Thursday, 29 July 2010

Some light photographic relief

We recently spent a weekend with my parents in the countryside. J and I went to relax for a while, which was long overdue, both to see my parents and to relax a little.

So we had some fun taking a few photos and playing with our camera. Hope you like them!

Still makes me long for a garden though... To grow tomatoes and gooseberries would be enough :)

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

In search of domestic godessness

I've been trying to get more in touch with my domestic goddess recently which has been quite good fun, it's been really nice trying some new recipes and working at old ones. First are some of the old ones J and I work on, his tabbouleh (soooo good), my houmous with lamb and pine nuts and some labneh. Yummy! This all went with our lebanese feast we had when we were in one weekend recently.

And then up come the choux buns! This was the first time I've made Choux pastry, and it was surprisingly easy. I thought it would be much more liable to go wrong but somehow it turned out really well. And tasted good too! I then filled these bad boys with creme patissiere and covered with melted nutella...

And finally the meringues from the egg whites left over from the custard. These were a little crumbly, something went wrong somewhere but they tasted okay so all good in the end!

Now I think I might have promised the choux pastry recipe at some point so below please find the recipe, taken from Michel Roux Jr's recipe book "A life in the kitchen"
125ml water
125ml milk
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon sugar
100g butter
150g plain flour sifted
4 eggs
Put the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar into a pan and slowly bring to the boil. Take off the heat and beat in the flour. When the mixture is smooth put it back on the heat and beat vigorously for a minute. Take off the heat and put the paste into a bowl, beat in the eggs one at a time. Now put the paste into a piping bag with a 1.5cm nozzle, pipe out buns measuring 3cm across onto a non-stick baking sheet (I used oiled baking paper). Cook in a preheated oven at 220C/Gas Mark 7 for 5 minutes. Open the door for a few seconds to let out the steam, then turn down to 180C/Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
And enjoy!!!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Being Unhealthy

This week has not been a good week for being healthy. I have been out three nights on the trot and am really feeling it. Nowadays I really cannot take the pace any more.

I really must try harder. Which is why I'm writing this post. Having it written down often makes one think about it more and hopefully take more action.

So here is my plan:

1. Schedule nights in rather than out
2. Make a conscious effort not to snack between meals on crisps and chocolate and think about all I am eating
3. Try and drink less and less often
4. Start doing yoga at home and find another class to attend during the week

I'm hoping that if I can start making little changes and feeling more healthy then it'll become habit to be better. And once it's habit then hopefully I can introduce even better habits and proceed on an upward trajectory, not an up and down and sometimes spiralling trajectory...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A final Italy post - the artwork

My first real life Damien Hirst - stunning, vivid colour and a subtle skull which isn't menacing.

One of the two Mark Quinn Kate Moss statues. J did ask if Kate Moss really could do that. I suggested probably not... Fascinating and loved the gold.

Anish Kapoor's concave circles. For their simplicity I loved these.

Another Damien Hirst, this was perhaps my favourite. All butterflies in a fabulous mosaic/geometric design. Ticking my symmetry and colour and material boxes all at once. If only I could have this in my house one day...

Not sure who this one is by but it made me smile and I like having it hanging off in the first room you walk into.

So there we are, I'm finally going to stop banging on about our one night in Italy!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Having the time to stop

This weekend we had nothing planned, nothing at all. And for once I was delighted (I'm a planner as well as a worrier). Things have been busy, work for both of us has been busy and we've had functions booked in for weekday evenings and weekends for quite a while now. So much so that I got ill at the beginning of the week, my body's way of telling me to slow down and relax. So I slept most of Monday.

And then this weekend. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Bliss.

We have made the most of it, cooking most of yesterday, making Lebanese, some of my favourite food, but time consuming to do properly. Making ice cream, from scratch with no machine and then just sitting and not doing.

This weekend has made me realise the value of stopping. Of sitting down together, sometimes in silence, sometimes chewing the cud about whatever is on our mind. We've had the time to appreciate all we have, how lucky we are to have each other and all else that we have.

What joy nothing sometimes is...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Verona Arena - A night at the opera!

The whole reason for us to go to Verona was for a night at the opera. Every year they hold an opera festival which lasts during the summer and is held in the Roman arena in the middle of Verona. We went to see the first night of Carmen showing and it was just fabulous!

The sets were all done by Franco Zefferelli and were beautiful. Plus the stage is about three times the size of a normal theatre so you fit many more singers and animals on stage! As you can see by the horse above...

It was a great opera, a wonderful experience and one I won't forget for a long while.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Review: Byblos Art Hotel - Verona

We stayed at the Byblos Art Hotel, a leading small hotel of the world, and boy is it a leading hotel. Not only is the setting absolutely stunning, on a hill just outside of Verona in an old villa but then inside is a delight. The service was great, breakfast was a feast and dinner was fab. Plus they provide a shuttle service in and out of Verona making staying a little further away not a problem at all.

Our room was a riot of colour but put together beautifully. I love bold colours so this suited me to a tee. The bed was big, and comfortable plus the bathroom huge and really well equipped (bar the hairdryer which was like all hotel hairdryers I have ever experienced, pants).

All around the hotel are various artworks, I have a whole other post about the artworks because they really were stunning and exciting to see too! but below just a small example of how the fabulous old architecture was mixed with modern art.

And then there was the pool... Oh sweet delight when it was nearing 40C (over 100F) on Saturday and Sunday! We spent most of Saturday afternoon relaxing in the sunshine and frolicking in the pool.

The gardens were beautiful, so verdant and full of fabulously scented herbs which left the air smelling sweet.

Finally one of the art pieces, a painted bronze orchid by Mark Quinn. Truly beautiful, the colours popped out.

In short a hotel I would absolutely recommend, for it's service, for the luxury, for the beauty and for being such an escape from the humdrum of normal life, which was really just what I needed right now.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Whisked away to... Verona!

What a lucky lucky girl I was, early on Saturday morning we hauled ourselves up, me excited to go away but tired. And then at Victoria we met some friends who were joining us on our mini adventure and were off on the Gatwick express. We left a very cloudy grey Gatwick to arrive in a scorching Verona, a city I have never visited before. And what little we managed to see of it was lovely.

After lunch we hopped in a taxi to our hotel, again no idea where we were staying so to turn up to the below driveway I was excited to say the least...

And then we walked into this entrance hall, wowee! And we were at the Byblos Art Hotel, just outside of Verona. Another post to follow on the hotel, we spent most of our time there!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Whisking away

For the first time in 7.5 years J is whisking me away on a surprise trip tomorrow morning! I'm very excited, I know its Europe, for one night and with a couple of friends. Beyond that nada...

So I shall have stories and photos on Monday!

Hope you all have lovely weekends, xx

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Thoughts on friendship

I saw a couple of old friends recently on a couple of separate occasions, both of whom I haven't seen for a few months but who I am close to and have been close to in the past. But it got me to thinking, both these girls had no idea about something which right now to me is important and having a big effect on my life. Something which somehow they were unaware of. How had they missed this? Because I hadn't seen them or because our friendship had changed.

I know friendships change, I know they wax and wane and someone who is close at a time in your life might not be so close at another time. Often due to circumstances. But for some reason I always feel a little confused as to why these thing happen.

I also know that relationships need to be worked at but it's a fine balance between both parties working at it and one party putting more effort in. I'm never sure when to cut the effort off. Is a past friendship something which should always be worked at or do I need to accept when a friendship has passed that that's what happened and there are always plenty more opportunities to build relationships and new friendships.

It's something I have found myself pondering on as I've grown up and changed, life has changed, relationships have changed and so have friendships. I guess though that throughout it all I've always understood the precious value of friends, be they bloggers, colleagues or childhood friends.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The fear of bra shopping...

I finally plucked up the courage to go bra shopping today, something I've needed to do for a while... And it got me to thinking, why am I so scared of asking for help with fitting my bra?

I tried my normal tactic, picking up some styles I like in the approximate size I think I am. Five bras later and none of them fitted. So I stood in the changing rooms and wondered if I should go home and try again another day. And then a deep breath I walked out and asked for help.

For some reason the very idea is one which I get slightly unsettled by. Even though I know I need to get some advice and buy the right size I still shy away from it and have a drawer full of semi-fitting bras.

It also made me think about all those statistics of 90% of women wearing the wrong sized bra, how did this come to be? Or is that just marketing puff. When did we not get taught how to shop for the right size. Who is to blame?!

Should there be compulsary fitting with every new purchase to try and avoid this. Should we be taught at school the importance of buying the right size. And then almost as importantly, how is it right that even once you have been sized different brands fit in different ways. I know this brand size difference is the same for clothes as well as underwear but it just doesn't seem right that it's like this.

Thankfully Selfridges have lots of very helpful and lovely staff and a lady arrived to help me with my fitting. She was very sweet and I've managed to find two bras which actually fit! Now to relax until the next time...

Friday, 2 July 2010


I'm a worrier. Always have been, probably always will be. Mostly it's silly little things that I occupy myself with but sometimes something bigger just sits over me and hovers there occasionaly tickling me with the little worries.

There's a big thing there right now, with each day passing it's either getting better or being replaced with another little thing all related to it.

One of the frustrations is not being able to talk about it here, for another few weeks at least. Blogland is so full of warmth, support and fabulousness that it would be nice to share. Until then I shall share with J who is my rock and without whom I don't know how I would have got through many of the big and little things in my life.

Sorry for being cryptic but even writing this helps me feel better so thank-you!