Friday, 28 April 2017

I didn't have too much time to explore Helsinki when I last visited, but I did manage to squeeze in a few of my favourite things. Helsinki is a great place to visit for a weekend trip as it's big enough for a lot of things to do (my boyfriend has visited three times and I still haven't managed to show him everything I want to!) but small enough to (almost) walk everywhere.

I love it most during the summer as the weather, of course, is better, but it's also a lot greener and a lot lighter then. However, this time I went in April, and while it was already pretty light (the sun sets later than in the UK - yay!), it wasn't quite there yet with the greenness and the warmth.. In fact, if you read my post from last Sunday, you might remember me saying that it actually snowed. In April! Despite of the breezy weather conditions, though, I had a really lovely time and would definitely recommend doing all of the things on this list no matter what time of the year!





SPEND TIME BY THE SEA

The thing I miss the most about Finland (after my friends and family, of course!) has to be the sea. Helsinki is surrounded by the Baltic Sea, so no matter where you are in the city, you'll never be too far from it. This means that there are lots of great places for a scenic walk, of which one of the best are probably the beautiful district of Eira and the surrounding streets of the Kaivopuisto park.

The places I mentioned above are great for a brisk walk, but if you're not in the mood for staying out too long, you could also pay a visit to either Cafe Ursula or Cafe Carusel for a cinnamon bun and beautiful sea views.

If you prefer a bit of shopping to just walking around you could go to the Market Square which has lots of stalls selling arts and crafts as well as all sorts of local produce, depending on the season. The Market Square is right next to the sea, and it's also where a lot of the little boats to the nearby islands of Helsinki leave, so if you're not quite done with the sea yet, you can jump aboard one of them and keep on exploring.




ADMIRE THE VIEW FROM HOTEL TORNI

If you ask me, no city break is complete without a good view. Helsinki has a few good places you could go have a scenic drink in, but in my opinion there's nowhere better than the lovely Ateljee Bar in Hotel Torni. This is of course best done on a sunny, clear day, but it's a worth a visit even if the whole sky is grey like it was for us - the view is still great!

Ateljee Bar is a great choice because there's actually two viewing platforms - one on each side of the building. There's also tables and chairs on both sides, so if the weather is warm enough, you can bring your drinks outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery. But, even if the weather gods aren't being kind to you, you can still grab a glass of wine in the inside bar and get the perks of the view - win win! As you can probably imagine, the prices here are pretty steep, but that's usually to be expected in places like this. You really do also pay for the view!





TAKE IN THE ARCHITECTURE

I'm not going to ramble on about the beautiful buildings of Helsinki TOO much as I've already done it in this post, but I couldn't not mention it. The biggest architecture style in Helsinki is Jugendstil, which is one style branch of the bigger Art Nouveau movement. Expect a lot of colour!

Central Helsinki is great for spotting Jugend buildings, and districts such as Ullanlinna, Punavuori and the aforementioned Eira are especially good for this. Before moving to London I'd lived in Helsinki for almost my entire life, but even still I come across new favourites every year! If you only have time to visit one place, make it the Huvilakatu street. It's absolutely gorgeous and well worth the short stroll from the centre of the city.

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

I've become a bit obsessed with meal planning recently. I'm a routine person, so thinking ahead on what I'm going to have for dinners and lunches for the coming week has really made a massive difference. Planning ahead also gives me a lot more free time and saves me a fair bit of money.

So, how do I do it? And more importantly - what are the benefits? I've broken it down into little sections below in case you'd be interested in trying it out yourself. Let's get started!



THE WHY

Meal planning helps me save a lot of money. Because I plan everything (all the way down to the snacks!) I'm going to eat the next week, I can buy all the ingredients in one big bulk which means there's a lot less of impulse buying. We do a big shop every Sunday and I always make sure I don't go hungry - otherwise I know I would buy ALL the crisps and sweets and feel very regretful afterwards...

Another big reason is that if I have cooked my food beforehand, I have a lot more time in my hands in the evenings after work. I try to commit to yoga three times a week (I do Yoga with Adriene) but if I know I have to start cooking after exercising, I'm much more likely to a) cook something really unhealthy and b) not do the yoga session at all. However, if I have already prepared something, I know that immediately after I'm done with exercising I can just heat up my food and enjoy it with an episode of something on Netflix with a clear conscience. Win win!



THE HOW

Lunches and dinners: I try to do most of my batch cooking on Sundays, but as I'm cooking for two, I don't always quite manage to make enough to last the entire week. I will however do my best to make something that will last us until the middle of week, after which I just have to cook once until it's the weekend again. Batch cooking for me usually means making double portions of sauces I find on cookbooks and then as and when I eat them, I prepare the rice/pasta/what have you as an accompaniment.

After I've eaten the last of the batch I cooked on Sunday, I try to make another big one in that evening to last me until the end of the working week. My main thing is to always have something ready for when I come home from work - I get so hungry that if I had to start cooking at that point the results might be very disastrous and calorific!

Snacks: It's super important to snack healthy too! My blood sugar goes low very easily, and when that happens and I'm super hungry, it's easy to just make an excuse and grab a chocolate bar or something equally sugary. By planning different healthy (but still yummy!) snacks for each week, it's easier to resist the urge and never get to that horrible "I'm shaking and I'm angry" level of hunger...

My favourite snacks are, in no particular order: berries (especially in the summer, although as these are pretty expensive they are often an 'after pay day' sorta treat), rough oatcakes, rice cakes, banana slices with peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits & berries (I love these), carrot sticks with hummus etc etc - the list goes on! If you're feeling especially motivated, why not make your own flapjacks at home? You can find so many good recipes online by just doing a bit of googling.

Breakfasts: I also plan my morning meals a little, although for me there's not much to do in this respect. I'm very much a routine girl when it comes to breakfast, and I always have the same thing during weekday mornings: porridge oats, frozen berries & peanut butter. It keeps me full for a good couple of hours and is easy to prepare in the office kitchen. For the weekend mornings I always try to think of something a bit more special, like the yogurt/nuts/berry combo I've got going on in the the first picture.

You don't necessarily need to plan your breakfasts beforehand, but it's good to know you've got something in your cupboards that you can whip up - you don't want to have to run to Tesco's first thing on a Monday morning!



THE WHAT

Basically anything that you can easily make double portions of are good - sauces, soups & stews work especially well. I thought I would end this post by sharing a few recipes that could be a good start for your batch cooking journey (sorry for just using the word journey...):

Sweet potato tomato sauce by Yours Truly - just make a double or even a triple portion
Lentil Bolognese by the Ginger Kitchen
Thai Green Curry by Cookie and Kate
DIY Burrito Bowl by Oh She Glows
Aduki Bean Casserole by Aine Carlin

Enjoy!

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

This post comes to you a bit late, but better late than never, right? I overestimated myself thinking I could edit, upload and post all these pictures last Sunday whilst still on holiday, when, in reality, all I wanted to do was lay on the sofa and eat Easter sweets. So, I let myself off the hook, and postponed these pictures for a week - I'm sure you don't mind!

I haven't been in Finland in April in about four years and I had definitely managed to forget how cold it can still be. England had lulled me into a false sense of security that Spring had actually properly arrived everywhere in the world, but it seemed like Finland had other ideas in mind... Instead of green trees I got snow - lots of snow! - and very cold, albeit beautifully sunny, days. Having been away for so long, I couldn't remember if that was a normal thing to happen mid-April, but everyone else seemed equally confused too so I guess it was quite extreme - even for Finland!

I also hadn't celebrated Easter with my family for four years, and whilst it wasn't a holiday I particularly missed celebrating, it was surprisingly nice to see all the familiar decorations and traditions come to life. I snapped a few pictures of our Easter-y house as I thought it was looking very cute - especially all those little bunnies!











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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

I went for a quick holiday to my home town Helsinki last week and managed to squeeze in quite a few restaurant visits!

All of these places serve amazing vegan and veggie options, but they are also great if you're a meat eater or a veggie dining out with non-veggies. There's so many different types of options in each place, which means everyone can (probably) find something that they like.

Enjoy! I'm getting hungry again just looking at all this food...



PUTTE'S

Kalevankatu 6, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

After having dinner at Putte's last week I'm now convinced that they do the best pizza in Helsinki.

The pizzas have this amazingly thin and crispy base that stays together really well, plus a lot of innovative topping combinations such as ALL the local Finnish cheeses and North African spices mixed with pulled oats (an alternative to pulled pork!).

I went in thinking they only served one kind of vegan pizza (my favourite, the lovely marinara), but to my surprise they also had another one on their daily specials list. I'm not sure if one of their specials will always be vegan, but I do hope so because the one I ended up having was so good.

The vegan daily special (aptly named Meat is Murder) had lots of amazing toppings - the dough was topped with yummy marinara sauce, some kind of magical herb butter and nutritional yeast, and then finished off with a generous handful of rocket. The finished product was so good that I polished off the entire pizza in a matter of minutes. Please go if you get the chance!


FRIENDS & BRGRS

Mikonkatu 8, 00100 Helsinki

The fact that Friends & Brgrs had a vegan option at all was a bit of a surprise to me. It's a small chain of slightly posher fast food restaurants serving burgers, fries and milkshakes, but before I knew better I thought it was just another dirty, meaty, McDonalds-type place. Luckily it turned out that I was pretty wrong!

I went in expecting to maybe find one vegetarian option, but, as you might have guessed already, next to the token veggie burger they also happened to do a vegan option - yay! You can also get your burger on gluten free bread, and all their meat patties are gluten free as well.

My burger came with a vegan patty, onions, rocket, tomatoes and vegan aioli. You could also add other toppings for a small surcharge starting with 50 cents - I added jalapenos which added the perfect kick to the burger.

You can order the burger on its own or as a meal with drinks and fries. I would definitely urge you to go for the meal as the fries are amazing. They are handmade, perfectly salted AND triple cooked. I'm actually dreaming of them right now!



TAMARIN

Mannerheimintie 14, 00100 Helsinki, Finland

This is the only place out of this list that I was already familiar with before. Tamarin already had a few branches around Helsinki when I lived there, and it seems to be one of the few things that haven't changed.

The branch I always seem to go to is probably also the least "cosy" as it's part of a shopping centre bang on in the centre of the city. This might make it a bit more noisy and chain like, but it's also why it's one of the best options for food if you're on a bit of a shopping spree and need a bite to eat.

I went for, as I always do, the veggie green curry. I've had it before, so I knew what to expect, and I didn't have to be disappointed this time either. It's not the best green curry I've ever had, but it does the trick very nicely, and the portion is very generous too. Also, just a little heads up: in the menu the curry is marked with 3 chillies which means it should be super spicy, but I didn't think it was that bad at all - it's the probably made for the Nordic tastebuds!

The menu says that any dish in the menu can be had as a vegan version, but you just have to ask, as otherwise they might add fish sauce to it. This means there's SO much to choose from, which makes this place such a great option for your mid-shopping food needs!

Have you been to Helsinki? If not, what are you waiting for?!

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Friday, 14 April 2017

One of my favourite little "London secrets" is Camden Passage in Angel. Sure, many Londoners are probably aware of it by now, but due to its easily missable location, I imagine there must be quite a few who've walked past it without even knowing about it. So I had to shine the light - otherwise I'd feel way too guilty for keeping it to myself!

Camden Passage is a short street, or passage, just a few minutes walk away from Angel station. It hides behind Upper Street, and hosts a variety of independent shops, lots of cafes and restaurants as well as one very famous pub. But more on those a little bit later..!




MARKET

Camden Passage has a lovely little market, with main days being Wednesdays and Saturdays. These little market stalls focus heavily on antiques, but there's also a quite a big selection of vintage clothing and other second hand items. If you can't find anything you fancy from the market stalls, there's also lots of vintage shops on the street where you can continue your search.

It's not all just old stuff though. The market is divided into four areas, and each of them has their own specialty. So if you can't find what you're looking for straight away, keep looking - it might still be out there!

SHOPS

As I mentioned earlier, Camden Passage is especially known for its vintage clothes and antiques shops. If that's what you're after, you might want to try Annie's Vintage at number 12. They have such a cool collection, and you can expect to find anything from lacy petticoats to parasols and sequin tops. The sky is the limit, basically!

Other great places to visit are David Griffith's for antique furniture, Fat Faced Cat for even more women and men's vintage and Kevin Page Oriental Art for Chinese porcelain and Japanese ceramics all the way for the 1700s. Not something you see every day!

If you're on the look out for something a bit more modern, you might enjoy Smug which sells really cool stationary stuff, plants (who doesn't love plants!), homeware and lots of other things too. Plus, the shop is really pretty, so there's that as well...





COFFEE BREAK

Camden Passage is an amazing place to have a little coffee break. It's a short little street, but it packs an impressive amount of coffee shops - I guess they know that people like their caffeine and something sweet when they're doing all that shopping and wandering around the markets!

The Coffee Works Project is a lovely little independent cafe with three branches in London. They pride themselves by offering locally produced food and the (in their opinion) best coffees and teas available. I can vouch for the teas - I had the rooibos and while it didn't blow my mind (can it ever?!), it was very good and I would definitely have it again. I can't have coffee myself, but I did see it being made and a lot of care was put to the process so I'm sure it's pretty great too.

Appestat is a lovely little coffee house, but it's also a pop up gallery (of course it is) and they host a variety of events too. At the moment they are advertising a supper club residency in July, where you can book tickets here. The next one is a Syrian kitchen including dishes like halloumi filled pastry and lentil soup - sounds pretty yummy!

Other places worth trying out is the Austrian coffee house Kipferl which will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth with its sweet pastries, and Le Coq Epicier which is techincally a shop selling French produce (Wine! Macarons! Wine!) but they also have a few tables outside where you can immediately enjoy your purchases in the sunshine.

THAT FAMOUS PUB

Finally I managed to get to this bit! The Camden Head is well known pub due its amazing free comedy club which they have on every day of the week. Both Fridays and Saturdays is a 'pro night' when you can see established comedians without having to pay a penny. It's good to arrive early to avoid disappointments though - Time Out has named their comedy nights as one of their "Must Do" things in London, so it can definitely get very busy.

I feel like I could go on talking forever about this lovely street, but I think I have rambled on enough. There are still so many lovely shops and restaurants I didn't get to mention at all, but that's exactly why you have to go there and experience everything yourself. Exploring this little part of London is definitely one of my favourite things to do.

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