I Love Where I Live

On Sunday, I had myself a bit of a ‘London appreciation day’. It started with a massage I’d had booked for a month, it was amazing and put in a really great mood. Afterwards, I decided to meander back the way my bus had taken me as it was a beautiful sunny day and I was in one of the nicest areas in London, South Kensington. Even though I was covered (literally) head to toe in massage oil and my face had just been scrubbed clean from my facial, I walked. I stopped in at the Natural History Museum – alas the queue was too long for my patience level, so I decided to watch some ice-skating as the ice rink has now opened outside the NHM.

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My walk then took me past Harrods… which currently has their Christmas window displays up! How could I not stop and have a peek.. and then a wander around inside it’s confusing yet luscious interior?!

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Being Armistice Sunday, I couldn’t not stop in a the war memorials at Hyde Park Corner.. which then carried me back through Green Park… and area of Hyde Park that I haven’t really spent much time in, but I now intend to. It’s only 5 tube stops away from my house and it is GORGEOUS! I literally had to stop and sit on a bench and just soak it all in.. I had a ‘moment’ of clarity and stopped to fully appreciate where I was and how happy I was to be there.

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If I stop and ponder on the year thus far, a lot has happened to me! A lot of change… and quite significant ones at that. Looking back to the start of this year, I was fresh out of uni, unemployed and completely oblivious to what was going to come at me this year. I had a new motto.. ‘go with the flow’ and boy did I flow.. flowed right into a brand new job! A job that in the end, didn’t really work out for me, but I learned a lot from the experience I had there, and I made some new friends along the way! I then found myself moving to London.. a HUGE step that fortunately I didn’t give myself long enough to over-think.. and now here I am working a temp job where it is entirely likely I will be in a different job in a few months.. and writing for a music website on the side.. so I’m not only still going with the flow but life is exciting! And I am definitely loving where I live.

N

Under The Tuscan Sun

Last weekend I did something I have never done before. I went on holiday, by myself! At first I was terrified, as this wasn’t the original plan.. but then I embraced it. Living with friends is great but I do love a bit of Me time, and what better way to unwind and completely relax then by going to Pisa for a weekend in the sun?

My first worry about going on holiday solo was that I would get bored (my attention span has been known to be rather short). What was I going to do with myself for a little over 48 hours? Well I discovered there was plenty to do on my own. It actually allowed me to get excited about the little things.. going for a walk around the town and taking in the landscape. Pisa is a small town, surrounded by mountains so the landscape is actually really interesting to look at.

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People watching! My oh my were there some interesting people. Not only is it a total tourist town (cue people posing in front of the leaning tower as if they’re holding it up) but it is also full of Italians… Italians are (I think) some of the most interesting people to watch. Firstly, they talk with their hands. They get so animated in conversation it’s fun to try and work out if they’re arguing with each other or just sharing a private joke. Being from an Italian heritage myself, a lot of this brought back childhood memories for me. Sitting at my Nonna & Nonno’s house while they had their friends over for coffee… it was exactly the same scene being played out on the streets of Pisa and in restaurants and bars.

The language itself I also find comforting, mainly for the memories it evokes in me. But just walking around, listening to people’s conversations (without a clue of what they were saying) was really nice and quite relaxing!

Another perk of travelling by myself was I wasn’t accountable to anyone. If I felt like getting some hazelnut gelato at 10:30am then I was going to have it! I could eat where I wanted, when I wanted, go and have a siesta anytime I wanted. Perfect!

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The weather in Pisa couldn’t have been better. Mild low twenties and not a single cloud in the sky.. for the entire 3 days. Although I did notice that most of the time, I was the only person in town without a jacket on. (clearly adjusting to this English climate) But it was actually nice to not be so hot that you were constantly sweating and in need of water. (last time I was in Italy it was averaging about 40 degrees!) So it allowed me to lay in the park for a couple of hours with my book and my journal and just BE. Really take stock of everything that’s happening in my life… I’ve had a big twelve months, a LOT has changed in that time and I guess it was the first chance I’ve had to just sit back and reflect.

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The food of course was what took up most of my time.. My days pretty much revolved around it! Something that was clear was how different the food is to the Italian cuisine we are used to having at home. I think back in Australia, they have adapted the style of serving food to fit in with our culture, but when you’re in Italy it’s different. For example, at home if you order a pizza, it is usually enough food to feed 2 people at least, but in Italy, a pizza is the size of a dinner plate.. just enough! A bowl of pasta wont leave you with a food coma because you are served a plate of pasta.. just enough! But it’s because of this perfect portioning that you can actually indulge and have antipasto and cheese or gelato (or sometimes both) afterwards. Makes for a much better meal really. And none of the meals were fancy restaurant style, it was all very simply served, very humble food…. now prepare to salivate as I post all my food pics..

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I highly recommend Pisa for a visit. Most people do a day trip, I think it deserves at least one night! It’s such a charming town with beautiful buildings and beautiful people. As for solo traveling, I now have the confidence to go if I find a good deal to go somewhere and no one else can make it, I’m not going to let it hold me back anymore!

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Just one more…

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N

Winging it in the Kitchen

So this week I’ve re-discovered the Food Network… via their website since I don’t have a TV… But I’ve fallen in love with Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond lives out on a ranch in Oklahoma and got her cooking show and cook book deals all from her blog! Anyway, she made a couple of amazing looking soups, one was a Broccoli Cheese Soup and the other was a Corn and Cheese Chowder. I couldn’t decide which one to try and make so I thought I would just try and combine the two and see what happens? Well.. I can tell you, magic happened that’s what.

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Pre-simmer stage… just looks like milk in a pot, until it gets nice and thick!

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I added cheddar and parmesan cheese for extra flavour

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I blitzed some of it up with a stick blender, gives it a bit more colour

I didn’t have much broccoli left in the freezer so I thought I could combine that with some corn and capsicum I already had in the fridge. Throw in some bacon for flavour and two types of cheese and oh my this chowder is soooo yummy, I basically licked the pot clean!

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Feeding the freezer with this lot, easy dinners coming up!

Here’s my recipe for anyone interested;

Vegetable & Bacon Chowder Soup
Ingredients:
1/2 an onion
1/2 cup of plain flour
3 cups of milk
1 & 1/2 cups of cheese
1 cup of chicken stock
1 or 2 rashes of bacon
Broccoli florets
1 capsicum
1 small tin of corn kernels
(the amount of vegetables isn’t really important, just use whatever you have!)

Method:
Fry off onion in a little bit of butter (gives more flavour than olive oil), then add in the bacon. Add in the vegetables and cook them for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook off for a minute or so and then add in the chicken stock. Cook and allow mixture to thicken. At this point I seasoned well with salt and pepper.. just taste along the way, you may need to add more later.
Turn the heat right down and add in the milk. Stir to ensure the flour is mixed in, and simmer with a lid on for 20  minutes.
Once it looks nice and thick (or to the consistency you like) add in the grated cheese and stir through until it’s all melted in. At this point I used a stick blender to break up some of the broccoli (I used frozen so I couldn’t cut them up any smaller at the beginning).
Best served in a bread roll.

Enjoy!

N

 

 

 

London Life is a Good Life

I feel like I should write about how much I am actually loving living in one of the best cities in the world!

London is a bloody marvelous place. Every single day there is so much on offer… shows, gigs, museums, festivals, markets, site seeing… every outing is an adventure.. even going to work! I am fortunate enough to be able to walk to work, it only takes me around 45-50 minutes and it takes me through the famous Borough Markets, across the Millennium Bridge, towards St Pauls. Alternatively, I can take the longer route over Tower Bridge and along the Thames walk… there is always something new to see along the way and I never tire of the view.

 

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Sunny St Pauls

 

Red poppies at the Tower of London

Red poppies at the Tower of London

 

'The Globe' at entrance to Borough Markets.. a.k.a Bridget Jones' House!

‘The Globe’ at entrance to Borough Markets.. a.k.a Bridget Jones’ House!

I have just come to the end of a very long week for me. The job I am working has two shift times, my colleague took a week’s holidays so I covered her early shift… 7:30am-4:30pm… and although I could get used to the early finishes, getting up before the sun was a little taxing by Friday! However it did allow me to capture this magical sunrise behind  Tower Bridge yesterday morning.

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As well as adjusting to a new city, I have also had to adjust to living out of home entirely! Unlike all of my friends, I never moved out of my parent’s house in Perth… so I knew I was going to be in for a shock and some adjustment and some growing up when I got here. It’s been nearly 2 months now that I’ve been living with my three friends and I am loving it! I genuinely enjoy living with these guys, they’re all very easy going and we all have enough in common that it’s just easy. It’s so nice coming home from work and sitting on the couch with a glass of wine and de-brief the day.. there’s always someone around to chat to or discuss music with, or head down to the local markets with. I think if I lived on my own I would go nuts!

Of course there are still people I am missing from home, every single day, but it’s getting easier as time goes on. I’m still in contact with everyone and know exactly what is going on at home. In the meantime, everything feels like it’s starting to jell here and London life is good!

N

 

Moving Away Is Bringing Us Closer

So I have been living in London for 3 months now… and one thing I have noticed is I seem to be speaking to my best friends and my family more now than ever! I definitely owe a whole lot to Viber, WhatsApp and FaceTime. I have several group messages going on Viber, one with my family and one with my best girlfriends who keep me sane. I speak to them every day. It’s the perfect platform for us to share our days, any news and pictures and videos of stuff we are getting up to. It also allows me to call home for free! Thank you WIFI!! It has literally saved my life over here… if I am ever feeling down or like I’m missing out on something, I can call straight away and satiate the craving.

My girlfriends are my close circle of friends that I have known for 20+ years. We are currently all living in different towns and cities, yet we are now closer than when we all lived in Perth together. I think when you tend to see people all the time you don’t necessarily speak to them often. Well not to the extent I have been over here. It’s a little bit of a case of taking what is in front of you for granted… Since I’m on the other side of the world I often feel obliged to share the ins and outs of my days in London, and how they are making me feel. I think I have had more in-depth conversations with those girls since I’ve moved than I have in the entirety of our friendships!

Something about being far away tends to make me more expressive.. I guess it’s a subconscious lack of fear, being so far away it’s almost a safe place to express your feelings without directly feeling any repercussions like guilt or judgement.

I am rambling a bit here, but basically I wanted to point out for anyone who is thinking of moving countries or cities and is scared of losing touch with friends and family. Don’t be! It honestly is such a small world with the invention of the internet (a fact that used to make me a little bit sad that everything is so instantaneous) but now I embrace it and I love it. It allows me to share parts of my new life with the people I care about most, as if they are along for the ride with me.. and at the end of the day, anything that is going to make my headspace as healthy and happy as possible is A-OK with me!

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N

Getting Sweaty with MOTHXR

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MOTHXR (pronounced Mother) is a 5 piece band from Brooklyn, New York. Their style is a bit of a mix… it has a definite rock edge, thrown together with some 80′s style synth, which is present throughout all of their work.

I was really looking forward to seeing these guys live, but my excitement was slightly marred by the fact that I suspected majority of the crowd were going to be Gossip Girl fans who were there to swoon over the band’s lead singer (Penn Badgley). There were a lot of what I refer to as ‘fan-girls’ there, but the band’s set held up on it’s own so I was able to focus on the music, which after all is what I was there for!

So let me set the scene for you… The Sebright Arms is a nice enough pub in Hackney, their venue area however, resides in the basement… a tiny little basement with a small stage and a corner bar. Ideal for an up and coming indie band.. however when mixed with London’s current humid-heat-wave it equaled a festering sweat box. So there I was clutching my pint of beer hoping to god it would help cool me down (yeah right) when suddenly five men walk out on stage to a rock star welcome. Dressed casually in singlets, jeans and some even sporting caps – they looked like they were ready to get down to business.. this was to be their second and final show in London for this tour of the UK/Europe (their first).

They jumped straight into the music and the room was immediately filled with synth beds and catchy baselines and drum beats courtesy of Larkis, Darren, Jimmy & Simon..then Badgley’s contribution started… his voice, I have to say, is very impressive live. And although he does play guitar on some of the songs, his voice is definitely a worthy 5th instrument to this band. It would be interesting to know if playing Jeff Buckley (in Greetings From Tim Buckley) influenced his singing style, or if it has always been there… his range is scarily good. It sits in well with each song’s arrangement, and really shines live.

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Now prior to this gig, I had only heard the three songs they have on their Soundcloud page. So I was curious to see if they could produce an entire set of original material, or if they would throw in a few covers as new bands are want to do. I am pleased to report their entire set was original material, in fact they made a point of thanking the audience for ‘baring with them’ through all this new material. But it was fantastic! All their songs have a similar feel to them, and many have the potential to be expanded… one song in particular that really stood out for me was Black Girl it was a great track, that had the potential to morph into a jam. The musicians were really getting into it, there was head-banging action from Badgley, to the point where I’m sure the front row were getting covered in his sweat (not that some of them would have minded) and needless to say there was a lot of toe-tapping, head nodding coming from the crowd, myself included!

This is a tight band, they clearly love playing together and hold a certain chemistry on stage. It’s always refreshing when a band looks genuinely happy to be up on stage, and these guys were definitely grateful for their audience, claiming on their Instagram page that it was the best gig they’ve ever played.

Their merchandise stand was selling 7′ vinyls with two of their songs – Easy & Victim  alas I had no cash on me so I couldn’t purchase one but I spent the entire gig hoping these guys are at least working on a full length album… because from the sounds of last night’s set, it will be well worth a listen!

N

Slow Dancer – Took The Floor Out

This song begins with sexiest set of pipes I’ve heard in a long time. It’s stripped back to the bare minimum before all the groove hits you. Smooth-as bass and quirky guitar licks are added to the beat, creating an awesome slow-jam that makes your sway to the beat without even realising you’re doing it. I have this on repeat.

These sultry vocals are courtesy of ex Oh Mercy guitarist Simon Okley. He has ventured out on his own and this single couldn’t be further away from his previous music venture. I love when this scenario happens.. it allows you to see the complexities of the musician’s taste and capabilities.

 

This song definitely has some RnB influences with the style of groove going on here, and it’s refreshing. I haven’t heard anything like this in a while. Okley’s voice does remind me of man-of-the-moment Chet Faker, with that rich textured-huskiness to it but he still holds his own with this style of music.

This is Slow Dancer’s first single and I am very impressed, can’t wait to see what else he has to offer!

If you live in Melbourne and would like to check him out live, he is playing a show at The Workers Club  on 31st August. All attendees will receive a free download!

In the meantime, you can check out the song via his Soundcloud page.