Friday, April 26, 2013

Let's talk about food.

Or, to be more specific, let's talk about talking about food.

The peppered mushroom burger at The Dog's Bollocks back in Cape Town.
I want to go to there!

How often do you do it? Every day? Multiple times per day? Is that normal? Because I'm starting to worry.

A typical mealtime with my family (Cape Town or London contingents) goes something along these lines:

Me: This is really good.
Sister: I know, right?
Me: It reminds of the kind of food they serve at Leon.
Other sister: Leon is amazing. We should go back there.
Sister: Do you remember that dinner we had at Powder Keg Diplomacy?
Me: I still look at our photos of that meal when I'm hungry.
Other sister: Well we've got that dinner at Asia de Cuba coming up soon.
Sister: Thank god, something to look forward to.
Me: Know where we haven't been in a while? Byron.
Other sister: Byron! Let's go this weekend. I love their courgette fries!
Sister: I'm also doing a roast this weekend. It's been too long.

We talk about what we're eating at that moment, meals we've had in  the past and meals we've yet to have. This can't be healthy. But if talking about food so much is wrong, I don't want to be right. 

P.S. I don't just talk about food, I pin about food. A lot. Check it out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Comforting things

Moving away from your hometown is scary, and it's even more of a leap when it's a new country too. There are a few things about London that help to make me feel more at home:
  • Any club that plays commercial music will put on "Mr Brightside" around 2am
  • Using the local colloquial greeting instantly makes you feel a part of a community (here it's "y'alright?")
  • Watching local TV (I have a particular soft spot for Made in Chelsea) and being able to discuss it (at embarrassing length) with other locals helps too
  • Tourists keep stopping me for directions and public transport advice - and I can help them! Yes!
  • McDonalds smells the same no matter where you visit it
  • Even in a big city, it's possible to feel like a local if you frequent the establishments in your area - Pappagone and The Haberdashery are my favourites

Italian hot chocolate at "The Hab"

  • And home is wherever your family is - as desperately as I miss my mum and sister, I'm so, so grateful to have two sisters and one adopted brother here :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

5 Reasons to love Jennifer Lawrence

Since she won an Oscar everyone has been jumping on the "I love Jennifer Lawrence" bandwagon - and who can blame us after that charming post-Oscar media Q&A session?

Jennifer Lawrence love has been spreading since long before that - I first started noticing her hilarious quotes on Pinterest towards the end of last year.

Here are my top five reasons to love Jennifer Lawrence:

1. Because she references Mean Girls in her acceptance speeches

via s a m m i on pinterest (cannot find original source)

2. Because she still doesn't quite get how famous she is

3. And the novelty clearly hasn't worn off

4. Because of this photo

5. And because of this glorious compilation by BuzzFeed

Which includes gems like this:

And this:

And this:

Read the full post (all 25 great Jennifer Lawrence moments, with gifs) here.

She is SO great. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Public transport don'ts

One of the most startling things about moving to a big city (no, Cape Town does not count) is getting to grips with public transport. Apart from the fact that it is a fairly confusing system to begin with (I honestly don't know where I would be without my bus app), for many people, being thrust into an enclosed space with a pile of strangers and no personal bubble, is a traumatic experience.

We don't quite know how to handle it. It's like being stuck in a lift with other people, except it's for an inconceivably long journey. This seems to have an odd effect on some people, who become so used to treating the experience as if they are alone (head down, earphones in) that they become immersed in that anonymity and appear to forget that they're in PUBLIC. Well, I'm here to remind you - and the following behaviour is unacceptable:

1. Primping, preening and general body maintenance

This is perhaps the worst offence of all. Generally, when you leave the house, you leave ready to face the world. Not so for the woman I witnessed on the tube on Friday evening, who in the course of my short journey put on her mascara, plucked her eyebrows, then applied body lotion to her legs. As my sister commented, why stop there? Why didn't she get to work on her bikini line? Other offences observed on the tube: eyelash curling, nail painting and nail filing. 

Hair removal and makeup application are private self-maintenance activities that should be reserved for your bedroom or bathroom. Leaving a trace of your body behind, beyond involuntary skin cell shedding is not on. The only primping I will accept on public transport is lip balm application and hair brushing (provided hair is not dropped everywhere - shudder).

2. Excessive PDA

'Nuff said. Ain't nobody wanna see that. 

3. Eating smelly food

It may smell delicious to you, but for the dozens of other passengers in your carriage NOT eating it, the smell of your Mac and fries is an unwelcome olfactory assault. As a rule, any fast food is not going to make you popular on public transport. So you don't care what others think? If everyone felt that way, we'd be smelling a lot more than food a lot more often. It's a slippery slope.

4. Conducting TMI conversations

Groups of young girls seem to be the worst offenders, but none of us is innocent. Something about the tube seems to switch off that filter we all generally employ when chatting about private matters in public spaces. I once endured a 15-minute discussion by some girls on their way out about who fancied whom, who had given head to whom, and various other obscene overshares. I wish I could unhear some of the things I heard, but they will stay with me forever. Nobody needs to know your private business, and even if you don't care what they hear, chances are that they don't want to hear.

5. Anything you wouldn't do in front of your mum

This is good rule of thumb for those who find that public transport propriety doesn't come naturally. Behaviour falling into this category includes (but is not limited to) picking your nose, biting your nails or touching your downstairs area. 

More pearls of wisdom on London living:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tips for living in London on the cheap

London is a great city to be in if you have lots of time on your hands, but it's full of temptation if you're on a budget (as I am, while I seek full-time employment). I've discovered ways around some of the more expensive aspects of London in my short time here, which I now share with you. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment!

On public transport

Get the bus. It may be slow, but it's way cheaper than the tube, and during my period of funemployment, time is something of which I have a lot, while money is less plentiful. Taking buses is also a great way to learn your way around London and to get a mental picture of how all the areas fit together. Central London is actually really small, so sometimes it's quicker to get a bus than to go underground. Another bonus about getting really comfortable with buses and their routes is that you already understand how they work when you're faced with getting a night bus home after the tubes stop running (not fun to have to figure out after a few too many pints!).

Waiting for the bus (this happens a lot)

On entertainment

Enjoy the freebies. There are loads of museums and art galleries which do not charge an entry fee. If you find yourself broke one Saturday with nothing to do, head for the Natural History Museum, National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and any number of other destinations which charge nothing for a great day out. There's also nothing to stop you hitting the great markets of London just to look around. You don't have to buy anything at Portobello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market or Spitalfields Market, but it's fun just to take in their sights.

Get outside. With the sun finally showing its face (please, for the love of Vitamin D, let this be the start of spring), there are so many pretty places to go soak up some rays. Today two of my friends and I took a walk around St. James's Park, which is currently resplendent with yellow daffodils. Regent's Park is also excellent for spring flowers and bird life, and Hampstead Heath is also worth a visit for the swan lake. All the Royal Parks are free to enjoy, and I'm looking forward to some picnics in the summer!

Daffodils in St. James's Park

On shopping

Buy smart. London is expensive. Everything here is expensive, but some stuff is less so. These are some shopping tips I've picked up:

Cosmetics: While I have less cash, whenever I need new beauty or body products I buy the travel minis - less money to fork out and I'm hoping by the time I need to replace them I'll have more income :) As an aside, I generally find Superdrug to be cheaper than Boots for cosmetics (although Boots' loyalty programme is far superior). 

Coffees: One of my favourite things to do when I'm out is to indulge in a takeaway hot drink. There is no better feeling than a hot chocolate clasped with freezing hands. Pod, which has a few branches around central London, does a happy hour from 10am-12pm and after 3pm every day: any hot drink for only £1.  

Clothes: The only things you own here which need to be of good quality (not up for negotiation!) are your winter coat and shoes. A warm (preferably wool-based) coat and comfortable shoes cannot be compromised on. Everything else can be bought on sale, from any number of the more budget-friendly chains (H&M and New Look, anyone?) or (resignedly) Primark. I try to steer clear, but you can say what you like about them, their stuff isn't ugly and it's really, really cheap. 

Groceries: One of of the things I love about this country (or the first world in general) is that stuff goes on special all the time. Go shopping with a grocery list, but be flexible according to what is on promotion that week - although (note to self) this is not an excuse to buy half-price Ben & Jerry's. It also helps to go shopping late in the evening as stock near expiry often gets marked down at the end of the day (and I promise it's still safe to eat!). 

My weakness

On eating out

This has been my biggest non-essential expense since moving here, as dining out is my favourite way to socialise and it's crazy expensive in London. The only advice I can give is that pubs are usually cheaper than restaurants and eating at off-peak times means you're often able to take advantage of specials running before10am or from 12-6pm. Cocktail happy hours generally end between 8-8:30pm, so start drinking before then too. 

If all else fails and you find yourself broke with a dinner to go to, eat at home beforehand and only order a starter or dessert at the restaurant. 

Any tips of your own to share?

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