Monday, 21 September 2015

Instagram Book Reviews Three


Another round of mini book reviews, and a lot of non-fiction this time. Here's what I've read over the past couple of months. See my instagram for more book reviews.

Two Terry Pratchetts - Interesting Times and Jingo. These are definitely easy comfort reading for me as it's been a tough couple of weeks. Both dealt with 'foreign' parts of the Discworld - one pseudo-Chinese country and the other Middle Eastern. I probably preferred Interesting Times of the two - one of the Rincewind stories which was more lighthearted. Jingo was a little too heavy handed with the racism-bad message (yes, we know people who look different from us are really just like us!) but it was still a good read, with some great moments.

The Body Book by Cameron Diaz. Ugh, I really wanted to like this. I had wanted to read it for a while and was hoping it might inspire my healthy living kick post holiday, but to be honest it was just a bit boring. I felt like it lacked substance and every chapter was just 'your body is amazing' over and over without any really inspiring or helpful advice. Sorry Cameron, I do love you otherwise!

Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick. This book was fascinating. A tough read in places about the lives of North Korean defectors, but such an interesting look at an area of the world and of history I know nothing about. One of the best books I have read this year.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. This was the latest book club book, and one I have read before but not for about 15 years. It's a family drama, which is not my usual genre, but the writing was fabulous and really draws you in. It was interesting how many of the 'clues' to the family secret revealed at the end which I picked up on second time around but the first time readers didn't. It could definitely do with a family tree though because I definitely lost track of who was who!

One Summer - America 1927 by Bill Bryson. I have been a huge Bill Bryson fan, ever since my dad lent me A Walk In The Woods when I was about 13 and said 'you should read this.' Although I love his travel writing the most, I did really enjoy this book about all the events of the summer of 1927 which changed the world. He did a great job of pulling together a lot of different strands of history, and weaving them together so they felt like one cohesive narrative, and I also learnt a lot about early aviation and baseball!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I was worried this was going to be a bit of a damp squib after all the hype but I absolutely loved this book! The memoir of a woman who hiked the Pacific Coast Trail solo, she doesn't shy away from any of the gruesome detail (lost toenails - eek!) but still manages to make the story uplifting and gripping.

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Best Black Eyeliner. Fact.


I have worn black liquid eyeliner every day for at least the past six years. I am obsessed. It's gotten to the point where if I look in the mirror and I am not wearing eyeliner I don't even feel like I look like me. And for the majority of that time I have been loyal to one eyeliner in particular - Mac's Liquidlast Eyeliner. For years it was perfect - once it went on it didn't smudge, didn't rub off, it just stayed put all day, and not even your regular makeup remover would get it off - I had to purchase Mac's own waterproof eye makeup remover - the only thing which would take it off.

However over the past few months I have been noticing a serious deterioration in the staying power of my eyeliner. I have quite hooded eyes and greasy eyelids (lovely stuff) and so for most people this stuff probably would work fine, but I was starting to get some serious panda eyes by the end of the day, which made me super paranoid about the fact I might have makeup all over my face without realising it. Not good! I don't know if the formula was changed, or if it is simply the fact I am six years older than when I started wearing this stuff and the skin around my eyelids is a bit further south than it used to be, but I knew I needed to find a new eyeliner.

I didn't want to spend a ton on something that ended up being just as bad as my old stuff, so after some internet research I picked up a couple of eyeliners from Boots that promised to stay put no matter what.

I tried out the Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Eyeliner and the Barry M liquid eyeliner - both in the blackest shade possible.

I tried out the Maybelline gel eyeliner first, and although it took me a bit of time to get the hang of the brush, I was able to get a pretty decent cat eye on my second attempt, and a nice smudge of eyeliner along my bottom lashes too for a smokey effect. I loved the look but alas only a few hours later I had smudges - 24 hours it definitely was not.

Next I tried the Barry M liquid eyeliner. It was quite difficult to work with as the brush is not good - it's way too stiff and drags across the eyelid awkwardly, making it difficult to be precise. But the colour is super-black and even better - not too smudgy. The downside is it isn't very long lasting - by the end of the day it had worn off quite a bit, although at least it just wore  away instead of giving me panda eyes. At £4.79 it is quite a bargain though.

So the hunt for the perfect eyeliner continues. Let me know your recommendations!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. a beautiful editorial 2. the 50 best outfits from friends 3. a day at borough market 4. a week in the big smoke 5. you had me at 16th century palazzo with a disco ball 6. sandra's gorgeous stockholm apartment

By the time this post goes live I will have touched down in Bangalore, India, for a week long work trip. I went the same time last year and squeezed in a quick trip to Mumbai on the way back.  This time there won't be much time for sightseeing but I will at least be able to make the most of the business class flight and five star hotel hopefully!

The travel side of things is definitely something I will miss when I move jobs, as my new place won't have anywhere like the same amount of overseas trips I do at the moment. At the same time it is rare I actually get to see much of the place I am travelling - it's usually airport > hotel > office > restaurant > hotel > airport, so I won't be mising out on a whole lot of excitement. Still, there is something about being stuck in traffic for 20 minutes because there is a cow in the road that reminds you 'I'm not in London anymore' which is pretty cool!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Uniqlo Shirt

shirt - uniqlo, skirt - & other stories

 I was in Stratford last weekend getting my hair cut and ended up picking up a few new autumnal pieces for my wardrobe, including this skirt from zara, and this plaid top from uniqlo. It's really soft and easy to wear, and I can definitely see myself getting a lot of wear ou of it, tucked into skirts or with jeans.

This outfit reminded me a bit of this one from my archives from 2010. What a difference five years doesn't make! Ok the knee-socks have definitely gone - I'm definitely too old for that look - but other than that I'd totally wear that whole outfit again, and pretty much am!

 I do like looking back over my outfit archives and seeing over five years worth of outfits documented. For one I am pretty damn impressed with myself that I've kept it up for that long, but it's also interesting to see how my style has changed, and how it has stayed the same. At the moment I am feeling slightly lost fashionwise - trying to work out how to take my 20s style through into my 30s - so it's good to look back and see that familiar thread of my signature style running through right up to today.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Netflix for Autumn


Being off sick the week before last and the change in weather to wet and dreary has definitely put me in the mood to curl up on the sofa and ignore the outside world. I've been filling up my Netflix list (actually its James' profile, which is making the software think he has very eclectic taste!) with what I am looking forward to watching over the next few months.

Here's my list:

Dior and I - Dior and I brings the viewer inside the storied world of the Christian Dior fashion house with a privileged, behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Raf Simons' first haute couture collection as its new artistic director-a true labor of love created by a dedicated group of collaborators. Melding the everyday, pressure-filled components of fashion with mysterious echoes from the iconic brand's past, the film is also a colorful homage to the seamstresses who serve Simons' vision.

Chef -  A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries - Our female sleuth sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of late 1920s Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt -  After being rescued from an underground bunker in which she lived the past 15 years, Kimmy Schmidt decides to move to New York to have a normal life. She makes friends with her new roommate Titus, and works as a babysitter for Jacqueline Voorhees, the wife of a millionaire with many issues. Even though many obstacles are thrown her way, Kimmy makes the best of her new life while having to adapt to the new world around her.

Fast & Furious 6 - Hobbs has Dominic and Brian reassemble their crew to take down a team of mercenaries: Dominic unexpectedly gets convoluted also facing his presumed deceased girlfriend, Letty.

Kill Your Darlings -  A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation: Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

Thursday, 3 September 2015


dress - people tree courtesy of house of fraser, shoes - m&s, bracelet - vintage

In six weeks I am starting a new job, which leans much more to the casual side of smart-casual than I am used to, so I am starting to panic a bit about what I am going to wear! Over the past six years of working for my current company I have developed a pretty good uniform of pencil skirts and smart tops, but from what I know of the new place I will look very overdressed if I wear my normal work clothes there.

While I am not going to totally replace my wardrobe, a few new bits to mix and match are definitely necessary, so when House of Fraser offered to send me something, I went shopping with my new job in mind. I ended up choosing a People Tree shift dress in the sale, as I've always had a lot of success with People Tree clothes (ethical, cute and really well made and long lasting), and I think it will be perfect for hitting that smart-casual balance.

I am really happy with the fit and the style, it's exactly what I was after, so at least that is one outfit ready. I suspect I may need a few more though!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A picture of the week


I have spent most of this week sick in bed, which could not have come at a worse time as I have been so busy lately. I finally had to accept that it was my body's way of saying 'take a break' but it's still not fun.

This weekend James is away at a stag do, and I went with my parents and sister to the tall ships festival at Woolwich. We only stopped by briefly, but it was cool to see all the boats. There was a navy cadet band, lots of food stalls and a historic reinactment society - I was just sorry I wasn't up to seeing more of it. Next year!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Making Dosa


I got the urge to cook something new this weekend, and after thumbing through most of my recipe books without much inspiration I opened Jamie's Comfort Food to a random page and ended up on the recipe for his Divine Dosa.

This was exactly what I was looking for - it didn't contain too many ingredients out of my comfort zone (or nothing I couldn't substitute), didn't take too long and didn't look like it needed to be too neat or precise. I made a few edits to the recipe, mainly to reduce the quantities and substitute out a few things we didn't have to what we did. The flavour combinations were absolutely amazing though, and that was all Jamie Oliver - so hats off to him!

Ingredients (there are a lot!)

For the veggie filling:
1 baking potato
1 sweet potato
3 carrots
bunch of spring onions, sliced
bunch of coriander, torn
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 level teaspoon ground ginger
1 level teaspoon turmeric
1 level teaspoon mustard seeds
1 lime

For the dips:
125ml natural yoghurt
1 heaped teaspoon creamed coconut
some of the above bunch of coriander
mango chutney

For the dosa batter:
125g plain flour (should strictly be chickpea/gram flour but I used what I had in the house)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees C. Slice your carrots, sweet potato and baking potato into chunky chip sized pieces and put on a baking tray with a drizzle of oil, and seasoning. Roast in the oven for half an hour, turning half way through.

Meanwhile make your batter by measuring out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mustard seeds into a bowl, then gradually mixing in 300ml of water until you get a runny mixture.

Make your yoghurt dip by adding some of the torn up coriander leaves and the creamed coconut to the yoghurt. Jamie suggests using fresh mint but I didn't want to buy more ingredients I wouldn't use up.

Once your veggies are roasted, smash up the sweet potato and baking potatoes a bit, just roughly. In a large pan (I used a wok) heat a good glug of oil and add all your spices. Once it is sizzling add the vegetables and gently stir/shake the pan until they are covered in the oil and spice mixture. Cook until the vegetables and just browning, then turn off the heat. Add the torn coriander and spring onions and mix in. Squeeze over the lime juice

Then take a frying pan and add a good coating of oil. Add a ladleful of the batter enough to coat the pan, once this is cooked through, a bit like a pancake, add some of the veggies to the middle and roll up the dosa around it. The dosa was pretty fragile, we definitely found more oil helped it not stick to the pan and break apart, but I suspect it also substantially reduced any nutritional benefits! Oh well!

I kept the dosa in the now switched off but still warm oven while I cooked the rest, then  served them up sharpish. They were filling and really flavoursome, but not super spicy. If you like your Indian food hot you could add fresh red chilli, which is what Jamie suggests. All in all once we'd got the hang of the dosa, a very yummy and satisfying meal!

PS Jamie's original recipe is here.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. A trip to River Cottage 2. The best dressed dog ever 3. Love the mix of old and new in this kitchen 4. and in this house 5. These kale chips look so good 6. Being Little shares her favourite outfit posts

 This weekend has been blissfully quiet. Our original plans fell through so I have spent my time pottering about, going to the library, organising my kitchen cupboards and making the most of the amazing sunshine we are having to... dry my washing. Ok, some sitting outside in the sun reading the ikea catalogue also happened.

In short life is boring but good! Hoping you have had a suitably lazy weekend too.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Garden Before and After


We've got to a good stage with the garden now that I thought it was time to do a bit of a before and after post. We definitely want to get a lot more plants and a barbecue at some point, but it's at the stage where we can happily sit out with a drink, and we aren't embarrassed to let friends see it, so that seemed like a good time to sit back and pat myself on the back for how far we've gotten.

We've owned the house pretty much exactly two years now, and the garden was never a top priority, so it's been pretty much a true DIY as and when we have had a few spare days to work on it. This is what it was like when we moved in:


There was a lot of junk from the old owners, and some badly rotting decking and a fence that was in pretty bad shape. We pretty much left it for the first year, as we were so focused on getting the house livable, that it was summer 2014 before we actually did anything. Then we were spurred on by the damp in the back wall, as the decking had been laid badly and was retaining a lot of moisture, which wasn't helping, my dad brought over his axe and crowbar (I never asked why he owns such things...) and over a couple of days we took the decking down, and got all of the old plant pots and rubble over to the dump.


Unfortunately under the decking was a solid layer of concrete, and so my dreams of getting digging and building some beds and maybe grass were dashed, without a lot of extra work. And so I did what we always do and... left the garden for another year! Or nearly. Again at this point we wanted to get the spare room done before Christmas, and winter came, so we pretty much  ignored the garden for nearly a year until fate intervened and the fence blew down on both sides. This pretty much forced us into action, and so thanks to James' family, and mine for carting six loads of rubble to the tip, we had a new fence:


This pretty much brings us up to two weeks ago when James and I painted the fence black and I ordered some plant pots from Amazon. Again massive thanks to my parents for driving us to homebase and helping us get all the plants. 


I am so so happy with how it looks. The black fence and the terracotta planters look just as good as I'd hoped together, and I can't wait to get a load more plants and create a total urban jungle out here. As of today the plants are all still alive, so fingers crossed they remain so. I know that I am super slow with these things, so it will be a while before we do anything more out there, but it's got to the point where we can actually enjoy the garden, instead of looking out at a pile of rubble, so that is good enough for me right now!

See here, here and here for previous posts about the garden

Monday, 17 August 2015

Amsterdam Day Three


Our last day in Amsterdam we got up early, threw everything into a suitcase and zipped over to the Van Gogh museum (criossant and coffee in hand!) to make our 9am ticket slot. At first I wasn't 100% sure about the museum. It was very busy, and I felt I didn't have a lot of space to see the pictures. As you go chronologically through Van Gogh's life and up floor by floor though the people do start to thin out, and by the end it became one of the highlights of my trip.

I felt like before the museum I knew the standard Van Gogh story, and he always seemed to me to be a pretty sad, lonely character. As it turns out he had a really close family, and I particularly loved hearing about how tirelessly his sister-in-law worked after his death to ensure his paintings were not forgotten, and it is pretty much through her efforts that he is as famous as he is today. I also had no idea how many pictures he painted. A lot as it turns out! More than one a day in the six months leading up to his death.

After the museum we sat on the grass in the sun for a bit, while more energetic people than us did yoga, and then went for a final wander around Amsterdam. We walked through the red light district, just to say we'd seen it (the lunchtime slot is apparently not very popular - lots of scantily clad women looking bored on their phones), and went to the floating flower market. The flower market was nice but probably not a must see. If you want to buy bulbs it is to place to be, but if you want to see pretty flowers you'd probably be better off in Columbia Road.

We finished our trip with a dutch pancake - it had to be done at some point - and then picked up our stuff from the hotel and headed home. I absolutely adored Amsterdam, it is definitely one of my favourite European cities and I could totally see myself living here, with a little apartment in the Jordaan, popping down to Winkels for coffee and apple cake, and browsing for books in the American bookshop. Maybe one day!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A picture of the week


Here is a picture of what I purchased in Amsterdam (other than food and museum tickets!) We didn't do tons of shopping, but we popped into Hema on the recommendation of Gh0stparties and I went a bit crazy over their cute stationary and homewares. I picked up two notebooks, two rolls of washi tape, and a little kitchen pot (which nearly got me into trouble at the airport as the scanner could not see through it. Ironic that the security guards had to search my baggage for (a) pot on the way back from Amsterdam!) 

We also browsed the American bookshop while we were there, and I ended up buying this book on paper craft in the sale. I have this idea that when I move jobs in a couple of months I am going to have all this spare time, and I am suddenly going to turn into an amazingly crafty person... Something that has yet to happen in my 28 years! Hopefully starting with a book of crafts that only involve paper will at least stop me spending £££ on craft supplies I am never going to use!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Amsterdam Day Two


On our second day in Amsterdam (and last full day) after a breakfast from a local bakery, we had planned to go to the Van Gogh museum, but the queue was horrendous. They are building a new entrance but for the moment it was just a mass of people so we abandoned that plan, and instead went to the nearby central museum shop and bought timed entry tickets for the next day, complete with queue skipping priorities, win! I would definitely recommend this if it's a top priority for you to go, as it was for us.

Instead we decided to go on a canal cruise, and had a much more relaxing morning sailing round the main canal loop in Amsterdam, taking yet more pictures of Dutch gables and canal boats! We finally made ourselves get off the boat at the Nine Streets, which is the boutique shopping area filled with little independent shops. I had some pretty epic Carpaccio for lunch, and then dragged James round all of the shops, until we were in dire need of an afternoon snack, and headed to the North end of the Jordaan to Winkels, for a slice of their famous apple cake and whipped cream. SO good!

James picked the restaurant this evening and we went for pizza at Eatmosphera. The food was amazing, but what we didn't realise until we were happily eating away on a table outside and the lights started going on around us that we had strayed a bit further away from the pretty, traditional areas and into red light territory! It was too early for us to get much of a window show with our dinner thankfully!

All the restaurants we visited were pretty busy, but they were all able to squeeze us in without a reservation, although it often seemed like we took the last available table. I'd definitely make reservations if I went back again.