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Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Stage Mommy's Pancake Recipe


If you have been reading this blog, you would know that I love macarons, afternoon tea and that my favorite meal is breakfast. This is the only meal that I am never clueless as to what to cook or eat. I always know what I want for breakfast every single time. I love breakfast so much that I always look forward to it from the night before. One of the favorite breakfast food in our household are pancakes. I am proud to say I have mastered the recipe of how I want my pancake to be. The original recipe was given to me by a friend and I tweaked it to my liking, took the eggs out now it's fluffy and delicious.


1 cup self raising flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar (more or less, depends how sweet you want your pancake)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp melted butter


1. Put all dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Pour the milk, whisk to a smooth batter.
3. Whisk in the melted butter and the vanilla essence.
4. Transfer batter to a jug to get that perfect round shape.
5. Set a frying pan to medium heat and pour batter from the jug to the pan, one minute on each side or when you see bubbles on the surface.
6. Serve with golden syrup or maple syrup with strawberries, sliced bananas or blueberries as your topping.

This recipe serves 6.


Sunday, 27 September 2015

It Is Time To Look Up

“So, did you enjoy the party?”
“Uhhm, a bit.”
“A bit? I thought you enjoyed playing with the other kids.”
“Well, everybody just wanted to play Minecraft. They didn’t even want to play with normal LEGO!”

This was the conversation I had with my six year old daughter one evening after having just arrived home from a party. Her frustration really tugged at my heart. There she was, my friendly and outgoing six year old, surrounded by children her age, some a bit older, yet feeling alone because the others were too busy to look up from the digital world they were engrossed in, to even play with her. This made me ask myself, what kind of generation are we raising?

I see it all the time, a toddler in a stroller being entertained with an iPhone at the park, a toddler confidently navigating an iPad app at a children’s party, a little girl enjoying a game on her DS in a restaurant. All of them looking down instead of living in the moment.
But I have to admit, they used to be us. That couple at the next table who are both looking down on their phones used to be my husband and me and their little girl on the iPad used to be my six year old. Although I enjoyed using that undivided time scrolling on my phone because the six year old and the husband were also busy doing the same thing, there were no conversations and it has always made me uncomfortable. Aside from it not painting a good picture from the outside, neither is it painting a good picture from the inside, as far as our relationship as a family is concerned.
 I remember before the time of smart phones, my husband and I used to be so engrossed in a conversation while waiting for our food in a restaurant or while in the car and how I used to play with my daughter endlessly when she was little rather than shove an iPad under her nose.  This made me realize that I want to have those conversations again and I want to have that endless playtime with my daughter again, before she grows up and it is too late.
 I realised I have had enough of living a distracted life, of not living life fully because of the trappings of technology. I decided it is time to look up as I realized I wanted to look at my husband’s eyes again when we are having a conversation, watch my daughter run around in the playground or see her priceless smile while playing instead of constantly looking down on my phone. I wanted to live in the moment again, not through a screen and I wanted the same thing for my daughter. A life where first thing in the morning she would look forward to finish that Lego structure she started the night before or finish that book she had been reading rather than check on a life she is building in a virtual world. I want a life for her that is not consumed by likes and comments on Facebook. A life that is not spent looking endlessly at a screen.
I would rather she engages with her friends in real time rather than talking to them through an app on the phone when they are very well sitting beside each other. A life in the real world and not in a virtual world.
From then on, we stopped taking the iPad out whenever we go out and imposed time limits using it. We stopped having phones and tablets on the dining table during meal times and I have made a conscious effort to stop looking at my phone while in a restaurant but better yet, keeping it in my handbag the entire time. We have also started using again the kids activity packs that restaurants provide and started doing regular outdoor activities. We have also started playing with Lego again, as a family. In other words, we started interacting and talking again, in the real sense of the word.
It is still a work in progress but we are almost there. My daughter seldom uses the iPad now and even hardly asks for it. I guess it was harder for me than for her as I love spending time online but as a parent, I know my priorities. I need to lead the way. That new article can be read later and Instagram can definitely wait.
I do not know if my daughter will continue to shun the trappings of technology but what I know is that I don’t want her to be that little girl in the corner with her iPad while the rest of the children are having the time of their life in the real world.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

My Top Three Scented Candles

I love candles. That is a given. I love that aside from giving the house a wonderful scent, having some glowing candle lights in the house makes it so cozy and warm. Not only that, candles also make beautiful decorations. around the house. I burn candles all year round, even in the summer.

Over the years, I have tried and tested a variety of scents and brands from high end to medium priced down to the really cheap ones. As they say, you get what you pay for and this also applies to candles.

I have come to find my favourites. Here is my top three list that I have put together to help you with your candle shopping.


A French brand that exudes luxury. It can be pricey but it is one of the best candles that you can have around your house. Once a friend gave me one as a present, the moment I lit it, I never looked at (or smelled) candles the same way again. The burning time is worth every penny. The throw is very clean without an after smell of synthetic like most candles. You can still smell the scent even when it is not lit and it is always heavenly. Dyptique candles also burn evenly. Getting this candle is really a treat.


I happen to pick this one up when I was desperate as my candle at home was down to its last few burning minutes. Since then, this has been my go to candle. Like most quality candles, the scents are not overwhelming but very gentle. My favourite is the Black Vanilla. Bahoma candles are handmade in a factory in London. They are not the cheapest but I get them for a steal at TK Maxx stores.

The White Company

Who doesn't love The White Company. I love their lotions and potions and most of all, I love their candles. They are mid range priced so you get a quality candle that does not come with a price tag. Prices start at £20 but whereas with Diptyque, you only get a mini candle with this price, with the White Company, this will get you a regular sized candle. So when you are buying on a budget but do not want to compromise on the quality, this is the candle for you.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Latte Factor: Are We All Guilty Of This?

The Latte Factor was coined by David Bach in his book titled Start Over, Finish Rich. This simply means the little things that we mindlessly spend on daily, like buying coffee every day on your way to work, thus the term Latte Factor. It covers more than just that simple latte, it could be grabbing that bar of chocolate at the till every time, that magazine that you aimlessly pick up while doing your weekly shopping , those lottery tickets that you religiously buy every week or that lunch that you buy at work daily instead of making them yourself. These little trivial things do add up and at the end of the month, you will be surprised to know how much you have spent on them when they could be avoided.

The authors suggests that we monitor our daily or weekly spending and identify our Latte Factor. A daily cup of coffee on your way to work could cost you £3. That is £15 a week and £60 a month. A total of £720 a year! For someone who is an advocate of the idea of enjoying the small things in life, this does not really sit well with me. For someone, that daily cup of coffee from a barista could be their little luxury like mine would be flowers and candles. I suppose I could just get flowers from our garden which I tend to do sometimes but nothing beats that beautifully cultured flowers from the shops. I guess what the author wanted to emphasize is how much you are willing to forego of the little luxuries in life in the aim of saving for something bigger like adding that up to your yearly holiday or to your retirement fund. By all means, if you enjoy these little luxuries, keep them. As they say, life is short after all. Now excuse me while I cancel that digital tv subscription. We do not have time to watch television, anyway.

Now I get the point. Did you?

Friday, 14 August 2015

How To Travel On A Budget Like A Pro

Gone are the days when travelling was considered luxury. In this digital age when everything is at the tip of our fingertips, travelling has never been easier. When as before, booking a flight means going to the airline office or getting a travel itinerary means going to a travel agency, opening your laptop is all you need nowadays. But if you want to travel on a budget, you need to be more savvy than just being able to operate a computer.

Travelling on a budget does not necessarily mean staying in a hostel or B&B nor does it mean taking the red eye or eating from a food truck your entire holiday. All you need is a plan and a little skill. 

Chances are, your mode of transport will be the most expensive item that you will buy on a trip unless you take the train or go with a budget airline.  Even with budget airlines, you could be paying big money if you are not careful. 

Plan ahead. It's highly unlikely that you will get cheap flights at the last minute so I always plan our trips way ahead. From three to six months in advance, you can definitely bag a bargain holiday. Case in point, our flights to New York in March was booked in September. Exactly six months from our flight saving us  £350 each return and that is flying with British Airways. Our recent trip to Oslo which was booked three months in advance, was £180 return for three people and that includes airport parking. It also helped that we flew midweek. Flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday will always guarantee a bargain as much as flying early in the morning and late in the evening. 

This also applies when travelling by train.

Once your bargain flight is secured, you can now start searching for your hotel. You have more leeway in this area. Whereas you cannot cancel a flight without being charged,  with hotels, you can cancel as late as twenty four hours before check-in. I tend to start with comparison websites like hotels dot com and booking dot com. I book them on the free cancellation option and between then and my flight, I keep tabs on the prices. If they go down, I cancel and rebook on the new lower price. 

Be intuitive. Do not be fooled by comparison websites though. A handful of times I discovered that the hotel's main website offered the exact same rate. Sometimes they are cheaper and also with free cancellation. You get perks when you book directly with the hotel so it is best to cancel and book directly when this happens.

I am never the one to scrimp on food, especially on holiday when there is an abundance of choices. But if there is a chance of spending less on food without compromising on the quality then I am in. 

They say hotel buffet breakfasts are expensive but there is actually some savings to be had when you avail of it. Let us face it, nobody really wants to wake up at the crack of dawn during this time. Chances are, people tend to wake up late in the morning and having the buffet breakfast as brunch (breakfast and lunch) is savings in itself. There are so many options on a buffet breakfast that it fills you up until afternoon. The next time you need to spend on food would be for an early dinner. 

Another option is bringing breakfast in. When we were in Paris, we did not include breakfast with our hotel as we wanted to have breakfast in a cafe, al fresco a la Parisienne. We did a lot of walking the day before that a lie in the next day was a very tempting idea. The thought of waking up early did not appeal too much anymore so we bought some delicious pastries from PAUL and had them for breakfast with the free coffee in our hotel room the next day. PAUL pastries are not cheapest of pastries but it was still cheap compared to eating out for breakfast. We did splurge by eating in Angelina's for lunch that day. We were on a holiday after all. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Raising A Wanderluster

She has the world at her feet.

Every one tells you how tough it is to be a parent but what I can tell you are the joys that comes with it. Case in point, travelling with kids or in my case, travelling with a kid. 

It might not always be the case with every one but travelling with mine has always been a breeze. Her first flight at four months was long haul and she slept during the entire journey. 

Now at  six years old, she has never been more excited to travel and see the world. Learning a word or two in a new language fascinates her. Whether it is going 86 floors up the Empire State Building in New York, learning about the history of Fatima in Portugal, admiring the marvellous Niagara falls in Toronto, sipping hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris or eating Xiao Long Bao in Singapore, there is always something worth learning for her young and inquisitive mind.

Ava at three years old, standing on the Sea-card right outside Padraos Dos Descobrimentos in Lisbon, Portugal.

It is a wonderful experience seeing the world through my little girl's eyes. Through her eyes, I see magic in everything. I get asked questions that I would not have thought myself and it is a joy to experience these things with her. 

Running with excitement once the gates opened in Disneyland, Paris in her princess dress, of course.

Sipping hot chocolate at Angelina's in Paris.

She has been travelling with us since she was a baby and now she shares our passion to see and explore the world. Travelling definitely teaches her a lot of things she would not learn in a classroom. Learning history that is right in front of her makes it more interesting than it already is. It also teaches her to live some days of her life outside her comfort zone. That could only be a good thing.

Ava standing right across the famous Boat House in Central Park in Manhattan.

In awe of Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.

Admiring Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream in Oslo, Norway.
She has been to several cities in seven countries in three continents. She has learned the art of travelling in her own little way. She now knows what she needs while waiting in airports, on a long haul flight or sitting on a train to somewhere new. Here are her travel essentials and an iPad is not one of them. In this day and age when children her age are glued to their iPads and missing the world around them, I could not be more proud of my little wanderluster.

from L to R: books, vintage iPod, Hello Kitty headset and Fujifilm instax to take photos with.

Monday, 13 July 2015

My New York Story (Part 3) With A Side Of Cronuts!

Grand Central Station

New York is a foodie haven. Michelin starred restaurants, multi- awarded cafe’s, world renowned pastries and food trucks, name it, you will find it there. On our last few days, we were basically just eating our way around New York.  After a brief visit to Grand Central Terminal, which, it has to be said is actually very grand for a train terminal.  Being there and looking at its grandeur makes me imagine a bygone era. Though that bygone era definitely would not have what the city has to offer now in terms of lovely food.

On a rainy Friday, we took the subway to the Upper West Side to buy some delicious cookies from Levain Bakery.  Every morsel was worth the train ride.  The melted chocolate that oozes when you break the cookie in two.  Definitely, heaven in a cookie. I was glad I hoarded as we were off on a road trip to Canada that afternoon, staying for a couple of days then driving back to America in to Virginia then Washington DC then back to NYC.

After our road trip to Virginia, Washington DC and Canada, we still had a couple days in New York before our flight back to London. We took the red eye train from Washington DC and arrived at midnight in NYC. We woke up late and missed the hotel’s buffet breakfast and we ended up having breakfast at a nearby Starbuck’s.

We spent a few hours roaming around the Flat Iron area and had a little peek at Eataly, an Italian market place owned by American chef Mario Batali. I have wanted to try their pasta dishes, being a pasta lover myself but the market like scene in Eataly did not appeal to me. It was crowded and dark. I promised myself I will brave the crowd next time as I have read only great reviews about the food.
From there, we dropped by Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret and did a bit of shopping.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the American Natural History Museum which the six year old enjoyed so much. She loves this museum as she has been to its British counterpart in London twice already.

Lunch was at the Shake Shack which was just across the museum. The rest of the day was spent walking along typical Manhattan neighborhoods, past brownstone apartments then walked up to Columbus Circle to have a quick bite of some macarons at Bouchon bakery by Michelin star chef Thomas Keller. The macarons were from a Michelin starred chef alright but it cannot beat my favourite Pierre Herme macarons in taste.

It was a wonderful day just us three, exploring Manhattan and just going where our feet would lead us.

The long queue outside Dominique Ansel's bakery long before it opened.

On our last day, I decided to wake up at the crack of dawn, five in the morning to be exact and took an Uber ride to SOHO with a girl friend to queue for the world famous Cronut.  The cronut was delicious but it was not how I expected it to be nor was it extraordinary. That is why it did not make it to My Best Three In NYC.  I actually enjoyed Dominique Ansel’s DKA and madeleines more. Although I did enjoy taking a selfie with the Dominique Ansel  himself who humbly opened the bakery doors.

As if by sugar rush, we rushed literally to Magnolia Bakery, taking into consideration that it was our only chance before leaving that evening.  I was told the cupcakes there were not that worth the calories so I went for the Banana Pudding which was the best decision of the day. I wrote more about it here.

And of couse, for a Sex and The City fan like me, no visit to New York would be complete without dropping by the steps of the ultimate and quintessential New Yorker, Carrie Bradshaw.

That sums about my trip to NYC, all three parts of it. I am sure we are not done with New York and we are definitely going back

Monday, 15 June 2015

My Best Three In NYC

Our travels do not only involve sightseeing, it also involves food, lots of food. I seek and queue just to try a culinary item that is on my radar. I also make a “to eat list” months in advance.  That, my friends, is how much I love my food.
Our recent visit to New York was no exception. Several months before the trip, I was already looking forward to the gustatory delights that we were going to encounter. After all, New York is a foodie haven.
The following are three of the best sweet delights that I have tried. Best in a way that, I think about them all the time and that I would consider going back to New York, eight hours flight and all, just to taste them again.

Sarabeth’s Waffles
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. I look forward to my breakfasts even from the night before so Sarabeth’s is one of the priorities on this trip. The Central Park location is very NYC and the ambience and decor is very Upper East Side. The crisp white table linens and silver cutlery is what the Charlotte Yorks and the Blair Waldorfs of this world are used to but let us not dwell on that, we were there for the food after all.
There were a lot to choose from on the menu but for a pancake and waffle lover like our family, we went for the waffles and pancakes, of course. Heavenly was the first word that came into my thoughts the moment I took a bite of the waffles that was served before me. A little bit of crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside and of course, it was very delicious and I enjoyed every bite of it. The coffee is in a league of its own, I have forgotten how many refills I had.

Levain Cookies
I have read a lot about Levain cookies on social media and the photos of massive cookies with melted chocolate inside were enough to get me on a train to the Upper West Side where the bakery is located. Until now, I can still smell the sweet and mouth watering aroma of the baking that was going on inside the bakery while I was on the queue outside. I tried all four flavours and my favourites are  the chocolate and peanut butter  and the walnut. The texture is not like any normal cookie. It was crunchy on the outside but inside was cakey in texture, in a  nice and delicious kind of  way. The melted chocolate or peanut butter (whichever cookie it is) just adds to the awesomeness of this delectable creation. It is what every cookie lover’s dreams are made of.

Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding
Magnolia Bakery was brought to fame by an episode on Sex and the City and since then, fans of the tv series (me included) have trooped to their Bleecker street location which is very conveniently located just around the corner from Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment in the series. The cupcakes were featured on that episode but for some reason, I was really not in the mood for cupcakes that day, having just visited Dominique Ansel’s bakery for some cronuts and DKA’s. Also, cupcakes are so last season and overrated these days.  Then I remember being told that the banana pudding is to die for so I went for it and I was glad I did. Every spoonful was a delight. If there is such a thing as banana pudding heaven then I think I have just been to one. It was highly addictive and tastefully creamy with chunks of fresh banana generously mixed into the concoction.  So, when you happen to be at Magnolia Bakery, pass on the cupcakes and go for the banana pudding. You will thank me for it.

Friday, 22 May 2015

My New York Story (Part 2)

Standing tall and watching over the city for over a hundred years, a symbol of hope and freedom for millions who migrated to America, the Statue of Liberty was not to be missed.  We finally had the chance to visit her on our third day. It felt surreal to finally see her up close. I learned on the audio guide that the exterior is originally copper but has turned green due to oxidation. Up to now, the Statue of Liberty has remained the symbol of freedom not only for America but for the rest of the world.  The tour took more than half of our day and once we were back in the main island of Manhattan, we were starving.

We had lunch at a random Chinese restaurant in the financial district and dessert was, I’m excited to say, in Serendipity, one of the locations of the movie of the same title. This movie, I could watch over and over again and it was amazing to finally try the hot frozen chocolate. Since reservations for dessert were not accepted, we had to wait for an hour once we were there. We went to Dylan’s Candy Bar which was just around the corner to while away the time. The 6 year old had a field day there. The frozen hot chocolate, their most famous dessert, having been featured in the movie, was worth the one hour wait.

It was past five in the afternoon when we finished in Serendipity and decided to finally use the ticket we booked online for the Empire State Building. There were lots of tourists but since we went for the express ticket, we were able to jump the long queue. Without realising, our timing was actually perfect. It was starting to get dark and the lights were starting to turn on, giving us both the day view and night view. It was an exciting experience to finally go up to the main observation deck on the 86th floor. I was imagining Meg Ryan running towards the lift to get into the last flight up, to meet up with Tom Hanks from the movie Sleepless in Seattle. I watched that film a thousand times.

The view was amazing and I could clearly see my favourite building in New York, the Chrysler building. Once it was all dark and the New York skyline well illuminated, all I wanted to do was stand there in silence and take it all in, 86 floors above the ground.

New York, too many places to see, too little time and too many things to write about so please hang on for the third installment of my New York story.

Monday, 11 May 2015

My New York Story (Part 1)

New York has been called by many a name. The big apple, the urban jungle, the empire city, the city that never sleeps. Each evokes a different idea which gives some preconceived notions. I for one had all these assumptions about this city, after all , it is the location of all my favourite movies. I have all these thoughts swimming in my head about New York, Manhattan to be specific.

The start of Spring had me finally set foot on the land of milk and honey, America. But I did not just want to go to America, I wanted to go to New York. I knew what I did not want to do and that is sit on a tour bus and just take in what the guide tells me, clicking my camera at every stop and turn. I wanted to do as the locals do, walk and explore New York on foot.

After a good flight with British Airways, we arrived at midnight and true enough, this city really does never sleep. The streets were still buzzing and the city all lit up. Excitement got the better of me and I did not sleep a wink.

The first half of our first full day was spent walking along Times Square with a ride on the indoor Ferris Wheel in Toys R Us. Times Square has that electric vibe, chaotic and crowded. Considered as the crossroads of the world, even when you are on your own, you will never feel alone there. A photo opportunity at the famous red steps was not to be missed.

Lunch found us queueing at the famous The Halal Guys (dubbed as the most popular food cart in the world) on 53rd and 6th which we happily devoured with a side of Central Park view. It was delicious.

The rest of the day was spent walking along 5th avenue, taking in the skyscrapers and visiting FAO Schwartz and having some latte at Starbucks inside the Trump Tower. The heavens opened so it was a good excuse to sit and people watch in the gold interiors of the building.

The next day, we skipped the complimentary hotel breakfast and went for brunch at Sarabeth's across Central Park. This was a good idea indeed as Sarabeth's hit the spot for a breakfast lover like me. The waffles, the coffee and ambiance. I could eat breakfast there everyday.

And what better way to burn off the calories than to have a lovely walk around Central Park across the restaurant. 

Central Park was magical even that time of the year when the trees have not come back to life and flowers were still not abloom. It was a lovely day. Despite the chill in the air, the sun was out.

A visit and a walk through at The Plaza which was just across Central Park was in order. Having been made famous by the movie Home Alone, The Plaza is world renowned as it is, having set the standard for luxury for more than a century and had the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mark Twain as guests in the past to modern day Tommy Hilfiger having his own penthouse at the hotel.

The Plaza food hall, a European inspired food hall, is a place to visit when in New York. Since we were still full from lunch, we could not try the wonderful European dishes that were presented before our eyes. I did not leave the place without trying French chef Danile Boulud's cafe and having a few of his macarons. 


Our visit to New York would not be complete without seeing the New York Knicks play. So that evening was spent in Madison Square Garden. This was one of the highlights of our trip.