The glow-down on Yoga

It is very vogue to be ‘into yoga’. The first question from peope is: ‘do you do Bikram Yoga?’ to which my answer is always  ‘no, sounds awful’. Any exercise where it is advised to stay in the room, to avoid throwing up or collapsing outside, doesn’t bode well.

But I do ‘do’ Yoga. Hatha Yoga apparently. And while it definitely hasn’t turned me into Gwynth Paltrow, I am grateful for the ‘gifts’ it has brought (if we are going all yogi).

Yoga

The big news is I can now touch my toes. And even more impressive, for an hour one evening a week I focus on something that isn’t electronic. My mind wanders. There is a bit at the end when we sit in eerie darkness, staring up a stained glass windows and our instructor tells us, in her slow, amazing voice that we must ‘let go of all emotions that no longer serve us’. What a fantastic phrase hey? I think she should make audio books or something. I once fell asleep in class and she had to wake me up. That was awkward.

There will be people who are expert on this ancient art, who can convey exactly how the body, working in harmony with itself,  benefits circulation, flexibility, muscular function and well being. But all I can say is I love it. Not because I know what I’m doing, not because I’m any good, not because my arms now look like Geri Halliwell’s when she released that DVD looking ‘worryingly toned’ (they don’t).

But because I leave feeling much lighter, rejuvenated, unburdened and  peaceful. I think everyone in the class does. Its nice to do something that doesn’t matter for a while – and somehow that becomes one of the most important rituals of the week.

My yoga instructor, the amazing Kasia Steyn’s 12 week yoga course has restarted now – but she will no doubt be offering courses again in April in Belle Vue Village. Check her out!

Namastay x

Local London Christmas cards

I love the idea of sending Christmas cards. To the point that I think my friends slightly resent me for creating ‘Christmas Card Reciprocation Obligation/Guilt’. To be fair  it does take a bloody long time to write them – it has somehow taken me ALL DAY. (But don’t worry guys, I’ve also watched Home Alone 2, the Outnumbered Christmas special and eaten half a chocolate log, so its not been a completely wasted Sunday).

I found these cards in the Trinity Hospice charity shop in Wandsworth and really liked them because they feature some of my favourite places in London, which look especially beautiful at Christmas  – Albert Bridge, Sloane Square and Clapham Common.

IMG_5766

If you fancy sending a more personal card and donating to a good cause (all of the profits go to the local Trinity Hospice) these cards might make the idea of sending loads of Christmas cards more worthwhile.

Anyway – I need to crack on – another ten cards to go and we are getting to the juicy part in Home Alone where Kevin starts torturing Harry and Marv (when you watch it back, Kevin McCalister is actually pretty sadistic).

Merry Christmas x

18 ways to survive autumn in London

Summer is ending. Raspberries are out of season and the nights and the spiders are drawing in.

OH WELL. I’ve already moved on to my new boyfriend – Autumn – season of opaque tights, stained red wine lips and double helpings of carbs.

London by David Holt

You do need a survival plan for this time of year in London though – or it gets depressing, in a ‘being soaked by a massive bus splash and then questioning the meaning of life’ kind of way – so here is my list of 18 things I plan to do in London in Autumn to *BASICALLY STAY SANE*. (Please note I make no apology that 80% of these things involve eating).

  1. Dinner at The Dairy in Clapham – supposed to be an incredible restaurant – and autumn is the  time to eat in incredible restaurants so you can order desert with custard with the excuse we need the ‘nutritional value/warmth to SURVIVE THE WEATHER’
  2.  Noodles at the newly reopened Pepper Tree in Clapham –  my secret restaurant when I lived in Clapham. Except everyone loved it too. I had a minor stroke when I thought it had closed down. But they were just renovating it. PAD THAI I’M COMING BACK FOR YOU.
  3. See Gone Girl at the cinema – remember the cinema? I know I haven’t been for months either. Gone Girl is blatantly going to be  insane.
  4. Buy a leather jacket and maybe a big tartan scarf and definitely also an aggressive new eyeliner – October needs confronting with a strong look
  5. Make a vat of chicken casserole and eat it whilst watching Homeland and Downton Abbey – Lady Mary and Carrie Mathison are survivors and inspirations
  6. An autumn walk to pick sloe berries and make sloe gin – sounds idyllic, probably will descend into stealing berries from bushes outside people’s houses in SW London and making some kind of weird poison but I DON’T CARE I WANT TO DO IT
  7. See the Constable exhibition at the V&A – because I’m embarrassed I’ve been living in London for 8 years and never been to the V&A
  8. Book to go to Harry Potter Land and see the snow scene – I make no excuses
  9. Plant spring flowers – I’m thinking bluebells? Keep meaning to get down to Battersea Flower Station for some ideas
  10. See Live at the Apollo – tickets aren’t for general sale but you can apply and potentially go for free *how amazing is that*
  11. Plan a firework party/trip to Battersea Park or Ally Pally – honestly one of the best things about living in London in November, love the feeling of layering up for some communal pyrotechnics
  12. Make a roast dinner for friends. With cauliflower cheese as a focal ingredient…Oh and crumble
  13. Brixton Vilage for dinner – because I haven’t been for months and I’m getting withdrawal
  14. Shopping at Bicester Village which is definitely a bad idea but so what…
  15. A night at The Dogs at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium – I mean it sounds kind of scary, but also I DO own a sheepskin coat
  16. Drink beer/tour at a London brewery – like Meantime in Greenwich or By the Horns in Earlsfield (see the nice write up on ‘Go Earlsfield‘).
  17. Curry in Tooting Broadway – the South West Brick Lane
  18. Book a winter holiday – I mean…all of this is great, but I’m not Jesus – there is only so long you can go without summer

The photograph in this post is London October 13 2013 015 Conkers Clissold Park Hackney by David Holt.

Five favourite things about Bellevue Village

I first stumbled upon the Bellevue Village Fair in 2012 and I’ve been going back ever since.

Its a funny place, this road. Despite being cornered by gridlocked city traffic, it has an ‘out of London’ feeling.

2014-09-13 14.50.48-1

Village life in the big city

The fair is just one of my favourite things – mostly because you can pretend you are in the Cotswolds for the day, buying local beer (from the exciting Belleville Brewery), and everything from art and jewelry to flowers (I was *thrilled* to see the Battersea Flower Station, as have always wanted to visit). It goes without saying that the fair attracts a very well-heeled crowd which makes for great people watching – lots of beautiful parents, with beautiful kids and immaculately groomed dogs (there was a dogs show this time) – I was half expecting David Cameron to show up.

2014-09-13 15.26.41

The food is always a particular highlight – I stuck my face in an amazing hot dog and eyed up about 572 cakes before settling on a chocolate, orange and almond number from Dee Light Bakery. I also bought some marmalade from an incredible woman wearing an apron calling her a ‘Jam Tart’.

2014-09-13 15.23.30

The Bellevue Village Fair sadly only happens twice a year (the next one should be  Christmas *fingers crossed*) but they best things about Bellevue road are here all year round:

  1. The Althorp – amazing local gastropub looking out on the Common. Plays live music. Does a lush chicken burger.
  2. Jo Partridge – lovely hairdressers with the best shellac deal known to man – £35 for a manipedi – WTF?! They did my hair for the first time and for once it looks nice.
  3. The Good Earth – amazing Chinese restaurant. So good I wrote a blog about it.
  4. The Hope – another great pub (there’s a theme here). Iconic corner pub. The place to be on summer nights.
  5. Wandsworth Common – way classier than Clapham Common (i.e.s not full of gangs of 23year olds drinking cans and applying tanning oil like its Benidorm beach)
Dogs on wandsworth common

This year there was the first dog show on the Common at the village fair

2014-09-13 15.11.13

Oliver – the gallery – always does creative games for kids that I have genuinely joined in with

The best Chinese take-away in Wandsworth

Lately I’ve been exemplifying the kind of emotionally dependent relationship with my local Chinese restaurant that Sandra Bullock embodies at the start of ‘Two Weeks Notice‘.

Can I have a bite of your number 6 please Sandie?

I know things need to change. They know things need to change. But neither of us wants to stop.

So it goes on that I, exhausted at the end of the week, make the call and get them to hit me up with a Singapore chicken noodles,  beef in black bean sauce and an egg fried rice.

Yes I know that is two types of carbs and a really bad idea. Yes I know that Sandra is way thinner than me. Yes I also know that the amazing health benefits of Asian food are only really seen on a diet of sushi, tofu and miso soup, not white rice flash fried in oil. But can the world please stop judging me and take a mouthful of the black bean beef?!

I love The Good Earth, not just because the food is excellent, but because it provides the kind of singular comfort that nothing other than a bear hug with an elderly relative can deliver.

It is also well posh (its roots are in Kensington). You can have a takeaway at home and feel really swank over skank.

They have a really fancy restaurant that has gold padded walls, very efficient waiting staff and silent, automatic doors everywhere that lead to secret rooms. Plus they look after you with hot hand towels and after dinner mints.

Image of a clay pot being revealed

The big reveal

Here I am getting the fillet steak clay pot. That is the super attention-seeking meal they cook at your table and everyone in the restaurant gets jealous (see man in white shirt with the hilarious hungry eyes).

Image of fillet steak clay pot at the good earth

Divine

Chocolate mints in orange foil

Chocolate mints. Imported from the eighties. The very best way to end a good meal.

The Good Earth has selected restaurants across London, including a restaurant in Wandsworth Common and takeaway stations in Battersea and Wimbledon.

The best cupcakes start in Wandsworth

Recently, I wanted to send some cupcakes as a birthday surprise to my friend. On a Saturday, to her house, as I couldn’t make her party.

But as I sometimes tend to find, the road from ‘nice altruistic thought’ to ‘happy reality’ can take a detour via scenes of frustration, annoyance and quite honestly, ultimate resentment. By the time I  spent longer than I thought I would/should on the internet researching cupcake companies and prices, finding last-minute hurdles at the check-out with fees, timings and restrictions etc. I would have happily popped a row of 12 cupcakes like crack (in case you are concerned I’ve never genuinely dabbled in crack).

Wow I sound sour don’t I? Stay with me, this is a happy ending.

Basically (I think) I found the best place to order cupcakes from in London. And it happens to have a branch in WANDSWORTH (so biased). It is called Crumbs and Doillies (I mean you have probably all heard of this but it was news to me).

mixed_cupcakes

Cupcake quivering beauty (from the Crumbs and Doilies online gallery) – my friend has not yet sent me a picture of the ones I bought her – smacks of ‘I ate them all’

I looked into lots of other companies – those which might immediately roll off the tongue when thinking of London bakeries. But Christ they were expensive when you add on the average £25 courier fee?! (I’m not about to name/slag off these companies on the internet, just because they aren’t to my taste, as my blog isn’t really about being a bitch about cupcake companies – I mean come on).

But that said – I have never really ‘got’ this very American cupcake trend that landed in the UK years ago. Quite frankly the frosting levels are too excessive for me. I’ve never understood how you are supposed to eat them. Do you dive your face into 3cm of cochenille butter icing as if you are troughing for truffles? Or lick the frosting off with the tip of your tongue  in an awkward/sexy way? I guess you just get a fork…But I am just a bit too British and would rather nibble on a fairy cake with some traditional white sugar icing and sprinkles, like they did at fetes. In the fifties.

But  anyway…Crumbs and Doilies do cupcakes in pretty much every flavour imaginable (some of which you definitely won’t have imagined). Its all very exciting in a ‘Willy Wonker’ type of way –  from ‘buttered popcorn’ or ‘malteser’ to ‘mexican hot chocolate’ and ‘maple and bacon’ flavour (yes MAPLE AND BACON). So I was totally converted. Particularly because – crucially – you can buy the ‘mini’ size, which answers all of my practical questions on etiquette. So I bought two dozen mini cupcakes for £24 which I didn’t think was too bad.

The delivery fee is also very competitive. It depends on where you live in London and ranges from £4-£14. But you can pay extra for a set delivery time. And you get preferential treatment for living in Wandsworth. As you always really should….

Where to get your nails done in Wandsworth and Chester

I come from a family of women who religiously get their nails done. Not in a ‘lazy bitch’ kind of way, but in a stoical, 1950s attitude to beauty – ‘I will always be presentable to the outside’ kind of way. Having unpainted fingernails is always noted as the worrying, silent symptom of emotional breakdown.

I am by far the worst at getting my nails done (read into that what you will about my mental state).  Manicures for me happen rarely, but recently I have been getting better and they have been happening more frequently.

I wrote about the benefits of shellac in my wedding survival guide. I discovered shellac a couple of years ago (referred on by my female relatives of course). Shellac has been on the ‘beauty block’ for a while now, but in case it is new to you, it is very hard-wearing, gel-based nail-varnish that  is dried completely in-salon (using UV lighting). Its a great option if, like me, you are  completely incompetent and smudge your manicure the moment you leave the salon (and are then too embarrassed to go back in and ask them to touch it up again…).

Picture of my feet (sorry) with nude manipedi

Nude manipedi selfie

With two weddings and a birthday party in May I decided I needed to pull in the big guns and get a shellac manicure. And to sum up how equally split my affections are between the North West and the South West I got my hands done in Wandsworth and my feet done in Chester…I know…it would have been so much cheaper and less hassle to get both done in one go (there basically wasn’t time).

For a mani-pedi in Wandsworth there is no beating Jo Partridge – the Wandsworth common branch do a really high-quality shellac manipedi for £35 – which I think is really great value.

I got at manicure there right at the start of May (for £25) and my nails are still going strong. As you can see I went for a very nude colour – but that is just because I am pretty bad at taking shellac off when it chips, and nude is less noticeable.

Nailista is a nail salon I discovered in Chester over Christmas, that specialises in manicures, pedicures and eyebrow waxing. Its very friendly, fun and lovely-looking, but also reasonably priced. I got a pedicure there a couple of weeks ago (again in nude to match my fingers) and that was £25. Nailista always tend to be able to fit you in too, which is handy, but you can get a discount booking online, which I really like.

Image of Nailista salon

Nailista is very bright and colourful inside – this image is taken from its website, but I think it actually features the Manchester branch

By the way – as many of my friends have asked me this – to take off shellac you need to wrap your nails in cotton wool soaked in an acetone based nail polish remover and then cover them in tinfoil for about 10 minutes – very space cadet. After that you basically scrape it off with something metal ( fairly distressing).  Once you take shellac off its a good idea to use a treatment oil (I like OPI Nail Envy) and to have a break from shellac for a few weeks to let your nails breathe and repair, to prevent any damage.

Both Jo Patridge and Nailista offer loyalty card schemes – and I am definitely proving myself to be loyal to both in a polygomy kind of way.