Friday, 27 February 2015

Modern Calligraphy at Quill London

One of my 2015 resolutions was to take up a hobby. Easier said than done when you work long hours and are training for a marathon so when Sarah came across Quill London's modern calligraphy classes we signed ourselves up for an afternoon of learning a new skill.

The class was held in the Blacksmith and Toffeemaker pub near Angel - a bright and airy space set up for an afternoon of quill work. All of the equipment is provided along with coffee and cake to fuel the creativity. Our teach was Chiara from Lamplighter London who taught us how to get started with the basics and build up to flowing phrases - making it look oh-so-easy!

The three hours flew by and by the end of the class everyone was a lot more confident with their quills - some people definitely seemed to be naturals at creating beautiful flowing script but, like everything in life, practice really does make perfect and I think everyone could master this in time. We left with ink and quills ready to keep up our new found skills!

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy WorkshopQuill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop


Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Quill London Mordern Calligraphy Workshop

Have you tried anything new in 2015?
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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Working It - Boom Cycle

On my mission of trying out different gym classes, last week I headed to my first Boom Cycle class - I actually went to two because I loved the first one so much! Boom is not super new on the London fitness scene but it's a still a new concept for us Brits - a dedicated "spin gym" with classes throughout the day modeled on the likes of NYC's Soulcycle.



Boom is not your usual spin class - the music is super loud and the room super dark, it really does feel like a disco on bikes. Boom devotes skip around in bright leggings and cropped tops and the vibe is cool but super friendly - the classes I went to both seemed to be a mix of regulars and newbies. I attended a Thursday evening class at Holborn and a Sunday morning class at Shoreditch. Both were so much fun, the time just flew by with the music and motivation of the instructors- especially impressive considering that Sunday's class was 75 minutes long (yes, I was super sweaty afterwards)!

Boom offers complimentary towels and Ren products in the showers as well as GHDs for post-spin styling. The studios are simply styled but bright and full of cute touches like a jar of free hairbands and motivational quotes on chalkboards. The Holborn branch has a cafe which sells post-workout shakes and there are themed nights including "Girls Night Spin" which sounds like a far better way to spend a Friday night than queuing for over-priced drinks along with everyone else in London as well as dedicated hip hop and R&B sessions.

Booking is all done online - Boom is not cheap but there's a beginner offer of 3 classes for £20 and a package would be perfect for a birthday or Christmas gift. Both of the classes I went to were super intense workouts so I think it's worth it (some gym memberships in London are £100 per month and half the people probably don't even go). If you need any more motivation, Bangs is one of the instructors and despite seeing how sweaty the people leaving her class were I still want to go to one soon!
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Monday, 23 February 2015

Party Like It's 1979

Last weekend I had a little house-warming for my very little house. I can't really have a "party" because my entire flat is basically one room and my neighbours are allergic to noise (and I have spent quite a bit on decorating and live in fear of spilled drinks) so an indoor Sunday picnic was in order. My flat was built in the 1970s and I've kept the theme up with my decor, so obviously the party had a 1970s spin too:

1970s party food
1970s cutlery.
1970s party food
Floor picnic because I don't have a table.
1970s party food
Cheese and pineapple on coloured cocktail sticks. Why did this ever go away - it's so good (and possible to make in the tiniest of kitchens).
1970s party food
All the retro sweet things I could find.
1970s party food
Angel Delight and mandarin orange segments.
Just add chit-chat and lots of (not very 1970s) Diet Coke. Having friends round almost makes me feel like a real "welcome to my crib" grown-up, even if we're sitting on the floor eating off of paper plates!
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Friday, 20 February 2015

Review: Lunch at Dishoom

What better to warm up on a cold day than some Indian comfort food? I first visited Dishoom a couple of summers ago and loved the Indian-Persian style food. Two Sunday's in a row were spend having lunch at the Kings Cross branch for Sophie's birthday and the Shoreditch branch with my parents. You can read about breakfast at the Shoreditch Dishoom here.

Dishoom review
The menu is based on sharing dishes (shock horror for fussy only child here).
Dishoom review
Sarah and I shared the Dishoom calamari which was perfectly crisp.
Dishoom review
Elodie, Hannah and Sophie ordered some sharing dishes.
Dishoom review
I had the Rajma-Chawal - a vegetarian curry served over rice. This definitely warmed me up - I was still feeling cold after a morning run along the Thames, brr!
The Kings Cross branch is enormous - the decor is really nice, it looks authentically Indian without looking like a traditional Indian restaurant. The loos are definitely worth a visit and our waiter was super friendly and went to great lengths answering my questions about whether certain dishes contained onion (I said I was fussy...).

Visit two and my parent's and I opted for our own dishes rather than sharing (they are not only children so maybe it's just a family trait not to share food?). We did share the calamari and okra fries though! Again, our waiter was really helpful in suggesting which dishes to order - I love it when servers actually know about the food they are serving. We had a 2pm booking and the restaurant was packed the entire time we were there - they do take bookings and I'd definitely recommend making one on the weekend.

Dishoom review
Okra fries - can I count these towards my 5-a-day?
Dishoom review
Mummy Lipstick had the Dishoom Chicken Tikka.
Dishoom review
Daddy Lipstick had Chicken Ruby and a side of rice.
Dishoom review
I had the Paneer Roll which was so good - not too spicy and super filling.
We skipped dessert in favour of a wander around Shoreditch while it was still light. My parents loved the old buildings and street art but were slightly bemused that people were going into Cargo at 5pm (and that they were they being searched on entry - oh, London!).

Have you been to Dishoom? 

Square Meal
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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Workwear v Wednesday Adams

After working for almost three and a half years workwear has gone from "ooh, pretty grown up dresses because this is going to be just like 'Suits'" to "what can look decent after being shoved in my gym bag, still look decent after a twelve-hour day, and, most importantly, doesn't need dry cleaning or ironing?" Oh, to be a grown up!

Black velvet dress
Black velvet dress
Velvet Dress - M&S (now sold out) but ASOS have a beautiful (possibly NSFW depending on where you work) one here.

I've had a bit of a workwear revamp lately because, while I may not be in Suits, I still want to look nice and despite sometimes bemoaning my "business casual" dress code (no, I'm not entirely sure what it means either), I do feel more ready for the day when I'm wearing something that's smart but also still "me". We have a monthly dress-down Friday and I just feel a little bit less productive in a skater dress and flats (and that's about as dressed down as I'm prepared to go). This dress makes me feel a bit Wednesday Adams - the cold weather can make even a die-hard lover of primary colours reach for the black - and a bit like a child going to a fifth birthday party. Pushing myself even further into real grown-up territory, I went back and bought it in navy too.
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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Pancake Day Recipe - Healthy and Gluten Free

If there's one day in February that I can wholeheartedly support it's Pancake Day. As a child I would have a pancake feast of savory pancakes filled with tuna and sweetcorn (dipped in plenty of ketchup) followed up with sweet pancakes topped with lemon and sugar. These days the former do not appeal that much and the later could be made a little healthier - the pancakes were made from a packet mix or were pre-bought (my mother and I share our lack of domestic skills sadly!).

This year I'll be whipping up pancakes for one (clearly my Valentine's post did not win me any dates) which are super tasty and also gluten free and low calorie while still being covered in chocolate sauce. These pancakes are so healthy that there's definitely no need to give them up for Lent. My recipe is inspired by the Blogilates two ingredient pancake which now seems to be all over the internet in various guises.

For my take you will need:

Vegan banana pancakes

1 banana (that you bought a few days ago and have left to ripen)
2 egg whites (I use "two chicks" which is available in Waitrose and saves the hassle and yuck of separating eggs)
A spoon of cacao powder (not cocoa powder - available from Wholefoods or Holland and Barratt)
Cacao nibs (I got mine in TK Maxx of all places)
And some unpictured coconut oil

I find it helpful to lay out all the ingredients Blue Peter-style before I start. Coconut oil is full of healthy fats and cacao is the super healthy variety of cocoa - it's packed with antioxidants and has a much stronger flavour than cocoa so you don't need to use much at all. The cacao nibs are like sugar free, unprocessed chocolate chips - they have a strong flavour so a small sprinkle is all you need. If you can't get hold of these ingredients then you can cook the pancakes in 1 calorie spray oil which is what I used to do before discovering coconut oil and you can top with fresh fruit like raspberries or blueberries which is also a delicious way to eat these pancakes.

Vegan banana pancakes

Firstly, make the chocolate sauce. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave and had a few drops to your cacao powder, mix and keep adding drop by drop until you have a smooth sauce. If the sauce starts to harden just pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds.

Next make your pancake batter - mash the banana with a fork and mix in the two egg whites (two tablespoons if using the pre-bought egg whites). Heat a frying pan and add some coconut oil. Dollop in the pancake batter (I sprinkled with some optional chia seeds - another superfood high in fibre and protein) and cook for around 2 minutes.

Vegan banana pancakes

My tossing skills are not very good so I opted for rolling the pancakes instead (much easier and less likely to create an awful mess). My batter made three 5-inch diameter pancakes. Place each cooked pancake on a sheet of kitchen paper and once all are done, pop back in the frying pan for 30 seconds to warm through.

Vegan banana pancakes

Serve with some banana slices, a drizzle of chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of cacao nibs.

Vegan banana pancakes

The chocolate sauce hardens on cold foods and stays runny on hot foods. It's perfect also for topping healthy ice creams, porridge or just drizzling over fruit. I also make healthy hot chocolates by mixing the sauce with hot almond milk - its a great way to get a chocolate fix without sugar and nasty additives. 

Vegan banana pancakes

Instagram and sit back and enjoy!

Will you be making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday?

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Afternoon Tea and Art at The Wallace Collection

Afternoon tea is one of the best ways to spend a freezing Saturday afternoon but in London it can be a bit of a hit to your bank account as well as your diet attempts. My friends and I headed to the Wallace Collection with the promise of an affordable afternoon tea served with a side of fine arts. Despite having done my fair share of galleries and museums as a student this was my first visit to the Wallace Collection (I'm not a huge fan of fine arts but the decor alone here is worth seeing) - it is located in a beautiful square just behind Selfridges and entry is free.

The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
 A beautiful building - outside and inside. Shame about the weather.
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
"One sure is craving a scone".
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
Our table is set.
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
The restaurant feels like being outside - minus the bitter cold.
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
Tea and bubbles. The sandwiches were the traditional finger kind - I loved the smoked salmon and cream cheese the most and please tell me that afternoon tea is the only time when anyone actually eats a cucumber sandwich?
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
Lemon meringue tarts, chocolate cherry mousse cake and white chocolate "something". Our waiter didn't explain what anything was and the menu just promises "cakes" - they were all nice so no complaints!
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
Instagram-worthy.
The Wallce Collection afternoon tea
Scone and jam = insulation against the bitter winter, right?
At £19 each (£25 with bubbles) this tea is really good value. The setting is bright and airy and a wander around the gallery afterwards was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon (I also managed a wander around Selfridges too - hard life!). The food was all good - the sandwiches were the traditional varieties with the option to have a vegetarian selection, the scones were lovely - we got a mix of plain and raisin so there may be some haggling if you're not a raisin fan! The chocolate and cherry cake was the highlight - while the rest of the food was nice this was ah-mazing. It had a really unusual flavour and tasted so decadent. There are no re-fills but that's to be expected for this price - it works out as four finger sandwiches, one scone and three mini cakes per person. Service was quick and friendly although it was busy and my re-fill of tea never made it to the table (the restaurant was a little chilly and I could have done with another pot to warm me up).

If you're looking for a traditional but affordable tea somewhere central than this is a great choice - I'm filing it under "places to take visitors to London" as the location is perfect. The gallery shut at 5pm so we didn't see all of the rooms so that's an excuse to go back, as is the carrot cake I saw being eaten on the next table!


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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Slim-Fast Challenge Revisited

A few of you have been asking how my Slim-Fast challenge has been going so I thought I'd do a quick update. The three weeks of the Slim-Fast challenge are now over and I'm pleased to say that I stuck to the plan and did lose some weight!

Slim-Fast diet review
Mocha shake for breakfast.
I found week days easy as my working routine made it simple to stick to the plan and eat healthy meals. Weekends were harder - especially as at this time of year social plans tend to revolve around food. I did let myself have a few weekend treats in aid of my social life and sanity but still lost 6 pounds overall - I'm really pleased with that as it's made a huge difference to how I feel and I did it without feeling hungry, irritable and without missing out on some of Sophie's baking!

I'm definitely going to keep up with healthy weeks and a few weekend treats as it shows that you don't need to cut out anything to lose weight, it's just about balance and not eating naughty foods too often. After a weekend of eating more indulgently I'm now ready to eat well again on Mondays rather than thinking that I've "ruined everything" and might as well eat all the cakes in the office.

I'd definitely consider doing the Slim-Fast plan again if I had a special event like a holiday or wedding coming up - it definitely makes life easy as there's no planning required or working out calories for all your meals. I didn't find that I felt hungry at all but as the bars and shakes were all cold it might be easier to do in the summer - I am definitely enjoying having soups and porridge again! I also found that I craved savory food and veggies for my main meal as taking these out of two of your meals can make it a bit of a challenge to get your 5-a-day - I think that's why I'd only do this again for a week or so as there were definitely days when I didn't eat as much fresh fruit and veg as I would have liked.

Weight loss tips for busy girls:

1. If you're preparing food yourself download MyFitnessPal to calculate the calories - 600 calories is a lot if you use it wisely and this app is so helpful. Work out what the correct portions are as it's easy to end up eating more than the recommended "serving size". The app also has information on a lot of chain restaurants and I know a lot of people who have found it so helpful in losing weight and staying on track.

2. If you're out and about a lot at meal times (like me) then these are my favourite healthy destinations - there's no excuse to eat something unhealthy just because you're busy:

- Pret - if you're London based then Prets are on every corner. I love the spinach and egg snack pot (100 calories), the sweet potato quinoa rice pot is the perfect hot lunch (432 calories) and for breakfast I love the dairy and gluten free five grain porridge (204 calories).

- Pod - Pod's menu is so healthy and nutritious and all of the foods have a calorie count. I love the salmon detox box (289 calories) and the smoked Moroccan chicken energy pot (388 calories) for lunches and the superfood scrambled eggs (367 calories) for breakfast.

-Pizza Express - Pizza Express has been offering low calorie options for years and it's definitely a great idea if (like me) you end up eating out a lot. The Leggera pizzas have 500 calories and the Leggera sorbet is so good.

3. Carry snacks with you. Another easy tip that will avoid wasting calories and money on snack foods. I used to try to avoid snacking but found that a small snack (100 calories) mid-morning and mid-afternoon actually helped my energy levels and stopped me getting to the point of eat-all-the-food hunger. My favourite snacks:

- Propercorn popcorn (90 - 120 calories per bag depending on the flavour) and perfect for a Netflix snack

- Nakd bars are my favourite snack bar and are around 100 calories and one of your 5-a-day

- Slim-Fasts snacks are handbag sized - the heavenly chocolate delight snack bar is so good if you're after a chocolate fix.

4. Keep a journal. Back when I first started dieting I did this and found it so effective. I got complacent and stopped but since I've started keeping a journal of my food and exercise I've definitely been able to track progress and feel more accountable. 

5. Make it fun - get your friends involved, cook healthy food together or go to a workout class together. Look up healthy new recipes to make (I'm always so inspired by Laura's blog) and plan in occasional treats to keep yourself sane. If you do slip up then just get back on track as soon as you can and don't beat yourself up about it - it happens and one bad meal is not going to undo all your good work.

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