Saturday, 30 January 2016

Working It: Home Workouts - Budget and Small Space Fitness!

Hands up who's in full on hibernation mode? Sometimes heading to the gym while it's still dark outside, or going there after work when it's been dark for three hours already is not particularly appealing. Or maybe the gym just isn't your thing - fear not, I've put together my favourite at-home workouts. These are all budget friendly and can be done at any time of the day. As I live in a tiny studio apartment and I figure some of you may have flat mates or live in student accommodation I've also rated them in terms of space and noise - hardcore jumping around isn't really an option when you have neighbours on three side and below you!

1. Yoga With Adrienne

I love these videos - as do a lot of people if you look at the views they clock up! Adrienne's personality shines through and she focuses on all aspects of yoga, not just the phsyical side of it. I do yoga classes regularly and use these videos to supplement my practice and to ensure I get my daily yoga fix. They are suitable for complete beginners, too and whether you have five minutes or a full hour there are so many videos to choose from. You can also pick a need - whether it be a hangover, stress, the winter blues or if you want a chilled bedtime practice. Adrienne feels like an encouraging friend rather than a barking fitness instructor and the videos never fail to make me, in the words of Adrienne, "find what feels good".

Space - if you have room for a yoga mat then you have enough space!

Cost - a yoga mat would be good to have but it's not necessary. They are inexpensive and take up very little room so I would recommend getting one if (like me) you have a hard wooden floor. Tiger has a really nice one at the moment  and TK Maxx had a really good fitness section last time I went.

2. Blogilates

I've been dipping in an out of Cassey's videos for years - there's a huge archive of ones to choose from now and you can pick which body parts to work so if you're new to Blogilates you're definitely in for a treat. I love the ab-focused videos and am always pleasntly surprised with how much harder they are than they first appear to be. Cassey is super cute and very enthusiastic - like Adrienne she brings her personality to the videos although I do find that the chit-chat means that I can only do each one a few times before it gets a bit frustrating!

Space - the mat work videos are perfect for a small space, I'd avoid the HIIT cardio ones in my apartment though!

Cost - again, a yoga mat would be useful but not essential.

3. Fitness Blender

Kelley and Dan are the cutest fitness couple. I love how their videos are really clear and instructive and that they have a very no-frills approach - zero background music and no chit-chat. Sometimes I want zero distractions and a good explanation of how to do a particular move - especially when it comes to weights when there is a lot of scope to go wrong when working out at home. The style is so clean and sometimes this is just what I need (although unlike Adrienne and Cassey you don't feel like you really get to "know" them). The videos are easily searchable and cover a whole spectrum of workouts, from yoga and pilates to hardcore HIIT.

Space - the low impact cardio is perfect for a small space and doesn't make a lot of noise. I love the kettle bell workouts - just make sure you have enough room to swing them!

Cost - the yoga, pilates and low-impact aerobics videos don't need any equiptment. Some workouts do require weights but you can filter these out if you dont have any or look on Amazon for inexpensive ones.

4. Kayla Itsines

Picture from Honestly Fitness
Instagram fitness queen Kayla has recently launched an app (Sweat With Kayla) which guides you through her signature method. The workouts are simple - two seven-minute circuits, each with four workout moves which are done twice each resulting in a 28 minute workout. I was a little sceptical before doing my first circuit but by the end I was seriously sweating - impressive for a workout done in my tiny flat with no equipment! The only downside is that without a video to follow its harder to spot if you may be going wrong, especially if you're not used to some of the moves and I do feel with these that I have to rely on my own motivation - 7 minutes can feel quite long when you're doing burpees and commandos!

Space - I managed to do all three circuits (arms and abs, lower body and full body) in the confines of my flat, even if I did have to improvise a little and use my coffee table as a bench. Some of the moves require jumps so maybe not one to do at 6am...

Cost - the app is free for the first seven days and then is £14.99 per month. I unsubscribed before the trial ended as part of my January frugal kick as with a bit of Google-ing exercises and the timer app on your phone you can re-create the workouts yourself for free (albeit with a less glossy interface). The app lets you share your workouts if that's your thing, take progress pictures and provides meal plans, too. I can see how it would be useful, especially if you commit to the full workout program.


Thursday, 28 January 2016

Salad Secrets - Eat Well Feel Good

This month Florette challenged me to use their new Superfood Salad in a recipe. The superfood salad mix contains baby chard, baby kale, spinach, beetroot and rocket so it's the perfect salad base for getting creative with. As well as being tasty, these leaves are high in Vitamin A which helps the immune system function (vital for this time of year) and Folic Acid which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue (again, a winter essential). The leaves are also a source of Calcium which is great if you don't eat dairy - people seem to think that cow's milk is the only source of calcium but if you don't drink or don't like milk it's still possible to get calcium from a plant-based diet.

Florette sent me a bundle of goodies - I love matcha tea so half this box is already gone and pomegranate morasses seems to crop up in a lot of recipes I've been reading lately so I couldn't wait to try it out myself.

January goodies - how fun does the lemon squeezer look? Ooh, I'm getting excited about kitchen utensils - am I a grown-up now?
I decided to go with a green theme because loading up on greens definitely makes me feel better at this time of year - if the sky is going to insist on being grey then my food can be as colourful as possible (fruits and vegetables, not peanut M&Ms sadly!). I chose a mix of vegetables with different textures, tofu for a source of protein and sunflower seeds for crunch (and Vitamin E to help keep skin healthy against the elements).

Asian-Inspired Superfood Salad (serves 2)

1 bag Florette Superfood Salad
1 small bag each of green peas, broccoli and sugarsnap peas
1 block of basil tofu
Pomegranate molasses, soya sauce and wasabi to dress
Sunflower seeds

Divide the superfood salad leaves between two bowls. Cook the vegetables (I microwaved mine) and add to the salad - toss everything together to warm up the salad and allow the leaves to wilt a little. Slice the tofu thinly and fry in a non-stick pan for two minutes on each side (no need to add oil as the basil tofu is already infused with it). Top the salad with the tofu and make the dressing by mixing the pomegranate molasses, soya sauce and a dash of wasabi paste in a separate dish. Add a final sprinkle of sunflower seeds for a bit of crunch.

The perfect winter lunch - ready in less than ten minutes and packed full of goodness and colour.

Check out the #EatWellFeelGood and #SaladSecrets hashtags on Instagram for more superfood recipe inspiration!


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

From London With Love

London can be hard to love. It's grey and it's expensive and even in the middle of seven million people it can be lonely. 2016 will mark nine years - almost a decade - of living in the capital. The early days of my London romance would be distant memories if Facebook didn't insist on showing me them on an almost daily basis - eliciting the same reaction as when it tells me to say happy birthday to the guy I went on one date with who then both lost his phone and suffered short-term amnesia the day after....

I can no longer pop into Selfridges at 3pm or walk home across Waterloo Bridge at 3am. I know how to pronounce Southwark and six years after jumping into a Regent's Park fountain I'm still relatively healthy. The sparkly novelty of living here has grown into a daily reality of the 9-5 (heh), continued annoyance at the lack of a decent sized supermarket anywhere in Zone 1 and the way my finger too often hovers over my Uber app when, yeah, I probably could make the last tube but I don't really want to. Like a long term relationship, the newness has given way to staying in eating happy-hour Itsu and half-guiltily cancelling date night in favour of Netflix...  I'm obviously not talking about human relationships here (see above paragraph), I just meant that I didn't go to Lumiere because, well, it's a bit cold and I need to talk about Making A Murderer with people I've never met on Twitter...

I've stopped noticing the little things, the quirks and idiosyncrasies that make London...well, London. I've somewhat guiltily let my mind wander on dull afternoons and started thinking about other cities, other places, places that are not London. I've wondered if I'd like to try out another life, another place - my ears pricking up when a friend mentions a friend of a friend who's jacked in the grey for distant shores or when friends share stories of their times in other cities and when Instagram shows me the view from their 50th floor apartment. I start to think about how many boxes I'd need to fit my possessions into...4, 40, 400? And how quickly could I pack up and jet off? And then I stop. Because I don't think I could actually ever leave this city. The one where I've felt more at home than anywhere else. The one that I've run 26 miles through its streets cheered on by people who screamed out my name even though they didn't know me. The one where for a few weeks in 2012 we all became our sparkly best selves and realised how good that felt. The one that will always, somehow, convince me to stay because of all the memories that we've shared and all the ones we are yet to make...

Some snippets of recent wanderings and things that have given me joy:

Spotted in Covent Garden and my John-Lewis-Christmas-advert-hating cold self just melted a little bit.
We do doors well in London. Spotted in Shoreditch.
Hidden side streets which are made for Instagram - Pollock's Toy Museum in Fitzrovia. The streets behind Oxford Circus are remarkably quiet and full of history and fun facts. Many were picked up on the matcha green tea walking tour as we burnt off the calories contained in the matcha treats and exercised our brains, too. 
The Fitzrovia Mural - showing that London life has had the same joys and troubles since 1980. 
Look up when you're passing the Tiger Store at 393 Oxford Street - the Victorian building is topped with a beaver and suddenly the street that I hurry down, avoiding eye contact and inwardly cringing as to why I'm there on a weekend becomes as magical as it did when I was five and on my way to visit my grandfather at Selfridges. 
A happy-looking blue house in Hackney. Slowly working on the parents not having mini heart-attacks every time I mention going to Hackney, Haggerston, Dalston, Brixton etc etc etc because times are changing but the diversity of this city is what makes it so special. 
While most of central becomes a repeating parade of Starbucks - Itsu - Pret - Eat, Neal's Yard retains its hippie roots and is a cheery sight even on a dreary day. 
The Geffrye Museum in Hoxton is a charming way to spend a spare hour. Free entry and an insight into how the middle classes have lived their lives since the 1700s.  
This 1960s flat looks not dissimilar to mine (if I tidied for days and culled a lot of my possessions). Us Londoners at least know how to make an overpriced shoebox stylish...shout out to my old flat where the kitchen was in a cupboard.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Winter City Retreat

A yoga retreat without having to leave London? Oh, ok, January, maybe you're not turning out to be so bad after all... The V-Curious Chef, Rowena Humphreys, has teamed up with yoga instructor Sarah Hunt to offer a city retreat - a two hour yoga and meditation session followed by a delicious plant-based vegan feast. Held in the beautiful Coate Studios in Hackney, the retreat really does feel like a blissful reprieve from London life and from the cold and gloomy winter. The studio is bright and high-ceilinged and unlike my gym yoga classes the relaxed vibes are not ruined by the BodyPump class next door or the knowledge that in precisely 45 minutes you will be thrown back into the real world and the working day stretching before you.

After warming up with a herbal tea, we started the yoga session - the time flew by as Sarah guided us through a mix of meditation, gentle stretches, balances and some more dynamic flowing yoga before ending with a blissful relaxation exercise. I've never done a yoga class with blankets and bolsters before - the mix of these props and the longer class length meant that I had the opportunity to really stretch out my stiff muscles and properly sink into a chilled out state by the end rather than just going through the motions with my body and not properly connecting my breath and my brain. The class allowed me to work at my own level as a regular practitioner of yoga but was also suitable for complete beginners.

After the yoga class, we decamped to the next door dining room to re-fuel. Rowena's food is entirely plant-based and vegan - we started with a warming butternut squash soup topped with cashew cream and roasted chickpeas before tucking into a selection of sharing salads. The salads were delicious and so filling, I really wish I could have eaten more of the Mexican-inspired butternut squash dish as it was just so good. We finished with cacao and date energy balls - the perfect lunchtime sweet treat to provide energy for the rest of the day without a mid-afternoon sugar crash.

Check out Rowena's Eventbrite page for upcoming dates and my review of the V-Curious supperclub here.

winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Herbal tea in a name-labelled mug - love little touches like this.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Blankets and bolsters for a chilled out yoga class.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
The studio is lit by natural light from the huge windows and was scented by the flickering candles dotted about.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Lunch is served!
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Salads, beetroot ravioli and cashew cream - I love sharing dishes at events like these as it definitely helps get conversation flowing between guests when you're sharing food and passing the dishes around. 
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Butternut squash soup with cashew cream and roasted chickpeas.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Mexican-inspired butternut squash salad.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Brown rice topped with seeds.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Asian-Inspired carrot and cucumber ribbons with sesame seeds.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Yum - obviously went in for seconds.
winter city retreat v-curious sarah hunt yoga
Cacao energy balls rolled in coconut flakes for dessert.


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Better Your Breakfast - 3 Easy Ways With Oats + Giveaway

Hands up if you're sticking to your new year's resolutions still? This January has been gloomier than most and I think I can forgive you for not sticking to a juice cleanse or 6am pre-work runs but an easy January fix comes in the form of Flavahan's "Better Your Breakfast" challenge. I've put together three easy oat recipes to help start your day in a delicious way with Flavahan's new Multi Seed Porridge -  a great source of wholegrain, protein and fibre which release energy all morning and stop those Quality Streets that are somehow lingering on in the office from looking appealing at 11am. I've taken international inspiration for my three recipes (all of which are vegan too) because what else defeats the January blues but dreaming of travel, adventure and sunshine...

1. India - Chai Spiced Overnight Oats 

These take ten minutes to prepare the night before and are perfect for busy mornings - make in a tupperware and throw into your bag for an on the go breakfast. I used to love a Starbucks chai latte as a treat but this recipe has that flavour without all the sugar. The sunflower, flax, pumpkin and hempseed in the multi-seed porridge give it extra texture and flavour too.

Here's how - steep a chai teabag (I like Yogi Tea Sweet Chai) in 150ml of hot water for 7 minutes and let it cool. In a bowl mix a quarter of a cup of oats, chopped dried mango, desiccated coconut and a pinch of cinnamon and pour over the cooled tea. Pop in the fridge overnight. In the morning, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk, give a good mix and top with more dried mango and coconut.

2. Japan - Matcha Green Tea Oats

Matcha is packed with antioxidants and after my matcha tour I couldn't resist making a matcha porridge. Matcha contains a natural source of caffeine so it's perfect for sleepy mornings too. I buy my matcha in powder form in a Japanese supermarket but Teapigs sell it online if you can't track it down.

Here's how - in a large bowl mix 1/4 cup of oats, half a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a heaped teaspoon of matcha powder and a few drops of stevia (optional). Microwave for two minutes, stir and microwave for little longer depending on how thick you like your porridge. Top with dark chocolate buttons to add a little indulgence (and because dark chocolate and matcha taste amazing together).

3. USA - Blueberry and Almond Cookies

Cookies for breakfast? Oh yes. These also make a great snack and can be wrapped in foil and transported easily. The original inspiration for these comes from Blogilates.

Here's how - mash a very ripe banana in a bowl with a fork and add a cup of oats. I mixed in almonds and dried blueberries but anything goes! Bake at a medium temperature for 15 minutes, until the oats are turning golden.


For your chance to win Flavahan's Multi Seed Porridge, Flavahan's Organic Porridge, Flavahan'sOriginal and a #BetterYourBreakfast mug then fill in the below form. UK only and the winner will be picked on Wednesday 27th January.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, 18 January 2016

Freauty - Beauty Treatments On Demand

Beauty treatments are a favourite indulgence of mine - I always feel so much better when my hands and feet are looking their best, even in the depths of winter. Freauty makes treating yourself to some well-deserved me-time even easier by letting you book freelance beauty professionals to your home, hotel or office. Whether you are organising a pampering night, a hen do, needing someone to style your hair before a big event or simply are too time-pushed to make it to a salon - Freauty is here for all of your beauty needs.

I had a gel manicure by the lovely Aisha who arrived at my flat at 10am on the dot with a small suitcase of nail polishes and gel lamps. After a quick set up, my nails were treated to a Gelish manicure in my standard red with a glittery accent nail for the party season. I loved the end result - my nails were perfect and I'd not even had to leave my front door and brave the cold. As gels are instantly dry I was free to finish getting ready for my day out, fuss and stress free. The gels were still going strong over two weeks later!

Freauty has now launched an app and if you book via the app with the code LILY20 you will get 20% off your first treatment. The code expires on 18th February 2016 and currently most of the beauty professionals are based in East London so if you're in my neck of the woods then you're in luck!

I've also created a little video of my manicure (first time using iMovie!):

(I was provided with a free treatment in exchange for an honest review)

Friday, 15 January 2016

New Year Blues

Interrupting my own Netflix session of Making A Murderer (just finished episode 3, no spoilers please) for some little thoughts...

"...the blues are because you're getting fat and maybe it's been raining too long; you're just sad, that's all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you're afraid...but you don't know what you're afraid of." Truman Capote, Breakfast At Tiffany's 

Not how I currently look watching Netflix...
It's strange to think that this year is only two weeks old and already it's felt like it's contained enough sadness to last for the whole 52. Christmas feels like a distant memory, the weather is bleak as hell and on a personal and global level bad news has not been in short supply. I've felt strangely unsettled and I don't think its just me - everyone around me seems subdued and sad - and I've felt at a loss as to what to do, what to say, how to acknowledge everything but also "distract myself". I run through my options, things that I've tried before (throwing objects at a wall, chain eating Kit Kats, buying every orange item in Topshop, dancing at 3am in bars that I don't remember the name of) and I know to not even bother because I know they won't work.

Pinterest tells me "this too will pass" and I know that it will but also that things don't always "move on" or are "got over". That moment when bad news reaches you and the sound and colour are sucked out of the room and then come rushing back and it's all too loud and too bright, that feeling is hard to remember exactly but hard to forget completely. Its easy to wish the sad times away but that little quote also slips through my mind in the happy times too. Those times were I feel my heart beating a little too fast and my feet feel like they're permanently a few centimetres off of the ground. Those times don't last either but its harder to acknowledge that that intense joy is transient. Today's Yoga Camp could not have come at a better time (yes I am behind but that doesn't matter).

I don't have any top tips or any answers, I just know that I want to write and organise my thoughts (or at least try to). This is just rambling but rambling is good and sharing and talking are good but sometimes not sharing is good too because tweets and WhatsApps aren't really real. Life isn't running to a script as much as I'd like some stage directions or to be able to flip ahead to the spoilers (ooh would I really do that...?). Dealing with sadness is part of the price we pay for living in this world, for being alive and it's not something you can run from or chomp or smash or dance through. There's always beauty and light somewhere and walking to work this morning the sky looked so unreal, like a painting, that just as I was raising my phone to take a picture I slipped it back into my pocket because just seeing it was all I needed.

Well, back to Netflix I go. My Hello Kitty plushie looks strangely calm considering the number of times I have looked at her and said "what the actual fuck" out loud as if expecting her to confirm that this word is crazy, it always will be. I think I'm only just properly realising that.

"Now the world's got me dizzy again, you'd think after 22 years I'd be used to the spin."
Bright Eyes, Landlocked Blues


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

London: Matcha Walking Tour & Directory

As a lover of all things Japanese I'm already a fan of matcha. Luckily, you don't need to take a trip to Japan to enjoy the vivid green stuff - there are many opportunities to enjoy matcha right here in London. After doing a matcha green tea walking tour I've put together a little black book of matcha at the end of this post and hopefully you'll be inspired to either try matcha in a new form or try it for the first time. It's a totally unique taste - I can't really compare it with anything else but I love it, it reminds me of travels in Japan and it can be naughty (matcha Kit-Kats, cakes, ice creams...) or nice (matcha green tea is super healthy and a natural caffeine fix).

I signed up for the matcha green tea walking tour at the end of last year and it turned out to be the perfect January treat. Yannick was a great guide - as well as an in depth knowledge of matcha and the best places in London to try it, our walk through Fitzrovia and Soho was a chance to learn about hidden corners of the city and snippets of its history which were a revelation even for a seasoned Londoner. It really isn't possible to tire of this city, even on a freezing January day - there's never not going to be an unexplored corner or a new coffee shop to try out (this is why we do this crazy property prices and yes-my-flat-is-the-size-of-a-shoebox thing, am I right?).

Back to the tea, matcha is thought of as a Japanese delicacy but it was actually brought over to Japan from China by a Zen Buddhist monk nearly one thousand years ago. The word matcha literally translates to fine tea (ma = fine, cha = tea) and the production process means that it really does merit its name - it can take three hours to grind just 50g of matcha which explains the high price of this precious green powder. Matcha has many health benefits - it contains ten times the antioxidants of regular green tea and is said to promote good health and long life. Traditionally the powder is mixed with a bamboo whisk and hot water to make a strong tasting, dark green tea but in more recent times patisserie chefs have found it an exiting ingredient to add to their creations for both its colour and flavour (the health benefits from a matcha cheesecake may be dubious though).

I don't want to reveal all of the matcha secrets of the tour because you should definitely go on it - £20 gets you five tastings and a hot drink so it's great value and no two tours will be the same so you may end up trying totally different matcha goodies to the ones I did:

matcha green tea london
A soft matcha cookie from Store Street Espresso as we explored Fitzrovia. A modern take on matcha this still had a really strong, authentic flavour.
matcha green tea london
Matcha cheesecakes in the window of L'Eto, Soho. Matcha is starting to be used in traditional desserts - the colour and the flavour adding a twist to a cheesecake recipe. We didn't sample these on the tour but it was a good photo opportunity!
matcha green tea london
Matcha tea in My Place. Matcha tea has a strong taste but I love it, especially when paired with sweet treats. Matcha lattes made with frothed milk are milder and a good way to introduce yourself to matcha.
matcha green tea london
Matcha Pocky from the Japan Centre outside JP Books on Denman Street. A typical Japanese snack - I loved these as a child! The tour has a mix of Matcha snacks to have on route and ones to take home to enjoy later. 
Matcha Directory

Soho / Fitzrovia - these matcha stops are in walking distance of each other, some were visited on the tour but others are on my list for future matcha cravings...

Store Street Espresso, Store Street - for matcha cookies (pictured above) and pretty matcha lattes

Moba, Charlotte Street - Franco-Vietnamese cafe serving up matcha brownies and a matcha croissant (not open on weekends)

L'eto, Soho - for matcha cheesecake and matcha cookies, a sweet modern take on matcha

Crosstown Donuts, Broadwick Street - for matcha donuts, made every other day (call ahead to check if you're after one!)

My Place, Berwick Street - for matcha lattes and pure matcha teas, the non-matcha lunches looked great, too

Japan Centre, Shaftesbury Avenue - for matcha pocky (pictured above), matcha tea, matcha bakery treats...and all things Japanese in Central London. The Selfridges Food Hall currently had a Taste of Japan exhibition with Pocky, matcha kit kats and traditional Japanese teas.

Rest of London

Eat - the only coffee chain to offer a matcha latte despite Starbucks in other countries doing green tea lattes and frappes!

Le Pain Quotidien - a matcha latte is a new addition to the menu, I love it with almond milk and its served French-style in a cute drinking bowl.

Notes - a matcha madeleine is now on the menu at this small chain.

Tombo, South Kensington - a Japanese cafe if you're visiting the museums here

William Curley, Chelsea - a super high end chocolatier, William's wife is Japanese and has inspired his patisserie to incorporate matcha (I had dessert here five years ago and still dream of it, must go back)

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