Sunday, 30 August 2015

Stick out your personality with Mikado


You know how some people just don't have a sweet tooth? If they indulge then it's absolutely going to be crisps or pizza or wedges - all the carbs, basically - but chocolate just doesn't do it for them? And then, of course, there are the opposite. The people who could cheerfully eat their bodyweight in jelly sweets or cake but aren't too fussed about the breaded and battered food group?

Yeah, I'm not either of those people. I have an epic sweet tooth and a big old carb appetite too. Ever since I first dipped a McDonald's french fry in a strawberry milkshake, I realised I could have it all, and by jove, I would. My ideal situation is a buffet of brown food - potato wedges, sausage rolls, pizza, chicken - and then an equally awesome buffet of chocolate based treats. And then another buffet of brown food once my sweet tooth was exhausted. That sounds incredible.

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Thursday, 27 August 2015

A day at Borough Market, London


On Saturday, our plans changed last minute and we decided to head to Borough Market to eat all the things - which is, apparently, the only thing you can do at Borough Market. When I asked on Twitter what we should eat, there was a resounding cry of 'EVERYTHING!' Challenge accepted, my friends.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The 15 best places to eat in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Relish
Tabure
Craft & Cleaver

It seems like the majority of my Twitter buds are London based, but every now and then I spot one taking a day trip out of the city to visit my hometown of St Albans. It's 20 minutes from St Pancras, and super well connected to the M25 and M1, too - the ideal spot to explore for a weekend, especially now there's a Premier Inn in the town centre. It's also PRETTY. We have a cathedral and Roman ruins and markets and the oldest pub in the UK (and reportedly more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in this country). Oh - and lots and lots of nice places to eat.

I'm always being asked to recommend places to visit here, and I figured that if my buddies are asking me, then maybe some of you guys are wondering too. So here it is. My ultimate list of the 15 best eateries in St Albans, Hertfordshire (in no particular order).
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Friday, 21 August 2015

Chewy, fluffy and super quick lemon cookies


Hooray, the Great British Bake Off is back! I know, it's like two weeks in and basically old news by now, but I'm still as excited as ever. It's just one of my favourite shows in the entire world because it's so good natured and gentle and BRITISH. There are no high stakes, no dramatic face offs, and a genuine sense that everyone is happy to be involved, whether or not they win.

I've been having weekly viewing gatherings with some of my friends, and as is the rule with a baking show, baked goods must be in attendance. I made these cookies quickly just before we left - they are the perfect recipe for when you don't have much time as they're easy to make and need less than 10 minutes to bake. Oh, and they're RIDICULOUSLY tasty.

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

DIY: Building a home bar




I am one of those people who gets an idea in my head and then fixates on it until I can do it. Just before we moved, it was bar carts. I've been obsessed with having a bar cart ever since Matt and I started talking seriously about moving in together, and on our first trip to Ikea after moving in, we nearly bought the Raskog trolley to make this dream a reality.

But then I saw this picture, and I liked it. A lot.

And THEN we realised we had a space in our new living room that would fit that rather nicely. Now, one of the things I like about Matt is that he gets excited about my silly ideas too, and as I was showing the above picture to my colleague at work, he texted me to say that he just wanted to go and get the unit now. So, about two days after first seeing the picture, we hit up Ikea and dropped £45 on a Kallax unit.

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Saturday, 15 August 2015

Recipe: Chilli, lime and ginger chicken rice


I get a bit of a kick from coming up with something new to cook. Often, it will start with me pondering on what's in the fridge as I wander round the supermarket, and before long I've come up with something to create. It's often something I've cooked before, but every now and then I'll start thinking about trying this with that and what if I did that and lo - a new meal is born.

To be honest, this isn't a dramatically DIFFERENT meal. You've almost definitely had these flavours together before, maybe even with chicken and rice. In fact, it started as I was walking around Tesco clutching a pack of chicken breasts, pre-marinated in chilli, ginger and lime and thinking about how you usually lost the flavour in these pre-marinated meats once you cooked them, and I was annoyed by that. So I put the pre-marinated stuff back, picked up some plain mini fillets, a bag of chillies and some fresh ginger and hopped off home, determined to make something tasty and healthy.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Vine Leaves, Harpenden - Gourmet Middle Eastern Cuisine



I often sing the praises of St Albans - it's a nice place, alright - but actually, a lot of the nearby towns are pretty lovely too. Harpenden is one such town, just one stop further along on the train line, but full of lovely restaurants and pubs (not much else though - I worked there for a few months last year, and my lunch breaks were extremely dull). Much like St Albans, lots of new independent places have been springing up, and I was invited to review one of them recently, The Vine Leaves.

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Monday, 10 August 2015

TasteBox: weekly healthy snack box (with tea!)


For the past few weeks, I've been trying out TasteBox. It's not a new concept - a regular box full of tasty treats to your home or workplace - but they've run with the idea and put their own little twist on it.

The snacks themselves are really good. Like similar boxes, they tend to be nuts, berries and crackers - filling, not-too-sinful snacks that you can devour quickly on the go. My favourites so far have been the Bollywood Sticks (much less spicier than Bombay Mix, which I prefer, and with bonus cashews!) and the Rose Is Nuts (Rosemary Nuts - YUM) but I've been happily working my way through everything. Oooh, I forgot about the Brownie Crumble bites! They were also very good. I like the packets, too, which include chocolate, as it gives me a sweet hit without making me feel like I've totally given up my diet.

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Saturday, 8 August 2015

Illustrations and modern calligraphy


I've been really loving drawing again lately. I've always enjoyed doing it, but over the last few years I've found that it's something I just don't do unless I'm pushed to. My sketchpads and pencils basically languish in a drawer until someone asks me to do an illustration, and then it always takes a while to get back in the zone.

The thing is that I don't have much confidence in my abilities. I gave up art before GCSE level and while I know that I have some natural talent - I've played Pictionary with people who have none, I definitely have SOME - it's not very well honed and it is quite limited. Drawing cartoony people is fine, but anything more complicated will have me stuck. But the more I do, the more I realise how much I love to do it, and there's nothing like the feeling of sending over a commission and being told it's exactly what was wanted. It's pretty great. It boosts my confidence and makes me realise that I'm not so bad at this drawing lark, and then it makes me want to do more.

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Thursday, 6 August 2015

Recipe: Creamy lemony summer pasta


As much as I'm a champion of the slow cooker at this time of year, I'm also a big fan of a simple pasta dish that takes fifteen minutes to whip together, and this is just that. Oooh, and it's yummy.

I was inspired by a recipe I found recently, and it absolutely paid off. I would never have thought to team lemon and cream cheese, but it works like a dream. I think the trick is not to overdo the lemon - I had a whole lemon ready to go, zest and juice, but opted to put in half and then test the dish and that was the PERFECT amount. I think the whole lot would have overpowered it and taken the lemon taste from 'delightfully subtle' to 'washing up liquid' which you NEVER want.

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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

28 Statement Necklaces


Over Christmas - yep, it still seems like no time ago - Matt and I were emailing each other with gift inspiration. I said I'd quite like a necklace, and gave him an incredibly long and specific list of my requirements. It went something like 'I like dainty jewellery, preferably silver but gold is fine, but not bright gold, ideally an antique or matte gold, and I like birds and hearts and initials but I don't like flowers or sparkle or too much colour. Coloured beads are fine if there's like one but I don't want loads and I don't want painted metal either. Oh, and nothing too chunky or too long.'

I know, it made me feel like a brat. You know when you don't realise you're that fussy until you're asked something like that? Anyway, he did a damn good job, but I then confused him by picking up a necklace on a post-Christmas sales trip that broke almost all my rules. Big, chunky and blue - because the only person who can break the rules is me, after all.

Since then, I've been more and more drawn to chunky necklaces. If you're wearing a plain, high-neck dress, they're just the ticket to jazz it up a bit. A colourful beaded necklace over an LBD can make it look like a completely different garment, and I constantly see stylish women teaming them with white t-shirts and skinny jeans - if I had a figure that suited jeans and a t-shirt, I'd be one of them too. So simple, SO chic. I love you, chunky necklaces!
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The Wicked Lady gastro pub - Wheathampstead, St Albans


When we we attended the Hendrick's Gin Fling a few weeks ago, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon at The Wicked Lady. I'd been before - it's actually one of my mum's favourite pubs, so it's a regular stop for birthday dinners - but as I hadn't been for a while, it was nice to spend some time there, especially on a lovely warm summer's day.

After our gin masterclass, we were treated to a meal by the team at The Wicked Lady, and it was wonderful. It's a true gastro pub, with a huge menu which puts some skilful twists on classics (while doing other classic pub fare really, really well). In my view, it's all about the food here - this isn't a pub that you go to for a few drinks and then grab a burger from at 9pm, this is a place you go to for an excellent meal and maybe stay for a few drinks afterwards. That's not to say that you can't go for just a few drinks and no food, but why WOULD you?

Aaanyway. Let's look at some photos of delicious food, shall we?
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Monday, 3 August 2015

7 burgers, 1 day: The Birthday Burger Crawl


Pop quiz, hotshot. What's the best way to spend your birthday? Did you answer eating all the burgers? Then congratulations! You are correct.

Pub crawls are great, but you know what there aren't enough of? Food crawls. Matt and I decided that a burger crawl was something that needed to exist, so we made it happen. There are so many burgers that we want to try and not enough time to try them all, so dedicating a day to chomping through the best of the best seemed like an excellent idea.

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