Sunday, December 31, 2017

Should've seen this coming

OMGYOUGUYS. I can't even begin to post today; I woke up with Lurgy 2.0 and have only left the bed to climb into the bath, and only left the bath to curl onto the couch, where I've been moaning/flopping around dramatically all day, alternating blankets pulled up to my chin - WHY IS IT SO COLD IN THIS HOUSE ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME - only to lash them back off again - WHY IS THIS THE HOTTEST HOUSE IN FRANCE OMG I'M DYING WHAT DO YOU HAVE THE THERMOSTAT SET TO? Alan has been a saint among men, making me tea and exchanging the empty tissue boxes for new ones while I groan about my swollen throat and aching ears - pushing and pulling at them in case he doesn't know where they're located - which are all signs to anybody who suffers from chronic tonsilitis that It's That Time Again.

Super thrilled that this year's bout has fallen on NYE, except that we actually had a party to attend and I was planning on trying to make The Big Hair work. I had even packed a dress *gazes mournfully at wardrobe* for the occasion. It was an international affair, too, with friends from Europe and Brazil that we haven't seen in ages, and it would've been a wild catch up.

Ah, well. There's a soup in the freezer, I guess that will be fun, too.

I don't have any pictures for you today because my phone is upstairs and that may as well be Kilimanjaro, but I did take a lot of yesterday's nachos so if you can just please imagine, that would be great.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to tear this cardigan off and hang myself out the window for a second, because I'm pretty sure Al's got us at 26 degrees right now.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

This pretty much sums up how we spend our time here

So far today we've had breakfast (croissants, lardons, eggs), lunch (lasagna), and for a snack - because of course when you do nothing all day, you're mysteriously starving - yet more raclette. Our raclette machine may be the greatest French flea market find yet. For only ten euros, we get to gorge ourselves on melted cheese ALL THE TIME.

This is the raclette cheese we get from the supermarket - it comes in packages like this, already trimmed to the right size - for the laziest of us, natch, which is to say anyone who uses a raclette grill - and in a variety of styles. Here we have regular, pepper, and herbs de provence (my personal favourite). 

Then we just stick it in our super modern machine: 

And WHAMMO! A minute later, GOO TOWN. 

Saturday I'm going to experiment making nachos using it, JUST BECAUSE I CAN.

See you tomorrow! I'll be starting a proofread - because one can't be on cheese holiday forever - and it's a book I'm really looking forward to.

Big love and lots of love,

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Greetings from the French tundra

OMGYOUGUYS. I forgot how cold it gets here at FranceHouse when we haven't been in a couple months and the heater is set to 8 degrees (just warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, not enough to actually warm the space). Our olive oil and soaps are solids, I can't feel my hands, and I'm wrapped in a coat and scarf while sitting in front of (nearly on top of) the fire. We've got the radiators cranking now, but it's likely to be a day or so before it's warm enough to let a bare foot touch the floor.

Once I'm done with this post, I'm jumping straight into a hot bath and I won't get out until I'm sweating.

I forgot how the village decorates the square in front of our windows for every occasion. Currently this is our view:

Best part: the Santa nearly out of the frame on the top right corner. He's climbing the post with a rope, I can only assume to hang the Star of Bethlehem. 

The rest of the day contains nothing, and then tomorrow we have nothing, and then Friday the landscaper is coming by to talk about decking for the garden this summer, and then after he's gone, we may go to the supermarket for more bread or the chemist for some cold medication - we have both been in contact with young people over the holidays and have the congestion to prove it - and then nothing again. So get excited for a lot of TOP QUALITY CONTENT this week. Thrilling stuff ahead.

Big love and lots of hugs,

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Well, didn't see this coming

YOUGUYS. I know what you're thinking: all you've done is sleep since last time you posted, what new content could you possibly have?


That's right. It started snowing at midnight and we woke to this winter wonderland. Scotland gave us a white Christmas in the nick of time.

We're about to hit the road back to England! We've got an airport hotel to stay in tonight and an (absurdly) early flight to France first thing tomorrow.

Happy Boxing Day!

Hugs and love,

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, y'all!

OMGYOUGUYS. It's Christmas. I think we all know a blog isn't happening today but I wanted to check in to reassure you it's been perfect: there was a luscious hotel brekkie, followed by another round in the spa, and then a beautiful meal and celebration with Marie, Al's sister, in West Linton. We have been grazing and eating and grazing for basically the last ten hours. I am so full and it takes me half an hour to climb out of the couch but that's okay, because I need the workout.

I am going to sleep like a lamb tonight. I know this, because I'm nodding off just writing this.

Here is some proof of the loveliest of lovely feasts:

 That's right. I HAD MY OWN PHEASANT. Satsuma for scale. You can be jealous, because it was juicy and tasty and A WHOLE BIRB JUST FOR ME.

Later I got to snuggle with their kitty Neptune, who is touching me with a paw in this pic so I don't forget to give scritches and scratches. WE ARE BEST FRIENDS I LOVE HIM.

Now it's time for the sweet sleep that follows game-eating and game-playing and terrific chats. Much love to you all, and I hope you had a Happy Christmas!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Edinburgh, burgers, Edinburgh

OMGYOUGUYS. We're in Edinburgh and it's too beautiful for words (as always) and we spent the afternoon catching friends and family, and the evening in our hotel spa floating and steaming and aromatherapying and now I smell so nice and feel so relaxed and content.

Cute, I guess. 

The view of Edinburgh Castle from our room

And now for the last of our Christmas burgers. I've lost track of how many we've had now, but it's got to be in the millions, right?

1. Blacklock: grilled Norfolk turkey, sausage and onion patty, smoked bacon, greens and cranberry ketchup. We actually thought this was our favourite Christmas burger of the bunch, until we got to Number Four.

2. Byron: The Fromagemas - Barber's cheddar and red Leicester, Byron cheese, grana padano crips, red onion, shredded iceberg, smoked tomato ketchup, grana padano aioli with a jug of Byron cheese sauce. Our thoughts were the same as last year's: sure, alright, that's good enough to put in my mouth, but how is this Christmassy

3. Almost Famous, Leeds: Son of a Nutracker - "juicy famous cheeseburger, BBQ spiced sausage stuffing patty, buttermilk fried turkey, festive creamy slaw" - you can't just add 'festive' to make creamy slaw seasonal, guys - "bacon and cranberry jam, JD Cola BBQ sauce, brandy buttered peppercorn mayo, topped with ultimate sausage roll and pig in a blanket, with pot of AFC gravy." This was by far the most absurd of all the burgers I tried and I think it actually could've worked except THAT BBQ SAUCE. No, guys. No BBQ sauce at Christmas. Also, just not this BBQ sauce full-stop. Why would you ruin a perfectly decent insanity burger by dousing it in the stuff?? Also the pig in a blanket weirded me out - it was squidgy? - though the sausage roll was an unexpectedly spicy delight. 

And now we get to the last one - a total fluke - that may've shockingly slid to the top three (don't ask me what the other two are, it changes daily) of our burger list: 

4. Meat:Stack at Salt Horse, Edinburgh: 'Come Giive Me a Hygge Cheeseburger' - Two grill smashed patties, cheese, lingonberry jam, vanilla black pudding, dill pickle fritters, streaky bacon & fixings. THAT BLACK PUDDING. THOSE PICKLE FRITTERS. Not Christmas as I know it, but Christmas as I WANT to know it. It was gorgeous. 

You can see why we needed to lie in a sauna sweating for half an hour tonight, in an attempt to regain some purity.

Going to jump into this giant white bed now and fall asleep watching the Castle glow Christmas colours in the darkness. Lots of love to you all, and I hope you've had a delightful Christmas Eve.

Big seasonal hugs,

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday and Scotland and Stuff

OMGYOUGUYS. TOTALLY COUNTS, SIX MINUTES TO GO. Love you, can’t wait to tell you about my Scottish Saturday. It has been terrific. Love these folk. MORE TOMORROW I PROMISE.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Is this working?

OMGYOUGUYS. I am writing this on my mobile phone and I don’t even know if it will work but it has to because I don’t have my laptop. Today, once again, the content surpasses the time I have to share it because I WENT TO SELBY, ENGLAND. It’s a real place, in Yorkshire, and there’s a beautiful abbey and a quaint little high street and everyone was lovely and I took so many photos that I can’t wait to share (with my Grampa). It was the nicest day.

Now I’m in Leeds for the night, where Al will be joining me, before we set off for Scotland tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to grab a moment there, because I want to share with you all the fun stuff I learned today and also - natch - burgersburgersburgers.

Weirdly enough, my phone won’t let me upload any pics from my camera roll, but it DID give me some random pics from 2015 to choose from, and happy coincidence - one is from Leeds. So here you go! 

Big hugs and lots of love, 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Do you like buildings?

OMGYOUGUYS. I am absolutely dead on my feet. I've just spent six hours cleaning this house top to bottom for our airbnb guests, followed by packing for a few days in Scotland and France, and only now, when I'm ready for sleep, am I able to sit down and spend this little time with you here.

I was going to share some Christmas burgers and sushi with you, but alas, it is too much and I am too tired so it will have to wait. Instead here is a photo of an alley I passed on my way to lunch yesterday. It's one of my favourites because you're walking down this crowded street, with scaffolding and traffic everywhere, and you happen to glance to the left and WHOA! OASIS! A whoasis, if you will, a quiet little retreat right off the main road, and this time of year it comes complete with Christmas tree:

One of the reasons I love this courtyard so much is because of the Gherkin leaning over it, like, 'Hey lil buddy, whatya doin'? Can I see?'

I must go to bed now - I have an early start - we're talking 5am - so I can do the last-minute tidying up and then run for the train station. First stop tomorrow: Selby, England.

Hugs and love,

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

There's a book rec in here, maybe that will interest you

I have this really fun game I play every morning where I try to do as many items from my day's to-do list as I can from memory without looking at it. Then, when the guest bed is stripped, the laundry is in and the dishwasher is running and I've wrapped a couple presents and updated our house guide on airbnb, I let myself open Evernote and CLICK CLICK CLICK on the boxes with satisfaction. NAILING IT. No dementia here, only productivity.

I saw a Kindle book credit in my email and it made me so happy I was instantly derailed and I just spent the last half hour comparing my goodreads wishlist to the kindle library and finally I settled on Her Body and Other Parties, which my friend Ceebs recommended, and now I can't wait to finish the other two books I've got going so I can start it. She said it was - wait, let me find her exact words - "like, modern women-centric short stories that have kinds of fairy tale dark magic throughout. And the most beautiful writing . . . definitely one of the best books I've ever read. Read it read it read it." If there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's Ceebs' hyperbole, so it will be done.

Today, after I get done with the follow-on to-do items that the first items create (hanging the wash, putting away the dishes, unwrapping the presents) I'm going to splurge on a shower and then meet Al for a lunch date in the city. We're going to Blacklock because it's our last Christmas burger and while Byron's Fromagemas does look hilarious, we gotta end it right.

I'm off to finish this manuscript now, wish me luck! Hope your days are great.

Blog Post - CHECK.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mostly Monday because today was just work and who wants to hear about that

YOUGUYS. It has been the longest day and I worked an easy 12 hours and still didn't even finish the manuscript I thought was going to be bagged yesterday. The home stretch of any edit always takes so much more time than I think it does. But tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day we wrap.

Speaking of wraps - yes, this is the kind of blog this is going to be today - I had a Leon Christmas wrap and for a tortilla filled with mush (British turkey, ham hock, and pork, sage & onion stuffing balls, all wrapped up with spinach, tarragon mayo and a cranberry & clementine sauce), it was pretty okay. I wish I had gotten the turkey curry, though, so if anyone gets a chance, you gotta let me know how it is. 

For dinner last night, Nathania and I went to Dirty Bones and there we shared their Christmas burger - obviously bottom right pic in the grid above - a venison and pork mince patty with hazelnut brown butter mayo, smoked bacon, caramelised shallots and red cabbage marmalade. It was salty af and seriously tasty. Also super squishy and easy to eat, all qualities I like in a dirty burger. For all that I don't care for Dirty Bones of the Bad Service, I can't say I fault their food. (Just is it WORTH it, having to wave frantically at a server just to get the menu, let alone try to order food or drink or - God forbid - get the check?) 

All in all, yesterday was a resounding Eating Christmas success, though. Which is good, considering today I only had time to eat a bowl of leftover edamame I found in the fridge, which I scarfed standing up while studying maps of ancient Germania. 

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow! It should be much calmer (famous last words).


Monday, December 18, 2017

Monday, Day 18, and a nice one

OMGYOUGUYS. I have exactly an hour before our friend arrives from Seattle and if I don't finish this blog by then, it just won't get done today because this is one of those friends you can talk with for hours, and also I still have to finish my proofread, and also clean the house and also maybe eat another Christmas burger, and all this conspires to A Very Full Day.

So now I will share a photo and then I will run. This is from Japan and I don't know why but I find it very soothing:

I've got to go now, but thank you for letting me go short and sweet today! More tomorrow, I'm sure.

Hugs and love,

Sunday, December 17, 2017

And I thought I wouldn't see a snowman this year

OMGYOUGUYS. It's Pre-Christmas-Christmas, the time every year when Al and I celebrate the holiday, just the two of us. It's a day for a big, slow meal, a roaring fire, blankets and books and our exchanging of gifts. We do this every year since the Day itself we're always in Scotland surrounded by family and it would feel strange to pack our bags with presents for each other, just to bring them all back home again. No, it turns out one can have many Christmases, and this little tradition feels as special as the loving fullness of the 25th itself, with the children and the chatter and the lovely food in the midst of the rustic beauty of the Scottish borders.

We went for a Christmas brunch this morning, and it led us through Liverpool Street Station, which is terrific on a Sunday when it's quiet and empty.

I had the Merry Berry Benedict at Polo Bar, with stuffing and chilli cranberry sauce, which was good, if not special. The stuffing was a nice addition but I was more pleased with the fact that the eggs were perfectly poached, which is always a risk at a place like this, a 24-hour diner in a commercial district.

Now it's time for a bath before we light the fire and start the roast. I got this hilarious bath bomb for Christmas and look forward to seeing how long he'll last before succumbing to a fragrant, bubbly death:

Look at the sadness in his eyes. This is the best.

Much love to you all, and I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday,

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday night is the new Saturday morning

HAPPYSATURDAYYOUGUYS. We are halfway through the month and things are ticking nicely along. Still a scratchy throat - but no complaints there, I actually found myself thankful I couldn't speak at a social occasion last weekend - but there's no accompanying head cold and I have plenty of energy so it's not ruining my social life (in fact, it may be improving it, per the above).

Today we've got a Chrimbo pub crawl followed by a good friend's birthday party and it all conspires to be very lively and full of fun. It's dark by 3:30 these days so 7 feels like midnight and midnight feels like an all-nighter and all this means we feel young and wild by 9 and absolutely reckless by 10, which is generally the point we're hailing a cab straight to our local filthy pizza, cackling away (a treat we enjoy all the more because we eat it in bed while watching netflix).

In short: it's going to be a good night.

Leadenhall Market, Wednesday afternoon

But first: breakfast. See you tomorrow!

Big hugs and lots of love,

Friday, December 15, 2017

Time to feign some domesticity

Alright youguys, I have 19 minutes to blog before the washing machine stops and I have to start ironing while the going is damp and the pressing is easy. Then it's time to make dinner - a healthy one, no less - and relax for what may be the first time this entire manic, burger-fuelled, proofreading-crushed week.

Speaking of burgers, last night we had our last one for the week - this time from Mac and Wild - which was a venison burger with pork stuffing, melted Morangie brie, red cabbage, and shredded sprout tops. This burger - like Hawksmoor's - stands on the power of its perfectly cooked, high quality meat. Which is good, because the red cabbage came on as aggressively as a Roman centurion and there wasn't enough brie to give it a passing fight.

I dismantled this entire burger trying to find the cheese, which was the complete opposite of Bad Egg's, where I couldn't find the burger. Like last year, it was a tiny smear, looking much like an anemic swab of mayo, and its stinginess irritated me almost as much as the three million corporate Christmas parties hollering at the tables around us. But we more than made up for it with the haggis macaroni and cheese, and will definitely be returning for their regular burgers at another, less festive time of year. 

AW SHOOT. The machine has quit rumbling across the floor and now it's gone into the high-pitched whine of the spin cycle. Gotta go, much love and hugs,


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Gonna have to do a Salad January

OMGYOUGUYS. I'm almost done with my Christmas burgers. I've only got two left and then DUNZO for another year. There are a few that I regretfully didn't have a chance to hit that I loved last year (Lucky Chip, Blacklock) but I got to try new ones (FUGBK, Red's) and all around it feels like a success. (For my taste buds, if not my health.)

Here are the Christmas burger/sandwiches I have had in the last 24 hours: 

Bad Egg: A rare breed beef patty, with roast beef, gravy, horseradish, caramelised onions, and cheese fondue. 10/10 for the absolutely pornographic cheese waterfall and being served in a bowl of gravy (is gravy the new cranberry sauce? Last year I only recall two burgers getting served with it - Hawksmoor and Blacklock - but this year, it is EVERYwhere. Even the hot dog had it!), but flavour-wise, the real standout wasn't that golden fountain or that meaty moat - shocking - but the horseradish. They would've done well to layer it between the meats rather than on the bottom bun so every bite got a hit. (I also have to say I also don't love having to knife and fork a burger - it's so hard to get every element together in a single bite and isn't that the point?)

Then, of course, we have MeatLiquor, who had not one but THREE Christmas sandwiches on the menu. I didn't bother with the XXXmas burger after last year's debacle but happily tackled the two new ones with my buddy Mike - a hero who joined me on his lunch break to help - and the most prolific burger-lover I know in London. We shared the Turkey Cheesesteak and the Burgducken. 

Let's start with the cheesesteak, which was "a free-range roast turkey bathed in gravy with melted camembert, crispy stuffing crumbles and cranberry sauce": the photo I took above (left) doesn't do it justice. It was really, seriously yummy. It actually tasted - more than anything else I've had so far - like Christmas. The turkey was moist and flavourful, the cranberry sauce sweet-but-not-too, and the stuffing - well, who doesn't like stuffing. This is the sandwich you actually make out of leftovers the day after the holiday and it got to the true spirit of things.

Now for the Burgducken: the creation of Tom Kerridge and Nick Beardshaw (of Michelin-starred famis place and famis place) made this take on the turducken, which is '5 birds (turkey, duck, chicken, pigeon & pheasant) minced with pork belly, deep fried in southern fried panko breadcrumbs, with brandy and cranberry mayo, brussel sprout 'slaw, xxxmas pudding ketchup, and topped with a free-range piggy in a blanket.' Got all that? It was tasty, this gimmickiest of gimmicks - but I can't say my unrefined palate was able to discern what all those other birds added to the affair, other than maybe structure, or comedy. Didn't taste the pork belly at all, but it probably gave it some juice. The cranberry mayo - that horrifyingly pale purple sauce - had tons of orange zest in it that livened things up, and the slaw - well, like the stuffing above - was likeable. It was surprisingly easy to eat, despite its girth - bonus points for that - though as Mike pointed out, 'It's one of those burgers that once you pick it up, you can't put it down again or it goes everywhere.' 

Tonight I hit my fourth Christmas burger and then take a break - lest the gout seek and find me - until my last one next week. I still have my eye on a Christmas burrito, and a Christmas brunch, but only time will tell if I'll manage them. May have to figure out how to (ugh) jog or something if I plan to keep this up. 

I've got to get back to work now - these Romans are literally tearing things up in Germania and it's thrilling - but I'll see you tomorrow! (By the way, if you have any recommendations for decent ways to work out at home - any youtubes you like? an app? - send 'em my direction, so that at the very least I can feel guilty that I'm not doing them, and satisfied that I've asked.)

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

a hot dog, a book club, and a Christmas Carnival

OMGYOUGUYS. LET'S DO A POST, SHALL WE. Unlike last night, when I was a half-second from sleep before foggily remembering - then jerking awake - THE BLOG! I fumbled blearily for the laptop, stumbled out an entire sentence, and then immediately fell back asleep, blissfully content that I had written SOMEthing, coherent or otherwise.

But now, after that brief intermission, the show must go on. 

I had the best night: I had my first Christmas hot dog - a DELIGHT - and a Christmas party with a wonderful group of lively women (and a man) at book club. This particular club is casual, funny, and full of warmth, and I haven't laughed so much in ages.

The best (well, depending on my mood, or how late I'm running) part of meeting in Picadilly is the chance to cut through a charming part of the city, notably this time of year. It's not an area I venture into often - what with crowds, and not being much of a shopper - but they always dazzle it up at Christmas time with absolutely bizarre themes. This year was no exception, and I was overjoyed:

Nothing says Christmas like celebrating Lent.

Then I went to Foxlow for their Christmas hot dog: a free-range turkey sausage, slow-smoked sugar-pit bacon, sprout tops, and cranberry hot sauce in a toasted brioche bun. Also the obligatory gravy tureen, which is the feature that keeps me coming back again and again. It was SO GOOD.

 Just LOOK at that thick-cut sweet, crispy, tender bacon. LOOK at it.

Today has been good - I did my proofreading from the bed, where I could spread out all my maps and character lists, and really create a sprawling Roman empire - which is appropriate, since this book is about the Batavi Revolt - and helpful, since these battles are COMPLICATED. Now it's time to put on some Outside Clothes and head to south London, where I'm meeting a friend and then returning home (via one more Christmas dish) to do a little more work before bed. 

Hope your days have been lovely, and until tomorrow,


Tuesday, December 12, 2017


This totally counts.

Book Club Picadilly: Christmas Party Edition went wild, totally got home far too late to make today's post happen. That said: just IMAGINE* tomorrow's content.

Big hugs, and loads to discuss re: first Christmas hot dog, and hope to see you tomorrow,

* Best not to.

Monday, December 11, 2017

That ham and cheese fritter, though

Yesterday was a SUCCESS, youguys. We put two Christmas burgers in us, watched some football, and fell into bed exhausted by . . . well, eleven. Not as early as I needed, but as late as I liked. Tonight, though - tonight is blissfully free and I'm making venison steak and risotto for dinner then crawling into bed with my book.

Now about yesterday's Christmas burgers. Chick'n Sours was the first up, for lunch. (Note about this burger: they only make a limited number a day, so if you want to make sure you don't miss out, ask them to save you one when you're making your reservation.) It's worth the effort, though, because like all Chick'n Sours chicken burgers, it was terrific. This year's burger is different from last year's, which I appreciated because so many on my list are duplicates and who's got time for that?? This year, their burger is a fried chicken fillet, 'Christmas' ham and cheese fritter, kewpie mayo, lettuce, and pineapple kimchi.

I've always wanted to spend Christmas in Hawaii.

Its only demerit was how impossible it was to eat: my mouth simply isn't big enough to get all the layers in one bite. I had to tackle it with a knife and fork after my first attempt scattered its contents all over my plate. It was a burger that wanted to be shovelled, and so I obliged. 

Then, after a snow-filled, romantic* jaunt around Covent Garden, we headed east to Red's True BBQ.  Their Christmas burger, called The Great Uniter, was a turkey patty with ham, bacon, Monterey jack cheese and cranberry sauce, tucked into a custard-soaked fried brioche bun:

Yep. Exactly as described. 

I'm not gonna lie: I liked it. The turkey patty was really flavourful - I thought for a moment I was actually eating stuffing, they must've put buckets of sage in it - and you can never go wrong with two different kinds of pork. The custard-soaked bun - the riskiest guest at the party - was not overpoweringly sweet, and kept the overall affair from dryness. Despite its appearance, it was also remarkably contained and easy to eat: 

I love a good burger cross-section. It reminds me of studying the earth's layers in science. "See the mantle? That's the tastiest bit."

And all that was for the best, because the rest of the food we ordered was not great. The restaurant was understaffed and perhaps because of this - the delayed service that plagued us all night - the pulled pork platter came out cold. The cornbread accompaniment was so dry you had to choke it down and so hard it could've been used as a missile if it didn't crumble into a thousand pieces just looking at it, and the mac and cheese - which might've been nice, if it were warm and bubbly - had become goopy and bland. The jalapeno and cheese sausage was the only dish that didn't suffer from cooling.

The best part of the night, though, was the company: we got to see our old friend Marcos, a world-travelling Brazilian who works as a freelance travel guide. He's seen more corners of the world than anyone I know, and always has great stories when we catch him. We were entertained well into the evening.

Today is work work work: I'm going to try to get through a quarter of this book edit and that requires a media and laptop blackout. Time to turn off phone and wifi, and dive in.

Wish me luck, and see you tomorrow.


*If by 'romantic,' we mean 'cold, wet and crowded'

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snowy Sunday and central London shopping

Alright guys, I gotta make this quick, because when we leave the house in two hours, we're gone for the day and we all know this isn't going to happen at 9 this evening (notably since that's when I plan to go to bed). I need a run at some solid sleep if I have a hope of kicking this cold.

But we're in luck, because IT'S SNOWING! I've been listening to it precipitate outside all morning as I half-slept, but assumed it was raining, which would've been the worst because we'd have to carry an umbrella and that's the last thing you want to do in central London, where a million people are crammed into an inch of sidewalk with their own, all the spokes and edges bumping and jostling and snagging on each other. It's a terrific way to lose an eye. Then we opened the bedroom curtain and lo and behold:


People in Scotland will laugh at the quantity, but it's been years since we've had a dusting like this that actually stuck. And it's still coming down! What a dream.

Our plans today involve lunch at Chick'n Sours to try their Christmas burger - which was my favourite one last year - followed by some Christmas shopping in Covent Garden (I know, it's like we hate ourselves), and then we're meeting an old friend from SF, who happens to be in town, for dinner (little does he know, but I booked us into a place that has another Christmas burger). 

Time to get dressed and head out - hope your day is full of joy and charm!

Big hugs,

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Who needs a dining room?

I always think I can write a blog post easily in an hour. Like, in my head, it goes like this: I sit down at 8 am, whip out some nice words about the day before or the day ahead, whack in a cute picture, et voila! 9 am and I am ready to post and start my day's work.

But that's not how it works at ALL. I'm very stream-of-consciousness when I write. What I'm thinking about right now, at this exact moment, is what goes in. Which would work if I had a large stream, but I don't. It's more like a trickle. Enough water to make mud but not enough to drink from. So I write a sentence. Then I stop. I don't know where I'm going from here. I meander over to Facebook, see if anybody new liked yesterday's post in the thirty seconds since I last checked. Return to blog. Re-read the first sentence, spend three minutes fussing with it because now it looks weird. Fix it. Time to move on to next sentence. Blank. Click over to Imgur, laugh at most viral. Contemplate digging through my phone to see if I have any good OC to share, consider making a gif. Don't do it because if I were feeling creative, I'd be writing successfully in my blog. Back to the post.

And so on and so forth. By the time I should be wrapping it all up, I'm only a paragraph in.

It's helpful - obviously - when I have something to talk about. Like today, we're hosting Cookbook Club. We're doing Polpo because it seemed fitting to have Italian this time of year, something cosy and hearty and warm. We want to eat pasta, and arancini, and bruschetta and meatballs. We're going to have a dozen friends crammed into a living room that seats four and it's going to be a comedy of cushions and couch-arm perching and I certainly won't regret having my Christmas tree up already, usurping valuable floor space. Surely someone can go on TOP the tree.

I should hit the shower and then the kitchen soon; once I'm done with all that, it's time to gather every chair/stool/ottoman/strong-looking side-table that could be used as a seat into the living room. Welcome to our home, please take a lap. Yes, you're doubling up.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Insert Blog Title Here

Well. To the surprise of no one, it turns out going into a loud music venue to socialise with friends is the exact OPPOSITE of what a sore throat needs, and now my voice has kicked it. Heeding some good advice, I shall be nurturing what is left and communicating all weekend using a combination of charades and overly-zealous hand gestures. I apologise now if I blacken your eye telling you the story of my most recent Christmas burger.

I am currently reheating soup that has very clear instructions not to reheat it and I'm feeling a frisson of danger. If this is how it feels to be a stuntman, what a rush.

I have one of my book clubs tonight and I haven't finished the book yet. I think it's because I enjoyed this book a decade ago so reading it now feels indulgent, like a comfortable blanket, and when I have a to-do list as long as my arm, I don't feel like I've earned it. Then there's also the risk that my rose-coloured memories of it won't hold up to the scrutiny of an older me. Not that I'm much more discerning now - in fact, there are times I think I'm actually regressing - but still, the concern is there.

Either way, if I can achieve my proofreading target early today, I'm going to draw a hot bath, douse the water with menthol oil, and see what progress can be made. WORDS WORDS WORDS.

And because every post needs a picture: look at our nice lumpy Christmas tree. 

I hope your days are going well so far and you're staying warm. Until tomorrow,

Big hugs to all, 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A little virus for you, a little virus for me

Okay, I don't what joker of the ten billion we've hung out with lately has given me a sore throat, but they'd better show their face so I can hack violently at it. My throat is tickle-tastic. Can't wait to continue going out so I can spread this around. Nothing is holding me back this holiday season.

Clove Club was an absolutely knock-out last night. Look at all these beautiful bites:

Chicken feet: the pork crackling of the poultry world

 Fish and meat and meat and fish

I wish they sold these fernet gushers in a bag so you could pop 'em all day like skittles

Heading to work in a mo and looking forward to it - my new proofread is historical fiction and that's always a good time. I want to get a good amount done before heading out tonight. Some gf's and I are going to curl up on a couch and watch a Christmas movie and eat sausage casserole and be cosy together. And then afterward I'm going to see a friend's band play their first gig, like I'm some sort of crazy young person with bounds of life-force. It'll be worth it, though - just think of how many people I'll be able to spread my lurgy to.

See you all tomorrow, when I am sure I will feel 100% and not regret any of my choices.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Laundry tips always appreciated

Right now I'm watching for the postman like a hawk while I wait for my next manuscript to arrive, and I just *know* he'll come the second I step out for dinner. Or worse: TOMORROW.

He's definitely coming tomorrow.

Today has been wonderfully productive - an edit has gone out, work emails were caught up, and I bleached some blood stains out of the sheets of our last airbnb guests. I don't know what limb they injured, but I hope they saw a doctor because no way they were in one piece. You can always tell that visitors have soiled something when they do you the favour of stripping the bed and piling everything on the floor. When I get home from a week away and see someone's sheets or towels in a heap, I just groan. WHAT NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE NOW. Inevitably, it's a towel covered in makeup, or a torn sheet, or a coffee-stained pillowcase. This is the first time we've got blood and I'm struggling to get it out.

We cannot be charging enough on Airbnb to keep this house in linens or pay for my gray hairs.

I have exactly half an hour before I have to haul myself up from this laptop and head out: tonight we're meeting friends for dinner at the Clove Club, which - according to an article I just read - okay, I'm lying, I only read the headline, there were SO many words and I'm not made of time - is Britain's highest-ranked entry in the World's 50 Best Restaurants. I'm excited; I've only been there once and it was years ago and the night passed in a blur. I'm going to get all dressed up and sit pertly in my seat and then - waving away the tasting menu haughtily - tell the server to give me their best Christmas sandwich.

Time to put my pearls on!


I didn't have a relevant photo to share today so here is a puppy I met last weekend trying to steal a mobile phone. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Two more burgers down, only one worth it

OKAY, YOUGUYS. Speed-post. It's nearly ten and I have two burgers to talk about and the house is so cold all I want is to get under the duvet as quickly as possible and read my book.

Today Jess helped me knock a couple burgers off my list (one cannot eat all of these alone) and we decided to tackle Patty & Bun and Gourmet Burger Kitchen (henceforth called GBK, or FUGBK).

First, Patty and Bun. Lovely, juicy, thoughtful Patty & Bun.

This year, instead of doing a traditional* Christmas burger, Patty & Bun got together with Flat Iron and made this beast of a special called The Iron Patty. It was terrific, and contained all the elements promised cooked to medium rare perfection: a galloway mince beef patty, roscoff onions, fontina ‘goo', dripping & truffle mayo, on a brioche bun with pickled cucumbers on the side. I don't need to say much for this, other than it was scoffed heartily and with great pleasure. 

Two more snaps for your viewing pleasure before we leave P&B and things take a dark turn. 

THEN WE GET TO BURGER TWO. There was a GBK located right around the corner from Patty & Bun, a convenience that I took advantage of, but should not have. I should have immediately high-tailed it all the way across town, to Red's, or Dirty Bones, or heck, KFC, whose Christmas burger I ate last year and which was, for the record, STILL BETTER THAN THIS, and I'm pretty sure it was just mayonnaise. I learned tonight why I've never been to a GBK: BECAUSE IT IS TERRIBLE.

According to the article I read, it was 'Beef, venison or chicken, topped with hash browns, smoked Applewood cheese, cabbage, bacon and tarragon mayo. All sloshed down with a shameful wheelbarrow of gravy'. None of these are bad ingredients, right? In fact, pretty standard, hardly even worth calling it Christmas-themed. We ordered the venison version (because something had to make it feel festive), and then, soon, this arrived:

Now, okay, objectively, not the worst burger we've ever seen. It may not be the sexy, gooey fun-fest the others have been, but it's not sloppy. The pieces are all there, including the seemingly-obligatory, gratuitous, crowning meat chunk. (A little excess for you, Emma.)


Just LOOK at this:

Also, that cheese? It had clearly been frozen and then defrosted. It was crumbling, no, flaking out of the burger in oily pieces. FLAKING. How gross is that descriptor for something falling out of your burger that isn't truffle, or parmesan?

Oh, and the 'shameful wheelbarrow of gravy'? THIS:

The only thing shameful about this is the reviewer's description of it. And, well . . . everything else. We poured it over the burger hoping it'd save the day - or at least, fix the sahara-like texture - but alas. Nothing could. Jess didn't even finish her half, calling it - graciously, elegantly - 'a serious misstep'. Oh yes it was, Jess. Oh yes it was. 

Now I need to go upstairs, put on my pajamas, and try to forgive myself. 

Tomorrow's schedule isn't likely to allow any Eating Christmas, but it will contain editing, laundry, and probably a stomach-ache. EXCITED ALREADY. 


*I'm flying pretty fast and loose with this word here

Monday, December 4, 2017

Eating aubergine in the dark, as a Monday does

I haven't had a moment to write all day and now I'm in that ravenous window, right between lunch and dinner, where all I want, more than anything, is to EAT - real food, not these clementines I keep cramming in my face - but I can't because dinner is in a couple hours and I have to WAIT. In a previous life, when I worked as a nanny, this was the hour I fed the kids and stole bites of their macaroni and cheese when their backs were turned. 

Super fun that my entire post today is food-related. This will be great and not at all torturous. 


Let's talk about last night's Yard Sale Pizza! On the left we have their cheesy garlic bread, which - even though not Christmas-themed - was so perfect it deserved some credit. Let's all take a moment and admire the way the cheese has already melted back into the cracks where it was sliced. (Does that make anybody else feel funny inside?) To the right, we have the star of the show: Yard Sale's Christmas pizza, the Damn Son. It came with shredded brussels sprouts, pancetta, Fio Di Latte mozzarella, black pepper, and DJ BBQ's double smoked garlic and sriracha mayo. It was, like all of Yard Sale's pizzas, excellent. So this review is going to be boring. It is excellent. If you live near a Yard Sale, put it in your mouth. That is all I have to say about it.

Today unfortunately did not contain a Christmas food of some sort, but there is a homemade soup for dinner, which functions as both a punishment for our gluttony and a necessary break for our waistlines. It's harissa-roasted aubergine with orange and its incredibly unappealing purple-brown colour makes the lovely flavour all the more shocking - but if you cover your eyes, hey hey hey!

I hope your Mondays have been nice; see you tomorrow!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Oh Pizza, Where Art Thou

So much has happened in 24 hours. 

It all started with a dinner party based on Land of Fish and Rice. The menu:

+ Shanghai noodles with dried shrimp and spring onion oil (SUPER EASY, STUPID TASTY)
+ Ningbo omelette (you think you have too many chives, but get this - you DON'T. They hecka earthy fragrant. Also the directions say to flip it, but it also doesn't specify pan size and my fry pan was so large it was cooked through in less than a minute with no flip required. So you can choose your own adventure.)
+ Shaoxing slow-cooked pork belly (is it possible to go wrong with pork belly?)
+ Spiced wheat gluten and four delights (the most work, the most beautiful. Will never make again but will pay any amount to put it back in my mouth)
+ Cucumber salad (always and forever. Is there any culture that doesn't do this right?)
+ Slippery wood-ear salad with coriander (this black mushroom looks so much like ears it's FREAKY.)
+ Green soybeans with snow vegetable (the surprise of the night, and may've been my favourite)

Spring onion noodles, soybeans with snow veg, and below, spiced gluten with the full spread


We made a sleepover of it and ended the night in our TV nook (or the 'Den of Iniquity' as we like to call it, our Room-under-the-Stairs), watching Nightmare Before Christmas - Al and I hadn't ever seen it, and Pip and Rich knew EVERY WORD AND SANG ALONG (heck, I didn't even know it was a musical) so basically, our christening was in the best environment possible.

Then we get to today: EATING-CHRISTMAS SUNDAY. We decided to try the All Star Lanes Christmas burger, described as "a turkey, chestnut and cranberry patty beneath a layer of duck-fat-roasted potato salad, topped with a sausage and apricot stuffing fritter." Here's what we got:

Not gonna lie: the description was close enough, and It. Was. Tasty. The problem? The cold potatoes that constantly fell out, and sogged up the bottom bun, on a hot burger (this contrast did not bother Al, but man loves potatoes, so if you are in that category, it likely won't bother you, either). I will also contest their use of 'fritter' - while I did find that bulbous hunk on the top to be the tastiest bite of the entire burger (Honestly. GOOD), it was far closer to a meatball than anything battered and deep-fried, and I didn't taste a lot of stuffing.

All of that is minor, though - it was objectively a tasty, tasty burger and we would both definitely eat it again. The real problem? THE SETTING. This is a BOWLING ALLEY. In a MALL. Maybe other locations are different - a BOWLING ALLEY. In the FINANCIAL DISTRICT - but regardless, this time of year, esp on a Sunday, it's Kidsfest2017. We were surrounded by shrieking birthday parties, balloons, tiny monsters screaming at vocal pitches that should not be possible in humans - and no burger could possibly be worth the assault on the senses. 

But we ate it, and we liked it, and would even go so far as to recommend it (if you can get it delivered, or enjoy dining out with headphones).

Then we took our full bellies to the nicest of nap spaces: the movie theatre. We watched Murder on the Orient Express, and as usual with me and mysteries, I did not come close to guessing the culprit. Alan took a nap. Altogether, SO SATISFYING. I hope they make more. 

Now we're home for the evening and waiting for our Christmas pizza from Yard Sale. I am going to be MADE of brussels sprouts by the end of this month. 

I love this country.

Big hug and lots of love,