Tuesday, 9 February 2016

V Day


Sound the klaxon, Valentine's Day is fast approaching!

I'm not going to lie, Valentine's Day is not my favourite holiday on first appearance. But after careful consideration and after looking at endless rows of chocolate, there is something pretty sweet about getting the chance to build a little hamper together for a loved one.

St David's Cardiff gave me the chance to work together with Tiger and John Lewis to create a little Valentine's Day hamper. As I'm currently riding solo I thought this was the chance to create a pack for what will be my Galentine's Day weekend.

Matching socks, photo frame, marshmallows, almond dragées, I <3 You chocolates and heart tea lights - all Tiger | Charbonnel et Walker truffles and Hotel Chocolat Valentine's Goody Bag - John Lewis

Valentine's Day doesn't only have to be about about being with your boyfriend or girlfriend. In fact as far as I'm concerned spending it with your best friends is the way to go. My friends are a constant source of laughs and so I like to give them back a little. What better way to start the weekend of love then with lots and lots of chocolate and novelty gifts?

I like to pride myself on my brunch abilities so hosting a Galentine's Day brunch with the contents of the hamper is most certainly on the cards again this year. 

Heart straws, napkins and heart cake picks - Tiger | Slate heart coasters and heart slate place mats and champagne - John Lewis

All you need for a successful valentine's brunch is some flowers, patience and the perfect pancake recipe. 

To make my beautifully simple staple pancakes, you will need a silicone heart shaped egg ring and the following:
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp caster sugar (optional as the caramel sauce is sugary)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 175ml milk
  • M&S salted caramel sauce 
1) Sift your flour and baking powder into a bowl with the optional sugar (I skip this ingredient as I don't like the pancakes to be too sweet).

2) On low heat pre heat a non stick dying pan.

3) Add in your eggs and milk to your dry ingredients whisking it all together so that there are no lumps and everything is a smooth batter. You might need to add a little more milk depending on how you get on.

4) Once the pan is hot place your egg ring in the centre and gently spoon two to three spoonfuls of the mixture into the ring making sure the mixture is spread evenly.

5) Cook for 2-3 minutes until the mixture begins to bubble a little before flipping and cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside on a plate in a pre heated oven to keep the pancakes warm.  Repeat until you run out of mixture.

To make the pancake stacks simply stack them, spreading the top of each pancake with a little (or a lot) of the caramel sauce. Skewer with a cake pick to keep it all together. I also made a quick homemade raspberry coulis (raspberries and honey - into a blender and done) to balance out the sweetness of the caramel. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve with iced coffee and chilled champagne for dessert. 

Result? 

Everyone is happy and you look like Nigella Lawson. Win win.


Let me know if you end up loving this recipe as much as I do. Especially let me know if you've used it to woo someone, I'd love to know if this humble little recipe is the start of something wonderful!

If you are also riding solo like myself for the big V Day, just remember that your friends will always love you and that on the 15th chocolate will be half price. It could always be worse!




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Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015


I barely remember 2015. Looking for photos for this post was strange because I genuinely couldn't remember some of the things that took place. For example I forgot that for three months of 2015 I had blonde hair, it doesn't seem real.

I'm going to start with the negatives of 2015 first so that they're out of the way.

This was my first full year of being a working 'adult' and I think that's what's been the big change. It's been a bit of an odd year in that sense. I started 2015 feeling optimistic and putting heartbreak behind me. Towards the end of this year I feel like I've just run out of steam and that I've disappointed myself a little professionally. It's been very much an exhausting year, it's been an uphill struggle into the working world but hopefully I can be much more prepared for 2016.

That would be the low points: struggling with a work life balance, wanting to perform in my job but also wanting to have some semblance of a life outside of work. I let struggling at work affect my personal life in the sense that I got a little sidetracked when it came to taking care of myself. Blogging fell completely off my radar. I lost all interest and drive. It's been a real mixed bags. Some days I felt on top of the moon and other days getting out of bed and being focused felt like the biggest struggle. Loneliness crept in a little and that sense that I'm just running around in a hamster wheel endlessly. 

The upsides of this year are thankfully more numerous:

  • I graduated for the second time. I now have the letters 'BA, MSc' after my name which is one hell of an achievement
  • I celebrated my four year anniversary of being self harm free, which I think I'm more proud of than graduating with a merit (see here)
  • I got a promotion and a pay rise at work
  • Being able to visit my family in Brazil two times

But the foundation of the 'best of 2015' is two fold: my friends and finding a sense of inner happiness and peace.

Once again I have been so fortunate (and hashtag blessed) to have an amazing group of women around me whom I adore. I've always been a girl's girl and I love having such strong and supportive females around me. They've made me laugh, cheered me on and have helped me in ways they probably didn't realise. I don't think this year would have been the same without them. Whether it's a weekend brunch at mine, or a coffee after work they are always there. Thanks girls, you know who you are!

Secondly, I've turned a corner in finding my inner sense of happiness and contentment. I put that down to learning to run and just learning how to be alone. In January I set myself the mission of being able to run 5km. In November I ended up doing my first 10km run. It pretty much blew my mind. I've also accepted that being single is not a curse. I've been on funny Tinder dates, some terrible Tinder dates or just spent time alone. Dating and being in a relationship is no longer my priority. My own happiness and that of people around me is my priority. I'm learning to look after myself; whether that's by going to acupuncture or going for a run or eating that burger, I am trying to enjoy my life the way I want to.

So what are my 2016 resolutions?

- Focus on being successful at work, keep kicking ass and stay calm
- Travel more
- Continue to spend time with people that are good for me and whom I care about
- Continue to nurture the relationship I have with myself, both physically and mentally

I don't know what 2016 is going to bring. I don't want to expect too much, as long as I have my friends, my drive in my job and well being anything else that happens is just one great bonus.

I hope you all have a good start into 2016. Remember to stay focused, work on being independent and surround yourself with good people. 

"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts" Eleanor Roosevelt 

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Thursday, 24 December 2015

Centro


Downtown Rio, also called Centro, is an intriguing and curious part of Rio de Janeiro. Once the bustling social, financial and commercial centre of Rio it has a colourful past and has undergone some recent developments over the years. Most noticeably the opening of a new museum.

We went exploring on a blistering hot Sunday morning. Centro is currently the financial district of Rio, the Petrobras (google 'Petrobras scandal' for hours of diversions) head quarters are here, and sky high office blocks leap up from everywhere. This means that on the weekend there is nobody around. It fees like a zombie apocalypse. But still we braved the eerily quite (and slightly creepy) trip downtown for the sake of my younger sibling.  The purpose for our trip was for my photography mad brother to get 'the shot' of the iconic stained glass of the Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião. From the outside the church looks like a beehive, inside it's modern but it's still a surprisingly restful and peaceful place.


Dying of sun exposure and grouchy because we (read: my brother and I) were hungry we thankfully stumbled upon a little street food and organic fair. Within the first second of our arrival my brother made a beeline for the 'Espirito do Proco' stand and in about two bites devoured a pork and apple sauce sandwich.

This market was clearly where all the people were hiding out. When we arrived and when I took the pictures it wasn't very busy but once we'd had the chance to look around and eat (again for my brother...) the place was getting full.

My Portuguese speaking is very limited (I can order food and caipirinhas but that's about it), but having studied French and a bit of Spanish my understanding of spoken Portuguese isn't so bad. So despite my speech impediment the people at the market were so friendly and engaging. They patiently explained to us in slow and steady Portuguese, the different things they were selling and some even talked English with us, which is quite rare. It was great to see people so passionate about their creations, and to take the time with us.


When I first visited the downtown area I didn't really see the appeal. Living in Ipanema we're very spoilt, whereas parts of downtown are full of ugly office blocks and skyscrapers (glass facades à la Donald Trump).

But then there are stunning old buildings straight out of the 19th century when people first arrived in Rio. Many of these haven't been renovated for a long and for the most part nobody lives in them. There's a certain morbid charm to everything. It's sad to see these beautiful buildings so neglected and to imagine that's how all of Rio used to look. I don't know what possesses people to build such ugly glass buildings sometimes.

Christmas has approached so quickly this year and I'm not really in the Christmas spirit, we don't have a tree this year and the weather isn't exactly wintery. However, as a family Christmas present we're off on a little trip to a town called Paraty. My parents have been twice already and have said it's beautiful. I'll most likely be doing a blog post but in the meantime you can follow my adventures on Instagram.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas, here's to good health and being with your loved ones.

x
Nina 


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