31 January 2014

Friday figments and photos

This week as chez Adventures of a London Kiwi has been one that you expect of London, but don't seem to get all that often. Rain. Rain a-pouring from the heavens, umbrella wars & dodging the odd hail stone shower.
(We've also launched a monthly travel blog link up - this month's topic is your most memorable night's sleep - please join in!)
As such we have been reaching for internal delights; ones that soothe the soul and tease the palate. Taking pleasure in the small things; the refraction of streetlamps through saturated branches;
Gluten baking fails that companies have turned into marketing options (this my friends is called 'Ugly Cake');
Mischievous and rather raucous street signs;
A. Wall. Of. Tea.;
The odd sneaky burger, Kiwi tweeps chatting in a Covent Garden cave and brainstorming sessions over flat whites;
A trip through a fantastic London brewery;
And revealing my greatest invention, my baby, my Breakfast Cake.

30 January 2014

What is the most memorable night's sleep you've ever had? Travel Linkup

We had such fun revealing our 2014 travel wishlists, Kelly, Rebecca and I thought it may be fun to extend the travel link up to a monthly affair. A chance to stretch our typing fingers, travelling feet and wanderlust minds.

(Ps. the link up is open from the 31st Jan - 5th Feb so get writing & join in! All we ask is that you add your link & comment on a few (or all if you have the time) of the other bloggers posts! Easy squeezy!!)

 Adventures of a London Kiwi Canal Boating

This month is Kelly's hosting duties, and when she suggested we roll with the most memorable night's sleep, it got my mind whirring. What a cool way to think of your travels. The only problem; where to start?
The Good: Stratford Upon Avon, England..

We don't really roll with particularly luxurious hotels when we're travelling, as we love to stay somewhere that has a great view, good location or quirky charms. For perfect example, take our B&B on Venice's Mainland, our Parisian apartment overlooking a delectable food market or our honeymoon apartment in the South of France.

 Adventures of a London Kiwi Paris Apartment
 Overlooking the tres magnifique markets in the centre of Paris.
('Scuse the grainy images, they were taken back when the camera almost chiselled
out the photos on slate...)
Adventures of a London Kiwi Life as a Parisian
The local Parisian Framagerie. How on earth do you choose just one cheese? 
But, the best place we've ever stayed was in England. Yep, good 'ole Blighty. About 5 miles from Stratford upon Avon is one of the loveliest boutique hotels we've had the pleasure of staying at. We walked into the room, and I literally bounced with glee (much to Mr Kiwi's amusement & mickey taking for the rest of the long weekend). 
The Bad: (I don't do them) The Most Amazing: Canal Boating through England

Canal Boating Kent England Adventures of a London Kiwi

What more could you want? Transportation, storage, fantastic views, the ability to sleep in your bed or snooze in the sunshine on the roof, laughter with friends, the 'don't drink too much rule', wandering along foolishly placed gang planks in the dark, listening to the putter of the boat engine counterpointed with soft catcalls from the other end of the boat, and relaxing in the helm with a good book as the world floats past.

A Room with a View Canal Boating Adventures of a London Kiwi 

(What should have been...) The Downright Ugly: Edinburgh, Scotland.
Years and years ago, when I was a humble London bargirl fresh off the boat from New Zealand, Mr Kiwi and I decided to nip away to Edinburgh. On the long bus back from Rosslyn Chapel I was struck down by a lightening lurgy or virus. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was sleep deprivation due to a ridiculously busy work schedule, maybe it was some kind of immune reaction to IrnBru. We will may never know.

Adventures of a London Kiwi Edinburgh Castle
I fell asleep sitting up (something that never happens), I was shivering, had flushes and all sorts. It was gross.
Forth Road Rail Bridge Edinburgh Adventures of a London Kiwi
All I do know is that Mr Kiwi and I were staying in a hostel (forgive me, it was a cheap, really, really last minute break) on single bunk beds and we ended up ordering pizza in (romantic, no?) curling together on the same mattress kitted out in almost every item of clothing I had brought. It should have been horrible, possibly the end of our new relationship and possibly our last trip together. But somehow, it was one of the best nights sleep we've ever had.

The Most Surprising: Prague, Czech Republic.
This isn't down to the clean, fantastic hostel which was hotel standard. Or the amazing breakfast spread that lasted from 7am to 1pm, filled with every conceiveable kind of food. It wasn't even the fantastic proximity to the Centre of Prague and fantastic pub around the corner serving up chilled Czech beer.
Adventures of a London Kiwi Prague
It was the American girl who complained at the end of her stay (of over a fortnight) about the beds not having duvet covers and having to supply her own blankets, despite the website confirming they did.
Adventures of a London Kiwi Prague Gehry
Turns out, her Mom had turned down her blankets for her every night of her life, and it hadn't occurred to her that she had been sleeping ON the blankets the whole time because she hadn't known to turn down the covers.
She was travelling on her own through Europe. I really, really hope she made it home again.

Our next trip? Who knows where we'll end up staying. This could work.


29 January 2014

Breakfast Cake. Oh yeah, you read that right - Cake for Breakfast.

Fat free, sugar free, gluten free (depending on the ingredients you use obviously...). Quick, healthy, easy and fully customisable cake for breakfast. You're not going to believe me...
I, and many of my friends love cake, that's pretty obvious by the plethora of cake that appears on the blog, right? But cake doesn't necessarily love our hips (or maybe too much - depends on how you look at them I guess). It's a fact that I've accepted, and last year Mr Kiwi and I made it our mission to work off as much of the muffin top/love handles that we could.

Breakfast Cake, Cake for Breakfast Adventures of a London Kiwi

Blueberry & Lemon Drizzle Breakfast Cake + light Cream Cheese
Running parallel to this process, I've also been discovering a burgeoning Foodie passion. Paired with developing a gluten intolerance has lead to trying new recipes away from the normal, everyday calorie-laden, gluten-laced punch that shop bought food can pack. Balance is what was needed, and this gem of a recipe that was developed meant I certainly could have a slice of cake in each hand, guilt free.
So, as someone who can't not eat breakfast (apologies for the double negative - this is a case in point - I'm reaching for my coffee right now) I now love sitting in the mornings with a slice of the latest flavour permutation and a hot drink (usually a flat white, tea or chai latte). The texture is surprisingly good, halfway between a bran muffin and a cake and it takes roughly 8 minutes to make the night before you want to eat it. On stricter diet days, it is inevitable that donuts will rear their tempting bonces or birthday cake will be displayed, but armed with my tasty alternative it means that I don't feel like I'm missing out - not to mention I make mine with Gluten Free Oats.

Breakfast Cake - Adventures of a London Kiwi -
Peanut Butter Cup Breakfast Cake

Made with the goodness of Oats, and Wheat (which should help keep things a little regular if you know what I mean) the grains keeps you satisfied, the egg delivers a nice protein helping hand and the flavour variations really keeps things interesting.

The make time is about 8 minutes INCLUDING cooking. It sounds crazy, but cooking it in the microwave results in a drier, better cake so far in my experience.
Breakfast Cake

Adventures of a London Kiwi

Serves 2 portions
270 kcal per plain portion when made with 0% fat unsweetened yoghurt
2 Eggs
2 TBSP of yoghurt
4 TBSP Ground Oats*
2 TBSP of Wheat Bran**
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp White Sugar/Sweetener equivalent
1 tsp Vanilla Essence (as applicable)
1 TBSP dried Goji Berries (or sultanas or fruit)
  1. In a microwave proof container beat the eggs until combined & foamy. (Nb: This container will dictate the shape of your cake.)
  2. Add the yoghurt & mix until combined *warning* it will look weird for a couple of seconds, but wait it out. I'm sure there's a clever cooking term for this.
  3. Add the dry ingredients & your preferred flavourings
  4. Cook in the microwave. My microwave at 800W takes 4 minutes.
  5. Turn out upside down immediately & let cool.
  6. Serve with a hot drink & if you fancy more yoghurt or light cream cheese or whatever your favourite spread is. Cry 'Let them eat cake' whenever you feel the need.

* Take a handful of porridge oats, and blitz them in a blender until fine/breadcrumb size..
** Omit the bran for more gluten free oats.
*** Must be eaten within 72 hours of making - there are no nasty chemical preservatives in here so must be eaten asap.
**** I like it plain anyway, but a few of my favourite flavour pairings are;
Gingerbread (1 tsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp powdered Ginger, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg)
Chocolate Mint/Orange/Rum (1 TBSP Cocoa, +1 TBSP Yoghurt & 4 drops of relevant essence)
Lemon & Blueberry 'Drizzle' (Omit the Gojis, add 1 TBSP Lemon Juice, grated rind of half a Lemon and a small handful of blueberries. Drip a few more drops of juice on the cake of the Lemon whilst hot, once out of the microwave)
Carrot Cake (Half a finely grated Carrot, +1 TBSP yoghurt, 1 tsp Cinnamon, 1 tsp powdered Ginger, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg)
Black Forest (1 TBSP Cocoa, 1TBSP Dried Cranberries & 1 TBSP Coconut)
Ginger infused Red Velvet (1 TBSP Cocoa, +1 TBSP Yoghurt,  & 4 crumbled bits of Crystallised Ginger)
Coffee Walnut (2 tsp fine Coffee, 2 tsp Ground Walnuts)
Peanut Butter Cup (1 TBSP Cocoa added to the mix, then spread with Peanut Butter)

How do you start your day food-wise?

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28 January 2014

The Lumineries, Eleanor Catton - Reviewed

The New Zealand Gold Rush in the 19rh Century. A suspicious murder somehow involving a prostitute, 12 seemingly unconnected men and a serious supply to drugs, interwoven with an overarching horoscope story arc.

The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
I have a confession to make. I picked this up initially purely from nationalistic pride. There it is, I said it. New Zealand isn't really known globally for a plethora of literary works (hobbit toes, rugby, amazing scenery and a lot of sheep generally come to mind first) so when I saw that Eleanor Catton is the youngest Man Booker Prize winner with her second novel The Luminaries, I couldn't bring myself resist. However, because it was totally and utterly engaging I found myself unable to leave it alone.

It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.

The storyline circles and swirls, laden with the personalities, star sign attributes and circumstances of the 13 lead characters; even the length and duration of each chapter and section is intricately structured around the zodiac and the golden mean (each chapter is half the length of the preceding one). The omnipotent narrator dips and dives between character view point but slowly unfolds in a fascinating, detailed way. Whilst slightly confusing to start with, the host of distinct characters really fascinated me - going so far as to google a horoscope chart in order to try linking personality traits with their astrological 'traits'.
The Luminaries plays on Fortune’s double meaning –
men chasing riches, and the grand intertwining of destinies.
I couldn't pick a favourite character as each had both positive and negative traits. If I had to choose one, it would almost be the town itself. It was so easy to visualise this turbulent time in New Zealand's rich history; the prospecting miners with honour codes and habits, the quickly set up infastructure to cope with growing populations and the spawning industry created around the prospectors.
At 832 pages, The Luminaries is an intensive involved read, but the intricacies create a spell binding explanation of events culminating in quite the interesting ending. No plot spoilers here! It also really brought home the flexibility of a kindle; not only the freedom of not having to tote an 800+ page book around the streets of London, but being able to remain whilst reading in winter, no matter what icy weather conditions you are battling.

In a way The Luminaries asks its reader to be quixotic. Astrology, like all meaning-making systems, can be wonderfully sustaining. But in order to countenance it, you have to let yourself be a little bit naive. - Eleanor Catton
I would most certainly recommend this, a study in armchair travelling, historical suspense novels and a simmering example of New Zealand determination and imagination. (Ps. I found a really interesting interview with Eleanor Catton here.)
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27 January 2014

Centre of the Cell, Whitechapel.

Whitechapel is known for many things but bar the hospital, Medical history and laboratory work aren't topics generally associated with it. If someone mentions Whitechapel to me, I tend to think Murder - Jack the Ripper, the Bell Foundry, and some of the best curry restaurants in London (a well kept secret whilst tourists are harassed around the corner in Brick Lane). Thanks to an awesome Twitter network tip off, we have a new appreciation for this East End enigma.

Centre of the Cell is an educational and health charity (charity number: 1102034) located in Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, East London. We seek to have a positive impact on the educational, career and health choices of the children, young people and families we work with.

Centre of the Cell is an online resource, a science and health education centre and outreach project. We run educational sessions in the Centre of the Cell ‘Pod’ supported by workshops, mentoring and revision programmes, online resources and internships.   

In a specially arranged 'adults only' night trip, we were treated to not only a fantastic walking tour around the history rich streets of Whitechapel with the Guided Walks in London team, but a turn in the Centre of the Cell interactive pod, set up for children to teach them about the human body. 

The institute is firstly a working space for scientists, researchers and laboratory people working on finding cures and medical break throughs, for a healthier population.

The building is a modern marvel, hidden away from the traditional London buildings and shop fronts of Whitechapel proper. Inside the futuristic glass skin, there are several 'pods' inspired by actual microscopic cells found within the human body (if I had paid more attention to my science teacher in High School, I could probably tell you which ones...)

One of the pods contains the most technologically advanced teaching tools I've ever had the pleasure to play with learn about the human body with. The side of the pods lift up to reveal interactive exhibits keeping you interested for hours.
I WISH I had this when we went to school. I seriously would have stuck with sciences instead of art history is this was how we learnt.

They do have special events on for adults during the school holidays, but I seriously recommend talking a local school into arranging a trip that you can accompany. You must be able to volunteer, right?
Tor further information about Centre of the Cell check out their website.

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24 January 2014

Friday figments & photos

It's been quite a week at chez Adventures of a London Kiwi. I'm knackered.

- A St Pauls/Clerkenwell pub wander with a great guide, and discovering some fantastic hidden gems, and rediscovering a couple of old favourites
- A swift wander to Chinatown all gussied up in New Year readiness
- London Fog, and almost being a bit famous. Alas, they used a few shots of Westminster instead. Lame.

- A mint chocolate cheesecake proudly made by Mr Kiwi;

- Watching a man clean the outside of his windows in rather some danger. He did have gleaming windows though.

- Discovering that #gf Toastie Pies are delicious

- Finding a painting of Lady Emma Hamilton as Baccachus (and not being able to take a photo sadly

How's your week been? Are you over the January Blues yet?

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23 January 2014

Nara, Japan #travelthursdays

Spending time reflecting on trips to the British Museum with it's Japanese Gallery, the beautiful Netsuke and the glorious art of tea drinking, has me homesick for Japan, and in particular our memories of Nara.
It is a lovely historical oasis. Serenity, respect and beauty are the words that come to mind.
These Sika deer were lovely. They eat out of your hand (this one I especially loved - he had worked out that he should stand by the cart selling the deer food discs. Smart beastie) then they bow to you. They were regarded as sacred messengers of the gods in the Shinto religion. 

According to local folklore, deer from this area were considered sacred due to a visit from one of the four gods of Kasuga Shrine, Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto. He was said to have been invited from Kashima, Ibaraki, and appeared on Mt. Mikasa-yama riding a white deer. From that point, the deer were considered divine and sacred by both Kasuga Shrine and Kōfuku-ji. Killing one of these sacred deer was a capital offense punishable by death up until 1637, the last recorded date of a breach of that law.

After World War II, the deer were officially stripped of their sacred/divine status, and were instead designated as National Treasures and are protected as such. (Cheers Wikipedia!)

By the end of the day we were drinking sake in a local stand up sake bar (they are called tachinomis) surrounded by locals who spoke no English whatsoever and some of the tastiest food we had whilst in Japan. That memory alone epitomises travelling for me.
What travel destination can't you get out of your head?

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22 January 2014

Yum Chaa - Tea Shops, Reviewed.

It says review in the title, but in the interests of being honest, it's more of a love-in. A girl-crush some might say. Yum Chaa, where have you been all my life? Forget smelly pubs, expensive wine and hangovers, it's a more delicate way of life for me.
Yum Chaa have an amazing and possibly the best presented ever tea selection I've ever seen. How on earth do you choose just one?
Adventures of a London Kiwi Yum Chaa

A tea shop with a great sense of humour, and the staff are lovely.

They have rather interesting contraptions for some of their tea leaves - you leave the tea to brew, then fit the contraption on top of your mug to release the filtered tea. Someone I know (who shall remain nameless because I'm in a kind mood) was so enamoured, entranced and amused, she did it several times.

Buttery fresh scones, worthy of the Queen of Scones' recommendation (something rather hard to come by) both sweet and savoury (the olive and feta are especially delicious)

Quirky mismatched surroundings.

Adventures of a London Kiwi Yum Chaa
Scuse the terrible photo, I was in cake lust.

Oh, did I mention the delectable cake selection, both full of gluten goodies, and gluten free? There aren't just GF Brownies here, no siree. And when they do make the menu, they are scrumptious. I dragged the lovely Meg & Kelly (accidentally, I had meant to go to the Tottenham Street one - naughty Google Maps) to the Soho branch recently, on a London GF recce, and it was met to appreciative noises.

Adventures of a London Kiwi Yum Chaa

Isn't this corner just calling your name to settle in, natter and sip your chosen drink? That overstuffed armchair though, that's mine.

If you happen to be thirsty, hungry, wet, need a break from exploring through the British Museum or just wandering through Central London, take refuge in one of their shops. My favourite so far is their Tottenham Street branch, the cake selection there was rather incredible and deserves a re-visit. To check the quality levels you understand.
I'll report further. Oh the things we do for our blogs...

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