29 June 2020

How I Stay Sane in Lockdown | Part 2

lifestyle blogger, favourites, round-up, waterlow park
Waterlow Park
If you read my first 'How I Stay Sane in Lockdown' post, you'll know that I have had a lot of spare time on my hands that I needed to fill. Since then I have even more books, podcasts, an online course and various other things to update you on.

Over the past weeks, we have also witnessed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement on social media and on our streets. I have used my time this month to educate myself further on systematic racism and how to be an anti-racist. Within the below round-up, I have highlighted in yellow resources which bring awareness and education to these topics. I am donating 100% of earnings from affiliate links in this post to the Runnymede Trust, UK's leading independent race equality think tank.

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LEARNING
In the last month I completed MSE's Academy of Money online course with the Open University, which is a free course on personal finances, from spending and saving to mortgages and pensions. It is made up of 6 sessions, so you can choose to study the whole course, or just focus on one session (e.g. budgeting). When I was at school, we didn't learn about any of this so whilst in lockdown it's a great time to educate myself on managing personal finances. I'll come back to the course later on in life as well, to refresh my understanding of mortgages or pensions for example. Knowledge is power, and being able to confidently manage your finances is a great asset, so I'd highly recommend trying out this course.

LISTENING
On the subject of MSE (Money Saving Expert), I really enjoyed listening to Martin Lewis' episode of Desert Island Discs. Other podcasts that I have been listening to lately are:

I Weigh with Jameela Jamil - I first became aware of Jameela Jamil on Instagram, where she is outspoken about body image and feminism among other pertinent topics. On her new podcast, I Weigh, she interviews inspiring people from various walks of life. I really enjoyed the Reese Witherspoon and Roxanne Gay episodes and I'm looking forward to listening to the episode with ALOK next.

Work in Progress with Sophia Bush - Actor and activist Sophia Bush would be one of my dream dinner party guests. Not only is she dedicated to activism (spreading this to her followers via her social media accounts - follow her on IG now), she is thoughtful, inquisitive and kind which comes across on her podcast. Sophia's guests are varied and interesting and she always has gripping discussions with them on important issues. With Covid-19 she has produced an episode with an infectious disease specialist and with the recent rise of the BLM movement, she has had discussions with several black female writers, film-makers and organisers - I would particularly recommend the episode with Dr. Melina Abdullah. The discussion on defunding the police and reinvesting funds to other services using real life examples is eye-opening and logical.

Grounded with Louis Theroux - I mentioned this podcast in my last round-up, but I wanted to give a quick mention to his episode with Rose McGowan which hadn't been released when I published that post. A gripping episode where she discusses her childhood in a cult, her work in Hollywood and taking on Harvey Weinstein.

READING
My pace has picked up on the reading front and I am astonished to say that I have read 3 books since my last post. I honestly can't remember the last time that I've read that many books in succession but I'm really enjoying reading in the garden or before bed. First up, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo* (joint winner of the 2019 Booker Prize) follows characters of different ages, generations and backgrounds who represent the different facets of black womanhood in modern-day Britain. Next up, Small, Great Things by Jodi Picoult* also tackles the issue of race, this time in America. I don't want to say too much to avoid giving away the plot but the novel explores white supremacy and the subtleties of racism in various areas of work, the court and daily life. A thought-provoking read. I also read Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge* which in my opinion is a necessary read for everyone in Britain. The book gives a comprehensive overview of racism in the UK and how British history has produced the inequalities and systematic racism we see today. It is an engaging and informative read and I urge you to prioritise reading this. While you're here... please sign the following petition to include this book on the GCSE reading list, to ensure it is studied in schools. Click here

COOKING
To be honest my enthusiasm for cooking earlier on in lockdown has waned slightly. I haven't been trying out as many new recipes but the ones I have are definitely ones to share! I've listed the ones you need to try below:

Persian Barbari Bread - I found this recipe via @sw3kitchen, who has made this recipe multiple times according to her feed. The IGTV for the recipe is linked here which gives the overall gist of the recipe but visit the webpage when you attempt this as the video doesn't include all of the steps! The first time I made it, it turned out really well - it was easy to make, looks beautiful and is delicious. Also it uses plain flour instead of strong bread flour, which is a bonus as most people have it in their cupboards.  

Masala Omelette - This Nigella recipe is the perfect light lunch - it's tasty, spicy and protein-filled. I normally eat this with chopped salad and flatbread. Also I am obsessed with fresh coriander at the moment so I love an excuse to scatter it over a dish!

Honey & Sesame Halloumi - Okay so this might be a bit of a cheat. It's not technically a recipe but it's game-changing. If you like sweet-and-salty combinations then you need to try this. Fry the halloumi as you normally would in a pan. Once it is crispy and golden, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sesame seeds then fry for about a minute longer. Georgina Hayden has saved a Halloumi story to her IG highlights which shows how to fry with honey so check that out too.

WALKING
Lately I've been obsessed with tracking my steps on the iPhone Health app and I'm trying to hit 10,000 steps a day. Luckily in my patch of London, I live near lovely green spaces. I've listed a few of my favourites below:

Parliament Hill - It takes me around half an hour to walk to this landmark hill, which is part of Hampstead Heath. It has stunning views of the central London skyline, ponds and plenty of lush green space.

Highgate Cemetery - Near to the lovely Waterlow Park, Highgate Cemetery is one of London's smaller but incredibly beautiful Victorian cemeteries. It is well-known for housing Karl Marx's grave. You can now book online timed-entry tickets on weekends, which are spaced apart for social-distancing measures. When I visited it was quiet and peaceful and came across very few other visitors.

Clissold Park - I walked to this park via the New River Path, which was really interesting as I'd never done this before and it takes you through different parts of North London (starting way back in Hertfordshire) following along the river. This is a great park for a picnic with plenty of green space to pick your spot (read my latest post on How To Have The Perfect Picnic). I would recommend stopping by the Clissold Park Tavern for a post-walk takeaway pint.

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So that's what I've been doing with my free time for the last month or so. From the 4th of July in the UK, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open and people from 2 households can meet inside, so we shall see how that affects London. This may be my last lockdown post! Anyway I'll keep you updated on what I'm getting up to in future round-up posts - what should I call them? Monthly Favourites seems a bit retro. Hmm... watch this space...

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by an asterisk (*). As mentioned at the top of this post, all earnings from this blog post will be donated to For more information, please refer to the disclaimer on my About page. 

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24 June 2020

How To Have The Perfect Picnic

picnic, food blogger, lifestyle, flatlay, sol, london
With the weather getting hotter in the UK this week, a picnic is the perfect way to spend time outdoors. Whether you are eating al fresco with your household or having a socially-distanced lunch, here is my guide to creating the perfect picnic...

Set the scene
Pick a nice spot. For a lunchtime picnic, I like half shade half sun location, so you and your fellow picnickers can choose where they want to sit. In the evenings, it is nice to find the last sunlight spot of grass to sit in. Picnic blankets or something to sit on is necessary. I like my waterproof picnic blanket (featured in the picture above) as it is thick and comfortable so works on various surfaces. If you are having a picnic in your garden, I'd add cushions for extra comfort.

Music is a nice addition to the picnic, so take a portable speaker with you. However, if you are in a park or public space, look around to make sure that your music isn't disturbing others.

Food
When it comes to the food, variety is key. My essentials at any picnic are:
- My quinoa salad (recipe here) which is fresh, light but still satisfying
- Chopped pineapple (chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before packing up)
- M&S Salt & Black Pepper Combo Mix a.k.a. the best crisps in the world. Waitrose & Partners do a similar mix but they are not as good as the M&S ones. Try them and thank me later.
- Yakisoba is my speciality, a Japanese stir-fry noodle dish. Tasty even when it's cold and I pack it with lots of cabbage and cauliflower.

Other nice picnic food options: cold homemade pizza, my three bean salad, crudité with dips, halloumi, houmous and salad wraps

Most importantly, don't forget cutlery! Nothing is more annoying than getting to the park and realising that you have forgotten forks for the salad. I wrap silverware in a tea-towel and slot it into a tote bag alongside the tupperware.

Drinks
An essential at any picnic is water. I take my Chilly's bottle* with me to stay hydrated, which is great as it keeps liquids cold for 24 hours - even when sitting in the sun. If I'm lucky, my boyfriend brings freshly-squeezed orange juice from home which is an excellent picnic addition.

In terms of alcoholic beverages, my favourite picnic option is bottled lager - Sol and Asahi are perfect in the summer (just remember to bring a bottle opener). Prosecco is a good option for a celebration as you don't need a corkscrew. If you're in the mood for draught beer, check out this handy map, which shows the location of pubs serving takeaway pints across the UK. Some also serve Aperol Spritz and Pimms, which are great summer drinks. It goes without saying to drink responsibly and take all rubbish home or back to the pub to recycle.

Let me know what your picnic essentials are in the comments below and stay safe in the sun! Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer. See my SPF Guide here.

This post contains affiliate links, denoted by an asterisk (*). For more information, please refer to the disclaimer on my About page.

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21 June 2020

Self Care During Difficult Times

Looking after yourself.
lifestyle, blogger, looking after yourself, flowers, field, wildflower
Now more than ever it is important to look after ourselves. We have all been affected in some way by the pandemic, the world feels unfamiliar and the news is overwhelming. Be gentle with yourself, allow yourself to move carefully and slowly where needed, and take breaks. Below, I've rounded up some of the ways I look after myself during times of difficulty. These tips aren't the usual picture of self-care - no candles, no baths, no face masks (although indulge in these as much as needed!) I chose these are they are simple, free and work for me.

Delete social media
Take a break from Instagram. 

For me, scrolling through social media can be mindless and time-consuming at it's best. At it's worst, social media is overwhelming, addictive and exacerbates my negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity. So when I don't feel my best, I delete social media apps and re-install when I'm feeling more positive. Taking a break clears some of my cluttered head space and makes me realise how much I instinctively go to the space on my phone where the app was previously installed.

I realise that sometimes it's not possible to delete social media from your phone as you use it for work or for other reasons. I'd advise to reduce and make better use of your time on social media by:
1. Setting time limits on your phone e.g. half an hour a day. On iPhone, this function is under Settings - Screen Time - App Limits
2. Unfollowing accounts that are having a negative effect on you. Don't hesitate.
3. Where you can't unfollow specific accounts (maybe it's a friend's/family member's account), go to their profile to "Hide" their story and posts.

Get outdoors
Fresh air and daylight

Getting daylight each day is important for vitamin D intake, it is mood-boosting and it contributes to good sleep. Fresh air is great for sleep as well and I find that going for a short walk can help clear the mind when I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I try to take a walk or sit outside for at least 20 minutes every day.

Move
Be gentle with yourself and your body

I hated P.E. in school and the thought of participating any type of competitive or team sport still terrifies me. Teenage me would never believe that I willingly exercise on a regular basis. But now I realise that exercise and sport are two different things. I exercise on my terms, with no competition or teammates, at my own pace and in my own way. When I am feeling my best, I exercise regularly and feel better for it BUT when I'm having an off-day (these crop up a lot at the moment) I don't feel like ab crunches and cardio. So I don't do it.

Instead, I aim to include more gentle movement - such as yoga or going on a walk. Yoga with Adriene has been a resource I use daily in lockdown - I'd highly recommend her morning yoga videos or her 30 Days of Yoga. Taking time out of the day to breathe, move and stretch the body makes me feel calmer and more at peace.

Rituals
Prioritise your routine

Having set routines in your day - whether it is your morning or skincare or tea-making routine - is important to keep up and prioritise. Your rituals are personal, calming and during a time of uncertainty they can provide a sense of normalcy and care. They don't need to be long and complicated, but making time for them without distraction is key. Most important for me is my skincare routine before bed, as it is calming and sets the tone before I go to sleep.

I think part of the reason that the above tips work for me, is that they all contribute to reducing screen time. In the current climate, we are on screens more than ever before with our Zoom meetings, Netflix and working from home, so I try to avoid screens where I can. Activities like cooking, having a bath, reading a book or magazine, and organising my space are the various ways I stay off screens. Reducing screen-time will improve sleep, give your eyes and skin a break from blue light, and is proven to increase productivity.

Let me know your tips for reducing screen time and what you prioritise when looking after yourself in the comments below.
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15 June 2020

Intermittent Fasting - My Thoughts & Findings

Time Restricted Eating, TRE, blogger, lifestyle, food, flatlay
Intermittent fasting (or time-restricted eating) is always something I have been curious about as it seems like a simple way to change eating habits without restricting the foods you are allowed to eat. Intermittent fasting is essentially an eating pattern where you eat or fast within defined windows of time. It appealed to me as it has many benefits such as inducing cell repair processes (autophagy) and reducing insulin resistance, as well as it being a powerful weight loss tool. However, it is important to stress that intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone, so please do your research and consult your GP if necessary before trying this.

Before lockdown, it seemed too difficult to fit IF into my lifestyle, as I would need to eat before I left the house for work at 7.30AM and would have my last meal after I got back from the office, which wouldn't be until 6.30PM earliest. So whilst in lockdown, I decided to try the most popular type of IF - the 16:8 method - where you fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8 hour period. I started this mid-May so I've been intermittent fasting fairly consistently for around a month now.

I have been using the Zero app which tracks your fasts, sends a reminder when you can break your fast, and allows you to log your mood and progress. In general, I aim to finish eating by 7PM which means I break my fast at 11AM the next day. Sometimes I go over the 7PM deadline, but this just means I eat later the next day. During my fasting period, I drink water and black coffee (no sugar) only.

In terms of exercise, I walk in the evenings which is the beginning of the fasting period and I do yoga in the morning when I wake up. I tend to listen to my body so if after yoga I feel like doing more of a workout, I'll do some pilates or cardio. I'm a big believer in listening to my body and recognising it's needs so my portion sizes, exercise and snacking behaviours all revolve around this.

How do I feel now?
I do feel slimmer especially around the stomach area but I have also not been drinking alcohol and exercising more during lockdown which may have contributed to this. I don't weigh myself as a rule so I haven't been monitoring weight loss/gain during this period. Not eating into the evening or first thing when I wake up makes me feel better both physically and mentally as well, because I'm not eating unnecessarily. The 16:8 method has been fairly easy for me to fit into my current lifestyle, so I will continue with this during lockdown, but when I go back to commuting I'm not sure if I will be able to keep it up. Nevertheless, I think it has been a useful tool that I hope I'll come back to in years to come.

My tips for fasting:
- Aim to maintain the same time window for your each of your fasts (e.g. 7PM-11AM) so you can adjust your daily routine to fit this.
- Ensure you stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- During your eating periods, choose healthy, energy-sustaining and nutritious food and stay away from high-sugar foods. My Superfood Oats and Go-To Salad recipes have been great choices that worked well for me.

Let me know if you have tried intermittent fasting and what your experience was in the comments below. Also if you have any tips when fasting then please share as I'd love to know!

References/Resources:
- Intermittent Fasting 101 - The Ultimate Guide for Beginners https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide
- Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting
- Intermittent Fasting: Everything you need to know https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/intermittent-fasting-health-benefits-explained-by-nutritionists-a3968246.html
- Zero https://apps.apple.com/us/app/zero-fasting-tracker/id1168348542

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11 June 2020

My Favourite London Restaurants That Now Deliver

dotori agedashi tofu food blogger
Agedashi Tofu, Dotori

Eating out used to be my favourite pastime. I love the whole experience of a sit-down meal at a restaurant. The chit-chat as you browse through the menu, deciding whether to share dishes, whether to go for a starter, what to drink... Then onto the food itself, arriving steaming from the kitchen, moving glasses, pepper grinders and phones out of the way as more plates crowd the table. Savouring that first bite of the appetiser - whether it be a steaming oozing piece of burrata, a perfect morsel of kimchi jeon, or one of Dishoom's addictive okra fries.
For now, eating out is a thing of the past (and distant future) but luckily for my fellow Londoners, some of my favourite places to eat are now delivering! Whether you have a birthday or anniversary coming up, or just fancy a treat on the weekend, I've rounded up a few of the best... 

Dishoom
Dishoom, Breakfast, Indian, Food Blogger,
Pictured above is the from Dishoom's breakfast menu (their chilli cheese toast is to die for) but what I live for is their dinner menu. Inspired by the old Irani cafes of Bombay, Dishoom has taken London by storm with 5 locations across the capital (my personal favourite is the Shoreditch branch), queues of eager diners every night and a cookbook to boot. At their original Covent Garden location, you can expect to wait for up to 2 hours for a table at dinner time but now via delivery you can wait in the comfort of your own home. Their takeaway menu is smaller as they have selected dishes that can "abide a little travel". For my fellow veggies I'd recommend the House Black Daal, Jackfruit Biryani and Pau Bhaji. Dishoom even have their own playlist on Spotify "for extra Dishoom ambience". 


Homeslice
homeslice, pizza, dining, food blogger
Quite possibly my favourite pizza in London. Homeslice are famous for their giant 20 inch pizzas that dominate the tables (and conversations) of their restaurants. A great option for a weeknight date after work - it can't really get any better than sharing a pizza and an Aperol Spritz right? My favourite topping is Mushroom, Ricotta, Pumpkin Seed & Chilli - utterly delicious and unlike any other pizza. Homeslice also are offering a "Take and Bake" option, where they prepare pizza bases and garnishes which can be stored in the fridge/freezer to be popped in the oven at any time and finished with Homeslice toppings.

Homeslice "Take and Bake": http://www.homeslicepizza.co.uk/take-bake

Kanada-Ya
ramen, kanada-ya, food blogger, noodles, vegetarian, veggie
Friends and colleagues always ask me what Japanese restaurants I recommend, and I always point them to Kanada-Ya for ramen. As a vegetarian, it is hard to find ramen with a decent broth as it is traditionally meat-based but the Vegetarian Ramen at Kanada-Ya is hands-down the best veggie broth I have ever tried. It is rich and flavoursome and the noodles are always cooked to perfection. Make sure to include the Truffle Edamame and a bottle of Kirin Ichiban or cold Oolong tea for a winning meal. 


Dotori
dotori, finsbury park, korean, food blogger, dining
One for my fellow North Londoners here. Dotori serves up Korean and Japanese food in their bustling restaurant in Finsbury Park. I normally go for the Korean menu, as I eat Japanese at home, and their Korean food is so so tasty. I always leave with a full stomach as I can't help trying everything. I'd urge you to try the Oi Kimchi, Kimchi Jeon and Agedashi Tofu. Their Bibimbap and Korean stew pots are also excellent, but I'm not sure how well these travel. If I'm still in lockdown for my birthday, I think I'll have to choose Dotori.


I'm finishing off this post feeling ravenous... I cannot WAIT for my next excuse to get a takeaway. Let me know in the comments if you've tried out any of the above and any lockdown takeaway recommendations - I love discovering new places.
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