Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Fall Jewelry Uniform

Do you have a jewelry "uniform"? The same set of rings, necklaces, and earrings that you put on everyday - almost without thinking? Aside from the occasional piece of "statement" jewelry, I have a typical "uniform" I wear everyday: a simple, small diamond from John, my engagement ring and wedding band, a Monica Vinader ring, and whatever watch I decide to wear that day.

In the fall, I like to wear a lot of delicate, gold jewelry. I loved this Evil Eye Necklace from online boutique sixforgold so much (and apparently, you guys did too, because it sold out shortly after I wrote about it!), I went back to the shop and picked out a couple more pieces from US jewelry designer, a.v. max - and they've now become a part of my autumn jewelry uniform.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you'll know that I'm a huge fan of bracelet stacks. I end up taking a lot of them off when I get to work so they don't constantly bang on my desk, but I feel most confident when I've got a good, weighty stack on my left wrist.

This pretty, a.v. max Rhinestone Arrow Bangle from Six For Gold is one of my favorites to wear. It's bendy, so it slips on easily (but I get paranoid about it slipping off, so I have to be careful!) and it's much better quality than similar bracelets I've eyed up elsewhere. It looks equally great when layered with a black or gold/rose gold watch and it doesn't get in the way when I type.

And although I like pretty, delicate jewelry, I also like jewelry with a bit of edge, which is exactly what came to mind when I saw this Pearl Claw Necklace. Honestly? I've been wearing it almost every day - sometimes on its own, but often along with the Evil Eye Necklace. It looks great against black (which I wear a lot of in the fall/winter months) but I also love the way it sits on top of a white blouse.

I also love these two pieces because they're so unique - I haven't seen anyone else wearing them yet!

As a treat, sixforgold is offering Angloyankophile readers 15% off across its collections with the code ANGLOYANK15 (I don't really want to say the C-word, but ... Christmas is coming up, and it might be an ideal time to browse! #justsaying). Happy shopping!

My Rhinestone Arrow Bangle and Pearl Claw Necklace were generously provided by sixforgold, whose jewelry I love and wear. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Interior Inspiration: How To Style Your Bookshelves

With a book publishing career spanning nearly a decade, I've amassed quite the collection of books - not to mention the books I brought over from my teen and college years (think Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, Ayn Rand, and other angst-y, teenage lit) and my extensive interiors magazine collection (thanks to a friend who donates a stack of World of Interiors every time she sees me).

When we moved into this house a year ago, built-in shelves and cupboards were my dream. After making do with an IKEA Expedit shelf for years in rented accommodation (seriously, we dismantled and put that thing back together a record number of times), I wanted a place to display my books, photos and objets (I really don't know how else to describe my gold pineapple, brass starfish or geode bookends) that felt permanent.

I wanted my bookshelves to say: I live here.

But frankly, we received laughable quotes from several builders last year (as in, £3,000+ HAHAHA) and I abandoned the idea of having bespoke shelves altogether, especially when we started work on the gardens this summer. But after a tip from a local Facebook group, we found a builder who could make shelves, cupboards and built-in wardrobes upstairs for a much more reasonable price. Within a week, I was the proud, new owner of these beautiful shelves.

Over the weekend, I experimented with different arrangements and came up with the displays below. I'd love to share a few things I learned along the way, if you're interested!

1. Consider the depth of the shelves you have/want.

The depth of the shelves was important to me. I wanted to display objects and framed photos in front of the books. Depth, I learned, would give us more options (and options are always good to have!).

2. Layer in "objects".

Along with my books, I've got a good little vase collection going on (mostly stuff I've picked up in Habitat sales). They're too pretty to hide away in cupboards, so I sandwiched them in-between books and used them as bookends. Objects like candles, figurines, and even plants can be placed on top of, beside, and in front of books.

3. Decide how to organize your books.

I organized my books by color, rather than alphabetical order (which seemed to bother a lot of people, judging from the comments I received on social media!). Even books with similar colors (like my Penguin Modern Classics) were haphazardly placed on the shelves, with no regard to the order of titles or the authors' names. I've always loved having randomly arranged bookshelves - from childhood to college - so my shelves at home also embrace this randomness.

4. Take advantage of beautiful book covers.

Have you ever noticed how books on bookstore shelves are often turned so that the cover, rather than the spine, faces the customer? It's so effective (and trust me, a lot of thought goes into designing book covers and jackets for this very reason). So, it's a shame that book spines are often the only part of the book that shows on the shelf. Along with stacking books on their side, I also occasionally flipped a book so that it's displayed like a piece of framed art, which adds a bit of interest to the shelf.

5. Save the top shelves for artwork and the bottom shelf for framed photos.

I love the look of leaning, framed artwork, and placing mismatched pieces on our highest shelf gives the illusion of higher ceilings, I've found. I also invested in some silver frames for black and white photos of our wedding, so I've put these on the bottom shelves, on top of the cabinets, to add a personal touch.

I'm looking forward to cozy nights in and reading books on the couch! How do you like to organize your books at home? Are you a fan of organizing by color, author, subject, or a combination of everything? I'd love to know!

Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Be (Less) Perfect

Last weekend, I helped my mother-in-law celebrate her 70th birthday in Cambridge by stepping in to organize the cake, decorations, and music (Udita and I performed violin duets) for an afternoon tea in Cambridge.

The week before the event, I also had one of the worst anxiety attacks I've had in years.

The reason? I had over-committed myself. Again. At work, I was in the middle of concluding a difficult negotiation and, after work, I was scrambling to submit a paid-for travel piece in a magazine - all in the same week. The mere thought of tying together all the loose ends for the party on top of that: the flowers, the party favors, the music, photography, and more ... made me hyperventilate.

By the time Saturday finally rolled around, my anxiety levels were at an all-time high, and I spent the morning frantically running up and down the stairs yelling things like, "Where's the basket for the cards? Did you wrap the present? Did you bring an extra charger?" and generally acting like a (not-so-hot) mess.

Of course, as soon as I got on the train, I realized I'd left the arrangement of 'Happy Birthday' Udita and I had composed (which I'd painstakingly transcribed onto DIY musical notepaper) at home. When I arrived at the venue, I also discovered that I'd failed to make numbers for the tables and, worse, I had mistakenly used John's aunt's maiden name on her place card instead of her married name (which she goes by).

The amazing thing was though, instead of freaking out and hysterically crying like I normally would, I decided to let it go. We re-wrote my part for 'Happy Birthday' (Udita had her part memorized because, of couse she did) and the table numbers were written by hand on the back of spare placecards. John's aunt also received a hand-written place card in blue ball point pen (which was the only pen I could find at the hotel) rather than ink calligraphy.

And it was okay.

No one died (although my niece did kind of launch herself head first out of a chair while under my care - oops). No one complained that her placecard was written in blue ball point pen. Everyone found their seats despite the ridiculously small table numbers. Instead of trying to capture every moment with my camera, I handed it to my brother-in-law (who has a fantastic eye) so I could sit and have a scone and catch up with John's lovely extended family.

Six months ago, I would have replayed these "mistakes" in my mind over and over again like a bad movie. I'd press "play" and let myself feel the shame and guilt of not doing enough or being good enough.

But on Saturday, I recognized that my expectations for myself were vastly different than other peoples' expectations for themselves and indeed, even for me. I'd wanted things to be so perfect for my mother-in-law (who would have been happy with anything, I'm sure), that I compromised my well-being trying to achieve that unrealistic goal of perfection.

I'm not gonna lie: I hated being imperfect. I hated that the flower arrangements weren't accompanied by beautiful table numbers; that we didn't have more pieces to perform in our duet repertoire; that I hadn't considered buying chair covers for the ugly purple conference-type chairs for the room.

But the difference this time was that those feelings were fleeting. They popped into my head, I acknowledged them, and then ... they didn't bother me anymore.

And I was so, so happy about this triumph over my mind. But more importantly, I loved looking over to where my mother-in-law was sitting and seeing her laugh and smile. This party was for her, after all.

What triumphs have you been winning this week? Please share!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

My New Anxiety-Busting Ritual

When I stumble in the door from work (and yes, I literally stumble because we're currently remodelling the front of our house and I always seem to catch my shoe at the top of the step), I usually do the following things in this order:

- drop keys in silver tray
- drop bag on the dinner table
- devour a packet of Sunbites
- open fridge and slam dinner ingredients on counter
- put on apron
- cook
- eat with John
- get grumpy that it's already 8:00 pm and I haven't accomplished even one thing on my long list of home "admin". You feeling me? Laundry, personal emails, Pinterest (I mean, pinning ideas for outdoor garden lights and definitely not new shoes at Kurt Geiger) ... my anxiety levels bubble just thinking about this list after dinner.

So ... recently, I switched it up a little. Ever since the Great Clear-out (which you can read more about here), I've been feeling a lot more zen because my room is so tidy - and I've been able to keep it that way!

Now that it's one of my new favorite places to spend my time, I've been rushing home from work, slipping off my shoes, dropping my keys in the silver tray, running upstairs to our loft room and ...

Washing my face.

Oh, my goodness. It feels so amazing. I like using cleansing oils that I can massage into my face (my favorites are Emma Hardie's Moringa Cleansing Balm because it smells so, so good and this DHC cleansing oil, which I just received a sample of and fell in love with) because it feels so luxurious and they take off all my make-up without drying out my skin.


I change into "comfy clothes" (typically a t-shirt and shorts or a t-shirt and sweatpants - John said he never had "indoor" clothes until he met me and that I ruined him for life because he now immediately changes into them when he comes home from work!) before slowly padding down to the kitchen and choosing a recipe to cook that night.

The whole ritual takes only about 15 minutes or so, but it's time that separates "work me" from "home me" and I think that's so important. By the time John comes home, I'm a better mood, more relaxed, and I have more realistic expectations of what I can/can't achieve that evening after dinner.

Do you have a post-work routine to help you wind down? I'm curious to know!

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Only Statement Necklace You'll Ever Need

Happiness Boutique literally delivered a shot of happiness to my desk when I received this beautiful Flower Treasure Statement Necklace in the mail last week. I'd been having a bad day at work (immediately filing an irate email into a folder so it wouldn't keep appearing at the top of my inbox and angrily shuffling papers on my desk), so anything at that point would have cheered me up, but opening a box to find this stunning necklace inside was positively uplifting. 

My usual go-to for statement jewelry recently closed (sob!) but a friend recommended Happiness Boutique to me and, curious, I spent one lunchtime browsing their necklaces. I was drawn to the colors in the Flower Treasure Statement Necklace as it reminded me of the wildflowers we're about to plant in our garden - green, lilac, orange, and gold.

But, not gonna lie: I'm always dubious about the quality of costume jewellery that I've ordered online. In fact, I'd prepared myself to be a little disappointed when I opened the box from Happiness Boutique. I was surprised at how vibrant it looked in person - in fact, the photos on their website don't do it justice! I tried it on at home and John immediately commented when I bounded down the stairs, "Ooh! Is that new? Where is it from? It looks very high quality!"

The necklace has a lot of weight to it and the design is one of the most unique I've seen in a long while. I like the way the pattern changes as it travels up the neckline, which adds a bit of interest.

By day, I like to keep my jewellery style pretty minimal: I wear the same delicate gold necklaces and rings on rotation, but when I'm going out or headed to an event, I like to jazz things up with statement necklaces, as evidenced in this post (where you can see my newly organized tray of statement jewellery).

Are you a statement jewellery fan, or do you prefer a more low-key look? How do you "dress up" an outfit?

Great news! Angloyankophile readers can get an exclusive discount of 10% off orders over €19 until October 11, 2016 - just enter the code 'angloyankophile' at checkout. Enjoy!

My necklace was provided to me by Happiness Boutique, but all flowery opinions are my own. Shop their statement necklaces here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: The New Weekend Brunch Menu at Theo's Simple Italian, Hotel Indigo

Experiencing the new four-course brunch menu at Chef Theo Randall's newest restaurant in London, Theo's Simple Italian, brought back wonderful memories. Although the restaurant itself is new, my associations with Hotel Indigo (where the restaurant is situated) and Theo Randall's cuisine are not.

Years ago, we treated my father-in-law to a birthday dinner at Theo's restaurant at the Intercontinental, Park Lane. A few years after that, my best friend got married in London and we all met at Hotel Indigo for an informal "after-party", if you will - and had one of the best nights I can remember.

So, last Saturday was a convergence of two worlds, if you'd like, and I'd scheduled in a visit with that same friend afterwards, who now lives just a minute away from the restaurant!

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Theo's Simple Italian was the fresh, bright and airy decor: big windows, chevron-panelled walls in light wood, marble tables, and cow parsley all made it a beautiful place to chill out and spend a Saturday afternoon.

I was so busy snapping photos of the beautiful interiors that I hadn't noticed Theo walking into the room. Embarassingly, he quipped a friendly greeting to me upon walking past, to which I replied without so much as a look up from my camera. Whoops.

In person, the chef is friendly, warm, and inviting - surprisingly so. With a disarming smile, he treated us to a ravioli-making demonstration before disclosing his favorite brand of pasta-maker (Imperia, if you're interested) and his tip for cooking dried pasta ("Always subtract three minutes from the recommended cooking time"). He is as excited and passionate about how we cook our pasta in our own homes as he is about how he makes it in his own restaurant: sentences were peppered with, "Never, never, ever ..." and "Always, always make sure ..."

The new, four-course brunch menu at Theo's Simple Italian officially launches on Saturday, September 24th and is inspired by relaxed, Italian weekends - complete with plates designed for sharing and carefully selected wines to match.

With Head Chef Fabio Gauglione at the helm of the restaurant's kitchen, we began our brunch with a selection of focaccia and the antipasti platter of dreams: the creamiest buffalo mozzarella (that tasted like clouds exploding in my mouth - seriously), marinated artichoke, Prosciutto di Parma, and more.

I'd be happy to drop into Theo's Simple Italian for this antipasti alone: this, plus a bottle of wine shared between friends, would make the perfect afternoon escape (especially if we sat in that dreamy table by the window!).

But my favorite part of the meal was the Primi course. Why? Because pasta. Pasta, pasta, pasta. Ravioli of cime di rapa made with ricotta and sage butter, the seafood pasta pictured below (which would be my primi course of choice when - not if - I head to Theo's Simple Italian again) and the pappardelle con ragu di manzo - fresh pasta with slow cooked (for six hours, mind you) beef in Chianti and San Marzano tomatoes. I know the whole premise of the restaurant is about sharing (which we did), but sorry ... not sharing next time.

There is an unmistakable difference in taste between fresh and dried pasta. For one thing, it seems to pick up the rich tomato and butter-based sauces better. The texture is entirely different. I remember when John made fresh pasta from scratch for me for Valentine's Day a few years ago (a feat which has sadly not been repeated yet) and I was blown away by how - almost light - each strand tasted.

By the time we moved on to the Secondi - the roasted sea bream, roasted free range pork loin, and the frittata (which I thought about wrapping up and hiding in my handbag before the others could stab their forks into it - it was that delicious), I didn't think I could fit any more in. 

But I did. The roast pork loin was slightly dry for my preference, but I enjoyed the mushrooms so much, I hogged the rest of them for myself (again, not sharing!).

I particularly appreciated the variety of the new brunch menu; sometimes we make compromises with ourselves when ordering e.g. "Well, I really wanted this, but since it's not on the menu, I guess I'll order that." But this wasn't the case at Theo's Simple Italian - every description sounded pleasing and every plate was a visual delight. I love knowing that there's something for everyone - perfect for pleasing large groups of family members and/or friends.

So, I must confess: I only nibbled at the mains because I heard the word dessert and, well, you know how much I love dessert.

I'm pretty sure there was a collective sigh of appreciation as this beautiful trio of desserts was placed on the tables: an Amalfi lemon tart, baked ricotta cheesecake with pears marinated in Marsala and vanilla, and a bowl of tiramisu. I'd never seen photos being snapped quicker as we all rushed to (literally) dig in!

Maybe it was the lip-pursing sharpness of the Amalfi lemon tart or perhaps it was the dizzying effects of the delicious Sicilian wine we drank - most likely, it was Chef Randall's infectious enthusiasm for the menu and the fresh ingredients - but I just kept thinking, "I can't wait to take everyone here!"

I'm looking forward to many more visits to Theo's Simple Italian and Hotel Indigo to come.

I was a guest of Theo's Simple Italian, but all tiramisu-filled opinions are my own. The new weekend brunch menu at Theo's Simple Italian launches on Saturday, September 24th and is priced at £35 per person, which also includes a glass of prosecco on arrival. 

Theo's Simple Italian at Hotel Indigo, 33-44 Barkston Gardens, London SW5 0EW 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Interior Inspiration: Just Go With the Faux

I love having fresh flowers in the house. After we moved into our house last summer, I'd occasionally treat myself to a bouquet every Thursday or Friday at the flower stall outside the tube station near my office, with the weekend in mind. In the spring, I patiently tolerated the crowds at Columbia Road flower market just to get my hands on some final reduced stems of hydrangea and peonies at closing time.

But as long as roses last, they also, um, eventually die, and sometimes I don't get around to getting a new bunch every week. So, when I popped into Abigail Ahern's new "atelier" in Islington (they recently moved from Upper Street to Essex Road) to pick up a bronze starfish I'd ordered online in the sale (don't ask), I used the last few minutes before closing time to choose some faux flowers for our home.

The hardest part? Choosing between all the different varieties and pretty colors. Finally, I gave up and asked a sales assistant for help - she was lovely and gave me some excellent suggestions, before I left the store with this bouquet.

(The starfish in question.)

Even before I knew that Red Magazine had dubbed interior designer Abigail Ahern, "the Chanel of faux flowers", I'd fallen for her beautiful, realistic blooms. John and I were walking past her concession at Heal's one evening and I stopped to admire the gorgeous arrangements, assuming they were real. Previously, I'd been dead set against having faux flowers in my house; they looked dated and tacky. But these - these were different. The flowers more relaxed than stiff; more rustic than formal.

I chose this gold vase from H&M Home that I featured in this wishlist post for my artificial bouquet because it happened to be the perfect size but also, I wouldn't have to worry about putting water in a clear vase to make the arrangement look more "real"!

What about you? Would you ever "go faux"?

Friday, September 2, 2016

My Favorite Photo Editing Apps For Flatlays, Food, and More

If I'd started blogging in, say, 2014 then yeah, sure - I would have paid more attention to the quality of the photos I was posting and focused on "audience engagement" (shudder, shudder, shudder).

But I started blogging in 2010. And back then, my blog was read by approximately four people: my mom, my mom's friend, my mother-in-law, and me. So I didn't really pay that much attention to my images. Instagram was nowhere what it is today (i.e. all stylized posts and hashtags) and frankly, I didn't really know how to make my blog and photos look more glossy and polished.

Bloggers can be so reticent about sharing their knowledge. On one hand, I kind of get it: it's like, you love your mama's secret bolognese sauce so much, you don't want anyone else to know that a sprinkle of nutmeg at the very end is what gives it that gorgeous umami flavor (I totally made that up, btw. Has anyone tried nutmeg in spaghetti bolognese? Yes? No? What is umami, exactly?).

But I'm terrible at keeping secrets, so here are the two photo editing apps I use on a daily basis ...

Although I have Photoshop at home, I edit most of my photos on-the-go, which means that I depend on apps. I watched a YouTube video the other day of a fashion blogger who edits a single photo in four different apps before posting it to Instagram (I'm sure there are people out there who use more).

I have neither the time nor the patience. Sometimes, I edit a photo so much that my eyes cross and I have to ask John, "Which is better? One? Or ... [swipes to second version] two? One? Or ... two?" After a long pause he eventually offers, "They look exactly the same". Helpful.

So, for now, I mostly use two: VSCOCam and Snapseed.

I really like the HB1 and HB2 filters in VSCOCam for flatlays and food. I used to use the filter on "full strength", but now I prefer a more subtle look as these filters can sometimes zap the saturation out of an image.

I also tend to use the HB1 and HB2 filters for my #fwis photos on Instagram:

For landscapes and architecture when I'm out and about in London, I like to use Snapseed, which is Google's photo-editing app. I feel like I can really "fine-tune" my photos using the tools in this app (there are so many terrific tutorials online and on YouTube), plus some of the filters can make a photo look really sharp.

Unlike other Instagrammers and bloggers, I don't have a set filter that I use all the time. This means that my "grid" can be inconsistent, but I prefer using whatever method I think looks best in that moment.

The HDR Scape filter is a little OTT and crazy, but sometimes, I can't resist it!

We recently visited Aqua Shard for breakfast on a grey and gloomy morning. I snuck a quick pic on my way to the bathroom and, while the view was still spectacular, the tonal contrast of the buildings below looked quite flat and ugly. A few swipes later ...

A little more vibrant and softer, right?

Even sans filter, I find the tools in Snapseed really easy to use. It's the best for making photos brighter and lighter without compromising on quality or sharpness.

When I'm taking photos with my Olympus PEN (like the pic above), however, I tend to leave them alone. I have a 45mm lens that I love which produces very clear, sharp, and bright images. For these photos, I typically just push up the brightness and contrast a little when posting to Instagram.

Do you edit your photos or do you prefer an au naturel look? What are your favorite photo editing apps?

Update: Cherie, in the comments below (follow her on Instagram @delicately - she is so lovely!) just reminded me of Afterlight, which I know is super popular amongst bloggers. I've just downloaded it and love it!
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