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Friday, October 9, 2015

Have an Autumnal Weekend

Happy Friday, folks. What are you up to this weekend?

The leaves have finally started turning here in London and I'm anxious to get out into the countryside to go for a long, muddy walk. The American in me never thought I would ever utter those words. But there you go.

I'm looking forward to staying in tonight and eagerly awaiting our newest delivery from Heal's tomorrow morning (so excited!) before heading up to Leicester to watch Argentina vs. Namibia (go Namibia!) in the Rugby World Cup. John might be just a tad more excited than I am about that last bit, but I'm sure it's going to be a terrific atmosphere.

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Travel Link-Up: Blog Addicts Anonymous (AKA When Blogging Ruins Your Ability To Just ... Enjoy The Moment)

I love blogging. I really do. I love sharing my experiences with you in real time on social media and reflecting on a memorable meal or trip or a particularly good sunset (or sunrise!) with you on here.

But sometimes, just sometimes - I wish I could resist my desire to share so much. Particularly during my travels.

And it's not even that I want to keep those moments "private". Rather, I want to keep them special. In sharing those moments, they lose a bit of their magic. In the rush to share, I lose focus and clarity of being in the moment. Of being present.

When we discovered this view from our suite at the River House in Balapitiya, Sri Lanka, it wasn't my husband I wanted to share the moment with ... it was my iPhone.

I look back at that moment with a lot of regret and - some shame. Because behind the very act of sharing (or the desire to share) this photo and other moments like it was a bit (or a lot) of narcissism, no? This is something I'm painfully aware of every time I click "publish" or "post" or "tweet". And yet I still do it.

But at the same time, I see my blog as a wonderful catalogue of my journey here in London (and beyond). It doesn't stray too far from my original intention back in 2010: to highlight the best and worst parts about living abroad. I still do that (best: ALL the adventures; worst: ALL the homesickness). I've never kept anything as detailed (with photographic evidence!) as this record of my memories since my small, spiral-notebook diary that I wrote in aged 7 (my foodie tendencies started at an early age, when I liked to record what we had or where we went for dinner).

And now, if I want to revisit the thrill of weaving through the busy streets of Hanoi on the back of a moped or the sensation of sinking my teeth into a gelato-filled brioche bun in Sicily or the hot, sticky heat of the Sri Lankan jungle, I can click on a link, read my words and look at my photos - and experience it all over again.

That sounded narcissistic too, I know. But it's the pleasure and joy of revisiting memories that makes me excited for the next adventure. Then ultimately, I remember why I'm blogging in the first place: for me.

Perhaps it's selfish - in a good way.

Going forward (as they say in horrible "office speak"), I'd love to make a conscious effort to limit the time I spend snapping photos and uploading them to Instagram when I travel. A friend suggested that I simply reserve the "first half" of each day for social media/blog-free activities - which I think is a great idea.

If you're a blogger, how do you limit the amount of time you're on social media? Or thinking of possible ideas for your blog? How do you keep moments special and enjoy them for what they are, instead of how they'll translate to your readers?

This month's travel link-up was hosted by Rebecca, Emma, Kelly, and Anna. Head over to their blogs to read more about their erm, blogging addiction!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Yonder.Living's Beautiful, Travel-Inspired Homeware

If you follow me on Instagram, then you'll know that I'm a huge fan of indie homeware retailer's travel-inspired home decor - their Pebble Stripe Pom-Pom blanket is often found in the background of my photos, with the matching Pom-Pom cushion just in sight! I love their neon storage pots, but I also fantasize about throwing out all the mismatched mugs in our kitchen and replacing them with Yonder's beautiful Colombo cups - handmade in Sri Lanka and a terrific reminder of our trip there earlier this year.

From their brightly colored Kilim cushions (created from vintage 1970s Kilim rugs) to their oversized pom-pom blankets (handmade in the Atlas mountains), it's clear that the creators of Yonder, Phoebe and Sophia, have given a lot of thought to their store's beautifully and intelligently curated aesthetic.

I was curious to know a little bit more about Phoebe and Sophia's travels, the inspiration behind Yonder's products, and the process behind sourcing the items they decide to feature in their store (they work with local artisans and makers to produce each piece!).

Here's what they had to say when I asked:

Phoebe and Sophia, I absolutely love your store! Tell me a little more about it - what inspired you to start Yonder?

Phoebe: Yonder was launched earlier this year, with the view of creating a store that allows people to bring some of our favourite finds from around the world into their homes. With a strong focus on handmade and artisan products we celebrate the uniqueness in these pieces. Travel is so much a part of Yonder and has been key to developing our eclectic style, drawing inspiration and ideas from so many different places we have visited and explored.

Sophia: Long before we had even launched Yonder, I would always love exploring the local flea markets and handcraft districts of everywhere we visited. It soon became a tradition to bring back one item for our home from everywhere we visited (our travels), from chopping boards to coffee cups to hand-painted figurines. I once carried across India, for two months, a beautiful (and very large) handmade rug in my backpack, because I just so happened to fall head over heels in love with it on the first week of arriving. The result of such madness is we now have a home filled with some very special items that tell various story of our different adventures. While I would always advocate everyone to travel as much as they can, Yonder will hopefully also allow people to fill their own homes with pieces from the far corners of the globe, without having to scour the globe themselves get them!

You both have a terrific eye for great design and beautifully curated products. What are your backgrounds and what were you doing before you founded Yonder.?

Phoebe: I had recently graduated from Central St. Martins, having studied Textile Design, when I decided that I wanted to pursue my ambition to own my own company and to set up Yonder. Having always had a strong passion for design, colour, interiors & travel, Yonder seemed to evolve organically for me as what I wanted to do.

Sophia: I have always had a strong interest in all areas of product design, specifically interiors and I think a real turning point was probably when my husband and I bought our home. I was finally able to apply my personal style to it, unpack and display all of the items we had collected over time for our ‘future home’ from places we had visited.

I know that Yonder is hugely influenced by your worldwide travels - I loved your recent photos from Sri Lanka, one of my favourite destinations! What's the one country you've been to that you can't get out of your head? The one that pulled on your heartstrings and wouldn't let go?

Phoebe: Both of us have been to our fair share of places between us, however the place that I think will always remain special to both of us, but especially me, is Morocco. Having first visited about 10 years ago, I can still remember the atmospheric scenes across Jemaa el Fna square in my first night in Marrakesh. The smells, sounds and smoke billowing across the pastel sky from the dozens of food stalls, snake charmers, groups of story tellers huddled under umbrellas and of course the freshly pressed orange juice!  It was all just all so different from anywhere else I had been before, all so totally exotic! Since that first trip it is now a place that we both know very well, and while we it may be much more familiar, it never ceases to inspire and surprise me.

Sophia: Yes, Morocco certainly has a special place in both of our hearts, (especially Phoebe who knows the souks like the back of her hand!), but one place that really has stayed with me was Iceland. I am secretly a bit of a nature nerd and the landscape there was totally awe inspiring, especially in the depths of winter when I was out there. I will never forget the almost otherworldly surrounding of the Blue Lagoon, watching the sky turn black over the endless snow covered mountains. I also love the way that folklore and traditions are so commonplace within day to day life; one morning I found myself caught up in a totally legitimate and serious protest against roadworks taking place because the area was known to be inhabited by Elves.

I also know that you work directly with artists and makers, which is wonderful and so rare to find these days. Can you tell me more about this process?

Phoebe: Yes of course, we are very proud of the handmade process that go into our products. We love nothing more than seeking out and building relationships with local makers in the countries we visit. For [our Pom-Pom blankets and Pom-Pom Cushions] we actually work with a team of makers, spanning two generations, with both father and son adding their own specific skill! Firstly the cotton or wool is coloured by hand using natural dyes and then hung out in the heat of sun to dry before being spun onto bobbins. Each blanket can then take up to 3 days for 2 men to weave, depending on size, using very large traditional wooden looms. The Pom-Poms are then each individually handmade and attached to finish.

Sophia: Most of the makers and artisans we work with are teams made up of family members, which we think also adds something special to process.

Your Instagram feed is stunning [seriously - go check it out!] - you sure have a knack for finding beauty in everything around you. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Phoebe: Thank you! We try hard to keep our followers inspired, and give them sneak peaks of all of our new products as and when we source or develop them. The running theme throughout our feed has always been travel, of course, but we always try to post little snippets of things that inspire us in day to day life as well as snaps from our travels!

Sophia: Although I have to admit we sometimes find it hard to remember to photograph things when we are away! We always get so totally wrapped up in where we are and what were doing and then suddenly it’s like ‘Oh wait! Photograph that! Instagram!’

Phoebe: We also love nothing more than seeing pictures from happy customers and how they’ve styled their Yonder purchases in their own homes! We always share these pics with our followers!

Thank you for this in-depth peek into Yonder, Phoebe and Sophia! 

I hope you get a chance to browse Yonder's beautiful online shop, and that you'll fall in love with it as much as I have! As a special treat, Angloyankophile readers will receive 15% off the Pom-Pom blankets and cushions - just use the code ANGLOYANKxYONDER  - enjoy! The code expires at midnight on 30th October 2015, so get your shop on!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Have a Cheerful Weekend.

Have a cheerful weekend, folks. What are you up to?

It's been a tough week for me and (despite not wanting to wish my life away) I'm glad that it's over. A kind and thoughtful friend who's been staying with me gave me this beautiful autumnal bouquet - isn't it gorgeous?

This weekend, I'm looking forward to relaxing with friends, welcoming John back like an over-excited-puppy-keeping-watch-out-the-window, practising yoga, and brunching with bloggers RunawayKiwi, AdventuresofaLondonKiwi, WhyWasteAnnualLeave (great travel blog name!), and SilverSpoonLondon.

I hope that you're enjoying the Fall weather, wherever you're reading this from!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Making Beautiful Art, Making a Community Grow: Wood Street Walls, E17

Sunday afternoon was beautiful: the perfect, warm fall day. John had just jetted off to Chicago for the first part of his crazy business trip (something like 4 different states in 5 days, on opposite coasts - nope, I don't know how he does it either) and I didn't want to stay inside moping around all afternoon, so I grabbed his SLR (my poor Olympus Pen is on its way to the repair shop) and headed out to find Wood Street Walls' murals dotted around Walthamstow.

Problem is, I'm directionally challenged, so I walked past about three of them to begin with (including one at the end of my own street), but with the help of Google Maps, I persevered - and was rewarding by some really cool street art sightings, like these sweet foxes near the Rose & Crown by Irony & Boe.

Founded by Mark Clack in 2014 and with a team of artists and contributors behind it, Wood Street Walls began as an informal group of Walthamstow residents and artists who were committed to bringing art into the community. As of today, Wood Street Walls has brought 17 murals by different artists to Wood Street and the surrounding area, plus they've just been awarded a grant of £18,000 to convert a disused space into affordable art studios for local artists - which will translate into free workshops for local charities, school children, and residents. How amazing is that?

Art should be enjoyed by everyone. As their website so eloquently puts it, Wood Street Walls seeks to "create beautiful and accessible public art for the enjoyment of the community." And, indeed, it's thrilling to stumble upon something so unexpectedly beautiful in a random parking lot (I love these birds by ATM) or while walking past a pub (the dog chasing after the mallard ducks by Teddy Baden is one of my favorites).

Or to do a double-take at this colorful contribution from Toasters en route to Homebase (where we spend most of our time lately - sad, I know!):

Something I also realized while taking the photos (and pretending to be all professional, when in reality I kept forgetting to manual focus and locking my lens in place when I wasn't using the camera. So. Not. Cool.) was that the people around me would also do a double-take; as if it was the first time they'd noticed this incredible artwork right on their doorstep (like I said, I missed the one at the end of my own street!).

There's something more to Wood Street Walls than simply prettifying the place we live in; there's a mission, an ethos, a determination to build community behind it. As one of the founders, Mark Clack, told me, according to the Warwick Commission Report, the number of arts teachers in schools has fallen by 11% since 2010. Wood Street Studios could provide a positive alternative to kids who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to participate in art projects.

More importantly, Wood Street Walls reminds us all to find beauty in our surroundings; to look around us. I mean, really look.

Outside of the grant I mentioned above, the new community hub that Wood Street Walls is trying to develop (Wood Street Studios) is completely crowd-funded. Wood Street Walls will be selling prints of selected walls to contribute to the crowd-funding efforts - I don't know about you, but I'm definitely in!

If you're interested in learning more, donating to Wood Street Walls, or doing the Wood Street Walls walk yourself (the weather's perfect for it!), head over to their website here. They've even made a handy map to help you navigate and find all the walls here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fish Finger Reinvented: One-O-One Restaurant, Knightsbridge

I don't venture to Knightsbridge often, but returning to One-O-One Restaurant at The Park Tower Knightsbridge was like seeing an old friend; after all, it was where John and I first met Udita's now-husband, Karim, and I have terrific memories of us chatting the night away over a delicious multi-course menu.

Last Friday was no different: John and I had been graciously invited to sample One-O-One Head Chef Pascal Proyart's 5-course tasting menu, created to celebrate the 60th anniversary of British favorite, the fish finger. And believe me - the menu was as far from the type of fish finger you'd commonly find in the frozen food aisle as you could get!

And, One-O-One was just as I had remembered it: the same gracious service in the same timeless, elegant setting. Inside, the roar of Ferraris and Porches and the customers stumbling out of Harvey Nichols and Harrods with bagfuls of designer goods dangling from their arms is completely forgotten as the restaurant's lovely setting promotes a tranquil, calm atmosphere. It's one of those restaurants that I'd go to for a celebration or an anniversary (fitting then, as we were celebrating the fish finger!).

I don't want to ruin the surprise for you in case you venture to One-O-One to try the menu for yourself (and you should!), but here were a few of the highlights:

We began with the fish finger amuse bouche du jour, a crispy shrimp cake, which did just the trick in warming up our palates for the main course(s).

The first course was my favorite, and one that I lingered over: yellowfin tuna tartar with oyster and caviar, plus seaweed potato mash and tartare sauce on the side. I'm a huge fan of tuna tartar, but was bowled over by the presentation - the glittering speckles of caviar resembled the sea floor, complete with green "plants" growing out of the "bed"!

The éclair of lobster boudin, topped with scallop with autumn truffle, creamed leek and sauce cardinal was another creative take on the fish finger and resembled a mini hot dog - reminding me of a seaside resort or a fun fair at the end of Brighton pier. The addition of truffle slivers made it fancy (although the fact that it was lobster already impressed), but the shape added a bit of irreverence - some tongue-in-cheek fun.

Another favorite of mine was the salmon bon bon with wasabi mushy peas and sweet chilli and mint sauce - missing from this photo was the soy sauce pipette, which added just the right amount of salty goodness to this crispy, Asian-inspired dish. 

The plating of this particular dish was nothing short of creative: the little "tails" of salmon parcels stood from the plate, resembling whales or fish diving into the sea of mushy peas (which were delicious, by the way) and the garnish formed a perfect arc - how's that for detail?!

Unfortunately, at this point I began to feel very full and as a result, hardly touched the next course of battered royal king crab and cod and chips, though it was also one of the highlights of the meal. 

By the time dessert arrived, we were full and clutching our stomachs (a word of advice: skip lunch and arrive very, very hungry!). But it was so beautiful, we couldn't resist tucking in anyway: éclair of pineapple with coconut & vanilla Chantilly and rum pina colada sorbet.

A spoonful of that pina colada sorbet was like dipping our toes into the ocean during a beach holiday: the combination of pineapple and coconut always screams "Vacation!" to me, and this dessert seemed like the only fitting final bow to an exemplary, fish-focused menu.

During dessert, a celebrity guest arrived (though I had no idea): Pelé, perhaps the best known football (AKA soccer) star of all time. He remained unnoticed to me, settling in with a group of friends at the opposite table, until John turned around to go to the bathroom and nearly fainted from excitement. 

Of course, the staff were discreet and hosted their celebrity guest with the quiet professionalism they do best, but it didn't stop the couple next to us pretending to take photos of their meal, only to capture Pelé in the background. I did stifle a laugh however, when I overheard a staff member introducing the fish finger tasting menu to him which evoked the confused response, "What is this, 'fish finger'?"

Our bellies full and having had a wonderful evening, we strolled out into enjoy the last bit of warmth in evening air while John wistfully craned his neck to get one last glimpse of his football hero through One-O-One's windows.

Celebrity-sighting or not, One-O-One's celebratory fish finger menu is one for the memory books: innovative, beautifully presented, and downright delicious.

Special thanks to One-O-One Restaurant in Knightsbridge and Starwood PR for graciously hosting us! All opinions are my own. One-O-One Restaurant's Fish Finger Tasting Menu is available to book until 17 October 2015; to place your reservation and read more about the menu, click here. The menu is also available as a 2- or 3- course lunch and dinner menu.

One O One - The Park Tower Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, September 25, 2015

Have a Mindful Weekend

Friends, I hope you have a peaceful, mindful weekend. What are you up to?

I'm looking forward to trying the new fish-finger menu (yes, really) at One-O-One restaurant in Knightsbridge tonight and taking part in our neighborhood jumble sale (goodbye, old clothes and furniture!) tomorrow.

I also just wanted to share that I'm struggling at the moment with some really sad news about a very close friend of mine who just passed away. I have been searching for the words to tell you how I feel about this - and how I felt about her - all week.

And they have all been so inadequate.

So I'll wait until the right ones come.

Until then, I have woken, crying, from dreams where I've been searching for her - more times than I can count this week.

My heart hurts so much right now and I keep looking up at the sky for answers. Those pink streaks of clouds don't bring me closer to any, but they do bring me some peace. They're a salve on a very much stinging, very open wound.

Be well, and keep each other close.