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Tuesday, 18 November 2014



1. First snow! This weekend we had the first Canadian snowfall of the year and since then it hasn't actually stopped! I woke up Monday morning to a crisp white winter wonderland outside of my window and a scary -10 this morning! Despite the cold, I love the snow, it reminds me of skiing and Alpine mountains...

2. Volleyball Practice. This year I've got into Volleyball at McMaster and so far I'm really enjoying it. I'm not really a competitive person, I just love the game. We've been playing on an all girls team so far but next term I'm going into a corec team to keep up playing.

3. Weekly pub quizzes at the local; almost like being back at the UK. A friend here at Mac has been hosting weekly pub quizzes for charity at one of our favourite local pub spots. Two weeks ago my team actually won and we all got free t-shirts. I never win anything, so big celebrations were had.

4. Taking photos down by the lake. A group of us took a walk on Sunday around Cootes Paradise, most of the autumn leaves have fallen off of the trees but the frost and snow had made the lake freeze over in some parts and the trees glisten. I love taking photos of this kind of stuff- although I missed a chance to snap up a picture of a deer on the pathway down to the lake!

5. Laying in bed, catching up on The Walking Dead. Not very exciting but it's one of those little pleasures in life. Studying is kind of constant whilst you're at university but taking the chance to watch a good TV show is the best kind of break.

6. Skype catch-ups with friends from home. I've managed to speak to a few friends from home over the last couple of weeks; ranging from locations in Leeds to Singapore. It's weird thinking coming up to Christmas how the next time I see most of them it will be hot outside again!

7. Festive things. I'm one of those people who listens to Christmas music in November ok? I just love it. I got myself an advent calendar the other day, yes I know I am a child and we watched Home Alone Sunday evening, what a classic! Can't wait for Christmas, even if mine with be a little unorthadox in Cuba...

8. My new party dress. I've ordered a stunning silver dress from Topshop for the party season. Can't wait to pair it with some spiky heels and a bright lipstick! I've got tickets to the Winter Wonderland Ball for all us International Students, which I see as a good excuse to wear it eh?

9. Signing up for Dog Sledding. Yes, that's right, I'm going Dog Sledding early next year and I can't wait! Snow, puppies, snow, puppies, there's too much good in  that one sentence. Not only that but the accommodation has a hot tub and a sauna, super relaxing ahhh. 

10. Warm soup at Burnt Tongue. I was out shopping the other day for groceries and I stumbled accross this little soup cafe. It serves fresh soup and chilli; the menu changing every day. I had a tasty tomato and yoghurt soup, but there were plenty other flavours, peanut and yam, morrocan chickpea, yum! 

Saturday, 8 November 2014


It's not easy to find a good coffee in Hamilton it turns out. However, the discovery of Detour was really like finding a hidden gem. A small, independent coffee roasters doing both amazing breakfasts and and lunches, it's the perfect place to get your fix of coffee and cake. On my first visit there I had an amazing grilled 3 cheese sandwich with homemade chili jam and a bowl of potato and kale soup (I was hungry ok). The second trip was a pot of jasmine tea and the yummiest white chocolate and pumpkin loaf I wish I had the recipe for- perfect for autumn! But this morning was the peak of my foodie journey there- a full eggs benedict made with a crumbly chive bisuit, spinach, 2 poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. This was washed down with a frothy cappachino which I am craving again! The menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly and is definitely keeping up to date on all the latest food trends; kale and quinoa everywhere! I've got my eye on a red pepper muffin and the shallot and time mac and cheese for my next lunch date. The cafe is pretty small, but has a community feel to it, it's loud and warm and perfect for coming in out of the -2 degree November cold. Saying this, I've never been inside and got a table instantly, 10-30 min wait every time I've been- which I guess demonstrates the reputation it's given itself! If you're not there to induldge in breakfast or lunch, you can easily pick up a coffee or hot cocoa to go- maybe treat yourself to a sweet potato scone or homemade brownie?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014



1. I've booked onto the ski trip! This year McMaster University Ski and Snowboard society are going to Tremblant in Quebec. Ideally I wanted to go back to Whistler, but I might have been aiming a little high there. So naturally this is the next best place and I can't come to Canada and not go skiing, that would be sacrilegious.

2. Clothes shopping (AND RESEARCH) in Toronto. Ok, so I may have got a little distracted in American Apparel and Anthropologie but I’m loving Toronto. I visited Koreatown and Chinatown this weekend for some early research for my dissertation and they're great places. I walked for over 3 hours around the city and didn't get bored once.

3. A new pair of winter boots! Winter is coming. You can feel it every day- the subtle drops in temperature, the early morning frost... I took a trip to the local mall last week and splurged on a good pair of winter boots- making sure they were insulated and waterproof. I now love them, they're so comfy and my feet are very snug thanks!

4. Baking autumn/fall goodies. I also attended a baking event last week! The fact my kitchen doesn't have real ovens is a bit of a downer for me, I remember baking homemade apple cider doughnuts last year! However I managed to bake some great stuff this weekend with a few other keen bakers; everything from apple turnovers to pumpkin roll and butter tarts.

5. Finding a decent coffee. It's been a struggle surviving off Starbucks and I miss my dad's coffee maker at home. But a quick trip to Dundas introduced me to Detour; a cute cafe on the main street selling quality cappuccinos and healthy soups and sandwiches. The grilled cheese with chilli chutney is a good choice FYI.

6. Mid-terms are finally over! This is both a happy and a sad thing. Yes, my mid-term exams are over. But I have three huge assignments due over the next two weeks, so you win some you lose some. Anyway I prefer coursework to exams- it means I can sit down with a cup of tea and plan it- rather than cram information into my head pre-exam day.

7. Postcards and letters from home. I have such great friends back in the UK and a few of them reminded me of that this week. I got a couple of cards and postcards which kept me up to date on the goings on back home as well as some great anecdotes. They were thoughtful and funny and I'm looking forward to sending some back.

8. Oktoberfest! Ok, I realise we're not in Germany, but did you realise the second biggest Oktoberfest celebration is in Kitchener in Ontario? Well it is. We took a trip up there just before Thanksgiving and had a dance and a drink in a big music hall (ice skating rink?) along to German music. Lots of people were dressed up in lederhosen and I kind of regret not having my own...

9. Thanksgiving itself!! I was lucky enough to be invited to my housemate’s thanksgiving this year and I was so pleased. I won't be getting a real Christmas dinner (considering I'll be in Cuba) so I was excited to have an early-turkey dinner! And I wasn't disappointed; turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and stuffing- you can't go wrong.

10. Spontaneous wine and cheese nights. I walked home late from the pub one night and managed to crash my housemates wine and cheese night. We spent the night mostly drinking the wine and catching the end of a horror movie...Wine and cheese are possibly some of life's greatest little pleasures and this is a great way to spend a chilly fall evening.

Monday, 20 October 2014


Just a quick trip downtown and a little walk away on Locke Street, you'll find yourself at Chuck's Burger Bar. A no-frills gourmet burger joint with good craft beers and big portions. It's very low key, with only 5 tables and a bit of bar space. We crammed 7 of us onto the bar and ordered a round whilst pouring over the menu. And there's plenty to choose from; venison burgers, lobster poutine and enough different sauces and toppings to last a lifetime! Peanut butter on your burger anyone? I went for a (healthy) turkey burger, with caramelised pears and a cranberry mayo, this was served alongside skin-on fries and a crunchy house slaw. Although, yes we were eating at 9pm and I was starving, this was easily one of my favourite indulgent meals in Canada. Finding a good burger is like finding the perfect little black dress and you just know when it's a good one from the first bite. You can tell this place is a hit with locals and students alike as the place was packed with people when we first got there- I would suggest booking a table or turning up earlier to get a proper seat as this place get's busy even on a random Tuesday night. But waiting at the bar isn't so bad either, there's a good selection of Canadian beers and enough Ice Hockey to watch until you're seat is ready. Next time I go I would love to customise my burger and pick out something adventurous or ask the waitress for a good combo! I would also order the maple bacon doughnut bites, not sure why I didn't do this before for $3 a bag.

Saturday, 11 October 2014


It was a windy Saturday afternoon and I was ridiculously excited. I was finally going up the infamous CN tower. I had asked everyone for recommendations of where to go and what to see in Toronto and nearly every one of them told me to take a trip up the tower. We decided to try it out and (for a bargain price of $55 try the lunch menu too!) After checking in, you're ushered into a lift which zooms up into the clouds. It's very odd walking out of the lift into a revolving glass room. The scene spins around you and you're transported from high rise skyscraper views to sprawling suburbs to the shimmering sea-like lake. I couldn't stop snapping photos; every second was a new photo opportunity! Now for the food, the $55 menu came with 3 courses. For a starter I had the pea and pancetta spring tart. The pastry was a bit dry and the pancetta was more akin to bacon lardons but it was 2pm and I was starving so I gobbled it down. My medium rare steak with mashed potato and peppercorns was however- to DIE FOR. Perfectly cooked with buttery mash and just enough creamy sauce. Lastly dessert; the final act. Maybe the best one? You can't say no to a chocolate lava cake with espresso ice cream and raspberry coulis. Melt in the mouth chocolaty goodness. Hands down the best meal in Canada so far with the best views! Not only this- but everything on the menu exhibited the best of Canada! You could try everything from 'Vancouver Island Sea Salt' to 'Grilled Ontario Calf's Liver' and of course Maple Blancmange, which is as Canadian as it gets without putting a beaver on it. After lunch we wandered around the observation deck and they lay down on the glass floor for some edgy looking pictures. Overall it was a great afternoon, although service was slow at the start, it picked up and gave us enough time to enjoy the views! I would love to see Toronto again at night and try out a few more tasty offerings when I get the chance! 

Monday, 29 September 2014


100% my favourite weekend in Canada so far. Algonquin Provincial Park is about a 4 hour drive from Hamilton and covers over 7000 sqkm. It's located in Central Ontario between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River and is the oldest Provincial Park in Canada. We drove up on a sleepy Friday night to stay for a night in traditional cabins before heading out on the lakes for some canoeing. After a brisk 7am wake up call, we packed up our gear, got into our groups and headed out onto the water. In groups of 9, we had four canoes between us. Mostly in pairs, I was put in the three man and acted as 'princess/team flightless bears professional photographer'. Algonquin is truly spectacular, the autumn colours shone through in reds, gold’s and oranges. This combined with a shiny, still lake meant that the reflections were almost identical to the trees themselves. We spent the first half of the day paddling through a narrow creek. Not used to canoeing this was a bit of a struggle and a few of us beached ourselves in the grass a couple of times. After coming out into a wide, open lake, we spotted a flat-looking island and headed out for lunch and to soak up the sun. After lunch it was back on the open water. At one point we even lost a paddle (even less for me to do). In between getting to all the lakes we had a number of 'portages' or as I liked to call it 'French-canoe-walking'. This is where you need to hoist the canoe up and carry it on your shoulders to the next available body of water. Luckily for most of the guys carrying the canoes, the longest one was just over 500m! Canoes, dear readers, are a bit heavy. However these portages gave us the opportunity to walk through some of Algonquin's woodland, see some chipmunks and get out of the sun for a bit. The last hour of our day was arguably the best. In this hour, I saw a swimming moose and my Canadian dream was fulfilled. At first we thought it was a really big bird...I know. Stupid. Then we saw it's antlers and it's one heck of a snout puffing away. My pictures weren't great but so happy that I got to see a Canadian wildlife icon. After that we drifted in the lake for a bit soaking up the last of the sun’s rays and enjoying the peace and quiet. Arriving at camp, we parked the canoes and jumped straight into the water at sunset for a swim! The water was pretty icy but refreshing and laying out in the sun after was arguably the best way to end the day. The evening was spent stargazing. The stars were breathtaking, you could see the Milky Way and we even spotted a bunch of shooting stars! Despite a restless night, the next morning we got up and continued our canoeing. This was an easier day and a shorter one. The lake remained calm and a big pike nearly jumped in our boat! We encountered one fast moving waterway which apparently took out a few canoes in its rapids- we decided to avoid it altogether! Overall Algonquin was amazing, I'm not sure how many times I muttered 'this is the life' to myself but it's truly a beautiful place. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Exploring Canada

Canada is a pretty big place and I've only really been exploring a tiny portion of it. But I want to share with you some of the beautiful places I've been to and show you how even in your backyard, Canada is a beautiful place. The majority of these photos are surprisngly from Hamilton (my current home). Hamilton is a University town and industrial steel city but for many it's gone a bit into decline. I would argue that Hamilton has some of the best hidden gems including over 1000 waterfalls and an emerging art scene. Dundas Peak gives you a great view of Hamilton and the surrounding area (you can even see Toronto) and hiking along the Bruce Trail takes you to some gorgeous waterfalls which you can paddle in. If you continue to hike along the Bruce Trail you will eventually end up at Niagara Falls which as you will know straddles the US/Canada border (the Canada side has better views mkay?).

Horseshoe falls is probably the most famous of the two and is spectacular when lit up at night. I've also managed a sneaky trip to Toronto, as I mentioned in a previous post. It's a really amazing city- what I would call a 'liveable city'. The waterfront is for many the best view of the city, illuminating the famous CN tower and offering great views of the Rogers Centre Sports Stadium. The best views can be seen from the island, which I haven't been to yet, but I do have a good 7 months left! This weekend I'm travelling to Algonquin National Park. There I'll be canoeing and swimming in the lakes and enjoying the autumnal golds and reds of the surrounding trees- honestly the photos look amazing! The park itself is huge and offers plenty of oppurtunities to see local Canadian wildlife; moose, bears and wolves all live here! Although if I do see a bear I'm not sure if that's good news. The weather is set to be beautiful- 26 degrees and sunny! So I'm pretty excited.

So a quick overview of the backpacking trip I did last weekend. We woke up bright and early for a breakfast at Pancake House and to pack all of our goods away. This included stuffing a sleeping bag, mat, part of a tent and a few pots and pans into my already over-filled backpack. Heaving the thing on made me feel like a turtle to say the least. After a big pancake and bacon breakfast (with a bucket of strength inducing coffee) we jumped on the bus to Dundas and started the hike. The first part of the hike got some getting used to. Carrying an 80l backpack in 20+ degree heat aint so easy my friends. We walked along an old railway track which eventually led up to our campsite. However after walking for 20 mins or so, we took the high ground which led up to Dundas Peak and some great views. We even spotted a train that had at least 50 + carriages! It was great so see some of the autumnal colours coming through and also see a bit of the surrounding area. After this our walk took us past a golf course and along to see some of the waterfalls.

Most of the falls were pretty shallow but some you could paddle in. Which leads me onto the second day! After an evening of s'mores, campfire stories and 'interesting' pasta, we woke up in a puddle. It had been raining all morning and we had to pack everything up in torrential rain. It wasn't a great start to the morning and trying to cook bacon has never been so tiresome! The rains cleared up eventually however and this took us on a great path through the woodlands. It was a very peaceful start to the day, sun shining through the trees and a couple of wildlife sightings; snakes yo. Then when we reached some of the bigger waterfalls, paddling and climbing happened. A few of us drenched ourselves in the falls to cool down, others (like me) enjoyed the spray and snapped a few shots.  We carried on walking back towards Hamilton and even passed McMaster, seeing it from an almost birds-eye view! Finally we ended up near downtown and caught the bus back to campus. A great trip and a new side to Hamilton I'd never seen!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


So this is a more of a 'what have I been doing since I left the country' post. In many ways, I'm still settling in, I've been here for a month now and I guess I can call it home but despite starting classes last week, it still sort of feels like an extended holiday! I've done so much so I won't be able to pack it all in one post. But I've got lots of plans to do some travelling, backpacking, camping and general sightseeing, so you'll here about that soon. Plus I've had a lot of meals out, some good, some average. Once I find somewhere worth blogging about, you will see it up here! I'm also hoping to do some recipe posts, however; SHOCK AND HORROR, I don't have a real oven here! The house is only stocked with mini convection ovens and microwave ovens, luckily I have a friend across the road who's oven I can work out once I need to start baking when winter comes...which is scarily soon. So here are 10 happy things that have happened in the last month!

1. Visiting Niagara Falls! The falls themselves are awe-inspiring and seeing them up close was especially crazy. I got soaked whilst trying to wrap my poncho around me on the boat so it was a good thing it was such a hot day. 

2. Toronto! It's such a cool city and one of those 'liveable' cities where you could see yourself going about your everyday activities. We stayed in Kensington which was an especially cool area with loads of street art, vegan bakeries and trendy looking students milling around. Dinner was at a great little Jewish bistro which served the best blonde beer from Quebec. 

3. TIFF or Toronto Film Fest! We saw Adult Beginners on a rainy Saturday morning. Very funny and very sweet, highly recommend. 

4. Going to Supercrawl, a free festival in Downtown Hamilton. I saw Charles Bradley play; if you don't know him, he's a James Brown-esque Jazz singer with a killer voice. I also ate beavertail (deep fried chocolate and banana covered doughnut dough mmm) and got a pretty handmade pink and purple patterned purse from an independent craft stall.

5. Eating Canadian Foods! I've been so fat and I don't care. Poutine has been a revelation; it's a classic Canadian dish of chips smothered in gravy and cheese. I got some in Niagara at Smokes Poutinerie which were topped with pulled pork and crispy bacon. 


6.The Chinese Supermarket in Jackson Square. I found this place literally on my first day in the city. It has EVERYTHING. Fresh dim sum and cheap sushi, raw sugar cane, a wall of exotic teas... I could spend hours roaming the aisles I swear. 

7. Treating myself to a NARS blusher in Sephora. Oh Britain, why oh why do we not have a Sephora? It's glorious.

8. School Pride at MAC! McMaster has crazy enthusiastic school pride. I went to a football game on my second week here and the stadium was buzzing with cheers and chants. It's such a happy atmosphere and really infectious- I even bought a McMaster t-shirt myself. 

9. Coffee Breaks at Tim Hortons. Cheap, good coffee and yummy baked snacks. No wonder Canadians love Tim Hortons. 

10. The (first three weeks of) weather. Ok so it's cooled a bit down now, but until last weekend it was 30 degree heat, sunshine and smiles. There were a couple of thunderstorms but they brought much needed coolness when it was a bit too much. Plus the lightning was incredible! 


Friday, 22 August 2014


Just a quick update! Tomorrow I leave for Canada to start my year abroad at McMaster University. I'm pretty excited/nervous and generally just looking forward to it all starting! The first few weeks will be a bit mad I imagine; a lot of bank account setting up, mingling with other International students and trying to find out where I can find a pack of digestive biscuits. Anyway during this time I doubt I will be able to post as much but I'll try to keep up with anything that needs posting. I'm going to try and take the 'yes' approach to life abroad. Want to go to a toga party? Ok yeh...I guess so. Want to try out this pancake house? YES. Want to go dog sledging with cute husky puppies? OMG YES. Hopefully this will work out for the best and give me plenty of material on stuff to try out, eat and visit in Canada and maybe even across the border...USA West Coast trip anyone? I'll be catching my flight tomorrow morning and flying straight to Toronto- somewhere I will definitely be frequenting! Then straight onto Hamilton to settle in and see what's about. If anyone has any tips for life in Canada please let me know! Will be posting soon, watch this space.


Monday, 11 August 2014



I have a mild fascination regarding East Asia, countries such as Palau, Japan and Vietnam have been on my bucket list for years and apart from a 2 hour stopover in Singapore, I've never really travelled around that part of the world. I've mentioned before how much I'd love to see Angkor Wat, but there is so much more in Cambodia than just that. Cambodia has everything from ancient temples to rich countryside and iconic city life. Phnom Penh is a chaotic city of bustling markets, full of exotic street-food and pretty colonial architecture. The city is still away from the tourist mainstream yet offers days of sightseeing and activity. Immerse yourself in local culture by taking part in sunrise aerobics at the Olympic Stadium or alternatively visit the Royal Palace from the back of a famous rickshaw. A friend of mine who visited Cambodia also recommends Tuol Sleng, known as the 'Genocide Museum', an interesting but grim visit into Cambodia's history. The Killing Fields are also an important reminder of Cambodia's notoriously dark history and are a few km outside of the city centre. On a lighter side, try a wide range of street food creepy crawlies; fried spider with a spicy lime sauce? Dried snake with green mango salad? Mmm crunchy. Or if you're not into that; try a traditional staple of noodle broth topped with fish paste. Phnom Penh is the cultural heart of Cambodia but there is still plenty to see in this small country. The Cardamom Mountains are perfect for exploring jungle life. Coconut Palms and Wild Plum trees welcome all sorts of wildlife in this protected jungle landscape. The area is preserved through it's dense canopies which shelter a scattering of villages and eco-lodges, which are ideal for trekking in-between. There is plenty more to see across Cambodia which just wouldn't fit in one post; Takeo Province, Tonle Sap and Siem Reap are also must-see's on my personalised map. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014


The Diner is an all-occasion restaurant. Equally perfect for Sunday brunch or a gut-busting dinner. A couple of girlfriends and I made our way to the Covent Garden branch last week. I'll be honest, we were spoilt for choice! Even after a good half an hour we were still pulling our hair our trying to choose between the sweet potato pancakes versus the cobb salad. We finally decided on the American classic; a round of burgers, fries and milkshakes. I chose a BBQ chicken burger, served with skinny diner fries, coated in Cajun seasoning. This was all washed down with a think banana and peanut butter milkshake. The other girls both picked the 'Juicy Lucy' of Man V Food fame; a moist burger stuffed with a cheese sauce centre. When the food came out, we were slightly lost for words; the burgers were stacked high and the chips took up an entire basket themselves! The meal between the three of us could easily have been enough to feed six or seven! Despite the sheer size of it, The Diner's food is a perfect slice of America in the UK, my burger was especially delicious! Next time I return I've got my eye on the banana and butterscotch pancakes- and I'd love to try a 'Hard Shake' an alcoholic milkshake which has combos ranging from cherry and amaretto to alcoholic Oreo flavour! I have some minor complaints; the Cajun seasoning was arguably too much and one less sprinkle would have done them a favour. Also, when I order banana and peanut butter I'm expecting big flavours; this milkshake was lacking in that punch-you-in-the-face flavour I was expecting. The Diner can be found all across London and has branches in Camden and Soho as well, so next time you're there, check out the menu- there's enough on it to cater to every taste! 


Tuesday, 5 August 2014


How to pack for a year abroad? You're spending another year at University, however, said University is in a different country, most likely thousands of miles away from home. Not only this, but the climate and culture are completely different. Many of my friends from University are doing years abroad, ranging from Australia to Singapore and Spain. I am, as I have mentioned enthusiastically before, doing my year abroad in Canada. Packing is one of the main things I will be doing for the next couple of weeks, eliminating this t-shirt here and there, packing that one extra pair of socks and panicking about whether it's worth bringing my favourite mug. Now although I can't guarantee that everything I've initially decided on will be needed, I've come up with a couple of easy to follow guidelines for those spending a year abroad.


I realise this sounds like an alcohol awareness campaign but the point I'm making is about baggage size and weight. You need to work out not only what the airline restrictions are but what your personal carrying capacity is. I know I couldn't lug more than 2 suitcases around, especially if I have to change flights/make my way on public transport. An easy way to do this is to pack as lightly as possible or stick to a strict easy to follow list, for example; 2 pairs of jeans, 10 t-shirts, 1 evening bag etc etc. I know it's tempting to think; 'oh but I love that pair of shoes!' or 'that might come in handy for fancy dress' but in most cases it's not worth it and 9/10 of the times you can find something similar or more suitable out there. For me, that will be a new pair of snow boots. 


Tehe. No but really, most countries issue toothpaste. You don't need to go out and buy 5 reserve bottles of your favourite shampoo. Is that really what you're going to regret halfway through the year? Who has ever said 'yeah my year abroad was great, but I couldn't find one bottle of Herbal Essences in Copenhagen so that just ruined the whole experience'. However, in comparison to many countries (especially the USA and Canada) the UK has pretty cheap pharmaceuticals. It's worth taking a couple extra packets of painkillers and any other over the counter medicines you think you might need. 


Ok so we all know that all the cats down in Brisbane might as well pack a few extra bikinis and flip flops (thongs in native tongue). But it's important to be prepared for the climate. Some countries and cities experience much higher humidity’s and therefore you need to pack appropriately in order to keep cool. Alternatively in snowier climates such as Canada and Sweden, you're going to need to take account of thermals, layers and possibly invest in a thick winter coat. Anyone travelling to the UK? Pack a waterproof jacket. 


This is simple. Roll your clothes to make extra space in your bag. You could vacuum pack but I literally have no clue how to do that. 


There are a few electronic devices you might want to consider packing before you fly off as well. Firstly; adaptors. Pretty obvious, you can't use anything without an adaptor and again this can be country-specific. Next; a portable hardrive. Nowadays you can get pretty compact hardrives for not too expensive prices. It's worth taking one of these in order to back up both all your important data and memorable photos (awh). 


During the year leading up to Canada we had a number of lectures about acclimatising to our new homes. We were even given handy little graphs about how our emotions will play out. FYI you will experience initial euphoria followed by a decline into sadness as you become homesick. I did have a little giggle at this. But for those moments when you are missing home and all you want is a proper British biscuit and cup of tea with friends, take something sentimental. Photos, trinkets, cards, gifts...all of these things have sentimental value and it's worth having them around you to remind you of a little bit of home.


Saving the boring stuff till last! But arguably the most important stuff. Remember to pack all your important documents (and photocopies) in a waterproof folder. This means, passport copies, visa letters, bank details, emergency contacts etc all in a folder which can be kept safe. I would actually recommend taking this in your hand luggage more than anything; it's something which needs to be accessible and kept on you whilst travelling. I was once on a bus going through Bosnia and a guy from Vancouver nearly got kicked off because he left his passport in his hold luggage! 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014


Near where I live in Kent, the lavender fields are well and truly out. These delicate purple flowers really are the smell of summer, adorning local gardens and fields...and now in my baking! I've had lavender shortbread a number of times but never made it myself. My grandma's shortbread is somewhat famous among family circles so I've never wanted to challenge her as the shortbread queen. However, I thought that adding a bit of lavender to a shortbread mix could make an aromatic change to the normal buttery biscuits. I was also a bit of a cheat and picked up some Barts dried lavender rather than running to the local lavender farm shop (yup there is one!) But wherever you get your lavender from, this is an easy-to-bake treat you should love! Preheat an oven to around 180 on fan. Firstly grind up a small handful of dried lavender in a pestle and mortar. Add this to 300g of sifted white flour, 80g of caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Then rub together the flour mix with 250g of cubed unsalted butter to form a crumb like mixture. Mix in 1 egg yolk alongside a teaspoon of vanilla extract and softly combine. Roll the dough onto a floured surface and cut into shapes, circles, whatever you feel at about 1cm thickness (the thinner will need less cooking time). Bake for 10-12 mins, making sure they are turning a lovely golden colour; if they start to crisp at the edges and darken-take them out! Cool for a while and transfer to a wire rack, ready to be enjoyed with a cool glass of lemonade!

Friday, 25 July 2014


So pre-Croatia, my family went to Chapter One in Orpington, Kent to celebrate my gorgeous mum's birthday. I'd been to Chapter One about 5 years ago when I was turning sweet 16 and all I can remember is that it was the first time I tried foie gras and felt questionable about it.  Anyway along with a bottle of wine, we treated ourself to the luxurious sounding Tasting Menu, a full 7 courses of decadence. The first course was a simple spring pea veloute; thick and strong with flavour. We were then treated to what may have been my favourite course of the night; treacle cured salmon served with charred spring onions and an aromatic coriander, ginger and sesame dressing. The salmon was sweet and tender and perfectly complemented the bitterness of the spring onions. My mum's favourite course was next; a girolle mushroom and chive risotto. The earthy flavours were served with creamy crème fraiche and parmesan and the whole thing was surprisingly light. I would have to add that so far, none of the dishes had felt overwhelming and my appetite was still strong after 3 courses (albeit they were very small tasters)! Next up is what I would call the main star of the night; the pressed belly of pork. A well cooked square of pork which was served alongside a succulent, juicy braised pork cheek, savoy cabbage, smoked potato and apple puree with a stick of crunchy crackling. We were then treated to a palette cleanser of raspberry sorbet and foam- MY FAVOURITE FRUIT. This was refreshing and prepared us for the pure food-porn dessert. Peanut and chocolate tart with salted caramel and banana sorbet- topped with little pieces of fudge. How could anyone resist? This was an amazing finish to the night and at this point (followed by a selection of chocolate and caramel truffles) I was ready to be carried home. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014


Eating across Croatia feels like eating in at least 3 different countries. The culinary influences range from Austrian and Hungarian to Turkish and Middle Eastern with a spattering of Italian inspired Mediterranean cooking and a smidge of complete originality. Starting in Zagreb, the city truly exhibited international flavours from around the world; my first dish was a splendid Schnitzel after all. Most popular was Italian cooking; with the love of risotto and gnocchi especially in most restaurants. Gnocchi here was fried with leeks and doused in cream or mixed with squid ink to make the silky 'black gnocchi' served with salmon sauce, sampled in the Croatian footballer's owned 'Boban' restaurant. Cevapi is the national dish, a Balkan, eastern European slash Turkish kebab style dish. Described to us by our hostel receptionist as 'meat fingers', the minced lamb sausages were served with onion salad and the popular ajvar salsa and had a very bold, meaty flavour. Moving down the coast we entered Split, which had a number of cute and authentic bistros. At Villa Spiza, we sat on crowded bar stools and watched as our chefs hastily cooked fresh prawn and courgette pasta for hungry locals. Here I tried pale green stuffed peppers with a rich tomato sauce washed down with a glass of local red wine. The food was unpretentious and welcoming; with fresh calamari and octopus salad were also popular choices on the chalkboard menu. Heading to Hvar, seafood became more pertinent on the menu's. 

Dalmatian lobster was served in every way possible at a hefty price to yacht-hopping partygoers; think served alongside a saffron sauce, cooked up in a salad or with a goats cheese gratin. We sat outdoors in a local restaurant, slightly tipsy from strong frozen cocktails at Hula Hula. I had tuna with a pea pesto and a gorgeous potato salad, my flatmate gorged on what she described as 'buttery', 'garlicky' sea bass and our Australian traveller tucked into freshly fried squid. This was all followed by a shot of free grappa! Croatia's Adriatic coastline is well known for it's rocky shores and stunning beaches but the quality of seafood should also shine; mussels and shrimp were on almost every menu, usually served in a simple garlic butter sauce or 'Dalmatian' style. Our last stop was Kings Landing aka Dubrovnik, here the city's dish was the 'black risotto' or the cuttlefish risotto mixed in ink, herbs and white wine. Nearer the Bosnian border, Turkish food became more influential with syrupy servings of Baklava and thick Turkish coffee.  At Dubravka, overlooking the Red Keep...I mean the fortress, we enjoyed more sweet Croatian wine with sea trout and almonds. 360 is the most prestigious restaurant in Dubrovnik with stunning views of the harbour. I was dying to go and sample the famed 'The Garden' dish; a curious mix of raw Adriatic langoustines, Istrian truffles, lemongrass biscuit and Szechuan button flowers aka the 'electric flower'. However, I ran out of cash and instead had an Italian feast at Wanda, run by a friendly local who treated me to free prosecco and complained about Angela Merkel stopping his Istrian cheese from getting into the city.

FUN FACT: Pag cheese recently won an award at the 'world cheese awards'. Pag is an island (one of thousands in Croatia y'know) off the coast. The cheese is made from the sheep who nibble at the sea salt-encrusted herbs and flowers on the island. Apparently this provides a very aromatic flavour according to Igor our Plitvice Lakes tour guide. The cheese is then wrapped in oil and left to age. Very popular this Pag cheese is.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Last Monday, a friend and I sprinted through the rain to get to Grain Store; a vegetable-friendly restaurant located just behind Kings Cross Station in Granary Square. The place is relatively new and is headed by chef Bruno Loubet, who I had the brief pleasure of seeing at a Taste of London talk! The menu is full of unusual combinations and Mediterranean touches; miso aubergine, wasabi soil, mustard apricots to name a few. The atmosphere of the place is really relaxed and seems to attract everyone from local art students to family's and hungry workers; bare brick walls and an open plan table setting gives the place an unpretentious feel. So onto the food. I ordered the vanilla butter hake with steamed seaweed sushi, braised pak choi and black garlic. The hake was delicious; buttery and perfectly cooked, the touch of vanilla really complemented the fish. The pak choi was crunchy and fresh and the seaweed sushi really matched the rest of the dish. I was initially confused when I ordered the dish and the waiter explained that they painted black garlic onto the plate. I assumed it was a miscommunication but when the dish arrived I saw that in fact, yes, black garlicky brushstrokes had been painted onto the base of the plate. My friend ordered the veggie cauliflower cous cous, spelt salad with vegetable merguez, yoghurt and pistachio dressing. Again, when the waiter spoke of a 'sausage' we were confused, however it turns out that a vegetable merguez is a vegetable sausage- something I had never heard of before. The dish was colourful, exciting and unusual, decorated with rose petals and chunks of pistachio. Both dishes were in fact very pretty; it's safe to assume Grain Store takes pride in the appearance of it's dishes.

For dessert we both ordered the experimental coconut and kaffir lime flavoured green tapioca with sweet potatoes and banana wafers. Sadly I was a bit disappointed with this and I'm not sure that sweet potatoes are a well balanced accompaniment to green tapioca. The banana wafer was also a bit disappointing; I wish it had a bit more flavour! Overall Grain Store was a very different restaurant experience and unfortunately not all of the elements worked. If I were to go again I would probably pass on the dessert and order the yummy sounding spiced lentil cake for a starter instead. OH. We cheekily ordered a side pot of banana ketchup. Easily the best thing on the menu; spicy, mustardy, much better than normal ketchup I can tell you. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014


So I told you how I was going to Taste of London right? Well, that happened last week and it is safe to say it was amazing. A personal heaven of wine and food and pimms and more food. Taste of London returned to Regent's Park this year for its annual celebration of all things yummy. It was a perfect day for Taste; sunny skies and not a cloud in sight. Makeshift foam caps were even being handed out! So the currency of Taste are 'crowns' which equal a pound and (slightly annoyingly) can only be bought in packs of 5. 

I rocked up with my mum, our crown stock already burning a hole in my pocket and headed straight to Flesh and Buns for a portion of their roast pork belly with mustard miso and green apple in a steamed bun. It was amazing, a perfect delicate balance of the miso and pork and the bun was light as a feather. 

We wandered round for what seemed like ages, trying to get a 'flavour' of what's about, Taste of Thai exhibited some of the best Thai Restaurants in London at the moment, from Blue Elephant to Thai Tho. There was also a great 'Fruits of Thailand' section with carved watermelons and exotic fruits to experience. 

Lining the walkways of Taste were marquees of various companies and producers; I swear I got more free food and alcohol from the sample tents than I did from actual restaurants. We tried Cumbrian beer, sugared Indian flatbreads, Prosecco, Kimchi, Rose wine, lots of strawberry cheesecake truffles and a tonne of olives Bodega Olives, which we ended up buying 4 packs of!

Anyway, on to what I spent my crowns on. The best two dishes I sampled were from Salt Yard and Andre Garett at Cliveden House. I spent 5 crowns at the former on the famous deep fried goats cheese stuffed courgette flower drizzled with honey and at the latter we gorged on the prize winning peanut butter parfait with salted caramel and raspberry compote.

This stuffed me for the rest of the day and was possibly one of the best desserts I have ever eaten! Le Gavroche was surrounded by pappers trying to get a picture of Mr Roux himself- as was Maze and Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa, both popular choices for Tasters. Le Gavroche offered a luxurious sounding Lobster and Truffle Salad, Maze; the popular Bang Bang Chicken Hand Roll and Barbecoa- amazing sounding white chocolate Panna Cotta with Champagne strawberries and basil. Not only is there plenty of food to gorge on; there were sushi classes, a cooking tent and demonstrations from chefs such as Colin McGurran. I would happily come again to get involved with the classes! We finished the day off with a number of drinks; the best of which was a huge Pina Colada from the Mahiki tent served in a hollowed out pineapple. Nothing says summer better than a hollowed out pineapple after all. 

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Coconut loaf yeees

In all fairness this isn't really bread. It's a loaf cake. But I just used the word bread m'kay? A relatively simple recipe adapted from the wonderful Sift 315g of flour with 2 tsp of cinnamon powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 2 tsp of baking powder, then mix with 140g of shaved coconut and 200g of golden granulated sugar. Whisk 2 large eggs, 300ml of milk and a tsp of vanilla extract in a separate bowl. Then- making a well in the middle of the flour mix, poor the egg mix in and combine until well mixed. Then add 85g of melted butter into the mix until smooth and loosened. Line and flour a loaf tin then bake at 180 degrees Celsius for around hour and a half. Keep checking because all ovens are different of course! The best way to check is to insert a skewer into the loaf, if it comes out clean- it's cooked! Leave to cool in the tin. When ready to eat, slice and smother with jam, butter or thick manuka honey (it needs that extra moisture as coconut can be a tad drying). 

Monday, 16 June 2014



Admittedly I chose Taste of London because I am going there this year and I am so excited! The event takes place in London Regent's Park over 4 days starting THIS Wednesday; let's hope the weather picks up. Taste of London offers food from some of the best global chefs; Noma's Redpezi, the Rouxs, Raymond Blanc to mention a few over the years. Pop up stands and mini restaurants will be giving out tapas sized portions of some of the most exciting food in London today. As well as this there are sushi making classes, champagne tastings and interactive cooking masterclasses. A self proclaimed 'foodie wonderland'.


Heading North we find ourself at the picturesque Loch Lomond in Scotland. The famous festival lasts only two days from the 6th to the 7th of September but there is plenty to cram in during this time. Both fantastic local Scottish and International produce are showcased at this event; expect haggis pizza, fresh salmon and hog roasts. Not only this but there are street food sellers, live music and a deserved trip around the Brewery to sample some golden liquid. The chilli chocolate sausages are tipped as worth a try? Or stick to the shortbread.


Maine Lobster festival is hailed as one of the most popular fishy festivals in the world. The Maine Lobster is the celebrity guest of the seafood world and this event is a must for anyone who loves the pricey crustacean.  Running for over 60 years now in Rockland, Maine; the festival boasts 'creative' lobster prepping, lobster crate races and carnival rides. If that doesn't excite you (why wouldn't it), a giant steamer boils lobsters for visitors on the spot, served fresh and tasty. This year the festival is running from July 30th to August 3rd, so er book your flights now kids!

Thursday, 12 June 2014


I've been to Salvo's before, but last time I was too excited by the food to take any pictures, in fact I barely achieved it this time. Salvo's, located in Headingly, is a favourite of Leeds locals serving fresh, simple Italian food for decades now. I chose this place for my birthday dinner (I turned 21 this week yo) and although it's a bit pricey for an average student dinner, I justified it as birthday occasion-worthy! Salvo's has a great selection of pasta, meat and fish and an excellent wine selection. The menu exhibits some of the best Italian ingredients cooked to perfection. My favourites are the Pasta Al Forno; a meatball and salami baked pasta dish smothered in a mozzarella gratin and the Pasta Alla Pecorara; a pork ragu dish with roasted peppers and smoked ricotta. Other recommendations; the giant belly-filling Calzone's or the Pollo Braciole; chicken thighs stuffed with sausage and sage, wrapped in pancetta (my mum is still raving about attempting to re-create this one). The specials often have a range of mouth-watering pricier options, which change weekly depending on what's in season, this has ranged from venison to seafood pasta or roman piglet. What I love most about Salvo's is how relaxed it is, the friendly atmosphere and fact it's full even on a Monday evening without feeling cramped. The decor is nice, straying away from pomp and fancy with pictures of Salvo and family which decorate the walls, highlighting Italian values of community and family strengthened by a love of food. Makes me feel a bit Italian. Salvo does also have a cafe and a deli around the corner, demonstrating how popular the restaurant has become in the neighbourhood. Outstanding cuisine, excellent service and a meets-all-needs atmosphere makes Salvo's a long-standing Leeds favourite.

Friday, 6 June 2014


 Walking into The Botanist last night was like walking into the most well organised garden shed ever. Decorated with trowels, watering cans and posters of various seeds and beans; The Botanist milks its gardening-based brand. The jug of water we got on the table was stereotypically granny-kitsch in their pink floral designs, the plates were a mismatch of tea-set patterns and colours and there was certainly no lack of cladding. The food ethic was good British pub food; well-cooked, big portions and classic tastes. For starters we ordered; tomato and basil soup served in a mug, Cumberland pork chipolatas, Welsh rarebit fondue and a home-made scotch egg with piccalilli. The egg was perfectly cooked and soft in the middle and the piccalilli just sharp enough to offset the Scotch egg. The fondue was praised around the table, served with mounds of crusty, thick bread. For mains it was a case of; steak and ale pie and three portions of flattened rump steak (I ordered a side of peppercorn sauce with mine). Although flattened, the rump was still pink and flavoursome and the peppercorn sauce creamy and spicy. The steak and ale pie came with more gravy than anyone would ever need- we are in Yorkshire after all. The portions were huge; although the idea of a banana and coconut kebab for pud was tempting, I was stuffed after just two portions, you certainly get enough for your money! Lastly, although pricey the cocktails are worth seeking out even if you don't have dinner there. A range of fruity and herb-infused flavours, standouts to try for me are the raspberry amaretto sour, watermelon martini and the cherry and sage sling. I'd love to try The Botanist again, although I reckon I'll have to wait for fourth year now! 


Monday, 2 June 2014


Land of Fire and Ice? You might mistake it as a place from Game of Thrones but I'm talking about Iceland. Iceland has everything I personally love; whale watching, midnight sun and a foraged food culture. Not only this but the capital city of Reykjavik offers circus festivals, Viking history and classic European nightlife. As the world's most northern capital city, Reykjavik is 'high' on my list of places to go. No but really, there's plenty to do both in and around the city. Dill Restaurant is a pioneer in the foraged foods movement offering unusual Icelandic concoctions. A room at the Reykjavik Marina- a converted factory, offers stunning views of the dock. The hotel displays industrial chintz at it's best; fishing net washing bags and pine covers galore. Directly outside of the city, short excursions can take you Humpback-whale watching or Puffin sighting. April-October is the best season for the bigger animals of course. Geothermal pools and spas are famous in Iceland; the Blue Lagoon is set in an atmospheric black lava field, warming waters at a toasty 38 degrees C. Locals apply the volcanic silica mud directly to their skin which is said to have excellent cleansing and exfoliating results. Alternatively you could talk a walking trip to the isolated island of Videy or go diving in Icelandic waters for some of the best visibility going and ship wrecks abound. Granted it might be a bit chilly but that's what the Geothermal pools are for after. 

Friday, 23 May 2014


So this post comes in the midst of the two most stressful weeks of my life; exams, research proposals, visa applications...I could go on. Back in December I didn't realise how much paperwork would be involved in my move to Canada. Anyhow, I at least found the time to bake, important stuff I know. I had a little jar of black olive tapenade in my fridge which I'd nicked from home and I was wondering what to do with it. BBC GoodFood of course gave me the incentive to make a cheats version of their Olive Rolls using my tapenade. This recipe is basically an olivey swiss roll. Firstly mix 500g of white bread flour, with a tsp of salt, 1 tbsp, a packet of fast action yeast and 300ml of warm water. Mix and knead with your hands until ready (10 mins or so). Put the dough in a clean bowl with oiled Clingfilm covering and leave to rise. Go and revise for an hour. OR whatever you normal people do. When doubled in size, roll out onto a well floured surface. Spread your olive paste (bought or homemade) all over the dough and then roll this up into a swiss roll-shaped thingy. Cut the dough into even slices (around 10-12) and place these on a lined baking sheet. Generously brush over with oil and, covering, leave to rise again for another 20mins. When ready, remove the Clingfilm and put in a pre-heated oven at 220/200C fan. Cook for 25 mins- they may squish into each other a little bit, don't worry about this. Take out, leave to cool and enjoy later on whist cramming for stats. 

Sunday, 11 May 2014


I will put this out there and say this may be the spiciest curry I ever had. So this week a friend of mine turned 21, bearing in mind that the birthday girl is vegan and we are just entering our pre-exam period, our choices for a relaxed, vegan-friendly meal were limited. Hansas, however, is a widely celebrated traditional Gujarati Indian restaurant, serving *no meat*. If you're looking for your average sweet and salty Saturday night chicken Korma...go somewhere else. Hansas food is traditional Gujarati cuisine, offering thali's with daal, chapati and sweet mango lassi's. Between us we ordered a huge range of dishes; the mixed platter came with a spicy stuffed pepper, vegetable koftas and a mini potato cake. For mains, I ordered a 'lightly spiced' Indian pumpkin dish. The pumpkin was something I'd never had before, light green in colour and tasting more like a pepper than pumpkin. 'Lightly spiced' was also an understatement. Everyone round the table was chugging water and wiping eye bag sweat whilst trying to remain cool and collected. In usual circumstances I am a fan of spice and as good as it tasted for the first couple of mouthfuls, the heat was a tad too much for me- next time I'll order a side of raita. The desserts were possibly the most interesting course. We shared a 'fudge pie', which from a Westernised point of view, was neither fudge nor pie. The 'Ghari' was a sweet pastry ball, filled with bright green pistachio and almond from what I can tell... The birthday girl ordered a sweet carrot dish, flavoured with almonds and sugar. Yes. It tasted like sweet carrots. Overall my dining experience at Hansas was unusual but a flavour experience. I arrived not really knowing what to expect and received just that. I would recommend this anyone who wants to try traditional Gujarati cuisine (but only if they like spice). I will hopefully return, next time armed with a pint of milk. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014



Borough Market is one of my favourite markets to visit when I'm back home, now resting in the shadow of the shard, it's the perfect place to pick up an al-fresco lunch or just a quick coffee. My favourite place to stop here is Spice Mountain; they've got a great selection of ready-mixed spices and I always pick up a couple of their jumbo cinnamon sticks to spice up a homemade chai. Not only this but there's always a great selection of in-season British produce. I had a nosey around last week and saw some perfect spring ingredients ranging from rhubarb to asparagus, rabbit, lamb, spring greens and lobster. 


I actually didn't know about Boqueria's reputation until we stumbled across it one hungry Monday lunchtime. It was one of the busiest markets I'd ever visited, but avoided the feeling of being overcrowded at all. One of the things I remember about the market was how colourful it was; greens and yellows from fresh vegetables, dark reds from huge bouquets of dried chillies and bright pinks and oranges from freshly squeezed fruit juices all piled up on top of ice. The best thing was of course the Iberico ham, which you could buy shaved from the bone or sliced up and skewered on a stick with bits of bread and pepper. A perfect place to pick up some traditional Spanish produce!



This one I haven't been to, but I've been craving a trip to South East Asia and these photos of floating markets just made me crave it more! Floating Markets are traditional across Asia and are well known in Vietnam, Bangkok and Indonesia, originating from a time when water-transport was the easiest way to get around. Fresh fruit and vegetables are sold and bought from boats which cram into waterways making the water hardly visible. Nowadays, they are obviously major tourist attractions but I'd be happy to buy a mango and tuck into it for a mid-day snack.