2 August 2016

Getting my Craft on at the Viking Arty Party!

Recently Viking, the all powerful stationary company, invited me to a craft event, aka the Viking Arty Party. If you follow me over on instagram (lookie here) you'll see amongst the many photos of food, peonies and London, I also like to practice what some call 'modern' calligraphy. This basically means I can't do pretty traditional calligraphy letters so I ad lib (see unicorn cat, Albus Severus Potter and Riding Dirty as reference). So when Viking Stationery asked if I'd like to come to their crafty event where we'd be learning some traditional calligraphy (as well as block printing and mindful origami) I was super excited.

I was not super excited when on the day of the event my main manfriend, Dan, tried to help me get my stuff together and dropped my camera on the floor to which it semi-luckily fell lens side down, smashing the lens to pieces (insert thumbs up emoji here). On the plus side my camera body was fine, on the downside the most expensive and only short lens I own was not. This leads me on to my next tangent, never have I loved my mum more. Since I left home (a wee 8 years ago), my mum never ever comes to visit without giving us something, which is really thoughtful and normally always involves cheese (you can take the Swiss out of Switzerland...) which I obviously love. However, we live in a tiny one bed flat (standard London grade 1 style) with zero to zero storage space and often I have to say thanks mum for the 'make your own beer kit', 'humongus python skin' or 'bag full of beads and shells' (genuine gifts my mum has tried to give me...the python skin was my Great Grandads) but no thanks. Anyway luckily for me, my mum almost always 'forgets' to take the stuff with her, so it ends up in the cupboard of doom (the only storage we have in the flat) which is where I found the old film canon camera my mum gave me 3 years ago which had a detachable short lens. 

I'm pretty sure the lens hadn't been used since we left the Falklands and as such it really needs a good clean! However, for a last minute 'Oh my God you broke my camera' replacement lens it worked well enough, don't you think? Anyway rushing to the Viking Arty Party, I had 0 time to eat anything before I got there but was rewarded with tea, pastries and the prettiest space ever. Like if my flat is Grade 1 London, Lumiere London is a 10. The hallway is deceptive as it's slightly shabby entrance leads you up to a space which is opulently gorgeous (#housegoals). 

13 July 2016

'We Make Many Graffiti' - Reykjavik Street Art

'We make many graffiti'
Anonymous Icelander

In an unusual twist of blogging today, this post is going to have considerably less waffle in it. That's not to say I'm not going to write two/three/maybe four paragraphs on Iceland graffiti, get sidetracked and tall about something else, constantly make reference to Harry Potter at every opportunity (I'M GOING TO SEE HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and use an unnecessary amount of punctuation. I'm just going to do slightly less of this than I would in my usual blog posts...because I'll be writing really my writing will not improve in any way, shape or form (this is going to be a good post, I feel it). 

If you've been following my blog you'll know this is my third (but not last) post on our (my manfriend, Dan, and I) trip to Iceland. For parts one and two, see here (apartment tour and our visit to Reykjavik) and here (Icelandic food on any budget and the best hot dogs you'll ever have). You know what parts one and two reminds me of? Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which, I may not have mentioned, I'm going to this week (!!!!HARRY!!!! [this punctuation is getting out of hand]) with my dear friend and fellow Potter fanatic, Sophie (she also bakes alot and blogs about it over here). Anyway to quote the famous anonymous Icelander, the people of Iceland make many graffiti and it is wonderful. I love graffiti, for my high school art A level (several moons ago) my projects were covered in spray paint and stencils, that is chicken theme was against battery farming which I took very seriously...I even got a pet chicken (Kiki) who I would sketch in the garden as she attacked our dog (she ruled the roost...apologies). Anyway I digress, I've always loved graffiti, it's publicly available, can speak powerful messages or just be for fun, I like how it fits into it's environment, how it's not permanent and most importantly it's so diverse. Graffiti isn't just a word sprayed on to the side of a building, it doesn't even need to be painted, it could be made out of tiles, stickered or even knitted. Anyway graffiti can be awesome, it can also be offensive and normally always is illegal. Except in Iceland, they commission graffiti artists to create art everywhere. And I mean everywhere.  

By the time I've finished this post, some of the graffiti that I've photographed won't be in Iceland anymore. It might have been destroyed or painted over but hey that's part of it's charm. This post is mostly photos of the graffiti I saw in Reykjavik but I'll point out a few streets/area which are definitely worth visiting if you want to hunt down the many graffiti of Iceland (as the Icelander said, they make many). The Laugavegur is the main street that runs across Reykjavik, here you'll find lots of shops and restaurants including the amazing Sandholt Bakari (those cakes!), quite a lot of the shops have commissioned graffiti on the front and side of them, my favourite was the black, white and gold valkyrie by Caratoes,who we saw painting it when we were there in October. Parallel to this street is the Hverfisgata, this street has a lot more graffiti than the Laugavegur, but you need to keep your eyes peeled for it, it's mostly hidden round the back of buildings and car parks, the best was a series of sepia painted photos from a scrap book by Ernest Zacharevic that took up the entire side of a house, beautifully eerie, this piece really spoke to me. Down town is also an area not to be missed, there's not so much specific streets I would recommend but just walk around and make sure you look up. Deih's spaceman who's cosmos is pouring out of his face into pools of galaxies was incredible. And finally there was the road our apartment and, more importantly, Reykjavik Roasters, was on; Njálsgata. If I'm deeply honest, my favourite on our little road was the feeder pillar sprouting weeds and grass up it's front, it's simple but I liked the idea of bringing nature into such an urban object (another A level art theme). Anyway my ramble is coming to an end (stay tuned for the final paragraph...) but wherever you go in Reykjavik you're bound to see some beautiful and inspiring street art, see below for a snapshot of the ones we saw and fell in love with. 

8 June 2016

Burning Down the House, Ink, London

 'Burn everything and anything, and it tastes better; leeks, onions, the house [burning down the house!]'

Martyn Meid or Tom Jones...not a direct quote...

About 2 years ago now, I was invited to a blogging event that changed my life (big claim here, it's going to get emotional guys, grab the tissues). The event was held by Miele and it was a chef's table with Martyn Meid, the Nordic genius who burns everything (EVERYTHING) he can get his hands on. What I thought was a big blogging event turned out to be an intimate 9 course tasting menu for seven of us. It's one of the best events I've ever been to, the food was amazing, the atmosphere was really great and I had such a fun night. This in itself doesn't make the event life changing, but meeting Sophie and Frankie, definitely does. We speak to each other everyday, I hang out with Sophie more than any of my other friends and I definitely know more about both of them than I should. Anyway from meeting these two gals at the Miele event, I never thought we would be so close. 

Becoming friends with Sophie and Frankie has opened us up to meeting more bloggers that we'd never met before. We're all grown women and we live in the digital age (urgh I sound so old, who says 'the digital age'...I think my boyfriend's dad does...) but meeting people through the internet can be scary and you should definitely be cautious. We play it safe by meeting new people together, so if one of us meets a blogger that they think is cool or someone approaches one of us and says hey let's hang out (this mostly happens to Frankie...she has one of those faces), then we'll meet them as a group rather than one on one. It just makes it feel safer for everyone, the new person knows you're not a psycho because they're meeting you with another blogger as well, and in the reverse if the new person is a weirdo you're a lot safer with your friends. That being said people invest a lot of time into blogging and I think you could tell from a personal blog if a blogger isn't who they say they are (it's difficult to get so many pictures of the same girl eating a burger in different clothes without actually being that girl), plus you know we've yet to meet any weirdos. I've made some really great friends this way too; Persephone alongside Sophie is one of my closest friends, she's the kindest person you'll ever meet and us all together with our manfriends/P's fiancé make a good little dozen for hanging out (they're getting hitched in November, and Sophie and I are making their wedding cake [ok it's brownies but, you know, still a cake!], which I am super excited about and cannot wait for them to tie the knot), Gianni is the not-so-crazy cat lady with a talent for penning short stories and the best laugh you'll ever hear, Hannah is hilarious and I really can't say anything else without being explicit, Mike is cool and I'm not just saying that because we have the same taste in music I mean he also knows where to get the best burgers in town (not exclusively London town either, I think you could tell him a city and he'd tell you where to eat), Emma is my food twin and the adventurer I wish I was (check out her latest trip to Vienna here), and then there's Lauren, a real sweetheart with the best fashion sense. 

That was completely off topic but I just wanted to show you what could happen from spending the night enjoying the food of Martyn Meid. Since that event and probably every time Sophie and I get together we always talk about how great the food was that night, so much so that  my manfriend, Dan, asked if we could go to Martyn Meid's restaurant, Ink, for his birthday. A night of great food and the possibility of a second life changing experience quickly settled me booking a table for two at Ink in Bethnal Green, for the 72 hour tasting menu after all it's not everyday your young man turns 11 (first Harry Potter reference of the post...Dan's not really 11). What's a 72 hour tasting menu? Well you tell Martyn 72 hours before your booking that you want to try that menu and he creates a 7 course tasting menu for you (without any food you dislike at your request) for £72 per person with a glass of wine per course. This has got to be the best price I've ever had for a tasting menu in London with wine, I'd even go so far to say it was one of the best tasting menus we've ever had (definitely up there with those we tried in Reykjavik, see post here, and our London favourite, Pollen Street Social, which was ridiculously expensive but one of the best meals of my life). The first challenge of the night, was trying to find Ink, unless you know where it is it's really quite difficult to locate, Frankie had been before and told me it was in an estate so we were prepared but we didn't know it was actually right in the middle of the estate. If you follow the canal from Bethnal Green you'll eventually get to some blocks of flats/offices and Ink is nestled on the end of one overlooking the canal. I really hope they get a good amount of traffic, because the food and atmosphere are excellent, but the location probably isn't somewhere you'd look to find a restaurant. 

5 May 2016

Feeling Homey with Uncommon Goods

Something I haven't mentioned on this blog before is how me and my manfriend, Dan, are currently saving to buy a house/flat/shed/whatever we can afford in London (stop the front page). We've been together just shy of 8 years and I really want a place that is ours. As a bit of a DIY diva, for every flat we've rented I've dreamed about how we could improve it. This normally involves tearing down false walls, ripping up carpet and painting walls. Basically if you can't do it in a rented property, I want to do it. Unfortunately, I don't think our landlord would be too impressed if I went all DIY SOS (daytime tv anyone) on the flat. So we've made do and tried to make it our own while shaking off that university home style. You know what that is. Uni style is basically when you amass an array of mismatch items that just don't go together, pint glasses from your local appear in your cupboards (stop it guys you're breaking the 10 commandments) and things you find when you're drunk suddenly become wall art in your living room (aka the foam finger of this post, excuse the terrible photography, highway signs and magazine cuttings bluetacked to your wall). 

Recently we've been having a lot of dinner parties and having people round (if any potential future guests are thinking of bringing a gift to our next dinner party see here) so I've been conducting my usual spring clean, and throwing out all the old uni homeware and replacing it with a more adult, collected but still kooky (I sound like my mum) Scandinavia theme. It was about this time that Uncommon Goods, a Brooklyn based company that sells designer, handcrafted and unique homeware and gifts, contacted me and asked if I'd like to include some of their items in our flat update. Would I? That's rhetorical, of course I would. Dan has essentially banned me from buying anything house related (to which I have not listened to at all) under the guise of what if it doesn't go in the new house? What if we spend our whole lives saving for a house and we never get one or the new wardrobe we desperately need because our current one is falling apart, what if that happens?  Anyway back to the point, Dan said no to buying stuff but if I'm being sent it does that count? I quickly justified to myself that it was a no, and said sure thing to Tom from Uncommon Goods, keeping Dan fully in the dark till it arrived and I asked him to pick something up from the post office. 

The gig was up when he picked up the parcel covered with some cool branding for Uncommon Goods promoting their charity scheme (they've donated over $1 million to charities worldwide!) and saying it had travelled all the way from Brooklyn in the USA. Rumbled, I quickly unpackaged it to reveal a variety of homely items to which he replied 'only you would ask for glasses with cats on'. I disagree, I think there's a huge market out there for cat-themed goods and it's not just cat ladies it's guys do (although saying it's not just ladies have you seen this cat lipstick by Paul and Joe???? I'm in love). Uncommon Goods  sell more than just unique and hand-crafted products, they're selling goods that fundamentally are ecofriendly, and free from animal and human cruelty. In a world which is, unfortunately, still full of shops selling products created with pollution, slave labour and animal cruelty, I guess the question is why aren't you buying from Uncommon Goods. Essentially it's a way to feel good about shopping. Not only are you buying items you love, you've also helping to support charities that help sexual abuse survivors, provide victims of war with the means to provide for themselves and save the forests all in one purchase (how many people can say that!). 

14 April 2016

Eat Like an Icelander in Reykjavik on Any Budget!

If you've seen my previous post on Reykjavik (see here) you'll know we stayed in a self-catered apartment through airbnb (apartment's listed here if you're a nosey parker) and we got hold of a lot of local produce that we cooked ourselves and ate in with a couple of Icelandic beers. However, we also went and ate out at least once a day, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. So I thought I'd compile a list of the places I'd recommend you visit if you want to eat out in Iceland. I've broken this down into food to go, casual dining and eating out like the fancy pants that you are, for ease of use. A quick note on food in Iceland; it's not as expensive as everyone says it is. Alcohol is a different matter (think London prices if not a little more for everything bar wine which is more like three times the price) but food itself is really reasonable. We ate at two really fancy restaurants for dinner, opting for their taster menus, and I think each meal cost us £65 per person which for me is beyond reasonable for 7+ courses considering you're looking at a minimum of £100 in the UK.

We didn't have a bad meal in Iceland, maybe part of this is because I research everything food related in the nearest 100 miles of where we're staying before we go away but I think a huge part is related to the quality of the food in Reykjavik.

If you're going self-catered and would prefer to cook in your apartment there's lots of great bakeries and a couple of butchers that you can go and grab some local produce from, which are all reasonably priced. Fruits and vegetables wise, if it has to be imported, it's going to be more expensive. However, Iceland grow a huge array of their own vegetables and fruits now, which is pretty cool when you think it snows for a lot of the year. We got all our fruit and veg from Bónus, which is Iceland's budget supermarket and the only one within walking distance of the apartment we were staying at. Things to try in Iceland are definitely their skyr (the thickest creamiest yogurt ever), their jams (this sounds like a weird one, but Iceland have a lot of unique berries so have a browse) and their lamb (if you're a meatasaurus like me, it's very reasonably priced and absolutely delicious)!

It's worth noting, you can't buy alcohol from general stores so either bring it with you, stock up in duty free, prepare to spend big bucks on it going out, or have a detox cleanse and go booze free. We bought about 4 bottles of wine with us and picked up a couple in duty free in Iceland, for the 8 days we were there. We didn't drink them all but it was nice to have the option of having a drink at our apartment first before going out.

11 April 2016

Cider Crumble Cake with Rhubarb & Waddlegoose Cyder

I'm a hot house plant. I'm not one for sitting outdoors in the cold, indoors is where I thrive. Don't get me wrong I love the winter, hosting big dinner parties eating baked cheese (like this yummy Comte fondue), drinking hot chocolate while snuggled up on the sofa in my pyjamas, thick woolly socks and hidden under blankets while watching the latest episode of something awesome (currently rewatching season two of the OC for my Summer fix), and of course if you wrap me up in multiple layers (coats, hats, the whole shebang) I'll be the first to make (and instantly regret making) a snow angel before running inside for a glass of mulled wine. But Summer, Summer is my time. I'm not going to lie I win at Summer. I just do. It helps that all my European blood (Swiss/Italian/Excellence...I'm sorry I'll stop soon) has made me able to withstand the hot Summer temperatures, my love of food and easy cooking has given me great BBQing skills, and I excel at ALL Summer activities (sunbathing, swimming, sunbathing etc. [you get the idea]).

So yeah it's fair to say I'm looking forward to Summer. And I'm starting to see it coming round the corner. Rhubarb, probably my favourite and most underrated Summer fruit (or is it a vegetable? who apparently), has started appearing weekly in our local green grocers, and my mum recently gave me a huge hall from her little garden. My favourite peonies are appearing in Columbia Road Market, a sure sign Summer is almost upon us, and as such my boyfriend is overdosing on hayfever tablets. And of course there's my ultimate favourite Summer place, beer gardens. Beer gardens are upping their game, planting flowers, getting the umbrellas out, I even went to one with a BBQ the other day; combining all my loves. Grabbing a chilled pint of cider and sitting outside is looking pretty darn tempting right about now.

I've always been a cider and ale gal. I grew up in the Falklands where home brewing (of a sort) was pretty common, and since we moved to England I've always worked in cider and ale pubs (secretly/not so secretly being a bar maid was probably one of my favourite jobs, the people, the atmosphere, it's a good laugh). So when Aspall got in contact with me about sampling some of their new brand of cider Waddlegoose Cyder (find more information and where to purchase here), me and, to a larger extent, my mum jumped at the chance. My mum's actually the biggest cider fiend I know, and Aspall is her FAVOURITE British cider, no jokes, she's obsessed! She actually gets a bit snobby if a pub doesn't sell Aspalls, which is a bit much but there we go, she's a lady who knows what she likes.

24 March 2016

Egg Wars: A New Yolk

I wanted an epic name for this Easter egg review, I think this fits. I debated about Game of Eggs - Easter is Coming and Lord of the Eggs - The Fellowship of the Egg, and Dan suggested Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Eggskaban, but in truth I'm so excited for Star Wars to come to DVD in May (SO EXCITED) there was only one real option. Why was an epic title needed? Because this is the battle of the Easter chocolate, an egg to egg if you will. I'd very generously been sent an Easter Egg from the chocolate Gods, Lindt,who I've collaborated with before to bring recipes like Blueberry Cheesecake Brownies and Dark Chocolate and Malbec No-churn Ice Cream into existence. And the lovely Bettys had also sent me a couple of Easter goodies to try.

When I found out Bettys was sending me some treats I was so excited, just to put that excitement in perspective it wasn't that dissimilar to my feelings about Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming out. This might sound a bit over the top, but let's take trip down memory lane to when I was 17 (yesterday...) and got my first actual paycheck working for a butchers as opposed to, you know, the dreaded cash in hand £3 an hour wage. What did I do with said first paycheck? I took my mum out for afternoon tea at Bettys Tea Room in York. It was perfect. Apart from you know my Swiss and Falkland Island roots, the dark side of my family is from Yorkshire. Last weekend my mum and her boyfriend came up to visit us and she bought up our trip to Bettys, it's nice that some days (ok several years) on we can still talk about how good their cornflower tea is. Having sampled some of Bettya chocolate they sent me, plans are definitely in the works for making a return visit!

So as the most spoilt girl this South side of London, let's crack on with this Egg comparison shall we (the puns run all the way through this post, I can only apologise for any emotional damage caused)?