Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Welcome to Canada, Bienvenue au Canada...

Half my family is Canadian, I've spent some great times there and I totes wish I had the accent.  Not to be mistaken for an American accent, right cousin Erica?!  She may not recall but there was a fabulous moment at Penshurst Place when somebody asked her where in the States she was from, only for them to be greeted with "WE. ARE. NOT. AMERICAN." from a very perturbed and proud, young Canadian.  So for all those reasons I feel it's important that Canada Day get a little bit of lovin' on the blog this week.   Friday 1st July is the day in question and whether you're a Canadian living in the UK, or you just kind of want to join in the festivities read on...

London is staging Canada Day in Trafalgar Square from 10.30 am until about 10.30 pm.  For full information check out the official website here.  My activities of choice would be the Hockey matches taking place throughout the day but starting at 10.30am, the cooking demonstrations (I hope they create something typically Canadian, like Beavertails!) every hour between 11-3, as well as "Meet the Mounties" at 12.30 and 3.30 (my aunt was a Mounty but no she won't be in attendance).  I am however a little confused by the Canada Day Yoga, God knows what that entails. I have to admit though that above everything, my most desired activity for Friday, would be the eating and drinking, for anybody that knows me, this is not surprising.  Take your pick from Molson Canadian beer, Sleeman beer, my grandparents' favourite Tim Hortons coffee and donuts, Manousher bread, Mission Hill wine, Poutine or a Bison burger!

Sadly I shall be at work and have a prior commitment afterwards so I won't be donning my maple leaf and downing some donuts.  Looks like good fun though, so if you get a chance to pop on by, even just for a beer the atmosphere should be electric and you may even learn something.  Oh and if they do make beavertails, please have one and then let me know what you think.  I haven't had one since I was 7 but it brings back very good memories of wandering around Ottawa, family in tow...

Here's some Canadian themed humour that always gave me a little chuckle...

*Image taken from www.redbubble.com 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hump Day Humour

So I posted this video as a little aside to THIS blog post on Sunday.  This was made over a year ago for a competition when I was desperately trying to make it in the Acting World.  I've done a hell of a lot of emotional roles in the past but I do love comedy and since posting this the other day, my creative juices have been flowing and I'm pretty sure this is going to turn into a series.  I'm not acting right now but I do miss it, so although they may come few and far between I'm going to try and get as many little sketches on camera that I can so that I can pay homage to what I really love to do.  If you've never seen the 1970 movie Love Story with Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal you may not quite appreciate my snow (grass) angels but I've posted a video at the bottom of this post that sums the movie up in a nutshell.

The dream, to be the next French and Saunders.  And, turn my mini series into Starbucks' new ad campaign.

Maybe Ellen Degeneres can make it happen.  If you wanted to be a doll you could retweet to help a girl out. 

Thanks x

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The Stove on Sunday: Starbucks' New Breakfast Menu

"The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!"
~Joe Fox, You've Got Mail
That would be me then.  My name from time to time has been known as Starbucks due to my sheer adoration of coffee and my utter distress at not having one near me at Uni, years ago.  So, okay, I'm sure there is better coffee BUT there is something about this entire brand that me and I guess the rest of the world have a deep rooted obsession with. 

Train from Boston to Bridgewater, MA February 2007
Starbucks, London, December 2007
Starbucks, Bluewater UK, April 2007
New York cab August 2008
Starbucks, Boston, nr South Station February 2007

Friends house July 2009

I visit this establishment every day for my tall skinny cappuccino or, if weather permits, skinny iced caramel macchiato but the only food I actually enjoy consuming here is the cheese and marmite breakfast panini.  I've built up somewhat of an addiction to this moorish delight.  Overall I am quite underwhelmed with Starbucks' food offering.  Their sandwiches, for me, don't have enough filling and although I love a good cake I'm never really enticed by any of theres and think they're a tad overpriced in comparison to other baked goods stores.  With lunch competition like Pret and Eat in London, I can't ever see Starbucks being able to win market share of the food lunchtime trade with their current menu.  I have been known on occasion to purchase my lunch elsewhere and visit Starbucks solely for my beverage and I think a lot probably do the same.  Where they could really nail it is in the breakfast business. 
 We're not like the States, there's not a million and one pancake joints or breakfast bars, even brunch is strictly a weekend event and even then it tends to be a bit of a wild goose chase to find a reputable restaurant to indulge.  From living in Massachusetts for a while and with three Dunkin' Donuts on campus a breakfast out was always easy to come by so I was more than impressed when I visited the Holland Park Starbucks to discover that they have dipped their toes a little further into the breakfast pool.
If you haven't spotted it yet in your local Starbucks, their new breakfast menu consists of...
Buttermilk Pancakes
Natural Yoghurt
and of course, all their trusty favourites.
The coolest thing about the three meals mentioned above is the fact that you can customise these to your mood.  Fruit compote, mango compote, maple honey and granola are all available for 35p to add to your order.  More than reasonable. 
On Friday I picked up the buttermilk pancakes, which were warmed through for me, and two mini tubs of the maple honey.  The pancakes, on consumption, were nice.  They weren't "wowee out of this world" nice but they filled a whole and I had no complaints.  If you want wow factor then of course you're going to have to visit somewhere that actually cooks them fresh but good luck with that.  One tub of the maple honey would not have been enough for the pancakes but two, I have to admit, was a little too much, the sugar rush was immense!  I think Starbucks should have thrown a butter or two in the bag though as well, maybe if you ask they would but personally I think it should be a requirement with every order.
My pancakes were, I think £1.60, I can't quite recall and I also can't find it anywhere on their site.  With the added extras amounting to 70p my total breakfast cost was £2.30 which for what I got was just right.  I'd think twice if I had to pay any more.
For food on the go when your mornings just not working out these breafasts are more than adequate.  I'll be visiting again for sure, although my heart is still reserved for my cheese and marmite panini.  In summary, if you're bored of the choice between a croissant or a chocolate croissant that EVERYBODY else just sells then head to Starbucks for a little more choice!  (Or if you want to learn how to make super low in fat pancakes that are still delicious then check out this post here.)
Now for some weekend hilarity, here's a little Love Story (read a post about the real movie here) meets Starbucks skit I did back in the day when I dreamed of being a comedy actress and potentially Starbucks new advert.  Eh Starbucks?  Wadda ya say?!  If you've seen the movie you'll get the references and if you know me, then this might be mildly amusing...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Something for the Weekend...

The Secret Garden has always been magical in my eyes and even now at the age of 26 I wouldn't mind stumbling across a mysterious landscape, with overgrown bluebells and an old fashioned swing.  There is a walled vineyard behind my house which, upon first glance, does emulate the film's version but I've never been in and I doubt it houses the fantasy I've envisioned.  Maybe the fascination with this cosy movie has nothing to do with a pretty garden, maybe it's actually a nod to todays obsession with voyeurism.  Reality tv shows are rife and we can all admit that at one time or another we've nosily looked around a house for sale, not because we plan on buying but purely because we're curious.  The Secret Garden is also very British in my eyes, it reflects a very elegant era that for some reason I always associate with proper afternoon tea. 

Today I'm heading out to Regents Park to play croquet.  This makes me sound like I am entering a professional croquet tournament.  I'm not.  I'm just planning on playing it whilst I'm there.  This also makes me sound incredibly sophisticated "Oh yes darling, well no darling I can't meet today darling, I'm playing croquet on the lawn darling".  See, elegantly British.  This long drawn out introduction has a point, I promise.

Therefore I bring you my British/Secret Garden themed Something for the Weekend...

Unfortunately the weather's not looking too perky this weekend, unfortunate for some of the offerings I'll be mentioning below (and my croquet session) but quite apt for Britain.  Can you believe it I've even managed to supply truly British rainy weather for this blog post.  Woop!

So, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a Mary Lennox then you want to head to London this weekend for your very own Secret Garden adventure.  Gardens all over the city, that are usually closed to the publics prying eyes, will be opening up their gates.  You'll get to wander around some beautifully tended oasis' of the floral variety, with some even providing entertainment.  There's even the possibility of visiting prison gardens....hmm...not sure of the allure of this one, they may not want to headline with this.  Check out this site to grab all the information.  They have a wonderful little key beside each garden that highlights if you can picnic there, whether there are any activities and for what age group, if dogs are allowed, if you  have to purchase tickets for entry and of course a Secret Garden-esque key to emphasise whether the location is usually closed to the public.

My pick would be, The Goring Hotel, which of course will most likely be the most populated, due to it being the recent witness of the Duchess of Cambridge blossoming, from Kate Middleton, into her now rather grand title.  There's also a couple of gardens featuring singers from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art which I think you should check out purely because I teach LAMDA Acting at the weekend, so I can guarantee the performances will be great *wink wink*.

If you're too far away or simply aren't fancying the trip back into the big smoke, why not create your own Secret Garden festivities with a gathering of your nearest and dearest to sip tea and scoff scones.  My mum and I threw a garden party last year for my Godfather, for some fun ideas why not check out the "how to" here.

Or if all else fails and the weather is horrifically grotty then why not cosy up at home with your tea and cake, The Secret Garden in the DVD player, with this adorable tea cup candle from Mor burning in the background, available in House of Fraser for £50.50...


Thursday, 9 June 2011

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda...My Summer Holiday Must Haves (but didn't)

Following on from my previous blog post, re the I Don't Know How She Does It trailer, I expressed that I'm always run a little ragged and forever juggling a million and one things.  This was very true of the weeks leading up to my much mentioned trip to Marbella.  I had it all planned, how I was going to update my summer wardrobe, which beauty products of both the budget and luxe variety I was going to shell out on and what I was going to blog about, to schedule for whilst I was away.  As most of you know the last didn't happen, so you'll probably not be overly surprised to read that neither of the first two points did either.  You may even recall a pre Marbella post about the very fashionably organised, travel shopping website, Style Passport, that I didn't even get the chance to utilise, despite the fact it would have simplified and relaxed the entire holiday prep experience.  It became apparent that the expression "if only I'd had time" was escaping my mouth quite regularly and so I bring to you Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda, everything I wish I'd known about/had time to purchase before my trip.

I've dreamed about being uber sophsticated and whipping out my facial mist, mid land, whilst adjusting my pashmina.  I'm more likely to be seen trying to de-static my hair and downing a G and T in fear that we'll crash.  As you can imagine I'm never the most refreshed looking, post plane, so Aesop's Facial Hydrating Mist wouldn't have gone a-miss...

Style Passport £16

I'm also not a "make-up to the beach" kinda gal, which I'm not too sure was the right attitude in Marbella.   I spotted Becca's Beach Tint in Fig on Style Passport, however, which would have been spot on to add some relaxed glamour, after beginning to feel and look a little squiffy at Ocean Club's Champagne Spray Party...

Style Passport £20

There was the Nars Laguna Beach powder bronzer in Sephora, Puerto Banus, on my last day and I loved, loved, loved!  It emphasised my tan, adding just enough sparkle to create a glow, without looking like I'd sprinkled glitter all over my cheeks...

Nars £24

These are some pretty magnificently loud towels by Sex and the City costume designer, Patricia Field, that would have been a risky shipping purchase just days before my trip...damn it...

Patricia Field $25

Patricia Field $25

Patricia Field $25
Hmm, which to purchase for my next holiday though?  All suggestions welcome.

I've also been coveting these jewels for some time now, designed by quirky creator of Maggie AngusAnna Evans.  Her latest range, as usual, adds a playful twist to trends of the moment.  From Miami to Ibiza promises to complete your look as you sip cocktails by the harbour....I'd prefer my own yacht...

Maggie Angus £15

Maggie Angus £23.99
Maggie Angus £15
Maggie Angus £19.99
Whilst grabbing the info for my much dreamed of beach towels, earlier in the week, I also stumbled across a pair of flip-flops I am entitling, The Wild Card.  They won't be for everybody but my God do I think they're cool...

Sorry, had to show you them in all three colours.  Just. Had. To.  All available at Patricia Field for $18.

What's on your Summer Holiday must have list?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Movie Monday: I Don't Know How She Does It Trailer

What does SJP, Gregg Kinnear, Kelsey Grammer, Jessica Szohr and Pierce Brosnan all have in common?  Seems they're all cast in upcoming movie I Don't Know How She Does It, based on the book by Allison Pearson, which my mum says is fab.

This movie looks a hoot and I already have September 16th penciled in my diary as the release date.  I'm not the most put together or organised of women (not a particularly shocking confession) but I have a lot going on all the time, even without children, so I can already totally relate to SJP's character Kate, as I'm sure a lot of you can.  Plus it's set in Boson for some of the part, my home away from home.  *Sighs*

No deep movie analysis, I'll save that for the release. Just watch and anticipate it's release.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Stove on Sunday: Goat Cheese Tarts and Currant Danishes

I'm obsessed with goat's cheese.  Anybody that really knows me, will predict that if the ingredient is on the menu, that's the meal I'll go for and God forbid there's two!  My mother hates the stuff so creating something in our kitchen with it is strictly forbidden.  Last night seemed to be the perfect time to defy this rule though, with her gone for the evening.  My sister and I decided to take full advantage of this opportunity and cook up one of my favourite Barefoot Contessa recreations, Goat Cheese Tarts.

I've made smaller versions of these before as they are a wonderful summer lunch dish with a side of salad but last night we upped the anti and went for full size tarts, one each.  Greedy!  I don't really consult the recipe anymore so some things may be slightly different from Ina's version.  Or if you're not vibing the tart, how about you head on over to this Something for the Weekend post I did back in September last year which features a goat cheese pizza....see, obsessed.

You will need:
1 packet of puff pastry (or a recipe to create your own if your that brave)
1 large tomato
2 large onions
4oz goat cheese
1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar

How to:

1.  Defrost the puff pastry and then roll out.  When reached the desired thickness, make sure it's not so thin that it breaks, place a small plate over and cut around with a knife.  Then create another circle within this circle by scoring with the knife.  Make sure you don't cut right through though as you don't want to seperate the pastry from each other.  Prick the middle circle all over with a fork.  Doing so means that the middle circle will not puff whilst the outer circle will, to create a border for your tart.  Repeat for your second tart.

2.  Sautee the onions until brown, seasoning with salt and pepper.  I also added some balsamic vinegar to give some extra flavour and caramelise the onions slightly. You could add white wine instead though, which I have been known to do on occassion.

3.  If you have a trusty servant, like myself, then hopefully they will have grated the parmesan for you whilst you were concentrating on the onions.  Place some of the parmesan over the middle of the tarts to cover this area completely.

4.  Place all of the onions over your parmesan.

5.  I like to slice my goat cheese so it sits on the top, I had 2 thick slices per tart but you would only need one thick slice per tart for smaller versions or you can even crumble, dependant on your preference.

6.  Slice the tomatoes and place one slice on top of each slice of goat cheese.

7.  Sprinkle the last of the parmesan over both tarts and place in a preheated oven  at 180 degrees celsius for 20-25mins. 

 They should eventually look something like this...

These make two huge tarts that could be eaten individually or sliced and teamed with salad or you could make 4 smaller versions with the same amount of ingredients.

Most likely you will have some puff pastry left over and if you fancy yourself being a true domestic goddess, my recommendation would be to pop in the fridge for the morning so that you can make a quick indulgent breakfast synonymous with a Sunday morning in the McNally household, Mini Currant Danishes.  The ingredients are usually things found rattling around your cupboards, the currants for example are leftovers from my Christmas baking rampage (don't worry best before date was Nov 2011).  There are no strict amounts with this, it's more a shove on what you need kind of recipe.

You will need:
Leftover puff pastry
Brown sugar

How to:

1.  Roll out the remainder of the pastry and line with a thin layer of butter.

2.  Sprinkle a healthy amount of currants and brown sugar.  I also like to add a light sprinkle of cinnamon too.

3.  Roll the pastry up and then slice to form the mini danishes.

4.  Place on a baking tray and add a dab of butter on the top of each danish.
5.  Pop into a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 20-25 mins.

Serve with coffee.  Bliss.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Something for the Weekend...

I'm back!  For those that follow me on twitter you'll know that actually I was back on Tuesday *Louisa shifts eyes sheepishly and makes an apologetic face*.  I had so many plans pre-Marbella for scheduled blog posts for whilst I was away and then for my return but being the last minute merch I am, neither of these things have happened and we are now sitting here on this glorious Friday 3rd June a whole four days post Marbella.  Woops!

Firstly please note that the weather has been pretty sweet in the UK since my return, which means religious statues need to be made in my honour as this can only mean that I brought the Spanish temperatures home with me.  This also means that this weekend we are all going to be manically sunbathing and wacking out those barbecues for fear that this is the only sun we will ever see in England until next year (quite feasible).

In honour of this nice weather I thought I'd do a bit of a Marbella inspired Something for the Weekend post.  So prepare for take off to our pseudo Puerto Banus...

Make sure you've packed sunscreen...

I sported this little treat available at Style Passport.  Not overly keen on the scent but it made my skin feel silky smooth and produced for the Australian sun means it's not only long lasting but also super effective for our half hearted weather. 

Invisible Zinc Face and Body Sunscreen £26

I also used this inexpensive beauty...not entirely sure that we can really call this a sunscreen but I love Palmer's Cocoa Butter and feel it's a body must have, especially for the summer months and this one does contain spf 15 so technically you are protected right???

Available at Boots for £5.10

Drag out your sunnies from the deep depths of your handbag...

I wore these Elton-esque glasses from Urban Outfitters

They've got some seriously cool shades currently, other's I'm loving are...

and these Olsen-twin-esque ones especially.


When sunbathing it's basically a requirement that you read a good book, my recommendation, The Beach House by Jane Green.  I actually read this in the South of France last year so not quite a reflection of my Marbs trip but lets not split hairs.

From £6.89 at Amazon (please note from my image you cannot click to look inside-soz)
The description taken from Amazon...

"Nan, a widow whose family has flown the nest, is an independent, free-spirited woman who couldn't care less what people think about her living alone in her beloved beach house. But when she discovers that money is running out and she might lose her home, she knows it's time for a drastic change. Nan decides to rent out rooms for the summer and people start moving into the house, filling it with noise, laughter and tears. Among them is Daniel, a recently divorced father, who's struggling to find out who he really is, and Daff, the single mother of a truculent teenager who blames her mother unreservedly for her parents' divorce. As the house comes to life again, Nan finds her family growing. Her son comes home for the summer and an unexpected visitor turns up, turning all their lives upside down; Compelling, absorbing and poignant, The Beach House is a story of friendship, love and those moments that can change your life."

For some refreshing sophistication you should most definitely be sipping a Watermelon Martini as per this one I devoured at Nikki Beach on Monday.

Recipe taken from MartiniRecipe.net
60ml (or approx 2 oz) Vodka

You will need:
7.5ml sugar syrup
1 slice watermelon

How to:
Chop the flesh of the water melon.
Pour the Vodka and the sugar syrup into a cocktail shaker.
Add watermelon flesh.
Add ice.
Shake vigorously for a minute or two.
Pour and strain into a frosted martini glass.
Finish by garnishing the rim of the martini glass with a thin slice of watermelon.

And finally, if you're heading out for an ever cool night on the town then why not hit up one of the Sintillate parties in London, Bournemouth, Liverpool, Nottingham or Leeds.  Their parties were epic last weekend in Marbs, especially the Champagne Spray on Sunday but more to come on this in a later post.


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