Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where To Eat What: March Edition

I've had a few delicious, casual bites to eat in March, so I thought I'd do a little round-up here of my favorites.

First up? The Tatouka at Fernandez & Wells on Denmark Street. A thick, piping hot spiced tomato stew is served with a perfectly poached egg and crusty sourdough toast to dip it into. You'll need to be patient, as service can be slow (I waited for 20 minutes on this occasion!) but it's worth the wait if you've got time.

A few weeks later, I caught up with a publishing friend at Ichiryu udon bar on New Oxford Street and we decided to go all decadent and order dessert too. He chose the ice cream mochi (which would have been my pick too, had I not been suffering from a toothache) but I went for the matcha cheesecake because y'all know what a matcha addict I am. 10 points for deliciousness.

People watching is always on my agenda when I'm at The Black Penny in Covent Garden. Truth be told, I'd rather sit in the window for this very reason than the coveted tables at the back (which are scarce at peak lunch hour anyway). But my friend said she was craving a good sandwich, and our roast beef sandwiches with horseradish definitely hit the spot that day, as did the tenderstem broccoli salad with feta and olives.

I'm a big fan of the cucumber and mint-infused tap water as well. Always a nice, unexpected touch.

Sometimes, John and I like to see a movie after work on Fridays back in Walthamstow, so we'll stop by Grillstock for some BBQ.

Service is friendly, they stock root beer, and the brisket burnt ends burger is a favorite, though I was a fan of the ribs I had last time as well. It reminds me of BBQ joints in the US.

So - four laid-back places for you to try. Have you been to any of these? Or have you been anywhere new that has tickled your tastebuds recently? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bank Holiday Weekend Goals Vs. What I Actually Did

Goals for Bank Holiday Weekend:

1. Marie Kondo my wardrobe.

2. Sell rejected items from Marie Kondo exercise on eBay.

3. Marie Kondo the final box from our move last summer languishing in the spare room.

4. Write 6 blog posts.

5. Go to the gym 4 times.

What actually happened:

1. Ate a brisket burger. Saw Kung Fu Panda 3 in 3D.

2. Went to the gym once.

3. Cooked a roast meal for friends. Drank too much wine.

4. Ended up stark naked on a heated marble slab being scrubbed down with salt and honey after being thrashed with birch twigs in a Russian sauna. Followed up with beer and pickles in the "relaxation room".

5. Watched Despicable Me while eating Cadbury Creme Eggs with a spoon. Passed out at 9:00 p.m.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Urban Jungle: The Barbican Conservatory

Have you ever been to the conservatory at the Barbican? I didn't even know it existed! John and I went on Good Friday after seeing the 'Strange and Familiar' photography exhibition on the third floor (which was so, so good - go see it if you haven't already; it's on until June 19th!) and it was a lot of fun to wander.

Here are some photos, if you'd like to see:

We went on a gloriously sunny day and it was fairly busy (including some Instagrammers/fashion bloggers who needed to get their 'just-so' poses right next to some ferns while I snickered in the background - I know, I'm such a #meangirl) but I imagine that if you went during "off-peak" hours, it'd be pretty tranquil and serene. Entry to the conservatory is free, but it's only open to the public on certain dates, so check the website before you go.

It reminded me of a smaller scale version of Cloud Forest at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, which was one of the highlights of our trip last summer. I especially loved the room with all the cacti at the Barbican conservatory. Air plants dangled delightfully low from the ceiling and fleshy succulents thrived in every corner.

I kept thinking the whole time we were there how it'd make the perfect date - an exhibition at the Barbican, followed by lunch and a stroll through the conservatory (which is basically what we did!).

I love discovering little hidden gems like these in London.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Expat Talk: I'm Going Home! (For a Week!)

You know that childhood bed I wrote about a few days ago? The one that makes me drift off to sleep in a matter of seconds, with a Hello Kitty clock ticking loudly over it? Well, it looks like I'll be tucked up in that bed in a matter of weeks, because I've just booked a flight back to Seattle in May! It'll be a solo trip this time as John's traveling for work, but that just means all the more shopping time (see below). I mean, Pacific Northwest adventures and family time. That's totally what I meant.

Anyway, to say that I'm excited is an understatement. I haven't been back to the U.S. in over a year, which seems like a really long time to me.

This trip wasn't planned. It's just that ... well, I've been homesick. And when my mom asked me if there was any way I could come over in May or June, we took a look at John's BA points and there were flights available, so I snapped them up (thank you, John!).

Here are all the things I can't wait to do:

Hug my family.

I love giving my dad and my brother a hug when they pick me up at the airport, then seeing my mom at the door to greet me when I arrive home. I love heading straight for the shower after a long flight and sitting down to eat my mom's congee and special pork belly.

Buy fruit from a fruit stand.

We have lots of farms and fresh fruit stands in my hometown. My parents often stop to buy huge ears of corn shucked on the back of a flatbed truck or Honeycrisp apples twice the size of my palm. I'm tired of the sight of packaged fruit at my local Tesco Express here in London and can't wait to stop roadside for fresh fruit when I'm back in May.

Renew my U.S. driver's license.

My trusty U.S. driver's license (and my only form of photo I.D. aside from my passport) expired last year. Although I was granted a paper extension, I have to go in to re-apply for a photo I.D. in person, so I'd love to get that ticked off my list of boring administrative things to do when I'm back! I also need to study for and pass my UK driving test(s), but that's another story for another time.

Eat all the donuts.

I miss American donuts so much. Despite all the novelty donut shops that are available in London like Crosstown or Dum Dum, nobody makes better donuts than my local donut shop in Washington. Actually I'd prefer it if Crosstown parked their crazy concoctions for a hot minute and just made a delicious maple glazed bar or a bear claw for goodness sake. Sometimes, simple is better!

Eat all the sandwiches.

Following the donut route, sandwiches in London have marginally improved since I moved here 9 years ago. Marginally. I miss those crunchy green pickles on the side. I miss the choice of chips (that's crisps, to you Brits) I get on the side (at no extra cost). I miss sandwiches stuffed with two, sometimes three different types of lunch meat. I MISS ALFALFA SPROUTS.

Buy everything (well, almost everything) in Target.

I am bringing one outfit with me. Just one. For a whole week. Otherwise, my suitcase will be empty, waiting to be filled with goods from Target. Homeware, makeup, Motrin, cough medicine, Goldfish crackers, magazines, underwear ... I'm buying it all. John, you have been warned. 

Visit the Skagit Valley tulip fields.

The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival runs from April 1 - 30, so I'll have missed it by the time I arrive in May. I'm not sure if the tulips will still be in full bloom by then (Mom, can you advise?) but I've been dying to go, given my tulip obsession over on Instagram.

Having breakfast with my dad in real time, rather than FaceTime.

I've talked about how my dad and I have a Sunday tradition of chatting on FaceTime while he's making breakfast and I'm making dinner. I'm super excited to have breakfast with him in real life. He talked about taking a few days off work to have a "special" breakfast in Snoqualmie, which would be lovely, but I'd be equally happy to enjoy the delicious breakfasts he cooks at home or a trip to Denny's for a French Toast Slam.

Shopping with my mom in real time, rather than sending links with subject titles like, "Should I get this yes or no".

Pretty self-explanatory. 

I'm only back for a week, which isn't very long, but it'll be so nice to see my family in the middle of the year, which is rare for me. I also love seeing Seattle and Washington in the spring. Contrary to popular belief, we have really beautiful summers and I'm crossing my fingers for good weather while I'm there!

My heart is bursting in anticipation.

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Tableware + The First Day of Spring = Afternoon Tea At Home With Friends

Although the temperatures outside might indicate otherwise, yesterday was the first day of spring. Can you believe it? We're nearing Easter already! It seems like I was just dragging my Christmas tree out of the house yesterday. To celebrate, I invited a few of my friends over for afternoon tea. But secretly? I just wanted to an excuse to use my new plates and bowls from, a website I often browse for home decor and furniture since it carries so many of my favorite brands, like Missoni Home and Pols Potten (the brand behind these plates of my obsession!).

There's a story (sort of) behind these plates. I've had my eye on this colorful set for ages. I first spotted them in a store 8 months ago, right before we moved into this house, and gravitated towards the whimsical pattern then. A few months later, I noticed them again at a restaurant in Mayfair. So when I stumbled on them again at, I knew that it was meant to be!

Armed with nine mini cupcakes from Lola's bakery (which I had carefully brought home from Holborn), I woke up early on Saturday morning to make Rice Krispie treats and brownies, before scattering some paper decorations I found at Tiger (for £1!) on our dining table. Coincidentally, the paper decorations matched our plates and coasters perfectly. I like to think that it was all planned, but it so wasn't. I'm the furthest away from 'the hostess with the mostess' stereotype you can get ... typically, I throw a bunch of things together, cross my fingers, and hope for the best.

My friends arrived with gorgeous bouquets of tulips, so by the time we sat down to take our first bite of cake, it looked like I lived in a flower shop! But I love tulips and, along with daffodils and cherry blossoms, they always remind me of spring.

Sometimes, it's nice to have a small group of friends over who don't know each other very well but who you know will get on like a house on fire: we talked everything from weddings (my friend Jilly is getting married in August) to business plans (my other friend Erin is developing her own line of natural beauty products and they are AMAZING - stay tuned!). It felt grown-up, but fun.

Did you celebrate the arrival of Spring this weekend? I'm looking forward to stepping out of black opaque tights and into light jackets (and a whole new collection of shoes, ha!). Hopefully we won't have to wait much longer in London.

My Pols Potten plates and bowls were generously provided by Shop their extensive collection of tableware here. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile! All opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Expat Talk: The Sleepy Magic of Feeling Safe and Loved

A week ago, while John went skiing with friends (newsflash: I hate snowsports, so I didn't go), I stayed up during all hours of the night - not going to bed until 12 or 1 a.m.

Was I indulging in some kind of secret past-time that I didn't want my husband to know about? Or catching up on bad TV? Not really (although, I did binge-watch the entire Season 4 of House of Cards over two days). It's just that I don't sleep well when he's not beside me.

But it goes beyond that: I can't relax when John's not home. I pad around the house in my socks, jumping at every noise, startled by my own reflection in a dark window, muscles tensed and fists clenched. I check the locks on our front door not once, twice, but three times. I hold my breath as our alarm counts down to its "armed" mode. Unsettled.

Sure enough, the day he came back, I was like a puppy scratching at the front door. But then a curious thing happened: nearly as soon as he walked in, I felt ... sleepy. So sleepy that, when we went out for a celebratory dinner (celebrating the fact that he was back, duh), I nearly dozed off into my favorite bowl of pasta (Gamberoni, if you really want to know). 

"What's wrong with you?" he asked, as he nearly had to half-carry me home at 9 p.m. 

"I'm shhhoooo shleeepy," I whined into his jacket, my face obscured by his scarf. 

Indeed, over the next few nights, I muttered my excuses after dinner and headed straight to bed: at 8:30 p.m. I thought I was coming down with something, until I realized that ... I was sleeping so well because I felt safe again

And there's only one other place I feel like that at: my home in Washington (that's State, not D.C., for all you non-PNW folks). Back in my childhood home, tucked well under my comforter (I can still imagine the feeling of my mom's hands tucking in all the corners around my legs, like she did when I was little), the familiar sounds of the oil furnace roaring outside my bedroom door, my Hello Kitty clock with its steady, loud ticking and my parents' footsteps overhead - I feel safe. And so very loved. It's the same kind of safety and love I feel in my home here in London, when John's in it. 

It wasn't until he visited my parents' house for the first time that I realized all these cues I took for signs of "safety" were actually a little strange: "That clock is so loud," he complained, putting a pillow over his head. "And that furnace is so noisy!" But I smiled, revelling in all the recognizable noises that made me feel utterly, and completely relaxed. Settled. Safe.

Is it just me, or do you sleep better when you're in a specific place? Or in bed with a specific person?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Homeware and Furniture: Where to Shop for What

Since I started covering interiors on my blog (yay!), I've had a few readers email to ask my advice (flattered!) on shopping for homeware and furniture. I feel like this is a tough question to answer, because it really depends on your taste! You might hate my Scandi-inspired ladder shelf or sneer at my copper wall clock.

But if you like what you see on here and on Instagram, then here are a few of my favorite places to shop. I've trawled the internet, traipsed up and down Tottenham Court Road (home to a few of our favorite furniture stores), and pinned like a maniac to bring you this list:

Bed linen

If you can't sleep on less than either 600 thread-count Egyptian cotton OR 280 thread-count Egyptian cotton sateen (yes, really) like John, then buy your bed linen at either The White Company or John Lewis. The White Company is also fantastic for those gigantic, luxuriously oversized pillows you see at hotels (like the ones we have above). They're the secret to taking a bed to the next level. Well, that and a super king-sized mattress, but I'll get to that in a bit! Tip: these almost always come up in their sales (which is when we bought ours) so save your pennies 'til then!

Bed frames, mattresses, and bedside tables

Two words: Warren Evans. Super affordable, super comfortable. We bought our super king-sized frame, mattress, and matching bedside tables here last year and love them all. The workmanship is fantastic, and they'll build the furniture for you in your home at no extra cost. Oh - and they show up when they say they will.

Bath linen

Want to know a secret? H&M Home makes the best towels. They're super absorbent, come in tons of awesome patterns and colors ... and start at a whopping £7.99. I'm not kidding. All our guest towels are from H&M. For indulgent bath linen, John and I shop at Missoni Home, where our bathrobes are from.

Sofas and occasional furniture

It's hard to find a quality sofa that doesn't cost the earth. I really like the oversized, deep-set sofas from Raft, but the one we have at the moment is from Habitat. I like the designs and the fabric choices at Habitat - plus, it's great quality. Heal's have beautiful designs, but at a higher price point - we bought our sofa bed in the sale a few months ago.

Also: who knew that T.K. Maxx made such terrific occasional furniture? I went there for a frying pan recently and walked out with this upholstered bench instead (and no frying pan, naturally).


Someone once told me that "lighting is everything", and I rolled my eyes. But it's so true! The first thing I do when I come home in the evening is switch on all our lights, if they're not magically on already. I've taken that same person's advice and stopped using overhead lighting, opting for lots and lots of floor lamps and table lamps instead, which gives a warm glow instead of a harsh glare. Our collection continues to grow, but our favorite lamps are from Heal's and West Elm. These can be a little pricey, but worth it if you're looking to invest in some beautiful lighting. I'm also a fan of the designer lighting at The Conran Shop.

Soft furnishings and decorative objects

This is kind of my area of expertise, and what I enjoy shopping for the most! John takes the plunge on the "big" purchases, like beds, sofas, and the like. I run around buying useless, pretty stuff like copper votives, mirrored trays, agate bookends ... you get the idea.

For quirky, unique dinnerware, hardware (like knobs, curtain tie-backs, or drawer pulls), candles and more, I love, love, love Anthropologie. Again, I typically wait for the sale, but these beautiful agate coasters and candle came to us by way of a generous gift card from our friends, Joe and Jodi.

I buy things like the copper tray you see above and the mirrored tray below from H&M Home. I used to lust after trays like these in magazines, only to be put off by the price point (sorry, I'm not even paying anything close to £100 or even £60 for something like this). I think the trays I bought in these photos cost £14.99 and £19.99, respectively. They're lovely to use as centerpieces on our dining table but I move them around the house a lot.

I also like to shop indie whenever I can. I've been a long-time supporter and champion of, who work with local artisans in global locations to produce beautiful items like pom-pom blankets and these bright colored mats, which I tuck under a wet pitcher of water or a hot pan at our table.

eBay is also terrific for homeware ... if you know exactly what you're looking for. I had lusted after some agate bookends for a few months after reading this Sheerluxe article, but the ones I bought from Amazon were awful. Then I found a beautiful pair at West Elm and nearly took the plunge, until I realized that they were £24 per bookend i.e. £48 for the pair. For some of you, this might be perfectly reasonable, but I can't bring myself to spend £50 on a pair of rocks, no matter how pretty they are. *shrug* I found these polished beauties on eBay for half the price, and they now sit on our shelf in the guest room.

Shopping for our house is one of my favorite things to do. Where do you like to shop for homeware and furniture? Let me know in the comments!


How to buy wall art from Etsy.

The best budget framing solutions from £2.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: The Gate Vegetarian Restaurant, Islington

Confession: I must have passed The Gate Restaurant in Islington over 500 times on my way back from work, given the number of years we lived in Islington - but I never went in. Not once. I knew it was a vegetarian restaurant and ... I just didn't think it was for me. As strange and illogical as that line of thinking sounds, it's the truth. Sure, I've been to vegetarian and vegan cafes for a casual spot of lunch, but a 3-course vegetarian dinner? It didn't appeal to my omnivorous habits.

Then, after a wonderful meal with my veggie friend Natalie on Tuesday, I realized just how much I'd been missing. Because the menu at The Gate is anything but boring or clich├ęd. It's not all chickpeas and lentils and cous cous. In fact, the descriptions of the options sounded so fascinating, we had to ask for more time twice because we couldn't decide what to order. That kind of fascinating.

We started with plantain fritters and grilled halloumi in chermula. I was intrigued by the idea of freekeh, the 'it' grain that has replaced quinoa at the top of foodies' trendy list.

Natalie's plantain fritters were delightfully crunchy on the outside, without any trace of excess oil or grease. Filled with carrot, sultanas, mint and pine nuts, the flavors worked well with the chipotle and blueberry sauce when served atop the bed of crispy fennel and pomegranate salad. A small dish, but bursting with flavor and ingenuity. I eagerly scooped up my grilled halloumi, dipping it in the harissa sauce and delighting in the pomegranate seeds that burst as I bit into them.

We agonized over what to have for our main courses before finally settling on the aubergine schnitzel (Natalie couldn't pass up that name!) and the tortillas (funnily enough, the table next to us had ordered the exact same items!).

A quick word about the presentation: it's beautiful. The plating is considered and innovative: stacking the beetroot and sweet potato-filled tortillas as rolled-up columns was ingenious! I was a bit sad to dismantle them by toppling them over. Natalie's aubergine was prettily layered with applewood smoked cheddar before being carefully arranged on top of a potato dauphinoise.

My tortillas were unlike anything I've tasted in a long while. I'm not usually a huge fan of sweet potato, but these little delicate cubes were delicious when paired with the chilli, lime and coriander, plus a generous dollop of guacamole.

When we didn't think we could possibly fit anything else in, the dessert menu arrived and we ordered with gusto: steamed treacle orange and poppy seed pudding and mille-feuille. I was too pre-occupied with the presentation of my mille-feuille to pay attention to anything else - the apple crisps made a sweet little hat and collar for the apple and calvados sorbet. But the caramelised sticky apples were my favorite part of this dessert. Like a mini version of apple pie (but even better). After much encouragement, I dipped my spoon into Natalie's treacle pudding which, while tasty, was a tiny bit on the dry side for me. I preferred my mille-feuille with all the endless taste sensations to discover!

We polished off our desserts with a fresh mint tea each, chatting away into the evening.

The restaurant itself is very enjoyable to dine in. I loved the open plan seating, which was far more inviting and warm than I'd expected it to be - after all, I'd only ever viewed it from the bus window! Staff were attentive and courteous, plus it was fun to see what other diners had opted for as we sneaked sideways glances at the tables next to us!

I never thought I'd say this, but I liked The Gate so much, I'm eager to bring John back for another meal. It's also made me realize how ridiculous I'd been to assume that the restaurant "wasn't for me" since I'm not a vegetarian. If there was one takeaway (pun intended!) from our evening at The Gate, it was that vegetarian cuisine is for everyone. It's the recipes and the quality of execution that matters most and The Gate ticked all the boxes for me.

Natalie and I were generously hosted by The Gate - thank you! There are two locations: Islington and Hammersmith. We dined at the Islington restaurant. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

5 Tech Must-Haves For Your Home

There are advantages of being married to someone who's as tech-savvy as my husband is ... one of which includes being able to switch on the lights, heating, and music in the house from the comfort of my own bed. Like, on a Saturday morning when I'm on the verge of waking up but not quite ready yet - there's something fantastic about burrowing deeper into the covers while hearing the radiators trickle to life, knowing that the living room and kitchen will be lit-up when I finally decide to trod downstairs, all to the soundtrack of whatever's on my Spotify playlist at the moment.

Do I fully understand how these things work? Not really. Have I asked John to explain them to me all the while my eyes glaze over and I interrupt with, "Let's get donuts!"? Sure. But I know they've made my life a heck of a lot easier. And they suit my American sensibilities of making everything as convenient as possible.

So. I can't quite believe I'm saying this, but here are 5 tech must-haves for your home:

Smart Plug Adaptors

These are what enable me to turn off (nearly) all the lights in my house before bed with one tap of my phone. Or allow me to turn off my bedside light at work when I've realized I've forgotten to switch it off. We use the Orvibo WiWo plug adaptors, but there are other brands available as well. Once you've plugged in the adaptors and connected them to your wifi, you simply download the WiWo app and create a profile for each device. You can even create "settings" e.g. "Nighttime", which lets you turn off (or on) multiple devices at once. MAGICAL.

Multi-room Speaker System

We have three floors in our house (don't worry, it's definitely not a mansion - just skinny and tall) and our bedroom's in the loft, so it's nice to be cooking in the kitchen and run upstairs to put something away in the guest bedroom before grabbing something from our bedroom without losing the continuum of whatever music we're listening to at the moment - be it Vaughan-Williams or Kendrick Lamar (or as we recently discovered on Spotify, a curious playlist called "Kitchen Swagger" - not making this up). Of course, there's the ever-popular Sonos, but we use Samsung in our house.

Smart TV

I know most people watch shows on iPlayer these days, but in addition to those, I still like catching up on Freeview channels (y'all who are reading this in the U.S. be like, "Whaaa?" Just bear with me.) ... like The Bachelor and Real Housewives on ITVBe (John jokes that the TV is consistently switched to this channel when he gets home - not gonna pretend I sit around watching University Challenge all the time, though I'm very, very good at University Challenge when I've had a bit too much wine. I found myself screaming "KLIMT!" at the screen the other night followed by, "BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!" - I was right and all of the contestants were flummoxed). We have a Samsung TV downstairs and we use Apple TV upstairs with our projector, for renting movies.

Smart Heating

This one's a winner because you can pre-heat your home prior to your arrival - no matter what time you're getting home at night. This can be either changed manually on your phone or (if you're returning home at your "usual" time) the smart heating hub should know this and automatically start pre-heating your house. We use Google Nest, but Hive is also a popular option. You do need a Nest electrician to come around and install the thermostat in your house, but the installation only takes around 15 minutes or so.

Smart Security Alarm

So, John's just installed the Yale Smart Security Alarm system in our house and it does give me some peace of mind while he's away travelling for work. We've had a few hiccups (currently trying to figure out how to NOT set it off immediately when we walk through the door - it used to have a countdown, but now we just remote disarm from our phones before we unlock the door, which is kind of a pain to remember) but otherwise, I like being able to "arm" the house once I've crawled into bed for the night, knowing that I don't have to jump at every sound because if someone actually broke in (touch wood) then the loud AF alarm would go off.

Basically, writing this post has made me realize that I'm really lazy. I've always known that, but the extent of my laziness has been highlighted in this single post. I think I mentioned the word "bed" seven times (actually, I know I did because I counted).

What about you? Do you use any of these smart devices in your home? Do you like them? Let me know!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Travel Link-Up: A Life-Changing Adventure in the City of Dreaming Spires

This month's travel link-up topic is our "greatest adventure". I thought about my first trip to England at the age of 14. I thought about eating pho on the side of the road in Hanoi. I thought about my impromptu weekend in New York. I thought about my decision to live abroad.

Then I delved between those moments. I thought about the catalyst for my move to London; about the chain of events that propelled me to the future that I have today.

And I remembered the place where it truly began; I remembered the porters at our college calling out my name ("Jaime") and my roommate's name ("Jamie") when our rooms were assigned on the first day. I remembered saying the oath at the Bodleian aloud when asked.

I remembered Oxford and all its intracacies: the funny names for the terms (Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity), the way we shortened "tutorial" to "tute", and the weird and crazy "entz" parties we had in the Junior Common Rooms.

I remembered sitting across from the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy in the photo above (because we were boys and girls, then) and rushing back to our staircase to find his name, running my finger down the list of names until I found the only "John" there. I remembered my tutorials with the great-great-great nephew of William Wordsworth, Jonathan Wordsworth, and how his cats used to jump on my papers during the tutorials at his house.

I remembered it all: the laughter, the fun, the anxiety, the heartbreak, the heartache. The uncertainty I felt for a future which I know now to be resplendent in happiness and joy. The color of the boats bobbing below Magdalen bridge.

Isn't it funny how, when we're on an adventure, we don't necessarily know it yet? We don't know that we're at the top of the waterfall, paddling furiously towards the edge. We don't know how our boat will take the fall; whether it will capsize and drown us all, or whether we'll go whoosh all the way to the bottom and do more than just survive: we'll thrive.

Were the six months I spent studying at Oxford my greatest adventure? Well, it was the point at which the rest of my life began. It's what led me to love, a career, and a life abroad. And I can't help but think that, yeah - it was a pretty amazing, damn fantastic time.

This month's travel link-up is hosted by Angie, Emma, Jessi, and guest host Andrea. Head over to their blogs to read about their greatest adventures.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

5 Tips For A Spring-Ready Garden (And Why I Spend Every Weekend At Homebase)

I had to question my priorities recently when I climbed into bed at 9 p.m. on a Friday night with a self-satisfied sigh and a copy of a paving catalogue (exactly what it sounds like) - all while looking forward to our visit to Homebase the next day. These trips have become a near weekly occurrence: John joked that we should just live there.

When we bought our house last summer, the front and back gardens were a mess. And today? They're still a mess. Our trips to Homebase have only increased since we hired a landscape designer to completely overhaul both of them. In the end, I'd just love a place in the back that we can sit and chill out in with our friends in the spring and summer, plus a front that looks warm and inviting when I walk up to the front door (rather than a place for people to leave their chicken bones and candy wrappers, and where foxes poop - which is what it currently is. A fox toilet).

With that said, here are 5 things I've learned about getting a garden ready for spring:

Buy good quality tools. Our previous property was a rental flat, but we were responsible (I use that word loosely) for keeping the garden "tidy". This basically involved me peering out the window, muttering, "Yuck," under my breath at the bald patches near the back of the lawn and returning to my cup of tea. I pulled out weeds with my hands (when I needed to) and halfheartedly scooped up leaves like that too.

But for the garden in our new house, we bought a proper hand trowel, hand fork, and digging fork from Homebase. We figured that even if we didn't know what we were doing, we'd at least look good doing it. In all seriousness though, there's no point in buying cheap garden tools (been there, done that) because they break. And then you have to get on a crowded bus with a shovel again.

Pin. Pin, pin, pin to Pinterest like your life depends on it. Before owning a home, I had boards entitled, "The Perfect Heels" or "Leather Bucket Bag Wishlist". Now it's like, "Dream Bathrooms" or "Dream Kitchens" or ... "Dream Paving Stones". But it's also a great way for you to think about what you'd might like in terms of garden design. Before we met our designer, I had zero idea of what we wanted. But he came to pitch to us armed with a Pinterest board that had our names on it and I was impressed.

If you're planning a major overhaul like we are (i.e. removing a shed that's the size of a small house, uprooting a tree, or planting a "wildflower meadow"), get a proper survey done of the garden. We'd never thought to do this before, but our designer insisted that it was a good idea - and it made sense. It's probably not so important if you're not doing any major structural work, but we want to move a whole retaining wall back and - am I boring you yet?!

Be honest with yourself. I'd love to think that I'll be spending all my weekends and spare time in the garden once it's "done", planting and pruning and prettifying. Wrong. I'll probably gaze out the window absentmindedly and call out, "John ... the grass needs mowing ..." just as I did before. I kill succulents. This is a fact. So, as much as I'd love beautiful hydrangea to pose in front of while I take a fashion selfie, I've asked our designer to incorporate hardy, perennial plants, where possible. Lavender, I've learned is a pretty good self-subsisting plant that needs little attention. Looks nice and smells good? Bingo.

Get a handful of different quotes and ask for personal recommendations. This is important. Gardens are expensive (WHO KNEW?). It's worth asking for recommedations on local community forums. We asked neighbors, friends of friends, and I also posted on Facebook and Streetlife.

We're only at the start of our garden re-design project, but I am already looking forward to (fingers crossed) sharing with you the finished results!

Our Burgon & Ball gardening tools were generously provided to us by Homebase, the place where I spend most of my Saturdays. No lie. Mostly because they have succulents and pretty watering cans. Thanks for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Card For Every Occasion + The Best Wall Calendar For Your Home Office

If you follow me on Instagram, then you'll know that I'm a huge fan of stationery. But despite stockpiling greeting cards at every opportunity, I still find myself short of cards. I don't know how this is possible, but I've been known to rush out the door to a friend's engagement/birthday/baby's christening party, only to slap my forehead and exclaim, "I forgot to buy a card!" Cue panicked stop to the nearest Tesco or gas station for a generic card that doesn't reflect my personality at all.

Which is where Evermade comes in.

I recently discovered Evermade's Cardboxes and they are ingenious. 8 cards for 8 different occasions. Every home needs one (or two, or three!).

Birthday? Check. Engagement? Check. Get well soon? Check, check. The designs are hip, cool, and irreverent - just the way I like my cards. Not too fussy, not too formal. And they're perfect to use as an emergency stash.

Another Evermade invention I love is their wall-sized Year Planner, which - along with naming events like Nelson Mandela's birthday and the start of London Book Fair (handy for people who work in publishing like me!) - is a terrific way to see your entire year at a glance and especially useful if you have a partner who travels a lot for work.

The calendar comes with a collection of fun stickers to mark special occasions (I love the wedding bells), but I also like doodling my own little scribbles in the margins (John's not allowed to write on it because his handwriting is, um, illegible #sorrynotsorry).

In an age where we keep all our events and appointments on our phones, it's nice to be able to make sense of it all on the wall. For me, it makes our schedules a little less overwhelming and it also means that John and I will have less surprised-face-talks that begin with, "I told you I'd be in Frankfurt then Edinburgh that week", etc.

Aside from the stationery, these gorgeous art prints are also on my wishlist, as well as this tongue-in-cheek tote bag.

Until 31 March 2016, Angloyankophile readers will receive 15% off their orders at Evermade using the discount code ANGLO15 at checkout. Happy shopping!

The products featured in this post were generously provided to me by Evermade, whose products I love. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Angloyankophile.
© angloyankophile

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