Thursday, 30 April 2015

Live Below The Line Year 2: Days 2-3 and "water cocktails"

I have signed up again for Live Below The Line from 27 April to 1 May, hoping to raise funds for ChildHope. for the same reasons I had last year.

Day 2 panned out easily. Day time, I pretty much had the same stuff as Day 1 except this time, I didn't have a banana for brekkie and actually managed to bring my lunch with me!

I had five of these during the day. I wish I had fruit.

Now comes the difficult part. My favourite couple G&G were in the town (G finished his MBA from Cambridge so they flew to the UK for his graduation) and I agreed to meet up with them before they flew out. We met up around 9pm at my favourite cocktail bar in Soho, Lab.

Yet again, on this challenge, I find myself surrounded by cocktails. However, I kept to my guns and drank tap water the whole time. The lovely bartenders made my "water cocktails" fun by garnishing the glasses with fruit. I didn't eat those, of course.

I was quite hungry after a few hours but seeing how G&G support each other through the years filled me with an inexplicable sense of joy. My belly was empty but my heart was full and in a way, I felt satiated.

Overall spend: roughly 60p 
Overall belly factor: Full. 
Overall feeling: Very proud of myself for staying at a cocktail bar and just having water cocktails.

Day 3 was harder as I worked from home. I've left my digestives and my coffee jar at work so snacking and caffeine was out of the option.

As mentioned, I still had 80p left from my overall budget so I went to my local grocer and bought a sole piece of sweet potato (30p). I cooked half of it with my frozen vegetarian sausages (a box of six was reduced to £1), a fourth of my onion, a seasoning cube, and baked the lot for 25 minutes. This whole dish amounts to a whopping £1.25 so I figured I'd divide it into three lunch portions.

The dish was surprisingly filling, but as I didn't have any biccies to munch on I finished half of it for the whole day. Oops. 

Overall spend: roughly 63p 
Overall belly factor: Quite peckish by 10pm. I wish I'd taken my digestives home. 
Overall feeling: Glad to have been able to push through work productively with a slight hungry belly.

For more information about the campaign please visit the Live Below the Line website. Please visit the Child Hope website too, for more information about the charity I'm raising funds for! You can help either by joining or by sponsoring me here.


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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Morada Brindisa Asador (Rupert St): where Foodie Superheroes met

Meeting people through the blogosphere and social media (via legit communities like Nuffnang and Zomato) has been quite a highlight of my little space on the web. I've come across ultra cool and fascinating characters, some who've actually become my good buddies IRL. 

I've been hanging out with a collective of foodie superheroes as of late. We make up quite a diverse group fuelled by a passion for socialising through food and dining (among other things) and an understanding that first we shoot, then we eat. I met Jesse and Emma through Nuffnang; Miho (and her husband E) through Zomato; Thach through Instagram (who happens to be from the same hometown as E); and VA through the blogosphere. 

On our first meet-up we decided to brave Friday night queues at Shackfuyu, which ended up a disaster as it was closed for the day due to unforeseen circumstances. Fortunately we knew well enough how these queues-v-hunger games tend to pan out so we mapped out a "Plan B". But with the surplus of new "no reservations" restaurants in town, it's always a pain finding one that can fit large groups.

Enter Morada Brindisa Asador, the latest concept from Brindisa restaurants which focuses on roasting meat in an asador (a wood-fire oven). Let me tell you now though that the best thing about this tapas restaurant is not that they take bookings, but actually the food.

The menu is quite precise and is chopped into categories. Here's what we had:

The "Tentempies" (Nibbles):
Mojama cured tuna (£6) - light and subtly salty. I really liked this as it passes as a good alternative to dry cured meat platters. Topped with almonds for an extra crunch, one of my favourites.

Iberico Bellota Ham (£11/22). Hand-carved and tasty, although I still prefer the offering at Barrafina.

I didn't expect the “Chistorra” chorizo fritters (£4.5) to look like this, but they were definitely fun to look at and to eat. Best eat them as they arrive, though. You might end up fighting for the last piece.

We also ordered some coca bread (£3.5). Served with half a tomato, I say skip this to save room for proper plates.

The "entrantes" (small plates):
The Andalucian crispy fried fish (£9.5) is essentially Morada's version of a classic fritto misto. Definitely puts on the munchies and ideally great with a good cold Spanish beer.

I enjoyed the kale and escabeche sardine salad (£6.75) particularly because its simple components made up for a really interesting dynamic in the palate.

I enjoyed the potatoes revolconas with pork “torreznos” (£4.50). You can't complain if there's pork scratchings on the menu, non? These torreznos, however, were fattier and chewier than I expected, giving it a different texture altogether. Not unpleasant at all, but distinctively juicier and less crunchier than I thought it would be.

From the La Fragua (Chargrilled):
This leg of lamb (£29) was so fall-off-the-bone tender and I will quote E on this: "the rosemary really came through".

The roast suckling pig was definitely the crowd favourite. Crispy skin, tender juicy and flavourful pork... well. It's almost as good as Filipino lechon (but that's entirely a different level).

The butifarra sausage (£8) is a cheeky little thing in its size itself but it is quite succulent. I wish they served at least two of these and less potatoes.

The desserts:
My favourite dessert had to be the la bauma cheesecake (£4.75). Our server said it wasn't to his taste, but it certainly was delicious in our book. As it's baked, the texture's almost like a souffl矇 with an ever so slight hint of tartness from the cheese. If you like Japanese desserts, this one could bag it for you.

The much recommended tarta de Santiago (£4.75) fell a bit flat for me. I found the cake a bit dry for my liking. It needed a bit of cream... or dulce de leche!

They served some sort of chocolate mousse when we visited. It was fairly rich, which I like. I could've easily gobbled the entire thing, but ended up sharing because that's what superheroes do.

Overall, Brindisa's latest offering is pretty good. Food is quite spot on and pricing is very reasonable (we paid £30 per head, and that included vino) It's definitely a go-to for groups (READ: they take bookings!) for pre-game feasting. Service was great when we went (I'll write a revisit post soon). 

What's a social media meet-up without a blogger/'grammer selfie, non? After x attempts, I finally got all of us (well, and a third of my face) in a photo (but it's really the server's face you have to look at).

Morada Brindisa Asador
18-20 Rupert St. London W1D
Ave spend pp: £35
Follow them on Twitter. Read more reviews on Zomato.



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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Live Below The Line Year 2: Day 1

I have signed up again for Live Below The Line from 27 April to 1 May, hoping to raise funds for ChildHope. I woke up extra early feeling excited to start Year 2 of this journey for the same reasons I had last year.


I've had better understanding of the challenge so I was able to prep in advance for this year's feat. As mentioned previously, the shop list had to be properly thought through due to inflation and unavailability of products (eg I couldn't find a 69p pack of wholemeal couscous that worked so well last year). It made me think about those who are less fortunate to access convenient, cheap, and healthy produce. How can they ever survive?

Here's a list of stuff I bought online (but don't mind the other bits, didn't mean to put up my dirty laundry here, har har). Admittedly, it's not particularly a list I'd get myself... but neither is this a representation of how "the other half live". Because believe it or not, most of them have it worse.

So far, I've managed a total of £3.96. I'm setting aside 20-30p for oil and seasoning, which means I still have roughly 80p to play with. I intend to visit my local fruit and veg grocer to use this up.

Anyway. I got into Victoria train station only to find the underground station shut, which meant I had to walk from there to Covent Garden.

I wasn't particularly hungry yet but a 30-minute walk can surely help work up an appetite.

There is consolation in the beauty of London on sunny mornings.

For breakfast, I had a banana (12p), two digestive biscuits (There are 28 biccies in a pack, so I can technically have 5 a day, cashing up to 6p per day), and a mug of 50p-a-jar coffee (UGH).

The night before, I cooked a third of the penne (10p) with a tin of sardines in sunflower oil (40p). This was actually good for 2-3 servings which makes it roughly 25p per serving (I also used 1/5 of my onion plus seasoning). I remember being so careful to not waste anything while chopping the onion - I almost threw the off-cuts as usual until I realised, hey I can still use that part!

This is magic at 2p per cube. Essentially chicken stock cube with a little bit of oomph. Do not ask me about its sodium content. Por favor.

The pasta was actually pretty tasty and I couldn't wait to show my curious colleagues what I was having for lunch. However, when the clock struck noon I realised I left my lunch box at home. Talk about bad luck. 

@#$%^&!!!

Surprisingly, I wasn't too hungry and managed to survive the day munching on the rest of my digestives and another pot of coffee. I ate 2 servings of my pasta for dinner and left some for Day 2 lunch. 

That wraps up Day 1 of the Live Below The Line challenge.

Overall spend: roughly 70p 
Overall belly factor: Surprisingly full. 
Overall feeling: My mind frame was totally in the zone so I knew it wasn't going to be a gastronomic five days. As I've done it last year, I am happy that people have been more accepting/supportive than critical. It's not about me, my diet, nor losing weight (GOOD GRIEF I can't afford to lose any more), but about fighting poverty and making the privileged minority understand a bit more about how the underprivileged majority live.

For more information about the campaign please visit the Live Below the Line website. Please visit the Child Hope website too, for more information about the charity I'm raising funds for! You can help either by joining or by sponsoring me here.


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Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Sunday Currently: Girl Next Shore vol 3

Last year, my buddy Alex convinced me to live below the line for five days with the aim of raising awareness for extreme hunger and poverty, as well as funds for our respective charities. You can read all about last year's journey here. This year, I've signed up to live below the line again to raise funds for Child Hope - and I start tomorrow. Thankfully we don't have any client events lined up so I won't be Sorry Sally drinking water while everyone boozed and schmoozed. 

I managed to get decent stuff last year but this time around I had to recalibrate my shopping list ten times over. Because even with the rate of inflation being relatively flat this year, prices of basic commodities have still gone up... and so the underprivileged majority still have close to nothing. Such injustice.

On to this Sunday.

READING
Time 100 2015. I wanted to get the hard copy with Bradley Cooper or Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the cover, but could only find the one with Kanye. Boohoo, me.

WRITING
The first post for my Live Below The Line Challenge.

LISTENING
This version of my favourite MGMT track:

All along the eastern shore
Put your circuits in the sea
This is what the world is for
Making electricity
You can feel it in your mind
Oh you can do it all the time
Plug it in and change the world
You are my electric girl

THINKING
of how to spend the last six days of my holiday allocation for the year.

SMELLING
Kusmi Tea BB Detox brew. My loose leaf pot is made with green tea, mat矇, rooibos, guarana, dandelion, and grapefruit. Gutted I won't be able to drink this next week.

WISHING
I had more holiday left. I've spent a month of my annual leave allocation this year already (mainly due to the wedding) so I've only got six days left to play with for the rest of the year.

HOPING
By doing this Live Below The Line challenge for the second time, to raise awareness for how the underprivileged majority live.

WEARING
A bright yellow tank top and a striped skirt. Some bruises have decided to pop around my legs and I hope they'd vanish when strip-season finally arrives in the UK.

LOVING
...the feeling of understanding the industry more, and the camaraderie between peers.
...my new FORLIFE TeaLeaf tea mug and infuser. Perfect for my Kusmi BB Detox.

WANTING
Kopapa's avocado, goat cheese and chilli on toast, followed by two helpings of their mango, banana, jicama dairy-free smoothie.

NEEDING
Kopapa's avocado, goat cheese and chilli on toast, followed by two helpings of their mango, banana, jicama dairy-free smoothie.

FEELING
Ready for the next five days.

CLICKING
Ten Thousandth Spoon and Sherose Ontimare, whose photos look so freakishly editorial all the time.
Give them a follow, interesting real people.


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Friday, 24 April 2015

Flashback Fiction: The One That Got Away


I almost thought I forgot about that someone who hit that spot.

We all know that things happen and change when we least expect them to. Some changes, you get used to quickly, some take a bit more time to adjust to. Like say, the silly mistake of losing your great grandmother's wedding ring in the shower: as you see it fall further into the oblivion of your drain you think about how you should've left it somewhere safe. Or like losing a loved one... say your favourite pet Porky. The pain washes you over and after a while you get a heap load of emotions: the sadness that hums you can never get Porky back; the excitement of getting a new one; and fear that this new pet might bite.

Sometimes you can pretty much manipulate all factors involved so things stay the same and you have a bit of stability, but most of the time we can't have all control. No matter how quick or how slow the process is, change is inevitable. But we all move on. Because when we lose things, pets and friends that's pretty much the only thing we could do.

Thanks for the memories. On to the next one.


When you want to be free.
It's so funny how you should hurt someone and that someone was me.

I've been fortunate enough to chance on interesting people in life and no matter how fleeting the moments I've had with these people, I'm sure there was something gained whether it be temporary comic relief or a long standing friendships. So when these people change or leave I can't help but feel a bit robbed. Of opportunities that could have been. Of moments and thoughts and ideas we could have shared.

My lifestyle and my work involves a lot of hello-thank you-goodbye moments so one would think I'm used to this. But it pricks everytime.

You were slightly different. I thought you were the kind to stick around.

Just skip the bull, let's talk for a while.

When you left, I wondered if it was a case of 'It's not you, it's me' kind of bullshit. Or if it was actually the other way around. I actually made a list of reasons:
  1. Maybe I'm not pretty enough 
  2. Did I eat too much garlic on our date? Or did my big fat mole scared him away? 
  3. Maybe for him, I was just a "phase".
When I let down my defenses I seem to have lost all confidence. But then I had a counterlist, too.
  1. I may not be the prettiest but I think I'm decent enough to hold conversations 
  2. I brush my teeth 3x a day and my big fat mole is a trendy beauty spot (Cindy Crawford!!! Enrique Iglesias!!! SJP!!! Marilyn Monroe!!!
  3. Well... I didn't have anything to counter this with.
If I got that third point right... then well fair enough. Gotta move on, because no matter how many excuses I make up for you, I doubt I'll ever get the right reason. Because it will never be the right time.

I could only hope you've gained something during that "phase". I hope you found a sense of yourself and I hope you are where you need to be. I trust that you will always be a star wherever you are because you're brilliant.

Take care, and be happy.

Hello, how have you been?



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Monday, 20 April 2015

Island Hopping from Pangulasian, El Nido: Cathedral & Cudugnon Caves + Snake Island

On our visit to Pangulasian Island, we decided to join some guided eco tours of nearby islands. 

We hopped on a merry boat with an army of activity guides, coconut cookies and iced tea, and bade our island a temporary adieu.

Each island is approximately a 10-15 minute boat ride away from the other. I can't get over the views at sea. Seriously, Palawan is so beautiful and pictures have never really done it any justice.

First stop was a peek at Cathedral Cave. We didn't stay long here, just enough time to snap a few photos and check out the cave and the artsy formations.

Then we headed off to Cudugnon Cave near Lagen Island. The view from outside is breathtaking as it looked untouched but really, this cave is believed to be a burial site of our Filo forefathers.

We all had to crawl into a small hole to get into the cave (but of course). Claustrophobic people like myself might get freaked out by this, but man... that little pinch of fear is so worth it. 

 
The cave opened up to a world of wonder. It was massive inside and everyone seemed surprised at how incredibly impressive it all looked. My brain started to go on imaginative overdrive, cooking up stories on how these formations played in folklore and reality. Everything looked like an abstract painting of sorts, and our little group snapped away in awe.

And then we sailed off to Snake Island, famous for its S-shaped sandbar, just in time to catch the sea at low tide. We stayed here for a while, frolicking in the sea and pretending that we walked on water. (Hey, if Kanye can't then we can!)

We were having so much fun being one with sand and sea; by the time we were called to head back to Pangulasian I just wanted to plant myself with the corals. However, we were promised more breathtaking views for our afternoon eco tour (of the Big and Small Lagoons) so we swam back to the boat, sunkissed and sea happy. 



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