Thursday, 27 February 2014

Will travel for food


Straight into it this month! I'm not sure I'll go into much on the life front because last week I did my blog post on 'Believe' and if I talk any more about yoga or positive thinking for the rest of this month, I'm not sure I'd be winning myself any fans! I do sometimes catch myself banging on about these things and I'm sure people get bored listening to me! Nobody likes a repetative bore so I'll just keep it off the blog and stick with instagramming every aspect of my day!!

The month of February was hectic. The project I've been working on for the past five months finally launched but in the weeks leading up to it, my life was consumed with work. B was an absolute star husband, winning himself a very big bank of brownie points. He would have dinner waiting for me when I got home at silly o'clock and would even make clean dinners for me and even eat them himself. His best effort was a burger that he made with a mushroom bun just for me. He'd pack my lunch for the next day and on Sunday's he'd just leave me to potter around the kitchen the whole day because he knew it was what I needed to chill and relax. Thanks B, you're one in a million!

He really outdid himself. A clean, awesome
burger, made by B

Another of B's amazing dinners

So my project launched and it was great. Better than I could have hoped for actually and I'm absolutely thrilled. It was stressful, hectic, scary, annoying, frustrating... But I'm so pleased I worked on it and had the best team to back me up. What a relief!


As you all know, I have my delightful little nephew K who is just the coolest kid I've ever come across. We skype regularly and L sends a photo a day so I don't feel like I'm missing out on him growing up. Our four days in Perth last year were some of the best days of 2013 for me and now, K is a big brother to a beautiful chubby, wonderful little girl, R. I have a niece and a nephew now and I could not be happier. L and G, you are already incredible parents and now your family has grown to four. I'm so pleased for you guys and can not WAIT to meet little R as soon as possible. Sigh! Talking about them just makes me so happy!

Look at those hands! How can you NOT
love those hands?!

And now to something I have been dying to talk about this for MONTHS!! My big sister J (this is my London sister BTW) and her husband L are expecting their own bundle of baby this year too!!! Yippee!! For my December post, J was in Australia and still hadn't told some friends back in London because she wanted to tell them in person. So I waited. In January, there were STILL some people left to tell. So I waited (because EVERYONE reads my blog - do you like how I just assume that?!) and now, everyone knows so I can say it in the blogging world. I am thrilled to pieces!! 

If people thought I was an Aunty-bore before with just one nephew, just wait till I get three to talk about! Being an Aunty is by far the best thing ever. I never knew I had so much love to give! 

And happy kind-of second birthday to my little K for the 28th (well... sort of - my little leap year baby!) Can't wait to hear how much fun you had and how super spoilt you got!

My birthday drawing from K


It's pretty clear that I am willing to travel for food. This trip was no exception and was planted in my brain many, many months ago when our friends R and P told us about the best tasting Portuguese custard tarts from Lisbon. Now I like custard tarts, but I wouldn't rave about them (but you'll see that change by the end of my blog post) but R just kept saying how amazing these were and that we had to take a trip to Lisbon to try them. So we did. As an early birthday trip to me, we went in mid-January and we're just hoping to escape the drizzle and grey that is London in January. 

The views over the wonderful city of
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

Tiles like this were all around the city.
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

Another gorgeous wall!
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

We arrived Friday night and after checking into our very swish hotel, we immediately went in search of wine. Oh, and food. We ended up in a gorgeous part of Lisbon, surrounded by tiny cafés, restaurants and lovely wine bars. We chose to stay at one, sampling wines from the 'expensive' range on the wine menu. Another reason to love Portugal is that everything is amazing, delicious, local and very well priced. 

From here we went for dinner, quite early by local standards as they eat late. Way later than we could stand waiting! The restaurant was a tiny little place which seated only 15 people. I loved that the kitchen was almost smaller than mine and you could see everything in action. We ended up being befriended by a group of French men on a boys weekend away and they insisted on buying us cocktails. From what I could tell it was just a g&t in a huge wine glass with strawberries in it. The amount we'd already had, I ended up just eating the strawberries from mine and pretended to sip it as they insisted we continue drinking. 

Our walk back to the hotel was a mission as we got very, very lost and it was raining quite hard. Still, we made it back and only the next day did we discover what a huge loop we'd made, missing the hotel by a matter of meters at one point.

Cool old tram
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

On Saturday we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and had our first of many custard tarts... For breakfast. Don't judge me, they're a local traditional food so we had to try them! I thought these ones were good but it turns out while they were better than any I'd tried before, they were the 'worst' I would taste all weekend.

We took the train to the beautiful town of Sintra, another great suggestion from R&P. It turned out to be one of my favourite places we've ever visited and it's earnt its place on my 'Eveyone must go here' list. Tiny cobble stone streets amongst brightly tiled colourful buildings with little cafés and local souvenirs shops. We had a double espresso which was HUGE, and our second custard tart. Please note, we shared every time we had one and yes, I'm trying to justify how many we ate because it really was quite astonishing.

So many espressos and custard tarts...

We visited the town centre and wandered the sweet little shops, buying some gorgeous painted tiles of which I'm already dreaming about how I'm going to use them when we one day build our own house! Next we went to Moorish Castle to explore the ruins. It was a stunningly bright, sunny day and the castle was so pictureque, I got slightly snap happy on both our big camera and my phone (so many instagram opportunities!)

Moorish Castle
Sintra, Portugal
January 2014

Moorish Castle
Sintra, Portugal
January 2014
We also visited Pena Palace - it was so beautiful, it looked like something out of a fairytale. It was one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been to and really did take my breath away. It is this place that is why Sintra is on my 'everyone must go here' travel list. Just wow.

The colours!
Sintra, Portugal
January 2014

Pena Palace
Sintra, Portugal
January 2014

After a yum lunch (my pork was doused in butter, pools and pools of the stuff!) we had a while to wait for the train so we went and bought a painting from a street vendor (and yes, B did barter for it, of course he did!) and had yet another double espresso and Portuguese custard tart. I worked out that it was my sixth coffee and later in the day, I proceeded to get the shakes. I'm not sure my body can handle that much caffiene!

That night, back in Lisbon, we went out in the great part of town, dining at a little tapas wine bar, sampling amazing foods and incredible wines. This is my idea of food heaven. A tiny little table in a lovely buzzing restaurant, great conversation, amazing CHEAP wines and little bites of delicious food. Just awesome! Our final stop for the night was one last wine bar where I got up the courage (must've been all that wine!) to ask the guy behind the bar if they sold the beautiful wooden wine boxes they had stacked around the place. No, they didn't he told me, but if I came back tomorrow after they get a new shipment of wine in, I could have one of those. Great! But how much was it going to cost me? "Oh no, I'll give you one for free. No charge!" Amazing!! 

So I know I said 'our final stop' and 'one last wine bar' but I just remembered that there was ONE more stop and one final wine bar... and this one was amazing!! Plus we fell into it completely by accident. The rooms were filled with dolls, vintage toys and quirky everything EVERYWHERE. One room had rows and rows of toy soilders. Another had china mugs and plates all over the place. It was SO cool! The wine was pretty rubbish but the atmosphere made up for it and it remains one of the coolest bars I've ever been to, worldwide.

Most amazing bar ever
Pavilhao Chines
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

Quirkiness EVERYWHERE!
Pavilhao Chines

Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

Our last day in beatiful Lisbon was the whole reason I was so excited to be there. It was Portuguese custard tart day! After getting dreadfully lost and getting really annoyed with each other, we finally found the right tram and the right stop to get to Pasteis de Belem. The line was out the door, as we were told to expect it to be, we lined up and ordered ten to take away plus two to have in the cafe. Don't scoff at our ten takeaways, R&P said they bought 20!! Or was it 24?! Either way, our ten seemed quite minimal in comparison! We sat down in the cafe which seats 400 (!) with an espresso each (I'd moved away from the double espressos after feeling so rubbish from excess caffiene the day before!) Another thing to note is that espressos in Portugal are terrifyingly cheap. They cost around €70c each! 70c!! But back to the tarts. Oh... my... gosh... it was... it was just heaven. The pastry was incredibly crisp and buttery but not too much. The custard was divine and the cinnamon and sugar combination on top was perfect. It was one of the greatest tasting things I've ever had in my entire life. It was perfection. I sat there and just smiled. It just made me so happy and as much as I love food, rarely does it stop me in my tracks and just make me sigh with happiness. What an amazing thing it was. THIS is why I love to travel.

Worth the wait, worth the trip!
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

In all their glory.
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

To wrap up this section because I'm not sure I can top my high of talking about custard tarts, I will just say that we did go back to the wine shop and they gave me not one, but TWO gorgeous wooden wine boxes - I was THRILLED and they are now proudly displayed at home. I've seen them for sale in markets and they're expensive so I'm totally in love with mine! And yes, we managed to get them into our hand luggage for the flight home! There was some VERY strategic packing going on! And of course my magnet - not overly exciting because what I really wanted was a Portuguese custard tart magnet (obviously) but as much as we searched, sadly they just don't exist. Instead, we bought a tram magnet - very much part of Lisbon as the trams are just so cool, rumbling round the city! 


I came under fire recently at work when we were staying back late and the team ordered pizza. I decided I didn't want any because a) I knew B was cooking an awesome meal for when I got home b) it was Dominos which is never anything to write home about and c) I just didn't feel like it. Lately, people have been criticising the way I'm eating or tell me I'm boring or I have no fun anymore. Totally NOT true. I feel better when I eat better but if I want go go crazy, I do!

Firstly, Portugal. Apart from the custard tarts (I promise I won't talk about them any more) I ate some great food. On our first night, I had a great salmon dish with a creamy velvety sauce and we shared a highly recommended chocolate cake for dessert. I was being a massive snob and said to B, "It wasn't THAT good. My brownies are way better than that." 

In my favourite wine bar
Lisbon, Portugal
January 2014

On the second night, we had some great tapas and I decided to be brave and try octopus. I'm not a huge seafood fan and octopus has always been one of those things I shudder at the sight of (it's the tentacles, they freak me out!) but I thought I'd give it a go and see if my taste buds had matured. They hadn't. I hated it. The texture. The little suction thingies. Just ew. Can't do it!!

Back in London now and on a more postive note, I had some delicious sushi to celebrate the launch of our project at a restaurant called Sticks n Sushi. My friend A knows good sushi so when she suggested we go here, I was thrilled. My old team weren't exactly foodies. In fact the only time we went out for a meal after work, we ended up at KFC so to go to a sushi place with work friends, I was totally up for it. Flavour combinations I'd never tried before, salmon roe, raw tuna, all the things I'd previously shied away from, delicious! The cocktails were a whole other story though. A picked one that was "The best ever. You'll either love it or you'll love it." According to the waiter. Soy milk and avocado were the two things I could remember it had in it. Not. Cool. Just plain weird. I feel bad cause A and I were supposed to split our cocktails and drink half of each but the avocado one was just wrong.

Sticks 'n' Sushi
Covent Garden, London
February 2014

To assure you all that I still have fun and can drink like a fish (although at 29 I'm losing my ability to drink my body weight in beer. Three and I'm tipsy, is this what happens when you get old?!) B and I went to a beer festival last weekend. Craft Beer Rising in the ever so cool and hip Shoreditch. We sampled great beers, including Cat beer from Catalunya, Spain that I promised J I would try in her non-drinking-pregnant state. But beers aside, the food was where it was at. In fact, we ended up eating four lunches AND dessert. Let me start at the beginning:

Beer Cat from Catalunya, Spain

* Chorizo and pork pork pie from Hartland pies - yum but I'm not the hugest fan of pork pies. I don't like all the pastry and gelatine but this one was pretty good.

Lunch #1: Pork pie

* A fishdog from Hix's FishDog pop up. A posh fish finger hot dog with mushy peas and tartare sauce. Really yum but really small for the price and it was more Iike a starter than a main for lunch

Lunch #2: FishDog

* BBQ slow cooked brisket gyros from Prairie Fire BBQ. B ate this one by himself and rated it very good. But the lady at the stand was mean and snappy which set me off on the wrong foot!

* Bear burger from Burger Bear. Awwww yeah!! This was awesome!! With L, the master of all burger tasters in love with Motherflipper, I wholehearted believe that this burger is worthy to go up against his beloved Motherflipper in what we will call a burger-off. I know we ate this after a fair few beers but I still think it was that good! Incredibly juicy beef, good brioche bun, simple sauces and salad. Classic, simple, good quality ingredients. Fricken yum!! If the burger-off happens, I will definitely blog about it!

Lunch #4 (no pic of the gyros, sorry!)
Burger Bear

* And for dessert, dog-nuts. Donut fingers (kinda like churros) with salted caramel sauce.  Mmm... That's all that needs to be said about that. Also from Hix's FishDog pop up.

Donuts with salted caramel - mmm!

And so you can see that yes, I eat as well as I can during the week and when I'm in control but when I want to let loose and eat like a maniac I do. Life is about having fun and I love eating well and making banana bliss balls, clean chocolate nut bars, paleo friendly merrymaker bites, clean and healthy coconut banana bread (all of which are awesome by the way. No, honestly, I've tested them out on work people, my sister J and of course my guinea pig B, and they always go down well.) They even look pretty in in pictures!

Banana bliss balls

Paleo sesame crackers with beetroot dip

Paleo raspberry, almond and
raw cacao nib muffins

Raw chocolate nut bars

But at the end of the day, I will never be able to dedicate my entire life to nothing but health and fitness because while I love that stuff, I also love a dirty big burger and a nice big pint from time to time. And that's ok!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Move, Nourish, BELIEVE

A special blog post today! This one is all about my last week - believe. With work being super stressful, busy and the pressure on to get to the launch day, I have really started to put my life into perspective. Work is important and I want to love what I do but sometimes that means saying no, sitting back and just taking the time to breathe. So that's what I'm doing!

I've already mentioned in previous blog posts, my love for Lorna Jane and the mantra, Move, Nourish, Believe.

Move, I'm getting into my yoga in a big way - I absolutely LOVE it. We bike ride on the weekends and I love to walk everywhere. I've still got a long way to go but I'm getting into this whole move thing.

Nourish, this is my favourite! Everyone who reads my blog knows I adore food and in 2014, ever since I read Lorna Jane's book 'More' I've been eating cleaner, really looking at how I cook, what I cook with and I just love being in the kitchen.

Believe. I have never been one for the whole 'Believe' thing, in fact, it was the one part I wasn't quite sure about. That's why I though this week, I would take on the Lorna Jane, Fit Approach 'Move, Nourish, Believe' challenge, of which the theme was 'Believe' -

Day one - Spoil yourself. Do something just for you

Loving all the colour! Favourite clothes,
so comfy and pretty!

Yep, yoga tops! Active wear is becoming my new favourite type of clothing. I have to stop myself from buying more and more (I'm mainly saying this because B will be reading so he knows I'm actually being quite sensible... not that he'll see it like that!) Thanks to my lovely sisters J&L for going shopping for me in Aus and getting me the flowery top, my absolute favourite. I wish I could wear it all day every day!

Day two - Five mindful minutes. Do good to your body, meditate for five minutes and find your zen

Relaxing in the moment (while also trying
to take a photo...)

Yoga selfie! On Tuesday, I took five extra minutes at the start of my day to just sit and breathe. I know it might make some of you roll your eyes but my morning yoga sets me up for the day. I never, ever, ever want to exercise when I finish work so taking time out just for me in the mornings is just what I need and love.

Days three - Be happy. Show us your happy place

Happiness in my kitchen! It's small but
it's all ours - I love it!

Yes, my kitchen! I could have taken yet another picture of my yoga mat but I think my instagram followers might start getting sick of the sight of it. I was going to take a photo of our bedroom but a) it was really messy and needs a clean and b) I have a room which I love more than my bedroom... My teensy little tiny kitchen. My kitchen where two people can't easily cook in. My kitchen with terrible lighting and annoying appliances... But I still love it and it's where I can relax, unwind and get creative. Plus I adore food so it seems quite fitting, don't you think?!

Day four - Thankful Thursday. Let us know what you're thankful for

My fabulous fridge with all it's
wonderful treasures, trinkets and memories

Yes that is a picture of my fridge. No, I am not thankful for my fridge, I'm thankful for what all the things on it represent. 

My family. They are my everything! I would not be who I am without them and they mean the world to me. Family is SO important and sometimes I think it's easy to forget that. 

My friends. I read an article recently that said when you get to your late 20s, you realise that you have fewer friends, but they are real friends. This is so true! The friends I have in my life are so genuine and make me a better person. 

Travel, represented by my magnet collection. It still amazes me how many incredible countries we've been to and the opportunities we've had available to us, in order to live out a lifelong dream. I always wanted to travel and I always wished I could live and work overseas but I never expected it to be for this long, have this much fun or see so many wonderful places.

Life and love - a painting from my nephew. A postcard of a pig. A motivational quote about food (what else?!) A picture of a bulldog eating ice-cream. A photo of B and his brother J when they were kids. Tickets to a beer festival... that's a whole lot of fun, happiness, life and love on one little fridge and SO much to be thankful for. Who knew so much could be represented on a fridge?!

Don't be disheartened if you are a friend of family member and you can't see yourself on my fridge!! This is not a complete representation!

Day five - Share the love - Shout out to your #1 supporter/motivator

Clockwise from top left
The recipe princesses, The Merrymaker Sisters;
Motivational goddess, The_Heathy_Me;
Fitness queen, Lorna Jane

To me, this is three people (well, actually it's four because one person is actually a pair of sisters). For support - The Merrymaker Sisters. They create delicious, healthy, recipes and whenever I make one of their creations, they comment on every photo and provide so much support, it's lovely!! It makes me want to make more of their recipes, eat better and look after myself, all because of a little bit of support and love!

For motivation, it has to be The Healthy Me. Her's is the one account I make sure I check daily (don't judge me, I've already admitted to having an addiction to instagram) to see what she's posted. I am constantly amazed at how she can have such a postive outlook on life, a great work ethic and how she is just a beautiful, happy person. Exactly what the 'Believe' mantra is all about. 

If I'm to be cheeky, I want to say that Lorna Jane and the Move, Nourish, Believe website are another source of motivation for me - I know I was supposed to choose just one and I've now chosen four people AND an entire website. But it's true! The videos they post, the articles they write, the recipes they create, I love them and it's all made possible by Lorna Jane. They help me bound out of bed in the morning (sometimes it's a slow crawl as opposed to a bounce) keep me bubbly throughout the day (I've even printed a motivational quote for each of my team at work... not sure if they've kept it up just to humour me!) and keep me happy. They help me believe that anything is possible and to remember to always make time for the things that make me happy - this quote sums it up perfectly. 

One of my favourite quotes

To leave with just one last thing, a recipe that is chocolate, clean and utterly delicious. I got this recipe from the book 'More' - mmmm!!

Chocolate mousse - from 'More of the fit woman's secrets' by Lorna Jane Clarkson

Amazing book, highly recommended!
Recipe, bottom left and the delicious
FINISHED product

Makes: four serves 
Prep time: 2.5hours

  • 1.5 cups coconut cream (approx 2 cans, in the fridge the night before)
  • 1/4 cup cacoa powder (or good quality cocoa)
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup honey

Place the egg whites in a bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until they form firm peaks (when you turn the whisk upside down, peaks will hold but tips may fold back). Scoop out into another bowl and refrigerate until required.

Open the refrigerated cans of coconut cream and skim off the thick, white coconut cream, leaving the liquid at the bottom (the liquid can be used in another recipe that calls for coconut milk). Put this coconut cream into a clean mixing bowl, and whisk for around five minutes adding the honey gradually. You may want more honey, depending on how sweet you like things. The coconut cream should increase in volume.

Sift in the cacao powder into the whipped coconut cream, and fold in well. Then, gently fold in stiff egg whites, one third at a time. Allow the mousse to set in individual ramekins or a piping bag for at least 2hours before serving.

Serve alongside fresh fruit or topped with raw cacao nibs.

Yummy! Delicious and clean!
Next blog will be back to normal, where I can talk about our wonderful trip to Portugal and well, that's kinda it cause my January and February have been consumed by work!