Wednesday, 25 January 2017

On happiness and loving life

I apologise in advance if this post comes across a little smug, for that's not in the slightest bit how I intend it, but...

I'm not sure when I became so happy.

As a young child, I don't think I was someone about whom people said "Oh, she's such a happy little child." I wasn't unhappy either, but if anything I was probably described as bossy rather than happy. Lol.

It must've started in my late teens then. Perhaps.

For now people often describe me as happy. Or optimistic. Or positive. Or enthusiastic.

When I left my last job (did I tell you about that yet? I'll get on to it, bear with), a lot of the messages in my leaving card thanked me for always being smiley and jolly. But the thing is, I didn't realise I was any smilier or jollier than anyone else.

Similarly, kind blog readers I don't even know sometimes message me saying they really appreciate my enthusiasm for everything I write about, but I never try to be enthusiastic - it's just how I am.

And whilst I accept that enthusiasm and happiness aren't the same thing, I do believe they're linked.
I may be one of those annoyingly smug people, but I am just SO happy.

I love my job, my life in London, my family and my friends. I'm very lucky.

Back on my year abroad, I remember thinking I was so happy and would probably never be happier, but I was wrong. I had the same thought during my final year of uni, and yep, I was wrong again. It happened last year too. Maybe life just keeps getting better.

So yeah my job - if you didn't know, I've been a Lifestyle Writer at The Independent since November, and I couldn't love it more. (Oh my god, I'm literally annoying myself, I'm so sorry).

Literally all I do is talk to interesting people, learn fascinating things, have fun experiences, and write about it. They pay me to do that. It's mad! Journalism is literally the best job in the world in my eyes.

It still blows my mind that I actually am a journalist - it was about 10 years ago I decided I wanted to become a journo, and I can't believe I legit am one now.
Sure, I'm lucky to have realised what I wanted to do from a young age and could then start working towards it with internships/my blog/student journalism/general writing for anyone who'd have me, but I still get so excited whenever anyone asks me what I do and I get to say the word "journalist".

Inevitably people then ask if you enjoy your job, to which I respond "I LOVE it!" (out comes the aggressive enthusiasm). And people are often like, "Really?"

Apparently most people actually don't love their job, which is totally sad if you ask me. Such a shame. Whilst it can take a while to find something you truly love, life's too short to waste doing something you don't enjoy. (Vom, I'm so cringe.)

I'm also v lucky to have such wonderful, friendly, fun colleagues - even the best job in the world would be unbearable if you had to do it with awful people.

So job satisfaction gets a huge tick right now, but my home life does too, which is awesome.

I live with two girls - Maddy and Jess - who, like me, are both 24, single, young professionals. We get on so incredibly well and I feel so lucky to have them. Isn't it just the best when you can come home knowing you'll have pals to laugh with when you want to, but also people who'll understand if you just wanna go to your room and watch Netflix/play on Tinder/write a blog post?

We live off prosecco and houmous and it's just ace.
We brunch, throw parties, see films, go on holidays together... We're basically each other's boyfriends. It's perfect.

The flat we share is in Brixton, and the longer I live here the more I love it. I am SO glad I live somewhere so vibrant, fun and exciting, and I genuinely think it's the ideal first home in London for me.

Sure, the rent is expensive because hello, London, and my room is a shoebox, but I am actually incredibly lucky with my rent compared to most Londoners. AND my landlord is a babe. How I have lucked out I do not know.

I'd hate to live in a location where I didn't have all the shops/cafes/restaurants/bars/clubs/transport links I could possibly need on my doorstep, PLUS the Victoria line is the one - so quick and all the best stops!

Living in London is a dream for me. Sure, Oxford Circus on a Saturday afternoon makes me hate all other human beings, but any time I walk anywhere in this city I fall in love with London even more and have to pinch myself that I live here.

It's not for everyone, but as far as I'm concerned, London is the best city in the world and there's no place I'd rather be right now.
What's also super lovely is I have family here - my brother, a few cousins, my auntie and uncle - plus it's super easy for my parents and sister to come and visit. Oh, and my siblings and I are like proper grown-up friends which I laaaaaaave!

And then there's the fact that about 90% of my friends live in London, which means I always have pals with whom to play. Plus, the non-Londoners tend to come visit pretty often too, yay!

I feel very lucky to have a wide circle of friends - I'm not someone who has one huge squad, but I have a very solid girl gang (you know who you are) and then a selection of fantastic individual friends whom I see on the regs too.

It's also super nice that everyone's now grown-up enough to come to social engagements (and I do like to host) where they may only know a couple of others and make new friends. Makes me v happy.
Having painted this vom-inducing image of my life, you're probably thinking "Yes but Rachel, you don't have a boyfriend, do you?"

And you would be correct there, eagle-eyed reader. However to that I respond: don't care, mate. I have literally never been happier to be single.

A) being single is hella good fun. I can flirt with randoms, do whatever I please and swipe my way through dating apps when bored.

B) I don't need a romantic partner to make me feel complete or whatever. Like, I don't feel I need an "other half" because I'm already a whole (without coming across arrogant), if you see what I mean?

I am v open to a relationship which is why I do go on dates and stuff, but I don't need anyone. So if I don't meet anyone I actually like enough, off you pop, mate. Sorry but I'm only going to make time for someone in my life if I really like them.

Ngl, I am only at home one evening a week usually, and when I meet someone with whom I'd rather spend that evening than my flatmates or myself, FANTASTIC! But until that guy comes along, I'd rather spend that evening alone.

I'd love to fall in love because it looks really nice in La La Land (which I'm sure is a really realistic depiction) but I'm not desp, ya know?

I can almost imagine you reading this post and wanting to shoot me - am I coming across really annoying? I don't even know where I'm going with this but I suppose I wanted to talk about having zest for life in general, even if it's not all perfect.
Am I earning a s***-load of money? Negatory! But do I care? Nope! Not right now, anyway.

I'm just having too much fun.

And I don't want this post to come across as 'Hi I'm Rachel I'm perfect and my life is perfect and you should all want to be perfect little me.' Because that is sooooo not the case. (For example I definitely eat and drink too much and don't exercise enough and go to bed too late blah blah blah yes mum I'm working on it.)

But I am a firm believer in the saying that what you put out to the world is what you get back - I truly believe that happy things happen to happy people.

I know that I have been extremely lucky in the card I've been dealt - how fortunate am I to have been brought up in a loving home and have such supportive family and friends around me? - so it's hard not to fear everything suddenly turning to s***.

But I don't think that will happen.

Bad things will happen, I know that - loved ones will pass, people will hurt me and things won't always be so rosy. But I plan to stay positive.

Do I fear being tarnished by old age though? A bit. Am I just enjoying the naivety of youth? Maybe. But I do seem to be generally cheerier than the majority of my peers.

I wish I could explain why though. I don't know.

We all have amazing things in our life, I think it's just a case of focussing on them.
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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Brunch at the Rude Health Cafe, Fulham

Last Sunday was flatmate fun day, which is exactly what it sounds like: a day of fun with my flatmates.

Whilst we spend a lot of time together normally, whether in the flat or off doing something (and have a tendency to book spontaneous holidays - see Germany), we decided to have a full day devoted to flatmate activities in the capital.

It was a depressingly dreary and drizzly London day, but that was actually perfectly fine for our plan: brunch, the Natural History Museum, burgers and an evening of chilling.

But today, dear friends, I want to tell you about the wonderful way in which we started flatmate fun day.
If you're into delicious, healthy food, you probably know about the brand Rude Health - they make the most scrumptious mueslis, porridge mixes and dairy-free milks.

I only found out recently but they actually have their own cafe in West London - what fun, thought I.
Despite the grey day, the cafe was upliftingly colourful and v busy when we arrived late Sunday morning.
Whether it's in my head or not, a green juice sure does make me feel healthy. I kicked things off with this bottle of goodness: apple, cucumber, kale, romalene and pear juice. It went down a treat.

We each ordered a dish from the menu full of genuinely delicious-sounding but healthy options like sprouted porridge with salted maple syrup and nuts, or shakshuka, and were told each dish would be served when it was ready.

Despite not really knowing what it was, Maddy and I both decided to go for the 'Dutch Baby' (baked sprouted spelt pancake). We were told it would be a 20 minute wait.

Jess however opted for the avocado toast, which subsequently arrived first.
Sweet Lord, it looked amazing.
Sourdough toast with avocado, beetroot, goat's curd, chilli and poached eggs. It tasted as good as it looked too - they'd been very generous with the avo and Jess loved the slightly spicy kick from the chilli.

Pleasingly, she hadn't made too much of a start before mine and Maddy's brunches arrived - it certainly hadn't been 20 minutes.
Feast your eyes on that!

Served in a little individual skillet, it was like one thick fluffy pancake topped with mascarpone, berry compote, crushed pistachios, fresh blueberries, banana and maple syrup.
It was unlike anything I'd ever had before and boy, was it good.
^the faces of two girls happy with their brunch choices.

Now, because this was brunch not just breakfast, we decided another course was in order. Slash we just couldn't resist all the amazing-looking baked goods on the cafe counter.
Between the three of us, we decided to share a slice of banana bread, a brownie and a couple of energy balls.
Now the banana bread, we all agreed, was stand-out delicious. Jess said it may have been the best banana bread she'd ever had and it was definitely in my top three (I have eaten a lot of banana bread in my time though.)

It was still warm, super moist, with a crisp top and the perfect balance between squidgy and fluffy in texture. 10/10 would eat again.
The brownie was incredibly rich so we were glad to be sharing it, but it was lovely - super dense with a nice crust.
I loved the energy balls, they were squidgy, just sweet enough and felt packed full of goodness.

Safe to say we were sufficiently energised for the rest of flatmate fun day!

My only tiny qualm with the Rude Health Cafe is that you have to go outside to go to the loo, which is a bit annoying when it's raining.

But aside from that we all loved it - I'll definitely go again.

Maddy, Jess and I were guests at the Rude Health Cafe but all opinions are totally honest.
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Thursday, 19 January 2017

Random rocky road

It was one of those Saturday afternoons when I wanted to make something delicious and sweet, but all I had in my fridge was houmous and wine. Hmph. (Could I be bothered to walk five minutes to the supermarket? That would involve taking off my slippers so I think not.)

What could I make that required next to no fresh ingredients?

Why, rocky road of course!
It was a case of rummaging through my kitchen cupboard, chucking some things together, improvving, and - amazingly - creating something really rather damn scrummy.

Enter, random rocky road. For a random mix of things it is.

But boy, am I pleased with my creation.
Whereas your traditional rocky road would probably contain biscuits and raisins, mine is bursting with granola, M&Ms and meringue. The textures are rather wonderful - each mouthful is crunchy, chewy and crumbly. Mega yums.

It's also nutty and tinged with chocolate orange flavour, which I rather love.

Melting chocolate can be a bit of a faff - there's the glass bowl over a pan on the hob method, but with that you have to be really careful not to let the bowl touch the water or else you're in trouble. And trying to melt chocolate in a normal microwave often ends in burnt chocolate which is just one of the saddest things in the world.
Fortunately, I have had a v shiny v fancy Panasonic NN-DS596B microwave to play with of late and I can tell you it is a dream for melting choc. It's epic as it's a microwave and an oven and a steamer and a bajillion other things at once.

It's also incredibly silent which makes an amazing change to the microwave in my flat.

Anyway chums, I hope you enjoy these - they're ridiculously easy to make and you can totally mix up the ingredients depending on what you have. Go wild. Life's too short to stick to recipes. Let this be your guide and be free.
I mean, these barely warrant a recipe, but here it is anyway. Makes 16 squares of deliciousness.


Ingredients

200g chocolate - I used half milk and half dark
2 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp chocolate orange Choc Shot
100g granola
1 tbsp M&Ms
1 tbsp mini marshmallows
4 mini meringue nests, crumbled
1 tbsp almonds
a pinch of salt


Method

1. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt slowly on a low heat, stopping to stir every 30 seconds or so. Mix in the agave, peanut butter and choc shot until smooth.

2. Stir in the granola, M&Ms, marshmallows, meringues, almonds and salt.

3. Pour into a 9 x 9 inch baking tray, lined with baking parchment.

4. Pop into the fridge for a couple of hours to set before slicing into 16 squares. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored by Panasonic as part of their #ExperienceFresh campaign.
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Monday, 16 January 2017

Fancy Funkin Chicken, Brixton


I'm not going to sugarcoat it - I think Fancy Funkin Chicken is a stupid name for a restaurant.

It sounds like one of those high street chicken shops you get in grotty areas of cities where the signs are always red, blue and white.

The thing is, Fancy Funkin Chicken (or FFC, as it will henceforth be known in this blog post) really isn't like one of those places at all.

New to Brixton, FFC's website says their mission is "to elevate the humble chicken into something a bit fancier". Now, I am all for that, but I don't think the name of the place is helping their cause in the slightest.

Name aside, I loved FFC. And it was a great spot for a January Tuesday evening catch-up with my dear chum and fellow South Londoner, Frankie.
The aesthetic of FFC is what I would call trendy stripped-down Brooklyn loft - think exposed brick walls, wooden tables, mismatched chairs, metal beams and neon lights in the window.

With a focus on cocktails and chicken, it's a good thing neither Frankie nor I are doing Dry January or Veganuary. We kicked things off with cocktails:
Also: sparkle is for life, not just for Christmas.

I had the passion fruit daisy: Tequila, Aperol, fresh passion fruit, Passoa liqueur and a splash of lime, and as a passion fruit-lover I highly enjoyed it.

Frankie had one of the two off-menu specials, and I actually really liked that there were cocktails on offer simply based on the ingredients they had.

As you may have guessed, you smart cookie you, the menu features a lot of chicken. The main three categories are burgers, wings and salads, but there are a few veggie options too.

Now, if you follow me on Instagram, you probably know I'm a bit of a burger nut. But despite that, I never get chicken burgers - I'm all about dat beef. My meal at FFC, however, made me think I may have to make more time for chicken burgers in my life...
Frankie and I both had the big cheese burger - you could choose whether you wanted chicken breast or thigh (we both went for breast), and our burgers consisted of chicken, triple cheese, bacon, caramelised onion and salad in a sesame bun, only I swapped out bacon for avocado in mine.
It. Was. Epic.

My burger was amazingly tasty and seriously exceeded my expectations. There was looaaads of cheese and I have to say I thought my addition of avocado was rather an excellent idea. 10/10 would eat again.

Alongside our burgers, Frankie and I shared a couple of sides.
Chilli cheese fries and corn fritters. I was concerned the fries would be too spicy for me but they weren't, they were delish actually. A huge portion too.

I loved the corn fritters even more though - I have no idea what they actually were but I suggest you get them - they were crisp on the outside, fluffy inside with sweet corny flavour. Yum.

We may have been totally full by this point, but as I always say: a meal is not complete unless it ends with something sweet (feel free to pin that to your pinterest inspiration board, guys).

Unfortunately, however, the puddings were both a bit of a let down and a bit of a wait (although granted, digestion time was not unwelcome).
I had the chocolate brownie, Frankie had the waffle.

My brownie was good and I enjoyed that it was warm, but the ice cream let it down - it had a nice flavour but was a bit icy in texture, not creamy enough in my opinion.

Frankie's waffle was unfortunately a bit disappointing in that it was weirdly hard rather than fluffy as one would hope.

Overall, it had been a fab dinner - I'll definitely be back for another cheesy chicken burger and corn fritters, but next time I'll skip the puds and have some chocolate at home instead.

Frankie and I were guests at Fancy Funkin Chicken but all opinions are 100% honest.
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Monday, 9 January 2017

Bargains, burgers and blockbusters at London Designer Outlet

The name "London Designer Outlet" is misleading. (And for the sake of this post it shall henceforth be known as LDO.)

You'd be forgiven for thinking LDO was like Bicester - namely a shopping centre of designer shops full of discounted stock.

But you'd be wrong.
 Whilst it is indeed a shopping centre full of outlet shops, it's hardly designer. The fanciest shop there is probably Kurt Geiger, and the majority are high street stalwarts - there's H&M and Claire's Accessories, for example. You getting the level I'm talking about?

I went along to LDO for the first time last weekend to find out what it's all about.

I travelled all the way up to Wembley - zone four, people! FOUR! - for a fun day with my glorious old pal, Jess.
Sure, it's slightly in the middle of nowhere and a somewhat random thing to have right by Wembley Arena, but we had a lovely time.

About ten minutes' walk from Wembley Park tube - and well sign-posted, which I appreciated - LDO isn't like most other shopping centres in that it's largely open-air - lovely when dry, a bit crap if raining.

Fortunately, however, it wasn't. It's a rather nicely-done shopping centre and looked particularly pretty when lit-up at night.

We had a peruse in several shops, but were disheartened to find - as is often the way with outlets - the stock that's there is mostly the rubbish stuff that hasn't been sold for a reason.
However we had a few very successful purchases: I bought some gorgeous chunky black leather heels in Clarks that were £20 down from £60, and Jess got a super cute flask from Joy.

There's also a Lindt shop, which is a rare find in the UK - oh my days, I wanted all the obscure Lindors.

We resisted, however, as we were off for a feast of a lunch.

There are tons of restaurants at LDO - largely the usual chains. However they also have a branch of the Handmade Burger Co, which is not a restaurant one stumbles upon too frequently. Naturally it was my lunch spot of choice.

We sat ourselves down and struggled to choose from the 40+ burgers on the menu - I exaggerate not.

The staff were delightful. After I popped my new Russell & Bromley bag (OMG I am in LOVE with it!) down next to me, the waiter came over with an extra chair, because "a bag that beautiful shouldn't be on the floor." That's my kinda man.

We placed our orders and hit the Diet Coke hard - free refills, people! Man, I go to town on free refills. Must've had at least five.

And soon our food arrived:
*hears hallelujah chorus in head*
For me, the Italian: a beef burger with Mediterranean sausage, mozzarella, red pesto, garlic mayo, rocket, tomato and red onion, except I asked for mine sans tomato and plus grilled peppers.

Amazingly, they got it right - I always ask for no tomato and nine times out of ten end up picking it out myself. The struggles.

It turns out I wasn't a huge fan of the sausage but the rest of the burger was diviiiiiine!
Jess had a bacon and avocado chicken burger, which she assures me was equally scrumptious.
Alongside our burgers we shared a portion of sweet potato fries because hello, sweet potato fries. And we were also a tad on the adventurous side with the Mexican chips.
Handmade Burger Co's chips are simply incredible and a bit legendary, and the Mexican ones are topped with melted cheese, chipotle sauce, hand crushed avocado, handmade Mexican salsa and jalapeños.

It was a tad on the spicy side for me (because I'm feeble) but delicious all the same.

After a smidge more shopping, Jess and I headed to the cinema on the top floor of LDO - I was so ready for a digestive recline.

Did we also get popcorn and chocolate though? Oops.

It's a Cineworld cinema and I was so amazed by the legroom. We went to see Passengers which I absolutely loved and totally recommend. J-Law and Christ Pratt tho.

I thought it really fun to combine cinema and shopping, which may sound like an obvious thing to do but I haven't done so in a while tbhqh. And I suppose the fact that there's so much at LDO - cinema, shops and eateries - makes it more worth going all the way up there.

It was also a lot quieter than central London, which is always good.

Outlet shopping is usually a bit hit and miss in my experience, but I'm super pleased with my shoes and had a great day.

Our lunch and cinema tickets were complimentary but all opinions are my own.
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