Friday, November 28, 2014

Guest Post: Becoming An Ex-Expat by Robin Reetz of Second Floor Flat

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'll be featuring a few guest posts here and there written by bloggers I know and whose blogs I love. 

On this blog, I talk a lot about what it's like to be an American expat in London. But what happens when you're an American expat in London who decides to move back to the States? In this guest post, one of my favorite bloggers, Robin Reetz of Second Floor Flat shares her thoughts about her upcoming move home to North Carolina, and what she'll miss the most about her time in London.

In my two and a half years living in London, moving home is something I’ve thought about a lot. A whole lot. If I’m honest, I didn’t take to living abroad as well as I thought I would – an idea that still shocks me to this day. I always thought of myself as someone who would end up settling down for good in Europe. Even the word "expat" had a certain cache to it – made me feel as if I didn’t need anyone, anything, any place and would instead be a black and white portrait of a grown woman who lived in places like France and Spain, moving on a whim, settling into villages, drinking wine, not knowing worry. 

Imagine my surprise upon landing in the UK and struggled. Really struggled.

Now over two years later and I’m a soon to be ex-expat, or “re-pat” as some say, and while I don’t know how to feel, I have had this feeling before.

I moved to New York right out of university, so when I made plans to leave five years almost to the day that I arrived everyone wanted to know about my New York bucket list. What restaurants would I eat at? What museums would I go to? What would I spend my final days in New York doing?

The answer was preparing for a move. For me at least, once I make a decision to leave a place, I’m pretty ready to go.

This time around, it’s not quite so simple – international moves are never easy, but add in another person and it gets more complicated. My husband will come over next year, but in the meantime I’m already having anxieties about his adjustment to living in my home country. 

For those of you who wonder what it would be like if you left, here’s what I’m doing during my final London days: working, packing, then brunching and drinking with friends as much as I can. 

I'll miss London as the great city it is with all it has to offer, but the things I'll miss so much more are the normal things. Our park. Our walks. Our local cafe. It's not everyday that I ride the London Eye, but it is everyday that I love and cherish our neighbourhood. The neighbourhood that my husband and I lived in together as a couple, for the first time, after years of long distance.

One of the most frustrating experiences I've had as an expat is the feeling of having a unique cultural experience – one that the people closest to you can’t relate to. It’s the fact that the people who have known me my whole life won't know how I feel no matter how hard I try to tell them how I feel.

The fact that the man I love also won't, and I won't know how he feels when he arrives in the States.

It’ll all work out fine, and a year or two from now this will be an experience I look on as a time of learning and growth – I can already tell. By then, this will feel like a million years ago, and I might not relate then to who I am now. But I’ll know, and I’ll grow, and I’ll re-adapt as an expat in home, country, and spirit.

Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful words, Robin! I'm sad you're leaving, but glad we finally had the chance to meet. Stay tuned for more guest posts in the future.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! How are you celebrating today? I'm having a couple of friends over tonight for a "Friendsgiving" dinner, which I'm really looking foward to, despite feeling a bit under the weather. I chopped all my veggies last night and got up early this morning to make a pumpkin pie, so hopefully there won't be *too* much to do in terms of preparation by the time I've dashed home from work. Every year, I bring in two dozen Krispy Kreme donuts to work, much to my co-workers' delight (I've had 2.5 already this morning ... oops).

As an American abroad, Thanksgiving is the one day each year that makes me feel the most homesick. I miss my family on this day more than any others - not even on my birthday or on Christmas! In fact, I loved spending Christmas in the UK last year but I can't remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving with my family - probably when I was in high school.

I have terrific memories of being "adopted" by friends' families in college because Seattle was too far (and expensive) of a flight to do for one weekend. So instead, I'd go over to my friend Ed's house near Boston or Kara's then-family home in Newport, Rhode Island. We'd spend Thanksgiving Day playing Scrabble, drinking delicious red wine, eating copious amounts of pie, and taking long cliff walks past the mansions in Newport.

I love watching 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' and the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade on this day. It all contributes to a very exciting build-up toward Christmas but it's also a day that I love to spend with my mom, dad, and brother. We're in three different time zones at the moment, with me here, my mom and dad in Hong Kong visiting relatives, and my brother back home in Washington state, but I'll definitely be thinking of them when I tuck into my turkey tonight.

I've got so much to be thankful for this year and I'd love to thank you for reading and supporting Angloyankophile. Your comments mean the world to me and I'm so grateful that you keep coming back for more!

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a wonderful day. xo

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Crafty Christmas Present: Personalized Christmas Stocking

It's my baby niece Dorothy's first Christmas and I wanted to give her something special. Initially, I'd ordered a few things for her from designer babywear retailer Alex and Alexa, but when my friend and co-worker Natalie showed me the sweet, personalized Christmas stocking she'd made for her niece, I knew I had to make one too (don't worry - her birthday's in January, so all the Petit Bateau goodies won't go to waste!).

Natalie kindly supplied me with the template she used and gave me instructions on how to get started, as well as a shopping list of materials I'd need for the project. On her advice, I bought the fabric and velvet ribbon from eBay, which only amounted to about £11 in total.

Originally, I'd wanted to use Christmas-themed fabrics as Natalie did for hers (it looked amazing), but because I'm utterly boring and minimalist, I went for this light blue chambray-type of material with a star pattern and bought the corresponding fabric in cream for the inner lining, plus some velvet grey ribbon for the trim.

"She's a baby, for goodness' sake," joked John when he saw the colors I had chosen. "Not an adult!"

But I adored those tiny stars and the pretty blue color.

At work, I nicknamed Natalie "Perfect Natalie" because of her insanely good crafting skills, baking prowess (she turns out the best brownies you've ever had), and also because she's incredibly smart and, not to mention, super pretty. You'd probably hate her if she wasn't also ... just. So. Ridiculously. Nice.

So of course, when Natalie heard that I didn't have a sewing machine (ha! Me? With a sewing machine?!), she invited me over to her beautiful flat in West London for an evening of crafting and even fed me dinner (obvs, because she's Perfect Natalie). I finally learned how to use a sewing machine (with Natalie patiently sitting at my elbow because I refused to let her leave my side, saying, "Yup, still fine. Yes, keep going. Just. Keep. Going.") and by the end of the evening, I had this:

... which I was pretty pleased with! It's not as perfect as Natalie's, but it's not too bad for a first try, I don't think.

I'm now kind of obsessed with bondaweb (that sticky stuff you iron on to the fabric to make it stick), which I used for the lettering and am thinking of all the other crafty things I could make with it. Personalised totebags, anyone?

Have you ever made a gift for a friend or family member? How did it turn out? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Last Weekend: Christmas Shopping, Cake Eating, and Sleeping

Happy Monday Tuesday. How was your weekend? I was exhausted. Sunday night, I climbed into bed at 6:00 p.m. - no joke - and slept until 9:30 p.m., before waking briefly to brush my teeth and blindly stumble back into bed, where I slept until 7:00 a.m. on Monday morning. I totally skipped dinner (though we had a huge late lunch at Tom and Cristy's as part of our pre-Christmas celebrations!) and just passed out.

I don't know about you, but November and December are always the busiest months of the year for me. Thanksgiving's on Thursday, my birthday's next week, and I am so behind on organizing anything. And because we're off to the States this year for Christmas (yay!), I feel extra pressure to get everyone's Christmas presents sorted out well in advance.

Last weekend felt like ... the last weekend I could fit everything in. I woke up early on Saturday to write all my Christmas cards (and tried to multi-task by listening to Britten's War Requiem, which I'll be performing with the Royal Orchestral Society at Cadogan Hall this Sunday - eeks!) and spent hours browsing potential Christmas gifts online.

I met Robin of Second Floor Flat for breakfast at Homa in Stoke Newington, where I had the most delicious plate of Eggs Royale: an English muffin topped with smoked salmon and two perfectly poached eggs with bright orange, runny yolks.

It was so nice to meet Robin and chat with her before her big move back to the States - something that I've always toyed with the idea of doing, but can't see myself actually doing any time soon. It's a huge move - both physically and emotionally - and because Robin's such a gifted writer, I've been reading all her posts lately with a mixture of curiosity, envy, and admiration.

After breakfast, John and I blitzed through our Christmas shopping list in Angel and visited two of our favorite interior design shops on Upper Street: twentytwentyone and Chest of Drawers, where John fell in love with this French ceramic lamp, which is handmade and glazed to order in France. It's fun to visit such beautiful, design-led stores, but it's a little frustrating as well when we find ourselves holding off on buying any of it for ourselves until we're homeowners ... which seems like such a distant, out-of-reach goal when you're currently renting in London.

Midway through our shopping spree, I got a little cranky and tired (because I'm exactly like a child) and made us stop for some tea and cake at Euphorium Bakery.

Then I decided to leave poor John with the rest of the shopping list while I went home and crawled into bed for a nap (I need my sleep!) before going to a friend's party later on that evening. What can I say? I'm such a granny. I have to nap before parties.

On Sunday, we went over to Tom and Cristy's for some pre-Christmas celebrations before they jet off to Australia (where Cristy's from) with their little one, our darling niece Dorothy. They whipped up an ah-mazing roast and decorated the table with Christmas crackers, napkins, and paper Christmas trees! It was so sweet.

Tom prepared a delicious romanesco cauliflower as one of the dishes - have you ever seen one of these little guys before? I've only seen them in photos and have never tried one; it was delicious and tasted just like cauliflower.

It's also incredibly beautiful, no? It made me want to get a veg box too, for the sheer variety of vegetables you get each week. Knowing me though, they'd probably rot in the salad drawer of my fridge before they saw the heat of a pan or oven ...

After our late lunch, we sat around playing the "guess who I am" game from our Christmas crackers (John couldn't seem to guess that he was Miley Cyrus for the life of him. "Am I American?" "Yes." "Am I a singer?" "Yes." "Am I female?" "Yes." "Am I Madonna?" "No.") and spent lots of time watching Dorothy perfect her latest skill: walking with a little walker! I managed to mangle the words to a baby's book while John made her cry with a pair of scary elf ears, but by the afternoon, we were BFFs. And we totally wrecked her nap time (sorry, Tom and Cristy!).

We ended the afternoon by tearing off pieces of this delicious panettone and talking about British politics, as you do.

I've never been a huge fan of panettone, but this one was so good. It had a very subtle orange flavor and the sugary, perfectly baked top was positively yummy!

What about you? What did you do this weekend? Hope you're having a less sleepy start to your week than I am! Yawn ...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Capturing The Perfect Night-Time Cityscape With Nikon and SmugMug

One of the most important tips I received as a blogger early on in my blogging days was to include photos in every single blog post (thanks, Sophia!). But I have a confession to make: most of the photos featured on Angloyankophile were taken on my iPhone 5 and edited using filters either in Instagram or VSCOcam. But I'm sure you could tell already. One of my goals for this blog is to up my photography game, i.e. take photos with a "real" camera. I'll sometimes take John's Canon DSLR with me to blogger events, but to be honest with you ... I have no idea what I'm doing, and the photos turn out to be a bit of a blur. Frustrated, I'll usually throw gently place the professional camera aside and pick up my phone instead. As they say here in the UK, I have "all the gear and no idea" (works better with a British accent, trust me).

So, I felt like a total fraudster when I turned up at Nikon's and SmugMug's Night-Time Cityscape Workshop at the Nikon School on Margaret Street, run by Alastair Jolly of SmugMug and Neil Freeman of Nikon. While other bloggers listened attentively and asked really important questions about backing up photos on external hard drives (yes, I have one of those too ... but I never use it) and shutter speed, I sat in the corner furiously taking notes and trying to remember every word Alastair said about aperture and light.

For those of you who haven't heard of SmugMug before, it's an online service that offers beautiful, personalised galleries for your photos - think Flickr, but with additional features, much more security, and a space to display your handiwork in a personal but professional-looking website (my friend Alex has used it for years and loves it - then again, her photos are much better than mine!). The result is a gorgeous, bespoke website you can share that looks a whole lot slicker than whatever you've been using - trust me. My photos are all over the place: on my phone, on Google Drive, on that external hard drive ... I'm constantly tweeting and uploading photos onto Facebook, so I've made it a New Year's resolution to set myself up with a SmugMug account in order to kick my lazy photogenic photographic butt into action.

Have you ever tried taking photos at night? At best, you get some pretty lights - at others, well, they're all blurry. Alastair shared some fantastic tips during the workshop which were practically all a revelation to me.

For example, did you know about taking photos during the optimal "blue hour"? This is also known as twilight -  that perfect time just after the sun sets but before the sky goes completely dark, when there's just some blue left in the sky (though Alastair joked that in the UK, it's mostly just grey). This is a key period of time when capturing cityscapes because the lights on the facades of buildings and streetlamps turn on. A super useful tip when you're on vacation!

The result is something like the photo I took above, when we all trekked on to Regent Street to put Alastair's tips into action.

But the most important secret to taking a good, night-time photograph is ... a tripod. Because of the slow shutter speed and big aperture needed to get those magnificent lights in (did I get that right?), it's impossible to hold the camera with a steady enough hand - hence all the blurriness you usually get. If you've got a tripod, you can also capture some exciting light trails like this one below, which Alastair kindly helped me set up before I had a couple of tries myself:

Once you've got a tripod, you can set up the self-timer on your camera for that perfect shot. Neil gave us some fabulous tips on precisely where in London you can get a great shot, especially after it's been raining (hint: just outside the Mayor's office) and how to get that fantastic starburst effect on lights you see in photographs, like the headlights on the car and bus above (hint: set your aperture in aperture priority mode to F16).

And if you don't feel like sticking a tripod in your leather Anya Hindmarch tote (ahem, hint hint, birthday present, hint hint), then you can balance your camera on just about anything - including a dumpster with a half-eaten sandwich on top of it, as Alastair demonstrated. But seriously: tripods #ftw.

I left the workshop feeling inspired and totally excited about trying a little harder with my photos. I also met some lovely lifestyle and photography bloggers, including Paula of The LDN Diaries. Most of all, I loved learning about some camera basics that had previously been a mystery to me, as well as seeing some inspirational examples of photography websites that have been created using SmugMug. If you've got a growing photo collection, I'd definitely recommend taking a look at SmugMug and considering it as an option for displaying your photographs. After all, Instagram can only take you so far!

Special thanks to Nikon and SmugMug for hosting me at this amazing photography workshop.

Review: "American Flavour, British Behaviour" @ Honky Tonk Chelsea

As an American expat in London, I often have pangs of homesickness for American food, which I write about here often! I'm guilty of standing in front of the "American snacks" aisle at Tesco, eyes misting over with tears (I kid, I kid) as I stare at the bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup, jars of Jif extra crunchy peanut butter, and boxes of Lucky Charms. So, when Zomato UK invited me to try Honky Tonk Chelsea (once home to the world's most expensive burger) I jumped at the opportunity to load up on ribs, fried chicken, and shakes .

Located on Hollywood Road in Chelsea, Honky Tonk is a medium-sized restaurant with an Americana theme and a very clever slogan: "American flavour, British behaviour". Restrained it isn't: the menu bursts at the seams with dishes like Craw Daddy Crab Cakes, Buffalo Wings, Blumdog Billionaire Hot Dogs, and the Honky Tonk Combo (which I'll get to a little later).

As someone who's lactose intolerant, I miss milkshakes so, so much. Sometimes I even slip and order one, even if I know there will be "consequences" (without getting into too much detail ... sorry, that was probably already TMI). In this case, I couldn't resist trying the Banana & Butterscotch shake, which was ice cold, thick, and positively delicious - just like the kind we have in the States!

Although our reservation was at 6:30, the restaurant filled up quickly since it was Saturday night. There's also a bar area at the front where you can just meet for cocktails and bar snacks, which is great if you're just in the mood for a quick fix. The playlist is upbeat and fun (I Shazam-ed three songs while I was there), giving me the impression that it'd be a fun place to celebrate a birthday with friends.

In the restaurant, some of the tables are arranged - shall we say - creatively: John and I sat side-by-side, facing a pillar and directly gazing at another table ahead (though I wouldn't have noticed - I was too busy Instagramming, oops) and I think the couple next to us also felt a little awkward sitting side-by-side as well. I also raised my brows a little at the costume de rigueur for the waitresses, which seemed to be denim hotpants (I secretly cheered at the one waitress who defied this by wearing hers over black opaques versus sporting bare legs on a cold November evening) since I take issue with women being objectified in such a way for the purpose of attracting particular clientele (and, sorry to disappoint you, but most restaurants in America aren't filled with pretty young things wearing denim hotpants for your viewing pleasure) BUT .... that's all a little too deep for this blog post. I'll talk about gender politics somewhere else (like, to myself).

Anyway, this didn't put us off our appetizer of crab cakes, which were very, very good.

The batter was perfectly crispy and the sweet chilli mayo and sweetcorn salsa were perfect accompaniments. The crab filling was piping hot and freshly made, which has proved difficult to find in other American establishments.

For the main ... well, we went a little crazy and ordered the Honky Tonk Combo: two pieces of Honky Tonk's famous "not" fried chicken, half a rack of pork ribs in bourbon sauce, a generous helping of pulled pork, buffalo chicken wings and two portions of rosemary fries. We added a side salad and an order of corn-on-the-cob for good measure.

I managed about two-thirds before I was completely defeated. The wings and ribs were good: spicy and tender, though the pulled pork was a bit too sweet for my tastebuds. I could definitely see this being a terrific final stop on a night out - that chicken and those fries would be amazing after a night of partying! 

For dessert, I would have loved to order the Mississippi Mudslide, but opted for the waffle with chocolate sauce, ice cream, and strawberries instead, as a "lighter" alternative. 

Since I'd reached my dairy quota for the evening, I steered clear of the vanilla ice cream, but the chocolate sauce and waffle combination was a winner. I was as little disappointed that the "fresh strawberries" actually ended up being one strawberry sliced four ways, but it still made for a rather tasty dessert.

Verdict: if you're craving American food, you can do better than The Diner by popping over to Honky Tonk Chelsea. Definitely order the shake (especially if you're not lactose intolerant - you have no excuse not to!) because it's damn delicious and the crab cakes are worth a whirl too. I bet the Honky Dogs are good and the next time I go, I'll consider giving the quesadilla a try.

I was generously hosted by Honky Tonk Chelsea and Zomato UK. All opinions are my own.

UPDATE: Sadly, this restaurant has now closed. Try Honky Tonk Clapham for your American fix.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Best Almond Milk Lattes in London

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I've been on an almond latte mission in London for the past week or so. That's because I was doing research for a piece I recently wrote for About Time Magazine, which you can read here!

Believe it or not, almond milk lattes are pretty tricky to find in London: most cafes and coffee shops only carry soy milk (and occasionally, oat milk). I found myself desperately calling dozens of shops in Central and East London, enquiring about their almond milk status. My friend Caroline was a dear and accompanied me to most of my almond milk adventures, including one in a former underground men's toilet ... yes, you read that correctly.

It was definitely an interesting experiment, as I've heard that soy can wreak havoc on your hormones (especially for women) and that almond milk is slightly healthier for you. I usually have soy because I'm lactose-intolerant (and I'll always remain head-over-heels in love with the soy milk that's served in Hong Kong and other Cantonese cafes, either hot or cold, salty or sweet), but after taste-testing almond milk lattes for a week, I'm definitely going to make the switch. The flavor is so much more subtle than soy, and I find that it enhances the coffee, rather than detracts from it, as soy sometimes does.

What about you? Are you a full dairy milk drinker? A soy milk fan? An almond milk convert? Tell me! 

Angloyankophile In Waitrose Weekend!

Hello, and happy Thursday! I've been a little quiet lately, but only because I've been working on a lot of exciting things to share with you, including a review of a fun American restaurant in the heart of Chelsea, a guide to finding the best almond milk lattes in London, and some tips on shooting night-time cityscapes (which I only learned yesterday!). 

In the meantime, if you live in the UK and happen to pass by a Waitrose today, be sure to pick up a copy of Waitrose Weekend - I'm on the front page (and on page 3!) talking about all things Thanksgiving and ThanksChristmas, a hybrid holiday I invented after years of living as an Angloyankophile in the UK.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Guest Post: Chocolate Sticky Toffee Brioche Pudding by Rukmini Iyer

I've decided to host a series of guest posts on Angloyankophile: a careful selection and curation of original pieces from my favorite bloggers in the UK, which I know you'll like and think you'll love.

Today, the lovely Rukmini Iyer of MissMinifer Cooks has generously offered to share her recipe for Chocolate Sticky Toffee Brioche Pudding. Yum. I met Mini a few weekends ago at the About Time x Tabasco Bloggers' Brunch and loved her story: she's a former-lawyer-turned-food-stylist (isn't that amazing?) who competed in the final round of Masterchef in 2013, trained as a pastry chef under Tom Kitchin, and now styles commercials and photo shoots for the likes of Sainsbury's, Waitrose, and Kenco Coffee. 

I'll just let you digest all of that for a second. Did I mention that she's also incredibly nice and super intelligent? (I also love how she uses words like "squash" and "dinky" in her recipes.)

So, without further ado ...


Chocolate Sticky Toffee Brioche Pudding

Hot chocolate, sticky dates and rich brioche come together beautifully in this quick, indulgent dessert. Make a large batch at the weekend to keep you going for the week ahead, or if you’ve got friends coming over, plate up in dinky individual ramekins or casserole dishes. (But do make a few extra, because people are going to ask for seconds …)

Preheat your oven to 180C. Melt 30g butter in a saucepan, and add 20g soft dark brown sugar along with 200g chopped dates. Heat for a minute until the sugar has melted, then pour in 450ml double cream. Warm through to just below boiling point, then add 120g chopped dark chocolate, and stir until melted. Pour the mixture through a sieve, and set aside the chocolatey dates. Allow the chocolate cream to cool a little before whisking in 4 egg yolks. To assemble the pudding, tear the brioche into chunks and pop half of it into your baking dish(es), topped with the chopped dates. Pour half of the chocolate custard over, then top with the second half of the brioche and the remaining chocolate custard. Squash it down well with the back of a wooden spoon, then bake for 25-30 minutes until firm to touch. It should still be nice and melty inside. Serve hot with a big dollop of crème fraiche. If you’re not eating them immediately, they do warm up beautifully in the microwave.

Useful Information:

Serves 6
Prep 10 minutes
Bake 30 minutes

Shopping List:

30g butter
20g soft dark brown sugar
200g dates, pitted
120g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum)
450ml double cream
4 egg yolks
400g brioche

Thanks so much to Jaime for hosting my recipe on her beautiful blog- we'll be collaborating soon at, so watch this space!
Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful recipe, Mini! I can't wait to make this. Have a look at Mini's gorgeous work over on her blog, MissMinifer Cooks.

Photo and recipe © 2014 Rukmini Iyer

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mixed Tapes and Friendship Bracelets

When was the last time you made a mixed tape for someone? A few weeks ago, I picked up my mail, unlocked the door to my empty flat, and tore open an envelope addressed to me from one of my best friends, Kara, who lives in San Diego. A CD tumbled out, along with a letter, which I read - while sitting fully clothed, still in my coat and shoes - in the middle of our hallway. 

That letter and CD were two of the best gifts I'd received all year.

As I listened to the CD (featuring LP, who's amazing, btw), I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd been given a mixed tape or CD - items that were an integral part of my high school and college years and which formed the primary way for me to discover new music. My CD collection in college was full of mixed CDs either given to me or made by me, featuring artists as obscure as Aesop Rock to feminist favorites like Ani DiFranco or Tori Amos. Making a mixed tape in high school was my way of telling a boy I liked him, and, when I was cleaning out some old files, I found a mixed CD I'd made for John within the first month we'd met.

It's funny how meaningful music and playlists, in particular, can be to us. John and I used to share a joint Spotify account until I went off-piste and bought my own premium subscription ... it felt like a divorce! We follow each other's playlists now, but there are also definitely times when I've secretly Shazam-ed a new song at home from his playlist because I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing I liked the song!

And though I store most of my music digitally now and heavily rely on streaming services like Spotify, there's nothing like the physicality of holding a mixed CD in my hand to remind me how wonderful a carefully curated and personalised playlist can be.

Last night, I texted Kara after work - hoping I'd catch her on one of her days off as a busy hospital nurse. I was in luck: she was, and we both raced home to talk to each other on FaceTime, which was so much fun. While we were chatting, I told her about my stress-crafting friendship bracelet projects and decided to make and send one to her! Kara chose the colors she wanted, and, as I gabbed away in my usual mile-a-minute manner, my hands worked quickly to make her the bracelet (above left). Isn't it funny how your hands remember how to do something, even after years of having not done it? I made so many of these bracelets as a kid. 

Kara's letters always drop through my letter box when I need them the most. They make me smile, give me strength, and inspire me, always.

So, I'd love to make a friendship bracelet and send it to you, wherever you are. Really. Choose five colors, email me your address (found on the "Contact" page) and I'll ship it off to you. 

Because everyone needs a friend like Kara in their lives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting All Worked Up @ Workshop Coffee

In the middle of my panic-filled weekend, I managed to sneak in breakfast with Rebecca (also known as RunawayKiwi) at Workshop Coffee in Clerkenwell - one of my favorite brunch/coffee destinations in London. Clerkenwell's where the main cafe is located, but Workshop also has smaller coffee bars in Fitzrovia, Holborn, and Marylebone.

As for Rebecca? Well, she's one of the kindest, most generous bloggers I know. I've been blogging for 4 years now, so I'm not exactly new to the scene, but I'm extremely new to "the scene", if you know what I mean. By "the scene", I mean blogging events, networking "meet-ups", #competitive #uses #of #madeup #hashtags #on #Twitter #and #the #like, and just ... competitiveness in general. I had no idea this existed.

And I am so not into that.

I'm not a #luxury, #food, #beauty, or #fashion blogger. I sometimes post photos of my shoes. I'll write about hot dogs and prosecco. Or my newest favorite skincare brand. Or my childhood stamp collection (yes, really). I blog because I've got something to get off my chest and because, sometimes, you read what I write and leave me a comment that says, "ME TOO!" And those comments make my heart sing.

Rebecca gets this, because she writes posts like that too (btw, my hand appears for about 0.5 seconds at around the 0.25 mark of her first YouTube post - so famous) and she's incredibly generous in sharing tips, advice, and ideas. She'll be the first to introduce me to a new photo editing app, or tell me about a meet-up that I should go to, or a blogger I should know. She's a good egg.

Speaking of eggs ...

Rebecca's Ham Hock Stack (sweet potato cake, poached egg, and spinach) at Workshop looked incredible. That yolk!

I was in the mood for something sweet (the opposite of how I felt that day), so I ordered the French toast: brioche, poached rhubarb, orange mascarpone and hazelnuts.

It was divine. The brioche was soft and fluffy, and the rhubarb was just tart enough to offset the subtle but sweet orange mascarpone.

I love Workshop, but sometimes, I find it to be a little pricey (our breakfast for two set us back by nearly £30!). Still, I grumble and keep going back because they keep coming up with delicious dishes like this. It's definitely a treat, rather than the norm.

After blowing off some steam with Rebecca and getting her sage perspective on things, I calmed down a little and walked away feeling happier and inspired. Sometimes, you just need a like-minded person to remind you how to keep things real.

(p.s. we're now collaborating on a Pinterest board together on #London #fashion - if you're interested!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

That Time I Won ... Liz Earle's Ultimate Christmas Hamper

I've been a fan of Liz Earle skincare since I was given a sample of the Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser a few months ago - that distinctive eucalyptus scent and soothing cocoa butter had me hooked from day one. And I wasn't the only one: shortly after demonstrating the wonders of a Liz Earle "cleanse, tone, and moisturise" routine on John, he too, marvelled at his better, brighter skin in the mirror and asked for a repeat recently (seriously, why don't men wash their faces?!).

As a former acne sufferer, my skin underwent a major transformation after a series of laser treatments in my late 20s. Now, my face hardly shows any signs of the angry, scarred, and flaking battlefield it had been years ago and I look forward to my evening skincare routine every day. I've used Dermalogica products for years (their Daily Microfoliant is still the best exfoliator I've ever used, hands down) and I still reach for the Special Cleansing Gel when I'm in the mood to feel squeaky clean, but I find that Liz Earle works especially well on an everyday basis for my mostly dry and dehydrated, yet combination skin. I was searching for a good toner a few months ago and saw that beauty guru, Caroline Hirons, had recommended Liz Earle's Instant Boost Skin Tonic on her blog. I never looked back.

So, seeing that I was running out of my favorite Hot Cloth Cleanser, I placed an order for the Limited Edition Sweet Orange & Mint Hot Cloth Cleanser, plus the Men's Everyday Skincare Offer for John as a Christmas present (don't worry, he never reads this, so there's no chance of ruining the surprise). The next day, I received a tweet from Liz Earle announcing that I'd won their Ultimate Christmas Hamper, filled with £200-worth of products.




To say I was excited didn't even begin to cover how I felt. I was over the moon (which I know is a silly emotion to feel over skincare products). The hamper includes the following items, in case you're wondering:

  • The Original Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser
  • 2 Pure Muslin Cloths
  • Instant Boost Skin Tonic
  • Skin Repair Moisturiser for Normal/Combination Skin
  • Superskin Moisturiser
  • Superskin Concentrate Rollerball
  • Daily Eye Repair
  • Gentle Face Exfoliator
  • Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask
  • Brightening Treatment Mask
  • Orange Flower Botanical Body Wash
  • Nourishing Botanical Body Cream 
  • Superbalm
  • Superskin Hand Serum
  • Eyebright Soothing Eye Lotion
  • Botanical Shine Shampoo
  • Botanical Shine Conditioner
  • Botanical Shine Nourishing Hair Oil
When the hamper arrived in its gorgeous blue box, it felt like Christmas Day as I took off the ribbon and slowly unwrapped each product from its beautifully sealed tissue paper.

"I hate you!" cried my friend Natalie, who showed me her Liz Earle loyalty card from the Kings Road flagship in Chelsea, totalling up to £932 spent over a period of 6 years of Liz Earle products.

But I can see why people are loyal to the brand: they use natural, botanical products which are gentle, but effective on the skin. They don't test on animals and all of their products are suitable for vegetarians.

I was most excited to try the Botanical Shine Shampoo, Brightening Treatment Mask, Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask, and the Superskin Hand Serum. As winter approaches, my skin gets super dry from central heating and cold wind. I'm a huge believer in facial oils (my favorite is Trilogy's Rosehip Oil, which I use before bedtime for plump, moisturised skin), so I'm looking forward to using the Superskin Concentrate Rollerball (which wins points for easy application!) and the Superskin Moisturiser. And because I'm the generous type, I'm dabbing the Daily Eye Repair on John before bedtime, because his crow's feet are out of control (sorry, I meant, "smile lines"). 

Sidenote: if you're a fan of the original Cleanse & Polish, you should definitely try the Sweet Orange & Mint Limited Edition. It smells like a dream and cleanses beautifully. 

I've been a little stressed out lately, so I'm looking forward to having a quiet night in with a box set (I need to start Scandal from the beginning!), a cup of chamomile tea in hand, and popping on one of the treatment masks pictured above.

I used the Botanical Shampoo and Hair Oil this morning, which were both amazing and left my thick, shoulder-length hair feeling soft and silky. I've started using paraben and sulfate-free shampoo ever since I noticed my scalp getting drier and stinging when I used my regular store-bought and salon shampoos. For a good cleanse, I'll turn to Wella Professional's Enrich Shampoo and Conditioner, but the Liz Earle Botanical Shampoo is a terrific alternative because it's both gentle on the scalp and smells like a spa treatment.

I like mixing up my products, so it's a total luxury to have all of the items from the Ultimate Christmas Hamper at hand. Definitely the best early Christmas present I could have possibly received!

Thank you so much, Liz Earle! xo

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Epic Burgers and "Devilishly" Hot Chilli Dogs @ The Old Crown, Bloomsbury

I get a lot of questions on Twitter about the best pubs in London. As an American, it took me a few years to warm up to the pub culture here in the UK, but now I'm the first one to suggest popping down to our "local" for a glass of wine after dinner, or I'll look at John questioningly as we pass our favorite pub on the way home, asking, "Should we stop for one?" I'm not sure what changed, but I definitely appreciate having a quiet drink in a cozy pub on a Friday night now - even if it's just a soft drink.

The Old Crown, located halfway between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn tube stations, is one of my favorite central London pubs. I often describe it to people as a "central London pub, without that central London feel". By "central London feel", I mean pubs that are typically overrun with tourists and suits (not that I have anything against tourists or suits) and that are ever-so-slightly ... anonymous.

The Old Crown has character and is as far from "corporate" as you can get; a funny recording of two people speaking plays as you walk up the stairs to the top floor, making you wonder if your ears are playing tricks on you. There's a bar downstairs that's busy and lively, but room on the top floor too, which can be reserved for parties (we've had many-a-publishing parties upstairs). It's full of West End media types, and is a great place to relax after work.

The pub was kind enough to invite me to dinner on Thursday night, so I took Angela of The Awkward Blog along, and we chatted about all things blogging over a Coke and vodka (for her) and a Dark and Stormy (for me - I'm still on that ginger beer kick!).

I just so happened to be in the mood for a burger and, luckily enough, The Old Crown had several options, including a "specials" board comprised of burgers named after politicians: the George Osbourne (rare beef, caramelized onions, and goat's cheese), as well as a David Cameron and Ed Miliband. I'm not usually one for food puns, but the Codfather beer battered fish burger made me chuckle and, in the end, I opted for the Route 66, sticking true to my American roots: rare beef, American cheese, bacon, and onion rings topped with BBQ sauce.

My burger was delicious and hit the spot: a flavorful beef patty and a slightly sweet bun, coupled with the crunchy onion rings and crispy slice of bacon were matches made in burger heaven.

I somewhat bullied Angela into ordering The Hell Hound: "devilishly hot chilli con carne" on a hot dog, topped with grated cheese. They weren't kidding about the "devilishly hot" part - our mouths were on fire!

They also do terrific sides at The Old Crown - when heading there after work, we usually order a few sides of fries and a tower of onion rings to go with our drinks.

I'm spoiled for choice with the "foodie"-standard pubs near me in North London, but if I'm ever caught short for bar suggestions in Central London or need a pub with a convenient location, I'll head to The Old Crown.

And next time, I'll take a bite of the David Cameron.

I was generously hosted by The Old Crown Public House. Special thanks to Justin for looking after us. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Drunch @ About Time x Tabasco Bloggers' Brunch

Shamefully late (which is ironic, as the organizers of this event were About Time), but I was lucky enough to attend the About Time x Tabasco Bloggers' Brunch last weekend at the 24-hour brunch venue, Polo Bar, along with several other food and lifestyle bloggers.

There, we were treated to prosecco, brunch, and a mini-masterclass, of sorts, on making the ultimate Bloody Mary, as well as an informative panel discussion on how to effectively market and monetize your blog - all very interesting stuff, given About Time's meteoric rise to journalistic success (especially impressive as they only launched in March of this year).

By the time I'd downed a glass of prosecco and headed toward the Bloody Mary bar to mix my own, it was clear that this "brunch" was clearly turning out to be "drunch" - and I proceeded to put way too much Tabasco in my tomato cocktail, promptly setting my mouth on fire.

I've been a fan of Tabasco ever since my dad taught me to mix it into my ketchup before dipping my scrambled eggs in (delicious). I loved my dad's steak and eggs with a dash of Tabasco - we were a sophisticated brunch household! Tabasco's a pretty popular staple in American kitchen cupboards, so I'm always surprised that people don't use it more often here. Clearly, it's making a comeback.

The make-your-own Bloody Mary station was perfect for someone with low alcohol tolerance like me. After drunkenly splashing in too much Tabasco, at least I had enough sense left in my prosecco-addled brain to use about a thimble-full of Ketel One vodka. Thank. Goodness.

We were offered a variety of spices to, literally, spice up our Bloody Marys, ranging from celery salt and fennel seeds to crushed star anise and black pepper. Beetroot juice Bloody Marys were also an option, though my fear of splattering someone with the potent pink stuff while drunching was enough to put me off from trying it. Regrets.

As a venue, the Polo Bar is quirky and fun. Set over three floors, it was a tight squeeze for all of us to get in, but the fact that they offer breakfast delivery (a dream come true, I know) and brunch 24/7, it's a fantastic little place to keep in your foodie directory.

Again, I had enough sense to order the Full English breakfast, which I scarfed down.

I've been attending a few blogger events lately and, while I can sometimes be painfully shy and awkward, I've also really enjoyed meeting new people and learning more about what they do and why they write. Conversation at this brunch was organic and relaxed, unlike other events that can feel - dare I say - a little competitive and forced.

I met the lovely Rukmini Iyer, a lawyer-turned-food-stylist (isn't that amazing?) who writes this beautiful blog, Miss Minifer Cooks, and who will be contributing a guest post to Angloyankophile soon! I know, I'm so excited.

I also had a great time chatting to Cat of Survival Survival, a London-based lifestyle blog, and Emma of The Hungry Romantic (her illustrations are awesome!).

After picking up a bag of goodies from About Time and Tabasco and stumbling out of Polo Bar, I managed to sober up enough to make my way toward Hummingbird Bakery to buy some cupcakes for my brother-in-law's birthday celebrations (I had absolutely no room in my stomach for one - not even the super-tempting new S'Mores flavor) - all the while thinking about how fun that morning had been.

Friday, November 7, 2014


I've been feeling a little overwhelmed.

I just received the Royal Orchestral Society's rehearsal schedule and seating plan for our big concert on November 30th at Cadogan Hall and found out that I'm sitting third stand, on the outside, in the firsts (if that didn't make any sense to you, it simply means that I'll be sitting towards the front of the first violin section, on the side of the stage. Where, you know, everyone can see). Our first rehearsal is on Monday and I haven't even looked at the music. To be honest, I don't even really know how it goes. Big gulp.

I'm baking and photographing a Thanksgiving-themed tutorial (which I can't reveal yet!) for a website and I'm nervous that it won't turn out well (both the baking part and my photos).

I've got so many blog posts that I want to write up, but so little time.

I'm working on another article that's due in by the end of next week and - again, I'm worried that it won't be funny, pretty, or smart enough (which is sometimes how I feel about myself).

My birthday's in a few weeks' time and I can't decide whether I want to organize a party or not.

I want to meet up with just about everybody for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I don't have time.

I'm supposed to be self-studying for an accounting certification (don't ask) but have so far only managed to study for (but pass!) one exam. Out of five.

I miss my family.

I burst into tears at the sight of a homeless man this morning and felt extremely guilty after I left an almond milk latte and half-eaten pain au chocolat behind at an expensive cafe, then spent 10 minutes searching for him so I could pretend he dropped a £10 note, but I couldn't find him and was late to work.

So. I was browsing Pinterest and became obsesssed with these Honestly WTF bracelet tutorials. Did you grow up in the friendship bracelet-making era? I constantly had strands of thread taped to our dinner table or safety-pinned to my jeans. Anyway, I just bought some embroidery thread (£4.85 for a pack of 50 on eBay) and plan to indulge in some bracelet-making therapy this weekend.

Crafting calms me down. Remember this sock monkey? Making it for my niece made my life a living hell, but I also found it to be deeply therapeutic. I remember putting on a movie, sitting in my comfy fleece robe on our non-couch (long story: our couch doesn't fit into our living room and it's still standing up in the middle of our hallway. Yes, we've lived like that for a year and a half now), and stitching the sock monkey's arms and legs. I felt such a sense of accomplishment by the time I attached the tail to its butt.

Sometimes, it is so nice to have your greatest accomplishment defined as attaching a tail to a sock monkey's butt.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Obsessed: AOL On's City.Ballet

Have you seen the series of shorts about New York City Ballet dancers on AOL On, called City.Ballet? They're free, no more than a few minutes long, and give a fascinating glimpse into the lives of professional ballet dancers. Executive produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, City.Ballet covers everything from injuries and choreography to ballet masters and retirement. I binge-watched Season 1 last year and now that Season 2 is on, I'm hooked. I especially loved the episode that followed dancers in their "off time"; I often forget that dancers have interests other than dance!

My obsession also probably stems from the fact that I studied classical ballet for 14 years. That's 14 years of my mom (or dad) shipping me back and forth from school to ballet to home nearly every evening for technique, then pointe, then company classes and a gym bag I hauled around full of things like moleskin, surgical tape, seamed tights with a hole in the foot (so you can prep your feet before pointe), and Mirella leotards. And while I knew there was no way in hell I'd ever be a soloist at Pacific Northwest Ballet (flat feet, limited flexibility, thunder thighs, etc.), ballet was still a huge part of my life - because I loved it. Usually, when I know I'm not totally great at something, I bow out in order to make a graceful exit and give up. But not with ballet. I was totally committed. I only quit when I turned 17 because my two musical instruments (piano and violin) and a myriad of AP courses in high school took over. But that didn't mean that I stopped dreaming about ballet nearly every single day. I still have dreams where I'm in that Tacoma City Ballet studio overlooking the Puget Sound, warming up before a company class.

Today, I still long for my ballet-filled days by following Instagram accounts like The Ballerina Project and searching for tickets to see the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House (Jodi managed to get fourth row tickets for us to see Sleeping Beauty together on my birthday a few years ago and I cried when the curtain went up!). Since moving to London, I've taken one class, at London Russian Ballet School. Though marked as a "beginner" class, it was actually really difficult! I think the center floor combinations would have been a struggle to learn even when I was at my "prime" as a teen. I've been meaning to try a class at Central School of Ballet, as a few of my friends have been (with no ballet experience whatsoever) and really enjoyed it.

What about you? Was ballet part of your life when you were growing up? Or any other form of dance? I'd love to learn contemporary dance now too, I think.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bageriet, Covent Garden

My friend Caroline, who's amazingly knowledgeable about off-the-beaten-track restaurants and cafes in London, introduced me to this sweet little Swedish bakery tucked away on Rose Street in Covent Garden, called Bageriet (which means "bakery" in Swedish). It's teeny tiny and barely fits about 6 people at a time, but it's adorable and full of delicious treats handcrafted by pastry chef, Daniel Karlsson.

When London city-living gets me down, I like to duck into Bageriet to escape the crowds and regain a sense of calm. Passing by the cheerful front window filled with freshly baked breads and enormous sugared cakes transports me to Scandinavia, versus the throngs of tourists and office workers on their lunch breaks in crowded Covent Garden.

Yesterday, as I was deliberating whether or not to buy one of their fabulous orange and chocolate cakes for John, Caroline said the funniest thing to me: "What's the worst that could happen? You eat some cake and go, 'Oh woe is me'?"

Of course, I bought the cake - and it was delicious.

I don't usually like fruit cakes or orange-flavored anything, but this wonderfully spiced cake reminds me of Christmas! The sugared, salty almond slices provide an excellent contrast to the moist, dark sponge. It's a wonderful sharing cake to have at a party - you can cut a slice and nibble away at it with a cup of tea or a mug of cocoa.

Speaking of cocoa ...

Aren't these Bageriet hot chocolate kits delightful? They even come with a tiny wooden spoon for stirring - the perfect gift. I'm definitely snapping up a few of these for friends.

Next time you're feeling panicked, duck into Bageriet to restore your sense of calm. And to eat cake, of course.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What Do You Do With Restaurant Business Cards?

I was cleaning out my wallet today (because I tend to stuff receipts in it) when a few restaurant business cards came tumbling out. And yet, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away. With apps like Zomato and other restaurant review sites transforming the digital "foodie" scene, it's easy enough to bookmark restaurants I've been to and want to try again.

But what about restaurants abroad? As you can probably tell from this blog, I really enjoy food and eating out - particularly when I'm on vacation. So, I tend to slip restaurant business cards in my wallet when I'm picking up the bill (although, let's be realistic: usually John picks up the bill - oops - I just collect pretty cards).

For example, the restaurant card from Depur reminds me of our weekend trip to Paris last year in December. We browsed the Marais for Christmas presents and stayed at the gorgeous Hotel 123 Sébastopol before settling in the courtyard of Depur for dinner, which had been decorated with twinkling white Christmas lights and mini Christmas trees.

And the card from Casa Gioli in Taormina, Sicily conjures memories of us strolling along the romantic (but overpopulated) Corso Umberto after dinner while sampling the local gelati. When I look at it, I remember what it was like to swim around the 100-year-old palm tree jutting out of the luxurious pool at Hotel Villa Belvedere and closing my eyes in the sun.

Food fuels memories; some of my greatest memories are of my travels abroad. I'd love to buy a shadowbox frame and keep these souvenirs inside as reminders of where I've been and how well I've lived.

I'm curious: what do you usually do with restaurant business cards when they appear with your bill? Take them? Leave them? Keep a select few? I'd love to know.

© angloyankophile

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Blogger Template Created by pipdig