christmas eve in london town

Slow Roast Kid and Mince Tart at 40 Maltby Street

Borough Market

Sunset over Green Park

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park

Christmas lights of London

Mulled Cider at The Garrison

Merry Christmas everyone!



Amazon Kindle

I was very hesitant about jumping on the Kindle bandwagon. S offered to buy me one for my birthday a couple of times, but I refused. I love books. I love the feel of them, I love the smell of them, and I agree that nothing can replace the experience of reading words printed on paper. But with our trip approaching, I realised that lugging four months' worth of books around in my backpack simply wasn't feasible. Plus, as I learnt on our backpacking trip around Europe, books in English are hard to come by (except for high quality reads like Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, which is awesome, and I may have read, rather compulsively, the entire series while we travelled around Europe).

So I succumbed and bought a Kindle. And I love it. A lot. It's easy to use, the words look like they're printed on paper, it remains the same weight no matter how many pages the book has, what's not to love? You can buy books with one click from Amazon's Kindle Store and they magically appear on your Kindle; it's very dangerous. I think I bought about 18 books before my Kindle even arrived and I have about 10 on my Wish List. I bought my Kindle a lighted cover so I can read when we're camping on the Inca Trail or on a beach in Colombia. I think the Kindle may be the most useful purchase I've made for this trip (the woollen undies are a very close second). There's something very comforting about having all your books with you wherever you go.


east london treasures

Hackney City Farm
Columbia Road flowers and buskers
The Bridge, Shoreditch. Get a hot chocolate with lots of cream and head upstairs to this amazing space

Here are some pictures of what I wish I was doing this weekend. Instead we'll be packing our bags for South America and getting our flat ready to be packed up and moved.

I've spent a lot of time in East London in the 6 months we've been back from Ireland. Sometimes I think it would be fun to move there when we get back to London next year so I could spend more time discovering all the wonderful treasures it has to offer, but I'm a North London girl at heart (and way too unhip for East London). It's a pretty cool place to visit though.


sandra juto's wrist worms

Sandra and her wrist worms

I love love love Sandra Juto's wrist worms. They're the best thing ever on cold days; I've been wearing mine every day since October. I have 2.5 pairs (I lost one, it was very upsetting) and I've gifted a pair to almost every member of my family and my friends. Sandra crochets her wrist worms and they're made out of 100% wool or merino wool (there are non-wool pairs too), so they keep your hands super toasty and warm. There are so many colours, patterns and wool thicknesses available, it makes choosing a pair very difficult. I have the original wrist worms in grey and the tweed wrist worms in beige (you can see me in my wrist worms here), but almost every week I see a new pair that I really want. If I was doing Christmas presents this year, I'd be buying wrist worms in bulk.


stand up

I'm struggling to form coherent sentences at the moment, let alone entire blog posts. Instead I will leave you with Michael McIntyre. I'm a big fan of his - I love the way he finds hilarity in everyday life. On Monday I got to see him live at his Christmas Charity Show at the Hammersmith Apollo. It was such a fun night. The comedians were brilliant (especially Jack Whitehall); Ronan, Alexandra Burke and Kelly Jones sang for us; and Michael McIntyre entertained us all night long. Laughter really is the best medicine.



Glee makes me gleeful. Happy Friday!


riding house cafe

I'm afraid I won't really be getting into the Christmas spirit this year. We fly to Buenos Aires on Christmas day and we have to be moved out of our flat before then. Our weekends in December will be spent getting packed up and ready to go instead of shopping for Christmas presents (I'm not complaining that much). Last weekend we sorted through all our crap stuff and filled three big rubbish bags with clothes and spare electrical cables (thanks Sky), which we donated to the Hospice charity shop. We did manage to squeeze in brunch with my friend from Dublin at the Riding House Cafe (and chocolate tasting and a walk in Hampstead Heath. Hm, maybe it wasn't such a bad weekend after all). It's just not the weekend without brunch.

I'd been to the Riding House Cafe once before for dinner. It was a really fun night, and after reading this review I was pretty keen to try the brunch menu. The Riding House Cafe is buzzy but relaxed, and the service is great. I love the atmosphere they've created with the reclaimed wooden furniture, exposed brick, industrial lighting and the colourful shots of aqua everywhere. I started with a loose leave breakfast tea (real tea is surprisingly hard to find in England) and the PB & J(!) smoothie served in a glass milk bottle with a straw. I was delighted.

Because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, we ordered two breakfasts each. Not excessive at all. We started with sweet and moved onto savoury. I couldn't go past the Strawberries and Poached Pear with granola and Greek yoghurt. It was my ideal breakfast, and look at how pretty it was! For my second breakfast I had a perfectly poached egg on toast. S had the Chorizo Hash Browns, which he felt could have done with some more time on a hot frying pan. My Dublin friend had the Eggs Benedict, which tasted as good as it looks. We left with our stomach's bursting, feeling totally satisfied and ready to tackle the task of filling bags for charity. Brunch really is the best way to kick off the weekend.


a walk in the heath

Hampstead Heath is one of my favourite places in London. There's always so much beauty to be found, even on a winter's day as bleak as the one we had on Sunday.

*the bottom 4 photos were taken by S


cocoa bijoux

A chocolate shop called Cocoa Bijoux has recently opened in dangerous proximity to our house. The shop is owned by Stuart Daniel and is an absolute joy to visit. It's a cosy, colourful space and everything is displayed in a very appealing way. The counter is lined with beautiful handcrafted chocolates and the glass bon bon jars are overflowing with truffles. It's my idea of heaven.

The real joy though is the chance to talk to Stuart about his love affair with chocolate. He's always more than happy to chat about his chocolate, about the kind he uses and what makes it taste so good. His enthusiasm is catching and it's hard to resist when he offers you chocolate after chocolate to sample. On one of our visits we asked him about his chili chocolates and told him that we preferred our chocolate dark. He called us "chocolate connoisseurs". I was so flattered, because if there's anything worth knowing about, it's clearly chocolate.

Stuart is seriously passionate about his craft and it shows in the decadent works of art he creates. The salt caramel truffles and pieces of pineapple covered in dark chili chocolate are pretty amazing, but my favourite has to be the kir royale truffle. Milk chocolate filled with kir royale and coated in a tangy cassis powder; it's to die for. S loves the grand marnier truffles and the orange rinds coated in dark chocolate. There are so many to choose from. Next time I'll be trying the Christmassy chocolates made with mulled wine.

On our last visit we tried Cocoa Bijoux's famous hot chocolate, which is made by melting the finest dark and milk chocolate flakes into a hot, rich, thick and creamy drink. It's a very indulgent treat that is just perfect for these winter days.


banana, cherry and white chocolate muffins

I couldn't go past the recipe for Banana, Cherry and White Chocolate Cupcakes in Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess without wanting to bake them immediately. Just look at what they're called! (Nigella calls them cupcakes, but they're definitely muffins.) All that yumminess in one muffin is very hard to say no to. And these muffins really are as good as they sound. The sour cream makes them deliciously moist and balances out the sweetness of the banana and white chocolate. They're one of my favourite things to bake on the weekend because they're so easy to make. The muffins are a guaranteed crowd pleaser too, even S likes them. 

Banana, Cherry and White Chocolate Muffins (makes 12 large muffins)
From How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

I normally double the amount of chocolate and dried cherries that Nigella uses. They're obviously the best bits and these muffins can definitely handle having extra. You can also substitute the cherries for other dried fruit you might have on hand. I've found dried cranberries make the muffins nice and tart. Raisins work too.

125g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas
60 ml (4 tablespoons) sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
300g plain flour
40g dried cherries, chopped (I use 80g)
50g white chocolate, chopped, or buttons (I use 100g)

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, vanilla and soft bananas, mashing them with a fork in the pan. Stir in the sour cream and the eggs and beat to mix. Add the bicarb and the baking powder, and stir in as well, then finally stir in the flour, cherries and chocolate.
When the mixture's just blended, divide between the 12 muffin cases and cook for 20 minutes or until golden and springy on top. Remove the muffins to a wire rack and leave to cool.