Tuesday 27 October 2015

Wanderings Lately :: October/November


There just something I really love about Autumn. Although turning the clocks back, having to wake up when it's still dark and the shorter days affect most people's moods, including mine, I also get very excited at this time of year. I've always thought that the transitionary seasons - Spring and Autumn - are the best because they hold so much potential, so much expectation. Autumn heralds the cosiness of coming inside out of the cold, excitement of snowy days or the excuse to drink a big cup of hot chocolate and not worry about the calories. Autumn has, for me, this romanticism of all the cold weather things I can now re-introduce into my life: boots, jumpers, scarves, blankets, soups.... The thing is, winter in the UK isn't full of beautiful snowy days and crisp frosty morning. It tends to just cloud over and rain. That's why Winter has to be my least favourite season, because once it arrives, you know it's here to stay until at least March and it's nothing like you imagined it would be! 

This photo is the first meal I made this season using my slow cooker. Another exciting thing about Autumn. I love using my slow cooker, it take a little bit of time in the morning (or I suppose in the evening the night before if that's easier) but the reward of a warm meal waiting for you when you get in makes it all completely worth it!

Good News

This last fortnight has been quite a whirlwind. In mid-September the school where I had been working for almost a year closed quite suddenly. Cue a frantic search for a new role! In that one instant everything was very unstable; could I stay in the new house I'd found? Just as life tends to do (just ask Alanis), it has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything's gone wrong. I managed to impress enough at my first interview at the American Institute for Foreign Studies, got a second and then thankfully a job offer. Of course, after having about 3 weeks of no word from any of my applications, I was then inundated with interview offers (!)

My new job doesn't start for a few weeks, so I'm temping until then. I'm very lucky that I'm only working in the mornings and therefore have afternoons to myself to head to the library and study, or pretty much anything else that takes my fancy. It's very freeing to truly have control over your own time. Something that I gained from my redundancy, and I suppose the security that a future job gave me, was the desire and ability to make the most of this time off.

When I found out that I had been successful with the job, I treated myself with these beautiful flowers. It seemed that as soon as I lost my job and needed to be properly frugal, I immediately saw loads of things that I wanted to buy (but that were definitely not necessities). Sunflowers were one such thing, and so as a little celebration, I bought these. They are looking a little worse for wear now (a week or so later) but they still brought much joy to our living room!


As I said in my last post, I recently borrowed this book from the library - taking a break from my current read so that it could be finished by the borrow deadline. I really whipped through this story, even forgoing a cycle to Church on Sunday to take the bus and have a chance to continue reading! I ended up reading the whole thing in one weekend. It was such a great (and easy) read. I believe it's being made into a film, which I'm most likely to make plans to see but never actually end up going to the cinema to watch - this is the general way with me and films. I have to say that I never actually warmed to the main character, which has only happened a few times before - Anna Karenina, Madam Bovary and Cathy in Wuthering Heights - but this didn't dampen my enjoyment.

And one quote I took from the book was this:

'There's something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home,'

 This another of the things I love about this time of year, as the evenings become longer, I cannot stop peering into other people's homes (or offices) when I'm walking (or riding the bus) past. This line in the book really summed up perhaps the reason why. I just always have this compulsion as I go past buildings with their lights on and no curtains up, catching a snapshot of people's lives. Looking at their home d├ęcor or how their furniture is arranged. I know it's nosey, but I always justify this to myself in that those people should put up blinds or curtains, and I always try and remember to do that for myself!


There are not many things I enjoy more than a good wander, and a couple of weekends ago, Jasmin suggested that we spend our Saturday on a self-guided walking tour. She found one from the city of London called the 'tree trail'. Although we weren't particularly excited by the name, it ended up being pretty fun. We didn't actually manage to get through the whole thing as everyone had evening plans to head off to, but we wandered around the St Paul's area and tracked down most of the trees on the trail (we think!).

Photos above are of a bergamot tree we identified in St Paul's gardens (we're not sure about this but google seemed to back us up!) and the wall in the Postman's Park where people are commemorated for giving their own lives to save someone else's.  


In another celebration of my new job, my mum and I had a day of shopping, eating and film watching in the city. Scouting out some shoes/boots (because I needed to replace my old ones and I had some money from a returned item), in John Lewis and then heading on to Portobello road for some pretty terrible food and service at Santo. After our disappointing meal, we went to watch Suffragette at the Electric Cinema. As I said, I rarely go and watch films, but this cinema is really worth splurging on. It's pretty pricey for a seat (or an armchair no less!) but the experience is fantastic. With your own chair, foot stool, blanket, side table and lamp you're really doing things right! The film was really good, although I didn't realise Meryl Streep was only making a cameo so that was slightly disappointing.

Heading down a different street on the way to the bus, this doorway caught my eye. Something that's fantastic about London: stumbling across old buildings with their exuberant and ornate windows or doors. A little bit of history is all around you!

:: This weekend I'm heading to a chocolate truffle making class, hosting friends at my house and generally getting back into the swing of a working week and only two days lie-in! What are your plans for Halloween?::

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Wandering around New York

New York was a fantastic experience. I really fell in love with the city, and I'm looking forward to heading back soon. I was really lucky that Samantha was there over this summer, as she not only let me stay with her, but she was a wealth of knowledge about what places around the city I should visit. 

On my arrival day, she surprised me with tickets to a Chinese Ballet at the Lincoln Centre. This was a fabulous start to our time together; in a wonderful cultural centre, where we could indulge in a culture that is close to both of our hearts. One of the things we both share is a fascination and passion for China, and watching this together was a lovely start to my holiday. We even had a little bit of excitement from down the aisle as other theatre-goers nearly came to blows over whispering during the performance.

Other places that I visited upon Samantha's suggestion included Columbia University campus - quite unusual for a city as the university buildings are not sprawled across the city, but all located together by themselves. Whilst I was in this area, I indulged in a typical (if you watch as much American TV as me) US breakfast of pancakes, maple syrup and hash browns. I supplemented the coffee for tea though - I'll never completely abandon my British ways!

At various other points during my stay, I discovered as much of the heart of NY as I could. Both together to Samantha, and walking around alone I loved taking in the huge buildings along the huge roads, random literary plaques lining the pavement, and the arch in Washington Square Park.

Unfortunately our 'stroll' across Brooklyn Bridge wasn't so enjoyable as I got frustrated with the crowds and needed to get out of there straight away! I generally don't like being in places where there are too many people and I can't easily make my own way. I get a slight panic and can see nothing except taking myself out of the crown as soon as I can. Once we got a little further along the bridge I felt slightly better, as the crowds dissipated a little more. 

For the most part, exploring NY was one of the best things about my visit.

PS, this is not what I was expecting when I ordered hash browns! :-(

Really liked these mosaics in the subway, just about the only thing I liked about the New York subway!

Where's your favourite place to wander around? Do you like to just take a walk and get lost in a new place, or you do you usually plan where you're going to visit when you're on holiday? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday 17 October 2015

Why I love living in Canada Water

Before I started working at my most recent job, I'd never heard of Canada Water. If asked, I would have assumed it was over by Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs. Not so, although it is part of what was the docklands. After realising how unhappy living in my Tower Bridge flat was making me, I decided to start the arduous (but necessary) task of househunting again. I was incredibly lucky and managed to find the perfect houseshare in Canada Water straight away. After a nervous week waiting for the girls to decide if they wanted me as their new housemate, they thankfully saw sense and agreed that I could take the room! 

Since moving in at the end of July, I've come to really appreciate living in this area. Although my house is a little way from the station, that doesn't bother me. I became the proud owner of a bike earlier in the year (and put it together myself which I'm very proud of!) and it only takes me about 10 minutes to cycle to either Canada Water or Rotherhithe tube stations. There are also a couple of decent buses that pass close to the house so it's pretty well connected.

Having said that, it's not so well connected that I'm in the centre of the noise and crowds of London. In fact most of the time you can forget you're even in the city. It's so leafy and green you feel worlds away from the pollution and dirt of the city centre. It's probably not, but it feels like it! I live right near the river, so it's easy to take a walk along the Thames, and this is a great way to spend a couple of hours. You are reminded of how close you really are though, as you catch glimpses of the skyscrapers at certain points as you walk (or in my case cycle) around. As I head back to my house from Rotherhithe I head straight towards the big buildings of Canary Wharf - as it's directly opposite us on the other bank of the river. Usually on my way to Canada Water station (bus and tube) I spy the top of the shard over in the distance. 

I'm writing this post from Canada Water library, an incredibly busy library that is always full - many people studying, children running about (!) and people enjoying a cup or coffee or a language exchange in the downstairs cafe. The building itself is an unusual design - one people are likely to either love or loathe for its quirky shape. I actually quite like it, and I hope that when the new shopping/apartment complex that's currently being built is finished it will complement the library as well. I'm very excited this week as I've checked out three books from the library, and have another on the way that I reserved this week. Although I do love owning books, I don't have a lot of space to store them, and really only put them on a shelf to get dusty when I've finished reading them, so I'll probably try and get more for the library when I've finished with these - actually two of them are cookery books which I'll probably just take photos of decent recipes from before I take them back. I've usually thought that a downside to library books is that new releases are not available, but I noticed today as I picked up Girl on the Train, that they have the newest Nigella cookery book that came out last week. So perhaps the days of waiting for a new release are over!

For the sake of this post, I walked into the library today so that I could more easily take photos of my walk through Russia Dock Woodland. Created in the old Russia dock basin, this is now a park, ecological nature reserve and has a small man-made hill from which you can gaze over the famous London skyline. 

A few weeks ago, I spent a Sunday morning in the Canada Water Cafe - mostly because I had turned up to use the library 3 hours before it opened (they need to update their website!). I was surprised at how busy the cafe was on a Sunday morning. Although this is a very busy and residential area I wasn't expecting quite so many people to be out eating breakfast in the cafe. Although I think the drinks are overpriced for what you get, it's a nice space to sit and work, or to catch up with friends. I've eaten there a couple of times, and the food seems decent too. I really enjoyed the ambience and atmosphere and in the end it was a slightly nicer place to work than the library - although with the prices I wouldn't make it a habit! 

Mostly, I love living here because it gives me the best of both the worlds I've grown to enjoy. Nature, trees and open spaces, but near enough and well connected to the city to not feel isolated. Canada Water, I'm here to stay!

I like cycling through the woodland and encountering all the ducks, moorhens and coots that live there as they run across the path just as you're approaching - why do they wait until you're nearly on top of them before they run across?! The less said about the foxes the better, they never fail to scare me particularly at night! There are also plenty of little squirrels scampering about and as we have a small garden, we see quite a lot of cat traffic passing through.

I really appreciate how much care Southwark council take of the woodlands too. Each day I go through the park they seem to be there - clearing out the waterways, repairing benches, and caring for the trees and plants.

Canada Water Library with a lovely red dusk sky

What do you love about the place where you live? Are there certain things you will never compromise on where your home is? Do you have ideas about where you'll move to in the future? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Wanderings lately :: October

I've been reading some interesting blogs lately, which have kind of sparked a feeling of sadness that I don't really blog anymore. I could blame this on life getting in the way, or not exploring exciting places now that I'm not in Asia. But really the motivation for documenting life at home just isn't there. It's not really because I don't have anything to write about, I still try and experience as much as possible in life, but I am no longer writing about my life for friends and family to keep up with. Being in your home country - and although London isn't my home city, it's only an hour away from where I grew up - doesn't feel like much to shout about.

I've tentatively decided to try and motivate myself to document a little more. This blog was always a way to keep track of exciting times, things that I've got up to in life that I could look back at months or years in the future. I do this, a lot actually. I love to look back over blog posts from this month last year, or two, three years ago. What was I doing? What was I writing about? The thing is, now I don't write about what I'm up to, and looking back at last year or the year before there are no posts to reminisce over. That makes me a little sad - although I wouldn't have been travelling to exotic locations in those months, I would have been doing something, but as time goes by I'll forget what they were.

So I want to try and keep more regular little updates - maybe trying to commit to weekly is a little optimistic, and it may end up being monthly (that is if I keep it up at all), but for now I'm going to try and say these will be fortnightly, every two weeks, to post some pictures and some words about what I'm doing or seeing lately.

So here are the last two weeks; the end of September and beginning of October. Excitingly this is the start of Autumn in London. It my favourite season, one of transition and looking forward to a change in temperature, weather and for me right now maybe also life... more on that another day. Probably.

Autumn arrived in the form of a cinnamon and apple muffin and pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. A clever marketing ploy to issue these nicely designed cups that really make you feel you're entering into the spirit of a changing season... we'll soon be onto the red Christmas ones so better soak up the leafy, pumpkin-y ones now whilst you have the chance...

Actually I've been slowly trying to live a life of less waste this year - it's not easy and it's something that I know I will never be able to fully put into practise like others have. In keeping with this idea, I'm planning to invest in a keep-cup. I'm not sure yet whether all cafes/coffee shops will accept the cup but I have recently used my metal flask in a couple of places for tea. I'm not sure whether the shape and design of that would work for a latte though. I like the initiative and it would be another step on my mission to produce less waste.

I had a fabulous time visiting my friend Chelsea to celebrate her 30th in 1920s style. This was my fourth visit to see her over in Den Haag, and this time we managed to squeeze in a little trip to the beach near her house.

Last week I attended the Cake and Bake show in London's ExCel Centre. My mum and I had been to the show a couple of years before and we decided to go again this year, as it's a nice day out, you can pick up a few freebies and we always strive to use some of the tips or techniques that they show you at the demonstrations. We were lucky enough at the end of the show to walk past a section that were packing up and giving away loads of cakes and sweets from an afternoon tea for free. These mini lemon meringue pies were absolutely delicious, and I enjoyed every single bite! After the show mum and I decided to jump on the emirates airline for a slightly different travel experience and to catch the last of an absolutely beautiful dusk sky. Although there isn't a great deal to see view-wise from the cable cars, I definitely think going in the evening when the city is lit up makes for a better view than during the day as this area of London doesn't have a particularly nice area to gaze out at.

This weekend I stumbled upon this old hat of my mum's from a long time ago, I've had it in my wardrobe for ages but either forgot about it or felt like it wasn't a good time to wear it. Although it's slightly too small to wear completely on my head - which is amazing since I have such a pea head! - if I wear it slightly tilting on the back of my head it's perfect and it looked pretty good, even if I do say so myself! The best thing was when I asked my Dad what he thought of my hat and his answer was 'It looks nice, your mother had a hat like that when we were young'... its the same one Dad! :-)

The beginning of October, with all it's promise of crisp autumn days and changing colours, comes with a slightly difficult position for me as I lost my job and am now applying for something in that mixture of slight desperation at needing a job, with the added desire to find a job that can interest me, develop some skills and help me find my place here in London. There are a couple of options in front of me at the moment, so fingers crossed it all works out for the best!

:: What have you been enjoying this Autumn? Has October filled  you with excitement or are you dreading the coming cold weather? Let me know in the comments! ::

Monday 5 October 2015

The SATC Tour

Essex's answer to Miranda, Samantha, Carrie and Charlotte
One thing I knew I wanted to do when I visited New York was to take the Sex and the City tour. SATC has been a constant presence in my life since I watched the final part of season 6 when I was studying for my A levels. When I was living abroad, I watched the series over and over. I would put on episodes in the background when I was cooking, or getting ready to go out because there were no English channels on my TV or radio. It became a familiar soundtrack to my day, Carrie's constant questioning and the glamourous nights out and outfits of the characters. When the first film came out, my 3 friends and I, having assumed a character inspiration each (I was Carrie), got dressed up for a trip to the cinema, smuggled in some wine, and then headed out for our own cosmopolitans when the film ended. I bought the film on fake DVD in China and watched it with my girlfriends. The second film came out when I was in Liverpool, and I went with a new set of girlfriends to watch that as my boyfriend at the time wouldn't be persuaded! I watched the prequel TV series 'The Carrie Diaries', which I also really enjoyed and was disappointed that it was cancelled.

So going to New York, I was extremely excited to see all of the places featured in the series. I already knew about the Sex and the City tour bus, and couldn't wait to step aboard and delve into that world again, surrounded by other people as equally obsessed as me. I managed to persuade Samantha to come along with me, and I'm glad to say she was pleasantly surprised at how much she also enjoyed the experience. 

The tour begins at The Plaza, and as we walked across to the meet up point, I immediately clocked the Paris Cinema - pointing out that this is where Carrie went to the cinema on a Saturday night 'date' night alone. One the bus, our guide was enthusiastic and entertaining. As the bus drives through the city, our guide pointed out each of the 'hotspots' we could see from the show and we were also reminded of the scenes on TVs around the bus. This was really great as it brought to life what we were looking at. There were a few stops throughout the tour - at an Ann Summers style shop, cosmopolitan bar, posh restaurant from the film and Magnolia Bakery. Samantha and I, of course induldged in a cupcake from the Bakery and enjoyed wandering around empty Buddakan restaurant (where Carrie and Big have their wedding rehearsal dinner). We skipped out of the midday Sunday Cosmopolitan drinks to briefly walk around Little Italy, and didn't stick around the site of Carrie's apartment steps or to look around the sex toy shop (preferring to grab a coffee nearby instead!) The tour ends at the HBO shop, where you get a slight discount, and where Samantha and I both bought a little souvenir.

Later during my stay, we went back to see the library, although it was unfortunately closed on a Sunday so I never got to see inside. We found the community garden featured in Miranda's wedding, which was lovely and I went back to the Flatiron building to get a decent photo. I really enjoyed the tour, and I think it was an excellent start to my visit to New York, as it takes you around the city and obviously it's an interesting introduction for any SATC fan. I also loved that I did this with Samantha, as she's completely familiar with the city and so as I continued my exploration of the city, she could point out how each place connected with what we'd see on the tour.

Buddakan restaurant

NY Public library