Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I love a good Chinese restaurant. I'm not talking about cheap takeout, because my standards have been raised sky-high by all of my discoveries in New York's Chinatown. I'm a little on the picky side when it comes to authenticity, and I've been bummed out about the Chinese population over here in England. Don't get me wrong, it's not like this country is devoid of good Chinese cooks, but there's a distinct lack of large immigrant groups in small areas. Let's be realistic; America is relatively young, and most ethnic groups that immigrated together, settled together. Not really the case over here, since there wasn't that sort of immigration boom in a short period of time. So I started to panic that I wouldn't be able to find the really good Chinese food that I grew to know and love in NYC.

I hate to be proven wrong most of the time, but not this time. After our Sunday adventures at Blackbushe market, hubby and I went out for a lunch date at Yangtze in Windsor. Down at the end of a street, a little off the beaten path, without any real signage or decor outside, lies a £14 all-you-can-eat experience that will knock your socks off. It's like a buffet, but different and better. To be honest, I think this is a genius idea, though I've never experienced it in an Asian restaurant before. You basically get a menu - with plenty of options for first, second, and third courses - and you just pick as much as you'd like. The portions are sort of tapas-sized, so you get to try a lot of stuff (although, we may have overeaten just a little bit).

Wonderfully authentic flavors and ambience, I'd recommend it to anyone. It cured my homesickness instantly (Isn't it kind of funny that I was most homesick for Chinese food?) and I can't stop thinking about the crispy duck pancakes. If you haven't had them before, it's super crispy duck, cooked pulled-pork style, accompanied by cucumber, slivers of spring onion, and a sweet plum sauce. You wrap everything up in a wafer-thin pancake (sort of like a tiny burrito) and it's fabulous. This place totally rocked it, and I can't wait to go back and stuff my face again.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sunday Funday

A warm and sunny late September Sunday ended up being the perfect day for a little adventure. I'm a sucker for trashy outdoor sales adventures, so this had my name written ALL over it.  Flea market meets carnival meets street hawkers: Yesterday I got to experience the mayhem and magic that is Blackbushe Market. I have to admit, I've been to a lot of outdoor selling/buying events, but nothing quite like this. From a distance, it looks like a county fair; flags marking food trailers selling questionable burgers and endless deep fried eats, children's games and rides towering above the crowds, and colorful tents in long winding rows. But step inside, and nothing is quite as it seems.

The auctioning was the first thing that caught my eye. It's the first time I've had the pleasure of witnessing anything quite like it: a butcher standing above a crowd, shouting out cuts of meat and loading them into a plastic bag, then selling it off to the highest bidder. Same thing was happening at the fruit & vegetable stands, too! What a way to buy the week's groceries... I'd be lying if I didn't say that I was a teensy bit temped to get involved.

I began to get a little discouraged when the first few stalls greeted us with nothing more than cheap handbags and dollar store knick knacks. But between the endless rows of useless and cheap clothes, bedding, plastic odds and ends, and knockoffs, I have to say that I was really surprised at how many of the vendors really exceeded expectations. All in all, it took about an hour to walk around and see everything.  Homemade fudge (I had to have samples of everything, obviously), a Chinese food stand where I FINALLY was able to find and buy sriracha and hot chili oil over here, a greek olive stand that helped me get my weekly fix of my favorite snack, and a great booth selling all kinds of vintage coats (including a 70's green suede one that's still on my mind).

As long as the weather holds out, this is definitely somewhere I'll be returning to occasionally in the months ahead.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Around the House

This week has had a lot of out-and-about action, and consequently not as much computer/blogging action. But some things are still normal despite the more hectic schedule, like Doopy relentlessly insisting on playing fetch with his stuffed ducky, and me baking bread. I'm pretty proud of myself this week; I pulled off a rosemary and olive loaf that has completely derailed any weight loss progress I've had in the past month. I'm excited for this weekend, for a DIY/recycling project I'm itching to post, and a restaurant destination tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait to share it all!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Revelations & Regrets

"You learn to take life as it comes at you... To make each day count"

It's been two months this week since I left New York. I feel like I'm assimilating; I feel like I've settled in. I'd like to get this visa thing sorted out so that I can get working & we can finally get into our own place, but I'm taking a deep breath and (impatiently) giving it time.

Deciding to leave my life behind in America has taught me several really important lessons along the way. First, I don't need stuff. No one needs "stuff". You need to clothe yourself, and maybe you need a few nostalgic momentos. You need a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head (most of the time). I've been a bit of a pack rat, to be honest. I always felt that I needed every little gadget and thing - and a back stock of it - to have a functioning home. But it's ok. I don't have a stash of 8000 types of tea, every tool or gadget imaginable, and piles of clothes that I never wear, and I'm happier this way. Removing the weight of stuff from my life removed a lot of the stress from my life. Waste not, worry not. Or something.

Also, I can adapt. I can be flexible. When we made "the big decision", I was kicking and screaming and reluctantly agreeing. I didn't want to have to change my whole life. I didn't want to have to learn the ins and outs of a whole new place - that would be way too hard, right? Oh wait.
I went from living in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania, to Philadelphia, to NYC (and lived alone in both places, I might add)... and I can't even use the "I'm too old for this" excuse, because I mean, I'm 25. Shut up, me.

That being said, the homesickness (if you want to call it that) is starting to sink in. I'm not sure it's homesickness, though, because I never really called NYC home - at least, that's what I thought.
I miss my family, of course, but I am used to being away from them for extended periods of time, because I've lived hours away in a different city for years.
I do miss knowing  where things are. I miss knowing my way around. Knowing the subway weekend schedule like the back of my hand, and where to get the best bowl of hangover cure noodles in Chinatown.I miss knowing what was coming, what was down the street, how to get where I needed to go.  I miss all the places where I was a regular. I miss those magical powers that could navigate me home from my bar like a big drunk homing pigeon. I MISS REAL COFFEE. 

And I miss my weird ass friends. A lot.

But to lighten the mood, here's a list of things that I don't miss at all:
Crappy processed food (the chicken at McDonalds here isn't square OR grey. Gasp!)
Angry humans dressed in black (everyone seems to be so much more colorful outside of New York)
The noise. Enough said.
Fear of being shot anytime I walk outside at night
Overpriced organic foods
Overpriced everything (screw you, New York, and your $8 beers)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Twist on a Classic

I've stolen this post from Street Cred (my food blog), because a lot of my friends - I'm looking at you Numie - will remember this one from our college days. It's also hands-down one of my favorite salad recipes, and I'm obsessed with figs at the moment, so why not combine the two? Enjoy. 

Each season brings with it new weather, endings, beginnings, and most importantly, new foods! Shopping at farmers' markets are a perfect way to see what is fresh and in season right now.
With September blending now into October, a few of my favorite foods are fresh from the harvest. 
Butternut & acorn squash, pumpkin (of course), artichokes, pears, beets, and figs, just to name a few. Here's an unusual use for a bounty of figs, using one of my favorite vegetarian salad recipes. 

I've always had the opinion that "salad" doesn't only have to refer to "lettuce + toppings + dressing". No, to me, salad is the combination of a variety of vegetables and cold items (and even some warm), tossed together with plenty of complimentary flavors, colors, and textures. It can be made of vegetables, proteins, grains - anything that tastes good and is whipped up without actually cooking. 
Some of my very favorite salad recipes don't involve any type of lettuce or greens at all (and this is one of them!) I actually came up with this classic in my college days, when I lived with several vegetarian roommates, and today I thought that these ripe figs would be a perfect addition. It's a hearty, filling white bean salad with floral-y herbs de provence and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. There's a bite from some fresh onion, and the mellow sweetness of the figs blends in just wonderfully. It would also be fantastic with some feta cheese sprinkled on top (but leave that out if you're opting for the vegan version). 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Market Day

If you've been a reader here for any significant amount of time, you'll know that I have a slight obsession with farmers' markets. A foodie love affair, if you will. There's something so charming and natural about buying our food straight from the source that takes the chore out of grocery shopping.

This weekend we headed to the local monthly farmers' market in Camberley town centre for a little look around. I wasn't really planning to buy anything, but who can resist the siren song of crab pâté?!
Figs are also in season, round and ripe and dripping with goodness. It's one of the most bountiful times of the year, and a visit to a farmers' market really makes that evident. I just got a calendar with a list of other local markets in the coming month, so I'm really excited to check them out in the weekends ahead!

Dress: Similar here, Sweater: Olive & Oak, Shoes: JustFab, Crossbody bag: London Fog, Vintage necklace: my own

Friday, September 19, 2014


I'm having a "cop-out" day as we speak. There was a thunderstorm that decided to wake me up around 1:30 this morning and keep me awake until around 3, so I'm a little on the groggy side. My bedside table has been replenished with a fresh cup of coffee half a dozen times already this morning. And my shoulder is sore/twinging. I'm not really sure what I did to it, but I'll just use it as an excuse to skip exercise today. I made an army-sized portion of pasta with prawns and pesto last night for dinner, so leftovers for lunch it is.

My plans for the weekend? I'm excited about the changing leaves and I might bake something involving pumpkin. I'd like to figure out how to use a French press for my coffee.... That's right, I've been drinking instant coffee. Gasp. It's not so bad. I put a bunch of yummy autumnal spices in it, and I found a really good brand that tastes like real coffee, so I'm surviving until we get our own place and I can invest in a proper machine. Tomorrow there's a farmers' market, and Sunday there might be something fun happening, pending the threat level of Steve's hangover (he has a going away party for a friend to attend on Saturday night).

Everything seems a little grey and hazy this morning, and I'm anticipating one of those days where time moves slowly and the air smells like moss after a rain. I might throw on some wellies and go for a bit of a woodland walk, but I think that's the extent to which I'll leave the bed today. Any film recommendations? Sometimes, you just need a day like this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Found Objects

Being the magpie that I am, little found objects tend to float into my line of vision and beg to be picked up. A few of nature's souvenirs came home with me from our last trip to the seashore and are now finding a home in our home.

A teensy natural quartz geode I found amongst the beach pebbles. I found two of them, actually. So lucky. 
An absolutely picture perfect baby scallop shell that my hubby found for me has been repurposed as an incense holder.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Good Day

What classifies a "good day"?

Working hard?


I'd like to think it's contentment. That it's a balance of getting what you deserve and being ok with that. To not giving up, but giving in. Willingly. Gracefully.

That it's the simple things which we can interpret to be the bigger things. To see them in the light they were intended for. That a boring day can be a good day, because the air smelled like pine and roses. Because the morning fog was eerie. And the afternoon light was the color of honey.

A wise person once told me... "Age realigns priorities like that."

NYFW: A Rant

You guessed it: I'm about to unleash my opinions (again). Even though I've departed from the Big Apple, my heart was there this past week. Until it was stomped on and thrown out like an empty jello shot at a fraternity party. You wake up one morning, sticky and head pounding, and you hate yourself and everything you have become. At the close of NYFW, I felt like something had gone tragically wrong with my life choices. Enter in self-doubt, lack of enthusiasm, and a deep dislike for my former interests.

Let me begin by saying that fashion week used to, to me at least, be an exciting time of the year when I could push the boundaries in my own wardrobe, as well as gain inspiration from everyone else on the street who was doing the same.

Used to be.

Every collection that is captioned as being "ultimately wearable" and "classic pieces" makes me want to jump off the Chrysler building. If I see one more androgynous model with slicked-back hair in an oversized, frumpy navy blazer, I'm going to vomit all over everyone. What is this, 1994? Come on, New York, I thought we had progressed passed the Chandler Bing sweatervest stage.

I used to wake up at the asscrack of dawn to see the new runway photos hit Style.com. I used to get excited. I used to care. The outlandish and fantastic has now been replaced by the ready-to-hit-the-shelves practicality of a middle aged housewife who just bought her first pair of low-rise jeans at Chico's. It's depressing.

Where is the imagination anymore? I've become increasingly disillusioned with the fashion industry that I fell in love with years ago. That passion, that drive, that demand for the ever-changing, ever new... it's dead, and fast fashion killed it. Silver bullet through the heart of the business that I committed my life and career to. Something's gotta change. I want a revolution. We deserve a revolution. Normcore must die.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Windsor Night Market

If I hear the words "market," "festival," "food," and "music" in the same sentence, I'm pretty much immediately on board with the idea. A night market, though, is a totally new experience for me, and one that I was pretty excited about.

I took the weekend off from my computer, since I had been feeling a little burnt out after last week. The launch of my new food blog had me working 24/7, and I needed a "real" weekend. So, off to Windsor for the first ever night market there!

The main street (for foot traffic, that is) was lined with stalls and trailers of international and local food vendors, children's games, and live musical entertainment. As the sun set, the crowd swelled, and everything got a bit livelier. Children covered in sticky cotton candy (candy flossed) begged for more money for games, while hungry people swarmed the vendors for a taste of the best street food the area had to offer. Myself, I couldn't resist the siren song of a Caribbean jerk chicken stall and it's familiar taste of my old Brooklyn neighborhood.

 The entire evening felt familiar to me, yet new and exciting. I'm used to outdoor farmer's and craft markets, but this had a little bit of a more festive vibe; somewhere between a Christmas market and a carnival. Friday was a little more festive that pizza and tv, at least for this week.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adventures in: Bread Making

This post comes from my food blog, Street Cred!

I am not a baker; I absolutely hate math and all things to do with precise measurement. Most of my cooking style, and my recipes, involve a list of ingredients without quantities or instructions. Why? Because I just sort of "wing it"; nothing is ever the same twice (except my tomato sauce, but that's a closely guarded secret). I think it's important to cook based on taste, because ingredients can vary in freshness, intensity, and often need to be adjusted to perfect the overall balance. But with that rant aside, I'll get back to my story about bread, and how I actually followed a recipe for once.

Nothing quite excites me like a good rustic crusty loaf of REAL bread. My eyes light up in an Italian restaurant every time a basket full of hot-out-of-the-oven goodness plops down on the table in front of me. When I don't feel like cooking, I'll pick up a fresh baguette on the way home and just dip it in some good olive oil, or spread some nice soft bleu cheese on it while it's warm. Ah, the wonders of good bread.

I've seen countless recipes of the "no-knead Dutch oven" variety floating around the internets lately, but upon further investigation, these look like they come out resembling a dense white bread, which is not what I am looking for. No, I want hard-crusted oblong and round loaves with a fluffy, bubbly interior. And I want to make it myself.

So, without further delay, I present to you my first attempt at homemade crusty bread. And I double-pinkie-promise that it's easy and idiot-proof. I mean, I baked something. That's proof enough.

You will need: 
Patience (Start to finish, this recipe takes about 4 hours)
3 1/2 cups bread flour (may be labeled as "strong flour") + extra for kneading/dusting
1 tsp dry instant yeast
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups warm water (Tap water is fine, it should be "bath water" temperature. Not too hot!)
1 baking sheet OR pizza stone
1 metal or glass pan with 1" sides
1 large mixing bowl
Your hands

The Dough:
Mix the flour, dry yeast, and salt in a bowl.
Slowly add the warm water, stirring constantly (I used a regular spoon to mix, but this can also be done in a stand mixer with a bread hook. I have none, so I did it the old fashioned way.)
When the dough is "sticky" (should look like the photo above), stop adding water, dust the top with flour, cover with a tea towel and let sit.

Let it rise for two hours. Leave it alone. Go do something else.

Dividing the Dough:
Divide the gooey dough into 3 balls. To do this, dust some flour on your countertop or wooden cutting/baking board, and roll the balls in it so that they're less sticky. Cover again, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Kneading the Dough:
A lot of people think that this is the hardest stage. Well, it's not. This isn't pasta, so the kneading part isn't the most difficult. Actually, the difficult part is done (for me, that was the waiting).
Take each ball and knead 5-8 times. Basically, roll the heel of your hand into the center of the ball, fold it in half, turn 90 degrees, and repeat. Once you have kneaded all 3 balls, either leave them in a round shape, or form/roll/stretch them into a baguette-like shape. Cover again, and let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 450 Farenheit (or 230 Celsius) with the baking pan inside, and the 1" deep pan below your baking pan on the lowest rack.
Score (slash) the tops of your bread balls/loaves a few times with a very sharp knife. If it is too stretchy and doesn't want to be scored, then use scissors and take a few shallow snips right in the middle. That's what I did for my first try, and it worked like a charm.

Get some hot water ready - about 3/4 cup. Once the oven is preheated, sprinkle a little flour onto the preheated pan (don't remove it from the oven, though! It will cool off too quickly) and plop your little dough balls onto it. Pour the hot water into the pan in the bottom of the oven, and quickly shut the door to trap the steam. This steam is what creates a really nice crust.
Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and let cool on a baking rack.
Tadaaaaa! I'm so proud of myself that I want to shout it from the rooftops. This recipe made 3 baguette-shaped loaves, but only two survived to be photographed shortly after their removal from the oven. My taste-testers clearly approved, and I ended up baking a whole big round loaf later that evening (which follows the exact same recipe, except doesn't divide the dough before kneading). 

So, give it a try!  If I can do it, anyone can. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confessions of a Blogaholic

I've got a lot on my plate these days, most of which is my own doing, and it's really exciting. But it's also exhausting, difficult, and sometimes I doubt myself and my abilities (I mean, who doesn't?).
Here are a few little facts & tidbits about me and what I've been up to lately:

1. I'm exhausted. Remember how I mentioned launching my food blog this week? I've been creating that thing for months. I've been watching/reading coding tutorials and trying like crazy to do it all by myself, because I really can't afford to hire anyone to help me at the moment. I even re-did the entire layout on this blog last week, and I'm really excited to be contributing on BlogHer now, as well. I might be "self-employed" but I am one slave driver of a boss. The minute Steve leaves for work at 8am, I'm on the clock until 5:30. Sometimes later, since I often photograph and write while making dinner (another beauty of having a food blog). I've worn myself out lately, and I need to rest more. But I won't, because I never really do until I come down with some kind of illness that forces me to take time off.

2. I've got 99 problems, and my bank account is all of them. I'm used to a steady weekly paycheck, auto pay bills, and just about everything being accounted for. Now I'm not the primary provider, it's a new concept for me to ask for money. For everything. It's not easy, especially since I was really proud of being (mostly) self-sufficient in the past. I've had to swallow that pride, because it's just not the important thing right now. Calling this journey a learning experience would be a vast understatement.

3. We're looking at apartments, and it's exciting. When I moved into my old one bedroom in Brooklyn, I had a suitcase and an air mattress for the first month. Everything else was acquired one-by-one, and more often than not out of necessity (Ikea) and not aesthetic choice. I'm really thrilled to be able to even conceptualize decorating my own place, start to finish, for the first time. I've never really had that opportunity, and I am all about vintage wallpapers and Pinterest right now. Plus, the town we're looking at apartments in (it's where Steve's office is located) is the most adorable picturesque place, and I've never really lived "on my own" anywhere that I wasn't afraid to go outside alone at night. So that's a brand new plus, too.

4. Fall wardrobe time (almost!). I couldn't wait to throw on this vintage sweatshirt today when it was too chilly to go without one. Boxes of boots and sweaters have arrived from America, and I'm really excited to start layering up my favorite autumn cozy outfits. It's my favorite season for clothes, and I am going to have to try really hard to suppress my urges to go shopping this year.

Things are happening, things are exciting, things are difficult, and the balance in between is life. Overall, it's a pretty good time.

Vintage Disney Sweatshirt (my own), Slip dress: Lerario Beatriz , Tights: H&M

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Street Cred

*Drumroll Please*

It's the big day. I didn't really think I was ready yet, but I guess now is as good a time as any. I'm launching my food blog, y'all!

I know I've always mentioned and posted about food, recipes, restaurants, and eating on here; if you haven't noticed, food is sort of an obsession of mine. Cooking is my absolute favorite hobby, and I really want to share that passion with everyone. So, please head on over to check out Street Cred! I know it's just a baby at the moment, but trust me, there will be LOTS of great eats coming your way.

And never fear, I'll still be here at Disowned, all day every day. Because I just can't sit still :)

<3 dani