Swoon Round Up

July 19, 2013

It has been an insanely busy week, I had one night at home and that was on Monday…

Tonight me and my Mr are shopping for the last couple of big baby purchases and going for an alfresco dinner, then tomorrow I am very excited about a big BBQ at a friend’s house in the country and Sunday I am off for a few days of relaxation at Ragdale Hall for lots of pool time and a mama massage…

A quick round-up of some things I have seen recently that have to be shared!

In this weather I am dying of jealously over these amazing swimming pools

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I am LUSTing over this ring… like seriously.

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I still can’t stop watching this Rihanna video, I do love her, you may not… but this video is raw and beautiful.

I love this little marriage tip… it’s a good one, we don’t tend to argue very often but whenever we do I make sure to say this afterwards… in an argument that might be about something trivial this would definitely work.

These shoes by Sophie Webster are super cute, probably wouldn’t work for me right now but what a perfect Summer wedding shoe!

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An amazing movie with elderly couples talking about their wedding song… this totally make me tear up.

Let the Good Stuff stick – great advice from Oh Joy about remembering the good things that happen, not the bad.

 A real-life love at first sight story. Amazing.

THIS cake… my god Smitten Kitchen rules.

Successful people get up early… something I always have trouble with. This made me think I should change my morning lie in for a least having a coffee with the news instead, and possible even a workout!

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Paris

July 18, 2013

A few weeks ago I took a trip to Paris with my Mama, shamefully I am only just getting around to writing it up !

The trip was planned last year to come at the start of my Mum’s retirement, a great celebration, then I found out I was going to be about 6 months pregnant at the time so we tried to take it easy… and I got to drink far less Champagne that I had planned (i.e. none) but it was still a lovely few days in a beautiful city.

This was my fourth trip to the city, although I hadn’t been since I was 16, so we mostly stayed away from all the usual tourist sites and mostly mooched about dreamy Parisian neighbourhoods, ate delicious food and shopped till we dropped.

We stayed in an apartment, knowing that by the evening we would probably just be resting the thought of a depressing twin room was just not going to excite us, and with the fabulous Air BnB we didn’t have to. The bonus being that our beautiful apartment cost us les per night than a generic chain hotel.

We stayed in Arnaud’s huge beautiful apartment on the 4th floor in La Marais… it was in an old building (with a lift) so had a large sitting and dining room with amazing windows and balconies…

We picked it because of the space and the lift, not many apartments had this much room at this price, or a lift and when you are on the 4th floor and have been wandering the streets of Paris all day you will be grateful!

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This was our view…

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We arrived at about 6pm and when to a nearby restaurant our host had recommended for dinner in the evening sunshine… we ate a ton of cheese and sipped on some of my favourite Chablis…

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We were about a 20 minutes walk from the Seine so on our way to catch a boat we walked past Note Dame, which was heaving with tourists and as I had seen all the sites a few times before made us think twice about visiting anymore this time…

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Then we visited a brilliant mall which has all the wonderful French shops you might want to visit, so I went wild in Sephora stocking up on the Lanvin – Lancome collab, and lots of little presents for friends, perfume and more presents for me and baby at Fragonard and some delicious caramels and biscuits at the cutest sweet shop.

Then we stopped for lunch, I had the biggest portion of mussels… and the favourite drink of my childhood French holidays Orangina!

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One things I really wanted to do given that we had a kitchen was shop for food like a Parisian, Oh Happy Day had recommended this street for food shopping so we took a few trips here to buy cheese, meat, veggies, bread and beautiful pastries too, to take home and enjoy there…

The street is – rue Rambuteau and it’s amazing.

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There were also wonderful cafes (like one called ChouChou – 63 rue Rambuteau) where we breakfasted on juice, hot chocolate and croissants for 4 euros…

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My favourite thing about this trip was just sitting in cafes with coffee and people watching, they are made for it, with their awnings and all the chairs always all face the street…

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and boat trips along the Seine… I love how old Paris is, and how spacious it feels…

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We did hit the Champs Elysees for a quick visit, but soon realised our mistake when we couldn’t find anything decent to eat… unless you go high-end or have a rubbish sandwich on the street and are prepared to pay way more than you should be don’t eat here…. we headed back to a less touristy stomping ground in the end.

The shopping isn’t anything you can’t get anywhere else either…

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I did have fun looking at the beautiful Louis Vuitton windows displays though, always amazing, and visiting Laudree for a sweet treat!

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Always look up in Paris, and dream of living in a beautiful apartment above a cafe…

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I stuck to the classics, this cheese omelette in a cafe just off of the rue du Bac was amazing, with the simplest salad ever. This street is another great shopping area – just lots of little boutiques. I found the cutest shop called Petit Pan (another recommendation from Oh Happy Day) and got the sweetest quilt for the baby.

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Followed by the biggest, richest mousse I have ever had, definitely a stand out meal from the trip.

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Flower shops and stands are everywhere and in peony season I was dying!

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We also shopped for chocolates at a teeny tiny chocolate shop, Chapon was an experience, with the old chocolate moulds all over the wall, and a very sweet Frenchmen serving us we picked each chocolate out and he filled the cutest boxes and tied them with ribbon for us. Loved it.

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We had to visit Bon Marche, the stunning Art Deco beauty hall is worth the trip alone, then we spent a good hour hiding from a rain shower lusting over the beautiful French home-wares and baby clothes, and I swooned over the lingerie department and vowed to return next year when I can actually wear nice things again!

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We saw the love lock bridges, I would love to return with my Mr and lock our love here, so cute.

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And although we didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower site we did see her on a boat trip, I couldn’t leave Paris without seeing it, it just wouldn’t be right .

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A visit to Montmartre on our last, very wet day, was funny. I remembered this as my favourite part of Paris, probably because I didn’t see any real Paris before and this was the closest I got to the cafes and shops. The Sacre Cour side is so very touristy but there is a wonderful real-life Paris side, if you go over the hill and down past the windmills you can find beautiful stylish cafes and restaurants, boutiques and little cheese shops. We found it too late! Next time.

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A last night-time view from our little balcony.

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Eating well in Paris is easy, just stay away from the main tourist sites at meal times, head to cafes with lots of French eating there and order the classics and you can’t go wrong. Same as any holiday really! Also we found on this trip the cheaper more traditional spots did the best food.

Chouchou on the rue Rambuteau – where there are also a ton of other real Parisian cafes and L’Abinthe Cafe on rue de Turbigo were good.

One last tip, start your trip off right by having lunch at the Booking Office at the St Pancras Hotel, it’s not cheap but it’s a beautiful room and I really loved having a nice lunch before the train meaning we started with the right frame of mind – relaxed and ready.

I really want to go back there for a more decadent champagne lunch!

This is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, you know it’s going to be good.

There is some prep required ahead of time, this is well worth doing the night before then making this amazing tikka malasa for dinner becomes super easy.

Don’t be put off by the long ingredients list, it’s mostly spices you probably have.

You need;
For the chicken tikka
675 g boneless, skinless chicken, thighs or breasts, cut into 2.5 cm chunks
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
¾ tsp chilli powder
6 tbsp whipping cream
½ tsp garam masala
3 tbsp sunflower oil

For the masala
4 tbsp sunflower oil
140 g onions, halved and finely sliced
1 tbsp root ginger, peeled and finely grated
5-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
¾ tsp chilli powder
2 tsp paprika
4 tbsp yogurt
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and very finely chopped
350 ml chicken stock
¼ tsp garam masala
4 tbsp coriander leaves

The day/morning before eating;
1. For the chicken tikka: Put the chicken pieces in a bowl and rub in 1¼ teaspoon salt and the lemon juice. 
Prick the chicken pieces lightly with a knife and rub the seasoning in again, then set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Add the ginger, garlic, cumin, paprika, chilli powder, whipping cream and garam masala.
Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, though longer will not hurt.

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 3. For the masala: Pour the sunflower oil into a large, preferably non-stick, lidded pan and set it over a medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, add the onions. Stir and fry until they brown, for 6-7 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic and continue to fry, stirring, for a minute.

4. Add the ground coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and paprika.
Stir for 10 seconds, then add a tablespoon of yogurt. Stir and fry until it is absorbed.
Add the remaining yogurt in this way, a tablespoon at a time.

5. Add the tomatoes and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until they turn pulpy.
Add the stock and ¼ teaspoon salt, and bring to a simmer.
Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. The sauce should turn thick.

6. Stir in the garam masala and coriander leaves, taste and add more salt if you need it. Shortly before you eat, heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the chicken pieces. (the recipe says to grill, I found this quicker and easier but grill is probably best if Madhur says so!)

8. When the chicken is cooked, reheat the sauce and fold in the chicken. Serve with fluffy white rice and coriander.

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Seriously better than any takeaway… I love this and make it a lot.

Lately…

July 16, 2013

I have had a lovely couple of weekends recently… despite being 7 months pregnant and getting bigger every week I am still enjoying the sunshine,if not the heat.

I had to miss St Paul’s Carnival this year, a big Bristol event, as it was my God-daughters 3rd birthday party. I was very glad of something nice to do instead as I don’t think I would have had fun with the huge crowds given how hot it was, and the fact that I couldn’t get involved in the rum punch.

The party was at King’s Weston House… an amazing new wedding venue that is in the process of being renovated, the front has just been cleaned and looks beautiful.

I loved the styling of the party room and the fact there’s not much furniture made it perfect as all the children were able to just bolt around the room to their heart’s content… that’s when they were not running around the huge green lawns!

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Star was a fairy princess and was super cute all day, she has the prettiest pink frosted four layer cake that tasted even better than it looked… 

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I’ve had lots of countryside, with a friend’s birthday BBQ on the Ashton Court Estate and a visit to Chew Magna… England’s rolling green hills are so lovely when its blue skies and sunshine. 

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We visited The Pony and Trap again and I had exactly the same Sunday lunch as I had last time we went. How boring of me… how delicious it was! 

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I have been working hard to stay hydrated – a tip for any fellow preggo’s, the more you drink the less puffy your ankles will be.

I am as obsessed with watermelon juice as I am on holiday and my Mr is keeping a big supply in the fridge, also pineapple juice and soda is rocking my world… especially when I have fun straws to use. Who needs cocktails? 

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I have had the odd treat in the form of a white wine spritzer, I had a really great Sauvignon Blanc, topped it up with a lot of soda and then threw in a handful of frozen grapes… this is the best thing ever. Go freeze some grapes right now.

Also staying cool even in the shade is just not possible sometimes so I have been retreating inside to lie down a fair bit, spritzing myself with my favourite cooling spray. I need some for my feet!

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And of course when the sun is out everyone loves to BBQ, we had three last weekend. My husband made jerk chicken, and we smoked some chicken legs over hickory woodchips (YUM), we had burgers, sausages, corn on the corn, roasted mushrooms, potato salad and a ton of radishes… I could eat like this forever. 

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This weekend we mostly stayed at home (BBQing) so I made little comfy spots in the shade, we went and got me a comfy sunlounger and a paddling pool, some friends dropped by and I was pretty happy hanging out in the garden. When I was brought a watermelon juice and more BBQ food I was pretty much in heaven. 

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I also got to visit a wonderful flower farm last week – Organic Blooms are exhibiting at the Eco Wedding Fair this year and so we went to visit and see what they are all about, it’s an amazing project and I can’t wait to share with everyone what they are doing. Look out for the blog post coming soon on the Eco Wedding Fair site

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Long continue this wonderful summer, but if I could have a cool breeze following me around that would be great!

I love this so much, super cute.

In the wonderful weather we have been having lately this dress would be lovely to wear. If only I had a waist!

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And a spare £900! It’s nice to dream though…

Available from Alexander Terekhov at Avenue32

I haven’t written a recipe recommendation for a very long time… Mostly because I haven’t cooked anything blog-worthy or much at all. My poor husband has done far more than his far share over the last 7 months, trying to get me to eat proper food when all I have wanted is plain or comfort.

Finally about 6 weeks ago (more or less) I did start to want proper food again, like vegetables and salad. It’s so nice to feel better again because although all I wanted was toast or potato it certainly didn’t make me feel good.

So anyway, I saw this post on How Sweet Eats and have been obsessing over feta since our little jaunt to Greece, after years of hating it it’s back in my favour.

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I changed it a little just to use what I had at home.

You need;
1 pack/block feta cheese
2-3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
juice of 1/2 a lime
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
lots of salt and pepper

1. Cut up the feta into small chunks and add the creme fraiche then using an electric whisk mix it up.

2. Add the lime juice and oil, mix some more until smooth, and season to taste.

3. Enjoy however you like, I took How Sweet Eats advice and had a bruschetta with some warm tomatoes and more salt.

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Delicious!

Currently Reading…

July 10, 2013

I wanted to share some wonderful reads with you… pregnancy reads of course!

Great with Child was recommended by A Cup of Jo and is letters from a mother to her friend who was about to become a mother… such lovely thoughts and insights and anytime it is all becoming too much, or I am scared I read a letter from here and it gets me all happy and excited for my babes arrival…

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For all the Mamas out there I high recommend it, it’s a beautiful read so far.

I am also reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, slightly more specific here, I am going to try to have as natural a birth as possible (in a hospital – mix and match!) and this book is providing me with a lot of positive birth stories – the only kind you need to hear in the run up to your own in my opinion – and then further along there are techniques to help with contractions and the pain and tiredness etc. It’s a really great book and although I have no idea what lies ahead for me and my birth I am feeling so prepared already.

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Recommended by my doula and my yoga teacher and a ton of friends, everyone agrees this book is wonderful.

A book that has kept me sane from the beginning of my pregnancy is The Rough Guide – Pregnancy and Birth, leant to me by a friend it is funny and sarcastic, with little week by week diaries from a lady who makes my own pregnancy seem like a piece of cake as hers progresses and she suffers from every little thing you could think of, it made me feel better about any ‘fun’ side effects I had. It’s also very real, there is no pushing of one point of view and gives you all options.

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I also have What to Expect when you are expecting which is great to have on hand as it is very comprehensive, however it is a little patronising in places (the chapter for your partner is hilarious) but as a book to turn to if something a little strange is happening it’s great as it has ALL the information you could possibly need.

I also have the app on my friend which gives you fun updates on what size fruit or vegetable your baby is as they grow, and a little advice page every day, plus a week by week run down of your baby’s development, which is lovely to read.

If anyone has any other baby reads for later on I’d love to hear them!