Monday, 29 September 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 84)

As I write this, I am sitting cross legged on my living room floor, laptop on the coffee table with my back against the sofa, Classic FM playing Tango en Skai by Roland Dyens, with a cup of tea to my left, and the windows thrown wide open to let some fresh air into the flat. The room is filled with the scent of the lilies I bought my housemate for her birthday last Monday, and I feel quite peaceful.

It's the first time in weeks I've felt inspired to sit and write something. Anything. I moved to London nearly two months ago, and I completely lost any inclination to write- which is awful, but I was so busy throwing myself into my new life that I just didn't want to spend my free time sitting  behind a laptop. And even if I had wanted to, I didn't really feel like I had a whole lot of interest to say. The whole concept of blogging started to baffle me, and I didn't know why I was doing it.

But this morning, I woke up after sleeping for 10 hours feeling inspired. The sun was breaking through the morning mist, and I dragged myself out for a run. And when I got back, I wanted to write. So here I am!

There's a lot of catching up to do, and I'm hoping I'll be filling you all in on everything a lot more regularly than of late. Feel free to shout if I don't, okay?

But back to the task at hand! This week, happiness is...

... buying flowers from a florist. As I mentioned, it was my housemate's birthday last Monday, and as far as I'm concerned, a birthday isn't a birthday without flowers. There's a lovely florist just around the corner from my house, so I popped in there to pick something up for her. The quality of these flowers proves that it was such the right decision, and I got the warm and squishies for supporting a local business rather than buying flowers from a supermarket. Happy days!

... visits from Mama CupandSaucer. Mama came to see me last weekend and it made me so happy. I loved that she was able to see where I'm living now, and to see how settled I am here. The only thing I don't like about living in London is just how far away I am from my mama- we are exceptionally close, and I miss her terribly. Fortunately, we've already got dates in the diary and I'm now seeing her at least once a month until March. This makes me so happy!

Only slightly unrelated...!
... trying on fancy dresses in Selfridges. When Mama visited, we decided to go and get some ideas for outfits to wear to my brother's wedding. We tried on the most beautiful DVF dresses, and while we decided against them in the end, we both felt so fancy! We're now planning to visit a couple of boutiques to really sort Mama out- Mother of the Groom outfits are apparently quite stressful!

... the return of Downton Abbey! Oh my goodness, it's probably my favourite thing on TV, mostly because of Lady Mary and the Dowager Duchess. (I know loads of people hate Lady Mary but I love her. She's my absolute favourite) I've heard this series isn't meant to be as traumatic as the last couple, thank goodness- I don't think my nerves could take any more drama like the Matthew thing. 

... wearing shorts on 28th September. Yep, I;m wearing shorts today. According to the Met Office, it's officially autumn, but not in my book! I know I've said it before, but I'm loving this prolonged sunny spell. I'm prone to feeling blue when there's too much grey weather for too long, so the more sunshine I can get now, the better I'll feel for longer. 

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 83)

Happy Monday everyone! I'm oddly excited for a new week- though I think this is partly because I'm just so excited for the coming weekend as Mama CupandSaucer is coming to stay. I am so so close to my mama, and it feels like so long since I've seen her- so as much as I hate to wish my life away, I cannot wait for the weekend.

The week should be good too though- I have a busy week at work, and plans to catch up with Bess too- so I'm sure Friday will race towards us at warp speed.

For a Sunday afternoon, I'm in a wonderfully good mood. Here's hoping it lasts- but to help me on my way, this week, happiness is...

... Jenny and Charlotte. I spent my Saturday in the company of these two beauties. We laughed, we ate, they talked me through some boy drama, we pottered. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday, and every time I spend time with bloggers-turned-genuine-friends, I marvel at the power of the internet. I bloody love these girls!!

... my new hand mixer! Papa CupandSaucer bought me an amazing Kenwood KMix hand mixer as a (very) belated birthday present this week and I am DELIGHTED with it. And the first thing I made with it? A wedding cake. Nothing like starting small, eh...?!

... homemade smoothies. I recreated my favourite smoothie this week- blueberry, raspberry, banana, and ginger. So delicious, and hey, healthy!! (Turns out, you CAN be a blogger and not put something green in your smoothie, too- who knew?!)

... a tidy room. I've been meaning to tidy my room all week, and yesterday afternoon I finally got around to doing it. It really is true what they say- tidy room, tidy mind. I feel so much better for it!

... London parks. I am loving big-city life more than I thought I would- but every now and then, I feel the need for green space. Yesterday, I went for a lovely stroll through Kensington Gardens up to the Italian Gardens, before heading on to Selfridges- but it was so lovely to be around so much green space. I find it surprisingly easy to forget I'm in a city when I'm in some of the parks around here.

What's making you happy this week?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Healthy Veggie Curry

My dad makes some of the most delicious curries in the world.

He used to travel to India a lot with work, and I think he did a few cookery classes when he was out there. Since then, any occasion which involves a big group of people gathering at his house also involves a delicious batch of homemade curry. And by homemade, I mean 100% completely from scratch- no curry pastes in this house!

As such, before going to uni, he wrote me a whole host of curry recipes, which... I promptly lost. To be honest, I'm no Maddhur Jaffrey- I am not interested in recipes which involve ten thousand different spices, six of which you can only get in specialist food stores. I like store cupboard recipes. 

I also like healthy recipes. I've been trying to detox a bit this week- no alcohol, limited chocolate, no biscuits (sob), and seven portions of fruit and veg a day. It's making a difference actually- I feel brighter, I'm sleeping better, and my tummy is a lot less bloated. 

But when I cut out all the bad stuff, it can make me feel a bit sad- at which point, I want delicious comfort food. Kind of a catch-22, tu ne pense pas? 

Enter super healthy veggie curry. Comforting, warming, store cupboard friendly, delicious, and super healthy. What more could you want? It might look a bit faffy but I swear to god- it really ain't. If I can make it in my minuscule kitchen, so can you. And so you should.

Super Healthy Veggie Curry

3cm chunk of ginger, peeled (use a teaspoon)
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1tsp garam masala
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
Crushed chilli, to taste
1 tin low-fat coconut milk
4 tbsp red lentils
1 tin chickpeas
Half a head of broccoli
Half a bag of spinach (about 100g or so)
Fresh coriander, to garnish

Begin by blitzing your ginger, garlic, onions and half the tin of tomatoes until a smooth paste forms.

In a large pan, heat a drizzle of oil and then gently fry your cumin, garam masala, cumin, and chilli. You should always do this with spices- it stops them from tasting powdery in your finished dish! Then add your tomatoey garlicky paste and bubble up.

Add the other half of your tomatoes, the lentils, and six tablespoons of coconut milk. Then simmer until the lentils are tender, adding more coconut milk as you go until you reach the consistency you like in a curry.

When the lentils are nearly done, add in your chickpeas and broccoli and simmer until the veg is done. Then stir through your spinach until it wilts, sprinkle with fresh coriander, and serve with brown rice and mango chutney.

Healthy comfort food at it's finest!!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Happiness Is... (Vol. 82)

Why are weekends only two days? I have too many fun things to cram into just two days. It's not right!

On the whole, life is very very good at the moment. I am having a few internal struggles that I don't really understand- there's no reason for them and it's worrying me that I'm not on complete form. I'm beating myself up about the little things, worrying, feeling a bit wobbly. But I am fine really- and will continue to be. Oh, life!

Anyway. This work, happiness is...

... Family time. This weekend, I attended my aunt's wedding along with the whole of my dad's side of the family. It was only the second time ever that all of my siblings and I were together (there's a 33 year age gap from oldest to youngest), and I LOVED surrounding myself with them. There's nothing like being with your family to bring you back to yourself, is there?

... Bright blue shoes. I had the coolest bright blue heels for the wedding on Saturday, and wearing them made me so happy. Though at the end of the evening, taking them off made me even happier...

... Dancing with the under fives. At the wedding, I decided that as I wasn't trying to impress anyone at all, I might as well have as much fun as I possibly could. Cue dancing all night, predominantly with the under-fives in attendance. It was so much more fun than sitting on the sidelines trying to look cool, even if I did forget the moves to Saturday Night.

... Country air. As much as I absolutely adore living in London, it was so so nice to get out into some country air this weekend. It's so restorative.

... Prolonged nice weather. I know most bloggers are dying for autumn, but remember this- autumn isn't all crisp days and crunchy leaves. It rains, and it's cold. Give me an extra few sunny September days any time- the nice weather at the weekend meant we were able to sit outside sipping Buck's Fizz on Saturday, and nursing sore heads on Sunday. Bliss!

What's making you happy this week? 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Duck Egg Cafe, Brixton

Brixton. It's a cool part of London.

A little too cool for me, actually. Seriously, when I was preparing to move up to London, someone suggested I look at places to live there- to which my older brother (aren't they always a treat?) laughed and said "Alice is certainly not cool enough for Brixton".

Cheers bro. Love you too.

However, I know that my money can be spent there just as well as anyone else's, and when Z suggested brunch at The Duck Egg Cafe (who are so cool, they don't even have a website) on Sunday, I was there like a shot.

We crammed ourselves into the tiny cafe, squashing onto a table for four with a French couple who had arrived at the same time as us, and got down to the serious business of menu perusing.

Oddly enough for a place called The Duck Egg Cafe, the menu is pretty egg-heavy. Benedict, Forestiere, Scrambled, Royale, Fried and three versions of a Full English. And the best bit is, you can have either ordinary hens or, oddly enough, duck eggs. As I always, always do, I plumped for the Eggs Benedict, while Z went for a Full English (with added hash brown, because of course).

We sipped tea (me) and a giant coffee (her) and our food arrived pleasantly quickly, given how rammed the place was. And it was good- perfectly poached eggs, delicious bacon, and they give you a hash brown with your Benedict.

We talked boy gossip, work gossip, night before gossip, and swapped stories about our siblings who, we're baffled to discover, have all turned into adults. 

And when we were done, we split the bill and wandered towards Brockwell Park, falling in love with Herne Hill as we went. Our love was cemented with the sweet farmers' market, and sunbathing in the park- where it was entirely possible to completely forget you were in one of the busiest cities in the world.

I like Sundays.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Girl Dates

We all know, it's really, really important to make time for your female friends. But come on- I genuinely cannot be the only one who kind of half-heartedly makes plans with the girls in her life only to sort of... not follow through?!

Or maybe I am, and I'm actually an awful awful person. Who knows!

Either way, I'm making more of an effort- particularly now I'm in London and I'm far closer to people I haven't spent a lot of time with over the past few years. I've decided- it's way more fun to hang out with your girl friends rather than stress over a date with a boy. (Not that I'm doing much of that either, but hey ho, you never know, eh!?)

I don't know. I guess LR's engagement kind of made me realise that I haven't been a particularly great friend recently. I kind of get a little wrapped up in myself, and I don't necessarily spend the time either with, or even talking to, the people who really matter. And I'm determined to do that now.

And as such on Bank Holiday Monday, L and I went for a very civilised meander around the National Portrait Gallery and for lunch at Browns in Leicester Square.

I gave her a history lesson all about the Tudors (sometimes it's easy to forget she didn't grow up in the UK, and as such her UK history can be a little ropey), we marvelled over Emmeline Pankhurst and Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, and we skipped past the old stuffy men, all the while chattering about men, life, and work. 

Washed down with two enormous chicken and avocado sandwiches and two glass bottles of Coke? The perfect way to spend a rainy Monday off work.

And then the following night, I went for a drink with the gorgeous Becca. Which, as meeting strangers from the blog world always does, felt kinda like internet dating. So I've kind of covered all of my bases, right!?

And since then? More drinks with Becca, and Charlotte, and Bess, and Ellie, and B. It was so fun- honestly, as much as this little blog of mine is derailing, I'm happy it has given me the opportunity to turn likeminded strangers into friends.

Or maybe I should just try actual dating. Now there's a novel idea.