All posts filed under: Hints + Helps

Elderflower Season | Two Ways

For a short while, they are everywhere: stems waltzing in the June breeze, tiny stellate blooms underfoot, spinning constellations scattered over the dining table and the kitchen sink, threaded through strands of my hair, and bubbling on the stove.  In this, my first elderflower season, I’ve been following a few self-imposed rules. First… Pick blooms away from busy roads or polluted areas. A scout of my local park revealed a bevy of blossoms which, while still in Zone 2 of our particulate-punctuated capital, are surely better than a bush I spotted off the Uxbridge Road. Secondly… Pick a few flower heads (called, somewhat wonderfully, umbels) from each shrub and no more. This will allow other fellow foragers to have their cordial and drink it, as well as ensuring some of the blooms remain to turn into elderberries come autumn. Last but not least… Use them, quick! Only pick as many as you’ll need or be able to use (which I am the first to admit is easier said than done, when they just smell so …

A Thoughtful Advent

Didn’t they realise the only way to change things was to act? – Tamora Pierce Oh, merry December! ‘Tis finally Advent – the season to be jolly! Last year we inaugurated our own humble December traditions to mark our first year living under the same roof: a gilded paper star laced with twinkling lights hung in the bay window and glossy coloured baubles threaded onto twine and slung from the picture rail. A jar of 24 assorted chocolates for him, from me, and 24 Lindt truffles tucked hidden about the house for me, from him. I’m already enjoying revisiting these youthful customs again this year (so is my stomach.) As we reach the end of this sad year – a year full of nasty surprises – these small, simple rituals feel more important than ever. They offer a way of anchoring ourselves in the present, and of connecting us to the past. They are a welcomed comfort, a distraction from fretting over much about the dire state of the nation. But more than ever, I’m aware that this is a luxury many cannot afford or are unable …

The Best Holiday Reads

I love to read, and have for as long as I can remember. It’s the worst-kept secret in the world. I raced through the library at the end of my street when I was little and dragged my parents to another London borough so I could join a new set of bigger, better book-lending establishments. I worked in a library for several years during university and, now, a trip to the library or an illicit visit to the cavernous Foyle’s on the Charing Cross Road is my favourite and most foolproof way to unwind after a long day at work. Oh, books! In honour of an upcoming thirteen-hour plane ride, I thought I’d share a selection of my favourite holiday reads – books that are inherently readable, engaging without being overly weighty, marked by characters you fall in love with. Please share your favourites with me so I can race to the library/bookshop before my flight to Singapore later this week! ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, Anthony Doerr The prose is beautiful, and although I found …

Five Reasons You Should Visit Lisbon

In a week I am flying to Lisbon for a few days of sun, sand and Vinho Verde. We’ve rented a minuscule (cosy!) AirBnB apartment in Estrela and I am already dreaming of taking the train to Estoril to read on the beach, of photographing all the psychedelic tiles (me) and eating all the seafood (him). Also on my list: the cavern-like setting of this glorious bookshop which I didn’t make it to last time, and a ferry ride across the Tagus river! In honour and anticipation of my upcoming trip, I thought I’d post a little guide to the Portuguese capital, tips gleaned from my inaugural visit back in 2014. Have you been to Lisboa? What would you recommend seeing, eating, doing, experiencing? The buildings are covered in tiles. Tiles are an important part of Lisbon’s cultural history (there’s even a national museum dedicated to the beauties) and it’s impossible to walk a few steps in Lisbon without being bombarded by this visual feast. My favourites are the classic blue and whites, evoking dainty porcelain plates, and the deep forest green patterns. …

Cold-Busting Smoothie (Here’s Hoping)

As I write this it is Sunday morning, the sky grey as steel, and I’m five days into an objectionable and wholeheartedly malevolent cold complete with hacking cough (sorry neighbours!) and throbbing head. Thankfully this morning, the house to myself, my burning sinuses had subsided and I felt well enough to blend up a homemade smoothie in the hopes of curing myself in time for a family dinner party this evening (please, Mother Nature, just this one request?) I’ve been rather grumpy about my infirmity so far, given that it has forced me to forego birthday plans with the boy, firework-gazing on Primrose Hill (there’s always next year, I guess!), a festive trip to the theatre and a weekend trip to Wiltshire. Woe is me. Still, if there’s one thing that’ll cheer anyone cold-ridden and runny-nosed up, it’s this smoothie. It’s low in dairy (and can be dairy-free if you omit the yoghurt) and high in fruit/veg/iron/all the good things that’ll keep winter illnesses at bay (I hope) and that taste truly scrumptious when whizzed up together …