26 Feb 2016

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

Guyyyys, what a book! Yeah I know, I know, I'm late to the party but I'm not the only one. Now the trailer has come out for the film, this book has come back into the limelight after the original release in 2012 and it feels like every book blogger is instagramming about it. But I'd never actually heard of it until my mum recommended it to me just before Christmas. I don't know exactly what I had in mind but I guess I was expecting some kind of easy-read love story, where two people discover  a new lease of life as a result - that was the impression the blurb/book cover gave me. To put it bluntly, I wasn't expecting to be blown away.

Yup, got that one completely and utterly wrong. Jeez Kate, it's rule one; never judge a book by the cover. 

You start reading the first page, expecting your easy read and all that, and BAM, Lou jumps into your life. What a gal, with her quirky dress sense, say-it-how-it-is attitude and witty sense of humour. I want to be friiiiiiiends. But she's also a girl that's hit a bit of a dead end in life. She's 26, lives with her parents and knows she probably doesn't love her boyfriend of seven years. Then suddenly, she loses her cute little cafe job and is forced to enlist with job seekers which, after a few failed jobs in a chicken factory and the like, helps her, somewhat relucantly, to bag a job for six months working as a companion for a quadriplegic man. Then BAM, Will jumps into your life. What a guy, with his sarcasm, intelligence and witty sense of humour. But he's also a guy that has lost all motivation to live. A road accident left him paralysed and he plans to end his life through Dignitas. Lou has six months to change his mind.

And you'll then be taken on the most funny, joyous and heartbreaking journey that teaches you all about the importance of living your life to the full NOW.

It's hard to write a lot about this book because it's so important not to give much away. All I'll say, as cliche as it sounds, is that I raced through, laughed out loud and genuinely sobbed in parts. I sound lame, but I ain't lying. Sobbing on the train was embarrassing.

After You - Jojo Moyes (spoiler alert - do not read further if you haven't read Me Before You) 

After THAT ending, I was actually pretty annoyed to find out there was a sequel. HOW DA FUQ DOES THAT WORK?! I got all cynical and just thought it was down to the big dawgs wanting money. But, sucker that I am, I also really had to know what happened to Lou (me and every other fan; hence the sequel). I did almost stop after the first chapter... What the hell do you mean she's working in a bar and WHY IS SHE FALLING OFF BUILDINGS?! But then, just like the first book, you're sucked in and taken on another beautiful journey as Lou deals with her grief and finally begins to learn the art of living. Sam and Lily are brilliant additional characters, and when Lily shows up at Lou's door, her revelation will leave you all omgomgwhatnow

Obviously not as good as the first, but still a great read and almost gives you a bit of closure to the story (after those days spent weeping when you finished the first one). 

Happy reading folks x 

22 Feb 2016

Working gal's one-pot pasta

One-pot pasta

Ever have those days where you get back from work totally knackered, longing for a bath, some slobbing on the sofa and shovelling food into your mouth? But you are also too tired to even think of something to cook for dinner, let alone actually cook it and then oh maaaaan, wash up all those pans. Whhhhyyy don't I have a live-in michelin star chef?!

Every day? Yeah me too.

Hence why I loooooove this recipe. You literally just pile a load of tasty stuff in a pan, cook for 10-15 minutes and done. Also just the one pan to wash up. BOOM.

Life saver guys, life saver.


For working gal's one-pot pasta, you will need (serves 2):

200g wholewheat spaghetti or pasta
170g baby plum tomatoes
A large handful of fresh basil leaves
1 white onion
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
500 ml water


Finely chop your onion, garlic cloves and slice your tomatoes in half. Whack into your pot with the pasta, chilli flakes and fresh basil leaves.

One-pot pasta

Add the oil and water.

One-pot pasta

One-pot pasta

Cook on the hob, over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.

One-pot pasta

And you're done! It really is THAT easy. Perfect for those tired week nights eh?

One-pot pasta

Serve up with fresh basil and lashings of parmesan.

One-pot pasta

20 Feb 2016

London Eats | A Birthday Weekend

A Birthday Weekend

Thanks to the #tocookbefore24 series, you may have known that my birthday was coming up. Last weekend, the celebrations kicked off and by celebrations I mean, FOOD. Obviously. London, you're such a babe when it comes to choices of places to eat.

As I'd made plans for the weekend, the rents did a mini celebration with me on Thursday night with fish 'n' chips and prosecco cos we're classy like that. There was also a cheeky chocolate cake and OMG A LE CREUSET PAN. What a present, eh?

A Birthday Weekend
A Birthday Weekend

On Friday night I was back in London and, after work, I managed to get a whole host of my friends together and we went to Mabel's in Covent Garden which has a cute, shabby-chic d├ęcor and is a combination of restaurant, bar and club, with a a hidden dance floor downstairs. With the great deals, and all-round decent prices, it was exactly what I wanted to bring a big group of people together. Between 5 and 8pm, it's 2-4-1 on all cocktails and 50% off wine, so naturally we were there at 5 on the dot. The cocktails were spot on and plenty were drunk; I especially recommend the super creamy Pina Coladas.

A Birthday Weekend

A Birthday Weekend

I booked a table for ten of us, and the food, whilst not especially exotic, was tasty and cheapcheapcheap for London. I recommend the fish finger sandwich.

A Birthday Weekend

The only downside was that the music was the kind of loud where you do manage to talk but realise later that you were probably more shouting at each other cos you wake up with that this-is-what-it-must-feel-like-to-smoke feeling in ya throat. We had a good laugh though and it was so, so great to have so many of my favourite people in one place.

A Birthday Weekend
A Birthday Weekend

Saturday morning was all HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME and G and I headed to Toast E.D. for brunch, in Dulwich, which I've wanted to check out for ages.

Guys, not gonna lie, I was disappointed. The homely, brick walls, wine shelves look  advertised on the website was only one wall of the actual restaurant, and the rest was just like a pretty basic cafe. And some of the staff seemed pretty miserable, borderline rude if I'm honest. To give credit where it's due though, the smoked salmon, poached eggs and potato cake was so, SO tasty!

A Birthday Weekend

The food would have been enough to make up for the disappointing atmosphere but THEN, when I ordered the sourdough waffles (the birthday waffles I had been looking forward to alllll week, gazing longingly at the menu and pictures on the website) I was told they no longer did them. Um, say what now? Who advertises SOURDOUGH WAFFLES on their website, drawing people in and then cruelly telling them they can't have them? Evil, I tell ya.

A Birthday Weekend

Probably sensing we were in the danger zone, G suggested we go wander and find somewhere else. Luckily we were in Dulwich, which is the kind of place where finding waffles and/or pancakes is not a challenge. Within minutes, we'd walked past somewhere advertising piles of American pancakes and I was in like a shot. The place was called Le Chandelier and what a great find it was! The moment you walked in, you were surrounded by so many gorgeous looking cakes and smiley staff. We were lead through a busy, vintage, cosy little cafe, up some pretty spiral stairs and emerged into what I can only describe as Professor Trelawney's tower classroom (I search for Harry Potter references in all walks of life guys). It was full of little pouffes, solid silver tables and oh so many cushions. I was LOVING it. My pancakes came with local, sweet fruits and dashes of icing sugar and syrup. YUM-EY.

A Birthday Weekend

A Birthday Weekend

The rest of the weekend was a lazy one including a cinema trip to see Room which is the kind of film that goes round and round your brain for days afterwards. The actors, particularly the little boy, were so talented. A definite recommendation, although brace yourselves for feeling a little traumatised afterwards.

G and I finished the weekend off on Sunday night with a low-key celebration for our one year anniversary - with pink champagne!

A Birthday Weekend

19 Feb 2016

The 10 best things about being best pals with the gal at work

The 10 best things about being best pals with the gal at work

I've been at my job for nearly a year now and right at the start of that year, I had the good fortune to sit next to a gal who I was clearly destined to become best friends with. Within a few weeks it was all OMG WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE and we haven't looked back since. Sadly (by which I mean, I am sobbing and rocking in a corner), she moves onto a new job today (I know, what a bitch) so I thought it appropriate to reflect on the best things about becoming best pals with the person at the next desk.

1) You always have someone to share the baked goods you randomly decided to create the night before. And the favour is always returned.  

2) One of those days where you need a nap? 
Wake me up in ten babe 
*headdesk*  

3) She’s got your back during busy periods; helping out where she can, bringing you chocolate bars every half an hour and not taking offence what you stop listening to what she's saying because your computer has just frozen for the bajillionth time.  

4) She doesn't think there’s any issue decorating your work space so much in December that it looks like Christmas threw up on your desk. In fact, she joins in. 

5) You have someone who will be 100% honest with you after the Christmas party.
Um, did I really smash a wine glass, dance on the boardroom table and stick post it notes all over my managers desk? 
Yes babe, yes you did. 

6) You got someone to cover for you when you're having a grumpy bitch day. 
Kate isn't talking to people today. Gimme the message and I'll pass it on when it's safe to do so. 

7) She shares and encourages your ridiculous bored-day fantasies.
I've decided I'm going to live in Fiji. Definitely doing this. Probably next week.  
Hang on, I'll help you look up flights. 

8) You don’t have to watch what you say and can share absolutely anything. 
Definitely been wearing my knickers inside out all day...

9) Work drinks never feel like an obligation; more the chance to drink wine at 4pm with ya best mate. 

10) You're in it together. From the grumpy 'life crisis' days to the companionable silence afternoons, you're a team man. Most importantly, every day at work is a total laugh. Cheers babes. 

16 Feb 2016

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt) #tocookbefore24

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

So the 24th birthday finally came around. Send all presents my direction pleeeeeease. More on the celebrations soon but first we must talk about the final #tocookbefore24 kitchen adventure.

Cookies. Oh they will always be my weakness. Oh so soft and chewy and fluffy and please god, let me eat them all.

So here's the thing, my ventures with cookie cooking (say it when you're drunk, I dare ya) hasn't been what you'd call a major success (well apart from the cookie cake but that's not technically a cookie guys). Remember the attempt at M&M cookies (ha)? I've been trying; cookies were meant to be one of the #tocookbefore24 posts basically every week of this series but they were never quite right (according to my standards anyway).This final post very nearly turned into a tragic story of a girl trying to make the perfect cookies who failed and just cried into the dough instead (joke, obviously I'd eat the dough). Get your violins out now.
Fear not folks; that would be a rubbish post so I guess I'll have to tell you about my last minute success instead (just a few days before my birthday as well; right in the nick of time). It's really thanks to my sister being hyperorganised. Her birthday present for me arrived a week early; a marvellous cook book full of recipes from New York - um HI. And in it, of course, were super soft, gooey, chewy chocolate chip cookies with a method I'd never seen before which involved rolling the dough into strange shapes and putting in the fridge but, hey, worth a shot right?

Oh maaaaaan, the satisfaction in eating iiiiiiiincredible cookies and knowing you, YOU, made em. I'll never tire of this cooking business. The dairy milk is so great in sweet chunks, the walnuts adding that cheeky little crunch and the sea salt.... um genius?

Let's go kids!

Recipe adapted from this book.


Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)
For chocolate chunk, walnut and sea salt cookies, you will need (makes 12 large cookies):

110g dairy milk chocolate
40g walnuts
225g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt

Chop the walnuts and chocolate into chunks.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Beat the sugars and butter until creamy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and a pinch of the sea salt and beat until smooth.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Combine the flour, baking powder, chocolate and walnuts. Combine with the wet mixture until a dough starts to form.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Shape the dough into a ball, put in a bowl, cover loosely with clingfilm and put in the fridge for a hour. After the hour, take out, roll the dough into a sausage shape, wrap in clingfilm and put back into the fridge for another hour.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Cut the dough into slices approximately 1.5cm thick.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Lay out on a baking parchment-covered sheet and sprinkle each cookie with a little sea salt.

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180c for no more than 10 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes or so before taking off the tray, and then scoff ya face. 

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)

Cookies (choc, walnut, sea salt)


#tocookbefore24
#thebasics

14 Feb 2016

25 things we should all aim to learn in our twenties



25 things we should all aim to learn in our twenties

Because your twenties are a time for learning, discovering, accepting and it was my birthday this weekend and this list just kinda happened... 

1) It’s okay to be you, with all your eccentricities and that random, embarrassing laugh-snort that appears out of the blue occasionally. Don’t bother with people who don’t love the laugh-snort. 

2) Some days, you really need to eat every morsel in your kitchen. Don’t feel guilty about it; we have all been there babes.  

3) Comparing yourself to anyone else is a waste of time. You are you and you have your life. Be realistic and content with what you can achieve and what you have. 

4) Laughing about your failures is truly the best coping mechanism. Laugh, learn and move on. 

5) An ordinary life is actually really fucking magical. Do not underestimate how incredible an ordinary life can be. 

6) Sex is not like the films. Not unless Julia Roberts is doing that awkward shuffle to the loo afterwards. 

7) The way people look does not remotely represent their character. If you’re dismissing someone because of their choice of shoes then you’re just plain shallow. 

8) When you meet someone you instantly click with, whatever kind of relationship in whatever walk of life, grab hold of them and never let go. 

9) Time is more important (way more important) than money. It’s annoying but stop stressing over your shitty wage (seriously Kate, LET IT GO); it wastes time. No one ever lay on their deathbed and wished they’d spent longer hours in the office. You can never get time back. 

10) If you find someone who also loves cat videos, you’re onto a winner. 

11) Stop trying to conform to how the media portray human bodies. Look around you; who the hell actually looks like that?! Be happy in your skin and actively work to ignore the bullshit perceptions of beauty. Being hungry is shit; you are your roll of belly fat are fucking fabulous.

12) It’s okay to think on things for a while. There are a lot of people who tell you to ‘act now’ but there’s also a lot of people who like to think things through. If you’re one of them, ignore the pressure and think. If you’re not, leave the rest of us to do our thinking in peace.

13) Social media AIN’T REAL LIFE. Take everything you see on there with a pinch of salt. No one’s life is perfect so even the owner of that incredibly gorgeous, glamorous Intagram account you follow will also have those days where they sit around in unwashed pjs, eating a supermarket’s worth of chocolate and turning their bed into a crumb den... or is that just me? 

14) Some days, it is okay to not brush your hair. But probably not when you need to be in the office. 

15) The small things are so incredibly important.  

16) Men catcalling from vans are the kind of people who get a buzz out of seeing someone being intimated and humiliated in the middle of the street. Do not treat them as a bit of a joke.

17) People who have gone travelling and then talk about it like they’ve become the queen of the world are incredibly annoying. Travelling is amazing and the more you can do, the better, but please stop banging on about how you ‘found yourself’. You sound like a pretentious prick. 

18) Crying for no reason just needs to be done sometimes. Embrace it. 

19) Stop judging people’s sex lives. Why the hell is it your business?

20) Whilst we’re on the subject, the fact that people have sex is not a big deal. Stop banging (excuse the pun) on about it to show off or alternatively talking about it in hushed whispers like it’s something perverse. The entire population does it. Either shut up or get over it.

21) There are times when keeping quiet just isn’t acceptable. Stand up for your morals. 

22) Accept friendships for what they are. Some friends are the kind you meet for dinner once in a blue moon. Some are the kind you send selfies to whilst on the loo. Sometimes you grow apart from people, sometimes you become so close you’re convinced they’re your long lost sibling. Don’t force friendships, don’t be jealous and always be loyal. Remember, the effortless ones are always the best. 

23) Kissing someone who doesn’t make you feel on top of the world is a waste of time. Go find someone who does. 

24) Eating a slice of cake will not kill you. Drinking a green smoothie will not save you.

25) Tell the people you love how much you love them. Regularly. 

9 Feb 2016

London Eats | Pancakes at Lanes of London

Pancakes at Lanes of London

Pancakes got classy this year. I will never be a classy one but for a couple of hours, I tried (and failed). 

My friend B and I decided to head to Mayfair for pancakes because, hey WHY NOT, and also cos sometimes we like to pretend we are more high achieving than we actually are. It keeps us entertained. 

Lanes of London on Park Lane have been doing pancake week (because pancakes should never be confined to just the one day) and who wouldn't want to casually go and dine on some posh pancakes after work?

So yeah, we had to triple check we weren't wearing trainers or t-shirts with profanities on before we went in, we ending up paying £7 for a bottle of water (SEVEN FREAKIN POUNDS), got the giggles at the doorman with the top hat and spent a lot of time marvelling at the posh loos and enormous hotel lobby. Seriously, the only way we could have made it more obvious we didn't belong was if we had the word PEASANTS tattooed across our foreheads.  

But mate, THE PANCAKES. Oh my gaaaaawd. 

I have never had pancakes that were quite so melt-in-mouth. They were just so, so... 

Pancakes at Lanes of London

Ya get the gist. 

There was an awkward moment where we were presented with the main menu and we were all like ummm we heard there were pancakes? But then we chilled and spent an age trying to decide what we wanted; there were 3 savoury and 4 sweet options but I assure you that was stressful enough.

Pancakes at Lanes of London

I eventually picked the salmon pancake which came with a poached egg and dill cream. The salmon was gorgeous, the egg cooked to perfection and gimme a spoon so I can finish off that dill cream please.

Pancakes at Lanes of London

Pancakes at Lanes of London


B went for the bacon which came with a green apple salad, maple syrup and corn cream. I'm assured it tasted incredible (there was no sharing cos like, get the hell away from my pancake?!)

Pancakes at Lanes of London

We had a big gap between mains and ordering desserts which I'm not used to in restaurants but once you adjust, it's really nice to have a proper chat in a lovely atmosphere. And, more importantly, it gives your main time to settle properly so you really do feel ready for dessert when it arrives.

Pancakes at Lanes of London

B went for the the blueberry pancakes which came with lemon curd and ricotta and she fashioned herself an incredible pancake sandwich with them all cos she's clearly a culinary genius.

Pancakes at Lanes of London

My choice was the Choco; roasted banana, chocolate sorbet, chocolate sauce and toasted almonds. HI THERE. The sorbet was less sweet than ice cream which made it less sickly and therefore it was all a winning combination. Hey, that banana was roasted to perfection.

Pancakes at Lanes of London

The evening ended with minor hysterics at the bill (£10 per portion of pancakes was expected, the £7 water was not...) and then a thoroughly enjoyable trip to the loo. Posh loo trips are always the best, don't pretend otherwise. 

Happy pancake day folks; smiley faces all round!

Pancakes at Lanes of London



7 Feb 2016

Bread #tocookbefore24

Bread

At the moment, there seems to be a lot of people giving up bread. Something about not wanting wheat or gluten or some shiz. Trying to be healthier apparently.

Nah mate. Nah, nah, naaaaaah.

Unless I had to because some horrific condition forced me (omg you poor people with coeliac disease), in which case I'd lie in bed for a month sobbing whilst hugging a baguette (because my love affair with bread is more epic then Romeo and Juliet), there is no way in hell I'd ever give up this stuff.
Surely there is nothing better then the smell of fresh, baking bread... and then when it comes out the oven all hot and so soft, like a beautiful fresh pillow... OMG GIMME THE BREAD.

So yeah, um, made some bread.


For 1 white loaf, you will need: 

500g strong white flour, plus a little extra for dusting
7g sachet fast action yeast
2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon olive oil
300ml water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.

Bread

Make a well in the middle and add the water.

Bread

And the oil. Stare at the beautiful patterns for a mo.

Bread

Mix well and then tip out the bowl onto a floured surface. Flour your hands and get kneading! When the dough is smoothish, knead it into a ball and put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour at room temperature.

Bread

After an hour, the dough should have doubled in size. Knead a little and then place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for another hour.

Bread

After the hour, mark the dough with a cross about 5cms long and dust with flour.

Bread

Bake at 180-200c (depending on the oven) for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

Bread

Leave to cool a little (not too long!) and then get slicing.

Bread

Maybe even better than cake?!

Bread

Bread

#thebasics