Thursday, December 15, 2016

My Birthday (Week!)


My birthday was last weekend and - after feeling utterly spoiled with meals out, massages, business class flights, and a beautiful stay at the Taj West End hotel during our visit to India the week before - I asked John to cancel my birthday lunch reservations and instead, I stayed home watching bad Hallmark movies, wrapping Christmas presents, and buying our Christmas tree together. It was perfect.

But then, my college roommate arrived to London the next day and we spent the afternoon together, browsing the Christmas market in Greenwich before enjoying a homemade Sunday roast (thanks to John!), before she presented me with this beautiful birthday present: a jug from Nom Living's blue and white marble collection, which I love.


It looks lovely when displayed next to the rest of our blue and white collection, but it also has a very practical purpose as a water jug on our dinner table.

More importantly, catching up with Deborah was probably one of the best birthday treats I could have had. As we sat chatting and reminiscing about our college days over a lobster roll at The Delaunay, I thought to myself, 'This is a true friend - someone I'll have in my life forever."

But my bittersweet goodbye was short-lived, as I welcomed my parents into our home once again the weekend after Deborah's visit.

The Sunday after they arrived, I had a belated birthday brunch at Berners Tavern. a beautiful restaurant under the direction of Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton (of Pollen Street Social, where I had reluctantly cancelled my birthday lunch reservation), in Fitzrovia.



Aren't the interiors gorgeous? I wore head-to-toe Zara, I've just realized - I loved the frills on the sleeves of this dress when I saw it in the store! A fun twist on an otherwise fairly conservative pattern/shape.

At Berners, I was super greedy and ordered a crab omelette and split the Nutella, banana and hazelnut pancakes with Udita. They were sublime.


After our decadent brunch, we headed toward Liberty to see the Christmas decorations (and my tolerance for crowds was severely tested - ugh!) and I couldn't resist taking a snap of the over-Instagrammed flower shop ...


... before heading home to unwrap my presents from Udita and Rebecca, which they both bought for their "Instagram-worthiness". They know me so well.

I actually shrieked when I opened this beautiful box of Maitre Choux pastries, after pining for them for so long. Not only are they (definitely) Instagram-worthy, but I can confirm that they're also insanely tasty. Each choux is filled with a flavored filling (not just cream!) and - had I eaten them fresh that day (oops), instead of waiting for the "perfect light" to photograph them the next - they probably would have tasted even better.


The "Christmas Cheeky Chestnut" was probably my favorite, but my parents and John loved the "Red Love Eclair", which was certainly the prettiest. The "Hazelnut and Milk Chocolate Treasure" looked like a solid block of gold, and the "Persian Pistachio Eclair" had a delicious pistachio filling. The ultimate luxury treats!

I also fell in love with the tiny, delicate trinket dishes Rebecca gave to me from Anthropologie - one of my favorite US stores for clothes, accessories, and homeware (which, thankfully, made its way over to the UK a few years ago). As I've mentioned in past posts, I tend to leave my rings and earrings everywhere, so I put a little dish in every room (and nearly every surface) to keep me from losing expensive jewelry (seriously - don't ever buy me diamond earrings!). I admired the tiny London-themed dish at Rebecca's flat last time I visited, and I think she took note, because I received my very own Parisian-themed bowl.


Finally, I was treated to these beautiful, luxe travel accessories from John and my parents: a pair of Bang & Olufsen "Play" headphones (the earpieces are lambskin, so they've kept my ears nice and toasty this winter, and they also fold in, which make them perfect for stashing away in my bag when I'm not using them) and a gorgeous Smythson travel wallet, which I've had my eye on for quite a while now.

So ... that's how I ended up celebrating my birthday. I intended to do something low-key, but in the end, my friends and family spoiled me silly. With Christmas just around the corner, there'll be plenty more celebrations to come - I can't wait! (I'll probably have party/presents withdrawal in January ...)
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Vote For Angloyankophile in the UK Blog Awards 2017!


Friends! A sweet reader has nominated Angloyankophile for the UK Blog Awards 2017 (thank you!). If you have a minute, I'd love to have your vote in the Lifestyle and Travel categories, which you can do here. Voting closes on December 19th, and I was shortlisted a couple years back, so it would be fantastic to have a chance at winning this time (fingers crossed!).

Thanks so much.

xo
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Thursday, December 8, 2016

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: 10 Things I Love About Christmas



 
1. Bad Hallmark movies on Netflix. All the bad Hallmark movies.

They all seem to involve secret princes and princesses from made-up countries like Montsaurai ('Once Upon a Holiday') and Cordinia ('A Royal Christmas'), but they're perfect for putting on in the background while decorating the tree or wrapping presents.

2. Buying a Christmas tree.

In my head, there's something incredibly romantic about picking out a tree and carrying it home with a significant other - one of you at the front end and the other in the back, wearing mittens and wool hats, as snow begins to fall and everything looks like a scene out of Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls reference there for those of you who don't watch the show).

In reality, John and I argued about which tree's needles looked "droopier", while I expressed concern that the squat little variations available in London were so wide around the bottom, they resembled a boat before shouting across the garden center parking lot, "Fine. Just pay. Just pay!" And then we took about 5 breaks during our 7-minute walk home with the tree, while John sang, "Chestnuts roasting on the open fire / black frost nipping at your nose," and I had to correct him by explaining that it was "Jack Frost. Not black frost. Black frost sounds like something out of the Mighty Boosh and probably means you'd lose your nose, if black frost got to it."

It was still romantic.

3. Decorating the Christmas tree. 

This also involves arguing about color scheme ("The pink is too close to the red; what is WRONG with you?") and placement of the lights ("The bottom of the tree looks like a blackout." "Well, why don't you fix it, then? I told you we needed longer lights."), but when it's done and the presents are placed under the tree, it looks so, so good.

4. A wreath on the door. 

A wreath on the door signifies, "Hello! Joy here!" or "Hello and welcome to my humble abode of ULTIMATE FESTIVE CHEER!" No Christmas is complete without a fresh wreath on the door - ours is due to arrive tomorrow, and I can't wait.


5. Sequinned party wear.

FYI, I have zero parties to attend this year (besides a work Christmas party, of course) but I am still immediately attracted to anything that's remotely shimmery or bejewelled or decked out with sequins. Sequinned trousers, sequinned tops, sequinned blazers ... throw it at me, and I'll wear it. Promise. Christmas is basically the only time where it's semi-socially acceptable to dress like a giant piece of tinsel and no one will blink an eye (sort of).

6. Christmas songs.

On full-blast from 1 December onwards. From Bing to Mariah to S Club 7 ... if it's on Spotify, we'll play it in our house. Last year, I woke up on Christmas morning and snuck into the room where my brother was sleeping and snuck a bluetooth speaker under his bed before blasting him with "Last Christmas" at the highest decibel-level possible for a mini JBL portable speaker. My parents were in the next room and were so confused: "What was all that noise this morning?" my dad asked at the breakfast table, seriously concerned. Siblings will be siblings, dad.

7. Christmas markets.

This year, I'm heading to Amsterdam (with a day trip to Cologne in between) with John and my parents and I'm super excited to see both cities in all their Christmas-sy glory - particularly Cologne, since it's known for its Christmas markets. There are seven. Seven. I think we'll get to three, if we walk quickly. I'm keeping an eye out for a suitable tree topper, since we don't have one.

8. Christmas decorations.

London is pretty magical at this time of year. Some of my favorite places to visit for Christmas decorations include the Duke of York Square, St. Christopher's Place, Covent Garden, and, of course, Oxford Street and Regent Street.



9. Christmas morning.

All the fanfare leading up to Christmas Day is almost more enjoyable than the day itself. Almost. As an American, I love all the British traditions: pulling Christmas crackers open and reading the jokes inside, wearing the paper crowns, dousing the Christmas pudding with alcohol and lighting it on fire (yep), putting on a pair of wellies and having a post-Christmas lunch country walk ... it all feels so festive.

10. Family time.

If I haven't mentioned it about a gazillion times already, my parents are arriving on Saturday and I'm so terrified excited. I act like an over-excited puppy when they're here, jumping from parent to parent, demanding attention and love while simultaneously worrying about whether they're sufficiently entertained, warm, and fed. Unfortunately, my brother isn't able to join us this year, but I will somehow get "Last Christmas" blasting in his ear from afar ...

What are your favorite things about this time of the year? It doesn't have to be Christmas-related, if you're more of the bah-humbug type! Let me know in the comments below.
 
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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Become a Master of Dim Sum @ Chinese Cricket Club



When I was little, I'd watch my parents make wontons on weekends. Methodically, quickly, and deftly, they'd smear a dollop of pork and prawn filling onto a wonton wrapper, dip their finger into the small bowl of water on the table, and fold it into a little parcel - placing them into rows on a wax paper-lined tray. I'd peer over the edge of the table at the neat little parcels, lined up like pilgrims waiting to enter a church to pray, with their peaked "hats" folded into corners at the top and tied like a kerchief under their chins. Occasionally, my mom or dad would help me make one and I'd inevitably use too much filling, or not enough water, causing the sides to gape and burst. So, I kind of left them to it.

I had a vivid flashback of time spent watching my parents make these wontons when, mesmerized, I stood at the helm of Chef Ken Wang's table at Chinese Cricket Club Restaurant, watching as he and dim sum chef Mai Lan effortlessly rolled, tucked, and folded wrappers into place to make perfect examples of egg rolls, siu mai and other popular dim sum dumplings.

My egg roll didn't fare too badly, and I smugly dropped it into the bamboo basket to be steamed, but my siu mai was rather lacking in flair and when I sent a screenshot to my mom, she exclaimed, "Ai ya! You overstuffed!" Typical.




Previously, I'd popped those bad boys (i.e. har gao, siu mai, and other favorites) into my mouth at our favorite Chinese restaurants in Seattle, Vancouver, and Hong Kong without the slightest thought at the effort that went into making them. I left Chinese Cricket Club that evening red-faced and sheepish, much more appreciative of the skill it takes to be a dim sum chef. If you want to have a go at becoming a dim sum master, you totally can - Chinese Cricket Club is running masterclasses which can be booked here.

After feeling suitably embarrassed at my lack of dim sum-making skills, I sat down with a table full of foodies to sample Chinese Cricket Club's Sichuan cuisine - their speciality.

Since my family's originally from Hong Kong, I've always leaned toward Cantonese flavors and styles of cooking. Sichuan cuisine, known for its seven "key flavours" (hot, spicy, sweet, sour, savoury, bitter, and aromatic - which to me, just translates to spicy, spicy, spicy, spicy, spicy, spicy and um, spicy), is something I don't eat that often.

So, what to order? Well, standout dishes at Chinese Cricket Club included the slow-braised pork belly (cooked for five hours and served with rice and gravy), which was all sorts of melt-in-your-mouth good. Of course, the popular crispy duck with pancakes was a favorite across the table and even I tucked into seconds. And thirds. (And maybe a fourth.)



The spicy sea bass (which is part of Chef Ken Wang's Tasting Menu) tested my spicy pain threshold, but it was surprisingly bearable and - dare I admit - incredibly addictive and delicious.

My parents arrive in London on Saturday and I'm curious to see what they think of Chef Ken Wang's impressive menu - I struggle to find a good Chinese restaurant in London, so I was thrilled to discover the proper Sichuan cuisine at Chinese Cricket Club.

I was a guest of Chinese Cricket Club, Crowne Plaza London – The City, 19 New Bridge Street, London, EC4V 6DB. All opinions are my own.
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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Metropolitan Police Christmas Tree Project


Last weekend, I celebrated my birthday by buying our Christmas tree with John, decorating it with my college roommate who was visiting from the States, and wrapping presents to put under the tree (NB - totally awesome tree in the photo above is from a restaurant in Bruges last year and sadly, not the one we have in our house!). It was so much fun.

I love, love, love seeing the tree in situ - it looks like it always belongs in that corner of our living room and I remember thinking the same thing last year! It's also making me very excited for my parents' imminent arrival this weekend - I haven't seen them since May!

If you live in London, I'd encourage you to take part in the Metropolitan Police's Christmas Tree Project. It's not too widely publicized, but you can pick a borough closest to you and be matched with a child to purchase a present for this Christmas - a child that might not otherwise have any gifts to open on Christmas Day.

Last year, I was paired with a newborn girl - which was pretty heartbreaking. I chose a sweet, fleece onesie from M&S and delivered it to Islington Police Station, hoping that it would keep her warm throughout the winter months. This year, I have a 13-year-old boy and I'm totally stumped. I'm so not down with the cool kids. Any ideas?
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Travel Talk: What's In My (Carry-On) Bag


I'm always curious to sneak a peek into other peoples' bags at airports - I want to know all their travel secrets! What are they reading? A Kindle? A paperback? A hardback? What kind of headphones to they use? Neck pillow? Snacks?

So, I decided to put a little twist on the "what's in my bag" blog post and show you what I pack when I'm about to board a long-haul flight.

Magazines

I have a little ritual before I go on vacation: pedicure, followed by a magazine purchase (or two). I always read Conde Nast Traveller when I travel. I know! It seems so counterintuitive - what weirdo would want to read about other destinations when they're already on holiday? This weirdo. I love travel writing though, and I find the articles and images so inspiring. 

Snacks

Once, I didn't bring any snacks with me on a long-haul flight and ... I pretty much inhaled breakfast when it was served and had to distract myself from hunger by watching a pretty forgettable movie beforehand. Now, unless I'm flying Business class (which is like, never, btw - okay, once or twice), I always bring a snack. For a recent trip, I brought these Kind bars, which are delicious and nutritious (see what I did there?). They're not too sweet, like some other bars (which leaves a horrible taste in your mouth when you're travelling) and they come in sweet and savoury flavors. The bars are made from whole nuts, fruits, and whole grains, so they keep you comfortably full until the next meal is served. I'm a fan of the Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond flavor, which you can buy here.

Avene Thermal Water Spray - Travel Size

I know I go on and on about this spray, but it really is a miracle product. I mist it over my face every two hours or so during the flight and it is such a relief from the dry cabin air. You can find it at Boots. I also like to slather a bit of Laneige's Water Sleeping Mask on my face as well, to keep it well-hydrated (though my mom once asked me why my face was so shiny when I disembarked, so maybe wipe it off when you land!).

Powder

I get a super attractive oily and dry face on flights, so I always carry a pressed powder compact with me so I can dab at my face before we land and carry at least a passing resemblance to my passport photo at border control. 

Fragrance

I'm totally conscious of other passengers who might be allergic to perfume, so I avoid applying any fragrance on the flight itself, but I do this just after disembarking because - unless you're flying in a cabin with a private shower (check you out!) - no one smells great when they first step off a flight. I love these roller-ball fragrances that are exclusive to Sephora US and always pick up one or two when I'm visiting the States.

Eye shade

Must. Block. Out. All. The. Light. I alternate between the pretty one you see here (made from Liberty fabric by a friend of mine) or the one I rave about in this post.

Gigantic Scarf

One that can double as a blanket or a cape or a pillow, etc. I've got a great one from & Other Stories but if I'm travelling to a colder climate, I like to use a cashmere wrap.


What are your carry-on essentials? Let me know in the comments below!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Interior Inspiration: Have Yourself a Very Hygge Christmas


After visiting The Duke of York Square earlier this week and seeing all the magical, festive decorations, I started feeling really excited for Christmas - particularly as my mom and dad arrive in less than three weeks (LOLs, just kidding- I'm actually freaking out, but oh well). We're taking a short trip to Amsterdam and Cologne to visit the Christmas markets and I just placed our Christmas food order at Waitrose (we're having honey-glazed ham this year *mini fist pump*) so ... all systems are go.

Last weekend, John dug out our Christmas decorations from the attic and, well, it sounds stupid, but my heart swelled a little at having Christmas decorations that are ours to use every year. I woke up early, baked some banana bread, and it all felt very ... hygge. You know, that Danish concept of "coziness" that's been blowing up your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook feeds.


The week before, I'd been on a little Christmas shopping spree at T.K. Maxx and - you guys - I was like a kid in a candy store. I mean, seriously. I've written about how much I love T.K. Maxx before, but the hunt for the most glorious bargain is more fun than the actual item itself.

Case in point: I couldn't wait to light these beautifully-scented candles encased in simple gold and silver glass, which I found by literally getting on my hands and knees and rummaging behind rows of other candles before emerging, triumphant.


The scent of that Golden Shortbread candle combined with smell of banana bread emerging from the oven was heavenly and very hygge. The Fresh Cut Pine candle is lovely on our coffee table and creates a cozy ambience for Netflix and chill (literally chilling, folks - it's not that kind of blog!).

I also love wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards. In fact, I think I might like preparing for Christmas even more than I like the holiday itself - oops.

T.K. Maxx always has amazing surprises in the stationery department and there's always something that manages to perfectly reflect my personality. On my visit, I found these pretty cards, gift tags, wrapping paper, and ribbon:



I'm not gonna lie ... I like having creative control over Christmas decorations and pretty much ban anything that's red and green. Sorry. I'm a Grinch like that.

John hates this (in fact, he calls me a not-very-nice name, but I'll look past that as he will be solely responsible for carrying the tree home this year), but I love having a Scandi-leaning, silver/black/gold decor-scheme.

So, I was very excited to find this acorn garland, which I plan to display in our living room (and/or on our Christmas tree. Tip: don't leave it on the floor for your unsuspecting husband to step on when he wakes up for work at 5:30 in the morning. It's kind of spiky.):


Are you looking forward to Christmas? Do you have decorations that you like to put up every year? Let me know in the comments!

Products shown were provided by T.K. Maxx. All opinions are my own. Shop their stores here.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

A Taste of Christmas at The Duke York Square


The Duke of York Square is one of my favorite places in London to eat, shop, and generally hang out. The Saatchi Gallery is a must-visit for any art enthusiast and Partridges food market is somewhat of an institution for American expats in London, thanks to its plentiful supply of American products (I go there for my Lucky Charms fix).

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Square to experience the festive decorations, get gift ideas (I'm still not done with my Christmas shopping - I really wanted to finish it early this year!), and try the tasty new Festive Menu at Gallery Mess restaurant.

Thanksgiving is on Thursday (!), so I was super excited to sample Partridges' pumpkin and pecan pies - which did not disappoint. Pumpkin pie is by far my favorite Thanksgiving dessert and Partridges' version was delightful: the filling was rich and creamy, offset with a light and flaky crust. I'm dying to try it with a generous dollop of whipped cream on top! Luckily for me, they come in convenient personal-sized portions, so I'm definitely going back to get my own.


I also loved their Christmas-themed hampers, which I'm thinking of getting for our next door neighbors as a "thank you" for putting up with all our disruptive garden work over the summer (oops). Nothing says, "Sorry-about-the-drilling-at-7:45-a.m. like a hamper full of Christmas puddings, panettone, and champagne.


From Partridges, we stopped in for a visit to L.K. Bennett to view their seasonal gift options. I've been a long-time fan of L.K. Bennett (and even wore a pair of their beautifully-made, nude-colored heels to my wedding) and am always admiring the shoes, although their accessories are tempting as well.

I spied this chic, light grey cross-body bag in their seasonal offerings, and was instantly smitten. Inspired by the shape and design of vintage camera bags, it looks achingly cool when paired with the personalized initial stickers from L.K. Bennett's recent collaboration with Boyarde.


I immediately made a mental note to put the exact color on my Christmas/birthday wishlist (since my birthday is in December).

The luxurious wool and cashmere pom-pom hats and corresponding pom-pom bag charms also caught my eye - ideal for the sudden drop in temperature. I particularly liked the eye-catching magenta, which tempted me to step away from my usual uniform of grey and black (who am I kidding? If I had to choose, I'd probably choose black. Again.).

L.K. Bennett's new range of candles would also make great gifts for colleagues, or as a stocking stuffer. I left with a gorgeous Red Berry candle, which I've happily added to my collection of winter candles at home. Come Christmas Day, my house will be beautifully scented (which it'll have to be, to cover the inevitable burning coming from the oven)!


Reluctantly tearing myself away from the colorful pom-poms and dream handbags, we made our way to Liz Earle, a brand that has been a staple in my skincare repertoire for years. In fact, I liked it so much after I tried it, I bought it for my mom, my mother-in-law, and even ... John (he's a devotee of their men's range).

The Duke of York Square branch of Liz Earle regularly holds workshops and events; we were lucky enough to take part in a wreath-making workshop, led by Jo Woodward of Columbia Creative.


As Jo taught us how to pin, tuck, and arrange the deliciously scented pieces of our wreath, the lovely ladies at Liz Earle described how some of the very same items we were adding (for example, lavender, berries, and oranges) are also found in Liz Earle products.


Liz Earle has some fantastic gift sets and fragrances available at the moment (I personally love the limited edition hot cloth cleansers - this year's "Winter Icon" is the Sweet Orange & Clove Limited Edition cleanser and it smells divine) and it gave me great gift ideas for my girlfriends and mother-in-law.

The wreaths we made were also designed to fit a luxurious botanical candle - it would make a beautiful Christmas table centrepiece, which is how I intend to use mine.


I posted this photo of my wreath on Instagram and was inundated with questions about where to make one! Liz Earle at The Duke of York Square will be hosting more wreath-making workshops before Christmas, so head to their website and social media channels to receive updates.


After working up an appetite pinning our cinnamon sticks and coconut husk stars to our wreaths, we made our way to Gallery Mess at the Saatchi Gallery for dinner. They're currently showcasing a Festive Menu, which features dishes with a decidedly Christmas twist: Barbary duck breast with mulled red cabbage, clementine and star anise jus, stone bass with sage roasted parsnip, salsify and kale, plus a delicious veggie option of broccoli and blue cheese souffle with salt baked celeriac, shaved celery and candied walnuts.


I confess to eating my duck breast in a hurry, because I couldn't wait for dessert. But, while we're on the subject, my duck breast was beautifully cooked: tender and slightly pink in the middle. Not usually one for citrus flavors in savoury dishes, I was surprised by how much I liked the clementine wedges, each charred and finished with a delightfully smokey taste. I closed my eyes for a second and imagined wood-burning fires and warm country pubs.


Before long, my main course had disappeared and I eagerly anticipated dessert: chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream. Too much? Perhaps. Indulgent? Definitely.

But so worth it.


I loved slicing my fork into the middle of that chocolate fondant and seeing the molten-hot chocolate center ooze onto the plate. I admit that the addition of the salted caramel ice cream might have been a tad too sweet for the dessert, even for my sweet-tooth-inclined palette, but it's a Christmas dessert - so it's got to be a little over the top. Still, no regrets.

Also: I don't usually like Christmas pudding, but even Aftab's dessert looked enticing from across the table.


After dinner, I left the group a bit early to take another look at the Square. With the shops shut but the facades still lit and illuminated, I stopped for a moment to take in the beautiful Christmas trees and festive decorations.



Suddenly, the realization that my parents were arriving in less than three weeks' time made me super excited. And while I'd taken my mom to Cadogan Hall for a concert before (it's my favorite classical music venue in London - I performed there a couple years ago and wrote an article in TimeOut London about it!), we never had a chance to visit the Duke of York Square in all its Christmas-sy glory. So, right then and there, I added it to our itinerary.

I can't wait. Pumpkin pie and all.

I was a guest of The Duke of York Square. All opinions are my own. Special thanks to Mina, Evie, and the staff at L.K. Bennett, Liz Earle, and Gallery Mess restaurant for making our visit so very special!

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Friday, November 18, 2016

This Is The Week That ...



This is the week that ...

... I won second place in a pub quiz with friends.

Last time we came in first, and really, John and I only contributed to 5 points of this 118 point 90s-themed quiz (the rest of it was totally up to our friends, Lynne and Rachel), but to place second (well, tied-second) out of 15 teams? Not bad. Not bad at all. (Also, seriously: can you name EVERY member of the Backstreet Boys? Every time I tried to conjure up a name - besides Nick Carter - only the smiling faces of 'NSYNC would pop into my head. Lynne made the mistake of saying, "What about Nick Lachey?" and I snapped at her, "NO, HE WAS IN 98 DEGREES, DUH.")

... I asked an Etsy seller to customize a pair of embossed leather luggage tags to read, "Mrs. & Mrs." instead of "Mr. & Mrs." and he was happy to oblige. 

I mean, the fact that I felt nervous and anxious after I sent my request off to him made me feel so sad. What if his response was negative? How do my LGBTQ friends deal every day with this kind of shit? It was that realization that hit me hard. But thankfully, his response was helpful and positive. So, shout out to KarlvonArtistry's beautiful leather goods shop on Etsy.

... I had a pleasant exchange with the guy next to me on the bus.

Which never happens in London. We're in our own little bubbles and our end-goal is to get from Point A to Point B with as little human interaction as possible. Period. But I sat next to him on the top deck of the bus on Wednesday night and we had a little awkward, "Are you getting off ...? Oh, let me get out of the way if you are ..." mini-conversation, which then turned into jokes and small talk about how bad London traffic is, etc. Folks, it was the smallest thing, but it was real and it was a reminder that there is some humanity left in the world right now.

... a nice lady picked up my receipt which had my order number on it, after I dropped it during the mad pre-work rush at POD.

If you're not familiar with POD, they have this stressful (but, actually, totally smart) system of having two lines - one for ordering, one for picking up your order - and calling out your order number when it's ready. I was pre-occupied with checking my phone (obvs) and accidentally dropped my receipt, when a lady to my right noticed, swooped in, and said, "Oh! Don't lose that!" with a friendly smile and handed it back to me. Again, so small, but just - a kind gesture.

... I made a few (tough) phone calls to my Senators and Congressmen back home about my concerns.

My heart was pounding and I felt tearful, but I wrote a short script, read it aloud to the staffers who answered the phone, asked them when I could expect to receive a response, and was met with positivity on the other end of the line. If you're a US citizen, you can find your local representatives here, and if you're calling from the UK, you can use ZipCall to call for free, from your phone. If you don't know where to start, my friend linked this super helpful calling sheet, which you don't have to follow to the T, but it's a great jumping off point.

We need to be kind to each other right now, and do things that will make us feel better. Last week, I was all about staying in, lighting candles, and baking banana bread. And that's okay. I needed that. This week, I wanted to act, so I did. I have a few more calls to make.

Have a wonderful weekend. Thank you, always, for being here for me. xo
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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The First Sunday Roast of the Season @ The Bell, Walthamstow


I'd forgotten how much I missed having a good Sunday roast. Specifically, a hot plate filled to the edges with roast beef (or pork belly or chicken), a pile of roast vegetables, a big, fluffy cloud of a Yorkshire pudding - all swimming in a thick, rich gravy. Specifically, after a long, bracing walk in the cold - the kind of walk that leaves you with a runny nose, red cheeks, and numb toes.

We had that kind of Sunday roast a few weekends ago at The Bell in Walthamstow. They start serving lunch at 12, but we were warned that it would get busy and, sure enough, every table was taken by 1 pm.

For a lighter version of a Sunday roast, The Bell also serves roast meat of your choice between two soft pieces of brioche, but we arrived with big appetites, so went the whole hog (no pun intended).


While John cut into his roast beef (served with a generous portion of gravy and horseradish), I eagerly anticipated my roast pork belly. Although the crackling was too thick and tough to cut into, let alone eat (a bit disappointing), the belly itself was melt-in-the-mouth tender. Overall, the dish was a little under-seasoned (which I prefer to being overly salty), but it was so satisfying, I ate every last bite. I especially loved the tangy red cabbage buried under the mound of vegetables and the apple sauce - both perfect accompaniments for the pork belly.

Before our plates could be whisked away, we'd already decided on dessert: apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding. The heat radiating off our apple crumble plate was incredible - we warmed our hands above it like it was a fire! I only wished it was served with ice cream instead of double cream (I'm American like that).

Being the greedy guts that I am, I dipped my fork into my brother-in-law's sticky toffee pudding ... which was a bit on the dry side. But, happy with our apple crumble, I scooped the last mouthful into my mouth (which I'm pretty sure was still steaming hot).

I'm so looking forward to taking my parents to The Bell for a roast when they're here in December. What's your favorite place to go for a roast? We love making our own too (John's speciality is lamb and/or chicken ... I handle all the sides!).
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Monday, November 14, 2016

Self-Care Saturday (+ A Giveaway!)


Last week was ... really hard. And to be honest, the past few days have been very difficult. As my friends and I struggled to comprehend the outcome of the US election (or rather, its consequences, as the outcome did not surprise me), I had to take breaks - breaks from social media, breaks from the news, breaks from reading the papers. Because it got a bit too much.

So, on Saturday, John and I decided to have a "self-care" day. A day where we'd stay in, be silly, watch lighthearted movies, and do things that would make us laugh and lighten the burden that's been sitting heavy on our hearts.

In the morning, I ordered brunch from EatFirst - in bed. It arrived to our door in the time-frame it said it would, I proceeded to whip it away from John so I could take a billion photographs, and then I forgot to heat half of it up.

Oh well.


It looked pretty and it was delicious. I particularly loved the colorful Cannon & Cannon brunch charcuterie and the scotch eggs, which would be terrific for a picnic in warmer weather.

On Sunday, I went to a yoga class in Leyton and the teacher spoke of compassion, of healing, and of protecting our hearts. I nearly burst into tears. It was just what I - and I think everyone in the room - needed to hear.

The sun seems to be setting earlier every day. As I type this on our couch at home, it's 3:48 in the afternoon, and the sun has disappeared behind the Victorian houses across the street. I'm listening to the radiators trickle to life and lighting candles as it goes dark outside.

I went to see my friend Rebecca's new flat last week and when I walked in, it was an oasis of calm: candles flickered in the living area and the most wonderful scent filled the room. Even as the sky grew dark, the candles kept the atmosphere warm and cozy.

Sometimes, scented candles feel like an unnecessary indulgence. But right now? In this darkness? They're kind of keeping me going.


One of my favorite winter scents is the Winter candle from The White Company. It's a delicious combination of cinnamon, clove, and fresh orange. The smell of it burning instantly transports me to Christmas Day. That's what I'm choosing to focus on right now during these weeks of turmoil, confusion, sadness, and frustration: the thought of celebrating Christmas with my family, with the scent of this candle wafting through our house.

To cheer us all up, I'm giving away a Winter candle to a reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below letting me know about how you're practicing self-care this week. I'll be picking one winner at random, to be announced on Friday morning, 18th November.

Good luck!

Candles provided by The White Company, a store I've loved for years. All opinions are my own. Shop The White Company candles here - I'm a fan of their three-wick candles!
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Still (We) Rise

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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hurry to the Haché Holborn Pop-Up!


Last Friday, I found myself pacing back and forth outside the Citadines hotel in Holborn, trying to find the Haché Burgers pop-up and on the phone to John, who had arrived before me.

"Am enjoying a glass of bubbly," he texted. "So no rush."

"Where are you?" I hissed when he answered the phone. "I'm standing opposite the Rosewood Hotel, just as you said and I can't find it!"

"It's part of another restaurant," he said, sounding quite merry, despite being on his own.

I squinted and bounded a few steps forward to Hush Brasserie, before tentatively heading downstairs to the Haché Burgers pop-up.

Dimly, but beautifully lit, and wonderfully atmospheric, the pop-up is running for two months - until the 23rd of December, at 95-97 High Holborn. Its blink-and-you'll-miss-it location gives it a bit of intrigue and secrecy. The downstairs bar and dining room is reminiscent of a speakeasy, though along with the well-stocked drinks shelf, staff can whip up a mean Oreo milkshake, we discovered - the perfect, sweet and creamy accompaniment to a salty, juicy burger and fries.

John ordered the original, Haché burger, made from the finest grilled 100% prime hachéd Scotch steak with a side of Bearnaise sauce.


Feeling slightly more peckish than him, due to an unsatisfactory lunch down the road, I went for the "Steak Canadien": the haché burger topped with sweet cured bacon and melted mature cheddar cheese. Naturally, I ordered a side of frites - skinny and crispy, just the way I like them.

The pop-up currently offers a more condensed version of Haché Burgers full menu and if you can't make it during its run in Holborn, then book a table at one of its permanent locations in Camden, Chelsea, Clapham, Shoreditch and Balham.

John and I were guests of Haché Burgers. All opinions are my own. The Haché Burgers pop-up can be found at 95-97 High Holborn until December 23rd.
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