Friday, 28 June 2013

Weekly Love: Week 137

Hello, I'm home! Welcome to the first 'Weekly Love' post live from the beautiful Kentish Countryside in 10 months. Frankly, it felt bizarre this morning waking up to silence smattered with a little bird song at my parents house after all that time living in one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world. On a side note about my trip home, thank you to everyones kind messages wishing Kathryn and I a safe journey home; the trip was actually okay, except for the proper British welcome we received from the M25, but we both got back safe and sound. Maybe it is lucky that jet lag has me up finishing this blog post at 5:30am, because I have also come home to a massive mountain of paperwork to also get through! 
1. Reunited with my best friend Kathryn for the first time in 10 months. This was us on our first day on Santa Monica beach together. | 2. A fantastic view of the famous and iconic Capitol Records building from Hollywood Boulevard. | 3. Moules Frites from Breadbar in Century City. Best friends share a lot of things, including favourite dishes. | 4. The Grove all dressed up for Summer. | 5. Delicious guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips to start at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica. | 6. I'm going to miss LA in bloom. This photo was taken around the Venice Canals.

weeklylove280613[2] copy 7. Chilling with my new friend Mickey Mouse outside the Disney Store on Hollywood Boulevard. | 8. On my last night in Los Angeles, spent on Santa Monica Pier I felt it would be amiss if I did not try one of America's heart attack inducing specialities. This is a traditional funnel cake (fried batter) smothered in icing sugar and hot fudge sauce. Needless to say between the two of us only 1/4 of it was eaten! | 9. An upside down view from my sun lounger by my building's pool. | 10. An arm party against the background of my Milly x Banana Republic skirt featuring my trusty Citizen watch, and bangles from Kate Spade and J.Crew. | 11. Short Order Spuds with a side of Truffle Mayo at Short Order in West Hollywood. | 12. The view out over Los Angeles from the Griffith Observatory.

I know one of the reasons you guys love 'Weekly Love' so much is because you enjoy finding new blogs to read through the sites I link to. So, below using the 'Simply Linked' widget you can submit your own links to be shown at the bottom of each 'Weekly Love' post. If you have a blog post that you've posted during the two weeks since the last Weekly Love post; be it a recipe you are particularly proud of, photos you've posted from your recent travels or an outfit you are particularly proud of styling, I, as well as the rest of your fellow readers I'm sure would love to see it. Just a note, to make this fair on everyone, please only submit one link per website, link to a post and not just your home page. Any spam links I will take care of. Also, just to help with my little level of blog post consistance OCD, I would really appreciate it if you could title your link the exact title of your original blog post.

What have you been doing this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? Honestly, this weekend for me is going to be all about getting my life sorted out!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Los Angeles From Above: An Afternoon At The Griffith Observatory

As you read this I will be most likely somewhere over the Atlantic looking forward to seeing London Heathrow Airport for the first time in 10 months. Los Angeles, it has been amazing, and thank you for giving me one of the most incredible years of my life. (But don't worry, I still have one last photo diary and a round up of my 'Summer Holiday' here left to go online as far as Los Angeles orientated content is concerned!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Breadbar, Century City

A quick (and to be honest probably final) 'Places To Eat In Los Angeles' today (most of the meals out in LA I ate after this were at some of my favourite haunts like The Tasting Kitchen), a little spotlight on an absolutely lovely lunch Kathryn and I shared on Friday before a bit of shopping (I picked up my final Sephora and Victoria's Secret hauls) in Westfield, Century City. I used to be highly suspicious of food as shopping centers as a kid, but now I find I can have rather fantastic meals in between shopping; at my local mall in England, Bluewater I can dine at Byron Burger, Loch Fyne, Carluccio's, and apparently since I've been away they've also opened the first out of London Leon branch. (Their Byron branch was also the first out of London branch for them, too.) In London I favour Westfield, Stratford City where I always make a bee line for Cabana Brazilian Barbecue, so it makes sense that the food would be pretty awesome here, too. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Travel Guide: 24 Hours In Los Angeles

The inspiration for this post came from answering a question I was asked on Tumblr about places I'd recommend to see, eat and do in California, from San Francisco stretching down to Newport Beach. My wonderful reader asking the question was only planning on spending a day in Los Angeles, so she asked me what tourist things I'd recommend as a must do for a day. This obviously inspired this post; a guide to 24 hours spent in Los Angeles, or, more specifically what I would spend my time in the city doing if I only had a day, and I would recommend to first time visitors. I hope to put together 24 hour guides like this together also for London, my hometown of Canterbury, and maybe the area of Northern France where I live too. 
24 Hours In Los Angeles | @rachelphipps

Friday, 21 June 2013

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Short Order, West Hollywood [NOW CLOSED]

I think when I leave Los Angeles, I'm not going to want to look at another burger again for a very, very long time. Except for the new Shake Shack in Covent Garden, or if I finally manage to get a table at MEATliquor, obviously. Yesterday's burger stop (there have been quite a few since I picked Kathryn up from the airport on Saturday afternoon) was after a bit of light shopping at The Grove (over $200 off of a beautiful purple and navy Italian cashmere jumper in J.Crew, I call that a result!), in The Original Farmers Market. Short Order, lauded as one of the best burgers in Los Angeles, is on the corner of the market at 3rd and Fairfax. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Yayoi Kusama to Gian Lorenzo Bernini: How To Appreciate Art

For as long as I can remember, I have always been interested in art. I used to love going to art galleries as a kid and a young teen, and drawing and painting was the earliest of my creative outlets; I always knew that the only way I could be happy in later life was if I was doing something creative, and so far my younger self has been (almost, there are other things I want to do too) 100% right. While there are a few galleries in London and Los Angeles I like to frequent just to pass a free day (the Saatchi Gallery, the Tate Modern, the (British) National Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art among them), what I especially enjoy are special editions and retrospective exhibitions on special themes or artists that I'm especially interested in. This got me thinking; not everyone loves wandering around galleries as much as I do, and if you've never really learnt how to appreciate art, I don't blame you, but special retrospectives on topics that interest you may prove an excellent way into the world of art. I designed this post to give those of you who are sceptical about art, to find an area they might be interested in. A few tasters if you will, of things I have seen and/ or studied which have have appeal outside the world of art and you don't have to have studied art or art history like me to enjoy.

I first discovered the work of Yayoi Kusama while I was studying art on Gala Darling's blog in 2009, and the mental patient's (yes, she lives in an institution) use of colour, light, pattern and shape has captivated me ever since. Many of you may recognise her geometric spot patterns from last years collaboration with Louis Vuitton where she not only took over their classic leatherwear, but installation spaces usually right on the storefronts of the brands flagship stores. I finally had the chance to vist one of her exhibitions when they were showing her work at the Tate Modern in Spring last year. I was really excited to see the show, but I could tell Kathryn was reluctant when I dragged her along; but I know she enjoyed it as much as I did, because you don't have to know about the processes of things such as gold leaf overlay and medieval iconography (two things I know a lot about thanks to an Art History exam focus on the Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery one year) to enjoy Kusama's very visual work. On our way to the gallery Kathryn and I actually ran into Kristabel on Southbank, and her blog post on and photos of the exhibition are really worth a look at. Kusama is pictured above seated in one of her 'Infinity Rooms', my favourite part of the exhibition which she has in most places she shows; a room full of tiny lights and mirrors you walk through that create the impression that they go on for infinity.

I've just finished what will probably be the last Art History course I'll every take, on 16th and 17th century Dutch Art at UCLA. I hated it, and I really ought to have left my studies at Augustan era Roman sculpture. Anyway, I think the moral of this story is is not to write something off because you've had a bad experience with it. I came across this painting of The Denial of Saint Peter by Dutch painter of the period I've just finished studying, Gerrit van Honthorst in January at LACMA as part of the Carravagio show. I don't care much for the details or the subject matter in this painting, or the use of colour. What made me stand in front of the painting for longer than any other piece in the gallery that morning was the use of light in the picture. The way it highlights so much dark and barely discernible space on the canvas. Sometimes there might just be some small detail of a piece of artwork you may not otherwise have been interested in that has you absolutely captivated.

If you've ever been in the East Wing of the National Gallery in London and caught sight of a teenaged girl sitting in front of this painting and gazing for hours at this painting, that would have been me. This is The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche and it is one of my all time favourite paintings. It is a fantastic piece of art, but it does not have any of the bells and whistles that some of the other pieces I have included in this post have. However, the reason why I love it so much and why I am so enraptured by it, is a great way to illustrate another way into appreciating pieces of artwork. Yes the rendering of the scene is magnificent; the detailing of the straw beneath the block and the fur on her helpers cloak is amazing, the the use of light in this painting is truly fantastic, but I love this painting because I love the story behind it. I'm a total 16th century history junkie, and the tragic tale of Lady Jane Grey, England's 9 days Queen is one I am almost fascinated with as the rise and fall of Anne Bolyen. One way into learning about and appreciating art, is to focus on paintings that depict object or scenes (modern or historical) that you already have a strong interest in. 

Okay, so while I appreciate that paintings may not be everyones cup of tea (in the same way while I personally adore Ancient Greek pottery I know everyone else rolls their eyes at me every time we stumble upon that particular part of the British Museum), so I thought I'd include one of my favourite sculptures by one of my favourite sculptors; Rapto de Proserpina (The Rape of Persephone) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You don't have to have any interest in art at all, and not really much knowledge of the process of sculpture past knowing that marble is hard and it does crack and break, to be blown away by the sheer skill, mastery and detail of this sculpture which is considered one of the best demonstrations of technique in the Western world. 

Just look at how Hades' fingers press into Persephone's flesh, how realistic the indentations in her thigh are, as well as the curves and shape of her flesh. Then remind yourself that Bernini has carved this out of a solid block of marble. If you did not know that this above close up was a photograph of a sculpture, you'd have to think it was a painting because of how realistic the rendering is. I really want to see this piece in, well, the flesh.

Londoners, if you've never been to The National Gallery, The Tate Modern, The Saatchi Gallery, The V&A, Angelenos if you've never been to LACMA or to the Getty, The Norton Simon or The Huntington, take this weekend out to do so and find something that you like to look at. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Book Review: Lessons From Madame Chic, 20 Stylish Lessons Learnt Living In Paris

There is that 'thing' about all things French that captivate some people, and while I've spend so much time in France growing up, and I now have a home there, that fascination has never really existed for me, except in the form of the city of Paris. (And besides anyone who has ever lived in any part of France, or is French will tell you that Paris and the rest of France are worlds apart from each other, well, except maybe some of the coastal resorts like Cannes are Parisian in part, but the countryside? Are you crazy?) However, maybe because I speak the language reasonably well, and everyday things in French life, be they going to the cash machine or going to get groceries are normal for me (the latter, here in Los Angeles still has me baffled at times!) 
Lessons from Madame Chic, 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott c/o Simon and Schuster: £10.23$28, Macarons $10.50 a box from 'Lette Macarons in Beverly Hills

Paris has never seemed inaccessible to me, so when I read the last Paris themed style guide I laid my hands on, Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange, it read like an everyday handbook to me. This is why when her agents offered to send me a copy of Los Angeles based blogger Jennifer Scott's recent book; Lessons From Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living In Paris it seemed like the perfect time of me to read it. Not only was I going to learn about Parisian Chic from a Southern Californian perspective (the culture I'm currently immersed in), but when Jennifer lived in Paris, the time she is basing this book on, she was a study abroad student just like me!

A lot of the first half of the book is dedicated to eating and exercise, general diet things. I get a lot of questions as regards to how I manage to not be as big as a house with the amount of food I seem to manage to consume on a daily basis and the amount of sugar and butter dependant baking I get up to, and to sum it up, the way I manage to stay a UK size 8 is by having a very Parisian attitude to food. Those women manage to indulge and don't really go to the 'gym' (as I have a gym in my building here in Los Angeles I decided I'd actually go every day, I lasted two weeks) just the way I do, and manage to stay very Parisian chic and skinny; it is all about lifestyle and habits you can do every day like walking up stairs or instead of taking public transport for short distances, and eating good meals so you don't snack as much; Jennifer explains it all really well in the book.

There were some sections on personal style that really stood for me in the book, too. The bit on first impressions really made me laugh, about making sure you put your best face on to the world whenever you step out of my home. She compared Parisian women to women in Los Angeles; I was as equally as shocked as any Parisian would be on arriving in the city to realise American women wear work out clothes and lycra as everyday clothing, out in public and not just in the gym! I also like how she picked up style tips by just sitting outside a cafe and watching Parisian women go about her day; it brought back memories for me of designer handbag spotting out the window of a cafe a few streets away from Le Louvre and Le Jardin des Tuileries a few days after Paris Fashion Week on a gallery day trip to the city a few years ago.

Honestly, while I did enjoy this book and I did take a few things away from it, I don't think I would have realised this if I had not spent any extending period of time living in California, but this is a book about adopting Parisian style written by an American, for Americans. Or indeed written by a Californian for Californians. Things in the book like telling you to take care in your appearance as to hat you wear as every casual day clothing would never occur to people back home in England; I've become used to it, but I was shocked when I first arrived in Los Angeles to discover women wore work out clothes, leggings and lycra shorts as casual every day wear, and not just to, at or from the gym (which in LA they drive to by the way, no matter how close to home it is. Logic check please?!) A European woman just would not even dream of leaving the house like that, even just to walk the dog.

What is the best personal style book you have read recently? As well as this one (but only for my American readers) I would recommend Emily Schuman's Cupcakes & Cashmere (for everyone!) 

Monday, 17 June 2013

What's In My Bag: What To Pack To Take To The Beach Edition

For someone who simply adores the ocean, before moving to the West Coast last year I never really spent that much time on the beach. Being more of a museums and historic sights holiday kind of family, I can only remember one 'beach' holiday taken in Barbados growing up. There are beautiful beaches around my home in France, but I usually spend my time wandering around local fish markets and Ancient walled towns instead. My friends and I like spending Summer afternoons in our little corner of the Kentish countryside either in Sandwich or Whitstable, but with their great expanses of grey stones (great for barbecuing, though!) they tend to be more 'seaside' than 'beach' afternoons. However, after the past 9 months of throwing bags of beach essentials together for trips out onto the sand for an afternoon relaxing in the sun either on Santa Monica, Venice or Newport beaches, I think I have got what to take to the beach down to a very fine art. 
Brightly Coloured Beach Towel

Obviously when you're heading to the beach you need something to lay on, and in my book the brighter the better. I did not actually have one in Los Angeles with me, so I picked up this fantastically bright one in Old Navy for only about $9, so I'd really recommend their styles this Summer. 

Brightly Coloured Flip Flops

For walking around when you are not on the beach and you have sandy feet, or, as I have sometimes discovered on Santa Monica Beach, the sand is so hot that it will feel like your feet are burning however fast you walk. My personal preference is, and has always been Havianas styles. These are actually Kathryn's bright brand new pair; as she pointed out to me while we were shooting, they looked much better in the piece than that every old, cracked and battered pale purple pair I'd grabbed on Sunday morning!

Fresh Pressed Juice or Water

When you are on the beach, just as important as using SPF is to make sure you stay hydrated while you're in direct sunlight. For most beaches in the world, take bottles of water with you (don't rely on buying something at the beach, everything costs more there) but if you are lucky to live in Los Angeles or elsewhere in SoCal, the SoCal cult of fresh cold pressed juice is your best friend. For fellow fans of LA's Pressed Juicery, Summer favourite Watermelon and Mint is now back in stores (pictured).


I don't think you need to tell me about the importance of SPF when you go to the beach. You should reapply quite regularly  and wear at least SPF30. Since moving to Los Angeles I have joined the scores of fellow Southern Californian girls in buying into their (now our) unofficial scent; the amazing coconut of Hawaiian Tropics. I can't recommend their sunscreen enough; it smells amazing, comes prettily swirled in the bottle and does not make you feel like you're wearing a sunscreen, not sticky at all. It has a nice silky finish. 


While I don't recommend getting burnt, as a pale girl I know more than most that sometimes burns happen. I like to carry a good aftersun with me to the beach too then, and as I like things that smell great and tropical I've been using Apivita's Aftersun ever since they sent it to me when their sun range first launched last Summer. Hawaiian Tropics also make one that compliments my favourite suncream that I also want to try.


Sorry for continuing to state the obvious! These frames are by Alexander McQueen and were sent to me by Sunglasses Shop. They are my favourite day to day sunglasses; I absolutely adore the tortoiseshell frames. 

SPF Lip Balm

It is not just your skin that need to be treated with SPF if you want to prevent serious chapping. I favour Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment, which has a SPF of 15. I think Elizabeth Arden also do a great one from their sun range.

Wet Wipes

A suggestion from Kathryn actually, that will actually be very useful. As anyone whose mother carried a packet of Wet Wipes around with them when they were kids will know, they are great for cleaning up all manner of spills. Also, not all beaches have taps for cleaning off the sand once you leave the beach, to they are also great for removing excess sand. 

Books or Magazines, & an iPod

Finally, reading and listening material. These days, almost all of my favourite reading material like books and magazines (I subscribe to Tatler and I buy quite a few issues of The Spectator) is on my iPad, but the screen does not work very well with all the sun and sand, so back to paper and ink. My beach read of choice is an old favourite of mine, NYLON magazine. On my current beach playlist we have a mix of Aerosmith, Maroon 5 (true band love lasts forever), Christina Aguilera's Back To Basics album, and Kate Nash. 

What do you always make sure you have stashed in your bag when you head to the beach? My bag by the way was a gift from Dorothy Perkins last Summer.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Weekly Love: Week 136

So, my last 'Weekly Love' post live from Los Angeles. Honestly, I have not been up to much except for studying and eating over the past two weeks as I've been finishing up at UCLA; I have my last final, American Drama at 8am this morning. Can you imagine an 8am exam at a British university?! Anyway, so not much to report, except for American readers, you need to be watching The American Baking Competition on CBS. It is the new American version of the cult favourite across the pond The Great British Bake Off, and the American version makes equally as compelling viewing in the world of food based reality TV shows. The format is the same as the British version, as well as the music. Most importantly though, bread maker extraordinaire Paul Hollywood is also a judge on the US version, and I feel America needs to know who this wonder of the kitchen is. 
1. My Dutch Art History professor brought bunches of tulips to our final exam and gave us one each when we left. | 2. Wonderful things can be made for lunch with leftover beans and the contents of my fridge. | 3. In the kitchen with Joy The Baker watching her remove homemade marshmallows from the pan and helping her work out DIY S'mores kit wrapping for the charity pop up shop she is hosting with  Bottle Stock in Los Angeles in Sunday. If you are in Los Angeles be sure to pop along, it is in aid of the Downtown Woman's Center. | 4. Also, for fans of the Joy The Baker Podcast, meet Joy's infamous cat. He is just as adorable and badly behaved as you think he is! | 5. Summer recipe testing. | 6. Yet more recipe testing, this time fried and breaded shrimp. The recipe still needs a few tweaks, but hopefully it will be appearing sometime this Summer!

In case you missed my announcement at the beginning of this week, since this week I started guest editing the Birchbox blog. I have a couple more to come, so look out for them, but here is a link to my first post over there: 5 British Drugstore Beauty Brands To Stow In Your Suitcase. Also, my penultimate (and last live from the wonderful city of Los Angeles) 'Project LA' column is online over at The High Tea Cast, with some thoughts about how the city has become a temporary home for me over the last 10 months

I also wanted to let you know about a great competition Laura Ashley are running at the moment. Laura Ashley fabrics and styles were a big part of growing up for me, they helped decorate my room, quite a few bits of the rest of my house and I went to children's parties wearing their pretty pinafore dresses. To celebrate their 60th anniversary they are offering the chance to win a £1,000 Laura Ashley gift card, and more excitingly a tour of their archives in London. All you have to do to enter is to share a photo of one of your Laura Ashley memories on their Facebook page, where you can also browse through other peoples rather beautiful vintage memories too. I may have been distracted for about half an hour doing this! You can also share your entries on Twitter and browse other peoples photos there by using the hashtag #lauraashley60. I can't wait to see all your entries, and I'm going to see if my mother can dig out a photo of me in one of my Laura Ashley dresses as a child.
7. Another recipe that wil be on the blog when I get back to England, a roasted vegetable topped couscous. | 8. Strawberry Mint Lemonade from the How Sweet Eats blog. | 9. Relaxing with the Sunday papers on my iPad. | 10. Experimenting with the Beautiful Mess App in my pyjamas  The dinner on my lap is my Pasta with Courgette, Chilli and Lemon. | 11. S'mashing S'mores bites from Trader Joe's. How have I only just discovered these? | 12. Pretty orchids at Westwood Farmers Market.

I know one of the reasons you guys love 'Weekly Love' so much is because you enjoy finding new blogs to read through the sites I link to. So, below using the 'Simply Linked' widget you can submit your own links to be shown at the bottom of each 'Weekly Love' post. If you have a blog post that you've posted during the two weeks since the last Weekly Love post; be it a recipe you are particularly proud of, photos you've posted from your recent travels or an outfit you are particularly proud of styling, I, as well as the rest of your fellow readers I'm sure would love to see it. Just a note, to make this fair on everyone, please only submit one link per website, link to a post and not just your home page. Any spam links I will take care of. Also, just to help with my little level of blog post consistance OCD, I would really appreciate it if you could title your link the exact title of your original blog post.

What have you been enjoying this week, and what do you have planned for the weekend? I'm actually off to LAX tomorrow to be reunited with my best friend for the first time in almost 10 months, so needless to say I'm very excited! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

How I Am Not The Size Of A House: My Food & Eating Philosophy

The most common question asked by my readers is how I am not the size of a house. I do understand where the people who ask are coming from. You only have to take a peek at all of the meals and treats I regularly digest on my Instagram feed, or check out my recipes page with my instructions for how to make things like Salted Caramel Double Chocolate Rolo Cookies, Smoked Salmon Potato Latkers, (which after everything that is in them in the first place are fried) and Hot King Prawns in Garlic Butter to get the point. I love butter, and chocolate, and eating. From my social media feeds it also seems like I never deprive myself of something I want to eat no matter how much fat or calories it may contain, and that would be a true assumption. 
There are questions about what diet I use, how much time I spend at the gym to be able to stay a dress size that suits my petite frame and still ingest so much butter. Well, as we have established I can't remember a time I ever stopped myself eating something because it was fattening and while I can manage some time on a rowing or spin machine, I don't really enjoy it and I have not been in a gym in 8 months. The only set exercise I do is swimming each day when I have access to a pool; but this is also a relaxing habit for me. Mostly, I just try to walk everywhere I can, and I enjoy taking long country walks. I cook loads of things by scratch, most importantly chocolate cakes and cookies. I make my own knowing what types of fats and sugars in them (I am a snob about what butter I buy) instead of buying them pre-made.

The most important thing to anyone trying to develop healthy eating habits, is to know what you are eating. I mean, really know what is in the food you are eating. I get to be all smug now people are being horrified that they may be eating microwave cottage pie that has actually been made with 100% horse meat, because I'm pretty sure I've never gone near a microwave cottage pie in my life. I was brought up with the importance of knowing what I'm eating instilled into me, and it is something I am very grateful for. Okay, yes I do sometimes indulge myself in McDonalds nuggets at Liverpool Street Station after an evening of buy one, get a free shot of sambuca (which I push off onto friends) drinks at Exit on Brick Lane, or a box of KFC popcorn chicken walking home in the rain, but we all deserve to treat ourselves sometimes. Also, now I come to think of it I'm pretty sure they are the only two fast food indulgences I can remember the whole time I was living in the East End of London last year; and I was there for 10 months. Yes, I love the classic Californian In-N-Out burger, but I only have one once a quarter; I will probably only have about 6 of them my entire year in America and with the exception of the Five Guys burger I tried once, no other fast food. Watching Jamie Oliver's documentary on American school dinners frankly made me feel physically sick. The idea of not knowing what I am eating terrifies me, and even if I did not enjoy cooking things from scratch as much as I do I'm pretty sure I would still want to know what was on my plate each evening. And also, when you sit and actually taste the greasy burgers and the unidentified white stuff in most fast food and think about what you are tasting, you'll understand it is not snobbishness that turns me away from most fast foods, but genuine fear for what I am ingesting.
Infographic I put together using the ingredient information for the Big Mac on the McDonalds UK website, and recipes from my own collection.

I went grocery shopping this morning, so what is in my fridge right now is a pretty good assumption of the foods I usually eat. (I won't go into my kitchen cupboard now, because listing everything in there will just take hours!) This is what you can currently find in there at the time of writing: 5 courgettes, a couple of handfuls of baby heirloom tomatoes, a packet of mixed salad greens, a carton of pineapple juice, with no added anything. I can't stand the taste of anything artificial in my juices, and while I find them hard to track down in the USA, in England I drink almost exclusively Innocent's juices and smoothies. Three peppers, one of each colour. 2 cucumbers, 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (free range, and they would have been organic too if I had been able to buy them), half a pack of parma ham, a punnet of strawberries, two lumps of unsalted Irish, not American butter, fresh oregano, thyme and dill, a large tub of Total 0% Greek yogurt, a tub of 0% Soured Cream, Thai fish sauce, half a jar of Oyster sauce, half a bottle of Sweet Chilli sauce, 12 eggs, both types of French mustard, half a jar of mayonnaise  the scrapings left in a jar of Bonne Maman Raspberry Jam and about two portions of my homemade tomato pasta sauce. So, most of what I eat every week is fresh and I mostly know what is in it. The only grey areas are the Asian sauces, which I honestly don't know how I could possibly make myself and I usually use sparingly in a pan with a very large quantity of vegetables, and the mayo, which I have already promised myself I will start making myself once I have found a viable recipe. I am not tempted to eat 'bad' and process foods because I know what is in them so I am not inclined to buy them, so they are not in my fridge. Okay, so while I do buy 0% creams (I get them as I like the lighter flavour; when I buy milk for recipes and cream I always get full fat) this is hardly a fridge on a diet kick. Parma Ham, I use a families worth of butter in a week (about 1 block) and the amount of sugar in the jam would be surprising to anyone who has never made a jar of jam themselves.

I am conditioned to dislike the taste of fat or additives because I was brought up on fresh food that my mother had always cooked herself and everyone sitting around the table always knew exactly what was in it. (Okay, well my grandfather will never know how much garlic, which he says he can't stand is in the food he eats at our house, because that is just him being fussy!) This is why American bread upsets me so much; the taste of the added fats, sugars and additives simply turns my stomach and I'd rather just go without. That is why on the sideboard, as well as what is in my fridge is half a fresh bloomer loaf I baked myself yesterday when I had the day off; I did my university reading while the dough was proofing each time. 

I have lost a whole dress size and probably a half since transitioning from boarding school to university and adult life. Logically, I should have gained more weight. I drink a hell of a lot more wine, I don't play on a hockey team and I am eating so much richer foods than I was before. But actually, the food I was eating while made to certain 'healthy eating' quotas I did not eat in balanced ways because I was wary of foods I did not like or I did not know what was in them, as I did not have the facilites to make my own cakes and biscuits I bought sweet treats full of refined sugars and saturated fats. While I enjoyed hockey and sometimes lacrosse, I did not enjoy the other sports I was made to do outside hockey season so I was not really getting into them; especially with team sports you are not going to benefit from exercise you are not throwing yourself fully into. My discovery of the Graze Box service getting 4 healthy snack portions delivered to me at school each week and allowing me to cut out Cadbury's bars in my final year was a godsend. After leaving school I was cooking my own meals and baking treats I knew the entire ingredient list for. Exercise wise, while I was at my parents house I did swim every day and walk in the countryside with my mother, but living in London all I did was walk when I could to avoid my Oyster Card eating all of my money. The same in Los Angeles; I try to walk most places and I know exactly what I am eating. 

So, now I've talked a lot about what I eat and why, how can you apply this to yourself?

  • Make your treats such as cakes, biscuits and cookies from scratch so you can use things like brown sugar instead of refined white, and avoid all the added fats and other nasties most shop bought cakes and cookies are packed with.
  • Also try to cook basic, fresh food at home and don't use things that are pre-packed. A lot of what makes you gain weight, as well as being bad for your other things like your skin, are all the additives and preservatives in ready meals.
  • Try to find a type of exercise that you enjoy, like swimming for me. I don't believe in spending an hour on a treadmill if you are making yourself miserable by doing so.  
  • Walk whenever possible. Also, as I know the majority of my blog readers are Londoners, I guarantee you that you will save on average £7 a month on topping up your Oyster card by trying to walk more. That is about £84 a year.
  • Drink lots of water. I could notice the weight difference after only a month when I switched out a couple of glasses of juice and smoothies a day to one at breakfast then Twinings tea (hot or iced) or glasses of ice water for the rest of the day. Fruit may be all natural, but it contains lots of sugar.
  • Don't over eat. Stop eating when you are not hungry. 

It is not about fad diets or special workouts. It is all about having a healthy attitude to food. I hope this post has cleared up some questions for some of you, and that you've all found it helpful. To sign off, I'll leave you with some recipes from this blog that are great and easy substitues for things that you would otherwise be buying pre-made from the supermarket: An Easy White Bread Loaf Anyone Can Bake, Super Simple 3-Step Chocolate Brownies, Homemade Chicken Fajitas, A Warming Carrot Soup, The Perfect Tomato Pasta Sauce, Freshly Popped Parsley Butter Popcorn, Boozy Innocent Smoothie Ice Lollies, A Basic Chicken Soup, The Ultimate Pizza Express Style Fresh Topped Pizza and Easy Summer Iced Tea With Twinings

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Recipe: An Easy White Bread Loaf Anyone Can Bake

I am aware that I was very lucky growing up. I was lucky that my parents worked hard so I could be given so many advantages that gave me such a great start in life, and every day I'm discovering new things, big and small that I have my parents to thank for. It was only when I started university in London and I observed the people around me attempting (being the operative word) to feed themselves did I realise how lucky I was to be brought up with such a great attitude to food; what I was putting in my mouth and how to prepare it. While it may seem to lots of people, especially my friends who have seen me pull together layer cakes and dinner parties by myself that I am a very good cook, I have had my fair share of mistakes. The one that comes to the forefront of my mind, and I'm pretty sure has just popped into my Mothers head as she reads this was the instance when I was quite young and my Mother had left me alone for the first time to make my favourite chocolate ganache cake. She ended up having to save the cake mixture by pressing it through a very fine sieve with a dessert spoon. I'm not sure I have attempted that recipe since.
However, in spite of all the mistakes I have made and have learned from, I am pretty confident in the kitchen and it is my Mother I have to thank for this; not just my attitude towards food but for letting me watch and help her cook and bake from a very young age and making sure I knew how to feed myself properly, a long time before I became addicted to food blogs, to be found sitting curled up in bed most evenings with a cookbook or interested in how a dish has been put together in London or Los Angeles' latest 'it' restaurant. So, what does all of this have to do with a simple loaf of bread? Well, this blog post is really my attempt at channeling Paul Hollywood in pointing out that while baking bread may intimidate a lot of people, it is in fact really easy and with the right instructions anyone can manage. Bread has never intimidated me, because I understand how it is made. I thought it was only fair that I pass that knowledge onto you.
DSC_1546 The recipe I bake from is actually a Paul Hollywood bake from his book Paul Hollywood's Bread, and I like it because you do it by hand. However, when I run through the recipe in my head I pull some technique from Lorraine Pascal's loaf that you bake in a food processor from her book Baking Made Easy, so this is really a technique hybrid with Paul's ingredient list. You'll notice this loaf is plaited; that is all me. I'll explain about why I think plaiting loaves is actually the best way forward for beginner bread makers in a moment.

  • 500g (1lb 2oz) Strong White Bread Flour
  • 7g Sachet Instant Yeast (I like Allison's, or Trader Joe's own brand in the USA)
  • 10g (1/4 oz) Salt
  • 320ml (11 1/2 oz) Cold Water
  • 40ml (1 1/2 floz) Olive Oil (I use Extra Virgin)

Weigh out the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle, and measure out the salt on the far right of the bowl, and your yeast on the far left. Make sure they do not touch each other while they are dry ingredients. Measure the olive oil into the well, and follow with about 300ml of water. With a fork mix the ingredients together to form a dough, then switch to your hands to bring it all together in a rough ball. You can add the rest of the water only if you need to to keep all the mixture together as one.

Lightly oil a clean work surface with a dash more of olive oil. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead for about 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, has a bit of resistance and is completely uniform. All successful kneading techniques have the same basics, but obviously each person does it a little differently I like to press the heel of my palm to the bottom of the dough lump, push down hard and push the dough away from me until it rolls over, repeating, alternating which hand and therefore the angle I use. You can watch Paul Hollywood do it here.

With a little bit more olive oil, oil the inside of a large, clean bowl and place your dough inside. Cover with cling film (kitchen wrap) and set aside for 1-2 hours, until the dough has at least doubled, but preferably tripled in size. Contrary to most instructions, you don't have to leave your dough in a warm place if you don't have somewhere suitable, but it does help speed up the process.

Once the dough has risen, you should be able to press a finger into it with gentle but still firm pressure and see the dough bounce back. Turn it out onto a well floured surface. 'Knock the dough back' (bread making term!) by repeating the kneading technique I described, but with a much gentler hand. You should have ben putting your strength into it on the first knead. Do this until the dough is just smooth again, but be sure not to over do it. The air should be knocked out of it too.

Now you need to shape your loaf. The original recipe from Paul Hollywood states thus: 'To shape into the bloomer, flatten the dough into a rectangle. With the long side facing you fold each end into the middle then roll like a Swiss roll so that you have a smooth top with a seam along the base. Very gently roll with the heel of your hands.' However, I find this to be a bit of a nightmare. It may seem like the harder thing to do, but I think plaiting a loaf has so much more benefit for a beginner  and it looks pretty and is so much more satisfying to make; so much so that practically every since loaf I turn out has this shape these days.

Divide your dough into three equal lumps. A sharp knife will help you do this. On a well floured surface roll out each lump into a long sausage about 3/4 of an inch in width. This will be difficult because of the gluten and resistance in the dough. I find rolling it out as much as I can and then swinging it gently in the air helps a lot. Try and make the three sausages even. Pinch all three together at the top and braid together in a basic plait. Tuck each end under each other. You should have a very small plaited loaf in front of you; it will at least double in size during the second proof and the oven.

Transfer to a non-stick baking tray and cover with a clean tea cloth. Allow to proof for an hour. This is where I find the plait great for beginners  with a bloomer it can be hard to judge how much the dough has expanded at this stage, but you can easily see the strands of the plait swelling up and becoming more loaf life as the time passes. Heat the oven to 220 degrees/ 425 fahrenheit.

When the bread is just about to go in the oven fill a deep baking tray with water and place on the bottom of the oven. This create steam while cooking and helps give you a nice crusty crust. Bake your loaf for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 200 degrees/ 400 fahrenheit and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. To tell if it is cooked through, pick it up with a tea towel (it will be too hot to hold otherwise!) and tap the bottom with your knuckles. It should sound hollow. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

So, what to do with your freshly baked loaf of bread? As you can see above I do enjoy it with lashings of French raspberry jam, but it is also great in sandwiches or with soups, as an accompaniment to my Marinated Mozzarella or as a base for a delicious brunch of Green Eggs & Ham. When I am getting to the end of a loaf I like to make 'Eggy Bread' for breakfast, which is essentially French Toast without any sweetness (seasoned egg and milk mixture, fried in vegetable or olive oil) served with Heinz Tomato Ketchup; the breakfast of my childhood! 

For those of you who've already turned out a loaf or two in their lives, whose recipe do you swear by? For those first timers among you, I'd love to hear about how your first forays into bread making go - it is really simple, I promise! 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Stay Tuned: This Week I'm Taking Over The Birchbox Blog

So I know I usually don't take over guest spots on other peoples blogs, but this week I'm going to be guest editing the Birchbox (USA) blog. It is such an honour to be asked to contribute to what has been one of my favourite and go to beauty blogs over the last year or so, and I have had such fun coming up with some great posts that you will hopefully all love for my guest spot this week. Make sure you check the Birchbox blog every day not to miss any of my posts which will include some beauty product picks for pale girls in hot countries (which will include some of the product finds I've come across here in Los Angeles), a piece on British High Street beauty brands and a couple of super easy, super delicious recipes for Summer. 
So you don't miss out make sure you subscribe to the Birchbox Blog or follow Birchbox on Twitter. Alternatively, I will be posting the links to my guest posts up on my Facebook page, so you can keep up with them there. 

Have a fantastic week everyone, especially while I am bogged down with my final exams here at UCLA. I finish up on Friday and my best friend and partner in crime over at The Glossy Guide arrives here on Saturday, so it might be a good time to follow Kathryn and I on Instagram to keep up with our final week and a half of Southern Californian adventures before we fly back to London! 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Recipe: Warm Baked Peaches With Basil & Honey

Sometimes I like to go to the farmers market without a plan. No shopping list; I just buy what looks particularly fantastic and just run with it when I get home and try and come up with something. Problem is, because I have (inherited from my mother no doubt) a phobia of wasting food, I don't do this enough as I like to have every meal meticulously planned and itemised on a shopping list before I go shopping so there is no waste. To try and snap out of this I'm going to set myself a resolution when I move back to London to go to Borough Market at least one Sunday a month with no shopping list, and see what I come up with. I know it will make me a much better cook with a much greater love for seasonal ingredients. 
A recent success I have had for a recipe that I came up with from what I had on hand that starred the local peaches I have been picking up without rhyme or reason from my local farmers market here in Los Angeles is this one for warm baked peaches cooked with honey and fresh basil; I've been enjoying it as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream a couple of nights a week. The recipe, as ever is adapted from the BBC Good Food website; it is a great resource for trying to cook with seasonal ingredients; just type what you've got into the search box and see what comes up. They also have a great section on their site for what is seasonal when.

  • 2 Ripe Peaches (I've used yellow, but this is equally as delicious with white)
  • 4 Large Basil Leaves
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • Juice of 1/2 Orange
  • 15g Unsalted Butter
  • Vanilla Ice Cream, to serve

Cut the peaches into thick slices. Shred the basil. Melt the butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the peaches and cook for a few minutes until the pan face of the peach slices are browned slightly. Flip the peach slices and repeat. Add the juice and the honey and turn up the heat a little until the mixture is bubbling and has formed a slight syrup. Stir in the shredded basil and serve with a scoop of ice cream. Enjoy!

This recipe serves one, so just duplicate the values in the recipe depending on how many people you are planning it serve! Let me know how they turn out for you. 

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Blogger Talk: Feminism In Life, Politics & On The Internet

I know it has been a while since I wrote a 'serious' post on this blog (read: not about clothes or food) but as I know you guys do enjoy reading and debating them (and I do enjoy writing them) I thought I'd float a few opinions, stories and ideas around feminism in general, on the internet and in real life, and how it effects us in the blogging community. Those of you who stick around for photos of overloaded brunch plates, pictures of Southern Californian beaches and recipes for chocolate brownies, I promise I will be back to regular scheduling on Friday with a recipe involving peaches and lots of vanilla ice cream.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Gift Guide: Fathers Day 2013

Sunday, June 16th in Britain is Fathers Day. I usually find it much harder to shop for gifts for my Father than for my Mother; if it is not a big occasion or there is nothing specific I know she wants,  I can always get flowers or something girly. We have no such luck with fathers, so I thought I'd take a moment (okay, more realistically a couple of hours) to wrack my brains as to what would make good Fathers Day gifts to give you guys some ideas. A little bit of self sacrifice so I can be more stuck than usual, and you can pick from a list!
1/2 Bottle of Bollinger Special Curvee: £24, Parker Ball Point Pen: £135, Hotel Chocolat Liquor Sleekster Selection: £22, Top Gear: The Alternative Highway Code: £7, Aspinal of London Union Jack Hip Flask: £59, Taylor of Old Bond Street Pure badger Travel Shaving Brush: £29.95, Set of 8 Shooting Cartridge Shot Cups: £62.50

Lets start with the things you can eat and drink. Apologies to people with tee-total fathers, because while it was not my intention when I was putting it together, it has turned out to be rather booze-y. In my mind if you are stuck for a present for anyone, a bottle of champagne is the way forward, and I am very happy that my friends have seemed to learn this. I love this half bottle of Bollinger a) because a half bottle is a nice gift as the recipient can justifiably drink the whole thing themselves, and b) because it makes the bottle a little bit more affordable. Next we have the Hotel Chocolat Liquor Sleekster box. Hotel Chocolat also makes a great go to for gifts, and I promise you that you will hear no complaints from your Father if you present him with one of their long Sleekster boxes; you can choose the flavour selection from nutty to all dark depending on his tastes. I also like to give their massively thick solid chocolate slabs as gifts, too. 

The thing with drink, is you have to have something to drink it out of. A unisex gift (I secretly want it) which is a great guys thing is a hip flask, and this cool Britannia one is great for trying to make your Dad just that little bit more fashionable. For a personal touch, you can give it to him pre-filled with his favourite tipple. If your father is into shooting, I think this shot set stacked into a giant gun cartridge is a great stylish novelty gift that is still very functional and great for him to take out with him in the field.

Have you got your Fathers Day gift sorted yet? Thankfully my gift is the last I've had to order from various UK mail order companies this year while in America. Though, as a side note from my experiences  Hotel Chocolat deserve a shout out for their wonderful Customer Service department who were very helpful and kindly sent out a new slab when my Mother unpacked my Fathers birthday slab to find it shattered and she rang them up; got it all sorted even though she was not the one who paid for it or whose account it was on.