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3 ways to brunch with baked ricotta

Raspberry meringue baked ricotta (recipe 3 below) with wholemeal seeded waffles and maple syrup

Happy Sunday!

I hope you've had a lovely weekend so far, and are in for a lovely lazy day today. I am gearing up for a day of pottering, after having spent some of yesterday at Quaglino's near Green Park enjoying a bottomless prosecco brunch with some of my old school friends. I am really into the bottomless prosecco brunch thing (I have one next weekend too!) and am sort of tempted to put together a post on my favourites, but it would just be all the ones I've ever been to, as I don't think anywhere has given me limitless prosecco and I've decided I don't like it!

A perfect tourist day in New York City

Last month, I surprised my boyfriend - or should I say my bae? (I am almost 28, so probably not) - with 4 nights away in the big apple to celebrate his 30th. I know, I'm a keeper. (At least some of the time, when I am planning birthday trips. Less so when I am smashing phones, spilling pancake batter all over the kitchen table and blaming everyone else like I was this morning; but, as Dolly Parton said if you can't accept me at my phone smashing finger pointing worst then you don't deserve me at my NYC birthday trip planning best. Off topic. Moving on, sorry.)

Planning and keeping the surprise was the most fun. I had asked his family whether they minded me nicking him for his birthday weekend in October, booked the hotel in November, and our flights in December, so keeping the whole thing a secret and acting cool all the way til mid March was tricky for a natural sharer who likes to publicise most thoughts she has on the internet. Case and point.

I'd tricked him into thinking we were going to a spa or somewhere in the UK for one night (mainly to ensure he packed essentials, rather than begin our holiday with a stressful foray around Boots in Gatwick airport, looking for the right moisturiser, he really cares about moisturisers). He feigned moderate excitement about the spa, but I knew it wasn't exactly what he would have requested to celebrate turning the big three oh.

What a turn of events then, to be ringing in a new decade with a glass of champagne on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller centre in Manhattan, only a handful of hours after we'd met in Costa coffee in Bank and he'd been all like “why have you packed a whole suitcase for 1 night in a spa” and I'd hyperventilated, “because it has got 4 nights worth of stuff for you and me because we are going to New York. Now!” Oh the thrill of it all. Ever since then I have been trying to find any excuse to plan surprises. “Your work colleague's mum just bought adopted a kitten, aaaah let me throw her a surprise cat christening!” Too much. But the New York time it was one of the best things I've ever done, and I fully recommend splurging on someone you loves’ special occasions once in a while. I know we'll be talking about that trip for all the landmark birthdays to come.

As you may be able to tell by the fact it has taken me 4 paragraphs to get to the point of this post, I can easily be driven off course in a blog post and fill it with waffle. Thus to keep myself on track, rather than listing recommendations, what I liked what I didn't like yaddy yaddy yadda, I've planned a little day itinerary with my faves. Because also I bloomin love an hour by hour itinerary, I pretty much do one every day, normally filled with working on a spreadsheet in the office/life admin/going to the gym rather than pasta tasting menus and Brooklyn pizza tours, but the former would make for a less fun Sunday morning post…

Now a final disclaimer, I didn't do all of this in 1 day, I would defo have broken around the 2pm mark and needed to retreat to my hotel bed with a belly full of beer and pizza for a nap, but I did do everything recommended, and these were things I particularly loved, and aren't just me copying and pasting the top 10 activities in New York from the Lonely Planet. I don't live in New York, this was only my second time there, and I am not travel writer, but I just think if you were in New York for a few days, all of these are insert the emoticon of the hand making the a-ok sign here things to do, and I recommend you squeeze some in.

9:00 - Up and at em!… as New Yorkers, or indeed any English speaking people may say. Start the day with a cycle all the way central park. Rent a bike from a nearby place (we used Central Park Bike rental which were around $20 for 2 bikes when we booked about 20 mins ahead online). You can also pick up the NY equivalent of Boris bikes, but I think they may be tricky with some of the hills. It only takes around an hour to an hour and a half to ride round the whole park at a leisurely pace, and that includes time to stop and eat pretzels and drink coffee, take pictures, and push your bike up some of the aforementioned hills. (My handbag was in the basket and it made the bike heavy ok).

11:45 - Catch the subway, or a yellow cab south to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn for Scott's Brooklyn Pizza tour. Hells you may even want to get off the subway early and walk over Brooklyn Bridge if you've pedalled extra fast, or you got up and out the hotel before 9am, though goodness knows why you would do that, you are on holiday. My colleague recommended this tour company to me, started by Scott who is a pizza obsessive (and holds the record for the most pizza boxes in the world). We chose the Brooklyn one, as I wanted to channel my inner Lena Dunham and gallop around Brooklyn, but didn't know where to start. This tour was great: we were the only non New Yorkers on it so even the locals do it. We got 3 delicious slices of pizza from 3 different only-in-Brooklyn places, our guide was rofls o' clock and I learnt a bit more about the second most famous borough in NYC. Following on from this, have a wander around Brooklyn, and pop into all the lovely boutiques, craft beer and cocktail bars and brunch places, and hang with their patronswho give Shoreditch hipsters a run for their money.

16:00 - Head back to Manhattan and walk off some of that pizza and booze on the New York Highline. This was recommended to me by everyone I know who has walked it since its opening in 2014, including by a native New Yorker I met at a wedding in the Phillippines last December, as her one must do thing in New York. This may indeed be in Lonely Planet’s top 10. Cripes so is most likely Central Park. Oh gosh. Anyhoo, the Highline is an old freight train railway which has been turned into a garden walkway above the city. It means you get lovely views of the classic NYC blocks, and just as importantly get to see right in to lots of cool NYC-er's apartments. It runs all the way through Chelsea from the southern part of Hell’s Kitchen down towards the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village, but if you are running short of time or your legs are sore from all the cycling and pizza walking you can just pop up, with entrances at several blocks. We walked through it leisurely, just stopping for photos and it took around 45 minutes - 1 hour.

18:00 - Completely nicked this from one of my favourite bloggers and native New Yorkers, Joanna Goddard, from Cup of Jo, who is unbeknown to herself, one of my life gurus. Going to New York, one of the first things I did was check out her NYC guide, which has so many more great tips in it, and I am so sad we didn’t manage everything. The thing I loved about Babbo, was that apart from being delicious it was so classic New York. Will and I enjoyed the traditional tasting menu with matched wines (I tried to convert him to the pasta tasting menu, but we ended up with 2/7 pasta courses instead of 5/7, it wasn’t all bad). I can’t think of anywhere in London that would have such an Italian tasting menu, that was so relaxed whilst having that formal tasting menu quality. It was delicious. Bookings open 1 month in advance, and you have to be there right on the day to secure a table, this place is popular with New Yorkers too.

22:00 - There are plenty of bars round Greenwich Village so maybe it makes sense to hang out there, rather than head uptown, but then this is mean to be “the perfect tourist day” and I really don’t think a perfect tourist day would be complete without a visit to SixtyFive, the bar on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller centre.

Last time I was in New York, with my family about 7 years ago, we went up the Empire State Building. This time I researched Top of the Rock (the 67th floor of the Rockefeller) vs Empire State Building to help me choose which high building to go up. I’d decided on Top of the Rock, on the basis that although the Empire State Building was quite literally something out of Sleepless in Seattle and the Mindy Project, Top of the Rock was less crowded, had shorter queues and provided arguably a better view - one with the Empire State Building in it. Then a couple of days before I found a recommendation (cannot remember where) for bar Sixty Five, two floors down from Top of the Rock, with its own private terrace. 

And so after checking in at our hotel, Will and I turned up (un)fresh from the plane, and without reserving, or queuing or buying any sort of ticket, walked straight into a lift, went up 65 floors and were plonked on a table next to a window with all of NYC right there. For the price of an observation deck ticket, we bought a glass of bubbles and cheered in Will’s 4th decade….

00:30 …before heading slightly tipsily to Katz Deli. The classic New York deli is famous for being the place where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in When Harry met Sally, and for serving the best hot pastrami sandwiches in town, albeit massive ones. (You can definitely share one). What is a holiday without 4 square meals a day ey?

Hope you have a fabulous lazy Sunday, with no smashed phones, and pancake batter only falling into hot frying pans.

Vicky x

5 books to breathe life into forgotten new year's resolutions (or to help start some spring ones)

 Hello again. 

Woops I fell out of bloggersphere for the third time, but now I am (hopefully) back for the foreseeable future with some photographs I took of some recommended books (and flowers and designer scented candles, obvs, this is a blog post) in case your new year's resolutions have fallen off the back end of a lorry with mine. Because it is the beginning of spring y'all, and (apart from Jan 1st, and maybe your birthday) when is a better time to turn over a new leaf than when lambs and daffodils and blossom is springing up everywhere cos mother nature is turning over a new leaf too!

I ummed and arred and toyed with what to put as my new year's resolutions - narrowing it down to a short list for me is tricky, as my brain naturally constantly whirs with ways I could be better and do more. My nature is to make every day (Jan 1st or not) a pretty much a constant battle to live more purposefully, time manage myself better, be less anxious, well just live and be and do more really. It isn't a stressful way to be at. all.

Here are some scrawlings I made on a plane to the Phillippines on Dec 28th (fyi if you clicked on this post to for some pleasant book recommendations, please scroll past this waffle to the next picture, if you enjoy some reflective waffeling, please continue. Oh gosh now I want a waffle. Anyway, resolutions:)

1. Learn to drive
2. Go to the dentist!!!
3. Start giving blood again
4. Get up earlier and do some productive tasks before work. Be a lark, not an owl.
5. Exercise more per week
6. Find more balance, and give myself more time to reflect and not rush
7. Manage my finances better, stop flittering it away on cocktails and pret lunches and save it for special memories and things from Anthropologie and classy and cool independent “boutiques”. Which yes, is technically comes under the umbrella on flittering, but if I am going to spend my money on stuff, I want it to be really beautiful stuff which gives me a wave of “gees louise I own that material good!” every time I see it.
8. Say yes to my friends more, see my friends more (slightly at odds with 6 and 7 - attempts at which have sometimes got in the way of 8)
9. Be thinner. Or at least a lower percentage of body fat.
10. Read more
11. Take up squash or some sort of healthy game I can play with Will. That sounded like an innuendo, but I read in the Happiness Project (see below for more on that) to have 1 indoor game and 1 outdoor game as a tip for happy couples and I am really struggling to find a good game to play with a man 1 whole foot taller than me, where I can actually win. Again, sounded like another innuendo, sorry.
12. Be mindful.
13. Eat less processed sugar.

Etc etc yaddy yaddy yadda.

Eurk just writing that list is exhausting, and so far apart from an attempt at 4 and 7, the list is not doing so well. (Last minute edit, I have now accomplished number 2, wahoo!)

So I've tried to narrow all of those down to one I can stick to, and I've decided it is this space. A bit like my about page, where I proliferate that this blog will solve all my life problems, now I am saying it will support all my new year's resolutions. A lot to expect from one little blogspot I have a history of abandoning for months a time, and do nothing to promote... but positive thinking people!! Also, lets just disregard the fact it is mid April and this is the first time my presence has graced this corner of the internet in 2016. Ssssh.

Because actually, when I do bother to use this space to reflect on my lifestyle and the world it really does make me a bit happier, and feel like I am getting more out of my life. This space helps me live more on purpose - to be more active in the choices I make in my life, take time to reflect, seek out new experiences and opportunities. So more of that in (the rest of) 2016 please.

If you need a little inspiration here are some lovely books that might help boost a forgotten new year's resolution of yours, or if you are more of a spring time resolution person, some handy books below, which aren't too self helpish to read openly on the tube.

1. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
Oh what you've heard of this one already? Ok, so this is hardly a well kept secret, but if you haven't read it yet, it is worth the hype. I haven't even finished it, but a few chapters in I was so inspired I spent a Saturday reducing my wardrobe by a 1/3, something I haven't done since I wore size age 7-8 and got rid of all the age 5-6. And really that was mainly my mum attempting to clothe my sister.

2. The Happiness Project by Gretchin Ruber
I read this last year, and it really makes you want to go out there and big up yo bad self. Yeah I have no idea what I mean by that sentence either. The pursuit of happiness has possibly never been as well documented as it is today, I devour blog posts on how to be happier whether that is a list of favourites or grateful things, or a way to squeeze an extra hour in your day to live a more mindful life. This book is like all the best blog posts you've ever read on being happy rolled into one.

3. What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami, the Japanese author better know for his acclaimed novels like Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore, is also an ultra marathon runner. An ultra marathon, in case you didn’t know is any race longer than a marathon, but many ultra marathons are like 50 + miles. Ran all at once. But for an ultra marathon runner, Haruki Murakami makes long distance running very accessible and also very inspiring, and points out all the great things for the mind as well as the body. As he says, he doesn’t think he would be a writer if he wasn’t a runner as it allows him the time to have a good think. (Think he puts it way more eloquently than that).

4. How to stop worrying and start living by Dale Carnegie
Ok, so this one is a little less conspicious on the tube than the others, but that is what kindles were made for. Self help books, and the 50 shades of grey trilogies. Dale Carnegie was the first real self help book writer, and his case study supported tips for worrying and just living a happier life makes this one of the easiest to read and most useful self help books I’ve ever come across.

5. Poem for a day edited by Nicholas Albery and Peter Ratcliffe
I have the e-book version of Poem for a day 2 on my phone, and like to read it when I am waiting for my packed tube to draw in, it chills me out, puts things in perspective and makes me feel like I have already done something super smart and intellectual that day, and hey it is not even 8:30. Last year, I kept the paperback version of poem for the day 1 on my kitchen shelf with my cookbooks and would read it whilst the kettle was boiling, or the bread was toasting to the same affect.

Happy Sunday everyone! My resolution is to post something around this time (may become more precise but I am setting a low bar for now) every Sunday, because it is the perfect day for lazy blog reading. Hope you have a wonderful day full of waffles and naps (sorry got waffles on my mind, my mind on my waffles), and an exciting week.

Vicky x

PS. Running. 50 shades of Grey. About.