The Highlight Reel: London Living

SO. After putting it off for a good year or so, I’ve finally taken the step into the real world and got a big girl job (technically an internship, but still). I’ve been there for a month now and so far I’m loving it. I am, however, currently homeless and owe my life to my BFFs & various family members who are lending me their beds/rooms/flats and so on, for which I am SO grateful!

Safe to say it’s been a whirlwind few weeks and I am hoping to get some real posts up soon about some of my adventures thus far, but in the meantime, here’s what’s been making the days fly by:

- Primrose Hill, the best and most aspirational people-watching spot of all (also good for a good old celeb spot and a chance to squeal over Henry Holland’s ridiculously cute pug, Peggy)

  • “Quiet nights” that have inevitably turned into ridiculous escapades in Dalston and Shoreditch
  • The most hysterical & perfect hungover Sunday last weekend. It was a day where everything was hilarious, and ended up with a sleepover for 4 with some of my best pals.
  • Friday nights (and indeed any night) on the Southbank. It’s so convenient from work that I have had two separate friend-dates and one real-boyfriend-date in the last couple of weeks. It’s always so buzzy and there is something very cool about hanging around in the shadow of the London Eye.
  • Time Out Magazine. Time Out Tuesdays are fast becoming my favourite days of the week!
  • How quiet Bermondsey station always is after the madness of Waterloo or London Bridge
  • Gavin Degraw, live in Kentish Town. He was GREAT.
  • All the reunions. After being so far away from most of my friends for all of last year, it has been SO nice to be able to meet them for a drink after work, or catch up on the weekend. Finally my huge FOMO can be cured!

This week I’m doing the commuting thing for a while so we’ll see how that goes, but I also have a couple of fun events planned and we are beginning the flat search in earnest so I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on my life goings-ons! What have you all been up to?

Blackberry & Apple Crumble

Well, the leaves have started falling and it is safe to say that autumn is here. We have a huge cooking apple tree in our back garden and over the years, my brother Dom and I have basically perfected the art of that most autumnal of desserts: the apple crumble.

The weekend before I headed to London, we decided to jazz things up a bit by popping down to the field down the road to scour the blackberry bushes as well. We got a nice healthy haul, and, back at home and with a few apples plucked from the tree, set to work.

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For the actual crumble, we used the following measurements, adapted from this BBC recipe:

  • 180g plain flour
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 45g demerara sugar
  • 90g unsalted butter

The reason that crumble is so great is that it is SO easy that it is literally impossible to get wrong. You literally just have to add everything together.

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Crumbling the crumble is one of my favourite tasks. It’s a bit messy, but it’s so satisfying watching it all come together.

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Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and chop them into rough cubes. They had gone a bit brown by the time I remembered to take a picture…

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Add the blackberries and put them all in a nice big dish.

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Then sprinkle the crumble over the top! Dom put a smiley face on the top which you can’t really see here, and we sprinkled some more demerara sugar on for a bit of crunch.

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Then just whack it in the oven (at like 200 degrees) for forty minutes or so.

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Dish it up while it’s still hot, and serve it with plenty of custard.

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The easiest (and most delicious) dessert in the world!

The Bloggers Festival

I am the worst blogger ever! Sorry! I will do a bit of a life update soon but for now, suffice to say that moving to London (sort of – I am still effectively homeless) and starting a new job has taken its toll on my blog-energy. But I’ve popped home-home for the weekend and I’ve found some time to sit down and tell you all about the Blogger’s Festival, which took place last weekend.

I’ve been looking forward to the event for ages, ever since I got my email invite from the lovely Scarlett – not least because it was such a relief to know that I’d finally be in London and able to attend an event way bigger than any I’d been to before! So last Saturday I headed on down to Tottenham Court Road and was promptly whisked up in a lift to the 31st floor, which has the most amazing views over London. It was kind of cloudy and foggy that day which was a bit of a shame but it still looked pretty spectacular!

The room itself was all decked out and full to the brim with bloggers. I’d ended up arriving a bit late so it was definitely a little bit daunting wandering in and trying to get my bearings!

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Scarlett had done a fab job getting some really great brands involved and there was TONS to look at.

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After seeing Quiz cookies in everyone’s pictures of every blog event ever, I was pleased to finally get my hands on one and can confirm they were delicious!

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I particularly loved some of the shoes on show by Ecco (who also very generously put a gorgeous leather pouch in our goody bags). I’ve always known about Ecco but never really looked at them properly but there were so many shoes I could have bought there and then!

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I was also introduced by the lovely Marika to Danish brand Minimum clothing, which I had never heard of before, but it is right up my street.

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I was also getting plenty of inspiration for winter & party wear…there were sparkles and jumpers all over the shop!

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I absolutely loved these super cool bee themed biscuits from Bee Good, who by the way were super friendly and lovely and also gave me some rather delicious vanilla & honey lipbalm which I’ve been loving this week.

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This is a really awful photograph but I couldn’t not mention iZ Beauty of London, who did the best nail transfers ever. I didn’t take a picture because the rest of my nails were so chipped and horrible but trust me, the two fingers I had done looked great and one is still going strong while I accidentally peeled off the other one yesterday. The lovely girl manning the stand gave me the rest of the pack and I can’t wait to try them out myself!

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Just as I was about to leave, the unmistakable scent of brownie filled the air and I followed my nose to find Sweet Pizzas, who were just bringing out some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Brownie, buttercream and a whole host of sweets on top…it was simultaneously the best and worst thing I’ve probably ever consumed.

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Soon enough I had to dash as I had to make the journey first to Earlsfield and then all the way back to Kentish Town (via hellish Oxford Circus) but it was a really great event and Scarlett did such a good job organising it! I wish I’d been able to get there a bit early and chat to a few more bloggers, but I did finally manage to meet the gorgeous Katie in real life (I spotted her by recognising her boyfriend…creepy much?). We also got given some fabulous goodie bags with some amazing stuff in them which I am hoping to write about some of very soon, so watch this space!

The Reading List: SUMMER

Maybe it’s cause the rest of me was so relaxed that my brain started working at top speed, but I managed to read an absurd amount of books during the second half of my holiday and I loved almost all of them. Rather than review each of them individually, I’ve done a mass round-up of what I thought… (and sorry, there’s no pictures! I just moved to London and everything is everywhere! Normal service will resume shortly!)

We Were Liars, Emily Lockhart

This is one that I’ve heard the name of a lot and not really read what it’s about. The Amazon description mentioned Massachusetts and private islands, which is what I’m all about, and even though this wasn’t quite what I was expecting I really loved it. It basically follows Cady as she returns to her family’s private island for the summer after a serious accident a couple of summers ago, of which she remembers nothing. The book basically follows her as she deals with the mental issues she has experienced since, and figures out exactly what happened two summers before. I found the style a bit grating at first: it’s simple to the point of sounding harsh, which was a huge contrast to the style of Stiltsville which I finished right before it. But as soon as I got used to it it was absolutely fine and suited the main character/narrator, Cady, down to the ground, and I particularly loved the character of Mirren, Cady’s cousin. I didn’t guess what was going to happen at all either and I’d definitely recommend this!

Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel

Stiltsville was an emergency buy in City airport when my Kindle died five minutes before I got on the plane, but it ended up being probably my favourite book from the whole week. It’s a slow mover, covering protagonist Frances’ life from about 20 (I think) to late middle age as she meets, marries and builds a life with her husband Dennis and their daughter, who was maybe my favourite character of all. It’s definitely more character driven than plot, which meant I fell in love with all the main characters. It was the kind of book I would happily have read forever and ever – and it made me want to go back to Miami!

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

I’ve had this one on my Kindle for ages and to be honest I kind of forced myself to start it because I’d just bought The Lemon Grove and was dying to read that – but I’m so glad I did! I have a habit of automatically dismissing books that get really super popular (it’s the snobby English student in me) but this really lived up to the hype and I ended up staying up till almost 1AM because I honestly could not go to bed before I finished it! It kept me guessing all the way through and I will definitely be catching the movie!

Buying In, Laura Hempthill

This is kind of chicklit with a twist – it’s about a 22 year old, Sophie, and her first job in an investment bank in NYC, 2007-ish. I really liked it, actually, and I definitely related a LOT to Sophie even though there is no way I will be following her career path (and would be even less inclined to do so after reading!). Turns out Laura Hempthill worked in investment banks for 7 years before writing the novel so I guess it’s all fairly authentic – definitely an interesting, light read!

The Lemon Grove, Helen Walsh

I’d heard such a lot about this, I was expecting great things but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It’s basically about a middle-aged woman (whose name I can’t remember, which says a lot) who starts an illicit affair with her step-daughter’s boyfriend while on holiday. While I liked the stepdaughter Emma’s character, the whole thing all felt a bit melodramatic and I felt like there were a lot of gratuitous sex scenes. I did still enjoy it and it made me wanna swim in the sea so it was a good holiday read, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it way less if I’d read it at home.

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

Technically I finished this while still in the UK, but it was on the way to the airport so it still counts in my book! I enjoyed this while reading it and I’d definitely recommend it, but it doesn’t really stand out to me as one of my favourites. That said, I liked the style and especially the character of Lux, and I’m going to try and watch the film at some point cause Kirsten Dunst is a goddess!

Easy, Tammara Webber

I have a feeling this is a self-published kind of deal and it was all very predictable and a bit melodramatic but I found that I couldn’t stop reading it anyway (and I’m not a girl who has qualms about giving up on a book halfway through). It’s set in college and it’s very much your average boy-meets-girl, but it does cover some interesting stuff about rape, victim blaming, and so on, and it involves frat boys and sorority girls (on a low level) which I’m always interested in. Definitely not a heavy read but enjoyable all the same.

Lastly, I’m currently midway through We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, which was recently been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I wasn’t sure about it at first but now I’m really into it and although I haven’t had much time to read since getting home, I’m eager to finish it!

What’s been your favourite summer read? Have you read any of these or do you want to? Let me know!

Portugal 2014: the NIGHTS

Evenings in Portugal are my favourite things of all. I love coming off the beach, easing the inevitable sunburn with a cool shower and lots of aftersun, and getting all dressed up for dinner before a few snacks (peanut crisps, anyone?!) and a pre-dinner drink. This time, our house was up on the golf course and the walk down to the Praca (centre of the resort) made for some pretty ridiculous sunset views.

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The praca itself is always buzzy, with 8 or so restaurants specialising in various worldly cuisines (told you it wasn’t a place for Portuguese authenticity!) and dinner is always washed down with a mojito or two and copious amounts of wine. Casal Garcia is a Portugese vinho verde that is cheap as chips in supermarkets (and slightly less so in restaurants – but still cheap!) and the most delicious, drinkable wine I’ve come across.

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Something of a first-night tradition of ours is Sandbanks, which is a bit more Portuguese: gorgeous seafood with even more gorgeous sea views.

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And of course it’s not a trip to Portugal without a visit to Julia’s Beach Bar, a walk along the beach to some of the best views ever.

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It was only when I got home and looked at my pictures that I realised quite how many prawns I’d consumed (seriously, pretty much everyday) but without doubt these were my absolute favourite – and, in fact, was easily my favourite meal of the holiday and possibly ever: Spiaddini di Gamberoni at La Terrazza. I never, ever order pasta at restaurants but broke the trend for a night and it was the best life decision I could possibly have made. The whole thing was PERFECT.

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Cocktails are another key part to any Portuguese holiday of mine. This year I found a couple of new faves, including this cucumber-y gin concoction and the most delicious frozen strawberry margaritas of all time. A few of those = the perfect way to end, begin, or enjoy any holiday evening!

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As I flew home I was treated to the most spectacular sunset yet, which I only thought to capture as the sun disappeared below the clouds. It was very fitting for the end of what will probably be my last “family” holiday in the sense I’ve known it this far and certainly my last trip to VDL for a while…happy memories always!

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Student Cooking With Currys: Homemade Burgers & Wedges

Okay, so I know I said I would only be giving my uni tips about my course, but if there’s one thing I think I did well at uni, it’s eating. When Shaun from Joe’s Bloggers got in touch with their latest collaboration with Curry’s – a very special student cookbook – I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. I then struggled a bit to find a recipe that wasn’t a carbon copy of a Jamie Oliver special – until I remembered BURGERS!

Homemade burgers used to be an old fallback favourite of ours back in 3rd year. They’re something that sounds really impressive but is actually easy, and you can mix and match what you serve them with to jazz them up a bit. Rolls and salad is an easy choice, or oven chips if you’re so inclined, but I like making sweet potato wedges to go with them so I’ve included a little mini recipe for those, too.

Ingredients

  • Mince (The amount of burgers you want and how many people you’re feeding will obviously determine how much mince but I would say one 500g pack easily makes 4 biggish burgers. If you’re cooking just for yourself, maybe use half the pack for a couple of burgers and the other half for meatballs, chilli, or something else freezable!)
  • 1 egg (If you’re not using the whole pack, ideally you probably want about half an egg but that’s not really practical, so just up the breadcrumbs!)
  • A good handful of breadcrumbs OR 3 Jacob’s crackers (OR supermarket equivalent!)
  • A squirt of BBQ sauce and/or a teaspoon of English mustard

Method

  • If you’re using crackers, pop them into a ziploc back and bash them up with a rolling pin or wooden spoon (therapeutic if essays are getting you down)
  • Break up the mince a bit and put it into a large mixing bowl
  • Crack in the egg, and add your bread/cracker crumbs and your BBQ sauce and/or mustard
  • Now for the messy part…get your hands stuck in there and mix it all up
  • When it all begins to stick together, divide the mixture into burger-shaped rounds and whack them under the grill or on the George Foreman for 10 minutes or so (at about 180 degrees). Keep on eye on them though because cooking times will differ depending on how big your burgers are!

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I usually use lean beef mince, but turkey mince would probably work really well too and probably be a little bit healthier! You can play around with toppings, too. I don’t personally eat cheese but that’s an obvious one, or others that I like include roasted red peppers (out of a jar), slices of avocado, crispy bacon, or just simply copious amounts of BBQ sauce and some nice crispy lettuce.

As I said, I also like serving these (and pretty much anything else) with sweet potato wedges, which are really easy to make and really tasty.

Ingredients

  • Sweet potato (1 for each person)
  • Sprinkling of Salt
  • A drizzle of Olive Oil
  • Paprika (if you want – or any other spice)

Method

  • Just give your potatoes a bit of a scrub and chop off any knobbly bits, then cut them into rough wedge shapes
  • Whack them on a baking tray, keeping them fairly separate if possible, and drizzle over olive oil, some salt, and your spice of choice
  • Give it all a shake about
  • Get them in the oven! It obviously depends how thinly you’ve cut your wedges, but they usually take about 20 – 25 minutes at 180 degrees (in my experience)

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And now for the easiest part of all: serve up, and enjoy!

If you’re a student or a soon-to-be student, keep your eyes out for the Curry’s Student Cookbook: I’ve seen quite a few entries floating around the blogosphere and they all look fab so there is sure to be a whole lot of inspiration in there!

Portugal 2014: the DAYS

So holiday season is officially wrapping up and autumn is on our doorstep. I’ve just returned from the most gorgeous 12 days in Portugal and I’ve got over my post-holiday blues long enough to share some (read: an absurd amount of) pictures with you all!

I’ve mentioned this before, but VDL is probably not the kind of place you go if you want a slice of authentic Portuguese culture. However, it is the kind of place you go if you want guaranteed sunshine, a whole lot of relaxation, and men who bring champagne sangria to your sunlounger. This year, as we have done almost every year since I was 15, we headed out there, and this time we had quite the crew in tow.

It was a holiday devoted to absolute relaxation, so most of our time was spent on the beach or on the roof terrace (which was complete with a gorgeous little plunge pool).

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Midway through the week, we headed out to Vilamoura for a dolphin cruise. We started out, though, with breakfast on the marina.

 

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Unfortunately, we saw precisely zero dolphins! It was such a shame as we’ve done dolphin safaris a million times before and always seen loads, but naturally when we had such a crowd of family and friends in tow, there were none to be found. We did get a good couple of hours out on the ocean though and a little trip through some of the caves that line the coast.

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Long lazy days on the beach were followed by pre-dinner green beers and cocktails, and those by sunset walks down to dinner and (more) cocktails – but given that I’ve already crammed this post full to bursting, those tales will have to wait for another post!