26 Apr 2018

The Weekend | The Prae Wood Arms

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

Late Friday afternoon (of which I don’t work in case you think I was just having a cheeky skive), I got back from perusing the French market in town (lol could I sound anymore ridiculously middle class) with a slice of custard pie in my hand. Dunno how it got there, just fell in ffs.

The weather was a bit of alright wasn’t it? Sure the temps have dropped again but the little preview of the summer months was a joy after several weeks of greyness. I sat myself in my usual café Friday lunchtime and it was practically empty which, in my eyes, is another perk of the sunshine. After an only-mildly-inspired writing sesh, I just wandered around town for a bit as I figured my skin was probably due some Vit D. And that’s when I noticed the French market and custard pie…

I sat on the terrace for the rest of the afternoon, half novel-writing, half writing a blog post about Singapore, but mostly debating whether we should stay in or go to the pub for the evening. I think we might go to the pub too much but also hello perfect beer garden weather.

Anyway, we were all sensible and didn’t go to the pub but I did make us this Bucatini dish for dinner which we enjoyed with a fruit cider and some of that sexy sunshine. And then I watched One Born Every Minute with the custard pie cos that’s just how I roll. We also browsed houses on right move; this week we’re moving to Cambridgeshire if you’re interested.

So that was pretty much Friday.

(Oh and I also ranted approx. 5 times about the weight loss and ‘wedding diet’ adverts that keep popping up on my social media. Fuck off please and thank you.)

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

On Saturday, we decided we should take advantage of the little preview of summer and go check out The Prae Wood Arms; one of the places on our St Albans-food-bucket-list. And we felt totally justified in doing so because we hadn’t gone to the pub the night before and we’d both been for a run in the morning *insert irritating smug face*.

SO, The Prae Wood Arms? Totally dreamy. Would v much recommend.

It’s about one and a half miles outside the centre of town and can be walked within half an hour or 45 minutes if you fancy going the slightly more picturesque route. We chose the latter and wandered through the park and into the countryside late afternoon. Aside from the weather suddenly turning drizzly and my shoes-that-I’ve-owned-for-a-year suddenly deciding to rub and soaking the back of my socks on blood (that sounds v dramatic… it was a small circle of blood…), it was a lovely walk. You really feel like you’re out in the heart of the countryside with the rolling fields, tree-lined pathways and slightly-swampy river. And there’s a huge pub waiting for you. What’s not to like?

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms was originally built for Lady Frances Cooke Crimston in 1838 and she referred
to it as her ‘little cottage’. These days, we’d refer to it as a mansion so there you go. The garden has a big terrace and a massive sweeping lawn which is surrounded by the river and trees; which create pretty light patterns on the grass as the sun sets behind them.

Inside is full of character; antique fireplaces, upholstered armchairs, a grand staircase, little nooks and crannies alongside big light rooms and maybe one of the best stocked bars I’ve ever seen? Even the toilets were cool and quirky.

Anyway, yeah, we very much liked the place and spent a good few hours drinking in the garden whilst chomping our way through their extensive crisp selection. Also a very middle class crisp selection. Wild thyme and rosemary flavour anyone? Wissington tomato? We so fancy. We also had a spot of dinner and I can confirm that the feta burger is all sorts of sexy.

There was a great atmosphere about the place. It is very family friendly so you do have to take in all the joy with the shrieks of children but that lawn was just crying out for kids to be running around it so one can’t complain.

We migrated inside as it got cooler and eventually walked back home in the muggy night (via an M&S garage for breakfast supplies). It was a grand evening.

Sunday was being subconsciously influenced by the London marathon and going for a run for the second day in a row. Not sure who I am anymore tbh. I also made a wedding to-do list (which seems to be surprisingly long considering most of the day’s plans are ‘go to pub’) and may or may not have had a peppermint milkshake from The Shaken Cow.

Hope your weekend was full of sunshine and ice cream.

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

The Prae Wood Arms, St Albans

22 Apr 2018

Phone Break-Up | Week Four

Smartphone addiction

~ I am doing a 30-day phone 'break-up' challenge from the book How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine PriceRead more about why here and here. ~

First up, yes I know that this post is a casual three weeks after the last one. You know how it is, shit gets in the way *shrugs*. So if you were wondering; no, I didn’t give up on the whole phone break-up challenge.

Second up, this post isn’t as detailed as the others simply because week four of the challenge was more about preparing for how you’re going to use your phone going forward, rather than different tasks for each day. It encourages you to reflect on the trial separation weekend (see my last post for more details) and then start practicing habits such as ‘phasting’ (having regular phone-free time), ignoring your own cravings to pick up your phone and checking yourself when you do pick up your phone unnecessarily as well as giving you tips and hacks to maintain the healthy relationship you’ve created with your phone over the last few weeks.

It also encourages you to clean up the rest of your digital life. For me, this has been a bit of a mammoth task so I’ve not quite finished it yet. I started with tackling my personal email account – it’s an email I’ve had since 2009 and I’ve barely deleted any emails in that time. There was so much crap lurking in there I tell ya. There were 4798 unread emails and god knows how many read ones. It quite literally took hours to get it down to a more healthy 412 unread emails that I actually want to look at properly. So I still need to go through those and sort but at least that’s more manageable. I’ve also gone through all the accounts I follow on Twitter, un-following several I’m no longer interested in and creating a lot of lists (if you’re unfamiliar with the list function on twitter – and I’d highly recommend using it – check out this explanation by Katy). It’s made my twitter feed much more manageable and ensures I actually see posts from people I want to see. Next on my to-list is to cull who I follow on Instagram; only following people I really want to follow.

So here we are; 30 day phone break-up challenge complete. I’ll be reflecting on the challenge and whether I’ve slipped back into old habits or not in a separate post within the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the weather is still pretty grand so I’m off back outside to catch some rays now that our neighbours have stopped playing shit music from their terrace (because half the people enjoying afternoon tea in the café below really wanted to listen to rave music pal…). See ya!

19 Apr 2018

Thoughts On Wedding Dress Shopping

Not-so-interesting fact about Kate: my idea of a successful shopping trip is coming home with a bag full of books and a box of cookies.

My approach to clothes shopping is either do-it-online or go into a clothes shop when I’ve got limited time. And always shop alone. I do not understand the point of window shopping, I prefer not to have limitless options and I get unnecessarily irritated if it takes forever to find what I’ve got in mind.

So, surprise, surprise; I don’t think I’m well suited to shopping for a wedding dress.

Reader, I’m already bored of looking and I’m not even close to finding what I want (not helped by the fact that I don’t really know what I want), and there’s still over a year to go *lies down dramatically*.

Stereotypically, I’m supposed to find this fun I know, but my sarcastic inner monologue is somewhat hampering the experience. So far ‘shopping’ has mostly involved browsing the websites of bridal stores and you know what? It mostly just makes me what to have an enormous rant.

Mainly about the cost tbh. Apparently there are a lot of people out there re-mortgaging their houses to buy a wedding dress; who knew? Of course a lot of the time, you don’t even know the cost (or it says 'starts from £7868897'... starts??). Which goes against my number one rule of clothes shopping: check the price first because if I can’t afford it, what’s the point of trying it on?

I saw one store that only provided dresses in a size 10. One that had a lengthy paragraph about why you MUST NOT TAKE ANY PHOTOS whilst trying on a dress. All of them are appointment-only (what’s wrong with a casual browse…) and I swear if I see one more photo of some blonde woman with a tiny waist prancing around in a field in a white dress….

I’m sure there are plenty out there who will point out that this is all pretty standard in the world of bridal shops but if anything, that just irritates me more.

I have so little desire to engage with it all.

I hate to be the person who sounds like a killjoy because I am very excited for my wedding day and it is really special to me. BUT… it is just one day. And, if all goes to plan, I will spend the majority of that one day sat in a pub garden sipping on Malibu & cokes and nattering to all my favourite people.

Do I need to be wearing a dress that costs £3000 to enjoy that? Do I heck. In fact, the stress of wearing something so expensive will probably make me enjoy the day less because what if I spill my coke on myself whilst dancing?! (A highly likely possibility, I assure you.) Can I even justify that amount of money on an outfit that I literally will wear once? Well... no.

As an aside – this is not me judging anyone who does want to spend that amount of money on their wedding dress. Girl, it’s your wedding and your money: YOU DO YOU.

Me though? I’ll probably be focusing my search on high street brands going forward. Honestly, part of me really just wants to pull on a cute lil dress from ASOS, a pair of white converse and skip around that pub garden with not a care in the world.

Maybe I will do that, maybe I’ll be a bit more fancy. Who knows right now.

What I do know is that, when I do finally buy a dress, it won’t cost a fortune, it won’t be from a bridal store, it may not even be white… but, hey, it’ll be me.

16 Apr 2018

Squidgy Chocolate Fudge Cake

Chocolate fudge cake recipe

I made this cake for G’s birthday last week; it was simple but a good’un. I went for chocolate because it’s a fave of G’s and seeing as it was his birthday and all... Chocolate cake actually isn’t a favourite of mine because I just find it too sickly. But this fella was super fluffy and light; I could quite easily eat a huge slice without feeling sick. Dangerous I know.

Adding oil helps with the airiness but it’s the golden syrup that makes a real, sexy, difference. It’s what tips the mixture towards the fudgy side and away from the sickliness that a heavy chocolate cake can incite.

You will need:

175g self-rising flour
150g caster sugar 
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp golden syrup 
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150ml semi-skimmed milk

For the icing:
100g unsalted butter 
40g cocoa powder 
225g icing sugar
3 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 180c. Grease and line two sandwich tins. 

Add the flour, cocoa, sugar and bicarbonate into a bowl and mix well. Lightly beat the eggs and then add to the bowl along with the golden syrup, oil and milk. Beat until smooth. 

Pour the mixture into the two tins and bake for half an hour until firm to touch. 

Place the butter in a bowl and beat until softer. Sieve in the icing sugar and cocoa powder and then add the milk. Beat until spreadable (add more milk if needed). 

Once cool, sandwich the two cakes together with the icing and then cover the top and sides with more icing. 

If there’s any icing left, lick the bowl. 

15 Apr 2018

The Weekend | Sunshine!

A sunny weekend in St Albans

G won money on the Grand National yesterday so naturally we had to go to the pub right? Which is why I’m now sat on the sofa nursing a hangover. I’m still trying to figure out if it’s mild or severe… could go either way right now. If the cathedral bells continue to lose their shit as they are currently doing, it could hit severe territory. Still G just popped out for supplies (hopefully mostly baked goods) so we’re on the up.

I’ve just noticed that I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. The main reason for this is I’ve had a sudden spurt of motivation for novel writing and that’s been all consuming. My blog is not the only thing that has been neglected but I’m trying to embrace it for as long as possible.

I’ve also re-read and re-watched all the Twilight saga books/films (don’t ask me where that sudden desire came from) and been perpetually grumpy over the constant greyness pressing against the windows. I’m not normally one to be utterly fed up with a season (I’m one of those people that actually likes winter) but it’s just been so bloody grey of late and it really has had an effect on my mood.

But Saturday was kind to me this weekend and the sun came out to play. As did the smell of BBQs because us Brits can’t help but go mad at the first sign of Vitamin D.

A few of G’s friends came up for a day trip to St Albans and we just had the loveliest day. We crowded into our flat for cups of teas and catch ups (and games with the kids). We took a lazy walk through the park (the sun was really hot, it was, it was, it was!). We had a two-course long lunch at The Waffle House (along with half of St Albans apparently) and then felt very sick which was somewhat inevitable. We played in the playground; well the kids did, we sat on a bench and absorbed those rays. We sat in a beer garden for the first time this year having a solid catch up and it was just swell.  After we’d said goodbye to everyone, G and I closed the front door, looked at each other for a second and went ‘we’re going back to the pub aren’t we?’

My mood so noticeably improved with the sunshine out and it’s given me such a zen for the summer now; pub gardens, afternoons in the park, BBQs, hazy evenings – let’s do this. In the meantime, it’s cloudy again today (*insert a massive eye roll*) so I’m heading back to novel writing.

See ya x

3 Apr 2018

Easter Weekend

Easter Weekend

Ah post-bank holiday Tuesday. It was such an effort to get out of bed this morning and such a waste because I got to the station and all the London-bound trains were down. NOT A DRILL. The queue for ticket refunds was pretty epic I have to say.

So that was a good welcome-back-to-reality. I’m now on the sofa, chomping on a Nakd bar and waiting for my work emails to load. Dreamy.

Anyway, Easter weekend.

Genuinely one of my favourite weekends of the year. It’s kinda like a chilled out version of Christmas and I love it. Occasionally we’re away, usually somewhere peaceful in the UK, but my faves tend to just be when we’re at home with no real plans. I love this so much that I make that my plans for the four-day weekend; deliberately trying to always keep the weekend free. My plans are to step back from the world, hunker down slightly, and just do whatever takes my fancy on the day.

I did have this vision that the weather would be a tad nicer. I was thinking proper start-of-Spring with blue skies; my denim jacket being brought out of hibernation and maybe a cheeky drink in a pub garden?

Alas, the weather seems to be confused and thinks it’s November. Bless him.

G was out for work drinks on Thursday night so I kicked off the weekend with a long soak, a Ryan Gosling film and half an easter egg like a true cliché. I spent six quid on a special Easter Lush bath bomb that smelt of all things beautiful. Six quid though; lucky I have a gift card eh.

On Friday morning, I snuggled into my pillow whilst we hypothetically browsed houses on rightmove and didn’t get out of bed until midday because B A N K   H O L I D A Y. I then headed to my usual café for writing-time but only managed to write about 50 words before being like WHY IS THIS CHILD SCREAMING IN MY EAR. Turns out I prefer café writing on non-bank holidays so I headed home to paint my nails whilst binge watching Friends instead cos ain’t nobody got time for shrieking children. Particularly with parents that were openly encouraging the child to shriek… what is that about?!

My mum had invited us round for dinner and I went wild and suggested we get the train so we could both drink. My mum made a crackin’ mac ‘n’ cheese and vegan brownies, and I drank 3 glasses of wine because I like to milk the bank holiday excuse for all it's worth.

I woke up on Saturday morning and realised I’d slept in my contact lenses like a first-class idiot, and I’m now wondering how I managed to be so stupid every time my eye twitches from a suspected scratch. Top work Kate.

We had brunch at Street Café which was such a me type place. The décor is all fairy lights, wooden floors and generally shabby chic, and there’s a massive counter piled with cakes. After devouring a pile of eggs, avocado, chorizo & halloumi, we stocked up on food for the next couple of days and then headed out in the car. I randomly grabbed an old You Me At Six CD to listen to and got that little happy buzz you get when listening to old music and remember what a fecking tuuuuuuune it is. So I badly sang along as we drove through the Hertfordshire countryside.

We’re back on our where-shall-we-buy-a-house mission so thought we’d go check out areas of Hertfordshire that we don’t know but are potentially in our price range. Conclusion: the main area we were considering with the majority of houses we can afford is, ahem, interesting. There were a couple of other areas which were fine but with a limited amount of houses in our price range. So we sat in a café munching on lemon meringue pie and wondered whether we should reintroduce the idea of moving into the midlands.

So when we got home, we searched for houses in the midlands and I wanted to do a little sick down myself when I saw what we could afford there compared to what we could afford here. You’d have thought the houses in Hertfordshire were paved in bloody gold or summin’.

Anyway, that was enough big life talk for one day so we popped on over to Little Marrakech where we had a table booked. This babe of a restaurant deserves a post of its own but let’s just say I freakin’ loved it and face planted the almond pie I had for dessert.

Sunday morning saw me tackle my personal email inbox for the first time ever – I’ve had it since 2009 and have probably deleted about five emails in that entire time. I managed to get it down from 4798 to 412 and FELT LIKE A CHAMPION (that’s just the unread emails btw, there were A LOT more just hanging around like a nine-year-old bad smell). I then watched a week’s worth of Corrie (my not-so-guilty pleasure) with a Lindt bunny and browsed more houses in the midlands; and the whole afternoon seemed to disappear.

Seeing as it was a Sunday where I didn’t have to go to work the next day, I poured myself a glass of wine, whacked on that YMAS album again and danced round the kitchen whilst whipping up some homemade pizzas. Kneading dough so therapeutic no? And then we watched the new Agatha Christie BBC drama with even more chocolate. It was Easter Sunday after all.

Oh and on Monday I started watching series 3 of How To Get Away With Murder and planned out novel chapters in between browsing rightmove again and dreaming of 4 bed detached houses because I’m just that cool these days. I also went hunting for a sausage roll mid-afternoon because I had a sudden craving. Costa are now doing sausage rolls if you’re interested.

Does this read like my year 8 diary? Probably.

Hope your first day back at work wasn’t too painful dear reader.

Easter Weekend

2 Apr 2018

Phone Break-Up | Week Three

Smartphone addiction

~ I am doing a 30-day phone ‘break-up’ challenge from the book ‘How to break up with your phone’ by Catherine Price. Read more about why here and here. ~

Week three has been a slower approach, focusing on ‘reclaiming your brain’ with mindfulness. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment, the first part of this week has been the least useful of weeks for me.  Days 15 – 18 encourage you to do the following:

  • Stop, breathe and be; a mindfulness exercise which is what is says on the tin. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath and tune into what you’re experiencing in the moment. In this context, it’s supposed to remind yourself to pause before picking up your phone; essentially creating a speed bump so you can decide if you actually want to pick up your phone. 
  • Practice pausing, aka be still. To be exercised in situations where you are bored and find yourself reaching for your phone; e.g. whilst waiting for a train. 
  • Exercise your attention span. The aim is to start building in activities into your day that improve your ability to focus – something that is damaged by too much smartphone use. You can do this with a variety of activities but the most obvious one is reading (not on a screen). Regular reading, extracting meaning from symbols, requires your brain to both maintain focus and simultaneously ignore everything else around you. It causes physical changes to the brain, improving the areas responsible for reasoning, processing visual signals and memory.
  • Mindfulness meditation; a form of Buddhist meditation that’s been proven to reduce anxiety levels. 

The most useful suggestion for me has been to practice pausing. When I automatically go to reach for my phone when waiting for the train, or whilst on the train to work, I resist the urge and just let my mind wander instead. It’s a small amount of time but I’m convinced I’ve been jotting down more ideas for my novel than usual as a result of my imagination being allowed to wander about. 

I’m all for adding more reading into my day but I’m doing that anyway. I haven’t found the mindfulness exercises particularly useful for me and, as a result, I think I’ve actually used my phone more this week than I did last week. 

However, this weekend’s task was the trial separation: 24 hours without my phone. Day nineteen was to prep for this and the book suggests a whole host of ways to do this (including automated texts and creating a physical contact list). To be honest, all I really did for this was to remind my dad of my home phone number just in case. I turned my phone off just before going to bed on Friday night and didn’t turn it on again until Sunday morning. 

Did I miss it? 

Our plans for the Saturday involved me wanting a camera on me so, surprise surprise, I took my actual camera. We also needed google maps a couple of times during the day but G had his phone on him. I had one or two times when I wanted to send a text to someone about something in particular but they just waited until Sunday, no biggie. 

Otherwise, I barely noticed I didn’t have it on me and even during the moments where I would have checked it (e.g. sat in a café and when G popped to the loo), I didn’t suddenly desperately crave it. I just kinda accepted it wasn’t there and that was that. 

So, no, I didn’t miss it. 

The three weeks building up to this have definitely helped. My lack of missing my phone made me realise that my relationship with it has already changed quite a lot in the last few weeks. I’m already less bothered by leaving it in a different room for a while or not turning it on until several hours after waking up, thanks to this challenge; so 24 hours without it didn’t really feel like that big a deal. 

Long may this feeling continue. 

1 Apr 2018

10 Restaurants To Try In St Albans: A Bucket List

Ten restaurants to try in St Albans, Hertfordshire

The amount of places to eat in St Albans never fails to amaze me; the list is seemingly endless. In fact, there are so many that G and I decided we need to get organised if we were going to try everywhere we wanted to try before we move next year (also on a side note - it's two years today since we moved to this lovely place!).

Yeah, okay, we actually made a list of restaurants to try in an organised time frame. We’re super cool, please still invite us to parties.

There are more than ten on our list and no doubt we’ll keep adding, but these are the highlights:

Little Marrakesh

I walk past this place on a daily basis and it always draws the eye. The front window is tiny but it’s this little burst of exotic colour as you walk down the high street. This is right at the top of my list because we’ve been talking about going there for two bloody years. Get me some Moroccan food please.

The Bishops Cave

G and I were walking up the hill towards home the other day (it’s the mother of all hills just FYI) and as we approached the top, we noticed a freakin’ cheese and wine bar had suddenly appeared. Cue minor freak out on my part. A CHEESE AND WINE BAR JUST ROUND THE CORNER FROM MY FLAT, WHAT IS THIS DREAM. Yeah, so, no big deal. I’ll go whenever.

The Prae Wood Arms

The moment summer starts playing ball, G and are taking a lil country walk to this place just a little outside of St Albans. Sweet mother have mercy, the look of that beer garden with the slopes and river… heart emojis everywhere. Also, the menu looks that little bit sexier than the average pub. Hello feta burger.

The Foragers at The Verulam Arms

A wild-food pub tucked down a little side street in the shadow of the cathedral. The foragers are a group of hunters/gatherers who forage wild plants, fruits & fungi from the wild and then cook and serve up at the pub. V excited to try this one!

The Meating Room

A little place serving up a whole host of sexy looking burgers. Everything is hand-made, with no preservatives, and there’s an even mix of veggie and meat options. I got my eye on those milkshakes as well. They also provide jobs and apprenticeships for local young people, and any surplus stocks is donated to the Jubilee Centre Community Meals team in St Albans so a good one to support.

Craft and Cleaver 

A Brooklyn-inspired smokehouse & bar which describe themselves as specialising in wood-fired BBQ, craft beer and cocktails. It looks quirky, G is sold on the craft beer and anything that is inspired by NYC is always worth a shot in my books.

Rose and Crown

Ngl, we have tried most pubs in St A now but not this little one just yet. It’s on the other side of the park so one for a lazy walk in the summer and some good pub grub.


Turkish food! THERE IS SO MUCH HALLOUMI ON THE MENU I CAN’T EVEN. Pretty much all that needs to be said on the matter.

Per Tutti 

Italian food; what’s not to love? V keen to mosey on past the Pizza Express and Zizzi’s and go try out an independent Italian place. I’ve particularly got my eye on their Giardiniera pizza; goat’s cheese and pesto all the way.

I’ve walked past this place a couple of times and it always looks super cute. They serve up local, seasonal food and I am all about their décor. Also, they seem to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner so if I like it, I may have to go on three separate occasions *shrugs*.