Tag Archives: food

New York, New York

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My time in New York was one of my favourite parts of the trip, partly because it was the first time I’d seen Jack in 3 months, but also just because New York is fabulous. Okay, so we stayed in a dodgy area in Harlem where people ate rice out of woks on the pavement and someone found a rats head in their Popeyes chicken, but hey it was a 20 minute subway ride to central NYC and we didn’t have any bad experiences there. Apart from that time we thought a crazy man with a bong was going to kill us on the train. Harlem-based drama aside, I absolutely loved the feel of New York. The impression you get of NYC is busy and fast-paced so I was expecting it to be similar to London, but it differed in a lot of ways. The trains weren’t as overcrowded, the streets were wider which made the city feel less claustrophobic, and the people were friendly. Our first few days were disgustingly humid which meant we had to return to our apartment (with limited air-con) twice a day to shower and change, but after that it cooled down to a lovely September temperature.

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Obviously one of the best things about NYC is the abundance of food and drinks available. We had quite a variety of food, from fast food like the Shake Shack to rustic meals in Little Italy to $1 pizza slices (most days for dinner, gotta save that dolla). We also had great snacks like Emack & Bolio’s ice cream, Dough’s donuts and Levain cookies. Oh wow all of the foods. You’d think with the wealth of food offered we would try new things all the time, which we did, but I still had to take Jack to good old Denny’s. You can’t beat a $4 breakfast and their yummy frappes.

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One of our greatest food discoveries were garlic knots; obviously we knew they existed but they are everywhere in New York and so great! Our first experience was at Stay Classy, a Will Ferrel themed bar, where a customer brought some in and shared them around. They probably tasted better because they were free, but also covered in cheese and omg soooo good. That bar was great in so many ways, Will Ferrel films playing everywhere, Will Ferrel quotes for cocktails, and a peanut butter chocolate flavoured Guinness that I had in a carbomb. Oh wow. Terrible idea when only eaten garlic knots but I could not say no to that one. The waitress became our best friend as we inhaled Whale’s Vaginas and Whore Islands at the bar until closing time.

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We found a lot of good places simply by exploring different areas within Manhattan. We were drawn to the meatpacking district because of the rooftop bar at Le Bain, but we didn’t stay long as it was ridiculously overpriced and pretentious. We were actually made to give up our seats because we had moved them and ‘it didn’t please the aesthetics’. However, leaving Le Bain led us to the discovery of a fantastic little bar called Gaslight. We bagged a sofa, ordered plentiful wines and garlic knots (obviously), and danced all night long to the great tunes provided by the resident DJ.

Half Paddy’s Day fell whilst we were in New York so we decided to do an Irish pub crawl of sorts, starting at your standard sawdust-on-the-floor pub then moving on to a pub with a live band and enjoying their rendition of Wagon Wheel. We then discovered a three-story bar with horrendous Karaoke in the basement, so moved next door to a small pub where the bartender gave us multiple mysterious shots. Unfortunately on this particular occasion our assumption that trains ran all night appeared to be untrue, so we spent about 3 hours in the subway station (most likely sleeping at some point) before giving up and sitting on the pavement. It took us a ridiculously long time to realise we should just order an uber… must have been perfectly happy on that pavement at 7am. Oh yeah.

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Central Park is obviously a must-see, must-do in New York. We went twice – once for a picnic where we observed a first date which was excellent people watching, and once to cycle around. The lanes are so confusing we ended up cycling in the wrong direction for a significant amount of time, but we saw some lovely views of the lake and got our workout in the humidity!

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We explored Greenwich Village, saw the friends building and had scrummy brunch. We did the standard sightseeing activities and went up the Empire State building and Rockafeller Centre, as well as taking the trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We walked around Brooklyn, mainly Williamsburg, and decided it was a great place and we should stay there next time. Sadly we were hungover so didn’t experience the many pubs and bars on offer, but we saw some very cool shops and had a great Thai curry.

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As well as general exploring and a LOT of walking, we did a few activities. One was the sunset river cruise, where we stood on a boat with drinks and music whilst it toured around the harbour offering sunset views of the statue of liberty, Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was such a lovely experience and the music was great, especially when they played ‘New York, New York’ as we went under the Brooklyn Bridge – bit of a movie moment!

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I also wanted to get tickets for us to see a sporting event so had booked basketball tickets a month previously. It wasn’t until later that I realised the game was women’s basketball… Typical Joy error! However it actually turned out to be great, it was cheaper and we still got the experience of a game at Madison Square Garden and all the ridiculous American traditions that brings. The build up to the game was hilarious: flames, disco balls, emotional versions of the national anthem, and multiple entertainment performances. At half time they brought out an over-50s hip hop group that performed a routine that was slightly scarring… Of course we had to get a hot dog and beer (at $12 a beer not sure it was worth it but hey novelty) and we wore our NY Liberty T-shirts home, cos y’know, we’re longstanding fans and all that.

Unfortunately we did experience a newsworthy crisis whilst in New York… The one time we went to Chelsea happened to be about 15 minutes after the bomb went off there. We emerged from the subway to see massive amounts of police, helicopters, all the roads cordoned off and of course crowds everywhere. As we had no WiFi it took us a while to figure out what had happened, and we woke up the next morning to lots of worried messages! If we had left a little bit earlier who knows what would have happened, but luckily we were safe!

Ten days seems like a long time to spend in one place, but New York is so full of things to do and places to explore that I could have spent longer! I want my next visit to coincide with Christmas-time excitement and festive cheer, even if it is freezing!

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My Attempt At Not Being A Kitchen Failure

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428434_10152760803035251_1236947972_n As much as I love cooking and baking and good food and dinner parties and thinking about food ALL THE TIME, I’m not the biggest success in the kitchen. Sure, I’ve made some yummy dinners and my chocolate chip cookies are pretty damn fabulous, but for every cooking attempt that turns out okay I probably have ten fails. A few notable examples…

  • The red velvet cake that volcanoed all over the oven while I got distracted by the ‘oh it will only take 5 minutes’ survey man at the door. Thirty five minutes is not an acceptable amount of time to ask me what channel I watch the news on and ruin my cake.
  • That time I tried to empty the dishwasher hungover with a blanket over me, cracked a plate on the side, and gave up on life so left a pile of crockery in the middle of the kitchen floor.
  • The shepherds pie that we maybe accidentally dribbled in and then covered it up with 5 tablespoons of cinnamon so it tasted like Christmas.
  • The brookies… as inspired as my efforts were in combining two of the best desserts, these were just not good. Cookie + brownie = shit non-cake weirdly shaped thing.
  • The 3 plates and cafetiere I broke by repeatedly dropping things on them. Whoever gave me the cupboard above the draining board made a terrible mistake.
  • The time we spilt cereal everywhere and then smashed eggs on the floor.
  • The multiple multiple spillages caused by my clumsy self, never learning that if you place a bowl of soup on the arm of a chair with a throw on it and then sit down, it will fall on you.
  • The many oven gloves I’ve burnt on the hob, and saucepans I’ve melted.
  • The carbonara we made with yoghurt because some fancy recipe told us to and it curdled so we ate weird lumps of dairy produce with our pasta.

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Wow, there were more than I thought. You get the idea. I am probably the epitome of a kitchen failure. So as part of my ‘trying to be healthy’ thing (on the weekdays obvs, ain’t no stopping me inhaling dominos and curries after a night of wine and gin.. all the calories) I thought I would try deliciously Ella’s recipe for energy bites. Or as I like to call them, balls. Because that is what they are. And what’s a day at work without an innuendo about eating someone’s balls. The recipe involves some pricey ingredients (being healthy is no easy feat for someone who spends all the money on alcohols), but absolutely no cooking or baking at all. So basically no opportunity for me to fail. Famous last words..

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Having gathered my medjool dates, almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, ground flaxseed, coconut oil and cacao powder, I proceeded to combine said ingredients in the blender. Turns out our blender is an absolute pile of rubbish poo. No matter how I tried to manipulate it the damn blade just refused to blend my nuts. How rude of it. After much frustration I resorted to my backup plan, the hand blender. (I’m sure using a hand blender inside a blender is against all sorts of health and safety regulations but at this point I had no cares). This was even more of a disaster. I ended up spinning ingredients around so they flew out of the blender and into my hair. And across the entire kitchen. The result = I resorted to the old fashioned hands. Get stuck in there, that’s the way to do it. There may be many lumps of nuts still present, but they only add character. I ended up with ball shaped things with all the ingredients, therefore I am success.

You would think the endless amount of fails I perform in the kitchen would discourage me from cooking-related activity, but I just love food too much to let this put me off. The foods I make may look questionable but if the end result is edible, it’s probably worth the breakages and spillages and ridiculous antics that occur in the process.

25 Things About 24-Year-Old Me

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At the end of last year I reflected on a list I had made (on Facebook notes, asif that was a thing) when I was 18, entitled 25 things about me. It was quite hilarious, very cringe and completely me. Now I’m almost half way through 24-year-old-ness I thought it might be fun to come up with 25 things about me and see how they’ve changed (chances are not much…):

1. I’m secretly a bit of a gangsta, getting low to 90s hip hop is one of my favourite pastimes.

2. I love eating good foods and believe all social occasions should be centred around meals. Fajita nights just cannot be equalled.

3. I also love baking but I’m actually quite bad at it. Exhibit A: brookies. Exhibit B: cake that volcano erupted all over the oven. Let’s blame my inherent kitchen failure nature.

4. I wish I could play guitar and be in one of those edgy cool girl bands that don’t exist.

5. I choose to surround myself with people who match my weirdness and find my quirks hilarious rather than judging them.

6. Life is too short not to stay up until 6am on the weekend when you’re having all the fun.

7. I can’t not buy anything with elephants on.

8. I love the way yoga makes you forget about life’s business.

9. I wish I could genuinely meditate.

10. I should probably live in a country where I can eat falafels everyday and have all the bohemian materials and decors.

11. I spend all the moneys on holidays and festivals. My future self will most likely resent this, but present self doesn’t care. Summer ❤️

12. I like making videos, probably a bit too much. Who doesn’t love re-watching their most drunken moments?

13. Vodka makes me forget my life.

14. I’ve adopted a tradition of getting piercings to celebrate things. Let’s hope I don’t have too many more celebrations as the remaining piercing areas don’t seem particularly appealing..

15. I don’t like the lord of the rings. I’m sorry, I tried. I’m just a Harry Potter gal through and through.

16. I am a major nerd when it comes to sporcle quizzes on Harry Potter and Friends.

17. Ross is the best friends character and I can’t believe I haven’t realised this until now. L-o-v-e love.

18. I wish I could simultaneously travel the world and stay in London with all my fabulous friends. Both these things would make my heart happy.

19. I suffer from a serious case of word vomit. I will often impart far too much information and weirdness to new people.

20. I’m still a child. I love nothing more than playing games, laughing all day at nothing in particular, and being as silly and ridiculous as possible.

21. My sister and I will never be too old for doing hand clapping things as we walk and taking surprise ugly face photos.

22. Dimples and cable knit jumpers are the one 👌

23. I am apparently gangly in nature and have been compared to the blow up man that flails in the wind outside car warehouses.

24. I am always actually the drunkest. This is probably due to my love of doing all the shots. Luckily I am a happy drunk (you might say perfect) so I like to think being the drunkest just adds hilarity to my friends lives.

25. I am always the hostess. I will never stop being that person that throws all the house parties and BBQs and dinners and film nights and tea mornings and dominoes afternoons.

I’ve just read through my 18-year-old self again and there is a freakish amount of similarity. I might be in a different stage of life but the things that make me ‘me’ have not changed much at all. I’m still a weirdo who loves Harry Potter, doing childish things and throwing all the parties. Loving life.

All I Want for Christmas is Christmas

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I’m a bit appalled with myself that I haven’t written anything on here about Christmas yet. Me, the person who is so Christmassy I started spreading Christmas cheer at work in early November. December is always so busy that aside from a general festive feeling I haven’t been able to do as many Christmassy activities as I would like. London is abundant with winter wonderlands, ice rinks, and Christmas markets so it’s a shame to miss out on all the opportunities for a mulled wine and a german sausage. I did have one sausage at the Southbank Christmas market along with a mulled cider which was very enjoyable. It’s already Christmas Eve tomorrow and there is now no more time for running around London attempting to tick off every exciting Christmas pop up there is. So I thought I’d formulate a list of MY favourite things about Christmas. They may not be entirely conventional but they are the things that give me that warm fuzzy elfy feeling:

Family

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Absolutely my favourite Christmas aspect is being with my family. Yes, cringe, but there’s something about having all of us together that brings out the crazy and wonderful and hilarious in us.

Christmas Eve

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Going to bed before midnight on Christmas Eve and pretending you don’t know there’s a stocking full of presents at the end of your bed and waking up ultra-early acting surprised. And opening said stockings all together before going downstairs to wake up the parents and open more presents. Yes, this may sound like the story of a 10-year-old child’s Christmas Eve, but it remains to this day the way we do it. Don’t know what all this talk about getting drunk at the pub is, I’ll be cosied up asleep before Santa comes.

Food

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Food, food and food. And alcohols. Smoked salmon and scrambled egg brunch, chocolate all day, more stuffing than meat, pigs in blankets, sprouts (has to be done), then Christmas pudding AND mince pie. Then food coma on the sofa (or more likely the floor). I see Baileys as a Christmas drink but after all the food the idea of creamy liquor is slightly sickening so we usually go for Disaronno in egg cups. And all the red wine, leading us to inevitably fall asleep in front of Downton Abbey.

Boxing Day Traditions

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The standard post-Christmas-food-belly walk, and the murder mystery dinner. I would imagine most families try to do some sort of outdoor activity on Boxing Day after a cabin-fever-inducing day of indulgence, and we are no exception. Generally we walk around Virginia Water (where they filmed the Harry Potter lake scene), take lots of splendid posey winter photos, and end with a hot chocolate in the pub. The day is almost always that perfect crisp, blue sky, chilly-but-cosy English weather which makes it all the more beaut. The murder mystery may be slightly less normal for a Boxing Day tradition but I think it’s a fabulous way to end the day; we dress up and pretend to be outrageous characters whilst eating even more food and accusing each other of murder. Jolly times.

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Board Games

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One of the main things I associate with Christmas is playing board games. My family are board game fanatics at the best of times so Christmastime is an excuse to play even more – standard games like Cranium and Pictionary, as well as not so standard ones like The Great Railway Game and Harry Potter Cluedo. Can we also just note the naked Santa in the background of this photo please.

Harry Potter

Speaking of Harry Potter, Harry Potter. The films may have almost nothing to do with Christmas (except for our favourite Ron-line: “pie?”) but being a Harry Potter loving household, the films are always on at Christmas time. And once we’ve watched one, we end up watching another and another until we realise it’s almost New Years and we should probably do something with our lives.

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Pie?

Having a beach bod just isn’t worth the lack of biscuits

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One of the most prominent things at the forefront of our minds this time of year is getting that all important beach bod in the lead up to summer. And associated beach holidays. The sun has barely peeped out from behind the English clouds, yet we become obsessed with healthy eating and exercise routines and all sorts of emerging alternative methods for slimming down and toning up. But is this nightmare we put ourselves through really worth it? Chances are we won’t get around to starting any sort of healthy routine until it’s inevitably too late to make a difference anyway. So why all the fuss for such little success?

Personally, I was feeling sluggish after the long winter and thought aspiring towards a beach bod would give me a good goal, get me off the sofa, and hopefully be a step towards healthy living. So I signed up for bikram yoga. I made plans to go on regular runs. I started a 30 day abs youtube challenge. I planned to cut out sugar, caffeine, fast food; I even went as far as researching which fruits were unhealthy. Surely all fruits are healthy?! Seriously, this was almost as bad as the time I decided to eat only brown rice for 2 weeks (let’s not go into the ramifications of that silly idea). The first few days I was energised and revitalised, constantly reassuring myself that this was a great plan and I was going to feel amazing.

As you can probably imagine, it didn’t last much longer than that. I promptly gave up regular running after realising that I spent my whole day dreading the evening run, and what kind of way of life is it to spend your days dreading what has yet to occur? The bikram yoga lasted longer; I actually enjoyed the classes but motivating myself to get off my bum and leave the house was always tricky. Having got myself there 3 times a week, my muscles ached and I felt so weak I could barely lift an arm (great demonstration of my fitness levels). I’m sure if I pushed past the pain and kept going I might truly feel the benefits, but unfortunately my 20-day trial has now ended and I’m just too cheap to pay £15 a class. So that’s the end of that. I could carry on with my 30-day ab routine (which is more like every-other-day or twice-a-week for me); Sarah and Scott are extremely excitable and assure me that I will have rock hard abs (or A.B.S. as my boss calls them) in no time. But is there really much point doing ab exercises when I’m doing absolutely nothing else? I thought not.

So with exercise down to zero, a healthy diet should be more important than ever. And don’t get me wrong, I love a salad as much as the next girl. I’m a real foodie and get a kick out of good and proper healthy foods, superfoods, vegetables and all that jazz. But I’m also a real sweet tooth, and to be honest life just isn’t worth living without a biscuit to dunk in my tea at the end of the day. I attempted to give up baked goods for lent and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done. I don’t normally eat chocolate but I found myself constantly buying chocolate bars to make up for the void left in my life by a lack of biscuits. I’m just a cookie person and have to accept this. I once said to my friend, in the most serious manner possible: “I think I am the cookie monster.” If I’m going to bake anything it will more often than not be cookies, and as many varieties as possible. I even have a special biscuit pocket at the front of my mug (don’t worry, it fits more than one biscuit) – what would I do with the biscuit pocket and no biscuits? Surely the mug would feel empty and incomplete?

Nifty Biscuit Pocket

Nifty Biscuit Pocket

We can have the best intentions of turning over a new leaf, exercising every day, and never snacking. But we slip up for one moment and it’s over and we delay it to next week. And then the week after. How about we realise that life is about balance and we need a bit of naughtiness interspersed into our attempt at a healthy routine. Everyone has their own guilty pleasures – but even this statement is contradictory and a representation of our obsession with eating healthily and getting fit. Biscuits are my pleasure, and erase the guilty. I have the right to sit down with a tea and some biscuits at the end of a hard day (or the end of every day). And I’m not going to let society’s apparent need to conform to a picture perfect bikini body and the unnatural lifestyle that comes with it take that right away from me.

How not to do new years eve

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I’m sure there’s many a post ranting about the disappointment of a night that is new years eve. And whilst it generally is always a let down, I’m not going to sit here and tell you what not to do. I’m just going to give one piece of advice: don’t get as ridiculously drunk as I did this new years evening slash new years morning. For the majority of my life new years has consisted of having a few people round with the fam playing board games, watching the fireworks on TV and singing auld lang syne. This year I decided this wasn’t good enough for me so tagged along with some friends and attended a couple of house parties to see in the new year. Had I gone along to these parties and been civilised and respectable I’m sure it would have been a wondrous evening but as it is I got stupendously drunk.

This was most certainly due to the hired bartender at the first bash which overexcited us to the point that we were never without a drink in our hand (accompanied by a stripy straw). And when the vodka ran out there was nothing to fear because plentiful martinis and rums were available… Did I mention that mixing a wide variety of drinks is NOT such a good idea? Once the drunkenness had kicked in it led us to start requesting highly inappropriate songs for a family party such as Azealia’s “212” and creating a mini dancefloor. The clock striked midnight and we merrily kissed everyone at the party in celebration, but the drinks did not stop flowing. We then made our way to the second party where we poured generous servings of our own lethal vodka squash mix, having the ultimate effect of prolonged memory loss. All I remember is a few random conversations, calling people from the bathroom, and a long cold walk to the station at 4am.

As ridiculous as the night was considering our level of alcohol intake, I did have a pretty good time and at the very least saw in the new year in an eventful manner. The nightmare came the following day – having gone to sleep at half 5, after an over-indulgent drunk feast of noodles, chickpea curry and wedges, I was feeling distinctly worse for wear. However the family forced me to get up (after about 10 wake up calls and then me going back to bed with a facewipe on my forehead as the only cool thing I could find to soothe my banging headache) for our 12.30 Cafe Rouge luncheon appointment. Somehow I dragged myself there, took one look at the menu, and decided there was no way I could add any form of meal to my unhappy stomach. But what could we do? We were settled at our table with drinks ordered and the father had already had a pleasant chat with our waiter, as he does. However the family decided that my situation was so dire we should leave the restaurant and come back once I had recovered. That’s right. We stood up, waved away our unwanted drinks, and walked out of the restaurant with most likely the whole eating population staring and pitying my ridiculous self.

As soon as I was back home the sweats were on and I was fast asleep in my bed in an effort to get rid of the hangover from hell once and for all. I awakened at half 3 to find the Sound of Music on in the living room and convinced myself I felt well enough for tea; made tea for everyone then realised tea was definitely not going to help me so crawled back into the pit of misery that was my bed. Finally at quarter past 5 it was time for Cafe Rouge take 2. I can’t say I was on top form but I at least managed to put some clothes and makeup on and we all had a pleasant meal, even if I did start feeling slightly dodgy halfway through my Beef Bourguignon. This was a small price to pay compared to how I would have felt if I had eaten or drunk anything at 12.30. Let’s just say I can’t imagine it would have been a pretty sight or an enjoyable experience for anyone involved.

The most annoying thing about my hungover state was the knowledge that this was how I was kicking off 2014 – an absolute mess dying in bed unable to finish off an apple tart. I don’t think the English January weather added to my mood particularly, but in general I was rather disappointed in myself which wasn’t a fantastic premonition for the rest of the year. The moral of the story in my eyes is this: new years eve should be spent with those you care about and celebrated in a way that makes you look forward to the year ahead. Not in a way that makes you want to put your head in the toilet. You can get ridiculously drunk any other night of the year (although hopefully not too many as I’d quite like to remember the majority of 2014); new years is one night that should be enjoyed and remembered for happiness with friends not emotional drunken messes. Now that I’ve got over the hangover 2013 left me, I’m thoroughly looking forward to this year and highly anticipating the excitement and changes it will bring. I only wish I could have had this attitude from the word go!