Lately…

Kew Gardens, Autumn in LondonLately it has been all about autumn! The nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning red and our winter coats have been hauled to the front and center of our closets. It’s sad to say goodbye to summer but with the chill outside everything has been getting a bit more cosy inside and I love it.

Ben and I were determined to get out and photograph the fleeting golden leaves before the spectacle was over so we tumbled into the tube and jetted down south to Kew Gardens. I think we got there just in time and some trees had already lost all their leaves. But the ones that hadn’t were gorgeous. Kew Gardens, Autumn in LondonKew Gardens, Autumn in LondonLately we have been watching rugby!! The World Cup is on in London and the mighty All Blacks have reached the finals. We are happy Kiwis. Ben and I were lucky enough to get tickets in the ballot for the quarter-final match in Cardiff where NZ bet France 62 -13. The All Blacks scored 9 tries! There was lots to wave our flag about.

All Blacks Supporters RWC 2015Lately, Ben and I have been playing the 30-Day Minimalism Game. You start by throwing one thing out, then the next day you get rid of two things, three things the day after that and so on until you reach day 30 or have nothing more to throw out. Ben and I both have little hoarding quirks; me with all things written. I keep magazines, books, leaflets flyers, newspaper cut outs, cards, notepads and the list goes on. Ben keeps shoe boxes and Amazon boxes, things he thinks he will need when he one day comes to pack up his stuff and move. He will probably throw out the shoes he bought before the boxes. So enter the minimalism game.

We’re at day seven now and our bedroom looks like the draws have exploded. In and around packing were making piles of clothes to donate to charity shops; boxes of shoes to throw out; identifying things we may want to sell on eBay. There is a lot going on, but it’s good to look through things and evaluate why you have it. I’m asking myself: When did you last use this? and will you ever need it again? I like the idea of having only things I need or that bring me joy. Sod all the shoes that gave me blisters and the books I read but wouldn’t recommend.

The Minimalism ChallengeHow did I end up with two copies of My Booky Wook? Seriously?

The Minimalism ChallengeLately, we have been getting ready for our trip to Egypt and Jordan. I’ve had numerous vaccinations – tetanus, typhoid and hepatitis A & B to be exact. We’ve bought travel insurance and arranged visas. We have bought loose long sleeve tops and sleeping sacks for our overnight stays on the felucca boats and in the desert. I have had one nightmare about snakes (aaah!) and now finally we’re packing. We’re headed for 30 degrees and sunshine and I can’t wait!

I’ll sign off with my first gif. I always end up as the poser for Ben’s portrait shot practice and there is only so much smiling my face can handle before I’m goofing around.

Kew Gardens, Autumn in LondonHappy weekend everyone! Catch up with you after Egypt

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Electro Floral Cake Masterclass

Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsIt looks too pretty to eat right? It did take me a day to cut it, but after that it was fair game! I love creative, organic looking cakes. One of my all time favourite Instagram accounts is TheCakerNZ for her original cakes dripping in fruit, flowers and all things nice.

Another style I had my eye on was that of Fondant Fox and Meringue Girls. Their baking collaborations have filled my Instagram feed for months with colourful cakes exploding with out of this world decorations. So when I came across the Electro Floral Cake Masterclass with Fondant Fox I mentioned to Ben that it would make a great birthday present.. nudge, nudge!

Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsI think he must have wanted to have a slice of this cake too, as he took care of all the details and booked me in for my birthday. Yay!

I dodged all the cyclists and tried to avoid all the dangerously cute indie bookstores on Broadway Market to arrive at the Meringue Girls HQ to get ready for my lesson in cake. I was joined by seven other awesome baking ladies, most of whom I’m now following on Instagram. You ladies rock!

The first step was meringue. Fondant Fox took us through the techniques used by the meringue girls to get their ubiquitous coloured and flavoured delights. I especially love the rainbow coloured ‘Unicorn Poo’.

IMG_5302Mine didn’t look nearly so professional but I loved the rainbow pink colour. I chose to flavour my meringue with rose-water, a flavour I have been obsessed with ever since my Rose macaron in Paris. I coated my meringue shard with pistachio and dried rose petals then they were whisked into the oven for baking.

IMG_5308We then set our attention to preparing the pre made vanilla cakes. We cut four even layers from two cakes and started with a crumb coat of the mint coloured fondant icing. I was so lucky with all the flavour and colour choices made for this class as they were probably ones I would have chosen for myself.

IMG_5309The fluffy icing was soon surrounded the cake and we were on to chocolate. This was the surprise of the night as the drip effect is made simply by slowly spreading a modest amount of melted high quality cooking chocolate over the top of the cake and just nudging it to the edge. This means it slowly runs over the cake without splattering and you get the luxurious oozing drip effect.

IMG_5310 Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsWith half an hour to go in the class it was decorating time! We smashed our meringue shards, coated berries in disco gold, and covered our cakes until heaving, with meringues and flowers. If that wasn’t enough we finished off with sprinkles of flower petals and dried raspberries, crushed meringues and lots more glitter.

Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsElectro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsThere was so much going on these cakes we had to make DIY extensions to cake boxes to fit them in. I was so nervous carrying mine home on the train, but I did manage to get it home in one piece. Phew!

I had friends over the next night to help me eat it. At first we cut off modest slithers each and devoured them slowly savouring all the different textures and flavours. As we finished we looked at each other and knowingly said.. one more? It was too good for just one slice.

My housemates and I spent the rest of the week eating it and munching on the extra meringues. It was a great dessert to look forward to in the evenings. I know some of the ladies in the class were using theirs as birthday cakes and gifts for other occasions but there was something extremely indulgent about having this whole cake to myself which I enjoyed a lot.

Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue GirlsThis cake was so photogenic.. I took about 50 pictures of it before I cut it!

Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue Girls Electro Floral Cake Masterclass, London with Fondant Fox + Meringue Girls Thank you Fondant Fox for a great class and thank you Ben for a memorable and delicious birthday present.

Open House: Tottenham

I came across Open House London while flicking through TimeOut magazine one Tuesday morning. I excitedly read about all the great London buildings that open up their doors to the public for one weekend only for free; 10 Downing Street, St Paul’s Cathedral, The Royal Banqueting House and all number of historic and modern landmarks.   As I went to check online though and realised that I was too late to nab a booking to visit the Prime Minister’s residence, I decided to look closer to home.

Turns out N17 had a surprising amount to offer and I quickly sorted out my own little architectural walking tour of Tottenham. Open House states on their website they’re a “not-for-profit organisation to promote public awareness and appreciation of the capital’s building design and architecture” and through their work aim to engage the wider community in their surroundings. So with this in mind we headed out into Tottenham to uncover the stories behind buildings in our neighbourhood.

Hale Village

We didn’t have to wander far, choosing to start our exploration in Hale Village a housing estate we see on a daily basis, looming in all its citrus coloured glory over our local underground station.

At most sites you are escorted around by a guide, either someone working in the building, or a volunteer with a passion for buildings. At Hale Village we were met by two caretakers who had been looking after the site from the word go, they were here before there was even properties to look after. Sounds like a cruisey gig, but I imagine it must be a full on 24 hour operation now. Since planning consent was granted in 2007 around 1,200 properties have been completed with more to follow fast.

Hale Village, Tottenham, N17It was a different experience wandering around the estate, which is partly private residential buildings, partly student accommodation and a few retail and public services thrown in, and hearing about it from a function and maintenance perspective. It’s a pretty amazing space to have sprung up in the last 8 years, but it also takes some pretty impressive technology and planning to maintain. We visited the boiler station that will supply all heating for the entire estate and the guides talked about dealing with the rubbish that’s generated by the estates residents. In short, the scale is huge. The boilers look bigger than petrol tankers.

Originally I had been attracted to this tour as I wanted to snoop and see what these buildings were like on the inside. That didn’t happen, darn! But I didn’t mind, learning about the inner workings of an estate was worth it even without knowing how big their living space was. Hale Village, Tottenham, N17639 Tottenham High Road – Enterprise Centre

Our next stop was a building I had never come across before, it’s a grade two listed building right on the high road, currently used as a multi functional community and small business support centre. I was interested in what they were doing there, so we went along to check it out.

The building itself was damaged badly in the riots and many of its original interior features have been lost. What once may have been grand staircases and ornate high ceilings have been replaced with more practical modern designs with a lot less flare. While our volunteer guide was rightly sad about the loss of character in most of the building, I was much more intrigued by how the space was being used now.

639 sounds like it does a bit of everything, while we were there, teams of students participating in a youth enterprise programme scheme were gathering signatures for a petition to support homeless people in the community. There were also skills seminars and local entrepreneurs coming and going from office spaces rented in the building.

If you work freelance you are also able to rent desk space in an open plan office area in the building and set yourself up around others doing the same. I nudged Ben when we learned of this as if there was one thing he found difficult while freelancing from home, it was motivating himself to do work during work time then finish at normal hours. Leaving home and being with other freelancers would be so much better for a work/life balance. The idea is that you make great industry contacts through this too. For example – as a jewelery designer you may find yourself sitting next to a graphic artist – just the skills you need to take your brand logo to the next level.

I could keep going on here, charitable activities, business mentoring, career development this building has so much going on in it. The exterior of the building is still standing staunch too. You would never know it sustained petrol bombs and fire just a few years ago. Solid and worth checking out for a bit of community vibe.

639 Tottenham High Road, Tottenham, N17 639 Tottenham High Road, Tottenham, N17Bruce Castle

Bruce Castle, Tottenham, N17Bruce Castle and the surrounding Bruce Castle Park is a part of Tottenham I wish I had discovered sooner. As Ben and I were walking towards Bruce Castle, diligently following Google Maps, Ben said we’d be coming up to what looks like a really big park. He wasn’t wrong, with sports facilities, playground, swimming pool and plenty of leafy green trees it was a sizeable place. How did we miss this from our lives?

Anyway we have found it now, and we started off getting to know this new area for us with a tour of the castle that lends the park its name. The tour involved a long history of the castle and all it’s uses, a country manor back when Tottenham was not swallowed by the behemouth city of London, but was actually on the rural outskirts –  very hard to imagine now. It was also a school for boys and has been home to a number of noblemen and most notably – visited at some point by Henry Tudor. There’s some Tottenham royal connections right there.

All Hallows Church

The history of Bruce Castle was often linked to its close neighbour the Old Hallows Church which came up a lot on the tour and we learned was also participating in Open Day, so we thought we may as well check it out.

People often say while travelling Europe, if you have seen one church you have seen them all. But there is always something very grand about churches that gets to me. This little parish church was no exception. I love how it looked so unremarkable form the outside , then opened up and wowed you on the inside. I also adored the kneeling cushions. They were knitted with flags of the United Kingdom, African and European nations, sporting flags and logos, Tottenham Hotspurs’ was there of course, coats of arms and royal banners. They were so kitsch and gorgeous, it really made the place feel homely and well-loved.

All Hallows Church, Tottenham, N17 All Hallows Church, Tottenham, N17A great free day out in London. I’ve signed up to the mailing list so that next year I can be more organised and see some of the touristy sites of London, but I’m definitely not disappointed that this year I got the chance to explore Tottenham.

Sail Croatia in pictures

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day6_1473Over summer we had a few friends visiting and we knew we wanted to get a proper summer holiday booked for while they were here. We had two objectives really, lots of sun and something easy to organise for a group. A couple of friends had been on sailing trips around Croatia in previous years and couldn’t recommend it enough. So it sounded like just the thing for us.

You really never hear a bad word about Croatia, I’m not going to add any here either. This holiday completely exceeded my expectations. Every day was wow! Sunshine, beautiful villages, friendly people and an abundance of seafood to enjoy. I think I had sea bass for dinner all but one night we were there. I got totally hooked and as soon as I saw it on a menu, I just couldn’t look past it.

Oh, and did I mention the ocean was so warm it was like swimming in bath water? I’ve never experienced anything like it. I could have stayed in all day if it weren’t for the enticing lunches on board prepared by our skipper or the thought of reaching our next island destination.

Here is our trip in photos. We collected blue skies, blue seas and sunset after gorgeous sunset.

Trogir, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Island of Brac, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsOur holiday was booked through MedSailors on the Discovery route which starts and ends in Split and takes you to a different island mooring every night. Your on board skipper and the support crew take care of everything. All we had to think about was when we wanted to fit in our next swim stop.

Our boats slept eight people plus the skipper, in pretty cosy rooms below deck. Although it was pretty tight, it was surprising how much could actually fit down there. It was like being in a Scandinavian apartment. Every compartment and little piece of space was used meaningfully and thoughtfully.

Stari Grad, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Stari Grad, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Here is us wandering Stari Grad before a bus ride took us to a winery at the top of the island for wine tasting and delicious Croatian food. The sunset over the vineyard was one of the best we saw. Stari Grad historic Vineyard, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Sunset over Stari Grad historic Vineyard, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsSome nights we would moor up on forlorn little jetties that led to sleepy village towns, other nights we would be docked at  bustling marinas like the one below in Hvar town.

Hvar, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Hvar, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsLook how clear that water is!Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe spent our days swimming, paddle boarding and lounging in the sun on the boat decks.

Water reading. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWhen it got too hot to read on board, I decided my best option was to tether my floaty to the boat and bob around all afternoon immersed in a book. I was reading the seventh installment of The Shardlake Series, not your average summer holiday read, it’s a historical crime series set in Tudor England, but it was long enough to keep me entertained for the whole holiday.

Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe spent our nights exploring quaint little island towns like Korcula Old Town. Here we had cocktails on the rooftop of a tower built over the sea. We managed to be up there at sunset as our tour guide recommended and it was one of the best tips of the trip.

Group shot! Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsSunset from Korcula Town. Sunset over Korcula Old Town. Sail Croatia, MedSailors We ventured into an abandoned submarine bay in the ex-military base island, Vis. We learned a bit about the history of the island which was only opened to tourists again in 1989 after years of serving as a military base for the Yugoslav National Army. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWe caught another sunset overlooking Vis town and explored more of the island with our tour guide. Most of the island was so rugged we were shipped around in the back of a Jeep and it was not a smooth ride. Old Church. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsBoat Life. We hung our togs out in the breeze over night and for the most part abandoned our showering and cleansing routines in favour beach hair and sun tan. Boat Life. Vis. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsBoat Life. Sail Croatia, MedSailors Sunset over Sesula Bay on our last stop of the tour. The one restaurant on the bay was so busy with boat loads of tourists anchored there for the night we didn’t eat until after 10pm. We were starving by this time but my last sea bass meal of the tour didn’t disappoint. Sesula Bay. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsWalking to the night markets in Trogir Town on our last night in Croatia. Here we spent our last Croatian Kuna on fresh juices and souvenirs to take home. Trogir, Split. Sail Croatia, MedSailorsI hope you enjoyed our pictures. Going through them all and editing them recently my over-riding thought has been, I want to do it all again..

Take me back, seriously.. Take me back.