Category Archives: Lifestyle

Spring is sprung at Tooting Towers…….or how I fell in love with a steam mop.

Everywhere I look things are blooming….from Columbia Road to Tooting Bec…

Tulips, Columbia Road Market, Sundays

Flowers at Columbia Road Market

Tulips at Columbia Road Market, flowers

More flowers from Columbia Road Flower Market

Spring Blossom in Tooting

Spring Blossom

Lilac in Tooting

Lilac, smelt amazing!

Galvanised, I am galvanised…..just like the bucket outside on my balcony, which contains bulbs which I planted (and which are actually growing – *one hand clap here*)

Rananculii, bulbs, Spring, flowers

My bulbs are growing…..!


Chillies – three different types

I also visited Ikea on Friday (FAR less scary on a weekday), so I’m filled with fresh ideas of how to transform my flat on a budget, but more of that another time…

Since I’ve  had my new carpets fitted the rest of the flat seem rather tired, so I decided that a full spring clean was in order. That, and a friend lent me her steam mop. Daytime advertising has a lot to answer for.

Having said all that it is amazing.  It has a plethora of scary looking attachments, which are thankfully very straightforward to attach and the machine is a doddle to use. As a consequence, there isn’t much at Tooting Towers that hasn’t been ‘steamed’: the floors and windows, the shower screen, the bathroom, the oven, the microwave, the blinds. I have even steam-cleaned a work jacket, which has saved me a trip to the dry cleaner. Not bad eh? All with the power of H2O; no nasty chemicals needed.

Even the dials on my cooker are sparkling (I know, ew!), but it’s one of those gadgets that makes you go looking for something to clean. I’m off to prepare dinner, just so I can eat it off the floor. Get one here


The Joys of a ‘Neighbourhood’ Restaurant – mine’s Chez Bruce

The definition of  a neighbourhood restaurant really depends on where you live I suppose. If you live in the country the chances are that to get to your choice of restaurant you’ll have to either jump in the car or get a cab. In London, you may be lucky enough to be able to walk to it just go a couple of tube stops. Well I can walk to Chez Bruce, so that is my neighbourhood restaurant. There are obviously restaurants closer to my house, but I’m not that keen on Chicken  Cottage (although my brother took a girl there on their first date. They’re now married. So you know.), but CB is special for our family and it’s not just to do with the food.

I should clarify at this point that this is not, and is not intended to be, a restaurant review.  Many other people have done a far better job of that, and anyway, I’m a ‘sure thing’. I have a deep and undying love for CB.  Mr Poole could serve up fish fingers, chips and beans and I would relish it as I would the finest gourmet meal (because let’s face it probably would be the finest gourmet meal). However the connection for me is as emotional as geographic. This was my mother’s favourite restaurant, one that she generously took me to one more than one occasion, and where we always celebrated her birthday.

After she died we (well Dad actually) decided that we would not remember the sad  times, and that we would remember, and celebrate the good times.  Henceforth, on her birthday or thereabouts we have a family lunch at Chez Bruce. A win-win situation I think you’ll agree?

So on Thursday 2 April we converged on Wandsworth Common…..trying not to drool in anticipation.  We kicked off with a glass of champagne whilst deliberating the menu.  The service is unobtrusive, yet attentive (this is the place where, suffering from a heavy cold, a box of tissues, appeared at my elbow, as if by magic), and they don’t stick their noses in every five minutes.

Always the hardest part for me. What to choose? And will I get food envy (inevitably yes, regardless of how delicious my own choice is). I, after much deliberation, went for:

Poached lamb’s tongue with breast St Meinhold, crushed jersey royals and morels

Lamb's tongue with breast St Meinhold

Silence of the Lambs’, quite literally…..

I was slightly off put by my brother going ‘baa’ softly in my ear  but other than that minor distraction I managed to polish it off. Lots of different textures from the soft lamb’s tongue to the crispy brick of lamb breast. I think I may have had to get extra bread, you know, just to mop up some of the sticky, unctuous sauce as well. Yum.

My second course was Anjou pigeon with stuffed onion, pearl barley, sauce poivrade and foie gras.

Pigeon with foie gras, stuffed onion and pearl barley

Pigeon with foie gras, stuffed onion and pearl barley

Unfortunately is looks very brown here and this doesn’t do it any justice at all.  The pigeon was perfectly pink, the pearl barley filled the onion. Posh  comfort food.

And for pudding…….please note, that honeycomb do not come from bees (as my brother thought. He’s 43).

Chocolate ice cream with honeycombe

Chocolate ice cream with honeycomb

And they gave us these:

Chocolate truffles from Chez Bruce

For my nieces, the chocolate truffles. How kind!

*Ahem*. Here I make a public apology to Olivia and Isabella – sorry, James and Poppa ate them. Not me. Honest.

Despite the obvious deliciousness of the food, we come to CB each year to remember with joy the good times past (as well as creating some new ones too). And they never fail to deliver. Thank you Mr Poole.

Turning Japanese…..(more specifically: Uniqlo, Muji and noodles)

Now I have to be honest here, I’m not what you would call ‘minimalist’, I have a lot of ‘stuff’ (my friends despair and I am regularly forced to declutter), but I do have a love for many things Japanese. Namely, as the title suggests, Uniqlo, Muji and soba noodles. So I thought I’d write about them together. As things are meant to come in threes. Aren’t they? I know Uniqlo and Muji are well-known high street brands but I just feel they are SO underrated and deserve some love. First up I must rave about Uniqlo clothing: the jeans, cashmere and lightweight down jackets and gilets are incredible value and are all machine washable. And did you know that you can have jeans and trousers taken up for free in a matter of hours. That’s no slouch when my local dry cleaners charge around a tenner. Their cashmere is often mentioned in other more fashionable blogs than this one and their featherlight down gilets are perfect for layering under a leather or denim jacket when there’s a bit of a chill in the air. The latest thing that has accidentally fallen in my basket are these ankle-length white denim jeans with zips for a mere £34.90. Perfect for updating the summer wardrobe for not very much.

White Uniqlo ankle zip jeans

White Uniqlo ankle zip jeans

Find them here

As I was having my new carpets fitted earlier this week I decided that I would have to up my tidiness as they would be moving all the furniture around and everything was strewn everywhere. The solution? Muji. Purveyor of the best containers for make up, toiletries and jewellery. All at bargain prices.

Muji storage, acrylic five-drawer box

Muji storage, acrylic five-drawer box

This little beauty is perfect for all my dressing table odds and sods with the added bonus of being able to see it all. I love noodles, they have a knack of being both comforting and healthy, well I think so anyway, (some soba noodles are gluten-free being made from buckwheat, but do check the packaging as some brands do contact some wheat). What could be more soothing after the excesses of the long Easter weekend (what you mean you didn’t stuff your face with roast lamb and chocolate? Liars) than this divine recipe, from Cookie and Kate for soba noodles with a sesame and ginger dressing, with cucumber and spring  which I found courtesy of @foodgoblin1 on Twitter…..healthy, delicious and you can have the leftovers, if there are any, for lunch the next day! Here’s my attempt at it…..and there were no leftovers….

Soba Noodles with cucumber, sesame, ginger and chilli

Soba Noodles with cucumber, sesame, ginger and chilli

If you can’t get to Paris….let Paris come to you

Very brief post to give you all a heads up on a couple of new exciting happenings…. My Little Paris launches today (I think, according to the email I received) in the UK, this stylish and exciting little site, has now made its carefully curated boxes available for the UK. As well as receiving instant Parisien chic in to your inbox, you can now subscribe to their monthly boxes, full of treats. Check it out here. A big thanks to Caroline Hirons for the heads up – her site is wonderful. On Thursday in the Uniqlo (I’m a big fan – more comprehensive post coming up shortly) new Ines de la Fressange Collection launches. A Chanel muse (beat that) If I could look half as good as she does I’d be made up. Now you (and I) can at least attempt it. Well-made, well-thought out pieces. The last collection was a sell-out. Get in.

Happy New Year, Chin Up!

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Week Six of ‘not working’ and counting

Well it’s week six (or it is eight) in the Tooting Wurzel household trying to find work (best said a strong Geordie accent a la Big Brother – it’s that claustrophobic), so what to do (when not applying for jobs, obv?)
What’s that you hear?  Yes, that’s right it’s the world’s smallest violin.  But I digress.  What to do? DIY? I think I need regroup of that one.

The hallway redecoration project has gone spectacularly off piste.  What started as a simple painting job has descended into major works, after I decided to pull some loose paper off.  It’s coming off in sheets and now my walls are looking like something out of Homes under the Hammer.  Before not after the makeover.  Polyfilla will be doing very nicely out of me thank you.  Everytime I look at it, I want to lie down in a dark room – and let’s not even mention the bathroom.  Can of worms.

Part of the reason for this stagnation of plans is the lack of cash flow, so all thoughts have turned to frugality, especially where food it concerned (I eat a lot, especially when stuck in the house.)

Well it’s cold and damp and after last night rather triumphant Tarka Dal, courtesy of Red Online and Anjum Ajand,  I have
decided to make some soup – yes wholesome nutritious and cheap.  Unfortunately it tastes pretty rank due to the fact that I whizzed the vegetables up too fine and each mouthful is akin to eating damp sawdust with a hint of bacon, just remember to keep the vegetables chunky.  But hey it’s healthy and did I say CHEAP.

One success I can share is Dan Lepard’s Clementine and Oat muffins which is in his fabulous new book, Short and Sweet, utterly divine.  Sadly they didn’t look as pretty as they should so there’s no picture.   That’s what I shall do, practice baking……perfect for a dank, November afternoon!
Next week I’ve decided that I’m going to share my inbox and Twitter feed
with you me – excited?  You should be.  I can’t go out and spend money but I can
share my exciting new finds with you so you can do it on my behalf.  I can live vicariously through you all.
Here’s one to whet your appetite….

If you work around the King’s Cross area, Eat Street is now at King’s Boulevard
from Wednesdays to Fridays with a variety of different stallholders each
week.  See don’t say I don’t give you anything.

Downton Abbey vs Made In Chelsea

On Sunday night if you’d listened really carefully you would have heard a collective sigh as everyone settled into their sofa for the new seasons of both Spooks and Downton Abbey (DA).  Aside, from the furore about the scheduling (use iplayer or watch Spooks then ITV+1).  When there’s a chill in the air and there’s finally something you want to watch on telly it’s a sure sign that autumn is finally here. Hurrah – time to cosy up.
Satisfied though I may have been in my blissful little Sunday night bubble, others were clearly not so impressed, in History Today DA was criticised for a ‘cosy’ view of the period, saying it remained to be seen if the series had anything profound to say about the past (and I paraphrase here).  I like cosy, what’s wrong with that.  In The Independent it was the turn of Spooks.  Apparently full of inaccuracies – I have no idea what the procedures would be in real life, but hello, have they seen a Bond film lately? The point I’m trying to make is that this is entertainment, not a documentary.  It is escapist, enjoyable fodder, with love and drama thrown into a gripping story which keeps us rapt week after week, so what if Le Carre has the hump.
Last night, in stark contrast (for me anyway), I inadvertently watched the beginning of the second series of the reality show, Made in Chelsea (MIC), the posher (though no more refined) cousin of The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE).  The premis of the show is that it follows the lives (and seemingly loves) of a group of twentysomethings who live in Chelsea .  The added twist of this series, as in TOWIE, is that the producers ‘suggest’ things that they would like to happen, so although this is ‘reality’, it isn’t.   You could almost see them turning to the camera to be get their cue.  Basically it’s making boring people’s lives even more boring.  Then televising it.  This is entertainment? Wow.
I have never watched a more vacuous and insipid bunch of characters.  It’s not the perception of privilege that is grating – if they can afford a Ferrari good on them, it’s just that I don’t give a toss about it , and I should.  They all take themselves so seriously that any likeability is quickly stripped away.

When Arabella confronted Ollie (it took how long before people realised he was bisexual?  Really?) , when she couldn’t find her Tiffany bracelet and they had ‘words’ about his behaviour I felt it was completely devoid of emotion.    Dead behind the eyes.  When Francis Boulle looked out on the faces of dozen of his ‘fans’and stated that he was looking at future of entrepreneurs, I physically shuddered.
One of the first rules of a good story is that you should care about the characters and what happens to them.  Nils points all round. I’m afraid Jamie’s choice of Ferrari, left me unmoved and when  Ollie did have the grace to look embarrassed, whether this was over the bracelet, his wooden ‘acting’.  Or perhaps the extraordinarily odd ‘necklace’ that he had chosen to wear (if not producers shame on you – you meanies!).  I polite way would be to describe it a ‘collar’.  He looked like a female extra from Cleopatra.
Give me Downton Abbey or Spooks any day over this so-called reality.