29 June 2013

Foodie Penpals: June Edition

With a miss-fire last month, I was doubly excited to receive June's Foodie Penpal parcel, and it was friggen awesome.

I was pretty vagues with my likes & dislikes as usual, as I love trying new stuff and very rarely dislike something (here's looking at you Kale), so my Penpal Fikir did some blog research and came up with an absoloutely awesome package.

To help with my 101 in 1001 goals, she sent me her most favourite Foodie read which I'm already hooked into and enjoying - (gotta love commuting! Goal 99.), dried mushrooms for the Beef Wellington (Goal 72.)I'm planning on making (soon I promise!) and some fantastic tips - and Nasturtium seeds to make an eadible flower salad (Goal 77). What she doesn't know is that I was running through the goals the other day to see how I was going, and this is one I've set my heart on doing this season - win!! The Foodie Penpals psychic link in action again...

Then, the piece de resistance. Fikir's homemade Chocolate Coffee Bean Cake. Holy crumbs this was delicious. Velvety chocolate cakey decadence with whole coffee beans providing a chewy caffeinated whomp as a counterpoint. I think I'm in love, and may need to beg the recipe but then I would have to make & eat it which would be temptation. Talk about conflicted feelings.

Anyway, it really was delicious - and very moreish.

Thank you Fikir, you're package was so thoughtful and perfect - it was me in a nutshell.

Both my Penpal hook-ups were readers this month, so I can't pass on any blog love (Kieran, I hope you received my package and it's not lost in transit somewhere in a UK postmasters lunchbox!) but I can give you cake envy. SorryI'mnotsorry.

28 June 2013

Birthday celebrations - Giveaway NOW CLOSED

I love celebratin' and even though I can't quite believe it, it has been one whole year of Adventures for this London Kiwi. Thank you for so kindly reading my blatherings for so long. I check out a few stats, and over a 100 people have visited the blog more than 100 times. Say what?

My favourite way to celebrate? It's with friends, readers and generally lovely people to say thank you. This means YOU!

I feel like one of those parents, who have realised they have made it through 12 months of stressing they will drop, maim or break the baby, only to discover they have done not only ok, but started to raise a pretty cool kid (well as most parents I think my 'kid' is pretty cool anyway. Talk about #mumlove)

So, to celebrate the first birthday of Adventures of a London Kiwi, I'm hosting another giveaway or two. As my personalised foodie package went down so well, I think I'm going to do it again, plus a little something something for my Worldwide readers.

For my UK & European blog readers:

I'm going to add a little 'something something' and make up a Foodie Penpals-esque parcel of gourmet goodies which will be delivered to an UK/European address of your choice. It will take food allergies into consideration and contain £25.00 worth of hand picked goodies, unique to you, by answering a few questions over email like;

- Sweet, Savoury or a mixture?
- Good or naughty?
- Do you follow any particular diet such as vegan, vegetarian, low carb?

Life is all about adventures - and in this case, Timtams may be involved.

For the gourmet parcel you may be thinking £25 isn't the most massive value - for that much in your average-high-street-hamper that would get a bottle of chutney, some crackers & maybe a cheap bottle of plonk.

My last giveaway had an extremely healthy angle, and tidbits were sourced from Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, my local organic shop and specialty stores (these guys don't endorse me, it's just to give you an idea.)

My last parcel winner was a health-food fiend, so her parcel centred around healthy treats I thought she'd like (which it sounds like she loved which is fantastic!).

For my Worldwide readers (inc the UK & Europe):

One of Runaway Kiwi's sterling silver pendants or bracelets of your choice plus a few Kiwi or English sweet treats. Your choice.

Designed on the steps of St Paul's by Runaway Kiwi, the pendants have so far travelled to New Zealand, Japan, America, Canada, Afghanistan, Australia, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Croatia, India and have flown around the world. (I highly suggest visiting her blog & following her on Twitter for art, highjinks and London-isms).

How cute are they? And with a price of £25.00 enter the draw and one could be all yours!

How To Enter:
  • Simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below to verify your entries
  • Entries can be via blog comment, Bloglovin' Twitter etc
  • Leaving a blog comment is mandatory and failure to do so will void any other entries
  • Closing date -  18th July 2013

*Terms and conditions

  1. One prizewinner of each draw only, but you can enter both if applicable (though Worldwide entrants can't enter the UK one, sorry - the post would be extortionate!)
  2. Adventures of a London Kiwi will post the gourmet parcel Special Next Day Delivery but is limited to the reliability of Royal Mail
  3. Adventures of a London Kiwi will post the pendant and treats Special Next Day Delivery as soon as they have been received but is limited to the reliability of Royal Mail
  4. The winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours of the end of the competition with and the gourmet parcel dispatched within 72 hours of the winners reply
How Entries and Rafflecopter works:
  • You will need to complete the mandatory entry first by making a blog comment. Click 'leave a comment' at the bottom of the post and leave your reply. The comment won't show immediately as it needs to be moderated, however rest assured it will appear on the site, so carry on with rest of your entries.
  • Go back to Rafflecopter and click the green button to tell me you have made a comment, this will unlock all the other options. All entries are checked to see that the mandatory question is answered, if its not all bonus entries will become void.
  • Rafflecopter will tweet, like and follow on your behalf.
  • For information on how to find the URL of your tweet click here.
  • For bonus entries you can return to this page and enter the daily bonus entries.
  • If you are still unsure as to how Rafflecopter works please do check out this short video. 


    Ps. RunawayKiwi has kindly also extended a 20% offer code to those people who can't resist her pretty necklaces - just enter londonkiwi in the promo code box at ASOS!

    27 June 2013

    Venice, Italy - #travelthursdays

    Six years ago, I fell in love.

    As with most love affairs it was brief but torrid. I fell hook line and sinker for Italy. We spent two weeks in total in the most gorgeous country I've ever been to yet; 4 days in Venice, 3 days in Pisa (finding a surprisingly good beach tucked away), 3 days in Florence, and 4 days in Rome.

    Rome left me a little cool, it was busy and crazy. Florence was fantastic, a very laid back artsy city. Pisa we thought was going to be a one trick pony, but Venice, oh how I loved it.

    Venice, how I love thee (especially on a late-summer's day). The jewel-box churches, the history and the uniqueness of a floating city, combined with some of the best food in the world.


    My best tips;
    • Take the water taxi out around to the outlying islands & plan to come back around twilight. Watching the sun set as Venice appears on the horizon is astonishing.
    • Don't be taken in by the tourist trap restaurants, and try the house wine. It's normally delicious.
    • Try not to go at the height of summer, apparently it doesn't smell very good and swarms with tourists.
    • Prepare to get lost in Venices' wandering streets. It's the best way to stumble upon something beautiful. 


    Florence stole my heart many, many moons ago, Venice has my soul, Rome my thirst and hunger, Tivoli my artisticly history drenched imagination.

    26 June 2013

    Pies, Olympians, Lamingtons and a Kiwi mini-festival near Regents Park.

    Picture this, straddling one side of genteel Marylebone Road we have Taste of London in Regents Park; Londoners nibbling canapes, sipping sparkling wine and discussing Foodie trends. On the other side, in a private garden we have the Kiwis drinking beer, eating pies and listening to Jared Christmas tell dirty jokes and rib a gold medal toting Olympian about how strong his arms would be in a hug.

    Oh yes, Kiwihouse was back (with a few less flames).

    Ps. I am going to name drop like a mofo in this post, because it was for charity, raising funds for the Kiwi athletes looking to compete in the Rio Olympics. So there.

    The mini-festival was pretty informal, located in one of London's premier private gardens and had crates to rest on, a DJ BBQ (ably assisted by @ChefMattBurgess) a huge marquee and some delish niblets. They had a bad-boy BBQ and an awesome outdoor stove, check it out below...

    The DJ BBQ's beats, and North Carolina inspired Pulled Pork sandwiches were pretty delish, especially accompanied by Kiwi nosh like Twisties (in all their neon E-number glory) and Pineapple Lumps. I think I could just about write a Robert Burns worth ode to Pineapple Lumps (or maybe rip off a Black Eyed Peas song). On a sidenote, I think I may be slightly high still from the e-numbers.

    Apart from meeting up with a couple of friends, one due to move to Hong Kong, my main goal was to try one of Pie Pai London's beautiful looking pastry creations.

    It didn't disappoint. Flaky pastry, proper lumps of steak and delicious cheese. I'm only disappointed there wasn't time or belly room for their Bacon & Egg Pie. A little bird tells me that they live on Northcote Road Market (SW11 1NZ), London's "Kiwi Pie epicentre" so I think a few further investigations need to be carried out. In the name of science you understand?

    Our Rowing and cycling boys enjoying a well deserved @piepai_london with @kiwihouse2012

    An unexpected delight were a fresh batch of Lamingtons, my first in about 8 years. Tim from Ozone coffee couldn't actually believe that I hadn't had one in that long. It seems I need to get my baking scales out sharpish!

    All washed down with a healthy tin of 'Lemonish' L&P. Kiwi sunshine in a can.

    We then trooped out of the English "summer" weather into a marquee, where we met Hamish Bond, Eric Murray (great blokes, more than happy to chat to us fans - I get so shy that I let my friend do most of the chatting, whilst I did the English thing and chipped in with inane snippets about the weather) and a host of Rowing and Cycling sports people who were all lovely, and tall. So tall.

    Jared Christmas MC'd three up and coming Kiwi comics, and we laughed until our sides hurt at inappropriate jokes.

    Just a standard Sunday evening in the capital, y'know.

    25 June 2013

    Whispers Underground - Reading Recommendation

    You know when you're standing on the Bakerloo Line, it's late at night and you hear that weird noise that you can't work out what it is? Well, it's not the right time or situation to be reading this book whilst you are there, not once you begin the book. (Oh, yeah and personal safety as well kids.)

    Whispers Underground is the third in the Rivers of London Series, preceeded by Rivers of London and Moon over Soho, all following the adventures of London Bobby, Constable Peter Grant one of the two members of a very special until of the Met Police. They specialise in the unexplainable, and are called to cases that can't solved with ordinary policing.

    “Actually I'd always thought he [Nightingale] sat in the library with a slim volume of metaphysical poetry until the commissioner called him on the bat phone and summoned him into action. Holy paranormal activity, Nightingale - to the Jag mobile.”  

    This is just developing the great elements from previous books; Great one-liners between Peter and Lesley, London Police work and a cheeky overlay of the supernatural. This book takes Peter Grant even deeper into the tube, down down town and through a developing work ethic, some pretty thorough procedural work.

    Whispers Underground is my favourite book of the series so far, and that's no mean feat when writing as much like a band's first single, the first novel can be years in the making and so every aspect is considered a hundred ways. Subsequent novels in a series can be a little underbaked due to the quick time taken to get them on the shelves.

    "Oi," I shouted "Police! What do you think you're doing?" It's traditional.
    They turned and stared as I ran at them - there was a big one and a skinny one - that was also traditional.

    Why should you read this? It's fun, funny and really hard to put down. Even more exciting? The fourth book is coming out on the 25th July, woohoo!

    (Please note any links to Amazon are through my Amazon Associates account, which means I make a little money (less than 5%) from any purchases made after clicking through these links and it adds nothing to the price of your book. This helps support my book addiction, so if you are interested in buying the book, please click through the top link)

    24 June 2013

    The Tate Britain Rehang (Guest post by Fran Pickering).

    One of the things I've loved the most about blogging (in addition to pushing out boundaries) are the people I've come into contact with, both in real life and via Social Media.

    Fran is one of these lovely people, and we chat on Twitter, usually shooting the breeze about London and it's Japanese culture tide drifting through. She writes normally on her blog Sequins and Cherry Blossom (the sequins referring to London's theatres, the cherry blossom is of course a symbol of Japan) and derives a love for all things Japanese from living and working there.

    Fran has been kind enough to visit and write about the Tate Britain Museum, a lovely bit of culture on a dreary Monday morning to cheer you up.

    The Tate Rehang

    I’ve been wanting to blog about the the Tate rehang for weeks but couldn't shoehorn it into my blog theme, so I jumped at the chance when Emma offered me a spot on her blog. Thanks Emma!

    The Tate Britain is the Gallery of British Art on Millbank, just down from the Houses of Parliament (as opposed to the Tate Modern on Bankside, a short boat ride to the east). They’ve just re-hung their permanent collection for the first time in thirteen years, and I love it. It’s great innovation is, it’s chronological.

    That may not sound all that radical, but after the Serota years in which pictures were hung by theme, it’s a huge departure. Plus, the aim is that it will be permanent, so it will be possible to go back and revisit your favourite pictures - I’ve been back twice already. And they’ve done away with long explanatory captions so it’s just you and the picture with the title and artist discreetly shown underneath, as here with John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

    Discretion is the hallmark of this exhibition - the dates are set into the floor in gold at the entrance to each room, the walls are a restrained shade of grey and they’re lit by natural light from overhead.

    The pictures are predominantly hung at eye level - it means fewer pictures, I grant you, but the trade-off is you get to see them properly. The only exception is the Victorian Gallery where picture are hung two and three deep as they would have been at the time.

    The West Wing is given over to pre-twentieth century work, starting in the sixteenth century. So many old favourites here, like Stubbs’s beautiful Horse Frightened by a Lion from 1763.

    The East Wing is for twentieth century art. It has a brighter, more colourful feel - and you have to be more careful not to walk into the art works.

    William Blake has been given a room to himself and so has Henry Moore - here’s his King and Queen, beautifully displayed in its own niche at the end of the Henry Moore room.

    It surely can’t be long before David Hockney, whose recent work caused such a stir at the Royal Academy, merits a room of his own as well. But for the time being we’ve got two old favourites from his early period - Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy and A Bigger Splash.

    My only criticism is that the noise from Simon Starling’s projection screens in the Duveen Gallery is audible in most of the rooms, so you don’t get to wander round in peace. Maybe they could turn the soundtrack off on certain days?

    But let’s not carp. Let's just give Tate Britain Director Penelope Curtis a round of applause.
    I've only been to the Tate Britain once, and it sounds like I really need to make a return visit! Thank you again Fran, the time and effort you have taken is really appreciated.
    Ps. Tate Britain is free at the time of writing (with no future plans to begin charging) and is really easy to get to, so you (and I) have no excuses!

    23 June 2013

    Is the grass always greener?

    The other day on Twitter I saw a Tweet that didn't just frizzle away into amusing oblivion, but it really stayed with me.

    Let's face it, my blog is more about what I enjoy living in London, sharing it with you to enjoy too. I really struggle to convey how I think about London, it's fast-paced, crazy, challenging and a rewarding place when you start to settle in.

    London can make or break you. For a lot of young people, it's their first time truly on their own two feet; no parents to pick you up when your car gets stranded in a car park, no Dole (aka Benefits) system to have as back up back up safety cushion which is a big financial pressure, and it's really hard to find decent Vegemite.

    But, one of the hardest issues I've found living permanently in another country as an expat, are the days that the grass looks greener on the other side. It is so easy to think "Hmph, if I were at home it would be so much easier/better/simpler/this wouldn't happen..." when you run into problems and you're not in your home. C'mon, really?

    So your alarm clock wouldn't go off, your bitchy workmates wouldn't slag you off behind (and not so behind your back) and the train wouldn't be delayed for an hour in the pouring rain the day that you wore your new uncomfortable heels?

    Sure, of course this happens at home as well. This is life. But isn't it better that it's happening in a town where you take a minute of peace in a 17th Century Church, where you can fly to Italy for the price of a 3 course dinner or catch a train to Paris in a couple of hours?

    It's also really ok to sit down and have a good cry once about it once in awhile too. Whether it's with a friend and a bottle of wine, a soppy movie or at the Laundromat.

    I can't really provide a solution, except to not get too complacent. Become a perma-tourist and enjoy your city. Find a small café that no-one knows about that does an amazing Latte, make a few expat friends - they understand - and take the initiative to plan small trips as your budget allows. Don't forget Tea, it's essential.

    It will get better, and the grass isn't always greener. Don't give in, battle through the hard stuff because the good stuff is always around the corner. I have days here and there that everything seems to be magnified way out of proportion and because of it I've occasionally cried because I opened mail the wrong way.

     Yep, just as green at Kew Gardens...

    @chickenruby, thank you for the unintended challenge. I'm not sure if my post will help for a change, instead of just telling you guys about the fun stuff, but I hope it does. Normal service will resume tomorrow, don't worry!

    Expats, what are your coping strategies? Please share!

    21 June 2013

    (Mostly) Wordless Fridays

    The last couple of weeks being back, and recovering from our holidays, getting back in to the sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep, work, be sociable, sleep a little longer, chores, be sociable, sleep a little longer, be sociable, sleep... pattern has been good, but has meant life was a little quiet.

    I tell you one thing though, I'm glad cats can't talk - can you imagine how they would run the world with this cuteness and general badass-ery at their disposal?


    I had a cool postcard penpal reminder of our awesome holiday though come through the postbox.
    At least I've got photos to remember it by, and you poor readers to live through the blog posts of it...

    How has your week been? What is your highlight? Are you planning any fun holidays?