Sunday, 28 February 2016

Working It: Hot Yoga at Omnida Studios

On a cold Thursday night the promise of a hot yoga class sounded like the perfect de-stresser. I headed to Omnida Studios in North London for their first blogger event. The studio opened in September and everything looks sparkling new still, located thirty seconds from Turnpike Lane station they offer a range of dance and fitness classes for very reasonable prices (by London standards) and have two bright and airy studios with plenty of natural light for the classes to take place in.

I'm a huge fan of yoga and practice (almost) daily. I've taken a few Bikram yoga classes in the past but find them quite exhausting - the heat is so intense that you almost have to book out the rest of your day for the purposes of drinking water and continuing to sweat! Hot yoga is practiced at around 30 degrees, 10 degrees cooler than Bikram and allows your practice to benefit from the heat without it being such a sweat-drenched experience. The hot yoga studio at Omnida was lovely, its a small studio so the class felt more personal with only six participants and our instructor, Nicola.

Nicola guided us through a forty-five minute session featuring sun salutations, chair poses and a relaxing stretch out. Unlike Bikram which is based on the same series of 26 poses practiced during each ninety minute class, hot yoga has more scope for the class to vary week by week and for shorter class lengths. I think there is a place for all sorts of yoga practice and different classes work for different people, as with everything in life its about finding what works for you but keeping an open mind to different styles of yoga and different teaching methods.

I found that the heat really helped my muscles to relax and move deeper into the poses and stretches - compared with the cold outside the room felt lovely and warm, like practicing yoga on holiday, and my tight hips definitely appreciated it! The heat also makes some of the stronger poses more challenging and I could definitely feel myself having to concentrate on my breathing while my heart rate rose. I left feeling super relaxed and ready to rehydrate with coconut water and a healthy buffet while chatting with my new-found yoga squad.

Omnida's time table can be viewed here.

omnida studios
Post-yoga snacking, Nicola and I (yoga) posing, buddha, a lovely goodie bag of treats. 
omnida studios
Striking a pose.
Have you tried hot yoga?


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Thursday, 25 February 2016

2016 Travel Plans

Inspired by Sophie's post and the continued greyness of British winter, I'm daydreaming about my 2016 travels...

Travel essentials.
The last few years have been all about ticking places off of my list (Korea after 8 years), visiting friends dotted around the world (vicariously living out my "year abroad" dream and being thankful that they are braver than I am) and saying yes to any trip that came my way with scant regard for my beleaguered credit card (sorry not sorry).

Somewhere between the UK and USA.
I've now reached a tipping point with holidays, too old for certain things (probably not going to ever go to a Full Moon party) and too young for others (haven't yet reached the levels of people hatred where a two week silent yoga retreat is necessary), browsing holiday plans that switch from sailing around Thailand to touring the American Deep South in a five minute period and seeing friends jet off to places that I want to see but that aren't really a "must see right now". I love solo travel and doing a destination on my own terms but not every destination is solo-suitable and as friends pair off I'm lacking a travel partner (aside from my annual girlie break with mother). A few less-than-positive combinations of friends + holiday have done little to make me want to entrust two weeks of my life and a lot of money to giving it another go...

So, 2016 is shaping up to be a little different holiday-wise but here are my plans so far:

When a budget flight is nearly over.

1. Amsterdam - I'm visiting the Dutch capital for the first time in March - France and Spain aside I'm not very well-travelled when it comes to Europe and when somewhere is an hour's flight away there's no excuse. I have booked the Van Gogh Museum and Anne Frank's house online to avoid the queues on a short trip and also have plans to visit a cat café and cat museum to balance out the big hit tourist attractions and for some light relief (still not over Anne Frank's Diary after reading it more than ten years ago). Hopefully they'll be time for canal side wandering, sitting in cafes and maybe, maybe sampling some chocolate covered fries that I've been told about.

2. Vietnam / Singapore - as a committed only-child, I still holiday with my parents (apparently some people think this is weird) but after having the same holiday (Le Royal Meridian on Jumeriah Beach) five times I pushed for us to have a proper adventure together and step out of our beach and shopping mall comfort zone. I'm so incredibly lucky that my parents are both around and are as happy for me to join them on this trip as I am for them to be with me. We are off to Vietnam for a nine day tour which takes in all of the main tourist route at a fast pace and is totally organised and fuss-free - just what we need! We'll be stopping off in Singapore on the way home which four people have already told me is "shit" but as I've only been to the airport I'm excited to see the city and sample for myself just how "shit" afternoon tea at Raffles is.

3. Ireland - myself and some of my internet friends are taking a trip to Northern Ireland in May. I've never been to N.I. before which is not that surprising given that it took me 26 years to go to Scotland. I'm excited for country air, amazing scenery, Irish accents and a token sip of Guinness / Whiskey. I really do need to make an effort to see more of the UK as despite our less than holiday-like weather there are so many beautiful places to see.

4. Porto - I missed out on a festival last summer and my tolerance of British weather is just getting worse so an overseas festival definitely appeals. I did Barcelona's Primavera in 2014 - it was awesome, so many stages and acts and quite a different vibe to a British festival (i.e. I didn't see a single person being sick). Porto appealed more this time around as its more purse-friendly (so far the festival tickets, flights and Air BnB have been super cheap) and a new city to explore. The festival is at night so depending on commitment to sleep there's a lot of time to sight-see during the day.

5. Barcelona - a friend's hen do is taking place here in June. Adult life is getting real. I've only been on day-long hen-dos in the past and only know two of the other attendees on this trip so its super out of my comfort zone for someone who doesn't really do / hasn't ever done group holidays but I'm excited. I love the city and have already done all of the tourist to-dos here so I'm mostly looking forward to making friends so to avoid being the awkward-single-girl-who-only-knows-the-person-getting-married at the wedding.

6. ? Various reasons have meant that my plans for July onwards this year are less certain (I'm trying to enjoy the potential spontaneity of not having my next 12 months mapped out). No, I haven't been looking at last minute-esque websites and working out what countires do and don't require Visas. And I definitely haven't been thinking of staycationing chez mes parents because how much would the pile of books I've been meaning to read for the last 5 years and my bank balance enjoy that?
Window seat for life.
What are your travel plans for this year?

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Monday, 22 February 2016

MyFragranceApp - Find Your Scent

Shopping for perfume, whether for yourself or as a gift isn't the easiest task - there are so many brands to choose from and new fragrances are being launched so often that it can seem impossible to pick one that you or someone in your life will love.

The Fragrance Shop have recently launched MyFragranceApp (iOS and Android) which helps you to build a scent profile and gives recommendations based on your style and personality. You can also use the app to purchase your favourite scents, track down offers and discounts and (as a little feel good factor) 5p of every transaction gets donated towards the "Spray A Little Happiness" charity initiative.

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
I tested out the app to see if it could find me a signature fragrance - I like floral, feminine fragrances but also like crisp unisex scents too.
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
The process involves selecting colours and images you are most drawn to.
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
Making my choice...there's also an option to put a price range on your preferred scent and to name your top three current scents to help narrow down your choices.
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
My results - Anna Sui and Chloe are my current go-to scents. 
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
My selections - I've not tried Narciso but Chanel Chance is another favourite, much lighter and fresher than the classic Chanel fragrances.
In return for reviewing MyFragranceApp, I received the Discovery Club's quarterly "Discovery Box" - the current box focuses on classic scents and is a great chance to rediscover some of the more popular scents which you may not have tried if (like me) you're always swayed by packaging and new launches. The box contains a mix of male and female fragrances (Daddy Lipstick being a grateful recipient of the male ones - he loves Boss Bottled) to try, my favourite being Dolce & Gabbana's Light Blue. A fresh floral and fruity scent with a distinctive bergamot note, it's perfect for daytime and would be a great summer scent. The paired back bottle means that it wouldn't have stood out for me when browsing fragrances but it's a classic scent for a reason and a perfect addition to my "fragrance wardrobe".

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
The slim box fits through the letter box.  
The Fragrance Shop Discovery Box
The current selection - Nina Ricci, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Paco Rabanne, Jimmy Choo, Issy Miyaki and Dolce & Gabbana scents for him and her.
What is your signature fragrance?

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Friday, 19 February 2016

Salad Secrets - Baby Kale Matcha Smoothie #SaladMatch

This month Florette challenged me to come up with a Valentine's creation - February is the month of love after all. As I was sent this beautiful heart-adorned milk bottle to inspire me I knew my February creation had to be a smoothie of some sort rather than a salad. Kale smoothies and romance aren't an obvious combination but your body will love this recipe far more than chocolates and champagne (sorry to go all Gwynnie on you but it's true...) and before you can love someone else you have to love yourself, or something like that....  A healthy smoothie in a cute bottle is a good place to start.

I'm still obsessed with all things matcha and using both baby kale and matcha made this smoothie so vibrant and green. This is the perfect breakfast smoothie as it packs in fruit and veg as well as a small amount of caffeine from the matcha to give you a natural lift without the energy crash of coffee. Baby kale is a great source of vitamin A which old wives' tales say helps you see in the dark, no comment as to whether that might be a necessary skill for romantic exploits. I couldn't resist using my heart-shaped cookie cutters to make little "jam sandwiches" too - slightly tweaked from the sugar-crash induing version served at children's parties but still cute enough to put a smile on my face and being single means that they're all for me, right?

Baby Kale Matcha Smoothie

Blend up the following, pop in a stripy straw and top with freeze-dried raspberries for some colour contrast:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Half a banana (freeze first for extra creaminess)
1 chopped pear
2 handfuls of Florette Baby Kale
1 teaspoon of matcha powder (available from Japanese supermarkets and health food stores)

Jam Sandwiches

Use a cookie cutter to cut rye bread into heart shapes - healthy bread instantly becomes cute. For the chia jam mash 100g of raspberries with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and leave to thicken in the fridge for 30 minutes. Make up the sandwiches and serve with a few fresh raspberries. Heart-shaped tea-lights optional.

kale matcha smoothie recipe

kale matcha smoothie recipe

kale matcha smoothie recipe

kale matcha smoothie recipe


kale matcha smoothie recipe

Check out the #SaladMatch hashtag on Instagram for more Valentine's inspiration.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Baking - Chocolate Berry Brownies with Borderfields

My Valentine's day was spent getting my bake on (and making a fair amount of mess in the process) with my mother - Borderfields had kindly sent me some of their cold pressed rapeseed oils and infusions to try out and while at first ideas of salads and stir-fries sprung to mind, I couldn't pass up on the chance of being at home with an oven and a willing assistance to whip up a batch of dark chocolate brownies.

Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Can't wait to try out the infusions in savory dishes.
Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Do judge a book by its cover - this chocolate looks and tastes amazing.
Rapeseed oil and baking may not seem like an obvious match but the oil has a subtle, buttery flavour and contains omegas 3, 6 and 9 which are maintained at high temperatures, as well as having half the saturated fat of olive oil. These brownies are not my usual raw, vegan type of sweet treat but it felt good to do some traditional baking and they could be veganised by substituting the eggs for a vegan alternative and ensuring that your dark chocolate is dairy-free.

Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Ready for the oven.
Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Just out of the oven - when the top starts to crack the brownies are done but still have that gooey texture inside.
My mother and I are not natural bakers (not helped by my lack of oven in my tiny London apartment) but this recipe was really easy and it turned out amazingly - definitely some of the best brownies I've ever had. Using high quality ingredients and actually making them from start to finish really did make them taste so much better. We tweaked the recipe a little - using defrosted black and red currants from the summer rather than raspberries and adding a finishing sprinkle of Persian rose petals that I found looking pretty but unused in the kitchen cupboard. The end result? Perfect brownies, the richness of the dark chocolate balanced by the tart berries and delicate rose petals - the perfect Valentine's day treat with a cup of tea.

Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Once cooked, cut carefully into slices.
Bordersfields rapeseed oil chocolate brownies
Sprinkle with rose petals to finish. 
For your chance to win a selection of Borderfields goodies to inspire your baking and cooking just complete the form below by Monday 29th February (UK only):

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Saturday, 13 February 2016

Working It: Cocoon At Gymbox

Gymbox have launched a range of new classes for 2016 - from Run Dem Crew's running club to the Missy Elliot-inspired Throw Some Shade, there's no chance of getting bored. I jumped at the chance to try Cocoon  at Westfield Stratford but that was the only jumping involved - unlike many of the Gymbox classes which are high octane cardio, Cocoon is the complete opposite - 45 minutes of stretching, relaxing and meditating, aimed at recovery. Perfect for if you're after some holistic "me" time or if you just want to chill and stretch out after a tough class, tough day or tough week.


gymbox cocoon class
The studio has amazing lighting and (in the daytime) natural light from outside too. 
Instructor Jessica guided us through a series of warm-up stretches before we got into our cocoons for a series of poses - floating child's pose, floating lotus and floating shavasana during which we did some self massage and trigger point release to really relax those tight muscles and iron out the kinks that everyday life puts in. Being in the cocoon felt so comforting - despite the noise from the gym and the outside world (a giant shopping mall and relaxation aren't necessarily compatible), being in the cocoon and concentrating on Jessica's voice and the Tibetan meditation soundtrack felt like a complete getaway from the outside world.

gymbox cocoon class
Floating lotus in the cocoon hammocks.
I regularly practice yoga and I love the concept of letting go and surrendering - trusting that the cocoon will hold your body weight (I noted at the start of the class the they are VERY securely held to the ceiling) and really, truly releasing your body is the perfect antidote for those of us (oh, wait, that'll be all of us) who spend our days hunched over our computers. The class is pitched at all levels - both in terms of flexibility and fitness and in experience with meditation. Even if meditating per se is not for you, the act of taking a few minutes to lie still with no distractions can't not feel good.

gymbox cocoon class
Floating shavasana. The cocoons are so comfortable - I felt like a bat (or what I imagine a bat feels like!)
The 45 minutes flew by. I was actually really sad when the class ended as I could have spent a lot longer in my cocoon, safe from the bright lights and loud noises of the big city outside but I left feeling relaxed, stretched out but also energized for the rest of my evening. Cocoon is available at Westfield Stratford on Thursdays at 7.30pm and Old Street on Thursdays at 1pm.

What's your favourite chilled out work-out?


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Thursday, 11 February 2016

London Dining - February Round-Up

I've been keeping a budget on an app on my phone for the past couple of years. Last week I actually, properly, looked at where my money goes - shockingly, it's not the designer shoe habit or the giving in and purchasing of my ASOS wishlist that eats up most of my spending money. It's food. Stuff that gets eaten and doesn't leave you with anything to show for the spending. Well, aside from not being malnourished and a few Instagram pictures of restaurant meals to remind my bank account why it's so drained...

1. Flesh and Buns, Covent Garden - Sunday Brunch


For Sophie's birthday, Flesh and Buns' brunch offering was in order. I've been before (and also for dinner) and even though the prices have gone up since, it's so worth it. For £46 we got cocktails on arrival, unlimited prosecco, wine or soft drinks, all of the small plates to share, a "flesh" and bun dish each and smores for dessert. I had a Kimchi Bloody Mary to start which was (I think) my first ever Bloody Mary, I think I liked it, and as I'm not a prosecco / wine drinker then stuck to the Diet Cokes. The small plates were my favourite - as a fish-eater there was a lot of choice - the sushi and sashimi were amazing and so fresh-tasting. On the less healthy side, the deep friend squid and soft shall crab provided a good balance and are great options if you prefer your fish cooked. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of choice for "proper" vegetarians - although the broccoli is amazing it's probably not worth splashing out on if you can't take advantage of the seafood. For my main I chose the miso aubergine bun as I've had the salmon teriyaki twice before. Its as super tasty although I was already pretty full by this point from all the small plates and opted for the lettuce leaf wraps rather than the pillow-y buns. Of course, I still had a tiny bit of room for dessert and the smores are fun to make over a mini open fire at the table, if a little messy and sickly sweet. I am so up for doing this again if anyone fancies a Sunday eating, drinking and being merry underground away from the grey old weather. The restaurant's policy is that tables are due back after two hours but we weren't rushed to leave on this visit but it's something to bear in mind (i.e. read the menu online beforehand so as not to dither over ordering!).

2. Nanban, Brixton



Continuing the Japanese theme, Hannah and I headed to the newly-opened Nanban in Brixton to eat ramen while discussing Japan travel plans - perfect! Ramen isn't my first choice of Japanese cuisine but when done well it's the perfect winter dish, warming, filling and comforting. I had the seafood ramen which was a little pricey at £14 but was a very generous portion and the flavours were amazing. The broth was just the right side of richness and I loved the ponzu butter and "seafood sawdust". Ramen can sometimes be dull but every bite and slurp of this dish was different and full of flavour and the noodles were perfectly al-dente. Hannah had the kumamoto ramen and a side of karate chicken which looked amazing - definite food envy at the perfectly cooked orange egg yolks. The restaurant is simple and unfussy, modelled on a Japanese ramen izakaya which are often located in and around Japanese train stations to serve solo "salarymen" on they way home from work. Service was quick and efficient and I'd definitely be tempted to return for the matcha adffogato and some of the non-ramen options.

3. Cinnamon Soho - High Chai Afternoon Tea, Soho


My friend S is a chai fan so Cinnamon Soho's High Chai Afternoon Tea sounded like the perfect birthday treat. After visiting The Cinnamon Club I had high expectations for its smaller, causal sister restaurant. At £25 for two the afternoon tea is great value for money and a twist on the traditional - we all had the masala chai tea to start which was spicy and warming, much less sweet than the coffee shop versions. For the savoury offerings I had the vegetarian option which I can't find the menu for online and as the waiter didn't explain what it was I'm not *entirely* sure... To be fair, I could have asked but I think with afternoon tea its a nice touch to be told what the items are when they are served. The toastie definitely contained cheese and the slider was a spicy veggie patty, both were really good and I liked how they were warm after running a wet 10k race earlier in the day. The sweet offerings were equally tasty - a spiced scone each which was somewhere between sweet and savoury and a mini ginger and garam masala cake which I could have eaten by the (giant) slice. As it was my friend's birthday, she was brought a slice of chocolate tart which was a really nice touch (and a chance for us to embarrass her by singing happy birthday).

The High Chai Afternoon Tea isn't as much of a feast as others in London but a sandwich, tea and cake in a coffee shop would set you back more than £12.50 and the taste and novelty factor means I'd re-visit. My only slight irk is that the restaurant shuts at 5pm (on the dot pretty much) and as 3pm is the earliest you can book the tea it did feel a little rushed - especially as we were a big group and had a lot of catching up to do.

Where have you been eating this month?


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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Pancake Day - Raspberry Matcha Pancakes

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



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Friday, 5 February 2016

London Winter Run - 31.01.2016

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?



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Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Mini-Breaks - Destination Ideas

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?


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Monday, 1 February 2016

January Round-Up

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.

Also:

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?



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