It’s been a busy week with a few stolen moments of sun and the book I’m currently enjoying (Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw). I’m thrilled we have a 4-day weekend here in the UK. On Saturday I’m going for my first wedding dress fitting which is very exciting. It’s hard to believe there’s only 2.5 months to go now. Last year, we enjoyed Easter with a traditional Sunday roast in front of the fireplace at our local pub. I wouldn’t mind doing the same again. How about you? Any exciting weekend or Easter plans?
Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms, especially when I stumble upon especially stunning accounts. This is the first part of a little series I’m going to write to share with you a few of these, from travel to fashion to art and design to food to the little things in everyday life. First up – travel!
1. @brendanvanson. Brendan Van Son is the photographer behind this lively account. He’s also a writer and the founder of Vagabundo Magazine. It’s a varied mix of architecture, nature and street scenes from around the world but some of my favourites are his shots of locals doing everyday things like the woman in one of the photos below eating a cockroach whole in Cambodia.
2. @michaelchristopherbrown. This is not your average light-hearted travel photography account but I include it here because it takes us around the world.. Michael is a a Magnum Photos photographer. His work is some of the most powerful I’ve seen on Instagram, looking at everything from the beds of women forced to work as prostitutes in the Congo to the violent streets of Egypt during the protests.
3. @uncornered_market. This is an account run by Daniel Noll who has been on the road since 2006, exploring every corner of the world. As you can imagine, his journeys have taken him to some places off the beaten track, everywhere from Fish River Canyon in Namibia to the edge of the jungle in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica.
4. @zachspassport. Zach Glassman is a “travel documentarian and polyglot” with an adventurous spirit who takes us from beautiful landscapes in Guatemala to architectural details in his home city of New York to the icy wonderland of the Apostle Islands. My favourite shots are of spiral staircases and ornate ceilings like these two below.
5. @linadelika. I love the clean, uncluttered look of Lina’s account. She knows the value of empty space. She is a traveller, but also a food photographer as one element of her career. That means she is always posting drool-worthy images of fruit or meals that she eats along the way. She also posts the interiors of cool coffee shops like the ones below, flower markets and street scenes.
6. @dguttenfelder. David Guttenfelder’s account interests me because he has the fascinating job of covering North Korea as AP’s chief Asia photographer. He’s on assignment for National Geographic. His photos offer insight into daily life in this secretive country as well as other destinations he visits like the girl on the bike in Vietnam below. Many of his images are black and white, with a few pops of colour.
7. @muradosmann. The photos of Russian photographer Murad Osmann’s girlfriend Natalia Zakharova leading him around the world have made their rounds across the internet since they started the project in 2011. They’re a bit too over-processed for me, but I love them all the same. They’re always taken with a strong sense of place and I love them for Natalia’s style as well.
8. @mrwhisper. Bal might not travel the world as regularly as some of the others on this list but his account is definitely defined by a strong sense of place – London. Regular appearances include shots of unknowing Londoners on the tube, beautiful light bathing local landmarks and simple scenes of ordinary, everyday life as it goes on around us.
9. @afarmedia. An account run by the team at my favourite travel magazine, Afar, these guys have a wide reach and bring in content from all over the world, updating often. My favourite shots from them are the close-up details shots with vibrant colours like the two below. The coconuts were in Dominican Republic and the pretty blue room in Mexico.
10. @jn. Joerg is based in Berlin so his photos reflect that but he travels plenty as well. Some of my favourite shots include small details like this wooden post below shot in Germany and the wider picture street photos like the fun red street car in Istanbul with a bubble blower standing nearby. Light and shadow come into play in many of his photos and lend a certain atmosphere that permeates his page.
I’d love to hear about your favourite travel accounts on Instagram. Let me know your own as well!
You can follow me on Instagram @LittleObservationist.
It’s been a week now since we adopted Lupita. She’s super cute, full of energy and has been waking us up every morning at 5am. Until yesterday, which means I think she’s settling in! Most of the week, before and after work, has revolved around her, making sure we spend tons of time playing and cuddling her so she gets used to us.
Any exciting plans this weekend? Jorge has been summoned off to Barcelona for his stag do/bachelor party. I have a lot to catch up on and hope to spend some time in the sun!
Westbourne Grove crosses London’s tourist-packed Portobello Road, but it’s much quieter.
Instead of the crowds, there are orderly queues of people waiting to get into places worth the wait like Granger & Co (try the scrambled eggs) or The Breakfast Club (go for the pancakes).
It’s a street loved by locals for coffee meetings, lazy lunches and boutique shopping.
I headed there the weekend before last to soak up some sun, swing by the Spanish shop R Garcia & Sons on Portobello Road to pick up some delicious fuet and take a few photos which I haven’t had the time to share until now!
The bus took me to Bayswater station. Clustered around that section of Westbourne Grove are a series of small, mostly independent, interior design shops. There’s also the Iranian restaurant Alounak, which has pretty rave reviews. I haven’t been but it’s on my long list.
Walking on, you cross Ledbury Road, which is worth a short detour for places like Ottolenghi (here’s some photos I took at a different branch), Melt (if you’re craving some chocolate) and Aimé for all you Francophiles looking for a fashion fix.
Back on Westbourne Grove, the best bit is between Ledbury Road and Portobello Road. And the cherry blossoms were out in full bloom.
There’s a piece of street art around here too that’s worth a look. It’s by Snik and it’s called “Winged Fire”.
Mainly, this strip is great for shopping. There’s a church on the corner of Ledbury Street. As you can see from the picture below, inside to the left is a branch of my latest shopping addiction, French brand Claudie Pierlot. That’s my kind of church! Others on this stretch are Claudie Pierlot’s sister shops Maje and Sandro. There’s a Bimba and Lola too. There are also a few higher end charity shops where, if you keep an eye open over time, you can stumble upon some great designer pieces.
For food, there is 202, a fantastic place for brunch with coffee table style travel and fashion books at the front and a basement full of designer clothes that’s worth a browse for shock-factor of a few key pieces even if you can’t afford to buy anything. There’s Daylesford Organic. Not cheap, but full of lovely organic food and artisan products for special treats. Like a few other cafes on the street, there are outdoor tables so on a nice day it’s a great place to people watch. When the tables are full, which they were when I was there recently, the area takes on a real European vibe.
There’s also the lovely florist Wild at Heart where the road forks. It’s a pretty little place with turquoise painted bricks. The whole area is really colourful.
The expensive houses on this street are stuccoed with pretty pastels and if you turn off some of the nearby side streets you’ll find rows of crayola coloured houses too.
Like anywhere in London, there are also blocks of council flats. You’ll find these when you turn off onto Portobello Road.
It’s not often I go on a Saturday, but since I was in the area already I made an exception.
It’s not as busy as it will be a few months from now when you can barely walk through the street without stepping on someone. I love the mix of eccentric local stall holders and people who may be seeing the city for the first time and the way they interact.
I didn’t walk the full length of the market, just the northern end from Westboburne Grove to the Westway.
I caught the tail end of the antiques section and walked through the food stalls.
They sell everything from chorizo and chicken sandwiches to fresh lemons bread that was baked earlier that morning.
You can even get a coconut.
Around there is the restored Electric Cinema. The attached Electric Diner has the most amazing steak, if you’re ever in the area and looking for a place to eat.
There are a few flower stalls around this area of the market and some street performers I haven’t seen before. Don’t ask me what they are doing…
I poked around the clothes and jewellery under the Westway and then cut back up Ladbroke Grove, stopping at a flower shop for some purple freesia. They opened a few days later and smell amazing.
Jorge has been doing all of the cooking for the past three week while I recovered from eye surgery. I’m pretty much back to normal now and decided it was time for some baking. Since there were some pretty ripe bananas on the counter, I scoured Pinterest for an interesting banana recipe. These Banana Bars with Rum Icing caught my eye.
Ingredients for the cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed bananas (I used a bit more)
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
NOTE: In the original recipe, 3/4 cup of chopped almonds and grated nutmeg are also used but I I’m not a nut lover and didn’t have any fresh nutmeg so I left these out.)
Ingredients for the icing:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
NOTE: I don’t like a lot of frosting, so I split this in half besides the rum which was the full amount. I also left out the butter completely so it was more like icing.)
Start by preheating the oven to 350F / 180 C and grease a baking pan. The recipe recommends 15 x 10 x 1-inch. It also recommends using a mixing bowl throughout, which I don’t have so I did everything by hand. First, whip up the butter until it becomes creamy.
Then mix in the sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until they are well combined.
Mash your ripe bananas. The healthy bit!
Once you finish, add the bananas, egg, sour cream and vanilla and mix everything together.
Add the flour.
Spread the mixture evenly into the greased pan.
Pop it into the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
To make the icing, the recipe recommends starting by whipping up the butter (I skipped that part). Mix in half of the powdered sugar, rum and vanilla.
Add the rest of the powdered sugar and a touch of milk for consistency.
Spread it on as thick or thin as you like.
And voila! Cake!
Cut it up in slices and enjoy.
It’s great with tea and a magazine.
And it’s also pretty fantastic with strawberries and blueberries on top.
Overall? Definitely satisfies the sweet tooth, but if I have ripe bananas hanging around and I need a banana recipe, it doesn’t top my old standby, the Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe.
Last weekend was the first I was allowed out of the house after my eye surgery. I filled it with adventures to Notting Hill in West London and Shoreditch in East London. Monday was finally my first day back to work and it’s great to have my normal routine back again! This week, we received a box from Hello Fresh full of delicious new recipes to try, one of which will be on the blog soon.
What are you up to this weekend? I’m hoping the lovely weather sticks around, but I think it might rain on Sunday which is a good excuse for some Spring shopping!
Photo:On a friend’s balcony, Barcelona – Spring 2012
From hotels to food to experiences, I’m generally attracted to the quirkier things in life. I appreciate creativity in the small details: mismatched cutlery, peeling paint, a garden of plants growing out of cinder blocks – even when it doesn’t necessarily work very well.
It’s all about the effort.
I keep a running list of these out of the ordinary places I want to visit one day in London and in cities I know I’ll be travelling to soon. Some have been recommended by friends, others I read about in magazines, on blogs or Twitter or in good old fashioned coffee table books.
The lovely (and nine months pregnant!) Carolina and I were long overdue a catch up.
When she suggested meeting in Shoreditch on Sunday, I pulled up my list where I had scribbled a few options: Albion, Hurwundeki, The Book Club.
I didn’t mind which one. Once I get over the initial dread of making that long pilgrimage to the east, I’m always super excited to find myself in this fascinating corner of London – so close, yet so far from home.
It was The Book Club that won in the end and we wandered down from Liverpool Street station to find it hidden on Leonard Street across from an empty lot where the building were covered in street art by Stik, Rone and others on a wall organised by Global Street Art.
This part of East London is a world away from West London where I live. It’s only a tube ride away on one line, but it could be a different city altogether. It’s grittier, much more colourful, the fashion is edgier, the nightlife is rowdier and the food reflects the diverse communities that live side by side on these old London streets.
We walked into The Book Club, not sure exactly what to expect.
A wall covered in potted plants greeted us on one side and we were face to face with a tube map style directory of the building on another.
Inside, we settled onto a scruffy red sofa, with light pouring in through the floor to ceiling window behind us where we overlooked the wall of art.
The lights snaked across the ceiling. The brick walls were exposed and the furniture was simple, a bit shabby and well loved.
It was the kind of unstuffy place where you feel it wouldn’t be the worse thing to grab a good book, put your feet up and settle in for the afternoon.
And probably some people do.
We ordered two teas (tasty) which came to the table in appropriately quirky orange mugs with matching saucers.
The menu was printed on brown paper, attached to a clipboard and silverware and napkins sat in glasses on the middle of each table.
We didn’t eat, but I hear it’s cheap and cheerful and delicious. There are breakfasts like “greek yoghurt with fresh fruit and blossom honey, thick cinnamon porridge oats and buttermilk pancakes.” And then there’s lunch…
Apparently the cocktails are something to talk about as well. They have names like “Gingers Do It Better”, “Don’t Go To Dalston” and “Shoreditch Twat” listed on a white tiled drink menu next to the bar.
We talked about writing, blogs, social media, travel, big dreams and raising children.
Then we snooped around a bit, poking our noses into the ping pong room, which looked like fun. The unisex bathrooms were less than impressive – not because they were unisex but because they reminded me of those you’d find at a university club.
There are ping pong competitions at The Book Club, poetry, live music and DJs, networking events, life drawing sessions, classic video game nights, workshops and a long list of other stuff going on – something for everyone. They even host a “Tweet Box” – a twist on the standard juke box during which you can request songs via Twitter.
I ventured down into the depths of the basement to see what was there before we left. Not too much of interest at a quick glance – a foosball table and some prints on a scruffy white wall.
With afternoon tea you can’t go wrong with a cupcake and Carolina had been raving about Lola’s a little blue kiosk tucked away at the edge of Spitalfields Market.
So we made our way through the crowds, past the market stalls selling £5 dresses, secondhand books, posters and handmade jewellery.
Eventually, we found it, with rows of colourful cupcakes piled high with frosting and decorated with bits of Oreos, caramel coated macadamia nuts and sprinkles.
Yes please! After much indecisiveness, I went for the glistening caramel chocolate macadamia one.
Carolina chose her old standby – the Oreo cupcake.
They were definitely delicious, although I admit to eating only about a quarter of the frosting. It was a bit too much for me!
And so we headed home, my East London fix sorted for a few more weeks.
Do you have a favourite quirky place in your city? What do you love about it? (By the way, if you’re on Facebook, come find the Little Observationist page and say hello!)
It’s hard to believe a full year has gone by already, but it was April 1 when I set out on the adventure of creating this new blog. Funny enough, this is also my 100th post, so a double milestone reached on the same day.
I thought I’d take a look back at the top five posts according to the statistics and five more of my personal favorites.
ACCORDING TO THE STATS:
1.) Artist Interview: Françoise Nielly. Françoise is a French artist whose colourful world I discovered on a trip to Barcelona in Spring 2012. I reached out to her and she was happy to be interviewed about the energy in her painting, the inspiration she took from her father and how she spends her time away from the canvas.
2.) Street Art in Amsterdam. On a girly getaway to Amsterdam last June, I took my camera on a wander through the back streets photographing the art-covered walls of this fascinating city. It’s another colourful post, full of photos and both local and international talent.
4.) Photographer Interview: Matthew Christopher.I had the privilege of interviewing this talented photographer in October last year. Matthew is unlike most photographers in that his main subject is all about decay. He photos abandoned schools, hospitals, factories in an effort to document the buildings that we feel no longer have a place in this world.
5.) Recipe: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. I might be making some of this later this week as we have a few bananas getting ripe. This is one of my favorite things to bake, a recipe passed on to me from my Aunt Mary in New York. I could have a piece right now, actually…
AND 5 MORE I ENJOYED WRITING:
1.) Olive Picking in Kardamyli, Greece. This is about a trip I took with my dad a few years ago. We visited Kardamyli with the purpose of picking olives with a local family’s business and learning about the industry by visiting different types of mills. It’s like a “how it’s made” type of post full of good memories and a swinging cat.
2.) Winter in Roslin, Scotland. For Christmas 2012, Jorge and I took a train up to visit his sister’s family in the small village of Roslin, outside of Edinburgh. We took a hike through the same gorge that I walked through with friends back in 2004 on a study abroad adventure. It was wonderful to be in a place where we could enjoy the great outdoors and have that connection with nature.
3.) Travelling Around Tenerife, Canary Islands. This is a post from my first visit to the Canary Islands that I took with Jorge in June 2012. It was an unforgettable experience exploring the island from a local’s perspective, driving up through the clouds to the top of the volcano El Teide and the memory of the scent of eucalyptus.
4.) 12 Books from Travel Bookshop Daunt in London. One of my favourite places to spend a lazy afternoon, Daunt is the best bookshop I’ve ever come across anywhere in the world. It’s organized by area of the world and the building itself is stunning. Along with photos of the shop itself, I recommend 12 books I’ve bought at Daunt and loved.
5.) Concrete and Colour in Dubai. In April 2012, I took a solo trip to Dubai for work, to participate in an international education exhibition. I had plenty of time to explore the city, so I set off to the old parts, the souks and the backstreets with my camera to capture my discoveries. It remains one of the oddest places I’ve been.
Thank you all for following along on Little Observationist. Let me a comment and let me know what you’d most like to see here in the coming year!
It’s been a strange month for me. The first week I was in North Tonawanda, New York, for a whirlwind family visit on the tail end of my work week in Boston. When I returned to London, I was whisked off for emergency eye surgery for a retinal detachment the next day. Not fun. I spent the following three weeks confined to the house unable to do much besides rest and recover. It was the last weekend before I was let out of the house, so I made the best of it with some London market adventures. Here are a few instagram shots from throughout the month of March.
1. Hawaiian Mochi Ice Cream. This is one of my favourite desserts. I first had mochi in a Japanese restaurant in Barcelona and then a sushi restaurant in New York City. My mom found these in Premier – a food shop near home, and they are absolutely delicious. Mochi is made of a rice paste and that’s wrapped around balls of ice cream. These were mango and pistachio flavours on a colourful napkin.
2. Shovelling snow. Funny enough, I miss shovelling. Living in London for the last seven years there has never been a need for it. I always love going back home to New York in the winter when it snows and I’m pretty sure no one minds when I offer to take on driveway / sidewalk clearing duties. This was a small snow before the big blizzard a few weeks ago.
3. An old spice rack. I took this photo in my grandma’s house in New York. She lives now in the same tiny white house where I spent my first 18 years. This ancient spice rack hanging on the kitchen wall takes me right back to those days. She still uses it too and she probably thought I was strange for taking a picture of it…
4. A Winter sunset. I took this photo as the sun was setting over the field behind my parents’ house. This is their balcony, still covered in a thin layer of snow. There have been some very memorable vibrant sunsets here over the years. In the Summer, it’s a great place to soak up some sun in the hammock, more often than not with the sounds of a baseball game in the distance.
5. My old bedroom. Amazingly, my parents have left my bedroom in their house pretty much exactly as I left it apart from a few extra additions to my closet. The last time I really lived there, if you don’t count summers during university was about 12 years ago! I still sleep there when I visit and it almost feels just like I never left.
6. Winter in New York. It’s about a five minute walk between my parents’ house and my grandma’s house. There’s a shortcut through this school parking lot. It’s a route I’ve walked probably more than any other in my life and a place we used to rollerblade and ride bikes as kids. This day, walking over to play scrabble with her, the edges were piled with snow, a fresh white layer just fallen.
7. Spring in London. And a few days after the above photo, I was back in London which looked like Spring. This is a tree we see from our kitchen window in Chelsea. It was in full bloom and absolutely stunning when I walked past it to work the day after I returned. Little did I know that was the last I would see of the outdoors for a while. Later this evening, I was waiting in the eye hospital for news of my surgery.
8. Colours of Spring. This was the same day as the above photo, a photo from Brompton Road, along the route of my walk to work. I couldn’t believe how vibrant the flowers were after coming from snowy New York. The season comes much more quickly here in London. It’s refreshing to see the light after 5pm as well.
9. Recovery flowers. The next day, I had eye surgery for a detached retina. I came home to beautiful red tulips from Jorge and a few days later flowers arrived from a few others who wished me a speedy recovery. This beautiful white bunch are from Jorge’s sister, brother-in-law and mom. They are, believe it or not, mostly still alive a few weeks later.
10. Letters and Wanderlust. After I had my eye surgery, I couldn’t do much but after a few days, I could look through some of my favourite magazines like Wanderlust and managed to write a snail mail letter to my grandma. Screens were out for nearly a few week and now I’m gradually easing back in. In some ways, it was nice not to be able to use them.
11. A bookshelf. Sitting at home for three weeks meant that I have been seeing a lot of these bookshelves that take up most of one wall in the bedroom. They inspire me as they are full of things I love – art, plants, magazines, notebooks, cameras and books about everything from style to interiors to cooking and plenty of my favourite novels.
12. Cabbages and Roses goodie bag. Jorge and I were invited to the Cabbages and Roses shop opening in Chelsea which also celebrated the launch of founder Christina Strutt’s latest book, Living Life Beautifully. Since I wasn’t allowed to leave the house after my surgery, Jorge went without me to mingle and brought back a goodie bag. Inside was a fun notebook, a pencil, love hearts and these fabulous little bookmark-sized cards with envelopes.
13. A morning at home. Another day at home while I recover. Jorge picked up a copy of The Guardian for me and I entertained myself with the sudoku. It’s unbelievable how difficult it is to find things to do when you can’t leave the house, see properly or look at a screen. Reading for more than a few minutes gave me a headache. It is incredible to think of how precious and important our eyes are and how easy it is to take sight for granted.
14. Spanish mint. This is a mint plant that sits in our kitchen window soaking up what little sun London skies provide. It is one of my absolute favourite plants. Like the scent of just watered cherry tomatoes growing in the garden, it has a scent strongly attached to memory. For me, the smell of mint brings me instantly to hot summers in New York when my mom and grandma would always have jugs of sweet iced tea waiting in the fridge. Glasses were filled with ice and topped off with a sprig of mint from the garden. So refreshing!
15. Lemons from the tree. These were just plucked off of a lemon tree to cater for my honey-lemon tea craving. I woke up with a sore throat (not my month…) and this was always a childhood remedy that my dad used to make for us when we were getting sick. It’s soothing. And it works. The next day, no sore throat (knock on wood).
16. A cut grass candle. One of my favourite scents come spring and summer is that of freshly cut grass, and here it is in candle form from The White Company. It’s actually a mix of sage, violet and chamomile, but it really does smell of cut grass. They also had one called English Garden and another called Fresh Herbs. It was a difficult decision, but the grass won.
17. Late morning banana cake. Since my eye surgery, Jorge has been doing all of the cooking, so I was thrilled when the surgeon told me I could go back to my normal activities. This weekend I whipped up some banana cake with rum frosting which was a perfect accompaniment to my late morning tea and a travel magazine. Recipe on the blog soon.
18. A London phone box. There is one of London’s icons tucked away on a back street around the corner. I love walking by it because it reminds me that I am living in London, such an incredible city. It was a beautiful day on Saturday – my first weekend out of the house in a long time – and I sat in the park to enjoy it for a while with my book. Took this photo on the way home.
19. Spring in Notting Hill. On Saturday, I spent the afternoon browsing the boutiques around Westbourne Grove and the vintage end of Portobello Market. I love all of the colourful houses around this area and stopped to take a photo. In front of a row of small gardens along a decent stretch of the street were these lovely Spring blossoms.
20. Flowers on Pimlico Road. Despite how close it is to my house, I don’t often walk down Pimlico Road. It’s full of small design shops, buzzy sidewalk cafes, quiet squares lined with benches and trees and pretty flower stands like this one. It was a pretty busy day, being Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday, as it is called), in England.
21. The Book Club. East London is full of little gems. I came across The Book Club when it was recommended in The London Style Guide, so, for a much overdue catch up, the lovely Carolina and I decided to pop in for tea. It was suitably quirky. Between our new discovery and her inspiring positivity, it was a wonderful afternoon. These plants covered one wall as you enter.