favourite dessert galab jamun which you absolutely must try if you ever get the chance) and ended the night with the groom bargaining for his shoe back from the bride's siblings - a Pakistani wedding tradition which became very vocal!

I wore a saree for the first time and I think this is my favourite outfit of 2015 so far. I felt so feminine (and - lets give ourselves permission to think this - pretty) wearing it and having to take careful, small steps so as not to trip over the fabric felt like a far cry from wearing my (now all too frequent) leggings and Birkenstocks combo. My friend SB helped me put it on and so deserves all the credit for this look. I was so sad to unravel it at the end of the evening and for my beautiful outfit to return to a carefully folded piece of fabric.

Wishing S and F all the happiness for their married life - it definitely started in the most beautiful, love-filled and happy way possible.


Share:

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Playing Hostess - Healthy Treats and Birthday Fun

One of the best things about having your own place is the ability to play hostess. While I'm a long way from dinner party material I've come far from the days when all I could serve up was gin and crisps (ok, I do occasionally still do this but sometimes that's all you really need).

I've recently got into baking of sorts but living alone means I can really do without having freshly baked cake to tempt me and it's more fun and challenging to get creative and make healthy things. That way if I eat some of the mix or have leftovers I don't feel guilty about eating them. And, even better, some of my carnivorous friends have willingly tried and actually enjoyed my efforts. All of these recipes are super easy to make and the flapjack and shortbread are so healthy you can eat them for breakfast! They're also all vegan and free from refined sugar so are good for your conscience and your energy levels.


Tropical cereal bars made with this recipe from Poppy's blog. I swapped the dried mango for dried apricot as I had some leftover from my Florette delivery. These are so easy to make and are really filling - I used these silver trays from Waitrose to bake them in as it makes them portable for picnics and (lazy I know) means less washing up.


I love goji berries and did a search for recipes containing them on the BBC website - this one by Hemsley + Hemsley sounded perfect! This fudge is super rich and chocolatey and the goji berries give it a great chewy texture. It needs to be kept in the fridge to stop it melting - it's great as an after dinner mini dessert with a cup of tea.


Millionaire's shortbread used to be one of my favourite treats when I was at school - I still enjoy it occasionally now but the sugary shortbread and caramel always makes me feel tired and sluggish. Laura's raw recipe has been on my list to make for a while and this didn't disappoint. I swapped almonds for walnuts (thanks, again, Florette!) and rather than a chocolate layer just did a drizzle as I find that raw chocolate is quite intense! The caramel layer is amazing - lucuma powder is such an awesome ingredient. I used to be sceptical when hearing that it tasted "like caramel" but it really does!


Some of my best blogger girls and I had a little picnic as my early birthday celebration. The British weather made it an indoor picnic but these awesome Tiger plates and cups kept the summer vibe. Aisling made some amazingly gooey courgette brownies and we might have had a few store-bought treats, too! Mrs Crimbles coconut macarons are so good!


My lovely early birthday gifts from Aisling, Hannah, Tanya, Sarah, Sarah and Sophie. I now have a Cumberbatch badge to go with my top!

What are your favourite guest-pleasing treats?

Share:

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lunching Ladies - The Black Penny and Chifafa

I had a couple of days off work last week for my friend S's wedding but took some time out from wedding celebrations for a spot of lunching and catching up with some of my favourite ladies. Having days off work in London makes me feel like I'm playing truant from school - wandering down Oxford Street at 10am I half expected someone to ask me why I wasn't at work but it's blissful being able to get things done when everyone else is locked away in their offices (ha ha).




Dress - Joy (similar), Leggings - Uniqlo, Denim Jacket - House of Holland (similar),  Sandals - Office
Photos by Sarah 
I stopped by Keash Braids at Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street to get my hair braided - since having shorter hair I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to do with it for events but loved the 90s / festival vibe of this style. It took around half an hour to do and lasted a full two days - much better than a blow dry in this weird humid weather we've been having.


On Thursday I met Sarah for lunch at The Black Penny on Great Queen Street. This is the cutest lunch spot - the menu changes daily with a selection of salads and sandwiches. The cakes looked awesome too but I managed to resist on this occasion (weddings are great diet motivation, even as a guest). I had a tasty piece of salmon with three different salads and felt virtuous. Top marks too for the mini succulent on the table.



On Friday, Hannah and I were kindly treated to lunch at Chifafa on Clerkenwell Road. Chifafa definitely isn't your average kebab shop - everything is fresh and healthy and you can pick between a kebab wrap, a rice box or a salad box. It's a great spot for lunch or for a quick dinner - it was busy when we visited but there are a few table inside to grab a spot at.  I had a halloumi rice box which was so tasty and filling and one of my favourite Rebel Kitchen drinks. Hannah had a lamp kebab wrap which looked super tasty. I'll definitely be back to try the falafel soon - it's great that there are two veggie options as when making food plans I still forget that I don't eat meat anymore!

Have you had any week time downtime lately?

Share:

Friday, 21 August 2015

#SaladSecrets - Superfood Month

This month's Florette recipe challenge involves superfoods. I love including superfoods in my diet as a way to boost my vitamin intake and it helps that many superfoods taste amazing, too. Superfoods don't have to be pricey and can definitely be picked up in a normal supermarket so there's no need to trek to healthfood stores for un-prounoucable ingredients to get the benefits.

Baby kale contains vitamins C and A and is a source of calcium so makes a much better salad base than limp lettuce. Goji berries are delicious to add to a breakfast bowl of porridge and a great immune system boost and switching a regular brew for green tea (add a squeeze of lemon if you find the taste bitter!) means you can get a dose of antioxidants before even leaving the house in the morning! I've created two easy superfood recipes using Florette salad and some of the superfood ingredients sent to me by Florrette.

Florette salad recipes

Superfood Salad

There are various versions of the superfood salad - my take is a great mix of tastes and textures (the key to making a salad filling and interesting) and can be made in five minutes. I love this as either a main meal or as part of a picnic spread. It's so colourful and looks as good as it tastes.

I heated up a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa in the microwave (so easy!) and mixed the cooked quinoa with a bag of Florette baby kale for the salad base. The rest is even easier - top with soft goats cheese, chopped dried apricots (goats cheese and fruit is the best combo!), goji berries and finish with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and chia seeds for extra crunch.

There are loads more baby kale recipes here.

Florette salad recipes

Florette salad recipes

Creamy Greeny Smoothie

My NutriBullet is definitely the best thing I've ever bought - how did I not used to have one?! This smoothie is so good and the vibrant green colour is a great start to the day, it just looks so healthy! I blended Florette baby kale, a frozen banana, a cup of almond milk and a large spoonful of peanut butter. Topped with goji berries for a texture contrast and for added nutrients. Using salad ingredients in smoothies is my favourite way to get more greens into my diet - you honestly can't really taste them despite the vibrant colour of this!

Florette salad recipes

What are your favourite superfoods?


Share:

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A (Cumber)Bitching Weekend + Bonfire Restaurant Review

The weekend just gone was one that had been anticipated for a while. A while being 14 months. Last April I booked tickets to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and now...I've seen Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. It was one of those weekends that even while it was all happening it felt surreal that it was happening. Now it's over I feel a strange sense of emptiness that is only filled by the knowledge that I'm seeing it again in...just over two months time!

I wore my Cumberbatch t-shirt for the occasion (available here) - weirdly I was the only person in the audience wearing a piece of clothing emblazoned with Benedict's face. Who would have thought? It's probably for the best that I didn't get the matching leggings, too.

Poprageous Cumberbitch T-shirt

Poprageous Cumberbitch T-shirt

Poprageous Cumberbitch T-shirt

The play itself - I don't want to give too much away as I know a few of you have tickets and in the social media-fied world nothing is a surprise anymore and that's a real shame. Suffice to say it's pretty awesome - the set is amazing and there are a few comedic touches. The story line itself will not be a shock to anyone but having seen Michael Sheen's Hamlet at the Young Vic a few years ago it's nice to see a different adaptation. The weight of anticipation and expectation feels huge and all of the cast (not just BC) put on an awesome show. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves for October and yeah...I saw Sherlock on the stage and that still feels awesome!

Be warned that the first half is LONG. With a 1.30pm start by the time we left at 4.30pm we were starving (next time I will bring an interval snack). Post theatre lunch/dinner was at Bonfire - the new restaurant offering on the first floor of the Barbican Centre which has replaced the Barbican Lounge. I had luckily won a Twitter competition for a free meal for two but as my parents and I had already decided to dine here post Hamlet we just paid for the third person's food - my parents can't complain I don't treat them, eh?

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

Bonfire Barbican Restaurant Review

The setting has been updated for a simpler, more pared-down look. The menu is short and sweet with salads, burgers and chicken. I feel like there are countless restaurants in London with very similar offerings but it obviously works and is popular - the burger train is showing no sign of slowing down!

The restaurant is still clearly getting used to operating under its new guise - the queue for ordering and paying was at times pretty long and the serving staff didn't seem to know which tables to take the food to but hopefully these are teething problems which will be resolved. For summer days there's a huge terrace overlooking the lake - it really is a lovely spot and for I'm surprised (but pleased) that the Barbican didn't decide to put a more pricey dining spot here.

Mummy Lipstick and I started off with negronis (our favourite cocktail) which were strong but not overpowering. My parents both had the Kenyan burger which looked delicious (but not enough to tempt me back to eating meat). I was torn between the veggie and vegan offerings but went for the vegan one as I know I'll be back to try the other soon anyway - the Barbican Centre is my second home after all. The vegan burger was not the best veggie burger I've had but it was tasty (I think veggie / vegan burgers are actually very difficult to get right and it's great just to have the option in the first place) and the sides were all so, so good - we shared fries, sweet potato wedges and raw slaw. My parents were very impressed with their meaty burgers although for burger snobs out there there wasn't the option to chose how the meat was cooked. We shared two desserts between the three of us - the brownie (sans ice cream for me) was super moist and delicious and a great end to our meal.

PS. All orders are 50% off until 5pm for all of August so that makes it a pretty thrifty lunch.

What did you last see at the theatre? And what's your favourite burger?


Share:

Monday, 17 August 2015

Working Lunches - Veggie, Vegan, Healthy And Not A Sarnie in Sight

Lately I've been trying to reclaim my lunch break (lunch hour may be pushing it but unless you're a brain surgeon you can probably stop what you're doing for twenty minutes for lunch). Food is an important part of the day and eating a sad sandwich while reading work emails is neither joyous nor satisfying. Since making an effort to take a lunch break I've definitely felt more productive in the afternoons and the 4pm slump is a rare occurrence rather than a daily struggle.

Working in central London there is so much choice for a quick lunch. I don't understand how some of my colleagues eat the same Pret baguette every day! Here are some of my favourite lunch spots - not a sad sandwich in sight!

Nusa

I never used to be a soup fan but Nusa's soups are amazing - so flavoursome and filling. The menu changes weekly so there's always something new to try and everything is clearly marked as to whether its dairy free, gluten free, veggie or vegan. The soups come with a side of brown rice or homemade bread and toppings of your choice - the perfect lunch for chilly days (yes, even in August).

Locations: Old Street, Cannon Street and Old Broadstreet and online here


Leon

Leon is an old favourite for a healthy and tasty lunch. I tried the new super clean vegan quinoa salad which is as yummy as it is #trendy sounding. I also love the green shake and the rice boxes for a more substantial lunch and the breakfasts are great, too. Oh, and there's a loyalty card where you get a free brownie once you've completed all the stamps.

Locations: too many to list - all are here


NiHaw

Sushi is everywhere these days but it's variable at best in London - don't even get me started on supermarket sushi (aside from Waitrose's which is good). NiHaw does a great selection of brown rice sushi which I prefer these days and also does brown rice bowls and miso soup - there's never a big queue and the sushi is reduced after 5.30pm so its perfect for a lazy dinner, too.

Locations: Ludgate Circus and Cannon Street and online here



Hummus Bros

Falafel is one of my all time favourite foods - I could eat it every day and did just that at Glastonbury last year. Having had a bit of a falafel break lately I had a lunchtime craving for it last week and so popped into Hummus Bros for a falafel and quinoa box (seriously, what did we eat before quinoa was a thing?!). The falafel were hot and perfectly crispy and the hummus boxes here are so good, too, and there are loads of veggie and vegan options - the website is really helpful for sorting out any dietary requirements.

Locations - Holborn, St Pauls and Exmouth Market and online here


Wasabi

Branches of Wasabi are everywhere in London - I don't visit that often as the queues are always crazy and I'm always tempted by the not-as-healthy options but Fridays need sushi and this spicy chirashi bowl hit the spot.

Locations: lots! Online here.


Itsu

Another London lunchtime staple - you can't really miss their yellow signage in the city. I love the Potsu rice pots for chilly days and the sushi is great, too. Everything is calorie-counted and it does all feel very health-focused. There are low-carb boxes, veggie options, protein pots and the last half hour of the day is "happy hour" where everything in the fridges is half price - this makes me far happier than it should do! Although be warned - I've had city men snatch boxes of half price sushi from the shelves just as I've been about to pick one up in the past.

Locations: again, there are too many but online here.


What are your favourite working lunches?

Share:

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Read This: Mary McCarthy - The Group

Joining a book club is one of the best decisions I've made this year. Finding new reading material and discussing books is an absolute joy and this month's book is one I wonder how it's taken me so long to find this book and one that will stay with me long after turning the last page.

The Group Mary McCarthy book review
This Kindle reader thanks Google for this classy cover
Touted as the "original Sex And The City" this book is so much more than that. Following the lives of eight Vassar (an exclusive women-only college) graduates in the 1930s as they leave the progressive idealism of their university behind and embark on adult life, this book isn't just a look at the lives of these eight women but a huge statement from Mary McCarthy about the status of women in American society. At points I had to stop myself reading to remind myself that this was set eighty years ago. Eighty years and in a way so, so little has changed for women.

The book was published in the early 1960s and while we now have 50 Shades, Sex And The City and a whole raft of "chic lit" in the 1960s this book must have been shocking for its honesty, its detail and its non-flinching look at sexual violence, contraception, "self love" (ahem) and mental health. Areas that even in 2015 we can't talk about as openly as we'd like to. As openly as we should be able to.

As someone now witnessing my school and university friends make different choices, take different directions into successful careers, marriage, babies, home ownership or just muddling through and still figuring it out as we go along I read this at a perfect time in my life. I often think this is the key to falling in love with a book; had I read this at school or university I don't think I would have quite grasped the gap between expectation and reality of adult life. Friendships grow apart and we still seem to let men treat us badly despite being strong, educated, confident women.

So much progress has been made since the 1930s but the number of things that haven't changed is really quite depressing. While pre-marital sex might not be quite the taboo it was in the 1930s, casual sex still feels like its something "bad" for a woman to freely admit to partaking in (and, dare we say it, enjoying). Women still struggle in the work place - for equal pay, for promotions, for being taken seriously (females are still massively under-represented on boards and in senior positions in practically every profession). And women are still judged on whether they decide to marry and have children and if they do decide to have children the breast-v-bottle issue is still a matter for public debate rather than an individual choice.

Without going into too much detail - one thing that gladly has changed (although is still not perfect) since the 1930s is contraception - after one particular chapter, you'll be feeling slightly squeamish and forever grateful that (quite possibly because it affects men, too) we now have a rather improved range of options than these women did in the 1930s... In all aspects of life our options are better, our choices less restricted and certain taboos have been lifted but there's still so far to go. Read this book and feel grateful that you're living in 2015 and not 1933 but never feel complacent and never stop pushing for more - more choice, more options and, most importantly, more self respect and that you're so much better than any man who treats you like crap.

Have you read The Group?


Share:

Monday, 10 August 2015

Healthy Snack: Fruity Balls - Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free

Snacking is a pretty essential part of my existence. 4pm exists and the 4pm slump needs to be tackled but at this time of day your body really doesn't want a KitKat or a double shot latte. Since I gave up caffeine I've found that hit of the 4pm slump to be less hard but that I still need something to perk me up and power me through until dinner time.

These fruity balls are easy to make, last for a week in the fridge and are super sweet so if, like me, you have a sweet tooth it'll be satisfied without any nasties or a sugar crash as these balls only contain natural sugars and also contain nuts for a protein hit. Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring or expensive and making your own snacks is fun - I'm not much of a cook but anyone can throw a few ingredients into a blender. These are similar to the raw brownies I blogged about here but minus the chocolate - as much as I love chocolate I try not to have it in everything!


Apple Balls (pink cases)

1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup dried apple pieces
teaspoon cinnamon


Apricot Balls (blue cases)

1/2 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup dried apricots
teaspoon maca powder


To make - just blend the ingredients in a blender, I use a Nutribullet (yes, I'm one of those people), form into balls and pop into petit four cases or wrap in foil for a portable snack. I like using cashews as they have a mild and creamy taste but any nuts can be used. I find it best to soak the dried fruit the night before so that it's easier to blend - pre-soaking also means that you can use regular dates if you don't want to get the pricer but stickier (and nicer) medjool dates.

The bites may look small but they are super sweet and one or two is plenty for a sweet snack or an after dinner treat. You could also form them into bars for an on-the-go breakfast.

What are your favourite snacks?

Share:

Friday, 7 August 2015

Airplane Mode: Flying In Style

Being a somewhat "frequent flyer" these days and with the summer holiday season in full swing I thought I'd share some of my tips for stylish flying (deep breaths, it'll be worth it when you get there). I just got back from a long weekend in Lisbon for my friend S's wedding and this is how I travelled happily:



First up, hand luggage. For a short trip I pack a small suitcase and a separate smaller bag for all my essentials. Most airlines let you take two bags on board but do check this handy table on hand luggage allowances because it differs between airlines. Taking just cabin baggage will save you so much time and for a short break you don't need five pairs of shoes and seven lipsticks. I hate carrying things and this makes me ruthless! Roll, don't fold clothes, take clothes that can be mixed and matched together and only take things you know you'll wear.

In-flight essentials:

- passport / boarding pass - obviously! I usually just download my boarding pass onto Passbook on my iPhone which makes life super easy. Take print outs of any booking confirmations and if you're travelling to the EU make sure you take your EHIC card for free health care.

 - a scarf for keeping warm or using as a pillow on the plane. I take a bright one that I can use when at my destination, too. This one doubles as a sarong and has pineapples on it - its from John Lewis but annoyingly isn't on the website.

- sunglasses to put on the instant you arrive - I usually pack a cheaper pair for a short break so that I don't have to worry about losing them.

- snacks - budget airlines won't provide any food and you don't want to be tempted by (expensive) rubbish. Remember that liquids over 100ml aren't allowed on board so you can't take your own smoothies but energy bars and bites are ideal - just wrap in foil and pack so that you're sorted for in-flight snacking. Recipe for these apple and apricot bites coming soon!

- Energen C sachets - planes are literally flying germ machines, these sachets can be mixed with water to create an immune-boosting drink, I always pack them for holidays.

- Kindle - I use flights to catch-up on my reading, having no phone signal means I don't get distracted by Instagram and can actually crack on with my book club reads.

- Toiletries - again, remember the 100ml rule and that all of your products must fit into a 20cm x 20cm ziplock bag. I take hand cream as flying is so dehydrating, hand sanitiser (see above re germs - the Bath & Body works ones are the cutest going) and this Organic Pharmacy mini cleanser, lip balm and moisturiser set which is free with Elle also came along for the ride.

- Lastly, once I'm through security I buy a big bottle of water from Boots to take on the flight to stay hydrated. You can take liquids bought after security onto the plane but remember if you're not checking a bag on the way home the 100ml rule will apply.


Outfit - comfort is key for flying. For a short flight I wear something that I can layer up for in the UK and then also wear when I arrive. This H&M maxi dress is so comfortable and doesn't crease - adding a belt and denim jacket which is perfect for on the plane and for evenings abroad made me feel just stylish enough at 6am! Wearing a bulkier item saves having to pack it too. I always wear flats as airports often involve loads of walking and unless you're Victoria Beckham heels have no place in one.


At the airport - resist the allure of the bar or the indulgent breakfast - save the treats for when you're on holiday! There are loads of healthy options these days for a pre-flight meal - I flew from Stanstead which has an Itsu and Pret is always a great option for something quick and healthy. Blueberry porridge and a giant green tea started the day off in the right way and meant I could save my "naughty" allowance for a custard tart in Lisbon!


There is really no better feeling than coming into land. Hopefully these tips will help you fly smoothly and stylishly!

What are your top travel tips?


Share:
© Lily Lipstick | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig