Straight into it this month! I'm not sure I'll go into much on the life front because last week I did my blog post on 'Believe' and if I talk any more about yoga or positive thinking for the rest of this month, I'm not sure I'd be winning myself any fans! I do sometimes catch myself banging on about these things and I'm sure people get bored listening to me! Nobody likes a repetative bore so I'll just keep it off the blog and stick with instagramming every aspect of my day!!
The month of February was hectic. The project I've been working on for the past five months finally launched but in the weeks leading up to it, my life was consumed with work. B was an absolute star husband, winning himself a very big bank of brownie points. He would have dinner waiting for me when I got home at silly o'clock and would even make clean dinners for me and even eat them himself. His best effort was a burger that he made with a mushroom bun just for me. He'd pack my lunch for the next day and on Sunday's he'd just leave me to potter around the kitchen the whole day because he knew it was what I needed to chill and relax. Thanks B, you're one in a million!
|He really outdid himself. A clean, awesome|
burger, made by B
|Another of B's amazing dinners|
So my project launched and it was great. Better than I could have hoped for actually and I'm absolutely thrilled. It was stressful, hectic, scary, annoying, frustrating... But I'm so pleased I worked on it and had the best team to back me up. What a relief!
As you all know, I have my delightful little nephew K who is just the coolest kid I've ever come across. We skype regularly and L sends a photo a day so I don't feel like I'm missing out on him growing up. Our four days in Perth last year were some of the best days of 2013 for me and now, K is a big brother to a beautiful chubby, wonderful little girl, R. I have a niece and a nephew now and I could not be happier. L and G, you are already incredible parents and now your family has grown to four. I'm so pleased for you guys and can not WAIT to meet little R as soon as possible. Sigh! Talking about them just makes me so happy!
|Look at those hands! How can you NOT|
love those hands?!
And now to something I have been dying to talk about this for MONTHS!! My big sister J (this is my London sister BTW) and her husband L are expecting their own bundle of baby this year too!!! Yippee!! For my December post, J was in Australia and still hadn't told some friends back in London because she wanted to tell them in person. So I waited. In January, there were STILL some people left to tell. So I waited (because EVERYONE reads my blog - do you like how I just assume that?!) and now, everyone knows so I can say it in the blogging world. I am thrilled to pieces!!
If people thought I was an Aunty-bore before with just one nephew, just wait till I get three to talk about! Being an Aunty is by far the best thing ever. I never knew I had so much love to give!
And happy kind-of second birthday to my little K for the 28th (well... sort of - my little leap year baby!) Can't wait to hear how much fun you had and how super spoilt you got!
|My birthday drawing from K|
It's pretty clear that I am willing to travel for food. This trip was no exception and was planted in my brain many, many months ago when our friends R and P told us about the best tasting Portuguese custard tarts from Lisbon. Now I like custard tarts, but I wouldn't rave about them (but you'll see that change by the end of my blog post) but R just kept saying how amazing these were and that we had to take a trip to Lisbon to try them. So we did. As an early birthday trip to me, we went in mid-January and we're just hoping to escape the drizzle and grey that is London in January.
|The views over the wonderful city of|
|Tiles like this were all around the city. |
|Another gorgeous wall!|
We arrived Friday night and after checking into our very swish hotel, we immediately went in search of wine. Oh, and food. We ended up in a gorgeous part of Lisbon, surrounded by tiny cafés, restaurants and lovely wine bars. We chose to stay at one, sampling wines from the 'expensive' range on the wine menu. Another reason to love Portugal is that everything is amazing, delicious, local and very well priced.
From here we went for dinner, quite early by local standards as they eat late. Way later than we could stand waiting! The restaurant was a tiny little place which seated only 15 people. I loved that the kitchen was almost smaller than mine and you could see everything in action. We ended up being befriended by a group of French men on a boys weekend away and they insisted on buying us cocktails. From what I could tell it was just a g&t in a huge wine glass with strawberries in it. The amount we'd already had, I ended up just eating the strawberries from mine and pretended to sip it as they insisted we continue drinking.
Our walk back to the hotel was a mission as we got very, very lost and it was raining quite hard. Still, we made it back and only the next day did we discover what a huge loop we'd made, missing the hotel by a matter of meters at one point.
|Cool old tram|
On Saturday we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and had our first of many custard tarts... For breakfast. Don't judge me, they're a local traditional food so we had to try them! I thought these ones were good but it turns out while they were better than any I'd tried before, they were the 'worst' I would taste all weekend.
We took the train to the beautiful town of Sintra, another great suggestion from R&P. It turned out to be one of my favourite places we've ever visited and it's earnt its place on my 'Eveyone must go here' list. Tiny cobble stone streets amongst brightly tiled colourful buildings with little cafés and local souvenirs shops. We had a double espresso which was HUGE, and our second custard tart. Please note, we shared every time we had one and yes, I'm trying to justify how many we ate because it really was quite astonishing.
|So many espressos and custard tarts...|
We visited the town centre and wandered the sweet little shops, buying some gorgeous painted tiles of which I'm already dreaming about how I'm going to use them when we one day build our own house! Next we went to Moorish Castle to explore the ruins. It was a stunningly bright, sunny day and the castle was so pictureque, I got slightly snap happy on both our big camera and my phone (so many instagram opportunities!)
We also visited Pena Palace - it was so beautiful, it looked like something out of a fairytale. It was one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been to and really did take my breath away. It is this place that is why Sintra is on my 'everyone must go here' travel list. Just wow.
After a yum lunch (my pork was doused in butter, pools and pools of the stuff!) we had a while to wait for the train so we went and bought a painting from a street vendor (and yes, B did barter for it, of course he did!) and had yet another double espresso and Portuguese custard tart. I worked out that it was my sixth coffee and later in the day, I proceeded to get the shakes. I'm not sure my body can handle that much caffiene!
That night, back in Lisbon, we went out in the great part of town, dining at a little tapas wine bar, sampling amazing foods and incredible wines. This is my idea of food heaven. A tiny little table in a lovely buzzing restaurant, great conversation, amazing CHEAP wines and little bites of delicious food. Just awesome! Our final stop for the night was one last wine bar where I got up the courage (must've been all that wine!) to ask the guy behind the bar if they sold the beautiful wooden wine boxes they had stacked around the place. No, they didn't he told me, but if I came back tomorrow after they get a new shipment of wine in, I could have one of those. Great! But how much was it going to cost me? "Oh no, I'll give you one for free. No charge!" Amazing!!
So I know I said 'our final stop' and 'one last wine bar' but I just remembered that there was ONE more stop and one final wine bar... and this one was amazing!! Plus we fell into it completely by accident. The rooms were filled with dolls, vintage toys and quirky everything EVERYWHERE. One room had rows and rows of toy soilders. Another had china mugs and plates all over the place. It was SO cool! The wine was pretty rubbish but the atmosphere made up for it and it remains one of the coolest bars I've ever been to, worldwide.
|Most amazing bar ever|
Our last day in beatiful Lisbon was the whole reason I was so excited to be there. It was Portuguese custard tart day! After getting dreadfully lost and getting really annoyed with each other, we finally found the right tram and the right stop to get to Pasteis de Belem. The line was out the door, as we were told to expect it to be, we lined up and ordered ten to take away plus two to have in the cafe. Don't scoff at our ten takeaways, R&P said they bought 20!! Or was it 24?! Either way, our ten seemed quite minimal in comparison! We sat down in the cafe which seats 400 (!) with an espresso each (I'd moved away from the double espressos after feeling so rubbish from excess caffiene the day before!) Another thing to note is that espressos in Portugal are terrifyingly cheap. They cost around €70c each! 70c!! But back to the tarts. Oh... my... gosh... it was... it was just heaven. The pastry was incredibly crisp and buttery but not too much. The custard was divine and the cinnamon and sugar combination on top was perfect. It was one of the greatest tasting things I've ever had in my entire life. It was perfection. I sat there and just smiled. It just made me so happy and as much as I love food, rarely does it stop me in my tracks and just make me sigh with happiness. What an amazing thing it was. THIS is why I love to travel.
|Worth the wait, worth the trip!|
|In all their glory.|
To wrap up this section because I'm not sure I can top my high of talking about custard tarts, I will just say that we did go back to the wine shop and they gave me not one, but TWO gorgeous wooden wine boxes - I was THRILLED and they are now proudly displayed at home. I've seen them for sale in markets and they're expensive so I'm totally in love with mine! And yes, we managed to get them into our hand luggage for the flight home! There was some VERY strategic packing going on! And of course my magnet - not overly exciting because what I really wanted was a Portuguese custard tart magnet (obviously) but as much as we searched, sadly they just don't exist. Instead, we bought a tram magnet - very much part of Lisbon as the trams are just so cool, rumbling round the city!
I came under fire recently at work when we were staying back late and the team ordered pizza. I decided I didn't want any because a) I knew B was cooking an awesome meal for when I got home b) it was Dominos which is never anything to write home about and c) I just didn't feel like it. Lately, people have been criticising the way I'm eating or tell me I'm boring or I have no fun anymore. Totally NOT true. I feel better when I eat better but if I want go go crazy, I do!
Firstly, Portugal. Apart from the custard tarts (I promise I won't talk about them any more) I ate some great food. On our first night, I had a great salmon dish with a creamy velvety sauce and we shared a highly recommended chocolate cake for dessert. I was being a massive snob and said to B, "It wasn't THAT good. My brownies are way better than that."
|In my favourite wine bar|
On the second night, we had some great tapas and I decided to be brave and try octopus. I'm not a huge seafood fan and octopus has always been one of those things I shudder at the sight of (it's the tentacles, they freak me out!) but I thought I'd give it a go and see if my taste buds had matured. They hadn't. I hated it. The texture. The little suction thingies. Just ew. Can't do it!!
Back in London now and on a more postive note, I had some delicious sushi to celebrate the launch of our project at a restaurant called Sticks n Sushi. My friend A knows good sushi so when she suggested we go here, I was thrilled. My old team weren't exactly foodies. In fact the only time we went out for a meal after work, we ended up at KFC so to go to a sushi place with work friends, I was totally up for it. Flavour combinations I'd never tried before, salmon roe, raw tuna, all the things I'd previously shied away from, delicious! The cocktails were a whole other story though. A picked one that was "The best ever. You'll either love it or you'll love it." According to the waiter. Soy milk and avocado were the two things I could remember it had in it. Not. Cool. Just plain weird. I feel bad cause A and I were supposed to split our cocktails and drink half of each but the avocado one was just wrong.
|Sticks 'n' Sushi|
Covent Garden, London
To assure you all that I still have fun and can drink like a fish (although at 29 I'm losing my ability to drink my body weight in beer. Three and I'm tipsy, is this what happens when you get old?!) B and I went to a beer festival last weekend. Craft Beer Rising in the ever so cool and hip Shoreditch. We sampled great beers, including Cat beer from Catalunya, Spain that I promised J I would try in her non-drinking-pregnant state. But beers aside, the food was where it was at. In fact, we ended up eating four lunches AND dessert. Let me start at the beginning:
|Beer Cat from Catalunya, Spain|
* Chorizo and pork pork pie from Hartland pies - yum but I'm not the hugest fan of pork pies. I don't like all the pastry and gelatine but this one was pretty good.
|Lunch #1: Pork pie|
* A fishdog from Hix's FishDog pop up. A posh fish finger hot dog with mushy peas and tartare sauce. Really yum but really small for the price and it was more Iike a starter than a main for lunch
|Lunch #2: FishDog|
* BBQ slow cooked brisket gyros from Prairie Fire BBQ. B ate this one by himself and rated it very good. But the lady at the stand was mean and snappy which set me off on the wrong foot!
* Bear burger from Burger Bear. Awwww yeah!! This was awesome!! With L, the master of all burger tasters in love with Motherflipper, I wholehearted believe that this burger is worthy to go up against his beloved Motherflipper in what we will call a burger-off. I know we ate this after a fair few beers but I still think it was that good! Incredibly juicy beef, good brioche bun, simple sauces and salad. Classic, simple, good quality ingredients. Fricken yum!! If the burger-off happens, I will definitely blog about it!
|Lunch #4 (no pic of the gyros, sorry!)|
* And for dessert, dog-nuts. Donut fingers (kinda like churros) with salted caramel sauce. Mmm... That's all that needs to be said about that. Also from Hix's FishDog pop up.
|Donuts with salted caramel - mmm!|
And so you can see that yes, I eat as well as I can during the week and when I'm in control but when I want to let loose and eat like a maniac I do. Life is about having fun and I love eating well and making banana bliss balls, clean chocolate nut bars, paleo friendly merrymaker bites, clean and healthy coconut banana bread (all of which are awesome by the way. No, honestly, I've tested them out on work people, my sister J and of course my guinea pig B, and they always go down well.) They even look pretty in in pictures!
|Banana bliss balls|
|Paleo sesame crackers with beetroot dip|
|Paleo raspberry, almond and |
raw cacao nib muffins
|Raw chocolate nut bars|
But at the end of the day, I will never be able to dedicate my entire life to nothing but health and fitness because while I love that stuff, I also love a dirty big burger and a nice big pint from time to time. And that's ok!