August Favourites…Beauty

Between travelling and my birthday this month, I picked up quite a selection of new hair and beauty odds and ends and so here is a rundown on some of my faves. All you beauty aficionados will instantly realise that I came very late to the party with almost all of these products, and I am the first to admit that I can be very lazy when it comes to changing up my make-up and skincare routines (she says, as if she has ever actually had a skincare routine!!!!).But this month I was a little more adventurous and I am hoping to continue paying much more attention to this aspect of my lifestyle.

The first new product I tried was Pixi’s “Glow Tonic Exfoliating Toner”, which I picked up in Pixi’s own store on Carnaby St, having heard Lily Pebbles and several other bloggers that I love endorse it. I use it most evenings, having first taken my make-up off with Garnier’s Cleansing Micellar Water and I must say I love how these products combine to cleanse my face at the end of the day. Although Pixi recommend using the Glow Tonic twice daily, I think that much exfoliation – no matter how gentle – would be too harsh for my skin which can be a little sensitive. I have heard some people say they even found daily use a little too severe but for me that has been working out perfectly so far. The product is simple to use and very good value. You just soak a cotton pad with the product and wipe it over cleansed skin. I am not sure if my skin is “glowing” since I started using this toner but it definitely feels smoother and I love knowing that my face is completely make-up free before drifting off at night.


My next August favourite has again become something of a cult product and it is really not hard to see why. In fact I think this is my all time favourite cleanser, words not uttered lightly. It is the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was attracted to this product because I loved the idea of the hot muslin cloth on my skin. At that stage I had purchased but not tried the product. Now I am completely hooked and will definitely be repurchasing this little gem. I pop the cream cleanser all over my face and neck just before jumping in the shower. Then I soak the cloth in warm water before gently cleansing my face section by section. I genuinely feel my skin is softer than ever before and every part of the process feels fab. As I was in the airport when I purchased this, travelling with hand luggage only, I did not pick up any of the other products in the range but I am now determined to experiment with Liz Earle products a little more. I am very close to needing a new moisturiser so it may be a little more Liz Earle for me.


My next favourite is quite a big purchase and lucky for me it was actually an extremely thoughtful gift. I wear my hair straight and it does not sleep well! Basically it needs almost daily washing and drying and is abused by hair straighteners most days. This favourite is a salon strength hair dryer and it has made my daily wash and blow-dry so much quicker and more efficient. It is the ETI TurboStratos 3800 and mine is in a really cute purple colour. It is so powerful that my hair dries really quickly and it also leaves a lot less work for the straighteners to do afterwards. It is available in Ireland from Peter Mark and if you have hair that takes ages to blow dry or is prone to frizz it is definitely a worthy investment. It was a great present!!!

Finally, on the list of things I am loving, I mentioned previously that I was switching mascaras from Benefit’s They’re Real, to MAC Extreme Dimension in Extreme Black. Now it may be a little early to judge, as I have only used the product a few times but so far this is another purchase worthy of the favourites’ list. It is a really strong colour as you would expect, goes on easily and really defines the lashes. It is not messy or gloopy which is great, and most importantly it is very easy to remove. I have very long lashes, so mascara that smudges even a little has easy access to my cheeks. I also have very sensitive eyes that water when I use poor quality products. The MAC has caused neither problem, so it looks like it could be a keeper.


Finally,  I have been trying one new product that definitely won’t be repurchased and that is the NYX soft matte lip cream in the shade Antwerp. This was an important lesson relating to “don’t buy before you try”. I just grabbed this, having read great things about the range without even swatching the colour. And it is a disastrous purchase. The colour on the bottle and the colour of the product are really different, and unfortunately, despite the pretty colour of the packaging, the cream itself is an obnoxious hot pink colour that I would never wear. I also don’t like the texture of this product, although I know a matt lip is very on trend right now. The product feels heavily perfumed, sticky and drying. Ugh!! Just not for me and I still really need an everyday lipstick. I am going to give the new Kate Moss range for Rimmel a whirl instead and fingers crossed for more success.

That’s all from my hair and beauty faves this month and I hope it reads pretty coherently . I enjoy writing posts like this because it encourages me to try new products and really think about their performance, but, to be honest, make-up and beauty is not really my thing. I am guilty of using products sporadically and without too much thought. This makes me worry a little about pulling a post like this together as my vocabulary may not have quite the same range in this particular realm.But practice should at least lead to improvement if not perfection.

Til next time, xx.


August Favourites – Books

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

As the summer is quickly drawing to a close, and I have to consider the reality of returning to work after three months (yes, I hear all those tiny violins) I thought I would do a quick review of some of the “stuff” I have been loving (or not) lately. Today I am going to start with books, because I can be happy pretty much anywhere with a good cup of coffee and a good book. Anyone who knows me will attest that paradise for me will definitely have a library.

reading in bed

In recent weeks I have read three bestsellers and here is my two cents worth on their varying strengths and weaknesses.

“Sometimes he fantasised that at the end of his life, he would be shown a home movie of all the roads he had not taken, and where they would have led.” – Anne Tyler

This first book was a kind of romcom in pen and ink format, although I am sure this description would make the author cringe a little. “The Versions of Us” by Laura Barnett focuses on the moments that can change a life forever. It takes a “Sliding Doors” style approach, and the reader follows the central characters Eva and Richard through different versions of their respective lives. One moment, a choice of responses, a decision that will change the course of both their lives. From that moment we follow all three versions of the lives of our protagonists. The way their lives play out after that first meeting in Cambridge in 1958, and how the response in that blink of an eye encounter could open or close a variety of different doors. Robert Frost’s “The Road not Taken” explores how, as “way leads on to way”, we do not get to come back and travel the other roads, or ever know the outcome of a different decision when faced with choice. Barnett uses the power of imagination to follow both roads (or in this case all three) and tell, effectively, three stories in one. For the writer, this is no simple task. The success of the typical linear narrative is due to its simplicity. We trace a story from beginning to end in chronological order – it is difficult to “lose the plot”. Deviate from this and you set yourself a great challenge. The writing has to be skilful to see this through. It was. The characters were engaging, the language both simple and poetic and the plot not overly complicated. Like Frost, Barnett explores lives unlived. It is a perfect theme for literature as it is an intrinsic element of life; every door we open sees another close, every choice brings new opportunity but inevitably leaves other possibilities unexplored.

We have one life. Eva and Richard in the pages of this novel had the luxury of three. I loved the reality in this narrative  – there is no perfect path – there are ups and down, joys and heartbreaks, sacrifices and rewards – no matter what choices they make. That’s what life is, no matter which of the divergent paths you choose in Frost’s “yellow wood”. And so a realisation dawns….“because he is old enough now to know happiness for what it is: brief and fleeting, not a state to strive for, to seek to live in, but to catch when it comes, and to hold on to for as long as you can.”

This was a great read; simple yet engaging, suspending reality yet paradoxically grounded in reality, poetic and conversational – grab a coffee and a comfy chair and give this one a go.

My second recent read was again a work of fiction and this time it was “The Reader on the 6.27”. The blurb of this really captured my attention, as it was set up as a book that explores the power of the written word, specifically storytelling, to change a life. The central character, Guylain, works in a factory that pulps books, and hates his job. However, he takes random pages from various publications and reads them aloud on the 6.27 train, saving those words in some way, giving them the life they deserve. The pulping machine is personified as a monster, the stories themselves a panacea for life’s difficulty and monotony. So far, so right up my street.

But I just didn’t really engage with this narrative, as the larger-than-life characters just had an air of unreality, and personally I felt the plot just didn’t quite hang together. That said, the story’s central thread really begins when Guylain finds a memory stick containing the musings (almost in diary form) of a public toilet attendant called Julie. Personally, it was the writings of Julie that made me see this novel through to the end. I found her voice hilarious and sweet in equal measure, and, although I wasn’t really invested in the love story of sorts that Didierlaurent was striving to create, the ending of this novel was ridiculously cute. Now I am sure that just as Barnett would not want to be viewed as a literary romcom, Didierlaurent would cringe at the term “cute” to describe his concluding moments – but that it was, and, make no mistake, it was the silver lining in what for me was a slightly cloudy read. If your eye has been caught by this book, I would not let this lukewarm review put you off; it is a really quick read, and not one I regret at all. I read the entire book in a day, and it had enough merit to sustain me through airport waiting time and a short flight. What was good was golden, but there was a little too much beige.


Finally, I picked up Matt Haig’s “Reasons to Stay Alive” in a hurry and without reading the blurb. Never a good idea. However, this is a very readable, autobiographical account of the author’s struggles with anxiety and depression and there is no doubting its honesty or integrity. It is quite an engaging read, with sprinkles of humour and a generally positive outlook on a dark subject. It is an important book for a society that still has a way to go to destigmatise mental illness.

But I am going to be honest here, this book did not touch my soul, probably because it wasn’t written to be soppy or overly morose. And, possibly because to this point in my life, I have been blessed with pretty good mental health. It did, however, help me understand depression a little better and I did enjoy the listing technique peppering the pages.  Lists of warning signs associated with anxiety or depression, famous people who experienced mental illness, tweets from fellow sufferers regarding their reasons to stay alive and ways to support someone enduring a period of darkness. All this I found informative and very accessible. I also LOVED this passage:

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us.
Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturiser?
You make someone worry about ageing.
How do you get people to vote for a political party?
You make them worry about immigration.
How do you get them to buy insurance?
By making them worry about everything.
How do you get them to have plastic surgery?
By highlighting their physical flaws.
How do you get them to watch a TV show?
By making them worry about missing out. “

I have no doubt that this book has changed lives. It vocalised the emotions and experiences people struggle to find the words to describe. It gave people someone to relate to. It created a sense of being less alone. I admire all this. I admire the reality. I admire the honesty. I admire the individuality. Personally, I just didn’t really connect, though reviews would suggest I am part of the minority. Again, this is a quick read that is well worth a shot. Just because it didn’t change my life doesn’t mean it won’t change yours.

Now I have laundry to do and a new book to dip into. Til next time xo

What I ate on my Birthday


While this week has been mainly about all things healthy, a couple of days ago it was my birthday, and so there was some pretty major deviation from that plan. However, as I will explain, it could have been worse!!

My birthday surprise was essentially a whole day of foodie treats… and I mean the whole day from dawn to dusk. So for those of you sensitive about gluttony, it may be time to click to a different post, or even a different blogger, because I amazed myself with my ability to keep eating. WP_20160319_12_59_05_Pro

The first stop on this culinary expedition was in my home town of Tralee in Co. Kerry, in a bustling town centre cafe and restaurant called The Roast House. Now this is not my first brunch here by any stretch, it is a place where I regularly catch up with some of my closest girlfriends, but I do think it was my favourite breakfast to date. Given that this place does a really great pancake dish, with fruit and cream, that is quite a statement. I ordered a Vegetarian Breakfast Bake (see healthyish) and I expected that it would be like a baked full Irish just without the meat. Turns out I had pictured it completely wrong and what a happy surprise that ended up being. What appeared was actually a type of potato hash; with summer vine tomatoes, fresh thyme, mushrooms & spinach all mixed through the delicious little potato cubes. The dish was topped with a free range egg with a runny yolk, a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and a little french toast. It was so so tasty, the perfect savory (meat free and gluten free  – if like me you don’t eat the toast) breakfast dish. The Roast House take their coffee seriously, so as is the norm, the accompanying Americano was also an excellent blend – black, strong and just bitter enough – a great caffeine kick to start a long day.


Allowing breakfast to digest there was time for a short walk and a longer drive, as we snaked west over the mountain to the coastal town of Dingle. Now if you are not familiar with Dingle, look it up and if you have never been to Dingle, go! I have been many times, although to be honest more often for booze and nightlife than lunch and shopping but I am starting to think that it is the latter that the town does best. Unfortunately, the day was miserable, otherwise this post would be full of some of the most beautiful scenery this planet has to offer, but I promise that will follow some day soon. This was a day that was all about the food. First we shopped for it and then we ate it. The shopping centered on two local gems – The Little Cheese Shop and Crinkle Stores. Both are stunning little artisan stores, showcasing local and other carefully sourced products. I could have bought so, so much more and I am sure over time I will.

I started with The Little Cheese Shop and it is exactly as it looks in your head – cozy, smelly, chockablock with Irish and European cheeses and all the culinary delights you would want to go with them. They are quick to offer a taste, the cheese is cut to your specification and expert advice is on hand. Good luck nipping in for cheddar and coming out with one wax paper parcel when you see the array of fresh bread, pesto, hummus, hand made chocolate and chutneys that sit side by side with more cheese than you can dream of finding time to taste. If it is not clear, this place is a gem on the West Kerry food scene. I left with some fresh buffalo mozzarella,  some soft goat’s cheese, some seaweed speckled cheddar (I think), delicious basil pesto and a generous portion of chunky hummus. I have been working them into my meals since.

Then to Crinkle Stores, when I got over my complete obsession with the fabulous tiles in this shop, it was time to browse the products. There is an exceptional salad bar and some quality coffee on offer, not to mention an exquisite cake display. The shelves are lined with artisan skincare products, Irish vinegar made with foraged ingredients like thyme, gorse and blackberry. Jams, chutneys, fancy cordials, herbal teas and numerous other delights. I added some Mountain Thyme Vinegar, a bar of Dark Chocolate with Apricot and Almond and a rhubarb and apple pop to my foodie haul and regretted that the day wasn’t better for a salad box by the sea. Again that will come another day.

And then, it was time for lunch. And yes we did at least keep it light(ish). We sheltered from the rain in a welcoming little cafe called Chowder, and ate predictably and sensibly, bowls of chowder. Well I did, my shellfish averse husband had an equally comforting steaming bowl of carrot and ginger soup. What appeared was a really satisfying bowl of steaming chowder, thickened with local potato and containing the widest array of fish I have ever encountered in this very common Irish dish. There was the usual white and smoked fish, but how often do you get squid rings in your seafood chowder and the garnishing mussels were a great touch. I didn’t eat the bread (healthy!) but it was wholemeal and  homemade, served with real Irish butter.

Then to dessert – it was my birthday remember – and Dingle is home to Murphy’s Ice Cream – handmade here in the town. It comes in cones and cups, served with a smile by staff sporting farmers’ caps and happy to let you taste before you choose. I had a special called Dreamy Creamy Caramel that was full of the flavours of caramel, butterscotch, chocolate and whipped cream. Better than cake, definitely better than cake!! This product is not cheap but it is quality. Worth every penny, I promise.


After lunch we again took a break from eating, visited my parents and my adorable godchild. Then we shopped a little more, completing my birthday present buying with a divine scented candle for the kitchen and a book called “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee”. Seriously, how could I not!!!!!


And then I am embarrassed to admit (almost) that we went out to dinner. But it was not a dinner I would want to have missed. We went to Allo’s Bistro in the little market town of Listowel, where John B. Keane once observed local life with the eye of a poet and the wit of a rural publican. His smiling statue now welcomes you to a town that has retained its soul better than almost any small town I know. It houses a range of excellent independent boutiques, some interior shops that are perfect for the lazy browser and Woulfes, one of the best independent bookshops in the country. There are also more pubs than people and a delightful old-style hotel in the middle of town. Come for Writer’s Week to see Irish culture at its very best but there is also a food festival and a race week in this town’s packed social calendar.


Now that I have done my bit for the Listowel Tourist Board, on to the food. Allo’s Bistro is as bistros should be, homely and welcoming, with cosy small tables and larger communal ones, wine served by the glass and specials on daily changing chalkboards. For obvious reasons we skipped straight to main courses and I opted for a smaller size portion (see healthy choice! – although it was still extremely generous) of prawn and coconut curry served with jasmine rice. The other dish for the table was a salmon fillet with Bearnaise (unusual I thought) that was well cooked and tasty, accompanied with al dente veg and buttery mashed potato. The curry was delicately spiced with a very generous amount of prawns and a mixture of spring onion, courgette and peppers adding a welcome crunch. Despite the day that had gone before, plates were left completely clear, the message to the chef not in any way encrypted.

I presume you are now imaging that we called for the bill, opened the top button on our jeans and shuffled for the car. Alas, I have something of an affliction to admit to. I cannot resist creme brulee and although I don’t see the need to pepper it with various fruit purees, I still cannot leave it unordered – EVER.  And so I devoured every morsel of a perfect passion-fruit creme brulee with a hazelnut biscuit. Had the jeans button popped before I got it open, it would have been worth every added inch to the waistline. It was yum!!!!!


So home we went….to my in laws, who were putting us up for the night, and you won’t believe it but my very sweet mother-in-law had bought a cake!!!!! Now  of course I was full but what’s a girl to do, if some one buys you a fluffy sponge cake, filled with fresh cream and strawberry jam and sprinkled with icing sugar, and there’s a candle in it…there really are no options. You eat the cake. Don’t you?? Well of course I did.


Now before there is an intervention, I promise I have eaten like a gourmet loving rabbit since. But more of that in the next post, where we will celebrate the humble salad. There is a good reason birthdays only come once a year….the world could not sacrifice any more jeans’ buttons. Have a great weekend. Til next time xoxo


Eating Out and Staying Healthy(ish)


Two fine days in a row – that almost constitutes a great summer in Ireland. With so few such days, it is important not to let them go to waste. As today was my parents 44th wedding anniversary we were taking a scenic road trip for a lunch on the water, but I still didn’t want to blow several days of good work on the healthy living front.

In order to minimise damage and still allow for a little indulgence, I got up pretty early and breakfasted on fresh fruit and black coffee. Then I took the dog on a pretty long walk and drank lots of chilled water before we took to the road.

The destination was The Boathouse, a Nantucket inspired seafood bistro, set right on the water, on the grounds of Dromquinna Manor, Kenmare. The estate which also has a glamping site and a hotel in the old manor house is incredibly picturesque. The decor in the bistro itself is bright, fun and nautical. Think lots of blue and white, with sail boats for decoration and little lighthouses on the table. The menu, as you would expect for the location, is predominantly seafood, but there is a chicken dish, steak and a burger, enough to keep the most committed carnivore happy. Although, when you can smell the sea and the menu guarantees local produce, seafood really is your best option.


Arriving early and looking for just a light lunch, two of our group of four opted for the pier landed fish and chips main course. It came served on a kind of wooden tray and contained a generous potion of beer battered white fish. This was accompanied by chunky chips, a lightly dressed salad (with some delicious beetroot) and a little ramekin of mushy peas. The other two of us stuck to a combination of sides and starters (combined to make mains). There was a scallop and black pudding dish, which was unusual in presentation and possibly a little small for the price point. Although I didn’t taste it, it did seem to go down very well though, adding to the range of well executed dishes. Finally, I had tiger prawn pil pil. This consisted of prawns in a garlic, chilli and chorizo oil, served in a little pot accompanied by very tempting (although I did resist it) crusty white bread. It was delicious, although without the heat that you sometimes get in this dish, and I loved it. The prawns were fresh, pretty generous in quantity and perfectly cooked. The oil they were cooked in was extremely flavoursome despite the mildness of the chilli. I had this with a very generous portion of crispy sweet potato fries – a healthy(ish) indulgence (or so I like to tell myself) and a side salad. Prawns, salad and sweet potatoes – a decent attempt at staying on track on a special occasion.

After lunch and a stunning drive over Moll’s Gap and through Killarney National Park, I took another walk, this time on the local beach. It was great fun although paddling turned to splashing and rolled up jeans got soaked. And not long after it was time for a supermarket haul and thoughts of supper. After toying with the idea of creamy goat’s cheese, I reluctantly left it aside, favouring instead the warm saltiness of pan-fried halloumi laid on top of a crunchy bowl of baby spinach, rocket, watercress, red pepper and spring onion. All of this was drizzled with a homemade honey and wholegrain mustard dressing and accompanied by an organic rice cake with a little hummus.  Crunchy, salty, tangy, sweet and above all nutritious. So that’s me for today….pretty healthy and pretty happy xoxo


Healthy, healthy, healthy!!!

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw

Well after a fab week in London, the last few days have been about restoring the equilibrium – balancing the excesses of the good life with some of the sacrifices that come with a healthier approach. Otherwise there will be no button closing on any pair of jeans!! But that’s not to say that being healthy cannot be enjoyable. After a lovely sober Saturday night dinner with friends, Sunday lunch with family and many walks in beautiful countryside, it has been a wonderful few days in many ways. But what to eat?????

I have actually had to cook very few dinners in the last few days, just try to make slightly healthier choices at the tables of others. But breakfasts I have been all over. I have tried to keep them pretty light and definitely low in carbs and so fruit, yogurt and smoothies have been my go to meals.  Green smoothies are a goal for later in the week but so far I have been sticking to fruity and yummy. Not a spinach or a kale leaf to be seen. Baby steps.


My favourite smoothie is not as healthy as I might like, but it is full of delicious summer berries.  I just blitz a chopped banana, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries with almond milk, Greek yogurt, a drizzle of honey and lots of ice. However, when the smoothie is my entire breakfast I also throw in so organic porridge oats to bulk it out. Obviously these can be gluten free if you prefer and of course you could use protein powder instead to fill you up, but I have never actually bothered.

fruit bowl

Second breakfast of choice these past few days has used the same ingredients, as I am returning to frugality and attempting to minimise waste and it involves just layering fresh fruit and green yogurt in a bowl. I have again been using a selection of berries and chopped banana but this time including some perfectly ripe nectarine slices. I drizzle a little honey over this and just have it with a leisurely cup of green tea, preferably sitting out enjoying this view from the front door.


If I am hungrier, I find porridge with raspberries does the trick, but I haven’t really been that hungry at all yet.

And now quickly to lunch….simple salads have been the order of the day but I have to admit to doing something that to me involved a dalliance with the dark side. One of those boundaries that you cross, never sure if you can return the same person. The kind of thing you judge others for, thinking you will never go that far. Well go that far I did and you know what, it really wasn’t that bad. Here it is – I ate my lunch out of a lettuce leaf, that was pretending to be a wrap!!!! The only point of redemption was that it wasn’t a burger!!!!

Actually, the lunch in the lettuce leaf was really not half bad. The filling was a combination of cold, leftover brown rice, peas, tuna (in water), avocado, red pepper, lime zest and juice, seasoning and a little yogurt all mixed together with some fresh coriander. Just bung everything in a bowl (Jamie Oliver style), mix it up and spoon it into the leaves of a baby gem lettuce. Now that is a healthy lunch!


So there you go, from travel posts to healthy eating posts in the space of a couple of days. Because remember, life is all about balance xo

Shopping and Spruced up Scrambled Eggs

Having not been through this airport for a couple of years, this week was my first time in the new look Stansted Airport duty free area. The shopping was great, the walk back from the cafe to find MAC and Urban Decay not so good. But I managed to retrace a path and purchased a few bits and bobs that I am excited about.

Firstly a new mascara. I have been wearing Benefit’s “They’re Real” for a year or so now but I get annoyed by how difficult it is to remove so it was definitely time for a change. After a little deliberation I chose this Mac bestseller ….. in extreme black.


One of my favourite things to do, which has to make me very unpopular with hotel housekeeping staff, is to soak a clean white facecloth in very hot water and almost steam the make-up from my face. Of course this is less practical at home – where I am the housekeeping staff – and already a very reluctant employee. The solution? My second purchase, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. The cleanser comes with a muslin cloth that can be used in the shower for a deep cleanse. I bought the starter pack which contains a 100ml bottle of cleanser and two cloths. I am very excited about this product.


For quite a while now I have been looking for a bag that would carry my rather large laptop, but I didn’t want something that looked too like a traditional laptop bag. Perfect in terms of size and very affordable, a navy shopper from Accessorize caught my eye. I am hoping it will prove to be both stylish and practical for a normal work day.

And then for some reading material, I picked up Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Not a book I knew anything about but it caught my eye and I am hoping for an easy and inspirational summer read. I will post an update when I finish reading.


So now that we are settled in back home, it is time to get back to some healthier ways and so I started by making a light lunch of Huevos Rancheros Scrambled Eggs from Donal Skehan’s, “Fresh”.


The recipe involved making a simple cherry tomato and red onion salsa and some homemade Guacamole but was really simple to accomplish and made for a pretty delicious healthy lunch.


That’s all for now…I have a dinner date with the girls to get ready for. Have a great weekend wherever you are and whatever you do, xoxo.

The Final London Travel Post


So we are home by now from our week in London and although it was one of our shortest summer trips in years, it was a great week in one of our favourite cities. Since last I posted we spent a couple of hours on the Kings Road in Chelsea; wandering around, eating lunch and drinking coffee. The jewel in the crown of the whole street is the stunning Anthropologie store, which is just so beautifully designed and packed with wonderful fashion and home wares.

Burgers seem HUGE in London at the moment and even though I am not a huge fan of the meat patty, we were starving when we stumbled upon the welcoming BRGR.CO in Chelsea. I opted for one of their signature burgers, “The Hanger Steak Brgr”, cooked medium with added bacon and cheddar. My husband had a chicken fillet burger and we split an order of fries. It totally hit the spot for us and we left refuelled for a little more wandering around the area. Decent meat, good prices and friendly service – not a bad combination.

Having wandered around the Saatchi gallery, currently completely taken over by the Rolling Stones exhibition and chased down my Mac foundation from the other day, it was time for a little caffeine.

We just stumbled upon Gail’s Bakery – the most darling little café of the trip. It was like a coffee house straight out of Soho NYC, full of artisan breads and mouthwatering baked goods. They also sell really cute shoppers and cookbooks on site. It’s the perfect spot for coffee and a muffin.

The foodie was now happy so it was time to indulge the football fan a little and so there was a walk around Stamford Bridge before leaving the area for Westminster.

Real tourist London was something we had mostly avoided up to now but could we really go home without seeing Big Ben? We strolled around Westminster for a bit, took a few snaps, and visited another of London’s oldest pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I was particularly amused by the make-over some pedestrian lights had received for Pride 2016 – no longer is the little green man the only symbol on offer, a lovely simple celebration of diversity.

Then it was back to Camden to meet my husband’s fabulous cousin and her equally charming boyfriend. It was such an enjoyable few hours, sitting by the canal chatting about literally everything and anything. It was one of those evenings where conversation flows easily and you feel inspired by the passion of others, in this case two young students who have the kind of passion and idealism that most of us lose sight of over time. This was one of those chats that makes you want to be a better person, as we listened to them discuss their trips to Calais (entirely self-funded) to help out at the refugee camp there and her mentoring work in London with young children forced to seek asylum in the UK. These are people with the heart and intelligence to really make the world a better place, one small step at a time, and who put MAC cosmetics and fancy meals into a perspective that really they should always remain in.

And then, as though the evening hadn’t given us enough, they put the icing on the cake when  they shared with us their favourite kebab spot in North London – Woody Grill on the Camden Road. Slightly tipsy, we devoured delicious kebabs in this really friendly fast food spot before taking the train home to pack our bags for our flight home.

And that was pretty much the end of an epic week in London  – time remaining only for some airport shopping which I will fill you in on later xoxo

Carnaby Street and the Footsteps of the Ripper.


Morning – woke up a little later than normal so going to keep the update on yesterday’s London explorations short and sweet. We started the day separately, history nerd husband at the Museum of London and caffeine addict wife at the corner of Carnaby Street with a camera, a credit card and a warm paper cup, ready for some aimless browsing.


Now for those who don’t know London, Carnaby Street is a lovely pedestrian area just off Oxford Street, home to some very cool shops and restaurants. While busy, it is still a welcome break from the craziness of Oxford Street, my least favourite part of London. Now don’t let that put you off, it is definitely a minority view. And if shopping is your thing, then Oxford Street will make all your retail dreams come true. For me, it is just not what travel is about – I can shop Zara and H&M from my laptop or in the town I live in back home. I travel generally to see new things and to see them at a pretty calm pace. Oxford Street doesn’t do calm. I make two exceptions to this Oxford Street bashing – the flagship Topshop just opposite the tube and Selfridges. Carlsberg don’t make department stores but if they did…..

But anyway, it was off to Carnaby Street for me, starting with a stroll through the iconic Liberty building. It is a stunning, high-end department store, where I can afford to buy very little but can definitely see myself purchasing White Company candles, Nars cosmetics, handmade chocolate or beautiful stationary if I was living anywhere in the vicinity.

I then proceeded to MAC as I have been considering changing my foundation from the Benefit Oxygen Wow for a while, and, as I am almost at the end of the bottle, it seemed as good a time as any to take the plunge. After a really friendly consultation and some experimentation, I settled on Studio Fix Fluid and a little nude eye-shadow in Brulé Satin to replace Benefit’s Call My Buff. However, at the till it emerged that they were out of the foundation shade and so the girl instead gave me a sample to keep me going – I will pick up the real thing later today.


After MAC I did a little browsing at the pretty dresses in Dahlia and debated a pair of New Balance in Office before deciding that my Ryanair luggage allowance may not allow them through (I am still debating though). Then I popped into Pixi and picked up a little bottle of their exfoliating Glow Tonic. I have read so much about this product, I am excited to try it. Perfect skin awaits!!!!!

Of course, after all this shopping I was starving, so I weighed up my options and settled on tapas at Pix-Bar. It’s a tiny candlelit place specialising in Pintxos. A selection of individual sized dishes is displayed on the bar. You simply take a plate, eat what you like, pop your skewer in a carafe and present it at the till to pay. I tried a Chorizo & Manchego Bocadillo, Serrano Ham & Quail Egg on Ciabatta, Diablo Meatballs and Honey-glazed Cod Fritters. The food was excellent and I loved that you don’t have to commit to one large dish but can try a whole selection. Bring a friend and try double the dishes.

After a browse through Brandy Melville, where I picked up a little comfy tee, and a half an hour in the aforementioned giant Topshop (I needed a replacement pair of white jeans and found a Leigh pair reduced to £20) I was pretty much shopped out and decided to head off to meet my husband for a late afternoon drink as we had an early dinner reservation. Although I did first try Ben’s Cookies – sold by weight and one of the most delicious things I have tasted.


History was inescapable however as we walked in search of two of London’s oldest pubs, and I have to say both were worth the trek. The first was Cittie of York, an imposing old building that would have been the perfect site for some form of exclusive gentleman’s club. The second (which I completely forgot to picture) was one of the best finds of the entire trip. It was called Ye Olde Mitre and is hidden in a little alley off Ely Place. Hard to find places almost demand to be found and this place clearly is not the best kept secret. It was just after 4pm and the place was wedged with city bankers in suits, loosening their ties for a quick pint. Loved this place!

We had dinner at Pizza East, in the now very trendy Shoreditch area, and the pizza lived up to its hype. A light crisp crust, flavoursome tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and whole leaves of flavoursome basil. Pizza like the Italians make. Washed down with large, cold glasses of Moretti, it was a decent impression of a neighbourhood pizzeria in Rome, but with an industrial vibe that is more Brooklyn than Trastevere. Make sure to book in advance if you plan to eat at Pizza East.

After dinner, we headed for Aldgate and spent an hour or so wandering in the eerie footsteps of Jack the Ripper and reading the gruesome details of this famed murder spree in the alleyways of London’s East End. The guided tours come highly recommended but we opted to self-guide using a little book called “The Jack the Ripper Walk”. It cost just £2.99 and was comprehensive and very easy to follow.

Pretty cool end to a pretty cool day xo



Roman London and Retail Therapy

Separated for a few hours from my travel companion, who was off to meet some fellow historians at the British Library, a chilled out shopping morning seemed a perfect way to start the new day and the new week. Upper Street is high street heaven but I am more interested in what lies in the little alleys behind it – the independent bookshops, boutiques and concept stores that don’t populate every high street and shopping mall in the world. Therefore my destination was Islington’s Camden Passage. Famous for its antiques market, this area is an extremely cute collection of cafes, restaurants and independent shops – browser heaven.


I started the day with a caffeine fix in The Coffee Works Project, reputed to have the best coffee in the area. It was packed mostly with what I assume to be students, self-employed workers and freelancers  – as many of the customers were typing feverishly away on their laptops. All very Carrie Bradshaw. There was also a healthy sprinkling of yummy mummies taking a break with a soy latte and the odd tourist checking if the coffee is really as good as they say. The verdict – it was a damn good cup of coffee.

Then for an hour of intensive window shopping in this little retail Utopia. Take a look for yourself….

Appetite well worked up, there was time for a quick lunch before heading to the British Library to catch up with my husband. I probably would have tried The Breakfast Club as I have read great things about it but even at 12.30pm there was already a queue and I didn’t have much time to spare. I did however spot the last remaining outdoor table at the neighbouring The Elk in the Woods. It turned out to be a good choice. I dined on a small plate of calamari with chorizo mayonnaise accompanied by a side of salt baked new potatoes and garlic aioli. It was light but tasty – the calamari perfectly cooked, the aioli particularly delicious. Accompanied by some ice water and a glass of house wine, sitting in the sun watching the world go by, it made for a very enjoyable lunch. Then off to the tube, although not before getting distracted by two cute little tees in Joy that I felt would work well with skinny jeans (one with heels and one with converse).

My hubby and I regrouped at the British Library, his lunchtime talk and general networking probably making his morning more productive than mine. But surely it couldn’t have been more enjoyable. And he doesn’t now own a little jersey tee with a cute bumblebee print!!!!

We headed for St. Paul’s and the old city  – the focus of the rest of our day. After a quick hello to the head of John Donne, we walked the square mile, visiting spots where evidence of the Roman city had been uncovered and marvelling at the way cities develop over time and yet some remnants of each century remain – the past almost effortlessly juxtaposing with the present. We took a break at the Dickens Inn on St. Katherine’s Dock, a beautiful old pub with exposed beams and wooden floors, quotes from Dickens’ classic works adorning the walls.  Our little tour ended at the stunningly preserved Leadenhall Market Place, the site of the original Roman forum and basilica of Londinium.

After quite a lot of walking we ate fairly forgettable french food in a little neighbourhood bistro, followed by overpriced drinks in a soulless chain bar, before heading to the Guildhall for the highlight of the day – an outdoor movie in the Guildhall Yard, over the site of London’s ancient Roman amphitheatre. There were a few technical hitches but it was a lovely evening. There was seats, burgers and hotdogs, beer and wine, popcorn and even an onsite archaeologist to explain the history of the site. Somebody forgot the movie but he admitted he was “a massive tool”, the movie was found and the show did go on. Gladiator on the site where actual gladiators would have been forced to perform! A great evening and if in London this summer do check out Pop Up Screens listings – just remember it gets cold, no matter how fine a day, so bring jumpers and jackets to wrap up in, then sit back and enjoy xo


Morning Markets and The Globe


Sunday in London, still busy but without the chaotic feel of a weekday as those out and about have generally replaced professional pursuits with more leisurely ones. People sip coffee as they walk, read the paper over brunch and if they are on Columbia Road they buy flowers and maybe an odd antique teacup to hold their champagne!

And that is where we started our day – the short stroll down Columbia Road was a lot of fun, traders enthusiastically pedalling their wares to the tourists and locals bartering for and buying their blooms. Hydrangas seem to be winning on the popularity stakes but sunflowers and french lavender were performing well also. Behind the stalls were the cutest of independent stores selling everything from antiques to coffee and perfume to gardening tools. A cheap and cheerful start to a Sunday morning in London.


From Columbia road, it is just a short stroll across to Brick Lane, another of London’s iconic street markets. It is probably really obvious by now that I love the London market scene, the diversity of the food, the multi-ethnic make-up, the forum for artisans and old school traders to vie for business. Walking up Brick Lane, we stopped to peer in the window of the Cereal Killer Cafe, something that is a bit too gimicky for me but I get why people love it. We then visited the really great Brick Lane bookshop, where my husband stocked up on some Jack the Ripper inspired reading material, before enjoying some Chinese food on the steps of the Sunday Up Market – a weekend event in an old warehouse.

For the afternoon, this literature nerd was super excited to be able to see the work of The Bard himself in its true spiritual home  – The Globe Theatre. We had groundling tickets for for Macbeth and it was both a great experience and an excellent performance.


The interpretation was excellent and I felt the characterisation of the three weird sisters and the inclusion of a wordless Macbeth child really enhanced this version of the Scottish tragedy. All the acting was superb, not surprising from such an experienced cast, and the extremely hot Macduff made the sore feet of the second act a little more bearable.

You really can’t argue with £5 tickets to a production of such quality but it is a lot of standing so if you go wear your most comfortable shoes. And if it’s sunny, don’t forget the sunscreen!!

Leaving Southbank about 4pm, we strolled across the bridge towards the imposing grandeur of St. Pauls, before hopping on a red bus towards Covent Garden. We took a break in the Lamb and Flag, one of London’s most authentic old bars before weaving our way to Neal’s Yard. Several bloggers, who know London much better than I do, had mentioned the pizza from Homeslice and so we decided to give it a try. The place was packed and we had a 15 minute wait for a table but the 20″ pizza that followed – half Margarita, half salami and Parmesan – was  worth waiting for. Sitting outside with beer and pizza watching the world pass by was a really satisfying end to a pretty great day!

Hope your Sunday was as much fun as mine xo