Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Snowy London

A week or so ago, London was a snowy winter wonderland.  Looking out at the weather we're having now, the change is huge, but I still wanted to share these pics of our wintry views.

You can normally see the Orbit statue in the final shot - not so much with very poor visibility!  It was fun to have some snow - reminded me of home!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Country Mouse In The City: Bodeans

Matthew and I are doing pretty well on the whole 'let's eat healthily' kick this year.  Lots of veggies, lean meats, soups, wholegrains, with a dash of fruit and rice and lashings of water.  We both feel much healthier and this coupled with lots of sleep, smaller portions and regular exercise is proving a brilliant mix.

Long may it continue!

That being said, we are not being completely saintly.  I'd say 90% of our food and drink is very healthy, low in nasties, full of goodness, and 'real' food.  But as this is us trying to change how we live for the rest of our lives, we allow ourselves a little off piste fun 10% of the time...a homemade pizza here.  A couple of pints there.  A brunch once a month.  And the occasional meal of utter calorific craziness.

Our first crazy meal came last weekend, when we went with our lovely friends Dan and Brigitte to one of our favourite restaurants, Bodeans.  Bodeans has multiple locations in London and it specialises in southern BBQ and comfort food.  Not the place for dieters (or veggies, for that matter - most of the menu contains meat!), but a great place for a once-in-a-blue-moon calorie fest.

The branch of Bodeans we went to was in Tower Hill - I couldn't resist snapping a picture of the snowy Tower of London!

More London snow - The Shard in the distance.

Matthew and Dan are ready for some meat. Yum yum yum, pork and ribs and burnt ends!

Oh hello.

The decor is like a macabre 1970s den room - wood pannelling, stag style lights, and golden pig heads!

The beer list is quirky and full of interesting and less-usual beers - Matthew plumped for a Sierra Nevada.

Mmmmmmmm, nachos!

Dan and Brigitte plumped for a platter.

That's a LOT of meat!

Matthew got pulled pork, burnt ends, chips and (delicious) barbecue beans (his favourite).

I chose a pulled pork sandwich with fries and slaw.  Half of this ended up in a doggie bag for the next day, ha!

Such a lovely Sunday afternoon of delicious food, great company and a lot of laughter.  If you're looking for a cosy, fun venue for a double date or a get-together, I really can't recommend Bodeans highly enough.  Prices are middle of the range, staff are helpful, and major sporting events are shown on screens in the venue (at a low volume, unless it's American Football!).

Have you been?

On SADness

Over the Christmas break (ah, fond memories...), I had lots of time for thinking, planning, ruminating, pondering - all that good stuff.  And I had a little realisation.  I tend to get down in the dumps, right in the middle of each winter.  Something about grey skies, short days and the stress of school and the festive period just gets to me.

I was checking back over my blog and the pattern is clear (ah, so useful to have a record of my musings year on year!).  Sometime in late November I get the blues.  December, for all its joys, is a struggle.  Sometimes this manifests as stress or worry - this year it was a lot of crying.  Crying in the shower.  Crying in the middle of the night.  Crying (bizarrely and mortifyingly) at our school carol service.  I wasn't sad, per se.  There was no big thing that was weighing on my mind (I'm happy, safe, healthy, loved - I'm aware that I'm a very lucky duck!), just a horrid grey cloud that seemed to follow me around.  I felt a little like Eeyore.

So I put my thinking cap on, and decided to take some action.

Now, (as I always tell my wee badgers) I am not against being sad, or being angry, or feeling a bit low.  These feelings are normal and natural and part of life's great tapestry.  But feeling low for weeks and weeks on end just isn't an option.  Collapsing in front of a weepy, getting a bit stressed, taking a weekend to be a little quiet and introspective are all things I can and do do, but being this blue for months on end feels like a massive pain in the rear.

So I sprang into action, and decided to take some steps.  In my research (online, in the library, talking to friends far cleverer than me!) I kept on coming across SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Now, I'd never be so presumptuous as to declare myself a sufferer of a disease without a doctor's say so, but getting a doctor's appointment on my schedule doesn't really happen (unless it's an emergency).  So I thought a few subtle lifestyle changes might help and certainly couldn't harm, and if they didn't work then I'd cart myself to the docs.

And do you know what?

It has totally worked.

Five prong attack, and I feel SO much better for it.  Helpfully, a lot of the prongs are actually part of the healthkick and weight watchers bonanza too!  The prongs work thusly:

Drink: I'm drinking about one-and-a-half to 2 litres of water a day, plus lots of fruit tea and green tea.  Caffeine's still allowed, but I have a 2 pm curfew for it now.  Alcohol a maximum of twice a week.

Exercise: I get up and workout for a half hour each weekday morning.  It's not been easy putting this in place, but it's starting to feel like a habit (thank heavens!).  I swim once a week and take a good long walk each weekend.  It feels good to be breaking a sweat and taking the time for myself.

Food: Fruit, veg, wholegrains and lean meat like they're going out of fashion (7 portions of fruit and veg a day).  Fewer processed foods and sweets.

Light:  I bought myself a rudimentary SAD light and spend half an hour to an hour using it each day.  It has been such a revelation!  Who would have thought that a few bulbs could make such a difference!

Sleep: 6-8 hours a night.  Whether it's easy or not.

So that's me.  A little less blue and a lot more in control.  It's pretty nifty.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kid President For President

I hope this makes you smile as much as it made me smile...

Be awesome, you lovely folk!

Things I Need To Do

Call my mother.

Clean that bathroom.

Mark our comp tests.

Buy veggies from the supermarket.

Start learning German.

Iron some shirts.

Straighten my hair.

Watch the half dozen movies I have saved on the Sky+ player.

Sew a button on my coat.

Sort the recycling.

Research CS Lewis.

Make a Victoria Sponge.

Take a long walk.

Finish the poem I was working on last weekend.

Sort my photos into albums (hahaha.  I've needed to do this since roughly 2002).

Why is it the more you need to do....the less you feel like doing it?

Time to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine instead. :)

Once again, this ex-boarding school girl is super glad for two day weekends!

Pinterest: Move It And Lose It

As we overhaul our lifestyle and move more, eat less, Pinterest is proving to be a great place to find healthy options for meals and snacks, as well as great motivation, success stories, and health tips. Always good to feel inspired, and that is what my 'Move It And Lose It' board is all about!

Later in the year, once I'm feeling a little healthier and the workouts have woken my muscles from their decade long slumber, I want to get into running.  Not in a 'I want to run MARATHONS!!!' kind of way - I shall leave that to my fitter and more fabulous friends - but I'd love to be able to run a 5K distance without collapsing in a messy heap!  This site is packed with great tips.

I don't keep all of these rules religiously (par example, I buy berries seasonally if at all possible), but for the most part they are pretty solid and similar to what I am doing at the moment.

Source: via Claire on Pinterest

I have a good little workout regime going now.  Thirty minutes each weekday morning (sometimes a hilariously slapdash one, I must say!), a swim each Thursday evening when I'm not at a work function, and a good long weekend walk (I'm loving the chance to see so much of our area, or investigating the awesome parks here in London).  I also add one or two of these in at a weekend, just to mix it up.

Take away the 'no', replace it with 'a lot less', and you have my life now.  I don't really believe in 'no'!  Sometimes a pain au chocolat, vinegary chips by the sea or a little PB with some apple slices is just what a day needs!

This site is cool!  You can put in your weight, goal weight etc. and get an idea of what you're aiming for.  It's great to get an idea of what you're (hopefully!) heading towards.  It's also quite hilarious to make yourself double in size.

Yeah, I'm silly.

I have similar markings on my water bottles now - sometimes the whole 'drink a litre before lunch' seems a little tricky (all too often I get to 11.30 and think 'crumbs!'), but by chunking it down it becomes so much easier.

This stuff is yummy!  Health benefits or no, it's a really good alternative to water as a treat.

This girl has some great ideas for healthy snacks.  I'm not doing the 1200 calories in one box for a day plan (because a Claire on 1200 calories would wreak a hungry, hungry vengeance on the city, if not the nation), but I do have a snack box I take to school each day full of low-cal or zero point snacks (yesterday it was an apple, some string cheese, sliced turkey, half a pita with some salsa.  Nom!).  Makes the biscuit tin a lot less tempting and means I don't get to lunch or dinner ravenous!

Lots of fun suggestions here!  If I have a spare few moments, I try something from this list.  Every little helps, right?

Have you found any great health tips recently?  I'd love to have more stuff to read - knowledge is power!

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's always worthwhile....

Five Minute Friday: Again

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with the megastar who is Lisa-Jo, as always.  Join us?

The rules?

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

This week's AGAIN.


Again, again, the jauntiness of the ringtone jars with the deep gloopy darkness of the January morning.  How can it be morning again?  How can the hours of peaceful slumbers have slipped by so quickly, like water through the hands, barely noticed?

I hit the snooze button and burrow a little deeper beneath the duvet.  I pull it up over my eyes.  Perhaps if I can't see the clock, it's not time to get up?  I push my head under the pillows, hoping to muffle what's coming next.


I roll my eyes and slip an arm out, groping for my phone in the greyness.  Found, pressed, silenced.

With superhuman effort I push myself out of bed, regaled with words from the angel on one shoulder, the devil on the other.

"Well done, Claire!  Another 5.15 wakeup done!  Let's go watch TV and work out! You can do it!"

"Claire, you utter muppet.  WHY ARE YOU AWAKE???? Go back to bed!  The bed's still warm....."

I choose, quickly, rashly, snatching up water bottle and workout kit, and march myself to the bathroom.  The tiles are chilly on my feet as I change from cosy sleepwear into shorts and teeshirt.  And I walk downstairs, to start again."


Thursday, January 24, 2013

In praise of Gilmore Girls

Image source
I came very late to the Gilmore Girls party.  I didn't really watch much TV or read many magazines from 2000-2005, so its heyday passed me by.  It wrapped in 2007, and was sporadic in its scheduling over here anyway, so the phenomenon pretty much passed me by!

This all changed about two years ago, when I bought the first season on DVD, and promptly fell in love with all the quirky inhabitants of Stars Hollow.  I love Lorelai and Rory (qualifier: I love them most of the time.  Sometimes they are so pigheaded and/ or capricious I just want to shake them), adore Sookie, and definitely want to be Emily Gilmore.  Seriously - those suits?  The pearls?  Amazing.  When I discovered she was a Junior League member I literally clapped with glee.  There's a very real danger if I ever procreate and it's a girl, then her name will probably be Emily Lorelai or Lorelai Emily!


What can I say, after watching seven seasons in two years, I'm a little attached to the characters.

Don't you love when that happens with shows or characters?  I will always have a soft spot for Claire Danes and Joshua Jackson, primarily because of the 1990s based awesomeness of Angela Chase and Pacey Witter.

Do you have any characters you are inordinately fond of?  Let's geek out, friends.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Live Post!*

*not that the others are dead posts, you understand, more to emphasise that this post is live, as in happening right now, as in sat in the lovely Luxe in London's Spitalfields, sipping a tasty red wine, surrounded by some very impressive bloggers and the delightful crew from NuffnangX.

Image Source

Welcome friends, readers, etc. to my first (?), or at least my first in a while, live blog.

A little like Five Minute Friday, this is me, just writing as I go.

Unlike Five Minute Friday, it's me, with a bunch of cool folk, in a lovely restaurant, writing snippets in between writing prompts, chats about laptops, and the prerequisite staring into space that always needs to happen on a Wednesday.  What is it about Wednesdays?

First things first, introductions.  I've had a lovely chat with May, Adeline and Prad, who blog about food and photography.  As ever I find myself in awe of bloggers who stick to one topic and do it well!  Me, I'm a magpie, always have been.  Just as in study I'm a little here, a little there (maths!  History!  English!), I'm the same on my blog - cookery, thinking-out-loud, music, silliness.

Oh, and cats.  Lots and lots of cats.

It's quite comforting, writing here. The click of keys being struck (as we call them keystrokes, I'm figuring 'struck' should work?), the clang of cutlery being assembled for a yummy meal (that I don't have to cook!  Or wash up!  To quote Charlie Sheen at his maddest, "Winning!").  The red wine is flowing and I'm enjoying relaxing, chatting to some interesting people.  I seem to have an awesome waitress/overseer who keeps checking my drink needs.  She can definitely stay (shout out, awesome Luxe person!).

I really think it's fun coming along to blog meets like this.  For years I didn't, and I'm not sure why....shyness, probably.  I'm a bit of a wuss, and often shy away from new and different situations, but it's been so good to meet other bloggers, and to realise quite how many of us there are.

Everyone is so cool and interesting and clever here....but so nice too!  I've been chatting East London with Fleur and the idiosyncracies of the Invernessian accent with Chris.  Good times!

But now, time for supper.  More soon?

Guest Post: Fun New Tech and Apps

This year I thought it would be fun to include some guest posts from my multitalented friends...whether it's fashion, tech, cooking, books, music....there's bound to be something fun and interesting they have to share!  First up with a guest post is Jean-Luc, who has lots to say about some new tech and apps on the scene.  Enjoy!

With a new year brings new resolutions, new discoveries and new ideas. In the spirit of such a period, we thought why not look at some new apps, new websites and new blogs with which to enjoy all that 2013 will have to offer?!

In going over the literally hundreds of new offerings available to the keen-eyed user we tried to stick to three core principles in selecting what we thought would be the most interesting, informative and useful of everything available. Of course, there are many different principles at play when looking at new services and offerings, but it would be impossible to mention them all so we narrowed it down to the three we thought most important, namely: Originality, practicality and mobility. As if afraid of being accused of an inability to relax and have fun, we followed up these noble ambitions with a fun one and included an app that we think you’ll find satisfies the pointless but fun requirement we all need!

How is this for originality?! Imagine being able to collect the photos you take on your smartphone and collate them in an unlimited manner of ways into one creatively cool collage. Well that’s exactly what Fuzel, the latest offering from the coolly named Not A Basement Studio, does for you! Take a look at this example:

Each segment of this collation was a separate photo added, angled and filtered so as to create exactly the look, shape and feel that the user wants. In addition, you can add pieces of text in a variety of different styles so as to personalise your collage even more. Once you’ve created your pictorial Picasso, you can print it out as a postcard and send it off to your loved ones! Pretty cool app, with a pretty cool theme!

Launching this year is the remarkable and exciting UK based project called Publicate. Publicate allows its users to collect, organise and share everything from articles, images, and video to documents and audio. Serve your passions and interests, inspire your projects or simply read and appreciate. If you’re looking to establish your position as a ‘go to’ resource in your area without the time to spend on creating content, Publicate offers a platform for you to share and share alike all the content you wish. With a nifty browser extension that allows you to collect and publish, literally, at the click of a button, the visual interface offered by Publicate makes organising, filing and saving fun, easy and intuitive.
Whether you are a student, a schoolteacher, a researcher or an entrepreneur Publicate will be useful to you. Plus, apparently it’s a brand spanking new platform so you can be some of the first to test it out!

You’ve got too much time to sit around and do nothing, but you’ve got too little time to launch yourself into something too time-consuming. We’ve all been caught in that moment. Some people like to day-dream, some people like to take out a compact and check their hair or mascara, others like to read a page or two of the paper. Well, if you’re a blog reader (and with the quality of blogs out there, you should be) NuffnangX is what you should be using. It takes the posts from any blog you tell it to and summarises the article, distilled with a picture into a sentence or phrase which most accurately reflects what the post is about. It’s a nifty little app that comes with a list of recommended blogs, from countries all around the world and spanning over twenty different categories from fashion to photography. It also makes leaving comments from your smartphone as easy as sending a text or a tweet, so that bloggers and the readers can discuss the hot post of the day literally from anywhere! Plus, it’s completely free… ;-)

And now for the fun one...

Yes, you’ve read about the original, the practical and the mobile so now it’s time for the fun!


Find great burgers in and around London, using your iPhone. Burgerac tears through the streets of London tracking down the finest burgers around with a team of dedicated burger-loving experts. Once they’ve found a burger that matches their (very, very high) burgeresque standards they publish their findings and burger lovers rejoice in the knowledge that there’s a new treat in town. They’re also in New York, so if you’re hopping across the pond anytime soon, you’ll be able to eat like a local!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Recent Reads

The House of Silk ~ Anthony Horowitz

Believe it or not, the first Sherlock Holmes novel I've ever read in it's entirety...and a really great read at that.   Many of my pupils adore Horowitz, so I was excited to read a book of his for myself.  Really good, pacey, well-written and full of twists and turns - I heartily recommend!

The Power of Habit ~ Charles Durigg

I love a good pop-science book, especially when it contains ideas and thinking I can apply to my everyday life!  This was a dense book but a thoroughly worthwhile read.  I found the idea of how habits are used in industry absolutely fascinating!

What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast ~ Laura Vanderkam

A very quick read right at the tail end of last year and really interesting.  Funnily enough, this book was a lot to do with habits also - there were a few pieces of research which were cited in both books.  This was the ideal book to read before embarking on some lifestyle changes and really crystallised my thinking.  Definitely helped ease my initial horror at the 5 am starts!

I Can Make You Hate ~ Charlie Brooker

Charlie Brooker is such a dark writer, but totally compelling and intelligent with it, so I tend to very much enjoy his books.  This collection of his writings for The Guardian, The Ten O'Clock Show and other endeavours was the perfect post-Christmas read.

32 in 32

1. Write 1 book/ebook.

2. Visit at least 2 other countries.

3. Give blood at least 3 times.

4. Pay off £4,000 of my student loan.

5. Run 5K, either at an organised event or just pounding the pavement!

6. Go to the theatre 6 times!

The Showstoppers (Dec 16th).

7. Visit 7 different UK cities.


8. Have 8 pyjama days!

Wednesday December 19th, Wednesday December 26th, Friday December 28th, Saturday 29th December, Wednesday 2nd January, Sunday 6th January (6).  This one is proving embarassingly easy!

9. Write and photograph at least 9 cookery posts.

Lamb and Lentil Yums.

10. Attract 10 new sponsors for Holiday Hampers, whether big or small.

11. Spend 11 days 'unplugged' - no phone, no internet, no TV.

12.  Frame 12 of my favourite pictures and mail them to the people involved with a note.

13. Try 13 new recipes.

14. Write 14 poems and post them here on my blog.

Into 2013.

15. Give away/donate 15 carrier bags of stuff to the PDSA shop or elsewhere.

16. Workout or walk 16 times a month, all year.

January has started well, I'm 9/16 so far, and the month is under halfway through!

17. Use the library at least 17 times.

18. Visit 18 different London landmarks.

Gordon's is such an unusual wine bar, I'm totally counting it.  I also went to The Barbican, so that's 2!

19. Go to church at least 19 times.

20. Write to my sponsor child, Wendy 20 times.

21. Take at least 21 walks of more than 5 miles.

22. Spend 22 hours working on another language.

23. Have at least 23 'no spend' days.

Thursday 20th December, Tuesday 25th December, Saturday 29th December, Wednesday 2nd January, Tuesday 8th January, Monday 14th January, Tuesday 15th January (7).

24. Read 24 books.

The House of Silk, Community Wins, I Can Make You Hate, What Women Fear, Redemption, What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, 100 Pound Loser, Memoirs of a Fruitcake, Remember, Wild (10).

25. Have people over for dinner/brunch/lunch 25 times.

I'm going to count our Christmas drinks as the first, then Christmas dinner with Rory and Eileen.  James and Laura came over for New Year's Day Dinner. Hannah joined me for supper and a movie. Naomi was with us for a light supper (haha, chips and dips!). (5)

26. Try at least 26 homemaking/cooking tips from pinterest.

27. Make 27 gifts for people throughout the year.

28. Watch 28 new (to me) movies.

Crazy Stupid Love, What's Your Number, I Don't Know How She Does It, Pitch Perfect, The Muppets, Tangled, Les Miserables (7).

29. Find 29 songs I like to sing on karaoke.

O Holy Night, To Make You Feel My Love, What's Love Got To Do With It, Say A Little Prayer, Son of a Preacher Man, Let's Get It On. (6)

30. Volunteer for 30 hours.

3 hours at WLAC Christmas Party (Total: 3 hours).

31. Swim 31 times.

32. Lose 32 pounds.

8 pounds lost so far!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

More IRL than URL

I've been reading Rose's blog for a fair old time now (the girl is wicked stylish and concocts soooooo many marvellous recipes!), so when she announced a blogger meet up right here in London, of course I made plans to go along!  So this afternoon I joined a plethora of Londoner fans for pizza, cocktails and chat.  It was such fun!

Rose is even more beautiful in person (as was her fabulous handbag) and it was so cool to meet so many other bloggers in person - sometimes it can feel rather isolated, tap-tap-tapping away, so it's always great to connect with other people.  I've really enjoyed all the other blogger events I've been to recently (London Bloggers Meetup and the Nuffnang Bloggers Tea both spring to mind), and was especially pleased that this time I remembered to take a few pictures too.  Lord bless Instagram!

The woman of the hour!

Lovely Christine, who I first bumped into at the Nuffnang event, and James, one of the Cool Bars for Uncool People boys.

Christine and Bryony - they were kind enough to let me hang with them!  Turning up at these things solo is always a bit nervewracking!

Bryony and the other two CoolBarUncool boys - we had lots of fun chats about myriad random topics.  The best kind of conversation!

All in all, super fun, and a very nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  This evening is all about PJs, hanging with M, kittens and reading (I'm a third of the way through my book club book....and book club is on Thursday!).  Tomorrow is work, working out, and Bodeans.  What does the rest of your weekend hold?



About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is:



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