Tuesday, 18 September 2018

UK Vacay Snapshots

As an ex-pat, a trip back to the UK is never going to quite feel like a holiday but this trip involved beaches and sunshine and al-fresco drinking so it wasn't too far off.

And it's always nice to see your home city through the rose-tinted shades of being the friend back from far-flung climes, not having to answer the "how long have you lived in Dubai" question and feeling like it was only a few days, and not a few months or a year, since I last hugged friends goodbye.

On the less positive side, taking the tube alternately made me break out in a cold / decidedly not-cold sweat, hearing people loudly swearing was absolutely terrifying and each day felt like an impossible balance between seeing everyone, doing everything, living in each moment but also not being able to do everything, see everyone, and not to upset my carefully choreographed timetable of people, places and work meetings. Oh, and the time in London was bookended by two weddings (yes I am in my early 30s), M&S train picnics and a double dose of "so how do you know the groom / bride...".

An unexpected detour to Weymouth where the sun was shining
My outfit for a wedding weekend in Dorset - the dress is from Joy
A not very quick 8km the next morning along Swanage Beach 
Stopping for photos - I am a city girl through and through but enjoyed this morning a lot
Back to London to stay in this delightful airbnb 
I went to a yoga class and then needed to show off 
Optional punchbag for those who prefer less zen workouts 
A drinks date with a very dear friend and these millennial pink cocktails 
Visiting the London office of my current employer and getting very lost in Canary Wharf 
A weekend in Brighton for the second wedding - the weather redeemed itself for the previous weekend and was glorious!
My outfit for the second wedding, and a mental note to not wear stiletto heels to the next British summer wedding I attend
A morning run is a post-wedding tradition now, as well as a sign that I can now exercise restraint at an open bar. Some yoga for me and some photography practice for my poor Instagram husband (boyfriend)

Be back in October!


Thursday, 13 September 2018

Birthday Wishlist - Gifts for Yogis

This summer, chances are that (when not at work or sleeping) you'll have found me doing yoga, either at Zoga Dubai or with Adriene and Cat Meffan at home.

I went to my first yoga class over ten years ago but in recent months, practicing 5-6 times per week and having yoga as my sole form of exercise (although yoga is so much more than that) and post-work activity has resulted in a less achy, more flexible, stronger body and a much calmer, better behaved Lily (most of the time).

While yoga is really not about wearing a certain outfit, having a particular body type or forcing your body into a pretzel for an Instagram snap, there's no getting away from the yoga ~lifestyle and while most days I am happy practicing in a Hello Kitty tee and Primark leggings, I'm also guilty of a late night scroll through my favourite Insta-yogis and seeing the head-to-toe Lululemon outfits of my class mates and feeling slightly wanting. The commercialisation of yoga is complex and while a pair of £100 leggings aren't going to help me maintain a handstand for more than a micro-second, I am but a simple girl who once had a "fashion blog" and I still want cute things. Just know that you can still practice yoga at home, with your laptop, in your undies with a beach towel masquerading as a yoga mat.

It's my birthday on Sunday so here are some yoga gifts for yogis in your life:

gifts for yogis

The habit of wearing all-black in Dubai has well and truly got to me and I cannot imagine exercising in bright colours anymore. These Alo Yoga leggings have been on my list for a while - the mesh, high waist and 80s-esque stirrup detail makes them perfect for class and beyond. Yoga still needs a somewhat supportive bra but I have been oh-so-glad to do away with the ones I wore back in my running days - this one is the right mix of soft and structured.

For at home practice, a scented candle helps set the mood and this one smells so beautiful, for travelling and squeezing practices into the smallest of spare moments, toe socks are your friend - no excuse for not having space for a mat in your luggage. A room spray can also make anywhere feel like a yoga studio - this one smells of lemon and lavender would even work at the office if you or a colleague could do with some 9-5 zen (vegan). The Pixie Vitamin Radiance Mist also contains lavender for a post-class refresh (vegan, cruelty free).

I've been looking for some cute yoga tops lately, this one has a sweet faded design and some slight LA yoga-girl vibes. A girl can never have enough tote bags and this one would be a great gift for someone you know who enjoys say, coffee, yoga and naps.

Finally, a soft cushion for the home, and a super versatile Turkish-style towel for staying warm during savasana, doubling up as a scarf for after class or packing for a beach break too.

Namaste, y'all.


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Four East London Vegan Breakfasts To Start Your Day

The best thing about being back in London (besides friends, family, weddings and drinks outside)? The breakfasts. Even with my favourite avocado on toast off of the menu (for now while my body has - hopefully temporarily - decided it doesn't like a long list of foods including wheat).

We breakfasted like kings (and queens) each morning because gin for supper is far more acceptable when you've started your day with a kombucha smoothie bowl. Here are some of my favourites, and the spots I'll be starting my day at when I'm back in my favourite (when it's not grey and raining) city next month. 

1. Buckwheat Pancakes at Curious Yellow Kafe 

curious yellow kafe hoxton

Staying in an airbnb a few steps away from this cosy Swedish cafe was a very good idea indeed. The prices are so good that after a year in Dubai I was convinced that they had only billed half of our order. The buckwheat pancakes (buckwheat is actually wheat free despite its name) were super delicious and came smothered in coconut cream, raspberries and a carmelised banana. Yum. My boyfriend has his signature breakfast of the moment - porridge with a side of sourdough.

2. Almond Milk Porridge at The Hoxton Grill

the hoxton grill shoreditch

The Hoxton Hotel has become a go-to for seeking sanctuary when arriving off of the overnight flight from Dubai. When you've been away for a while, London on no sleep feels like a rather aggressive assault on ones senses (compared to when you live here when London on no sleep is alternatively grimly bearable or aching beautiful depending on the previous night). The Hoxton is the perfect setting to grab a delicious breakfast and then (after requesting an early check-in at the time of booking), take a well-deserved nap. The almond milk porridge at The Hoxton Grill is really delicious and so warming when 22 degrees feels cold.

3. Kombucha Smoothie Bowl at Friends of Ours 

friends of ours hoxton

The one rainy morning of our stay in London saw us take shelter in Friends of Ours with a rather sunny-day breakfast option. The kombucha smoothie bowl is vegan, gluten free and packed with lots of goodness. I had an oat milk chai on the side to attempt to warm me up a little bit. Service is fast and friendly, and back in my coffee-consuming days, I loved this place for it's iced soy lattes. The all-day menu has a few good vegan options and offers gluten free bread, too. For the more carnivorous, my boyfriend recommends the beef brisket benedict.

4. Porridge at Ozone Coffee Roasters 

ozone coffee old street

A few steps from the Old Street Roundabout, Ozone is never not busy with people cooler than me who I cannot help but wonder why they aren't at work at 10.45am on a Tuesday. I had the spring porridge made with oat milk and topped with banana and "scroggin" (I have no idea what that is). I also braved some caffeine with an oat milk iced pirate chocolate with a shot of espresso and it was like an adult-acceptable version of the Starbucks Mocha Lite frappucinos that I spent all of my money on at university. My boyfriend's chia pudding was a little small but the spoonful I snuck of it was delicious and the dark chocolate topping saves it from being too virtuous. 

Where serves up your favourite East London breakfast?

Saturday, 1 September 2018

August Round-Up

August is over and for us Dubai-dwellers that means that it's nearly "outdoor season" again. The temperature has hit over 40 degrees for most days since June, and August brought with it a bonus dose of sticky humidity - no, the desert is not "dry heat", my constantly steamed-up glasses will attest to that...

I am writing this in advance of a trip to the UK where I may well take all of the above back if the heatwave has not made a reappearance in time for me to not shiver my way through two weddings.

August in Dubai looked like this:

1. Lunch at Zuma to say farewell to a colleague - a sad inevitability of ex-pat life is that everyone, including you, will one day leave.

2. Breakfast at The Sum of Us - my boyfriend treated because I correctly tipped France to win the world cup.

3. A lunch meeting at the Armani - still pleased with trading off a chuck of my salary for a more varied, less soul-crushing and normal-working-hours type existence.

4. Chia pudding and beet bowls at Common Grounds - fuel for braving the Mall of the Emirates on a Friday.

5. Cat sitting for a friend which mostly involved saying "I want a kitten" for five hours after each visit - this is Dizzee Rascal and he's the cutest thing ever.

6. Cherries are £8 per pack in Dubai so I whipped up some vegan pancakes so that these didn't go to waste. Extra points to me for flipping them using chopsticks as I still haven't gotten around to purchasing kitchen utensils.

7. Breakfast at The Sum of Us again. Not sponsored we just like it there a lot. Possibly explains why I've yet to buy utensils.

8. Starting the three-day Eid break with a yoga class at Zoga and a post class acai bowl. I've been doing 4-5 yoga classes a week for the last couple of months and I'm making slow but steady progress in new poses and undoing years of slouching over a desk.

9. I took an afternoon of work, just because Cherie wrote a post about taking a day off work just because.  I visited a new cafe, Kad Che in Bay Square, read my book, attended an earlier yoga class and felt SO refreshed.

September plans:

Visits from friends, my birthday (turning 31 and feeling fine about it), slightly cooler climes and, of course, more breakfasts.
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