Friday, October 30, 2015

Have a Splendid Weekend.

Happy Friday! I can't believe another week has passed. I hope it was a good one for you and that you're looking forward to the weekend! Are you going to any Halloween parties?

I'm feeling under the weather at the moment after catching a bug that John brought home a few weeks ago (sharing, caring, + open-mouthed coughing, as I put it on Twitter!) so I'll be doing a lot of resting this weekend. We're going to keep it low-key and will try to see the new Bond film (have you seen it yet? No spoilers, please!) and go to my friend Rukmini Iyer's supper club. "Mini", as she's known to friends, is a professional food stylist and an all-around foodie extraordinaire (she was in the Masterchef finals). I'm so excited for her Pomegranate supper club and hope that I'll be well enough by then to enjoy myself! In the meantime, you can get the recipe for her gorgeous Chocolate Sticky Toffee Brioche Pudding right here. All the yums.

And with that, I'm crawling back into bed. Cough, cough. Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Travel Talk: A Matcha-Themed Tour of London With Yannick Pucci of London Unravelled

Before embarking on Yannick Pucci's Matcha Green Tea walking tour last weekend, I'd already considered myself to be somewhat of a London matcha connoisseur. Chances are, if it's in London and it serves matcha anything, I've probably already tried it. Why? I'm slightly obsessed with matcha. I'm in love with the slightly earthy yet refined taste, which is subtle yet strong enough to be a little bitter. Plus, it's amazing when partnered with white chocolate or any other kind of dessert for that matter (matcha cheesecake or Swiss roll, anyone?).

Despite growing up in the US, our local Asian grocery stores always carried a wide variety of matcha treats. My brother and I grew up eating matcha ice cream mochi for dessert and dumped boxes of matcha Pocky sticks into my mom's shopping cart (if you don't know what Pocky sticks are, you're missing out). Although matcha-flavored goodies have been around for as long as I can remember, the craze has only recently hit London in the last year or so, with Shackfuyu's famous soft-serve matcha ice cream leading the way, followed by matcha lattes from popular, Instagrammable cafes such as Curator's Coffee Gallery and Timberyard (they're not on the tour, btw - too obvious!). The frothy, green hot drink makes an ideal alternative to coffee for those who still want a caffeine kick but with added health benefits. To others, it tastes like "pond scum" (not looking at you or anything, Runawaykiwi). 

Yannick's tour caters to the matcha-lover and London-wanderer alike, taking us to some of London's most familiar corners before expertly dispelling that familiarity by offering historical details and facts that I'd never known or had so obviously missed. It was eye-opening and refreshing all at once. During this walking tour, which lasted approximately three hours (but felt more like 1.5!), Yannick seamlessly segued from the history of London to the history of matcha, all before making carefully researched pit stops for matcha-related treats. From the well-known matcha latte to more innovative matcha inventions, this tour is for any matcha fan who's always wanted to get to know London a little better on foot. I was put to shame by Yannick's incredible knowledge of cafes, restaurants, and shops that served matcha desserts! I'd only been to two out of the six stops we'd made during the tour and of those two, I didn't even know that matcha options were available. 

Clearly, Yannick's selection of matcha pit stops were already impressive, but it was his intelligently planned route that really deserved praise. Tours can often be lazy, uninspiring. Plonk me in the middle of a museum or city tour and I'm stifling yawns, looking down at my shoes, or letting my mind wander (I once quietly slipped away from a city tour in Bath by stepping into the doorway of a pub - and not coming out until it was over). If anything, I walked away from Yannick's tour with a renewed sense of inspiration after seeing the backstreets of my city a little differently and getting excited about my new matcha discoveries. 

So, I'm not merely heaping this praise onto Yannick because he's my friend (or because he was armed with a Mary Poppins-like bag during the tour, armed with photos to illustrate his points and the occasional treat or two) - it's because I left the tour on Saturday feeling like I'd just seen a London that came alive, unlike the flat, one-dimensional version I see day-in, day-out during my commute to and from work. That and the fact that was now carrying some matcha treats in my bag. 

Tickets to Yannick Pucci's Matcha Green Tea walking tour can be booked through his website, London Unravelled, and cost £20 each, which includes the cost of food. My attendance was complimentary, but all opinions are my own. If matcha isn't for you (LAME!), then consider the Art Deco in Bloomsbury, Macarons & Mews, or Holland Park tours as well! They'd make great presents for Christmas. Just saying.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Are You Addicted to Being Busy?

The other night, before falling asleep, I struggled to breathe. It wasn't that I couldn't breathe, it was just that feeling of my breath catching in my throat and the sensation of not getting enough air in. Essentially, I was hyperventilating. I'd been thinking about how to deal with a tricky situation at work as well as the after-work events I had lined up that week and, well, I couldn't breathe.

After reading my friend Robin's piece the other day about the necessity of "being easy on yourself" and this article in The Debrief about our addiction to being busy, I asked myself, "Am I addicted to being busy?" And if so, what's my motivation? Is it the pressure to be productive, as Robin writes about, or is it secretly down to some kind of social competition, as the Debrief article suggests?

By the time I was 15, I was juggling back-to-back ballet company classes after school, two to three  hours of piano practice and lessons (sometimes up to four, if I was practicing for a competition), violin lessons, and youth symphony rehearsals on Saturday mornings. Not to mention, a high school schedule packed full with Advanced Placement courses that I'd hope would impress college recruiters.

Busy was my life. Busy was what I knew.

Of course I had panic attacks. Of course I had nights where I felt like I couldn't breathe when I looked at my calculus homework after an exhausting Nutcracker rehearsal. But I got through it. I don't know quite how I did it, but I did.

My addiction to extra-curricular activities carried through to college and eventually ... my adult life. Managing a department at work, pitching content to magazines, writing for my own blog, rehearsing and performing with a symphony orchestra, trying to fit in the odd yoga class here and there, all while trying to juggle some semblance of a social life has left me literally gasping for breath sometimes.

And then I married someone who was as addicted to a busy lifestyle as I was. John is what I would describe as a "go-getter". After covering five different cities in the U.S. within five days for work recently, you'd think that he'd take a break and just sleep in on Saturday. Instead, he leapt out of bed around 7:00 a.m., pointed his phone at the speakers to sync the music in all the rooms (a feat he's particularly proud of) and said brightly to me, "The Heal's delivery is arriving in 20 minutes! I'm going downstairs to clear the room and get ready. And then we can watch an episode of Gotham together? And then we can make breakfast? And I can construct the sofa? I wonder how many parts it comes in! I bet it'll be easy. Do you want a cup of tea?" I think I responded by putting a pillow over my head while he bounded down the stairs with relentless energy.

After taking a new yoga class recently, the teacher complimented me afterwards saying, "You have such a lovely, slow and controlled practice." While I took this undeserving praise with a ducked head, I thought to myself, 'I have to. This is the only place where I can slow down and catch my breath.'

Contrary to the Debrief article, I don't think I keep busy for the sake of being able to brag about my busy schedule ... instead, I think I keep busy because I genuinely have a variety of different interests and, well, because it's what I'm used to. And because I feel guilty if I'm not being productive.

What about you? Is your calendar booked out until the end of the year? Do you often find yourself over-committed? I'm curious to know!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Have a Fascinating Weekend.

Hey. Happy Friday! What are your plans for this weekend?

I'm off to one of Yannick Pucci's foodie-themed tours tomorrow, which I'm really looking forward to.

On Sunday, I plan on taking a mid-morning yoga class and cooking lunch for our friends, Bindy and Lauren, who are coming over to see the house and to hang out in Walthamstow! I'm so excited. Definitely making a trip to God's Own Junkyard and possibly Hillman's Tea Room. I'd also love to show them Lloyd Park, if it doesn't rain!

I'm also starting to think about Christmas decorations. I think it was writing this post that did it for me (btw, Santa totally emailed me last night and offered to fill my stocking with like, half that list!), but since my family will be over and it's our first year celebrating in the house that we own, I might go a little crazy with wreaths and garlands! Thoughts?

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are. xo


Thursday, October 22, 2015

10 Items On My Christmas Wishlist

Sorry, did I just say the "C" word? I don't usually start thinking about it until after Thanksgiving, but this year, I'm getting an early start on present shopping for friends and family and while I've been at it, there are a few items that I keep coming back to again and again ... for myself.


So, here they are (Santa, are you listening?!):

Figosa camera strap

A month or so ago, I was running around the house in socks with my camera in my hand (don't ask) and slipped on a runner rug in our entry way. I fell - hard - and my camera fell out of my hand, dashing across the wood floor like a skipping stone. I'd broken the lens and possibly the body ... luckily, I sent it off to be repaired at the Olympus shop a couple of weeks ago and they said that it was on its way back to me, in full working order. Fingers crossed! So when it is back safely in my hands, I'd love to switch the Olympus strap out for this gorgeous leather one by Figosa, an Italian company that specializes in beautiful leather camera accessories.

Rituals XL 3-wick Candle

I remember the first thing John did when we moved into our new house this summer: he lit this gigantic Rituals candle we'd been saving for the move. Finally - we had a big enough space to warrant burning such a huge candle! Since then, it's become my ritual to go home, drop my bag on the floor and light the candle, releasing a gorgeous but subtle, calming scent into the air. But our candle's burning low (literally and figuratively) and I'd love a new one.

New York Print by Jennifer Maravillas

I stopped into the Magma shop in Covent Garden on my lunch break a few months ago and couldn't take my eyes off this print of New York by Jennifer Maravillas. She's created ones of Paris and London as well, but for some reason, it was this one that caught my attention and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it ever since! Framed, I think it would make a great addition to our study or second guest bedroom.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 14

Because I want to up my photo-editing game.

NOPI, The Cookbook

Yotam Ottolenghi's NOPI is one of my favorite restaurants in London. John and I love taking visiting friends and family there. Despite being a die-hard carnivore, their vegetable dishes are my favorite, and after seeing Ottolenghi speak at Stylist Live last week, I'm obsessed with wanting to try to recreate his recipes at home (apparently they have been slightly adapted to be more accessible to regular folk like me - let's hope!).

Maxi (Faux) Fur Stole in Black, Zara 

I love a bit of faux fur in the winter. I've actually already tried on this stole in store and loved it. It works with everything from a leather moto jacket to a long black evening coat.

Sheepskin Rug from SkyeSkyns 

Everytime I visit Tom and Cristy in their flat, I end up sitting on or somehow wrapping myself in their sheepskin rug - it's so warm and cozy! I've been debating getting two of these for our bedroom - they make excellent throws AND cozy places to put your feet in the morning when you're just getting out of bed.

Missoni Towelling Robe 

I know this is so, so silly, but years ago, John and I spent a long weekend at Tuddenham Mill in Suffolk, a luxury boutique hotel formed out of a restored mill. Our room was incredible and they had these gorgeous Missoni robes hanging by the bathtub ... we both loved them, but they seemed extravagant. I keep waiting for the prices to go down or for there to be a flash sale somewhere, but I keep missing out!

West Elm Large Faceted Mirror

When John and I went furniture shopping a few weekends ago, we found this faceted mirror (the one in the link is the smaller size, but there's a larger one that's AMAZING!) and thought it would go really well in our main guest bedroom, above our beautiful antique French dresser. Again, the price seemed a little extravagant for a mirror (I think it was between £250 - £300) so I keep waiting for it to go on sale. Sigh.

Christmas With My Family in London

So ... the exciting news is that my parents and my brother are spending Christmas here in the UK! In London! With us! In our new home! I. Am. So. Excited. This is one wish that I've already been granted and I couldn't be happier. I'm a little stressed out thinking about the logistics of it all (we've booked a trip to Paris and Bruges already) i.e. planning itineraries, getting the house ready, COOKING, etc. but I can't wait for them to see our new place. Maybe having them there will make it feel more like "home".

So. What's on your Christmas wishlist? Have you thought about gifts for others yet? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Wrangler's Fall "Ready" Collection

I grew up with Wrangler. It's a classic, all-American denim brand. But I never thought it'd make its way out of my third grade classroom and across the pond into some of the UK's trendiest glossy magazines. This Fall, Wrangler's launching its "Ready" collection - a range of jeans, shirts, and jackets designed to keep the chill (and the rain) off.

The Rain Ready collection includes water-resistant denim, which I could definitely do with having in my wardrobe for those dreaded "diagonal rain" days. You know the ones I'm talking about, when - despite every which way you hold your umbrella - your legs manage to get soaked during the walk between the office and grocery store. Wet denim sticking to legs = biggest pet peeve. The Short Padded Jacket from this collection is also on my wishlist.

The Cold Ready collection boasts soft-stretch fleece and sheepskin lined jeans and jackets. I tried on the Sara straight-leg jeans over the weekend and pulling them on was like putting on my favorite pair of sweatpants: the fleece lining was as comfy and soft as my college hoodie. I'm tempted to layer the lined Denim Western Shirt under cashmere sweaters this winter.

Although I tend to favor a cropped, skinny cut to my pants (that's trousers for you Brits!), the straight-leg Sara jeans harkened back to my high school days, when I lived in straight and boot-cut jeans. I threw on my favorite Breton top from H&M (one of several that I own), a pair of black heels, a camel John Rocha cape, and my mom's bright red vintage Dooney & Bourke handbag.

I'm pretty excited about wearing these jeans and nabbing a few more pieces from Wrangler's rain-resistant, warmth-preserving Ready collection this Fall. What about you? How do you keep warm and dry when the temperatures drop? I'd love to know!

(p.s. Special thanks to John for the photos: "Take a picture - of your butt?" "Is that seriously your pose?" "Just ... do you sit like that normally? Why are you sitting like that?" "It's too dark. It's too dark. It's too dark." "That looks weird.")

Jeans c/o Wrangler. All opinions are my own. Shop Wrangler's FW15 Ready collection here. Photographs by J. King.

Monday, October 19, 2015

3 Things That Made My Weekend Awesome (Besides Staying in Bed All Day)

Hey. How was your weekend? I had a fantastic one ... doing virtually nothing. I stayed in bed nearly all day on Saturday (which only felt icky when I tried to get back to sleep that night before vowing to NEVER have a "duvet day" again) but was a little more active on Sunday when I took an amazing, rejuvenating Vinyasa flow class at a fantastic new yoga studio I discovered that's not too far from me. I'm trying to slowly build back the strong, advanced Vinyasa practice I once had and it is so nice to be back on the mat again at a friendly, encouraging studio.

On Friday night, I stopped by Stylist Live with my friend Erin, where we heard Yotam Ottolenghi and the head chef of NOPI (one of my favorite restaurants in London!), Ramael Scully, talk about food trends and the inspiration behind the recipes in their new book, NOPI (which I really want for Christmas! Hint hint ...). It was super fun and interesting. We spent the rest of the night catching up and, erm, shopping. I picked up this sweet pack of notecards from Freya Art & Design plus an initial bangle from Whistle & Bango which is going to be delivered this week - oh, and a gorgeous lampshade that I can't wait to share with you!

Last weekend, our sofa bed from Heal's was delivered and it turns out that my YONDER Pom Pom blanket and cushion looks great on it. So, I kicked back on the couch with a cup of coffee and flipped through my stack of interiors magazines. Don't forget: you can still get 15% off the Pom Pom blanket and cushion range with the code ANGLOYANKxYONDER until October 30th. Shop them here.

We also finally ordered our curtains, which are being fitted soon so - no more living in a fish bowl (upstairs) or living with bad curtains (downstairs)!

So much excitement. So much to look forward to.

I hope you have a terrific week!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Best Pick-Me-Up Lunch @ Free Range People, Neal's Yard, Covent Garden

A bit of a departure from my usual "Have a good weekend" posts, but I found this great little place yesterday and just had to share! It's funny how delicious food and a change of scenery can instantly boost your mood. And after the week I've had (the fraud stuff was still plaguing me yesterday, after I spent an hour on the phone to my bank at 6:00 a.m. yesterday in tears)? I decided to treat myself to a nice lunch. Instead of heading to our usual Pret, where we sit in the basement and intensely re-hash our work morning over Diet Cokes and uninspiring salads, Caroline and I stopped into Neal's Yard in Covent Garden, hoping to get a table at Homeslice (possibly my favorite place for pizza in London).

Of course, Homeslice was full and I didn't feel like having porridge (the UK equivalent of oatmeal) for lunch at 26 Grains (although I might be singing a different tune come winter) so we grabbed a seat in Free Range People - a new cafe serving Monmouth Coffee and an array of freshly-baked, scrumptious pastries and sandwiches with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it unassuming exterior.

Inside, a couple of lone freelancers looked up blankly as we walked in, Macbooks plugged in and flat whites by their sides. We decided to have a no-holds-barred kind of lunch, both ogling the selection of cakes (the plum tart looked enticing but I bullied Caroline into the Bakewell instead - my favorite) and the sandwiches (we went for the chicken, spinach, and pesto).

"I kind of feel like having hot chocolate," Caroline said, and I agreed. It'd recently turned cold outside and a hot chocolate at lunch seemed like the perfect treat.

I'm so glad I grabbed that hot chocolate because it was one of the best I've had in a long while. Instead of powdery, bitter tasting chocolate mix that pools in a horrible clump of gunk at the bottom of your cup (hi, Pret!), this tasted like real, thick drinking chocolate - properly mixed into a steaming hot cup of milk. The kind of hot chocolate someone would make in a pot over the stove.

So we sat and chatted about leather backpacks instead of work, and this was our view:

I've forgotten how pretty and bright and colorful Neal's Yard is. These days, unless I'm angling for an early seat at Homeslice, I tend to avoid it because, well, when you've worked in the same area for 8 years, you forget the magic of simply wandering and tend to head straight for places that are a part of your routine.

After our lovely lunch, we stopped into Neal's Yard Remedies for a quick browse before heading back to the office. But instead of feeling weighed down, or sleepy, or restless (which I often feel after lunch), I felt energized, more awake, and ... generally happier.

So. My advice? Treat yourself to that occasional nice lunch in that nice little area you forget about. It's so worth it.

And ... happy Friday!

Free Range People Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shop Indie, Shop Monday Monday

Mondays, eh? I basically had one of the worst ones ever this week after waking to text from my bank alerting me that someone had gotten a hold of my debit card details and used them for a number of transactions. By the time I'd arrived to work? My entire account had been cleared. Like, zilch.

Then, on the way back from an extremely frustrating encounter at the bank (following an extremely frustrating 45-minute conversation with their customer service on the phone), the elastic laces on my shoes snapped - leaving them twanging about on one shoe as I slapped down the pavement in Bloomsbury like a deranged (and enraged), I don't know, half-shoe person.

So, yeah. That Monday wasn't the best.

But something that's made Mondays infinitely better is the launch of my gal pal (and ex-expat) Robin Reetz's online store, Monday Monday - showcasing the best from the independent fashion and design community.

Each Monday, erm, Monday Monday launches a new sale with an emerging designer. Every sale is a limited edition run, so while you're encouraged to shop slow, you're also getting a special, beautiful piece that you won't see on everyone else. Plus, you get a sneak peek behind the brand in the form of a mini Q&A with the maker/designer - it's like browsing a shop and chatting to the store owner. Except online (which I prefer because I'm socially awkward).

A couple of weeks ago, it was this Modern Short breton-striped tee from KULE in NYC (as beautifully modelled by Robin herself - isn't she stunning?!):

And last week, it was this simple but impactful Ring Lariat Necklace by Kari Breitigam:

At the minute, Monday Monday doesn't ship internationally (SORT IT OUT, ROBIN!) but there's free shipping to the U.S. So, all you American friends (or Brits with American friends with American zip codes) can take advantage of the 15% off discount code JAIMELOVESMONDAYS (heh, ironic!) - valid until November 2nd!

Check in with Monday Monday every ... Monday. They'll be your new favorite - I promise.

All photos by D Watterson III. Tee and necklace modelled by Robin Reetz.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Sandwiches & Tea With a Vintage Twist @ Hillman's Tea Room, Walthamstow

A few weekends ago, before I set off on my mission to find the Wood Street Walls murals in Walthamstow, John and I stopped for some lunch at Hillman's Tea Room.

Located in Wood Street's delightful Georgian Village, it's a fantastic little place for afternoon tea and - as John pointed out - the perfect place to take a book to read in a corner with a slice of cake.

I fell in love with its charming 1930s/1940s decor, complete with an antique black and white television and beautiful vintage plates and tea sets (which are also available for sale!). Attention has been given to every little detail in the tearoom: from the vintage boardgames that were strategically placed near our feet to the pretty floral paper adorning the walls.

In many ways, Hillman's reminded me of some of the lovely, unpretentious tearooms up in York that served nothing but good, strong tea and slice after slice of comforting cake. Tucked away in this little pocket of Walthamstow, it felt like a wonderful secret - but one I'd love to share with friends.

I mean, just look at this teapot and cup and saucer! So. Sweet.

Mostly? The food at Hillman's completely won me over. Our triple-decker chicken and avocado toasted sandwiches arrived piping hot (just the way I like it!) and were served with a delicious side salad drizzled with a sweet balsamic dressing.

As I wolfed down my sandwich, I already had my eye on the cakes (I was particularly "hangry" that day) and was pleased to see that Hillman's also offered gluten-free and vegan options - perfect for a potential meet-up with my friend Laura (who writes the amazing vegan-for-non-vegans blog, The Whole Ingredient and lives just a stone's throw away from me).

On the day we visited, the shelves were filled with enticing jars of fluffy meringues and freshly baked cookies plus cake stands that featured a gluten-free Victoria sponge, vegan banana cake, carrot cake, and a beautiful tart. Honestly? The hardest decision I had to make that day.

In the end, we opted for a slice of the Victoria sponge and a pot of English Breakfast (for me) and carrot cake and with a pot of Lapsang Souchong (for John).

The cakes were divine. The loose-leaf tea was even better: it's sourced from Scotland, apparently.

Wherever it comes from, I have  to get my hands on that English Breakfast blend. I've never had better (and I've been to my fair share of afternoon teas - both fancy and low key!).

So, if you're ever up my way, think about dropping into Hillman's. Mostly, I'm just excited about a place within walking distance from our new house that serves such amazing food and tea. Heck, I'd just go back for some toast! The pretty crockery and lovely atmosphere? Icing on the cake.

Hillman’s Tearoom is located at The Georgian Village, 100 Wood Street, Walthamstow, London E17 3HX. Gluten-free and vegan afternoon teas are available to book in advance: +44 (0)7742 436995.

Hillman's Tea Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, October 9, 2015

Have an Autumnal Weekend

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

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

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

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps it's selfish - in a good way.

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

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

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Yonder.Living's Beautiful, Travel-Inspired Homeware

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Have a Cheerful Weekend.

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

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

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

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

© angloyankophile

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