Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Magdalen College, Oxford


One of my favourite things to do when I'm in Oxford is explore one of the thirty-nine elegant golden stone coloured colleges that make up the university. With their pristine lawns and dark cloisters they provide pockets of studious calm from a city that is often bustling with excited groups of tourists

A couple of weekends ago I visited Magdalen (pronounced 'maudlin') College. Founded in 1458 it is one of the wealthiest and often considered one of the most beautiful colleges. Set in 40 hectares of gardens and woodlands with riverside walks, it even has a deer park.


I often daydream about how wonderful it must be to be fortunate enough to have studied in one of these prestigious colleges, following in the footsteps of world leaders and Nobel prize winners.




Apparently had I been here in the mid-1870s I might have encountered Oscar Wilde taking his pet lobster for a walk along the banks of the River Cherwell.




The gargoyles along the cloisters are said to have inspired CS Lewis' stone statues in The Chronicles of Narnia.






Have you visited any of the colleges in Oxford? Do you have a favourite?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Anna Jones' Saffron-Spiked Ratatouille From A Modern Way to Eat



Today I'm sharing more love for Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat. This time it's for her delicious Saffron-spiked ratatouille.


Ratatouille is never going to win any awards for being the prettiest looking dish so you'll just have to trust me when I say this tastes amazing and you have to try it. Anna suggests making it the day ahead and eating the day after to give the flavours time to develop and intensify. Normally I would completely lack the ability to plan that far ahead but by some miracle I did manage to make this on a Sunday  and it made a great, super quick dinner on Monday that just needed a bit of heating up. Anna (who I kind of want to call Queen Anna from now on, she definitely deserves some kind of title/award in my eyes) suggests serving this with a fried egg on top and a chunk of bread. However as I'm not a fan of fried eggs (is anyone actually, I really don't get what there is to like?) I served mine with a poached egg (using the whirlpool method if you're interested) and no bread (just call me Saint Sarah).



Serves 4

Ingredients
2 red peppers
olive oil
sea salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
6 sprigs of thyme
6 tomatoes
pinch of saffron
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 aubergines, cut into 1cm slices
3 courgettes, cut into 1cm slices
small bunch of fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Place the red peppers on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the garlic and thyme and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and saffron and vinegar and cook for another few minutes. Transfer to a deep roasting tray. 

Put the frying pan back on the heat, add more olive oil and fry batches of the aubergines until golden on both sides. You'll need a surprising amount of oil for this! Pile the aubergines on top of the tomato sauce in the roasting tray. Fry the courgettes in the same way and add these to the tray as well.

Once the peppers are cooked add them to the tray. Give the peppers, aubergines and courgettes a bit of a mix, season and put in the oven for 40 minutes to roast. Once ready give it a good mix, sprinkle over the basil leaves, season again if needed and drizzle with olive oil. 

Go and make it now!


Monday, 27 July 2015

A day in the city of dreaming spires


I'm fortunate enough to live only half an hour away from Oxford and for me, wandering around this beautiful city, camera in hand, is the best way to forget my troubles. Whenever I visit it feels like I'm stepping onto the set of a Harry Potter film or a period drama. I love exploring the narrow cobbled lanes, it feels like there is something magical hiding around every corner just waiting to be discovered. I headed there on Saturday in an attempt to escape from real life for a bit.

 Everytime I pass this place (The Vaults & Garden Cafe) it's packed out which can only be a good sign so I must try it soon, maybe on a weekday once the summer rush has passed. For now admiring the pretty entrance is enough.


Stepping into Oxford Covered Market is like stepping back in time, there are loads of great independent shops and restaurants to be discovered along the dark alleyways.





Not sure what this is but it's pretty :)



I stumbled across the most beautiful little restaurant called Gee's. Who wants to join me for brunch  here? I'm sure it would be amazing!


Right next door was the most gorgeous flower shop with a bike and a watering can and a little step ladder all adorned with flowers.


 I've been meaning to pay a visit to this little avenue on a Saturday for a while as I had heard great things about the market and I wasn't disappointed.




As well as stalls lining the street, there were a few independent shops like this one. It would be my absolute dream to own a shop as beautiful as this.


I had the most amazing salted caramel brownie from the Barefoot Kitchen stall. I no longer have to venture into London to get a salted caramel brownie fix - yay!



This is Green Templeton College, unfortunately it's not open to the public so I had to make do with admiring it from afar.



This little B&B looks so cute!



The name of this lane really is straight out of Harry Potter. How amazing would it be to live on Logic Lane?








I had such a lovely day wandering around some of my favourite places in Oxford and discovering  new hidden gems, it truly is a magical city. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Anna Jones' dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney



I used to the biggest carnivore in the world but that all changed when I travelled to India at the start of this year and was introduced to the most delicious vegetarian food. I ended up doing a complete u-turn and now only rarely eat meat. I'm sure the carnivorous me would never have dreamed that I would ever be advocating a vegetarian cookbook but now Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat is one of my favourites. As well as being packed full of delicious recipes, I love the beautiful pictures and design which make it a joy to flick through. The latest recipe I've tried is the dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney and it didn't disappoint. The dhal is lovely and warming with just the right amount of spice. Coconut milk gives a bit of creamy richness and the spinach and coriander add a nice bit of green. It would be delicious on it's own but the crispy sweet potato and coconut chutney really take it to the next level. Anna suggests serving this with chapattis or roti but I had it with rice (because that means I can have chocolate later to balance it out right?) and it worked well. Anna's new book A Modern Way to Cook is out now and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!




Dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes
2 sweet potatoes, chopped into cubes
sea salt and pepper
1tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
olive oil

For the dhal
2 garlic cloves, chopped
small piece of ginger, chopped
1 green chilli
1 red onion, chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground tumeric
1tsp ground cinnamon
200g red lentils
400ml tin of coconut milk
400ml vegtable stock
2 large handfuls of spinach
a bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
juice of 1 lemon

For the coconut chutney
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1tsp mustard seeds (Anna says black but I used normal ones and they worked fine)
10 curry leaves
coconut oil
20g piece of ginger, grated
1 red chilli

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan oven). Pour 150ml of hot water over the desiccated coconut and set aside to soak.

2. Put the sweet potato on a baking tray with the cumin seeds and fennel seeds, season with the salt and pepper and cover with a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes until crispy brown.

3. In a large saucepan, fry the garlic, chilli and red onion in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes.

4. Grind the cumin and coriander in a pestle and mortar (I don't have one so bashed them a bit with the end of a rolling pin and it turned out fine!) and add to the pan along with the other spices and cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils, coconut milk and stock and bring to the boil and then simmer for 25 minutes.

5. Drain the coconut. Fry the curry leaves and mustard seeds until they start to pop then pour the mixture over the coconut, season with salt and pepper, stir in the ginger and chilli and mix.

6. Stir the spinach,  most of the coriander  and lemon into the dhal. Pile into bowls, top with the crispy sweet potato, coconut chutney and and enjoy!

Have you tried any recipes from this book? I'd love to hear your favourites!


Monday, 20 July 2015

Lovely links


1. I'm obsessed with taking photos of doorways so I totally geeked out over Rough Guide's Twenty Most Inviting Entrances.

2. Hawaii's on my bucket list but until I get there I love this list of Five Ways To Live Life With More Aloha.

3. How To Do The Perfect Headstand - something to work towards!

4. Got to make the most of Jamie Oliver's Sumptuous Summer Recipes whilst we still can.

5. Rough Guide's 50 Things To Do Before You Die really isn't helping with my wanderlust.

6. I really enjoyed reading these dreamy, Beautiful Literary Quotes About Summer.

7. I really want to try all of the places in this list of London's best healthy restaurants.

8. I've got so much love for Isabel Allende and her super inspiring TED Talk on How To Live Passionately.




Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Happy things


Hello lovely people, I hope you're having a great week! After quite a serious post on Tuesday I thought I'd balance it out by sharing what's been making me happy recently.

1. A new handbag. This is a very shallow way to start my list but my old handbag was looking increasingly worn and battered so this has made me very happy. And it was only £20 in the sale so I don't feel too bad either.

2. Photoshop. I've been meaning to do a Photoshop course for ages. I have access to do a free online course through work but just never got round to doing it. At the start of this week I set myself the goal of doing at least 5 minutes a day and it's worked, I've done at least half an hour each day and I now know how to do stuff like straighten photos and erase blemishes. It really is true that what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

3. Pretty nails. I made the effort to paint my nails this week and it's such a simple thing but it makes me so happy. I bought a new nail polish by Essie called Ballerina Slippers, I may have bought it just for the name alone but actually it's a gorgeous colour and I'm impressed by how long it lasted.

4. Meditation. I dithered over subscribing to the Headspace app for ages. It's quite expensive but I'm so glad I did (and there always seems to be a discount code floating around if you're interested). I feel amazing for doing it every morning, it always seems to create this great positive, calm intention that sets me up for the rest of the day.

5. Someone I really admire (Jess Lively from The Lively Show) replied to my tweet and I totally geeked out over it.

6. My work friend getting engaged. This was a massive surprise because she's always said she wouldn't get married, so it was such lovely news. I'm so happy for her!

7. Decluttering. I'm gradually working my way through all my stuff and decluttering. I haven't read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up but there are quite a few articles on the internet and something that's really helped me is the author's method of going through your items and asking yourself 'does this spark joy?'. It's amazing how much easier it is to get rid of stuff when you ask yourself this question.

8. Getting more involved in social media. I've always been a bit scared of sharing my blog on Instagram or Twitter. I keep putting it off and thinking I'll wait until my photos are better or my writing has improved but I decided that I'll probably never get to the point where I'm 100% happy with it so I might as well take a risk and start getting it out there a bit more now. The magic happens outside your comfort zone and all that.

9. Making more of an effort with the way I dress at work. I'm lucky that I work in an office where you can dress up a bit or go super casual but I had totally been taking the lazy option of throwing on jeans, flats and a big jumper most days. Lately I've been making more of an effort to switch things up and wear more blazers and heels and it definitely makes a difference to how you feel.

10. Acts of kindness. I was on my way into Tesco the other day and there was this young shop worker struggling to get a massive sign on a trolley. Two other guys stepped in straight away and started helping him. It's such a small thing but it really made me smile to see two people going out of their way to help someone else.

So there's what's been making me happy this week. I'd love to hear what's been making you happy this week :)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Hitting thirty


At the start of this month, I hit the big three-oh. I'd love to say I coped with this milestone gracefully, but truthfully in the weeks leading up to my birthday I found myself becoming pre-occupied with all the things I hadn't achieved yet and how I wasn't in the place I thought I would be by the time I was thirty. I'm not proud to say that I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and beating myself up for various reasons. I felt like I had wasted my twenties and that it was too late to change. I couldn't stop comparing myself to my peers who all seem to be getting engaged, getting married or having babies and I knew that I wasn't helping myself with this way of thinking but for a while I couldn't seem to pull myself out of the gloom. 

The good news is that I've turned a corner, I realised that I had a choice, that I could carry on feeling sorry for myself or I could start being a bit kinder to myself whilst at the same time working towards changing and improving my life.

I first came across Shaun Achor a couple of years ago when he gave a talk at the headquarters of the company I work for. I watched the recording of his speech  (you can watch his TED talk here which is one of my favourite TED talks) and immediately felt drawn to him and what he was saying. He suggests that there are 5 habits which can lead to more happiness and his ideas have always stuck with me so I decided to give the suggestions a go. For the past few weeks I've religiously been writing down three things I'm grateful for in a notebook at the end of every day. I really look forward to doing this  and when something nice happens to me during the day I've found myself paying more attention to it and appreciating it more than I probably would have before. It really is all about the little things in life. I  downloaded the Headspace app and have been meditating for 10-15 minutes every day. This has been a real game changer. I used to drag myself out of bed, go through the motions of getting ready before rushing out of the door and mindlessly going about my day. Now I genuinely look forward to jumping out of bed to meditate. You can meditate at any time of day but I love meditating first thing, it seems to create a positive, calm  and mindful intention that lasts all day. Exercise is something I have been in the habit of doing every day for a few years now and it definitely helps keep me sane, if I go a day without it I start getting twitchy.

Other things that have helped me are making a list of all my accomplishments and not comparing myself to others, comparison really is the thief of joy, we all have different journeys. I started reading more self development articles and books, I love this list of 11 people who found success after 30. I  also like this article on 10 things my thirties taught me. My lovely colleagues commenting that I look more twenty than thirty didn't hurt either ;) 

I feel happier than I have done in a long time and people around me are commenting about how much happier I seem lately. Someone even asked if I was in love (ha! if only). I feel a bit vulnerable posting this on the internet for everyone to see as it's so personal but from talking to a few others I know I'm not the only one to have struggled with turning thirty. In today's world of beautiful Instagram feeds it's easy to start thinking everyone's life is better than yours but no-ones life is perfect and if sharing my experience helps just one other person feel less alone then it will have been worth it. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

A Cornish Escape



Back in March (how the heck are we in July already? I swear someone is messing about with the time) my friend had the quite frankly amazing idea of booking a cottage (which actually turned out to be more of a manor house) in Cornwall to celebrate turning 30 in style. I'm not quite sure how I reached twenty-nine without ever having visited Cornwall (I obviously had a deprived childhood) but somehow I managed it, so I was excited to find out more about this lovely part of Britain that people rave about so much. The long old five hour drive down there was worth every second, as soon as I crossed the border into Cornwall it felt like I had somehow been transported to a completely different country. Apparently we were quite lucky with the weather (although I think this is just what the locals tell everyone to try and keep people away and to be honest who can blame them?) and it was glorious sunshine the whole five days we were there. The cottage/manor was this beautiful property owned by the National Trust, it was like something out of Pride and Prejudice, perfect for swanning about in and pretending to be a lady. The view from the house over the River Helford was stunning, it honestly looked like a painting. 


That picture's a bit wonky isn't it? I don't think I had even had any G&T's at that point so I definitely can't blame it on being drunk. Note to self - must learn how to use Photoshop soon so I can tidy up my photos, especially considering I work for Adobe!




We had such a lovely few days of eating breakfast outside, skimming stones, walking along the coast, exploring tiny fishing villages, picnics (with gin, which in my opinion make the best kind of picnics), drinking in cosy seaside pubs and cooking up feasts from Persiana. All we needed was a dog called Timmy and we would have had our very own Famous Five adventure (although there were more than five of us and we have a few more years on Julian et al but you get the idea).








Glendurgan Garden was just around the corner so we had a wander around the exotic valley gardens and got lost in the maze until a five-year-old girl kindly showed us the way out.



And how could I forget the gorgeous sunsets?




I can't wait to get back to Cornwall soon and explore more. Have you been to Cornwall? Do you have any recommendations for me of places to visit?