Author Archives: Carla B

About Carla B

London lifestyle blogger.

Strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe

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We’ve spoken before about champagne cocktails. You know I’m not a fan. I mean, why waste perfectly good champagne in a mix?

But with all rules there’s always an exception. And the exception to never using champagne in a cocktail is when it’s a day or two old and there’s just a tad left. I’m a thrifty one with a love of repurposing and I can assure you this is one tasty way to avoid champagne waste.

Today I’m sharing a strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe. It’s fresh, summery and just a bit sweet. Full credit goes to my friend May who casually shared this simple concoction with me over lunch a few weeks ago.

Strawberry and mint champagne cocktail recipe

Ingredients

Leftover champagne
Lots of strawberries
Fresh mint leaves

Directions

Wash the strawberries. Use a mini sieve to squeeze the strawberry juice through to a jar.

Put two teaspoons of strawberry juice into each champagne glass with a sprig of mint. Top with chilled champagne and garnish with a strawberry.

No champagne on hand? Feel free to swap champagne for sparkling wine or Cava.

Commuting

london underground tube train on platform

Some people love commuting, some people hate it. You probably enjoy commuting more if you love your job. It also helps if it’s not too long. And apparently those that commute by bike are pretty happy regardless.

One thing is for certain though, and that’s that our commute looks a lot different today than it did just a decade ago.

Commuting today is a bit different than it used to be not very long ago. (And with the rise of working remotely, there is an increasing number of people who don’t commute at all.) Between 2004 and 2010, the number of British commuters who took the train reporting that they were wasting their time traveling fell by a little more than a third—a drop that researchers attributed to a sharp rise in the number of commuters using their phone to check email, browse the Internet, or listen to music or podcasts. Today, workers interested in further reducing their angst, then, can at least take solace in the fact that their forebears had it worse.

CityLab

P.S. how I spend my commute

Halloumi and quinoa salad recipe

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What did the cheese say when it looked in the mirror? Halloumi!

You’re welcome.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m obsessed with Halloumi, and all my friends are too. Nobody cares what drinks are served at a party these days just as long as fat, salty slabs of Halloumi appear on the menu.

Living in a predominantly veggie household Halloumi is our go to treat to pimp up tried and tested dishes. No paneer? Try Halloumi with daal instead. Salad leaves not doing it for you tonight? Brighten it up with a couple of slices. Bored of parmesan on your pasta? My friend swears by grated Halloumi as a topping.

One of the simplest dishes you can make is a Halloumi salad. I like my salads to be substantial (like this shredded chicken and avocado number) and by pairing Halloumi with quinoa you’ve got yourself a filling meal. Pimp it up with some toasted pine nuts if you’re really out to impress.

Halloumi and quinoa salad recipe

Ingredients
Halloumi
Quinoa
Cucumber
Salad leaves
Pine nuts

Method
Cook the quinoa as instructed on the packet and leave to cool.

Dice the cucumber and set aside. Slightly toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan whilst the quinoa is cooling.

Once cool, mix the quinoa with a large handful of salad leaves (I like a mix of spinach, rocket and kale) and the cucumber.

Slice the Halloumi and fry in a splash of oil over a medium heat, turning when golden marks appear.

Place the Halloumi on top of the salad and finish by sprinkling the toasted pine nuts on top.

God’s Own Junkyard

If I ever found myself in Las Vegas again I’d bypass the hotels, bars and restaurants on the strip and head straight downtown. Home to some of the liveliest restaurants and bars (and the best fish tacos I’ve ever had), downtown Vegas is a place I’d happily visit time and time again.

At night downtown is all great cocktails and live music, but during the day you need to find entertainment elsewhere. That’s how we found ourselves visiting the Neon Museum, home to hundreds of classic neon signs. Our tour of the Neon graveyard was one of the highlights of my California road trip as it gave me the opportunity to learn about the history of Vegas through its iconic signs.

A million miles away from Vegas (but just a short walk from our flat) is God’s Own Junkyard, London’s own neon mecca. Located on an estate in Walthamstow, next to a gin distillery and craft beer brewery, you could say it’s a little off the beaten track.

God's Own Junkyard walthamstow east london

Chris Bracey, otherwise known as the Neon Man, created neon pieces for 37 years before sadly passing away in 2014. His work lives on and God’s Own Junkyard is home to hundreds of salvaged and restored pieces he collected over his lifetime.

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From salvaged signs to vintage neon this Junkyard can’t help but make you smile. That flashing neon sign outside your bedroom window might irritate you but a room full of bright neon signs manages to put a smile on your face.

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After two laps of Gods Own Junkyard (one to take it all in, and another to take photos…) we took a pew in the onsite Rolling Scones Café. They serve a surprisingly wide selection of food and alcoholic beverages, but we settled on a pot of tea and a slice of cake to share. The cake was homemade, definitely shareable and very delicious.

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Quality of food aside, it’s definitely worth stopping for a drink just so you can sit in the cafe and take it all in from a different perspective.

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God’s Own Junkyard is a museum of sorts and like most good London museums it’s free to enter and explore. Walthamstow really isn’t that far away so definitely visit when you can.

Sunshine in Portugal

Last Wednesday I said goodbye to London for a week in the sun. After debating whether to go to Lisbon or Porto a few weeks ago we decided that we’d actually quite like to crash on a beach for a week so we chose the Algarve, on the Southern coast of Portugal, instead.

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I last went to Portugal as a child and I certainly don’t remember it being as wonderful as it is! We stayed in Praia da Rocha, a lovely little beach resort on the Western side of the Algarve. It’s close to the historic town of Silves and the Monchique mountains, but Praia da Rocha is lovely enough in its own right to warrant a visit.

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We did very little during our time there. Each day we’d take a long stroll on the beach, climbing through openings in the rock to get to a new patch of sand. We also walked to one of two lighthouses a couple of times to stretch our legs and get a few Instagram-worthy snaps.

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There are lots of lookout points in Praia da Rocha that are perfect for standing around and watching the sun go down. This pretty church was definitely my favourite to walk around.

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I don’t know what it was about spending so much time on a beach that made me act like a child, but whatever it was led to me drinking far too much iced tea. I’m sure I’ll be whipping up a batch or two of this spiked bourbon iced tea in the coming weeks…

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If I wasn’t walking on the beach or hunting down my next fix of iced tea I was reading. I managed to plough my way through six books in six days which was magical. It’s been months since I read with such fervour and it feels great to be back on the wagon.

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Evenings were spent playing cards, drinking cocktails and eating fresh fish and vegetables in little beach side restaurants. Utterly delightful all round.

5 things I learnt from the Women’s Equality Party manifesto for Mayor of London

london skyline mayoral election

The London Mayoral election is this Thursday and I’m yet to decide who I will be voting for.

This week I’ve been reading all the manifestos so I can make an educated choice. I think I know who will get my second preference vote (the one that ‘matters’) – but I’m keen to explore all options for my first preference.

The manifestos are rather glossy and fairly accessible, so if you’re unsure who to vote for it’s worth giving them a read. Sadiq Khan (Labour), Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Caroline Pidgeon (London Liberal Democrats) and Sian Berry (Green Party) are the four key contenders but there are a range of other personalities and parties on the ballot too.

One party that caught my eye was the Women’s Equality Party. They obviously have a clear ideology and I was interested to see how that applied to more conventional policy topics like housing and transport. It was an interesting read – here are five things I learnt:

  • Founded in 2015, the Women’s Equality Party has over 45,000 members and registered supporters
  • 45 years after the Equal Pay Act the gender pay gap still exists
  • 5,500 rapes were recorded in London last year
  • 28,000 women in London work full-time but still provide 20 hours of unpaid care every week
  • Enabling women to work the hours and jobs they want would add an estimated £70 billion to London’s economy

Sophie Walker from the Women’s Equality Party is not going to be the next London Mayor, but I hope throwing her hat into the ring has captured the attention of Sadiq / Zac so London in 2020 is a safer and more equal place for women.

Soho in 1986

A few weeks ago I wrote about how special it is to go for a walk in London. Lee commented with his memory of walking in London in 1992, and now Simon has chipped in with his memories of Soho in 1986:

I worked in Soho in ’86/’87. I remember the old actor and his wife at number 40 Dean Street – George Munting, I remember Paul Raymond coming to check on his flats, I remember Derek Block getting angry with someone parking in his space, smashing the windscreen and then paying to get it mended. I remember Michael, I remember the gay pub on Old Compton Street. I remember the working girls and Dog Shit Alley. I remember the lump of lead the landlord at the Ship in Wardour street used to keep “just in case”. I remember “Just in case”.

I remember having a chat out of the window with a girl in marketing, 2 doors down and one floor up, I remember the offie in Old Compton Street selling the cheapest wine I ever bought outside France, T remember learning to juggle in Soho Square, I remember Rupert Rhymes (then head of ENO) bringing donuts, I remember being the only one in the neighbourhood that went into the bookshops for the books, I remember Ronnie Scott’s jokes, I remember a village. Good times!

Simon Harding

I want to say a big thank you to both Lee and Simon for sharing their memories and giving me a glimpse of a city I never knew. If you have a memory you want to share of London please do chip in.

Time of the month

shopping

Yesterday I visited Brent Foodbank and learnt that they, and other Foodbanks across the country, desperately need sanitary towel donations.

“No one should be worrying that the newspaper they’re using as a sanitary towel might leak” – Nigel Webster in the New Statesman.

If you can, please donate. Find your nearest Foodbank here.

Image: Tom Sodoge via Unsplash

Walking in London in 1992

Lee originally left this a comment on my post about Walking in London, but I think it’s interesting enough to share again here.

I wasn’t old enough to spend my days walking in London in 1992, but Lee’s painted a pretty different picture to the London I see on my walks today.

When I first came to London in 1992, I was doing work placements. Then I got my first job which paid 4.5k a year. My pay didn’t cover a flat, so I stayed in various places for free with friends. At the weekends, I’d walk everywhere. I hardly knew London, but with a Travelcard, a belly full of pound slices of pizza with dodgy coleslaw I discovered most of London. I’d walk from Belsize Park to Blackheath and back via Maida Vale, from Burnt Oak to Camden, from Greenwich to Oxford Street. I’d make it a rule to walk somewhere I’d never walked before. Detours were good. There was no plan.

I got to meet people and started to love London. It’s changed a lot. There are few places that offer solitude any more. The South Bank used to be quiet in places. I even saw Banksy before he was famous putting up an artwork (there were a few of them, it wasn’t him alone).

I loved looking up at buildings and catching glimpses of how things used to be, how they changed, imagining who lived in places and how and why areas evolved. The layers of history are still there to see.

What saddens me now, is that 24 years ago, the grottyness was old, the neglect was os something that used to be beautiful but was now falling down, or an old shop sign that had been left. This neglect was discovered and cherished (like Shoreditch) and made beautiful again (when it wasn’t redeveloped).Now the grottyness is new, plastic, cheap, gaudy or fake.

Lee Newham

Do you have memories of London from other years? I’d love to hear more.

The Minimalism Game

the minimalism game

I think I’m the last lifestyle blogger on earth who is yet to KonMari their life. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I don’t want to, yet.

Just like I swore I’d turn to Vegetarianism when I finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, but still haven’t finished those last few chapters three years on.

I’m sure at some point this year I’ll buy The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and revolutionise my life, but until then I’ve found another bandwagon to jump on.

How to play the Minimalism Game

Hannah from Hannah in the House is one of my favourite bloggers. Her love of all things
Scandinavian and minimalist really appeals to me even if my own home looks more like an eclectic mad house. So when I read about The Minimalism Game on her blog I thought it was a concept worth exploring.

The Minimalism Game is great for people like me as a) gamification b) accountability (#MinsGame) and c) it’s a gradual process.

The idea is simple: get rid of one thing in your home on the first day, two things on the second, three on the third and so forth.

Although I’ll be playing the Minimalism Game to get rid of stuff at home I love Hannah’s idea of also using it to tidy up an inbox and unsubscribe from spam. But one thing at a time, yeah?