Cowshed’s Udderly Gorgeous Maternity Massage

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or my birthday last year, Robin bought me a voucher for a full body maternity massage at Cowshed- specifically, the Udderly Gorgeous Full Body massage. I decided to save it for when I really needed it, which turns out, is right about now! Seven months of pregnancy has given me a basketball belly and an achy back and I couldn’t think of anything nicer than an hour inside a dimly lit spa room. So I booked myself in at the Carnaby Street store and that’s where I found myself on a Monday afternoon.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1518528586578{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 80px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]

Cowshed Carnaby Street

Ducking off to the left of Carnaby Street and onto Foubert’s Place, slightly away from the crowds, I entered the Cowshed store 15 minutes before my appointment. I was then checked in and seated around a big farm house style table with lemon and cucumber water- so far, so very spa like. Except, shoppers come and go around you to buy the famous Cowshed lotions and potions.

I sipped on my lemon water and attempted to de-stress, despite my bladder screaming at me and a baby that decided to learn the Macarena at that very moment in my womb. Shortly afterwards, my beauty therapist came to get me and brought me downstairs to the underbelly of this particular Cowshed location. My room was dimly lit, a robe was hanging up waiting for me to slip into, and in the corner of my eye, a tub of warm bubbly water to soak my feet was ready too.

I undressed down to my knickers (I figured there would be no paper pants for a basketball belly here) and into my fluffy robe.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”19274″ img_size=”1000×1500″ alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1518476153149{padding-right: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”19279″ img_size=”1000X1500″ alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”19278″ img_size=”1000×1500″ alignment=”center” css=”.vc_custom_1518476141844{padding-right: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1518528725200{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]Maternity massages differ from your regular massages as pregnant women are always advised to sleep or lie on their side (which probably doesn’t help with the backache!) So rather than lying back or on your front on a massage table, you’ll be manoeuvred into baby friendly positions instead.

Once my feet had soaked for a few minutes in the warm sudsy water, my feet were dried off and I was helped onto a stool facing the massage table. On the table was a large V shaped pillow- so you lean on the pillow with your arms and head, whilst the rest of you is seated comfortably on the stool as the masseuse gently prods you like a piece of focaccia dough. It’s lovely.

I was so comfortable. And it’s been months since I’ve been comfortable- the relief! I’d have bought that pillow on the spot right there and then because for the next few minutes I remembered what it was like to get comfy and drift off without grunting from side to side like a turtle stuck on their back.

The therapist gently massaged and soothed my aching back with warm oil- as we chatted, she told me about her own pregnancy experience, so she really knew which spots to work on to help those aches and pains (for me, my lower back has been a constant sore spot!) 

Too soon afterwards, I was helped onto the massage table that had been adjusted to support my back and legs specially. My feet, legs, arms and shoulders were worked on, and even my scalp had a little bit of soothing massage applied to it.

I was really looked after- regularly asked if I’d like to take a sip of water- and helped up and down from the massage table. I’ve had many massages before, but this was the first one where I felt considered if that makes sense.

I’ve only ever had spa treatments or massages at hotels when I’m on a holiday break, so going from a massage and back into my clothes was a little bit strange to me. I had to carefully towel myself down so I wouldn’t slick oil everywhere on the way home (although on the tube home, I found a nice dollop of it behind my ear) 

I wouldn’t even class this as a treat for mums-to-be- it’s practically medicinal!

I found it so helpful towards the aches and pains the last 7 months have accumulated in my body. I went to sleep last night for the first time without an ache in my back and slept much better than usual. In fact, I’m thinking about booking myself back in for a repeat treatment before baby arrives![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1518528433944{padding-top: 55px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 100px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;background-color: #fcf7f3 !important;}”]There are Cowshed locations all over London, I just happened to pick the Carnaby Street location. You can book online or call the shop directly- to be sure, tell them that you are pregnant and how far along you are when calling.

Cowshed Carnaby Street

31 Foubert’s Place

W1F 7QG

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Night at the Museum | Hokusai

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast year was such a write off with home renovations taking over our lives (and sanity) that 8 months on, I’m still finding it a novelty that we can go out and do something fun that doesn’t involve building work or fixtures or…dirt. My husband has always loved the famous Great Wave print by Katsushika Hokusai and set about getting us tickets to the special exhibition at the British Museum. It was almost sold out bar a few late evening slots on a Sunday- which actually turned out to be an ideal time to go. The museum closes at 5pm, but the exhibition carries on- and means that the entire museum is pretty much empty. From Kings Cross, we walked through pretty neighbourhoods and stopped off for dinner before heading over to the exhibition.[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18269″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18268″ img_size=”1000×1500″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18267″ img_size=”1000×1500″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18262″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18265″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18263″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18261″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18258″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18271″ img_size=”1500×1000″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18290″ img_size=”large” css=”.vc_custom_1516889457562{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516889501505{padding-top: 120px !important;padding-right: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 180px !important;padding-left: 40px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]

Katsushika Hokusai was an artist and printmaker dating back from the Edo period of Japan. His most well known works are the Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji, created in the 1820’s, stemming from his own personal obsession with the mountain.

The Great Wave, his most well known piece of work, was created when he was in his 70s. Around this period, his work focused on nature and he travelled long distances throughout Japan to see and depict the beautiful scenes you can find his sketch books and prints.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516889584356{padding-top: 180px !important;padding-right: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 210px !important;padding-left: 40px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]Over the years, Hokusai became obsessed with living to 100 and his work reflected this- depictions of supernatural beings and dragons, with inscriptions begging for longevity. Eventually he succumbed to an illness when he was 90- living a modest life with his daughter, Oi. He didn’t make it to 100, but his wish was fulfilled- his work is renowned over a century later.

The Hokusai exhibition is sold out, however, if you become a Member of the museum you’ll still be able to access it (and any other exhibition that the museum will hold) Totally worth it- the British Museum is beautiful– so very much worth the £64 fee (or buddy up with someone and it’s about £43) Details here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18289″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18282″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18281″ img_size=”1000×1300″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”18255″ img_size=”1000×1300″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”18254″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We spent about an hour inside the exhibit, looking at his lesser known works of art. My favourite part was getting to see his sketch books, laying open beneath a glass case- those sketch books, full of ink and pencil sketches seemed much more personal to me than his actual finished pieces of work.

Rewinding a few (ok, a lot of) years back, my art books at school were full of sometimes good and sometimes downright terrible bits of my own sketches, paint swathes and drawings. The books felt nice and weighty in my hands, they felt important. I get particularly nostalgic for my last two years of school, over the rest of my high school years, because I got to dabble all day in the subjects I actually liked- Literature, Art and Theatre. I was always covered in paint stains. I was always scribbling notes in books- whether it was a classic novel or a play. Those two years were amazing and I actually felt like I had some freedom and control over my future…

….and here I am, 17 years later, a date night with my husband at The British Museum to see beautiful works of art.

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Broadway Market + Hackney City Farm

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his weekend, my best friend Ismay flew over from Dublin for a super quick visit- which is a Good Thing because I don’t think my waistband can keep up with the pace at which we ate everything in our path. The weekend plan was simple; loose and casual with some food thrown in- which is my specialty. As we walked through London Fields with just a denim jacket for warmth, seeing bunches of yellow daffodils blooming everywhere made me so happy and relieved that dreary Winter days are almost over. It lifts everyone’s moods. Tie in the beautiful weather with an infinite choice of food from Broadway Market, tiny animals at Hackney City Farm and a stroll through Brick Lane, made a pretty perfect Saturday.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15860″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15861″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”15872″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”15887″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15878″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15877″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516898591776{padding-top: 80px !important;padding-right: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 90px !important;padding-left: 40px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]

Hot food, fresh vegetables, flowers, cheese, bread, vintage clothes- there’s everything under the sun for sale.

But my favourite eats of the bunch? The fried dumplings at the market stall run by Bep Haus, and the King Prawns at Fin + Flounder.

The dumplings were crispy with a little bit of a chargrilled taste with a juicy filling. Sprinkled with soy sauce and a splash of sriracha, I could easily have had another portion (for £3.50)

Fin + Flounder are a brick and mortar fishmonger down the street, but the stall beckoned us over with their lobster mac and cheese and crab cake brioche buns. For £6, we shared a pot of fat king prawns with fresh and crunchy coleslaw.

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Leaving behind the bustle of the market, we walked (pretty much) in one straight line with the sole intention of getting a bagel. It was only by chance that I remembered that Hackney City Farm was on the way, and it would make a nice detour because little furry animals are my most favourite beings in the whole wide world.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”15852″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”15849″ img_size=”large” css=”.vc_custom_1516898645332{margin-top: 0px !important;}”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516898676372{padding-top: 100px !important;padding-right: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 115px !important;padding-left: 40px !important;background-color: #f8f3f0 !important;}”]

The farm is free to enter, but heavily relies on donations to keep it running- just pop some money into the tin by the gate!

So here, we have Larry (or maybe Clover?) the Donkey. Larry takes part in the Nativity every year at Westminster (be still my heart!) Clover came along in 2011, because he needed a pal. Don’t mind me, that’s just my heart breaking in two.

There’s also the two pigs, who really were happy as pigs in poop napping in the corner, as well as goats, chickens, and a herd of geese. It’s such a lovely little spot to come to. My favourite bit? Spying a fluffy black and white cat bum poking out of the hay- it was just the farm cat having a snooze with the Nanny goat and her kids.

Obviously, my heart strings were being pulled left, right and centre. Definitely come if you love animals more than humans too.

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Onwards, we continued. Winding through pretty neighbourhoods, the not so pretty Bethnal Green Road, and then eventually the jackpot.

Brick Lane.

Brick Lane, where we especially came for bagels.

…until we saw the huge queue snaking outside the door and immediately went naaah

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Shoes | Dress (similar) | Jacket

Rather than queue, we went for tea, because my legs hurt and I needed refreshment to keep the grumpy goblin at bay, you know?

It was super lovely being out in the sunshine. It was even lovelier having my best friend with me again. Food, sunshine and cute animals, I mean? If I could have written down what would make an awesome day, those are pretty much the Big Three.

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The Waitrose Cookery School

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]kay, so the Christmas cups are out and the John Lewis Christmas ad is out, I feel like now is a good time to talk about the festive event I was invited to at the Waitrose Cookery School, courtesy of John Lewis. There were apple pie cocktails, a Christmas tree (woo!) and a whole lot of stirring, chopping and flapping around an oven. The holidays are coming![vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14196″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14219″ img_size=”1000×1500″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14207″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14191″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I brought along my friend Alexis, who is still my friend even though I spent my free time at uni cutting out and sticking up pictures of cats all over her bedroom.

Anyway, Alexis has witnessed many of my finest culinary moments such as Batter Cake and Bolognese Soup so I’m glad she came with me, because going to an event on your own is never fun, and also because nothing can ever be as bad as Bolognese Soup.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14224″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14184″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14176″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14177″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The festive treats we would be learning to make that evening were:

Confit duck with spiced pear puree

Parmesan risotto balls

Hazelnut and Chocolate Orange Biscotti

(Spoiler alert- the biscotti did not survive the journey home)

All fab sounding dishes that felt festive enough for the occasion, but could be rolled out at any other special party.

The chefs, Shauna and Gerry, went through the steps and then it was back to our stations to emulate the same.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14179″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14181″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14186″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14182″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We started with the confit duck samosas- one pair prepared the pastry and the other pair prepared the mix and pear puree.

It was fast, a little bit frantic and loads of fun. I also know I’d never last on a competition like Masterchef because 1) I ate as I went (mmm, not the point). And that’s pretty much the only reason. After a few minutes in the oven, they out looking crisp and golden and beautiful.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14190″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14192″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14194″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14193″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We had a quick break over cocktails, enjoying the fruits of our labour before it was back to our kitchen stations again to make the second dish- Parmesan Risotto balls.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14187″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14199″ img_size=”400×600″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14209″ img_size=”400×600″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Surprisingly, these weren’t too difficult to make. You make the risotto, leave it to cool, then roll into balls and dip into an egg wash and panko crumbs before deep frying them until golden.

Super simple and really delicious- there’s a recipe card at the bottom of this post!

Afterwards, we moved into demonstration theatre to watch Shauna make little chocolate mousse domes- which actually wasn’t easy to pipe together into pretty domes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14205″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14204″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14206″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Somehow, between all these things going on, we had also managed to put together a Hazelnut and Chocolate Orange Biscotti which was baking while we watched the Chocolate Mousse Domes being made.

Recipe card also at the bottom of the post![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14208″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”14203″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]These had to cool before being cut into those familiar thin biscotti strips. These also didn’t survive the journey home, as I ate them before I even changed onto the Victoria Line!

Hazelnut- goood, Chocolate Orange- goooood. These were probably my favourite treats of the evening.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14195″ img_size=”400×600″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”14211″ img_size=”400×600″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As promised, here are the recipe cards![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_tta_tabs][vc_tta_section title=”PARMESAN RISOTTO BALLS” tab_id=”1479138841775-e0d691e7-776c”][vc_single_image image=”14201″ img_size=”large”][vc_column_text]Makes: 40 balls approx Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 15- 20 minutes

Ingredients:

For the risotto

1 Shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 sm clove Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

1 sprig Thyme

20g unsalted butter

½ tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp White wine

100g arborio rice

450ml vegetable stock, warmed

80g Parmesan, finely grated

For the panne

2 – 3 tbsp  plain white flour

1 egg, cracked and beaten

100g Dried breadcrumbs

Method

1. To cook the risotto – Place a medium sized pan onto a low heat. Add the oil

and butter. Add the shallot, garlic and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes until

the shallot is soft. Pour in the white wine, bring to the boil and let bubble

until it is almost fully reduced.

Tip in the arborio rice and coat in the shallot and wine mix. Begin to add the

warmed stock, a ladle at a time and stir until absorbed by the rice. Continue

to do so with all of the stock ensuring that the stock is fully absorbed

otherwise your risotto balls will be too wet.

Remove from the heat and stir in the grated parmesan. Season with pinch

of salt and cracked black pepper. Spread out onto flat tray and place in the

fridge to cool.

2. To shape and panne – Once cool, remove from the fridge and scoop using a

measuring spoon into 10-15g balls.

Dust each one with the flour, then coat with the beaten egg and finally roll

each one in the breadcrumbs. Roll each ball gently in the palm of your hand

to form a nice round shape, place on a clean tray and return to the fridge for

5-10 minutes to firm up.

3. To cook the balls – Meanwhile heat a fryer to 180C. Remove the balls from

the fridge. Place in the fryer and cook until golden in colour. Remove and

place on kitchen paper to drain any excess oil.

4. To serve – Season with sea salt, and place a cocktail stick into each. Serve

with some lemon mayonnaise.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”HAZELNUT & CHOCOLATE ORANGE BISCOTTI” tab_id=”1479138841877-160753fa-ba34″][vc_single_image image=”14203″ img_size=”600×400″][vc_column_text]Makes: 30 slices approx Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 40 – 45 minutes

Ingredients:

50g blanched hazelnuts

120g white plain flour

Pinch Salt

½ tsp Bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp Cream of tartar

35g dried cherries

25g Orange dark chocolate, roughly chopped

1 large free range egg

½ Orange, finely zested

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4.

2. Place the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10

minutes or until golden. Remove and leave to cool.

3. Place the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Mix well together to form

a dough, adding a splash of water if the dough is slightly dry. Tip onto a

floured surface and gently knead until soft. Divide into 2 and roll each into a

sausage shape.

4. Line a baking tray with baking paper and lay the sausages on top, making

sure they are well part. Place in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until

golden brown and firm to touch. Remove and turn the oven down to 140C,

gas mark 1.

5. Leave to cool slightly, then slice each roll at an angle into 1cm thick slices.

6. Place the slices onto a lined baking tray, return to the oven and bake for a

further 12 -15 minutes until firm and crisp.

7. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool. Place in an airtight container until required.[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][/vc_tta_tabs][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Windsor Walks

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack in August, after we had checked out of the Four Seasons in Hampshire, we made a short drive to Windsor before heading home. I didn’t use these photos at the time, but now that I’ve stumbled upon them again, I thought it was worth dedicating some time to Windsor. As we came on a whim, there was no real agenda for the trip apart from ‘looking at stuff’. So, lo and behold, here is the ‘Stuff I saw in Windsor'[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13200″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13202″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13193″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13199″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I was mooned by a swan.

That swan bum bobbed around in the water following me, so, I feel like it was personal?

Bird moonings aside, it was very nice by the river, what with all the swans and people in the canoes.

This being Windsor, where is Windsor Castle I hear you cry?!

Here she is.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13206″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13205″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13204″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Just a teensy bit busy.

Naively, I thought being a Sunday morning, it wouldn’t be crowded but wow.

The crowds matched those of a busy day down Oxford Circus. The queue to enter the castle grounds snaked well around the corner, and I couldn’t see where it ended. So that idea was canned and instead, we just walked around the castle and hung out by the river, with my swan pals.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13194″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13197″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13201″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13203″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It’s a lovely market town to explore, made prettier with the castle towering over the centre.

The world is a prettier place outside the Big Smoke. In Windsor, there’s a great big castle large enough to fit Elsa, Anna, and the whole kingdom of Arendelle to serve as a backdrop against your Costa Coffee run or weekend shop. It’s stunning.

I like you Windsor, I feel like my time with you is not over yet.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Malaysia Merdeka Carnival

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very September, when the leaves turn brown and there’s a chill in the air, my whole family head to Hertford for the Malaysia Merdeka Carnival, hosted by the Malaysian High Commission. Malaysian expats all over the UK come here for the day to well, mainly to eat! The Merdeka carnival held on the stunning Brickendonbury estate is a goldmine of Malaysian food. You’ll find things here you won’t find in restaurants plus a good smattering of mom and pop stalls with homemade goodies. For me, Autumn well and truly kicks off on this day.[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13864″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13849″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13845″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13850″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13848″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I write about the Merdeka Carnival every year (here are the ones from 2015, 2014 and 2013)

It’s a big annual event for my family, and is marked in our diaries for months beforehand. It’s a day of family and food, for cosy jumpers, and mugs of hot sweet tea.

The kids have been coming along since they were babies- in fact, my sister brought along a newborn Willa when she was 5 days old. That’s a record, surely.

We set up tents (handy to ward off the chill) throw down picnic blankets and chairs, and then split up to queue at different food stalls. There’s always crispy roti canai, smoky kuey teow noodles, and pots of sticky chicken satay drenched in peanut sauce.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13863″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13868″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13867″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13856″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13859″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13842″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13841″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It was switched up a little bit this year. This year there was a bigger focus on live bands. Some traditional songs were played, that had everyone and their Auntie bopping around.

There was a Veterans Parade as well, that I missed. Probably a good thing really, I’d be bawling my eyes out (there was a Chelsea pensioner slow dancing with his wife and I was ready to throw myself onto the ground and wail).

There’s always a raffle. My parents buy dozens of tickets and everyone gets really into it, hoping to be the one to win the grand prize (flights to Malaysia) One year, my sister won an iron…I feel this is a good karmic step towards the grand prize one day, you know? 😉 [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13862″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13869″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13854″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”13844″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13852″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”13846″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Another year, another carnival done and dusted!

I think I’m ready now for the change in season, for the chillier weather and saying goodbye to Summer. How could I not when Brickendonbury makes Autumn look all sorts of beautiful?

The festivities may be finished in Hertford, but this Saturday 24th, Trafalgar Square will be awash with all things Malaysia as the celebrations continue in the city. Expect a ton of food and music (and get the teh tarik. Hyyge in a cup!)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]