Holland Park Wisteria Hysteria

Holland Park is by far my favourite Park in London due to a combination of is history and absolutely beautiful gardens.

I love how Holland Park feels more like a neighbourhood park than some of the others in London. Although you will find some tourists in Holland Park, it just doesn’t get the same attention that Regent’s Park or Hyde Park do, so you can properly escape from the London hustle and bustle and relax among the beautiful manicured gardens.

This past weekend, with wisteria season was in full swing in London, so I was extra keen to make the trip over to Holland Park to hunt down the purple beauties before they disappeared.

First stop before the park, however, was a cupcake at Primrose Hill Bakery!

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Primrose Hill Bakery, which is just opened a branch in Holland Park, is not to be missed if you are a cupcake lover like myself.

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They have beautifully decorated, light and fluffy cupcakes and cakes. The bakery prides itself on using only high quality ingredients to make proper old fashioned bakes in unique and mouth-watering flavours.

There were so many options to choose from, including gluten free ones!

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I picked up a classic vanilla gluten free cupcake, while Mike went for a Snickers flavoured number. Although the shop is absolutely beautifully designed, we decided to take our treats to the park to enjoy the sunshine.

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Holland Park surrounds a mansion, Holland House, named after its second owner, the Earl of Holland. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Holland House was  a hub of political and literary activity, but was largely destroyed by bombing in WWII.

Today only the east wing and some ruins of the ground floor still remain and they form an atmospheric backdrop for the open air Holland Park Theatre.

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We enjoyed our cupcakes while people watching in the manicured tulip garden.

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Holland Park did not disappoint on the wisteria front either. The flowers were in full bloom, showering the park in pastel purple.

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Holland Park, has more to offer then manicured gardens, woodland and mass amounts of wisteria. At the centre of the park there is a Japanese-style Kyoto Garden with a koi carp pond, waterfall and terrific selection of rhododendrons, azaleas and hydrangeas.

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It was opened thanks to the support of the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991.

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We spent the afternoon checking out the flowers, inspiring us to get planning at home.

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Trench Coat, Navy Floral Blouse, Blush Scalloped Flats, Blush Cross-body Bag

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There were also some great animals to spot!

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Even after leaving the park the wisteria didn’t seem to leave us behind. The beautiful homes of the well-heeled denizens of the neighbouring streets were also covered in a pastel purple haze.

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Do you have wisteria hysteria? I just can’t get over these beauties, I am going to be sad when they disappear in a few weeks’ time!

Steph xo

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Easy Peasy Guacamole

In the summer time there is nothing better than a big bowl of guacamole! It goes great as a side at a BBQ,  makes a delicious topping on tacos and we all know it goes great on toast for lunch. Not only is guacamole so easy to make, but it is a big hit with friends and family too!

This recipe makes quite a large bowl of guacamole, as I firmly believe you can never have too much!

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 You will need:

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 3 shallots or half a red onion
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • 2 tablesoons of good quality olive oil
  • A large handful of cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
  • 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper

 To make: 

Peel and de-stone the avocados and place the green flesh in a big bowl. Using a potato masher or a fork mash the avocados, making sure to leave it a bit chunky in texture.

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Chop the shallots, garlic and tomatoes and combine them with the mashed avocado.

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Add in the juice from one lime, along with the olive oil.

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Next, add in the Tabasco, hot sauce and some salt and pepper to taste.

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Give is all a big stir, and you are done!

Easy peasy!

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Serve straight away with some tortilla chips or pop the guacamole in the fridge tightly covered in cling film to serve later. Your friends and family with thank you!

Do you have any favourite summer time recipes?

Steph xo

Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo

There is a great art gallery, just over the border from Canada, in Buffalo, called the Albright Knox. It makes the perfect excuse for a day trip from Toronto, being just a couple hours drive away and close to both Niagara Falls and the outlet malls.

Although it was a very rainy day, Mum and I decided to make the journey over the border to visit this lovely modern and contemporary art gallery, as they had a very interesting exhibition on, Menagerie: Animals on View. Mum and I are both massive animal lovers and we didn’t want to miss out!

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This furry friend exhibition was assembled from Albright-Knox’s expansive collection, bringing together more than 50 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and videos.

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It features creatures as agents of storytelling, humorous personifications, and echoes of the human spirit.

After touring the exhibition, we made sure to check out the permanent collection, which we have seen many times, but is always worth another visit. The permanent collection features work by well known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol.

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My favourite piece is a massive mural made of scribbles by Sol LeWitt! Wall Drawing # 1268: Scribbles: Staircase, holds the distinction of being the artist’s last and largest scribble drawing.

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The mural was made by 16 artists scribbling directly onto the gallery’s walls for seven hours a day, over 54 days, using a total of 1,717 graphite pencils. The end result is pretty spectacular! It doesn’t look like scribbles at all!

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Outside the gallery, there is nearly 20 different sculptures to explore as well.

But, we could only stay and play a little while, as the rain started up again!

Looking forward to another visit to the Alright Knox Gallery soon!

Steph xo

Vintage Shopping at the St Lawrence Antique Market, Toronto

When I was home in Toronto over the Easter break, my mum and I decided to head over to the St Lawrence Antique Market. This is a bit of a Sunday tradition for us, for as long as I can remember we have been going to this antique market to pick up rare finds and special pieces. We have found some real gems over the years!

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The St Lawrence Antique Market attracts a variety of people, you will find urban hipsters rubbing elbows with collectors and interior designers. They all know that this is the place to come for one of a kind pieces for your home or wardrobe.

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You just have to do a bit of digging first to find the good stuff!

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And make sure to arrive early, before all the good stuff has been snatched up!

At the market, you can find anything from antique books, vintage jewellery, exceptional home ware and beautiful clothing. Pieces you just won’t find anywhere else.

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Mike and I spent many Sundays at the market collecting UK and Canadian postcards, which people wrote on instead of a guest book at our wedding. It was such a nice touch for our special day, and we had such a great time looking at all the lovely old images!

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Luckily our trip was a successful one! We ended up with a great stash to take home.

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On our trip we picked up a wicker bag, a green glass fruit bowl, two mint vases, some beautiful fabric (Mum was going to use it to make a tablecloth!) and two beaded necklaces.

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The St Lawrence Antique Market is open every Sunday 7 am to 5 pm. If you live in Toronto or are in the area I strongly recommend checking it out!

Steph xoxo

Blooming Beautiful Bath

In celebration of Mike’s Birthday I decided to book a night for the two of us in Bath. Mike had not been to the city since he was very young and it has been a fair few years since I had been myself, so it felt like the perfect get-away from London.

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I am so glad we made the trip because I had completely forgotten what an absolutely beautiful city Bath is! No wonder the whole city is a listed world heritage site. Everywhere you go is just drop dead gorgeous.

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The whole setting was made even nicer by some lovely warm weather and all the spring blossoms that had came out in time for our arrival!

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We took an early train from London on Saturday morning and arrived by midday in Bath. We walked to our lovely hotel, Villa at Henrietta Park, and checked in.

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This small boutique hotel was perfect for our stay in Bath. It is located in the centre of Bath, just around the corner from the iconic Pulteney Bridge, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle that you are able to relax.

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The rooms are very nicely decorated and the beds are huge. You can’t wait to dive in!

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After checking in and dropping off our coats – it was so warm outside we didn’t need them – we headed to an Italian restaurant, Sotto Sotto, for lunch.

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When looking for places to eat in Bath, Sotto Sotto consistently came out as a top recommendation, so I knew it was a place we could not miss out on.

Luckily it didn’t disappoint! Delicious, simple Italian food as good as they make in Italy. They even had gluten free pasta for me!

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The staff were so accommodating, we even got a few recommendations for our trip to Italy in the Spring!

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If you are ever in Bath, make sure to put Sotto Sotto on your list, just be sure to book in advance, they generally get booked up quite quickly!

After finishing our meal we headed out into the sunshine to check out the sites. We popped in and out of the shops.

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Bath has some great vintage shops and boutiques.

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We made our way to the Royal Crescent, a row of thirty terraced houses laid out in an arch.

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It is famous for being one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture to be found in the UK.

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Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these as your home?

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We then spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Bath’s beautiful parks, including Green Park and Sydney gardens.

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As well as stopping into Sally Lunn’s for a Bath bun in the late afternoon.
It felt almost rude to consider going to Bath without a visiting to Sally Lunn’s, which is a bit of a Bath institution. Although it is a little bit of a tourist trap, it is still worth a trip to get your delicious bun to take away.

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After resting our tired feet back at the hotel watching an episode of The Replacement (I would strongly recommend this BBC mini series if you have not watched it before!), we wandered into town for some pre-dinner drinks at Opium Bar. Tucked away under a bridge, this intimate and quirky bar serves up some mean cocktails.


For dinner, we went to a Spanish restaurant next door to Sotto Sotto, La Perla (not to be mistaken with the lingerie brand!).

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Set underground, like Sotto Sotto, the setting was lovely and intimate and the food was tasty. We particularly liked the scallops and squid!

Although both restaurants were lovely, if we had to choose a winner between the two, it would be without a doubt Sotto Sotto.

The next morning, we woke up to another beautiful sunny day in Bath.

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We had heard good things about a hipster brunch joint, Hunter & Sons, so decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and head back into the city centre.

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We were greeted with delicious coffee and perfectly cooked eggs, what more could you ask for?

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As it was a Sunday morning and the city was still relatively quiet, after brunch Mike and I took a climb up one of the many hills surrounding the city centre to Lansdown Crescent and Hedgemead Park to get a view of city below.

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The streets were just as charming outside of the city centre as they were inside of it.

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Before catching our train back to London, we made sure to take back some sweets as souvenirs. Stopping in at Maison Georges Larnicol for some chocolates. A French chocolatier in the middle of Bath.

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The chocolates are sold by weight, so you get to pick and choose from numerous types and flavours of chocolates. They were delicious and reminded me of the amazing chocolatier we went to in Amboise twelve months earlier.

They also have an amazing selection of Easter eggs to choose from.

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A perfect weekend trip from London. We had such a lovely stay in this beautiful city, and I can’t wait to go back again soon!

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Steph xo

Girls Weekend in Amsterdam

A couple of weekends ago, Maria and I went to Amsterdam to visit our university friend, Carolyn, who moved to the Netherlands from London last summer.

We had a wonderful weekend, albeit a rainy one, wandering around the beautiful Amsterdam canals and catching up over long meals!

We arrived late on Friday night, so caught up over a cup of tea before hitting the hay, ready to wake up and take on Amsterdam the next morning.

Saturday was a rainy morning, but that wasn’t going to stop us from exploring! After a quick breakfast at home, where we tested out the local breakfast Hagelslag, basically chocolate sprinkles on toast (delicious!), we headed into the centre to the Van Gogh Museum.

Van Gog Museum Amsterdam

Although the museum is a bit busy, being very popular among tourists and locals alike, it is a must see spot for any visitor to the city. Just make sure to book in advance so you can skip the queue!

The museum is home to over 200 paintings and 500 drawings of Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh Museum Art

The whole place is a feast for the eyes. It is amazing how many pieces of work van Gogh  completed in his short life, which ended in tragic circumstances in 1890  at the age of just 37.

After touring the museum, we headed to lunch close by at a place called Blushing.

Blushing Amsterdam

A great cafe for a light meal if you are near the Museum Quarter. The restaurant is full of nutritious juices, salads and sandwiches.

Blushimg Amsterdam Lunch

Blushing Amsterdam Green Juice

The place is bustling and the staff are very friendly.

After lunch we walked to Van Stapele Koekmakerij for our dessert. Carolyn had been raving about this place, so we were glad it did not disappoint.

Amsterdam Famous Cookies

Van Stapele Koekmakerij is a famous and historic cookie shop  that has been based in Amsterdam for many years. It’s famous for making only one type of cookie, according to a recipe developed by Vera van Stapele and her team while attempting to create the ‘perfect cookie’.

Amsterdam Cookie

The end result is outstanding-  a double chocolate cookie with a creamy white chocolate gooey surprise at the centre. Yummy!

We couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

Amsterdam eating cookie

Amsterdam cookies

Passing by the Amsterdam flower market (Bloemenmark), where you will find tulips and in every colour, we headed into the centre.

Amsterdam Tulip

The rest of the afternoon was spent dashing in and out of beautiful cafes, boutiques and vintage shops in the De 9 Straatjes (The 9 Streets).

Rainy Canal in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Shopping

Our favourite shops were Scotch & Soda, Marc O’Polo and Cinq Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Flowers

Amsterdam Boutique

This quaint area is one of the most beautiful in Amsterdam, running along Amsterdam’s grandest canals, including the Pinsengracht, Keizersgracht and the Herengracht.

Amsterdam Jorddan

In the sixteenth century, the Dutch government levied property taxes based on the width of each house, and the results were tall, skinny houses that line the city centre, giving Amsterdam its iconic look. The narrowest home is rumoured to be only around 80 cm wide!

Amsterdam Canal

Carolyn and Steph Amsterdam

There are also great food shops. Amsterdam is famous for its cheese!

Amsterdam Cheese Shop

For dinner, we went to a traditional French restaurant, Le Petit Latin. A simple menu, with only six starters and six mains that were read out to us by a lovely French maître d’.

The food was tasty and the wine was delicious!

French Dinner Amsterdam

French food

We ended our evening with another walk around the city centre. The canals are just as beautiful at night!

Canals at Night Amsterdam

The next day we slept in and went for lunch near Carolyn’s home at Dignita, definitely my favourite restaurant of the trip.

This hipster cafe, served up all the classics: poached eggs, avocado on toast, coconut yogurt and granola with great coffee to boot. There are plenty of gluten free options too!

Dignita Brunch Amsterdam

Coconut Dignita

With just a few hours left before we had to catch our flight back to London the girls headed to the Anne Frank Museum, while I decided to walk around the Jordaan.

Amsterdam Rainy Canal

The Jordaan was originally a working-class neighbourhood, a base for local craftsmen and artists, but it has become one of the most desirable areas in the Netherlands in more recent times. I can see why – the area is very charming!

Amsterdam Jorddan Canal wandering

It is home to many art galleries and markets, and is also dotted with speciality shops and restaurants.

Dutch Tulip Museum Amsterdam

Tulip Seeds

And just like that our Amsterdam weekend came to an end.

A lovely couple days in a beautiful city with some of my favourite people!

Steph xo

 

 

 

Brilliant Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Bananas are one of my most frequently bought fruits. They make a great addition to a bowl of yogurt and they go amazingly well with peanut butter and toast. Not soon after I bring them home from the grocery store, however, they start getting covered in brown spots and my love for eating them wanes.

As I don’t enjoy eating over ripe bananas and don’t like to throw them out, I have a couple of recipes to help use them up, including this one – chocolate chip banana bread.

This recipe is so quick and easy. In no time those over ripe bananas are transformed into something indulgent, chocolatey and delicious!

Banana Bread Chocolate Ingredients

You will need:

  • 1cup of melted butter
  • 1/3 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs organic free range eggs
  • 2 to 3 over ripe bananas
  • 1 cup gluten free self raising flour, I like this one from Doves Farm
  • 1 cup of gluten free oats
  • teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100 gram dark chocolate bar or 1 cup of dark chocolate chips

To make:

Preheat your oven to 175C/350ºF.

Melt the butter in the microwave and cream it together with both the sugars until you have a nice smooth texture.

Banana Bread Make

Banana Bread

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Next, add your eggs and vanilla to your butter sugar mixture.
Banana Bread Eggs
Vanilla

Mash up your banana using the back of a fork. If you bananas are nice and ripe this should be very easy! Don’t worry if you have a few lumps.

Pour the wet ingredients in with the mashed bananas and mix thoroughly.

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In another bowl sift together gluten free flour and baking soda, and pour in the gluten free oats.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and give it all a good mix so it is well combined.

If you have a chocolate bar, rather than chocolate chips, chop the bar into small pieces.

Chopped Chocolate

Befor pouring the dark chocolate in with the rest of the batter.Mix gently.

Banana Bread Str

Butter your loaf tin and pour in the batter mixture.

Banana Bread Before

Pop the tin into the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 min or until the loaf is golden brown on top. You know when the loaf is done when you prick it in the middle with a toothpick and it comes out clean.

Banana Bread After

Slice up the loaf and pour yourself a nice cup of tea!

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The perfect afternoon pick me up!

Steph xo