Wednesday, 29 January 2014

52 lists: List your favourite quotes.

When those pretty pictures with life affirming quotes appear on the news feeds, I am that girl that hits save. I am a full on quote hoarder (the contents of my pictures library stands as a testament to this!). I don't know what attracts me to them - maybe the fact that the perfect one is always on hand to commiserate, to enlighten, to encourage. There are several quotes that I'd like to think were true and others that I'd like to try and live by. Some of the most famous quotes were, at one stage, just one guys optimistic way of thinking. I guess the world needs a bit of optimism and that's why these things get passed around the way they do!

Here are some of the quotes that adorn my picture folder. One of these days I'll get round to making some quote wall art so I can see them every day (and hopefully be inspired to be as great as these guys were/are). For now I'll have to make do with sharing them on my little corner of the internet!

  • 'Dreams don't work unless you do'
  • 'There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind' C.S. Lewis
  • 'Don't confuse your path with your destination just because its stormy now doesn't mean you aren't headed for sunshine'
  • 'If everyone were cast in the same mould there would be no such thing as beauty' Charles Darwin
  • 'Wherever you go, go with all your heart' Confucius
  • 'It always seems impossible til its done' Nelson Mandela
  • 'Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain'
  • 'The greatest relationships are the ones you never expected to be in, the ones that swept you off your feet and challenged every view you've ever had'
  • 'Life is not about finding yourself, its about creating yourself'
  • 'Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.' Matsuo Basho
The 52 lists project is organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters. See her list here

Monday, 27 January 2014

The lessons I learnt from Auschwitz: Holocaust Memorial Day 2014

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

I have been an ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust since I took part in their Lessons from Auschwitz project in 2008. The trust aims to educate about and show the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust as well as to help to combat all kinds of prejudice in society today. Its Lessons from Auschwitz project takes sixth form students from around the country to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau, meet survivors and encourage them to take an active role in Holocaust remembrance and education upon their return. 

I wanted to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on my little corner of the internet by telling you about my personal experience of visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland.

It is hard to explain the affect that a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau has on each individual that visits. There is no text book reaction; some cry, some stare blankly. For the many responses, there is one resounding and unspoken link between them – the realisation. There are not many that do not know of the fate of the 11million Nazi victims, 6million of those Jewish – we learn about it at school, the text books tell us all the facts. What I have learnt is that facts never prepare one for experience, for the realisation: putting a face, a name and a story to every one of the victims of the atrocities that took place at camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau, and all over Europe. The figure 11million translates in to individuals as you walk the stairs of the Auschwitz I labour camps, uneven under foot, worn from the tread of the prisoners and perpetrators who walked them before you.

I visited the camps back in the winter of 2008 and there are still a number of things that remain imprinted in my memory. It was a grey day, the sky heavy with rain clouds, I remember how it contrasted with the redbrick buildings of Auschwitz I. I thought it odd that all this time I’d imagined the place in greyscale – just like the textbook photos. Walking through the barracks, through the exhibits of victims belongings, touched everyone the most. Behind the glass, now an artefact in a museum, were the keys of a man who locked his front door on the morning of the transport, hoping to return one day to the house in which he grew up. In a room full of human hair, shaved from victims on arrival at the camps, were the plaits of a little girl who was gassed and burnt in Birkenau, still tied with faded ribbons. We saw the photographs that victims brought with them – the wedding pictures, the birthday snapshots, the family portraits – photographs like you have at home; smiles, laughs and memories. In stark contrast, the registration pictures of the same people as they entered the camp, their eyes not full of hate, but pleading - pleading with us across the years to remember, and not only to remember but to learn.  To learn a lesson from the senseless cruelty that caused their pain, to build stronger and more tolerant communities, to safeguard the future from such atrocities. These were people no different from you or I; they were mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents and aunts and uncles. It is true to say that ‘hearing is not like seeing’.

After we left Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous gate and watch tower, the gas chambers, furnaces, barracks and barbed wire were all as they were upon our arrival. The only trace that we’d been there at all were the hundreds of candles we left burning trackside. A small tribute to the 1.2 million who died there, to those who, in the face of adversity, resisted, and to those who lived to tell of the horrors that occurred there.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day marks the sixty ninth anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau. The number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling and soon there will be nothing but their memoirs by which to remember their suffering. The lessons I learnt from Auschwitz 6 years ago stay with me today. I can speak for all of us when I say that we left those camps the same people but with a new determination – determined that we mustn’t tolerate racism or prejudice even in the minority, determined to tell people about what we had seen, to spread our knowledge, to give people a better understanding, and to encourage people to stand up for what they know is right. Above all we must never forget, and never let it happen again.

For more information on the Holocaust Educational Trust or to make a charitable donation to support their vital work, please visit
For more information on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, please visit .

Also find this article on:

Saturday, 25 January 2014

'Pack a suitcase, wander to the next town...'

Unfortunately, 20 kilos of EasyJet baggage allowance doesn't allow me to look this glam...

Another boarding pass, another adventure...hopefully one you'll share will me.

Destination: Seville.
Status: Boarding.

See you lovelies in Andalusia.

'Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.' Matsuo Basho

Friday, 24 January 2014

Harbour Life

After a few rainy days in Somerset, Rich and I took advantage of our only day of semi-sunshine to visit the South Coast. Arriving at sunset (after a fairly lazy morning) made for some beautiful pictures.

When I was younger I always thought I might like to live by the sea...the sound of the waves, the beautiful views, sand between my toes. Looks fairly tempting, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Culinary Adventures...

Down in Somerset, weather hadn't exactly been on our side for Rich's week off. After spending a good part of the morning searching rainy day activities and days out in the area, we weren't convinced by any of them. Despite the fact we'd spent most of the week just lazing at home, we figured there wasn't any point of going anywhere for the sake of it so Gourmet Friday was created.

It was decided that we'd be adventurous and make a three course meal entirely from scratch. Now cooking together isn't something we'd normally do, mainly because Rich always completely slates my cooking! It's not that I'm bad at it, its that all culinary disasters seem to occur in his presence (mainly because he distracts me, the dog wants to play...etc.). Cue concrete risotto, uncooked brownies (yes, I forgot to turn the oven on!) get the idea. We decided to stick with good British fare, with maybe an exception for the starter (British starter ideas anyone?!): grilled mushrooms with goats cheese to start, chicken, bacon and leek pie with veg for the main and apple crumble and custard for dessert.

After a Sainsbury's haul (in which you can probably spot a few cheats from the off *cough* packet custard and pre-roll pastry *cough*!), we got cracking...
Starter: Grilled mushrooms with goats cheese.
An easy peasy recipe: Portobello mushrooms, two gloves of garlic (finely chopped) divided between them, a sprinkling of parsley, top with goats cheese and half a slice of procuitto ham then drizzle with oil. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, cover with foil for the first 5 then uncover for 5.

Next time I might forgo the oil and make a garlic butter to go under the cheese...I think it would add a little something.
Simple and tasty!

Main: Chicken, bacon and leek pie with veg 
Time consuming but worth the hard slog, this recipe is from BBC Good Food and we followed it to the letter. A lot of people in the comments had cut out the eggs and cut corners with the chicken but I can say it was truly stunning (if a little pricey) just as stated.

I won't reproduce the recipe but you can view it here.
My cheesy pie art...

If you've got friends or family round for dinner and want to impress with traditional fare, this is a cracker! We soon realised it was a little excessive to make it for just the two of us (it serves 6!) but served a few slices at a party we had the following day - it was a great success! Might make it for my host family in Spain for a special meal!
After boiling the chicken, you get a wonderful stock and that gave Rich the idea of making home-made chicken soup with the remnants of the chicken - it smelled divine!! A great way to be thrifty and make the most out of a meal!

Dessert: Apple crumble and custard.

Absolute English classic! It always reminds me of summers with my Grandma with whom I always used to make apple and blackberry pies and crumbles with berries from the bush in her garden.  With everything going so well (including the crumble filling, which filled the kitchen with sweet apple and cinnamon scents), I had to screw something up didn't I?! 
 The pesky crumble was what did it...
 This is what crumble looks like when you put twice as much butter as you need in to the mixture...
 ...I knew it was wrong as soon as I put my hands in to start crumbling!

 Disaster diverted by doubling up all the ingredients - crumble topping for 12 anyone?!

 It all turned out deliciously in the end...
 Another wonderfully simple recipe: 6 granny smith apples (peeled, cored and diced), 1 cinnamon stick, 250g caster sugar, 200g plain flour, 120g butter.

Pop the apple chunks in to a pan with the cinnamon stick and 3/4 of the sugar and stew on a low heat for around half an hour. Add the rest of the ingredients in to a mixing bowl and rub together with your hands until it looks like breadcrumbs. Cool the apples before topping with the crumble then oven bake at 150 for 30 minutes. Serve warm, add custard, cream or side of your choice and enjoy.


With so many lovely smells wafting around the kitchen, Maxy put on his best wrinkle face hoping we would cave and give him a taste of the days to say he was sorely disappointed. I put your name on the pie Max, what more do you want?!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

52 Lists: List the things that remind you of home

This is an interesting list topic for me, the girl with wanderlust. Travelling so much makes you take a look at where home you define home to be. Is home your country? Is it where you grew up, your familial home? Is it where you lay your hat (or, as someone who looks awful in hats, your suitcase?)? To me, home seems to encompass all of these things.

Though I don't spend as much time as I'd like there, here are the things that remind me of my familial home in London.

  • Arriving in to London Paddington and thinking 'I've missed this place' then 10 minutes later, after being elbowed in the face on the Bakerloo line, asking myself 'why did I miss this place again?'.
  • Being woken up with a cup of tea, which is always left to go cold when I doze off again.
  • The busy gaggle that arrives around 6pm after a day of work or school (my dad smelling of concrete, my mum weighed down my office papers and bags of food shopping, my sister with her headphones in).
  • Bank holiday BBQs usually cooked by Dad...under an umbrella in the rain - such is life in the UK.
  • Singing - along to musicals or at random intervals most likely in sync with my sister.
  • Blanket snuggles on the sofa.
  • Together times: family dinners around the table and cramming on to sofas for customary tele watching.
  • (Much to my mother's dismay) messy bedroom floors (mostly mine...but my sister now seems to be catching up).
  • The glint of the street light through my blinds at night time.
  • The fridge inspection that takes place each time I return home (food that I didn't have to buy/have missed on my travels...score!)
  • Going for steak on Tuesdays with one of my only friends that still lives in my home town.
52 lists is a project organised by Ema over at Made in Hunters: check out her list here.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Southampton Restaurant Edit: All the bays!

Southampton: a place that previously has been for business rather than pleasure - and its a push even to say that. I worked in Southampton on a store closure team for a week last year, spending days inputting stock data on to systems, packing boxes and loading lorries. After a hard days work, the only pleasure we got from the day is the meal we could put through expenses at the end of it. We accrued some favourite haunts during our time in Southampton and it seemed almost criminal to bypass them when we were so close by in the New Forest. So here we are...our lunch and dinner favourites in Southampton. Turtle Bay and Dock O' The Bay.

Lunch: Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is a colourful, Caribbean restaurant which is guaranteed to wake you up  give you a pick me up after the morning desk snooze. In central Southampton, only a stones throw away from West Key shopping centre, you won't have to go out of your way to spice up your day (and maybe sneak a happy hour cocktail in...don't worry, I won't tell the boss). With its colourful murals and reggae style music, as well as the cute veranda style seating areas (my favourite place to sit for dinner dates) and laid back friendly staff, the environment itself is enough to put a smile on your face. 
A variety of dishes are on offer from their Jerk BBQ grills, gorgeous one pots (my personal faves), their lunch 'n' light meals and cutters (which are either starters or tapas, depending on the way you look at it!). Whilst usually I am a one-pot girl through and through (with the Trini fish curry, Trinidad curry chicken and Curry, shrimp and mango all under my belt), there is one cutter that I can't resist and that is the Jerk Pit Prawns. If they did this in main course size I don't think I would ever leave. It is not attractive to eat in male company (think sauce everywhere and stinking of seafood the whole night) but in my opinion Rich can just put up with it: they are food heaven! 

On this particular visit, I decided cutters were the way forward: Jerk pit prawns (non negotiable) and pulled Jerk pork.
Rich had the pork as a starter last time we came (to celebrate the end of my exams in Bristol...was that really 6 months ago?!) and I had serious good envy. Slow roast pulled jerk pork, rocket, fresh butternut squash, mango, organge and coconut shavings is the menu description - I can assure you it is a foodgasm on a plate. 

Their cocktails are also not to be frowned at (especially on Happy Hour - which seems more like Happy Afternoon!). My personal favourite is Jammin' (a la Mr Marley): White rum, apricot liquer, fresh mint, ginger, lime, apple juice and apricot jam (served on a spoon!) - maybe reserved for those with a sweet tooth or those who count cocktails as desert as I do!

Not just limited to Bristol, Turtle Bay are a thriving business who are popping up all over the place. They currently have restaurants in Bristol, Leicester, Nottingham and Milton Keynes and soon to be opening branches in Bath, Birmingham and Leamington Spa. I literally think my prayers have been answer when it comes to Turtle Bay coming to Bath...! A Turtle Bay visit was always a special occasion (even if the Bristol branch is only about half an hour away). This could mean serious trouble for my bank balance for the whole of final year but also a place to celebrate my graduation in 2015 (fingers crossed!). If you haven't already chanced upon it, your life is not yet complete!

Now Dock O' The Bay is certainly a different kind of bay all together. If Turtle Bay is the steel drum party, shack serving drink, sandy BBQ pit kind of bay, then Dock O' The Bay is the bay of lapping waves, serenity and butler service to double bed style sun loungers. Both charming in their own ways! Rich actually chanced upon this gem on his longer stint in Southampton store managing (mainly because it is opposite the Travel Lodge they always shoved him in!). Its location gives no clue to how awesome it unsuspecting parade of shops that it shares with Domino's pizza and an opticians. 

The restaurant has a really laid back vibe. I love the art filled space from the huge wall mural to all the hanging pieces towards the back of the restaurant and that gorgeous distressed wood floor. On all different levels, the restaurant makes a clever use of space and even when its busy (which is nigh on always) you never feel crowded. The staff are always so friendly, never rushing you  with some even recognising us from our last trip over a year ago. 

What I love about this restaurant is its simple approach. With its basis of fresh ingredients, it never makes any fuss about things - just does simple food in an exemplary fashion, which explains its loyal following in this obscure corner of town for the last 14 years!

With the rotten hang over I had when I arrived for an early dinner (one which I had been nursing all day), I thought there was nothing much that could take my fancy...but how wrong I was. I opted for the honey roast chicken breast with root vegetable mash, buttered kale and honey and mustard cream sauce. Not being a fan of kale, they quickly and kindly substituted in roasted courgettes.

STOP THE PRESS: Dock O' The Bay should have a patent on the quickest hangover cure known to man! 
Its official I might have to move in next door to this place!!
Rich's slow roasted pork belly with crispy crackling, spring onion mash, red cabbage and cider jus - what he had been looking forward to all day if not all year!

The best way to describe the food is restaurant luxury home cooking - something you think you could recreate, but if you tried would fail every time. Magical fingers is what these chefs have. I have too much love for this restaurant and its staff. As an independent, its not often that we get to visit (we figure 2 hours each way is a bit of a commute) but its a place that we have fond memories of and will revisit time after time when we get the chance. Any plans for a Somerset branch would be gratefully received.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Bell Inn

Way back in November, in Mother Russia, I was ummming and ahhhhing about what to get Rich for his birthday. Being away, I tried painstakingly to organise a day out for him and a friend to do - so he had a nice celebration on the day itself - unfortunately, it just never came together.

Then, just as I was about to despair, I came across a great deal on a trip to the New Forest and it was a BARGAIN!

The Groupon deal included:

  • A night's B&B accommodation at The Bell Inn in one of their Classic Rooms.
  • A glass of champagne on arrival.
  • A 2-course meal in the bar (including everything on the a la carte menu and specials boards).
  • Tickets to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
As Rich is a lover of cars, I thought it would be a good combination of romantic mini-break and lad-ish day out and BONUS it was something we could do together after a busy Christmas period. Ringing the hotel from Russia, the line was often tenuous and crackly but the ladies on reception were more than helpful, answering all of my questions (even if they were silly) and putting up with cut call after cut call. I pencilled it in to my diary and smiled, happy in the knowledge that we had something to look forward to. 

So last Thursday, I bundled myself on to a train to Southampton, voucher in hand, looking forward to a chilled out evening. Rich, who was meant to meet me from the station, was over an hour late (to those who know him, that won't be a surprise). So I spent a while wandering around the shops of West Quay. After a mere 20 minute drive, past some really awful flooding (which was what stalled Rich apparently), we arrived to the hotel, situated on a quiet-ish country road. 

The first thing that struck me was the lack of cars in the car park - Rich and I were evidently two of very few guests (which is sometimes worrying, but who really short breaks on a Thursday?!). A lovely lady greeted us at reception and gave us our key (room 8 on the ground floor).

I was impressed with the decor of the hotel - a palette of mainly greys and woods accented with colourful furniture and large flower blooms. On our way to the room, I spotted a cosy looking room filled with comfy looking sofas which looked like they needed testing out and made a mental note for later. I wasn't disappointed in the bedroom either (their standard room) with muted colour scheme and a bright patterned feature wall. I absolutely adore Jack Vettriano and was happy to see some of his canvas prints lining our walls.
I was less impressed with the bathroom which was (almost glaringly) one colour. The room showed a few signs of wear and tear (peeling paint on the handles of the white bath, a few scratches on the wall paper) but overall it was lovely and well presented. A minor problem was handled swiftly with a big apology - my dirty mug was replaced by a gleaming one with extra tea and biscuits by way of apology!

I'd made a dinner reservation for 7.30pm and we found ourselves alone in the restaurant with a 1:1 staff ratio. A table of 5 later joined us. Having had a sneak peak at the menu before hand, and the gorgeous promotional pictures on the website, I had high expectations of the food. Perusing the menu, champagne in hand, Rich decided on Mutton with potato rosti and poached egg to start whilst I chose Chicken parfait with toasted brioche and caramelised onion chutney.

The starters were divine - neither of the dishes were what we expected they would be, but had a very welcome reception. My parfait was fairly standard but the chutney was gorgeous. Rich's starter was something else entirely - the flavour combinations were unusual but they worked well and, whilst not expecting a carpaccio style mutton, he thoroughly enjoyed it.
Both Rich and I opted for the venison main course, served with a creamed parsnip and horseradish, candied beetroot, a dauphinois potato cake and some kind of red wine reduction. As a newbie to game meat, I wasn't quite sure what to expect but what I got was fabulous. It was more steak-like than I had envisaged and I enjoyed every mouthful. My only thought would be that maybe a bit of greenery would have added to the overall look of the plate which was all a bit one coloury (look at me getting all master chef).
Rich treated us to a pricey bottle of red wine to go with our lovely dinner (Pinot Noir Coopers Creek Marlborough, New Zealand 2012), which took a good ten minutes to arrive after searching the cellars! Being the girl that always orders the house wine, I let out a little gasp when he ordered it but, after sampling it, I can see that spending a little more does make a difference. It was really light and nothing like the thick reds you often get as house bottles - you could actually taste the berry notes in it! I think there is a wine connoisseur in me yet ;) 
We were both underwhelmed by the cheese portion sizes of the cheese and biscuits, but soon realised that the portions were more than sufficient after tackling a starter, main and a round of these beautiful hand baked pork scratchings with celeriac salt.
All in all I can say that we had a wonderful meal at The Bell. The flavours were great and the meals were presented just as beautifully as the promotional pictures on the website. If we are ever in the vicinity again, I will definitely be making a return visit. The bar staff were a delight and always happy to give their opinion on the menu and willing share a joke or two some of which were at their expense (they offered us the desert menu just as we finished our starters!).

Some lovely friends joined us for drinks after our meal (polishing off another two bottles of house red!) and I can confirm, after we were turfed out of the bar at closing time, that the sofa room is a must visit.

With the hang-over that proceeded in the morning I was very glad to be greeted with a steaming pot of earl grey and a fry up.

We had a wonderful stay at The Bell and would definitely recommend it as a quiet stay in the country for couples. The surrounding countryside was beautiful, with horses roaming freely on the verges of the road (be careful driving!!). Being only half and hour from Southampton, you can have the best of both worlds - city and country rolled in to one. They have got some great Valentines day offers advertised and a Game Dinner I very much had my eye on...hopefully I'll be able to return one day soon.

With love from the New Forest x

Monday, 13 January 2014

52 lists: List the things you do on a rainy day.

With the weather been as it has - for those of you that don't live in the UK, it has been DIRE! - I think Ema has picked an apt topic for this weeks list...

Being a lady of leisure until my next placement starts, most days are rather chilled but rainy days are particularly lazy affairs.
  1. Resolve to not leave the house under any circumstances.
  2. Stay in my pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown all day long.
  3. Snuggle under the duvet until hunger or thirst drive me out of bed.
  4. Drink a cup of lady grey.
  5. Catch up on day time trash TV (not that I will have missed much!)
  6. Spent more time than is sensible on Bloglovin.
  7. Dream of sunnier climes and plan ridiculous holidays I can't afford...
  8. Put off all generally sensible ways I could spend a day in the house like sorting out the paperwork or doing other boring things I have to do now that I'm an 'adult' (inverted comma's as I use the term rather loosely).
  9. Plan to become a domestic goddess and have illusions that the Nigella recipe I will be making later might actually turn out like the picture.
  10. After *insert cooking related disaster here*, sit down with a glass of wine and vow to one day have someone to do the cooking on my behalf.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

52 Lists: List your favourite moments of 2013

So this post has been sitting in draft mode for most of the week...the challenge (from Emma over at Made in Hunters) to list my favourite moments of 2013 seems all to great (her list: here!) What a year...and one very hard to sum up in a few short lines. Alas, I shall give it my best shot.

1. Getting the exact placement I wanted for the Spanish half of my year abroad (which will be underway in less than two weeks now - Sevillian adventures coming soon of course!)

2. Sitting in the sun with numerous ciders after our last exam of second year, blowing off the cobwebs gained from being in the library for what felt like years.
3.My surprise tea party my parents threw me for my 21st birthday - there is only one way to drink champagne and that is out of matching china darling!
4. All the fun and laughs that Rich and I had over summer including but not limited to:

  • breaking my new jeweled flip flops, knee deep in mud whilst fossil hunting on the South Coast...then having to buy awful (cerise pink) waterproof shoes as a replacement.
  • getting my hair caught in the tent zip one morning on our camping trip to Wales...which Rich proceeded to photograph and upload instead of helping me
(Actually the more I think about it the more I realise that Rich comes up with the stupid ideas and I end up the victim of all the mishaps that arise from carrying them out....but that, I suppose, is another story)

5. A lovely mini-break to Padstow for my mummy's birthday!
6. Being asked to contribute to Scriptoeris and rekindling my love of writing

7. All of our only in Russia moments (which you can read about HERE)

8. Curtain up on Le Sylphide at the Bolshoi Theatre
9. Getting our diplomas after a semester of hard work, making new friends and vast language improvement at Voronezh State University
10. Being reunited with friends, family and Rich for celebrations over the festive period...and I suppose meeting a new family member the Max puppy (even if he is a menace!)

So there it is...the 2013 mini round up (though there are a million other things that could be said). I'm hoping that 2014 version in a years time may be easier what with a line-a-day diary AND a memory jar project on the go.

Here's to another great year with a million moments to be shared.