Sunday, 22 May 2016

Life Lately - May

Lately I've found weeks almost disappear in the blink of an eye, but I realise there's quite a bit to share with you. May has turned out to be quite a busy month for me. In fact I was a bit sad to miss the Travel Link Up - this months topic was Travel Blogger Problems. (I definitely have some of those). However the other link ups are worth a read. I don't know if you've noticed, but this month I've also had a little freshen up of the blog. What do you think?


Iceland
Back at the beginning of May I went to Iceland with my pocketnannies girls.  We had a wonderful time visiting the Blue Lagoon, exploring Reykjavik and chasing waterfalls. Between us we took so many photos. There's probably a whole post of chatter about Iceland coming soon..


Cafe Fleur 
Do you ever find wonderful places almost on your doorstep, and think why oh why haven't I been here before? Cafe Fleur is very close to me and whilst the eating clean trend continues I decided to pay them a visit. We visited one Sunday afternoon for a late lunch, and there was just one other couple in the whole place. But I can imagine it's usually rather packed. The menu sounded great and I was very torn what to have. I ended up going to the Halloumi Stack which comes with salad. I just can't say no to halloumi.
















Reading.. 
I put Gone Girl down for a few weeks - I wanted something lighter to read. And in just a few sittings I read the Unmumsy Mum. Remember when we had that 'summer' that lasted a few days? I sat in the park and read. Actually talking of books - I signed up for goodreads. I've set myself a '2016 Reading Challenge' to read 10 books. I'm really hoping to beat 10, as I'm currently 2 books ahead of schedule and I do seem to be enjoying the books I've chosen to read so far this year. We just need the sun to come back and I can get back to the park with my book. I've also been reading Runner's World. I never ever thought I'd be reading a running magazine.
















Running..
I'm still running. Yay. This month I celebrated 1 year since I started 'running' well using the Couch to 5K app. You can read about that here. I'm a huge fan of the C25K app and really would recommend it to anyone. I really didn't run at all before. So I'm proof it works. 
I'm so happy that I've continued with my running. I love seeing my achievements on Map my Run and I'm also grateful of the emails I sometimes get telling me I'm 'Sprint Queen' for a certain stretch of my local run. I've also downloaded a 10K training app..... (that's as far as it's got so far)!

Finding the best Ice Cream in London
I'll let you into a secret I think I've found the yummiest ice cream or should I say gelato in London. you can find it at Venchi in Covent Garden. just look for the queue (and be patient, it's totally worth it). There's also another UK location in Hampstead, other wise you'll probably have to book a plane to Italy. Hang on.. there's an idea.
















Flowers 
I'm obsessing over flowers at the moment. Trying to work out what will work best for our wedding, sniffing out the sweet peas amongst the bouquets and also that Wisteria.. need I say more? I realise how much I enjoy Instagram with all those beautiful blossom pictures and the #wisteriahysteria thats been happening lately.
















How is May going for you? What have you got planned?
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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Running | Yas Marina Circuit

It seems rather fitting that I should publish this post today. As the Marathon happened today in London, it marks nearly a year since my running journey began. I can't quite believe it. It all started when I watched some of the Marathon last May. You can read more about my running journey here and here. I'm quite pleased with how I've done personally. But what an incredible sense of achievement those who ran the London Marathon today must be feeling. Well Done!

I've been a little quiet over the past few weeks. That's because we've been on holiday. We spent 8 days in Abu Dhabi - in search of some sun and relaxation time. I sat by the pool and read some good books, but we also got out and explored Abu Dhabi, which we found to be quite different to our beloved Dubai.

Here I will tell you about one of the highlights of our trip - A visit to Yas Marina Circuit. You've probably heard of Yas Marina Circuit. It's one of the most exciting circuits in the Formula 1 calendar. Or so I'm told. 

TrainYas happens on Tuesday evenings, when the track is open to the public. You can train on the circuit for free, whether you want to run, walk or cycle. It's a great opportunity to experience the track and train in a unique environment.

We arrived really early, it's an ongoing trait of ours. The track is heaving with people by the evening. TrainYas kicks off at 6pm. You will need to get to Gate 20 to gain entrance into the complex. There is a shuttle bus to Yas Central, if you're not driving.


Bikes are free to hire, you just need to leave your ID. We arrived early so didn't have to queue for long at all. You can find out more about the scheduling here.

The full Grand Prix track is 5.55km. We cycled around the track twice. I knew those Spin sessions would come in useful someday!

Then I ran. Some of it. I'm used to running 5km these days. But it the heat of the Abu Dhabi evening, it was still around 30°C! (And having just cycled over 10km), It's rather different. I was quite pleased with my efforts of running 3.52km out of the 5.55 track.

 

I did very nearly 2km and then stopped at the Viceroy Hotel for a photos, and a much needed water break. Thats another read thing about TrainYas - there are water stations along the way, so you can help yourself to free water. I haven't come across this sort of thing at home. I'm pretty sure you'd have to pay at least an entrance/participation fee.


TrainYas is brilliantly organised, great fun and if I lived in Abu Dhabi I'd definitely get into a habit of running there. Have you been to Abu Dhabi? Will TrainYas be on your list now?


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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Flotsam & Jetsam

Flotsam & Jetsam often means 'odds & ends' in Maritime Law. Well they say you learn something new everyday. But this cafe is a bit better than just odds & ends, although I love the name, it's very well thought out and decorated with I guess a collection of odds & ends, but it works. There's a slight maritime theme throughout the cafe. It feels cosy and inviting. You can find Flotsam & Jetsam at 4 Bellevue Rd, London SW17 7EQ.



This lovely little spot is relatively new on my radar - The Boy actually mentioned it to me a couple of months ago, and I suddenly remembered it last weekend. We're always looking for a new coffee/ brunch spot to try. Flotsam & Jetsam is actually over a year old. Opps, I'm a little late to the party.



 

Coffee 
We both ordered flat whites. Generally our coffee of choice and seemingly easy to come across these days. The coffee was good - it definitely passed my taste test. I'm finding these days with DECENT coffee I don't have to add sugar. It was strong enough without being bitter. 

Food 

The Boy went for pancakes and I chose smashed avo & feta for myself. I've not actually had the avo and feta combination before, but I can tell you it works perfectly and has given me some good summer salad ideas. It was served with a perfectly poached egg, and just the right amount of chilli. 

The pancakes were good, served with fruit, mascarpone and bacon. The boy tells me that sweet/savoury thing just works! As a vegetarian I can't quite imagine how bacon goes with fruit, but with the other flavour combinations so spot on, I'll go with it. Those pancakes looked good.



As we stood and waited for our table I eyed up the cake - as you do. The Lemon Meringue cake sounded delicious but we were too late for that one - it had all gone! There was also a lovely looking carrot cake. I had a run planned shortly after so I wasn't temped. I'll be back for the cake alone! 

Prices

Everything was very reasonably priced £23.10 in total. The pancakes £7.50 as well as my smashed avocado and £2.70 for a large flat white. 

The service was also lovely, the waitresses were attentive but not intrusive. 





















Check out Flotsam & Jetsam on Instagram and Twitter. Until next time.. x


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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

My week that was.

Since being back from our holiday time seems to have just flown by, so although I wrote this one at the weekend, it's now Wednesday and the week has half gone! I really need time to just slow down a little. Please.

Anyway, this is what I've been up to:

Running.
Last Thursday I did my first evening run since the clocks went back. I was really looking forward to this one. I feel the clock change is almost monumental in my running schedule. It means I can actually run outside of an evening. I can also run home from work if I want to. So I am looking forward to that as well.

Dreaming of next adventures.
I'm lucky enough to have my next trip booked already - at the end of the month I will travel to Iceland with the girls, which is very exciting. Do you have any top Iceland tips for us? But we seem to always be dreaming of the next adventure.. So it's time to start thinking about where the wind will take us in August.

Source

Having a cuppa. 
I was given a lovely box of Ceylon Tea from Sri Lanka, and a beautiful elephant tote bag. So I've been dreaming of Sri Lanka.. I have to say it's damn good tea!


Reading.
Whilst on holiday I enjoyed two books. After You by JoJo Moyes and The Year of Marvellous Ways. As via goodreads I've set myself a reading challenge for 2016. It's to read 10 books, which seems a ridiculously low amount. However I really don't read enough. My next book is Gone Girl. I've already read a few chapters, and can tell I'm going to be hooked. I don't usually read thrillers, so I'm very intrigued to see if I can cope with scary content.


Drinking Coffee. 
There's always a new coffee spot to try and this time we visited Flosam & Jetsam. But there will be more on that later in the week...


Reminiscing about our holiday. 
I've found myself looking back through our holiday snaps, (for blog purposes, and generally dreaming purposes too). One of my favourite photos from the trip is this beautiful sunset which I caught whilst running along The Corniche, Abu Dhabi, one evening.



Have you noticed there seems to be a reoccurring theme? Tea & coffee. Now where's the cake?

How was your week and what have you been up to?


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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Feeling Nordic at Blåbär Putney.

Today was a day I'd looked forward to for a couple of weeks, finally I'd be visiting Blåbär in Putney a visit I'd been waiting patiently for. My friend (S) and I spoke about visiting the new cafe a couple of weeks ago. It's only been open for about a month. I work in Putney so could have easily popped in at any time, but I wanted to save it so that we visited together. I heard about Blåbär by the wonders of Twitter. It's tucked just around the corner from the High Street, Lacy Road in fact. 



Blåbär is rather beautiful - it sells a lot of the items in the cafe even the chairs we were sitting on had nice brown labels on. As well as Nordic design homeware, we spotted SKANDINAVISK candles and diffusers that we came across in Copenhagen. The Hygge candle stood out to us both.

There's something about Nordic countries for us at the moment. We've both just read The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell which just sums things up nicely. From the book we learn a little more about how to Hygge. I also need to note that buying pretty things for the home will help to create a happy Danish-esque feeling. However that doesn't mean spending all ones money on nordic homeware.





As I write this I'm cosied up under a blanket, a candle lit and a steaming cup of tea sit beside me. This is Hygge to my understanding. I was also recently made aware of this
article by The Lux Pad. 

Anyway I digress.. back to the Cafe! Blåbär is set over two floors with the counter at the back, and shop area downstairs there are a few places to sit downstairs including a window seat, and some outdoor seating. During our visit the seats downstairs were taken so we went upstairs.


We ordered our lunch straight away. We both went for avocado and seeds on rye bread, with a cinnamon bun, a flat white for me and a hot chocolate for S. Per person this was £9.75 which I thought was good for the quality of the food. To be quite honest I found the coffee rather strong but that's just personal taste. S said her hot chocolate was lovely. I probably should have gone for a cappuccino. But there's always next time...



A little sign by the Cinnamon buns says 'Best in Putney probably'. Probably! No, I can assure you. Definitely. These are not like any other cinnamon bun you may eat in Putney. And I'm quite partial to a pastry. These cinnamon buns are fresh, doughy (and I mean that in a good way) and cinnamon-y. They have a lovely fresh flavour to them, and almost melt in the mouth. Ps. Note the lovely plates that everything comes served on.

Upstairs could easily be your living room,
a girl can dream! There are lots of stylish things to buy. But it's a very relaxed atmosphere. We stayed in our window seat (on our expensive chairs) for rather a while and at no point did we feel hurried. The staff are polite, attentive, and bring your order to you. You can help yourself to cucumber infused water. The atmosphere is laid back with music playing (think Walter Mitty soundtrack), Nordic or Icelandic tunes and you won't be far off. Perfect.




I love that you don't need a mirror because... 




I'm really growing to like the Nordic way of thinking. It's no wonder Denmark is the worlds happiest country. 

Check out Blåbär on Twitter and Instagram. Otherwise, well, you'll just have to go and see for yourself...
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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

March Travel Linkup - Your Greatest Adventure

It's travel link up time again. This time the topic is 'Your Greatest Adventure'. Which I'm actually finding really hard to narrow it down. The more I think about some of my trips the more I think 'that's my biggest adventure to date'.
It started in 2006. That's when I caught the travelling bug. I travelled to India as part of a group of Girl Guides. I had the most incredible time, and at the age of 18 experienced a lot of amazing things. I helped paint a refuge for women and children in Pune. We spend time learning about the Indian culture at one of the Girl Guiding world centres. We took part in Bollywood dancing, laughing yoga and a homevisit with a local family. After our time in Pune We then visited the Golden Triangle; Jaipur, Agra and Delhi (in that order)! 
We took a sleeper train journey from Pune to Jaipur, which was an experience in itself - taking 26 hours due to some delays. I remember 'sleeping' on the top bunk, hearing 'chai, chai, chai' as the tea seller moved up and down the train, and some sort of deep fried curry sandwich for breakfast! We explored Jaipur, the pink city where we rode elephants at the Red Fort and saw the 'Water Palace;, or Jal Mahal. 
Then it was onto Agra, I was lucky enough to visit the Taj Mahal and see it at dawn and dusk, which I'd highly recommend. It really does take your breath away. When you walk through the archway and faced with the famous white building. I even queued to sit on the bench that Princess Diana sat on all those years before. It must be a very different photographic experience now the selfie (and stick, is such a thing) I also went to the cinema to watch a Bollywood movie - it was called Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and it was 3 hours 13 minutes long. I cried. The audience clapped and cheered, it was all a little bit different to your average cinema trip in the UK. Just writing this post is making me want to go back to India to share some more Bollywood dreams with The Boy, to experience the culture and food that India has to offer. Perhaps that was my biggest adventure yet..



But then there's New Zealand... We had 8 days in New Zealand, by no means enough days at all. However it was a once in a life time opportunities. I flew out with a family, so had my flights paid for. And then The Boy and I paid for his flight. We explored the North island. Auckland was our first stop, and a great city. We then visited places like the Coromandel which I read about in Kelly's latest post. (It brought back so many memories, and probably why I'm writing this now, thanks Kelly)! We also visited Rotarua, the set of of Lord of the Rings and W
aitomo glowworm caves.

Driving around in a camper van, means this was probably our biggest adventure yet.. never had we slept in the back of a vehicle, driven an automatic or navigated the coastal roads of NZ.



But then the adventure really began.. at we sat waiting to board our plane home (eventually to London). We were told to hang on.. and as it turns out we weren't able to travel home until 10 days time. Cue panic and tears, I had studies to get back to, the Boy a job. What are we going to do...
Grab it with both hands and enjoy it that's what we finally persuaded ourselves.
The following day after being put up in a hotel by Emirates we were told the next available flight would be in 10 days. It was all due to the Icelandic volcano. Thanks Eyjafjallajökull for giving us 10 more days of New Zealand. 10 more days of memories. An extended trip.
I'm not going to lie it was a bit worrying we'd spent most of our NZ dollars.  We'd handed back the keys to our Camper. We didn't quite know what to do...  But then we realised that's why we have an emergency credit card! Cue friend of a colleague, who agreed to put us up for a while. We jumped on a train to Wellington as fast as we could. Another city to explore - wonderful. A spot of working on their vineyard to earn our keep. We had the most wonderful time. Learning about wine making and sampling some too.
We even made it to the South Island which as we were so close I decided we had to do. We visited the lovely little town of Picton. After a ferry journey from Wellington. Wellington is a great city, we enjoyed the cable car. The harbour and the museum of New Zealand 'Te Papa'
Soon it was time to start heading back to Auckland this time we took a bus to Naiper, to try some more wine (this is Hawkes Bay) and then back towards Auckland to get a plane back to the UK. Wow. What an adventure. We've promised ourselves that one day we will return to New Zealand and do the South Island properly...
One day... She says day-dreaming. I think it's what they call Wanderlust!
There's been plenty of other adventures along the way, but I'll save those stories for another day. 
Here's to the next set of adventures too...

How to link up your post:
Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st - 7th March 2016), add it to the linkup widget found on Angie's, Jessi's Emma's or Andrea's blog from the 1st.
As ever there are no real rules – basically all we ask is that you
  • Check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up
  • Tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love
  • Make a few comments here and there. 
It really is a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging joy!
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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Afternoon Tea | Sketch

Last weekend I went to Sketch for Afternoon Tea, it's been one that was on my list for a while, and everyones heard about the snazzy toilets, right? So lets take a little look at the Afternoon Tea. We arrived into a dark hallway decorated with some interesting art installations. We dropped our coats off at the cloakroom (what a good idea) and from there we went through to The Gallery. A very interesting Pink room adorned with even more interesting artwork.



We were taken to our table and handed our menus, I was given a vegetarian/vegan menu (take note)! Having allowed ample time to peruse the menu before our waiter came back to introduce himself as our waiter for the afternoon (take note). He proceeded to take our order, firstly asking if we would like drinks. We asked for some tap water, to which he rolled his eyes! Considering we were paying at least  £45 per person and there were 4 of us, I think this is rather rude and unprofessional. We ordered our teas, Lemon and Ginger and Darjeeling 2nd Flush featured as well as Earl Grey. 

We ordered 1 vegetarian Afternoon Tea with sparkling grape juice, and 3 Champagne Afternoon Teas (take note)! Scrap that we were paying £57 for 3 of our teas. Pardon us for asking for tap water with our Afternoon Tea. Hmm...

Moving on, our champagne and sparkling grape juice soon arrived, and was poured beautifully by a man whose job it was to serve the champagne, perhaps his job title is Chief Champagne Pourer. The only time I have quite seen it done like this is at The Burj al Arab Afternoon Tea, I think. Beautifully done, Mr Chief Champagne Pourer. Our teas also soon arrived, in quirky teapots and cups to match. Teapots of Ghosts, milk jugs with Dreams and cups staying Forget About It. 















Soon our Afternoon Tea stands arrived. There was some confusion with the teas, I'd not been brought my separate Vegetarian Tea, despite booking this when we made the original booking, being handed the Vegetarian menu, and clearly ordering it. After much confusion and questioning a poor waitress corrected the mistake and brought me my Afternoon Tea. (Hooray). In the mean time we didn't see the original waiter who had introduced himself as our waiter for the afternoon. Perhaps our request of tap water was too much for him to handle... :-/
















Onto the food: There was a lovely selection of sandwiches and sweets.  The sandwiches I enjoyed most were the posh cheese toastie and to my surprise the blueberry and spinach sandwich, which was rather interesting. The pastries were good, my favourite being the passionfruit tart and the sketch chocolate bar, and the little chocolate tart. 

The scones followed after... I think we may have eaten the pastries first, before we placed our orders 2 plain scones and 2 fruit scones. We had THE scone discussion or debate as two of the girls said they'd been swayed by the Cornish way of preparing your scone. Thats right jam first and then clotted cream. Wow. Well I decided to be bold and give it a try, as if I hadn't before. I'm a Devon girl (Well Somerset really, but Devon is closer)! I find putting the jam on first ends up in a mess on top of your scone and in the pots of both jam and cream. I also find that putting on the clotted cream first acts a little bit like butter, and you would never put jam and then butter on your toast. Would you?


Anyway moving swiftly on...(to more cake) We were then offered yet more cake either chocolate and raspberry cake or lemon meringue. Both of which were rather lovely. I have to say I really enjoyed the food. I came away feeling very satisfied but not stupidly stuffed, which is what I usually feel like. Maybe I've learnt to pace myself.












Overall I enjoyed our Afternoon at Sketch; the food was good, the service however was rather haphazard, as I have pointed out. We were also charged (on our initial bill) for 5 teas, I understand there was confusion with the order of our Teas however there were only 4 people at the table! The atmosphere of the Gallery was good, although the lighting isn't great for photography, so I'm afraid my photos aren't great. 

And if you did wonder about the toilets... they are rather interesting.







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