July 2015: Payday Favourites

End of the month and another post of my shopping wishes, this time mostly window shopping as I’m saving hard at the moment to try and buy a house. I’ve spotted one that seems to fit the bill and I’m off to see it on Monday. But whilst I might be saving hard, that doesn’t stop me sharing and storing these up in case it isn’t right, in which case I might need a little treat to cheer myself up!

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Left: Framed Art Print – ‘Ey Up’
Right: Silver dipped small cement pots

After the very talented Sophie tweeted a link to her Etsy shop I immediately fell in love with this Ey Up art print. I’m a Northern girl (well Midlands really with a few years at university in Yorkshire but try telling anyone in London that the Midlands are a thing) and although I know I never had a proper regional accent, I know that living in London and working with people who, let’s be honest, are all mostly very posh, has led me to unconsciously adopt a posher tone to my voice. Friends have commented on it and I can hear it in myself at times. It’s unintentional but I know that if I’m at home for any period of time it gets quickly kicked into touch. Whilst Ey Up is billed as Yorkshire Word Art, the Nottinghamshire expansion on that is Ey Up Mi Duck, although just Ey Up is more common. I’m pleased to say that after four years living in London, Ey Up is still my preferred method of answering the phone (although not at work, obviously). Nottinghamshire pride!

As for the cement pots, I’ve been looking for something subtle but with a twist to house a few succulents on my desk at work and to give a more personal touch to my otherwise fairly boring desk. These are perfect.

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Left: Silver diamond faceted studs
Right: Druzy necklace

I normally wear very minimal jewellery, Monica Vinader ring that I bought myself when I qualified, small stud earrings and sometimes a small pendant, lately though I’ve been looking to vary my regular pieces with something new, albeit subtley.icon Both of these pieces fit the bill.

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Left: Harris Tweed and English Elm Rocker Sofa
Right: Origami Coffee Table

Bearing in mind that there is a very small chance that I might one day in the not too distant future be a home owner, furniture is something that I’m starting to consider. And when I say starting to consider, I mean, I’ve already mentally redecorated the whole place! I particularly love the rocker sofa above, I like the idea of being able to curl up and rock myself in a soothing way and slide inevitably into middle-age.

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Left: Rosie Handheld Bag
Right: Black and White Tropical Print Women’s Correa Sandals

You wouldn’t know it from the weather we’ve had this past week or so, but it’s still summer and I have some annual leave ahead of me at the end of August, so I’m on the lookout for a few more summery pieces for my wardrobe. First a bag that will be slightly less wintery than my big black handbag but still practical. Second, the perfect pair of sandals for me. I can’t cope with toe posts and need something quite sturdy for walking around exploring, without being too clunky. Plus, these are Toms, which mean that for every pair sold, a new pair of shoes will be given to a child in need.

What’s on your wishlist this month?

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July 2015: This month I have mostly been…

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Feeling: More free

Literally and mentally. Literally because now hayfever season is over I can actually spend my weekends out and about rather than stuck inside my flat with all the windows and doors shut and despairing at pollen forecasts which showed almost endless high pollen counts.

Mentally because I finally received my Postgraduate Diploma result and received a Merit, which is sort of equivalent to a 2:1 (it goes Fail, Pass, Merit, Distinction). The problem with the course was that everyone else in my department at work has done it and has received a Merit (or in the case of the girl I sit next to, a Distinction), so it really does pile on the pressure to also make sure I got a minimum, anything less would have been a real disappointment for me. Now I don’t have to resign in shame! The pressure is off.

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Reading: Brick Lane by Monica Ali

Still. There hasn’t been much time for reading lately and I’m now (post-hayfever season) walking to work again so finding time to read involves actually sitting down to do it, rather than snatching a few pages here and there on my short commute.

Watching: Grey’s Anatomy – Season 11

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I wrote ages ago about how I had got myself a bit hooked on Grey’s Anatomy. Unfortunately I didn’t finish season 10 in time to start watching Season 11 as it was airing, so it’s only now that it’s on Netflix that I’m getting the chance to catch up. Unfortunately, as is inevitable, I’d seen loads of spoilers on Twitter and the internet generally about the big end of season shocker so it wasn’t the surprise that everyone else had, damn you internet. It’s all a bit silly now, as with any long running book or TV series – how much more drama and hardship will these people go through? I’m still hooked though, even if I do miss Cristina Yang (my spirit animal).

Planning: To make my life more Pinteresty

I know that Pinterest and Instgram aren’t real life but even so, my life really should be slightly less studenty and slightly more grown up and sleek. I have blamed living in rented properties for far too long, now it’s time to create a home I’m pleased to live in. Generally I want to be less disorganised in life and just manage to do and be more. I feel like I’m always fighting to get on top of everything and that’s not right. I want to glide through, not paddle franticly. Anyone got any advice for generally being graceful in life?

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Bottomless Brunch at Jones and Sons, Dalston

Drinking in a morning tends to be reserved for special occasions – weddings, Christmas and the like, but recently it seems that boozy brunches have become the ‘it’ thing in London and I can’t wake up on a weekend scroll through my Instagram or Twitter feed without seeing several photos of some early bird who has woken up, got themselves dressed and presentable and out of the house to order brunch accompanied by a glass of prosecco all before I’ve managed to stumble to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. I’m not one to watch a bandwagon go by without me though, especially a bandwagon with booze and eggs benedict, and so I knew I had to become part of the new brunch culture.

I’m a big fan of Jones and Sons‘ outpost at Trip Bar and Kitchen in Haggerston but until last week hadn’t been to their original restaurant in Dalston. An invitation to sample the new bottomless brunch at Jones at Sons was the perfect opportunity to pay their first home a visit. Located in Arcola Street just off the main road, the frontage is unassuming and you could almost walk straight past it (which would definitely be a mistake). The building itself was originally a textile factory before playing host to a theatre. It’s now flooded with natural light thanks to a large full-height window and doors (a blogger’s dream for photographing food) and an open kitchen is housed (literally, it’s in a house) in the corner so you can, if you like, watch the  chefs at work.

We arrived at 11.30am and although we weren’t the first there, it was still quiet at that point. There are two options for the bottomless brunch – on the wagon (£20) or off the wagon (£27). Either way you get an unlimited amount of food, the difference is the drinks. On the wagon and you have the choice of soft drinks including Monmouth coffee, tea, orange and grapefruit juice, lemonade or a Virgin Mary. Off the wagon and you can choose between a Bloody Mary, Bucks Fizz, Bellini or prosecco.

We were off the wagon. I chose a Bellini and my boyfriend went all Made in Chelsea and for the first time ever decided to try a Bloody Mary. He always used to mock me for watching Made in Chelsea and refused to watch it, until I made him watch the Bachelor on Channel 5 with me (remember that? No? Just me?), the first season featured Gavin Henson, the second season had Spencer Matthews. After that he got lured into watching Made in Chelsea and he quickly became hooked. Given their penchant for a Bloody Mary, he decided to join the club and have brunch with a Bloody Mary. Served with not only a stick of celery but also lemon and a cooling slice of cucumber it provided a punchy kick that, if you weren’t fully awake already would certainly get you well on your way to being alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic. By coincidence it was Jones and Sons’ second birthday and so we raised our first glass to them.

We browsed the menu and chose our first dishes, Eggs Royale with perfectly poached eggs for him and pancakes, blueberries, crispy bacon and maple syrup for me. Both great solid breakfast/brunch dishes.

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There’s something about brunching on a Saturday morning that feels particularly indulgent and lazy and we tucked into our food to a soundtrack laced heavy with Beyonce unhurried by the pressures of either a busy day ahead or any pressure to move on. The emphasis seemed very much on enjoying a leisurely morning, with attentive and charming service from all the staff. Even when the place started to fill up around 12.30pm service remained quick and responsive, once we had finished our drinks another round of drinks was offered without any need to ask for them, which always makes you feel that little bit better about ordering a third Bellini.

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Although it’s unlimited food over the course of a two hour period, deciding is actually much tougher than you might think as everything on the menu sounded amazing. The menu covers all bases from the traditional full English to lighter dishes like avocado on toast.

For his second dish my boyfriend chose the French toast with maple syrup. I’m not sure why but I have never been one for French toast, I think a poor experience of soggy French toast when I was younger put me off. This was the chance for French toast to redeem itself to me and it definitely did that. Fluffy and sweet and, lets be honest, more pillowy cake than the soggy, eggy bread I had always shied away from before. No more will I eschew French toast. Or at least not at Jones and Sons. It’ll be top of my list when we return.

Having had food envy over my boyfriend’s Eggs Royale (if only I could poach eggs and make hollandaise…) I ordered Eggs Benedict for my second round dish. With lightly grilled lean ham it was perfect and pretty damn photogenic too.

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Before we had ordered and consumed our second dish we’d contemplated sharing a third dish, the yoghurt, granola, berries and honey as a kind of breakfasty dessert, but by the time we’d finished our French toast and Eggs Benedict, we were too full to even consider it.

It turns out that, in the absence of Spanish style half racións that allow you to try a bit of everything, the key to a bottomless brunch is to pick well and pace yourself. Based on the dishes we tried, it’s hard at Jones and Sons not to pick well. Pacing yourself might be more tricky though!

So, get yourself over to Dalston in East London from 11am-4pm on Saturdays and 11am-1pm on Sundays for a wonderful bottomless brunch.

Bottoms up!

Our meal was provided on a complimentary basis but the views expressed here are my own unbiased opinions. Thanks Jones and Sons! 

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Dusseldorf – day 1

My department at work is spread across six offices in four different countries and so when we need to work with each other our correspondence is mostly done via email and phone. However, two years ago my head of department decided it would be a good idea to bring everyone together for a few days. I envisaged a hotel conference room in London but no, it was three days in Italy where we sat out on a terrace, looking out over rolling hills and ate, drank and got to know our colleagues and discussed how we could work better as a team and explored possibilities for working across offices to provide a better service for our clients by using the expertise that each person had. At that point I’d only just been made my job offer and so I was delighted to spend time with not just my team for the time being, but my team.

Fast forward to two years later and my feet are well and truly under the desk and I feel like I belong in the team and less like I’ve snuck in under the radar by accident. So I was excited when it was announced that there was going to be another work retreat this year. This time, the venue would be Dusseldorf, Germany.

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Timed so we’d fly out to Dusseldorf early on Thursday morning before finishing on Friday afternoon, the retreat offered the perfect opportunity for a little bit of a German mini-break and so I made arrangements for my boyfriend to meet me in Cologne (only about a 30 minute train ride from Dusseldorf) where we would spend the weekend.

Dusseldorf is only a very short hop from London City Airport, when I say short I mean seriously short, our flight time was 55 minutes. I spent more time in the airport than up in the air! I love London City, it’s only 20 minutes on the DLR for me and so is super convenient, plus it’s always a breeze to get through, unlike some airports which feel like a hassle.

So, super early on the Thursday morning (7.25am) we boarded what is maybe the smallest plane I have ever been on – three seats wide and with propellers! It felt like a private jet, especially with lots of business people on the flight and as I ended up with nobody sat next to me so I could spread out a bit. I’ve always been jealous of people who get amazing aerial shots of London from flights as I never seem to fly over the main sights of Central London. This time though we flew right over the Olympic Park and so I got to see the stadium, Orbit, velodrome and swimming pool from the London Olympics from above. We also took in the O2 and Canary Wharf before heading further East, tracking the Thames right to its mouth.

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Our flight landed at around 9.45am and we met up with others who had been on other flights in arrivals before getting a cab to our hotel, the INNside Dusseldorf Hafen, a Melia hotel located in the Dusseldorf harbour area. We checked in, found our conference room for the two days and headed up to the 16th floor for a spot of lunch in the SkyLounge which has fantastic views (below) across to the Rhein Tower and towards the Old Town.

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We spent the afternoon watching presentations from the various offices and taking part in business development sessions before breaking off to have drinks upstairs in the bar before heading out to walk to the Old Town for dinner and our first glimpses at Dusseldorf. The harbour is around a 20-25 minute walk from the Old Town and has some fascinating buildings, it’s a real mish mash of styles and design. Our hotel was the multi-coloured one below with the red sticky-out top floor. Located a few doors down is the Roggendorf House building covered with an art installation of sticky men, ‘Flossis’, by German artist Rosalie.

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Walking towards the Old Town you come across a cluster of rather unusually shaped buildings designed by Frank Gehry – der Neuer Zollhof – each one clad differently. One is curvy and plastered in white, another is wavy and clad in metal and the third is red brick. They’re quite a sight in the bright summer sun.

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Our destination for dinner was Zum Schiffchen, the oldest restaurant in Dusseldorf which serves up traditional German food and has apparently played host to Napoleon! We took our seats at long tables and our German hosts ordered us the local beer – Alt – while we perused the menus.

We shared meat platters as a starter before my, very German, Rheinischer Sauerbraten. Braised beef ‘Rhineland style’ with raisins, almonds, red cabbage, stewed apples and potato dumplings, this was made to an old recipe of Zum Schiffchen and was the most amazing comfort food I have maybe ever had. With a rich thick sauce, this was stodge of the very best kind. It doesn’t look much presentation wise but it was so good and I mopped up the last of the sauce when I was finished with the doughy dumplings.

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However, what really caused a stir at our table was the arrival of the pork knuckle for two of my colleagues, which was not only huge but even came with a knife stuck into it. Camera phones came out and I suddenly felt a lot less weird about taking photos of my food. It was truly mammoth, although I was later assured it was mostly bone and so not as gargantuan a challenge as it might at first appear.

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After our mains and a few rounds of Alt, our German hosts decided it was time to introduce us to shots of Killepitsch, a liquor popular in the Dusseldorf area. Now I am not the kind of girl that does shots. My first shot was on my 18th birthday when we left school at lunch time to head down to Wetherspoons in town and I had my first legal drink. A shot was bought for me and I must have practically inhaled the thing as I ended up choking slightly. Since then I have not been one for shots in fear of dying. But, I did the first one in two and although at first it’s strong (42% alcohol by the way), it doesn’t have a bad or unpleasant aftertaste, it’s actually very smooth. A second round was quickly ordered and arrived in front of me, after that an almost constant stream of shots made their way to our tables and were handed round and knocked back. I think we all lost count a bit but I definitely had at least seven of them, as did pretty much everyone else.

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Dessert (to try and counteract some of the Killepitsch) was vanilla ice cream with hot raspberries and whipped cream. Nice enough but nothing to write home about.

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We all sat around chatting and laughing before moving on to Meerbar in the red brick Neuer Zollhof building, where we had a few glasses of prosecco before we got kicked out as they were closing and then moved on to the hotel bar, which we then got kicked out off as that was closing and at that point we accepted that we all had to retire to our rooms for the night.

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