Plans for the rest of 2014

It’s only mid-September and yet the rest of 2014 is virtually planned out for me.  Slightly scary!

As far as travelling goes, there’s a lot coming up from a trip to Morocco, another to Kentucky and potentially a return trip at the very end/start of the year to Seville.  To say it’s all slightly daunting (and that my bank account is whimpering) is an understatement.

Trips aren’t the only thing that will be occupying a lot of my time… from next month I’ll be a student again.

Oh lordy.

I’ll be taking a 140 hour (90 day) online course in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).  TEFL is something I’ve been casually looking into in the past year or so but just never took the plunge.  Granted, this won’t give me an international certification but it will at least give me a solid foundation to do some private tutoring and, most importantly, give me the opportunity to find out if TEFL could be a career option for me down the line.  Fingers crossed!  It’s a bit exciting and slightly intimidating… I haven’t been a student since 2008.  Yeah, it’s online but there’s still tests and stuff.  With that comes the inevitable self doubt and thoughts of failure.  I’m sure it’ll be fine though.

What else is there?

Oh yeah.  At the start of 2015 I’ll be looking at putting in an application for a British passport/citizenship.  So there’s that too.  Originally I was against the idea of having dual nationality… it almost felt like a betrayal to my identity as an American.  But I’ve given it lots of thought and reflection (and talked to fellow expats) and the pros of having a British passport far outweigh the cons.  So I’m going for it.

Pile on the stress, eh?

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Steph (and N) travel to… Seville!

N and I have been long overdue for a proper holiday–our last real one was in 2012.  A few months back, I threatened N with a homicidal breakdown if we didn’t get out of London at some point–even if for just a weekend.  Well he went and did me one better and booked us a super long weekend in Seville in sunny southern Spain!  (Or Sevilla if you’re Spanish…)

Madrid is one of my favorite places in the universe but Seville is a whole ‘nother world, my friends.

I think for this trip’s wrap-up, I’m going to have to divide it into categories to fit everything in!

Just a warning… this post is super image heavy, so click the jump for more!

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Steph (and N) go to… Meatopia!!!!

I’m still working on the (mega) post wrapping up our amazing trip to Seville.  In the meantime, feast your eyes on what N and I did yesterday… 

Oh, oh friends.  N and I have been waiting for this day for months… me even longer than that as I bought the tickets as a surprise for N eons ago.

What is Meatopia, I hear you ask?  Well… I’m just gonna let the guys behind Meatopia enlighten you:
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Meatopia is a festival of meat, drink, fire and music invented 9 years ago in the USA by acclaimed food writer and journalist Josh Ozersky. The concept is a simple one; amazing and original meat-based dishes using high quality sustainably farmed meat, cooked over wood or charcoal by top chefs and served in taster portions to allow you to try as many as possible.

This year we have 31 of the world’s best chefs from all over the globe cooking 42 unique dishes in a smoke-filled weekend extravaganza.

Meatopia UK was brought to London in 2013 by chef Richard Turner and was an immediate sell-out success. The event was staged at the magnificent Tobacco Dock in East London and featured 20 chefs from all over the world alongside butchers, farmers, meat aficionados, wine makers and brewers – soundscaped by an eclectic line up of live music, cabaret and street theatre.

Oh.  Yes.  And as if that doesn’t sound awesome enough… we had VIP tickets.  Yeah, baby!

Let me set the scene for you…

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Why yes… that is a whole ox on that spit… 220 kilos of meat cooking for over 24 hours.

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Smoking next to a pirate ship… only way to do it.

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Back to back smokers

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A gorgeous sight…

You probably get the idea, but I can’t tell you how fantastic the whole setup at Tobacco Dock was.  Blogs should really have smell-o-vision because the smell of the smoke, meat, wood, charcoal and sauces was beyond your wildest BBQ dreams.

So what did we eat?  Well… we tried as much of everything as we could.  With our VIP tickets, we got five Meat Bucks each which entitle you to one dish per token.  We started out like total rookies, ordering our own dishes until we (very quickly) hit a wall and re-jigged our attack plan to order different dishes and share them.  Sharing was the way to go…

We started off with the Californication Burger from Almost Famous.

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The epic Californication burger… there was a line for it even before they were finished with the first batch.

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The Californication Burger being assembled….

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The finished product… Chuck, brisket & marrow burger, Pepper Jack cheese, slow cooked BBQ chicken thigh in butter & buffalo sauce, grilled fresh jalapeño peppers, crispy BBQ dusted chicken skin, bacon rain, avocado jalapeño herb mayo & smoked chorizo mayo in a Brioche slider bun

Next up, the Grilled Texas Patty Melt with Texas Toast & ‘Cue butter by The Granary ‘Cue and Brew all the way from Texas…

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Know what ‘que butter is? It’s butter made from the fat drippings from the smoked brisket. It’s heavenly and artery clogging.

Before succumbing to the aforementioned ‘wall,’ we each took on Dirty Bones‘s offering of ‘Coke & herb braised lamb cutlets glazed in bourbon & marshmallow BBQ sauce served with ‘Dirty Mac’ garlic infused mac & Cheese.’

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After this, we started sharing.

We tackled some ribs by Danny Cheetham and Sailor Jerry

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Rib ‘O’ Beef. Beef Fore Rib slow cooked over rum barrel wood chips with Sailor Jerry BBQ sauce

And we couldn’t not try that beautiful spit roasted ox by Flatiron… it tasted even better than it looked, if that’s even possible…

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Fred Smith‘s Dreamburger (for VIPs only… yeah!)

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Bread Street Kitchen‘s ‘Hand-made Ras el Hanout spiced Lamb Sausage on compressed gin-infused watermelon topped with coriander’ was more of N’s kind of dish as I’m not a fan of watermelon (or gin, oddly enough) but the sausage was lovely!

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Barbecoa‘s Korean BBQ Pork Belly with slaw was so nice I almost didn’t want to share it with N…

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The Jugged Hare served up an amazing slow cooked Yorkshire hare leg with collard greens and BBQ sauce. I’ve only had hare one other time but if this is the kind of quality at The Jugged Hare’s restaurant, I dare say it won’t be the last time I have it!

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The guys at Foxlow upped the game with their dish of grilled Tamworth Rib Eye with Roquito Pepper Salsa.  It was simple but so damn flavourful. We loved the salsa so much that we’re actually trying our hand at making a batch today. Watch this space!

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Next to last was a fabulous dish from Andre de Luca and BOS BBQ… Slow Smoked Leg of Lamb, marinated in dijon, roasted garlic & fresh rosemary then grilled and served with a sauce of fresh mint, olive oil, lemon zest and chopped chilli. To. Die. For.

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Our last dish came from London’s own House of Ho — their Smoked Goose Leg Banh Mi Sandwich.  Amazing stuff… so amazing that we actually forgot to take a photo and grabbed this one from House of Ho’s twitter account.  Click the photo to head over there and see what they’re up to!

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And it wouldn’t be Meatopia without some meat based desserts…

N had Black Vanilla Gelato‘s signature dish–Bacon and Maple Syrup Gelato. It was like having breakfast, only cold and in a cone. I obviously helped him finish it.

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The Crispy Club (love the name) offered up a rice crispy called The Dead Elvis. Rocking banana jam, peanut butter and candied bacon (yes, yes, YES!), it made me re-evaluate dessert.

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Yes, there is a chilli chocolate crispy there but let’s be honest.. it didn’t even compare to The Dead Elvis…

Meatopia also had some fine entertainment on offer. Highlights for us were The Gents (we saw them twice!) and the Brass Funkeys. We’ll definitely be keeping our eyes out for any London gigs!

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Brilliant brass by the Brass Funkeys

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The Gents kept things lively

You know it’s been a good day when a whole ox has been stripped to the bones…

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Oh, and I met the fantastic (and super nice) DJ BBQ who must have been shattered after leading The Cutting Room stage all day. He was nice enough to stop for a quick photo…

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A day later and N and I have had a debrief…  If we had to choose (y’know, if someone was holding a gun to our heads), our favourite dishes would be  Foxlow’s steak and roquito pepper salsa (mine) and the Californication Burger (N’s).

We’ve already decided that as soon as tickets for Meatopia 2015 come up (and there’d better be one), we’ll be snapping up VIP tickets again.  Amazing experience and already looking forward to the next one!

There are loads more photos of different chefs, dishes and so on… too many to post here.  If you want to see them, head over to my flickr and check them out!

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Those are the faces of two *very* content (and maybe tipsy) meat lovers…

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My comfort zone

This post is based on a prompt from the Curvy Girl Guide September prompt list.  If you’d like to take part, you can find the full list of writing prompts here.   

Today’s prompt is:  Comfort food feeds the soul.  But what is your beauty equivalent of comfort food?  From your favorite sweater to your must-have lip gloss, what items make you feel full and happy?

I’m a cozy type person and I love to snuggle up with a good book more than anything.  So as I’m sure you can imagine, much of my favorite comfort items revolve around reading and cuddling.  My top five comfort items are:

  • My quilt.  I bugged my Memom for years to make me a quilt and finally, right before I went away to college, I got one!  My quilt is very special to me–red and white on one side and blue and white on the other.  There’s a secret to my quilt that, unless you’re looking for it, you wouldn’t spot in a million years.  On some of the white panels, using white thread to blend in, she’s stitched in little images of things that make me, me.  Like an ant.  My initials.  You get the idea.
  • My Kindle.  It sounds superficial and consumerist, but I couldn’t live without my Kindle.  I read all the time and I go through books like I go through underwear.  It’s nice not having to lug multiple books around with me or break my wrists while holding up one of the Game of Thrones books.  It’s easy to use and even has a built in light for sneaky nighttime reading.
  • My mug.  It’s got my name on it, and it makes no excuses and tells it like it really is.

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  • My Victoria’s Secret boyfriend pajama bottoms.  Those bad boys are so roomy and comfortable–I could probably fit two of me in there and still have room to dance around like a maniac.  I almost get lost in them.  Despite their being from Victoria’s Secret, they’re one of the un-sexiest items of clothing I own… and I love them.
  • My husband.  Ultimately, he’s by far my biggest comfort item.  He knows when I need a foot rub or a bar of chocolate.  He knows when to cover me up with my quilt as I’m drifting off on the couch.  He knows when to cuddle me and when to leave me alone.  I don’t know how he does it, but I love him for it.  (Cue horrible, retching, barfing noises)

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

 

August 2014 Book Wrap Up

Another month down… it’s hard to believe we’re coming up to Christmas now!

For August, I decided to take the month off from doing reviews and reading proof copies.  It was a very welcome break and very refreshing.  I’ve actually enjoyed my reading freedom so much that I’ve decided to scale back reviews for the remainder of the year.  I won’t be actively seeking proof copies–I already have a few to get through in the next few months.  But, if something fabulous does come my way, I won’t turn it down…

Anyhow… on to the book wrap up!

August Books

Books Read:  8

Currently Reading:  Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away – Christie Watson

What have you been reading lately?  I’m always up for recommendations!

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Steph throws… a dinner party (a CGG writing prompt)

Throughout September, many of my posts will center around a topic from the Curvy Girl Guide Community’s monthly list of writing prompts.  This month, Brittany’s list is themed around fall and ‘back to school.’  I’m really looking forward to sharing some more personal/wacky/meaningful thoughts with everyone as well as meeting new bloggers through this.  If you’d like to take part, you can find the full list of writing prompts here.   

The prompt I’ve chosen for today is:  You are having a dinner party.  Which famous 10 people would be on your guest list?

I love this question!  I’m going to assume the guests are all living (because zombie guests would be slightly macabre and possibly terrifying) which makes it slightly trickier for me!

  1. Jennifer Lawrence – I know, I know… but J-Law is my Kentucky home gal! I kind of feel like she’d add a bit of (un)classiness which would be refreshing and hilarious.  Plus, she seems like she’d be the last one standing after the booze runs out.
  2. Beyoncé – Again… I know.  But Bey is so damn fierce that you can’t help but admire her… even if I’m not necessarily a fan of most of her music.
  3. David Beckham – But only if he arrives in his underpants, a la the H&M commercial.  Every party needs some eye candy.
  4. Jesse Tyler Ferguson – He plays Mitchell on Modern Family and I absolutely adore him.
  5. Ty Burrell – Also on Modern Family (Phil)… love him too.  I can totally see me and N becoming Phil and Claire one day.
  6. Jamie Oliver – He’s so dang cute, plus he could cook the meal!  He strikes me as being able to kick back with a beer and have a laugh.
  7. Lindsay Lohan – I questioned this choice myself but really… Having LL at a dinner party could make or break it.  I’d like to think she’d be nothing short of interesting.
  8. Kerry Washington – Washington stars as Olivia Pope in TV’s Scandal and I don’t mind telling you that I have a total girl crush on her.  She’s gorgeous and outside of TV she’s also a brilliant role model.
  9. Britney Spears – Yep… I went there.  I can’t help but think that she probably doesn’t get invited ’round to dinner parties much… plus like Lindsay Lohan I’d like to think she’d keep things mega-interesting/shocking.
  10. Peter Dinklage – If you don’t know him, he plays Tywin Lannister (the imp) on Game of Thrones (are you living under a rock???).  Who wouldn’t want Dinklage at a party, I ask you?!

Wow… looking back that’s quite an interesting mix of guests!

Menu-wise, I’d probably go barbeque-chique on this… with beers and iced tea, of course.

If you could invite ten celebs around to yours for a dinner party, who would you pick?

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Steph does… volunteer work with FoodCycle

I’ve been looking for a local charity with a cause I can get behind to volunteer with for a while now.  Via the black hole that is the internet, I stumbled across the group FoodCycle.

The aim of FoodCycle is to work to end food wastage all while providing a community space for the vulnerable and socially isolated (i.e. homeless, elderly) to come and have a hot meal and meet and talk with other people.  FoodCycle doesn’t ask for diners to pay for their lunches but they’re more than happy to take a donation from those who are able to give one.  Check out their video–it’s really simply and effectively put.

I loved the idea and I equally loved the fact that the Wandsworth Hub was nearby with Saturday lunches being served a 10 minute walk from home.

So I signed N and I up and last Saturday was our first service.  I put us down for kitchen duty which we were both really excited about.

We rocked up right on time at 10.30 and met Ash and Akruti along with a few others standing outside of the venue with a load of food donated by local shops.  Once we got inside, all of the food had to be weighed–just over 250 kilos of fruit, veg and bread had been given to us!

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That’s only a small portion of the food donated…

Next we went all MasterChef and designed a three course menu based off of the food we’d been given.  I loved this part and everyone was so creative with their ideas.  We settled on Aloo Gobi (a potato and cauliflower Indian dish) for the starter, an Okra/Aubergine Gumbo with green beans on the side for the main and for dessert we had two kinds of crumble–apple/pear and peach.

BwSEoubIMAACZ7p.jpg-largeAnd then the cooking commenced.  It was a bit daunting not knowing the amount of people we’d be cooking for but we put the radio on, mugs of tea were distributed and we got cracking.  I got potato duty (my Granddad would be so proud) and peeled and diced up potatoes for the Aloo Gobi.  N was doing cauliflower and everyone else got stuck in with peppers, onions, pears, apples and so on.  It was a busy little hive in our kitchen!

Kitchen selfie!

Kitchen selfie!

At 1PM, people started showing up for food.  We were slightly behind, but the food was well worth the wait.  The Aloo Gobi was being snapped up and praised highly (props to me and N) and people couldn’t get enough of the gumbo with many asking for seconds.  The crumble also went just as quick and, before we knew it, we’d run out of food.

Managed to get a photo of the gumbo but food was going so fast we didn't get photos of the other dishes!

Akruti managed to get a photo of the gumbo but food was going so fast we didn’t get photos of the other dishes!

We served 47 people–one of the busier services they’ve seen recently.  Any extra food was put out for guests to take and what food couldn’t be used was given over to someone for composting purposes.  No food went to waste–brilliant!

All in all, FoodCycle kitchen duty was a brilliant way to spend a Saturday morning/afternoon.  I met some really brilliant people who I can’t wait to work with again.  It was hard work, don’t get me wrong, but it was fun, rewarding and everyone was so friendly and happy to be there.

N and I will definitely be going back… I’ve already signed us up for the last Saturday in September!  Looks like we’ll be doing FoodCycle on a monthly basis!

*All photos are courtesy of the Wandsworth FoodCycle twitter account.  Follow them at @FoodCycleWands for updates, photos and general food fun!*

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.