Monday, 30 January 2012

BYOB Restaurants

For those not in the know.....this stands for 'bring your own bottle'.

Living in London, dining out is an expensive habit. I live in an area with an abundance of South Indian restaurants, most of which are Bring Your Own......I love the relaxed atmosphere of these restaurants, mainly because I know I can afford everything on the menu and don’t feel ashamed by my bottles of cider! It is great with friends too, as you don't have that awkward moment where you split the bill. I have also recently set up a 'Cheap Eats London' tab, listing the best cheap meals - stating the ones which are BYOB. If you have any recommendations, let me know!
Our local (and favourite) BYOB is:

 Apollo Banana Leaf
190 Tooting High Street
SW17 0SF
020 8696 1423
We used to walk past this Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurant on our way home from work and it was always packed. One night we tried it out and never looked back. Really friendly staff and you’ll be hard pushed to find anything on the menu over £7, the food is excellent. I recommend the chicken tikka jalfrezi with mushroom rice and the mutton rolls to start (80p each!). Bottle openers supplied. No corkage charges.

Cook your own Chicken Tikka Masala (from Jamie's Ministry of Food)

Makes enough for 2 dinners and all this leftover.....

Two lunches and the extra one we put in the freezer to eat with a naan on a lazy day
  • 3-4 chicken breasts (depending on how much chicken you like!
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 fresh red chilli (I sprinkle extra chilli flakes, too, as I like it hot!)
  • Thumb-size piece piece of root ginger
  • Small bunch of coriander (I use from a jar)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 1/2 jar Patak's tikka masala curry paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml tin of coconut milk
1) Chop the chicken breasts and the onions. Finely slice your chilli. Peel and finely slice the ginger.

2) Put a large pan on a medium heat and add a couple of lugs of oil and the butter (I use a large saucepan). Add the onions, chilli, ginger and chopped coriander and cook for 10 minutes, until softened.

3) Add the tikka masala paste and the chicken. Stir well to coat everything and season with salt and pepper.

4) Add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Fill the tomato tin with water and add into the pan and stir. Bring to the boil, then turn down heat and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.

5) When the meat is tender and cooked, taste and season.

6) I serve with risotto rice (nice and sticky texture). Jamie Oliver suggests serving with sprinkled almonds and a few spoonfuls on yoghurt on top.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Plan Your Holiday

  • A big holiday takes a lot of time and money. This year I plan to go to LA with my boyfriend, Edinburgh for a hen weekend, and a big trip to Oktoberfest in Munich for a friend’s 30th. Affording this is no easy task, it involves a lot of planning ahead. I always follow these simple rules:
  •   Buy flights really early. If you book with budget airlines such as Easyjet, generally the earlier you book, the better the deal. Last year I flew to Malaga in peak season for £80 return and Croatia for £75 return.

·         Each payday leading up to the trip, I purchase another stage of the trip, maybe it’s a hotel for a few nights or a train between cities. This payday, I'm booking a hotel for 2 nights in Vegas!

·         One month before the trip, I do a big carboot sale to raise cash for spending money on holiday, this way I don’t eat into my wages on holiday and have to scrimp when I return.

· – this website has saved me so many times. I always look up B+Bs on here that are too small to have their own websites, I mainly look for “best value” yet close to the centre of town. Always check the distance in km/miles as well - sometimes website say '10 minutes from town' and they really mean '10 minutes by bus' I hate spending all my money on taxis to and from dinner.
  • Before I go, I ask friends for recommendations and google recommended restaurants. This way, you never spend an evening in the equivalent of an 'Angus Steakhouse' abroad.

Illustrations by

Notes from a shoot

Well it's been a busy few weeks preparing for 4 shoots in Barbados. I've been dying hammocks and bags, spray painting hats and it has all finally paid off to be in this absolutely beautiful location...

And guess what.....I'm wearing my Revlon 'Tropical Temptation' (excuse the DIY pedicure!)

Sandals, River Island

Thursday, 26 January 2012

INVEST IN.....Jeans

It's okay to have a few pairs of Topshop Baxters in your wardrobe, however, it pays to have a good pair of investment jeans too. I am a huge fan of the J Brand Houlihans - they are the perfect travel jeans, super comfortable and don't shrink in the wash (as my Baxters have been known to do). Here are the new season houlihan washes, just in at

 From left: vintage canard, vintage plum and vintage tiger eye, £265, Donna Ida

Not that I need to convince you that these are worth every penny......BUT I also have a cunning plan:
If you ditch the Starbucks habit for 6 months....£2.30 for a mocha (my weakness) every weekday, you could afford these jeans plus £10 left over for a few coffees in Pret (which are roughly 30p less than Starbucks!). 
Just saying...!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

My World Part 2: Kitchen

Our kitchen, luckily, was in really good condition when we moved in - high shine white cabinets and grey floor tiles. Easy.
This is the first kitchen we've had that has had enough space for a kitchen table and it has made such a difference - we always eat breakfast together on a weekend here, and my partner often sits here to do his work (until our study is finished, anyway!).

This table is my 'dream' table. I had it in my head that I wanted a zinc top table....but then couldn't actually find it anywhere! When I did they were £1000+.....I finally found this online at and had it made to order for £400. The bottom is made from old fruit crates, and it's something I'll have for years.

The canvas is an original work of art from our friend, David Northedge (, given to us as a moving in present.

The chairs are not original Eames DSW chairs. At this stage in my life, I cannot afford £370 per chair. Especially when eventually, I'd like at least 4. These chairs are from Dennis & Macgregor and £71.50 - and none of my friends have noticed the difference.

Chairs, £71.50, Dennis & Macgregor

 We have added splashes of red to the grey and white colour palette...
Unframed print, now £30 (was £40), Dandy Star
Scales, £19.50, Marks & Spencer, Breadbin, £10, Wilkinson

Utensils bowl, £20, Red Direct

I did say my partner likes The Beatles!

I love cookbooks, I received these new ones at Christmas:

Cook's measure, £7.99, Lakeland
My fridge is the one 'messy' area. I use it as a canvas for memories, To Do lists, photos, tickets etc

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Re-use upcycle recycle

Make recycling work for you.

The good thing about my work is that I have access to the fashion cupboard. I use this to my advantage and recycle bags from the cupboard to carry my lunches in. I also keep hold of any coloured tissue and ribbon that comes attached to bags and re-use these for wrapping birthday presents. One of my friends was telling me how she cuts up all her old Christmas cards and uses them as gift tags the following year - now that's savvy.

This present has totally been wrapped by leftover paper/ribbon/coloured paper from other presents or found unwanted in my office:

I love this neon ribbon. I bought this for work for a photoshoot but didn't end up using it all - so am using it for presents - it also looks fab with brown paper.

I used some of the neon ribbon this weekend to customise this plain raffia hat for a photo shoot - I think the neon trim brings it up to date. I was inspired by this hat on the Matches website:
Sensi Studio hat, £88, Matches
 Fashion Maths:

This trilby is for a photoshoot and is from Paul Smith, but you can buy an easily adaptable one from the High Street.....
£18, Accessorize

£4.99, New Look
Both John Lewis and VV Rouleaux have a great selection of ribbon in tons of colours, textures and widths - or try online
Now this is not stingy, it’s sensible! Any stamp that has been missed by a franking machine can be re-used. I am an old-fashioned letter writer and first class stamps are now 46 pence each, this habit – especially at Christmas- saves me a small fortune (plus time as I never remember to buy stamps).
Also, any stamps that have been franked can be used by charities to raise funds. I started an office scheme to save all used stamps to help save an albatross, which are almost extinct. You can recycle both UK stamps as well as overseas stamps (which are actually worth more). In 2010, the RSPB raised £15,000 from old stamps.
More information is available here:

Friday, 20 January 2012


I have gone all nostalgic and recently started to use classic hand soap rather than dispensers. This is so much more cost effective - although I do admit I still keep a dispenser on standby for some guests....!
You still, however, have to make the soap look soapdish (above) was from Anthropologie. Here are my top picks of the chicest soaps and soap dishes: 
£12, Lisa Stickley at John Lewis

£9.99, Zara Home
I actually own this is grey, and use it to put my keys in!

£4, Debenhams

£7.29 for the whole set, Ikea

I think soaps make gorgeous gifts for people as well...
£6, Anthropologie

£4.50, L'Occitane
It's quite a misconception that L'Occitane is expensive, but it's actually good value. I love their packaging.

£3.95, Toast

And when I do use a soap dispenser, I tend to use this one, as I love the chic classic packaging (it's great value too, for the size). Red Direct has loads of fab products, and this makes a great gift (you can also re-use and pour cheaper soap in once it runs out!):
£12.50, Red Direct

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Plan your week's food

Magnetic notepad, £7.50, Anthropologie
This magnetic notepad has CHANGED MY LIFE. We tend to buy food week by week so we only buy fresh and never waste food. By filling this in day by day, it means we know exactly what we need to buy and know what we are making for dinner as soon as we get in. We also fill in all lunches so we know what we need to make for the next day too (but usually we make leftovers from dinner).
'Just Five Ingredients', £9.09, Amazon

I must admit, even I was dubious about buying this book. However, as a beginner in the kitchen, every recipe is achievable and when trying to save money, only ever needing five ingredients is a huge relief. I made this recipe last week; it was delicious and I already had almost all the ingredients, I just bought salmon for £5.

Simple succulent salmon fish pie (serves 4)

  • 675g potatoes (Maris Piper best), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 600ml milk
  • 550g salmon fillet, skinned and boned
  • 75g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 40g plain flour
  • Salt and freshly gound pepper
  • OPTIONAL EXTRAS - I added around 300g broccoli, chopped into small florets, a sprinkling of dill, handful of grated cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Place the potatoes in a pan of boiling salted water, cover and simmer for 15-20 mins or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, place the milk in a saute pan. Add the salmon fillet, ensuring it is fully covered, then poach for 3-5 minutes or until just tender, depending on its thickness. Transfer the fish to a plate until cool enough to handle. Flake into bite-sized chunks, checking for any stray bones. Strain the poaching liquid through a sieve into a jug.
  3. (At this point, I cooked the broccoli in a saucepan and when ready, left aside until later).
  4. Melt half the butter in a large non-stick pan. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Pour in the reserved poaching liquid, a little at a time, whisking continuously after each addition.
  5. Once all the liquid has been added to the sauce, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has slightly reduced and thickened. Season to taste. I added some dill (as it was in the cupboard!).
  6. Drain the cooked potatoes and mash them, beat in the remaining butter and season to taste.
  7. Lightly butter a deep ovenproof pie dish and add a couple of tablespoons of the sauce. Scatter over the flaked salmon (and the broccoli), then spoon the remaining sauce on top. Allow a light skin to form, then carefully spread over the mashed potatoes to cover completely. I then sprinkled over some grated cheese (just because I love it). Bake for 25-30 minutes until the fish pie is completely heated through and bubbling at the edges.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Get your coat on

With the weather getting colder (and London Fashion Week fast approaching), I decided I need a new coat. The last one I bought was in 2009 - it's safe to say I needed an update. Zara does the best coats (the 2009 one was a dead ringer for an Isabel Marant), and they're all on sale. Here are my top picks:
Wool and leather coat, £69.99, Zara
Wool and leather coat, £69.99, Zara

Wool coat, £69.99, Zara

I went for this coat in the end, very classic and will last a long time. It will come in handy too, as I am planning to only wear High Street clothing for London Fashion watch this space.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Welcome to my world.....

Last year, I bought my first flat in London. After 4 years of renting, I took the plunge. It has been, and still is, a slow process.
We moved in with only one piece of furniture: a mattress. Since then we have bought a few necessities (washing machine, fridge etc) and very little else.
Like most people, my flat is a constant work in progress. I will not settle for anything less than what I want, and am constantly on the lookout for 1950s/60s furniture at carboots, Ercol and G-plan tables on ebay and the perfect prints for my bare walls.


The room with all the books is Karl Lagerfeld's (amazing, I know). I find pictures on blogs ( websites (, magazines (Red, ELLE Decoration) and in books. These are my two main literary sources:

So my style is New York loft apartment/industria/grey Scandinavian/minimalist........and of course, I move into a flat with cream carpets. Here are a few snippets into the place that I call home:


Karlstad sofa, Ikea, middle cushion Red Direct (my BF is a Beatles fan)

Ikea 'Stockholm' cushion, £15.99

This is my favourite feature in the flat. At night I always light tea lights in the fireplace

Letters, a gift from a friend from

I love these cardboard coasters from Fishs Eddy in NYC

The chair on the left we picked up for free via We are hoping(!) to transform it into something like the one on the right......

Well, that's it for now - hopefully I'll take you through the rest of the flat sometime....

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