The Hype of Hygge

Since visiting Copenhagen last July, I have found myself completely captivated by the Danes’ lust for chic design, cool composure and aspiration to live well.

Sent with love and well wishes, Meik Wiking graced Britain last year with the release of his best seller The Little Book of Hygge. The Little Book of ha-wha, you ask? The Little Book of “hue-gah”: The Danish Way To Live Well.

Hygge is a Norwegian turned Danish term used to describe and encourage “a feeling of home” and creation of “atmosphere and experience” in our everyday lives. Essentially, we should take more time to appreciate and indulge in the comfort of the simple things life has to offer, as opposed to limiting our enjoyment of pleasurable activities.

But why care what the Danes do? Well, the Danes’ reputation for happiness has become an established identity within itself as they are rated as the happiest country in the world. The Danes also boast a very high quality of life that is not just fixated on income or another fad diet, and this has lead many Britain’s to now jump on the train, destination: happy.

So, how does one hygge? Well, now the smug owner of Wiking’s well-being guide myself, I’ll share with you some of the simple secrets:

No matter what the occasion, have candles everywhere: Candles are the first lesson in hygge, so it’s important to note that “Scented candles are considered artificial, and Danes prefer natural and organic products”, and to put it bluntly “no candles, no hygge”. Furthermore dim lighting is key, and the Danes equally love their lamps.

Make quality time for loved ones: To know if you’ve got relationship status hygge, time spent with loved ones should feel “like a good hug – but without the physical contact”. Wiking’s research into happiness has concluded that “The more satisfied people are with their social relationships, the happier they are in general”. Moreover, at the centre of a Danish home you’re highly likely to find a dining table, designed to accommodate family and friends for frequent social meals.

Home is the “hygge headquarters”: The Danish are known for their design (oh that enviable Scandic-chic) and “tend to put a lot of effort and money into making their homes hyggelige” (aka homey and intimate). Danes therefore create a cosy yet fresh living environment, because “Home is central to social life in Denmark”. Unlike us Brits who love to go out, the Danes make their homes the place to be.

Less is more: Minimalism is also key, which you can instantly recognise from Danes’ wardrobe attire and everyday appearance, to their interior design. To get the hygge look pull your focus towards scarfs, layers, casual hair, and most importantly black, so “aim for a look that would be fitting for Karl Lagerfeld’s funeral: stylish but monochrome”.

Eat well to live well: The Danes are treat eaters and don’t fret about indulging (they’re crazy for cake) because “hygge is about being kind to yourself – and giving yourself, and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living”, while still remaining balanced. As opposed to Maccy Ds and KFCs Danes prefer to indulge in more homely comfort foods – they love their meat and potatoes, pastries, and crafted open sandwiches.

Get on your bike: It’s a very easy argument to suggest that Denmark was built for bikes, given what seems to be an on-going flat landscaped county. When visiting Copenhagen cycling was a huge highlight for me, and it’s not hard to understand why it’s so popular – it’s “an easy way to weave a bit of exercise into our daily routine and is environmentally (and wallet-) friendly”.

All sound quite straightforward? That’s because hygge really is. It’s an underestimated concept, the idea of being happy, and for me the Danes have nailed it by extracting their primary happiness from life’s simple occurrences that can be incorporated into everyday life – it is that easy.

Over the last few months we Brits have predominately been occupied with a Brexit backlash and NHS crisis, so frankly I think we could all benefit from a bit of positive well-being. Anyone curious about hygge, why not test the waters with a few home essentials: a hyggekrog (nook), a fireplace, candles (this cannot be stressed enough), wooden furniture, books (no, not kindles), ceramics, shop vintage, and fill your home with cushions and blankets.

If you’re still not sold on hygge, my only next logical step is to implore you to visit Denmark and see for yourself. Check out some of my top recommendations for Copenhagen HERE. It really is a beautiful and vibrant city that I cannot wait to visit again.

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Courgette Crisis

I had heard a few rumours and seen a few hashtags, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I fully appreciated that the UK is currently losing their vegetables. The leading front runner of this campaign is the courgette, which has quickly established a #courgettecrisis and for good reason.

Now while we can appreciate it’s easy to forget the small things, because credit where it’s due it has been one eventful week – Trump’s in the most powerful seat in office presenting us with “alternative facts”, and Marine Le Pen is leading an uprising of the far right – the courgette situation has not gone unnoticed.

Although the outcry is somewhat dramatic, it is not unprecedented. According to online sources the scarce show of courgettes is due to heavy snowfall in Spain, who sources the majority of the UK’s supply. Unfortunately this doesn’t stop here as it has been noted that other vegetables like aubergines, cucumbers, and broccoli are at risk of becoming less frequent dinner guests too.

Trying to adopt a positive attitude this new year, it would be wonderful to to think that such a catastrophe could encourage more British consumers into “home growing”, or at least look at sourcing one’s vegetables organically by supporting local farms and their other produce. Now, this doesn’t solve the crisis, I know, but it does logically seek an alternative as opposed to declaring a code red situation, like one Guardian reader:

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>> Link for full article by The Guardian <<

God speed Charlotte, I’m so happy you got through that ordeal… Luckily there are some more appropriate, and blunt responses:

twitter-quote>> @Parveen_Comms <<

I too addressed the situation on Twitter, albeit less outranged more “well this is happening”, to which Sainsbury’s swiftly restored my faith in humanity:

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I myself am a lover of courgettes, but it goes without saying that the crisis is not like swearing off something on par with the end of a species. The courgettes will return, but as demanding as we are, consumers can’t always have everything.

Lost in Swindon?

[Opinion]

// Best venues to visit in Swindon, according to me //

I moved back to Swindon in October 2015 and I won’t lie I’ve been a hermit for most of it, and/or retreated back to London for long weekends. Naturally a small town cannot realistically compete against the capital city, but I often find myself spending most of my time on the GWR.

Now despite my reservations, I eventually decided to try and not act like a petulant child and take a wonder to see what improvements my small town had or hadn’t made since my return.

// My Swindon go-tos //

I can’t lie, I was not exactly psyched about trying to adjust back into Swindon – the town’s market for eateries is not enticing compared to say Cirencester or Bristol, but I had heard of some new competitors up in Old Town which instilled some confidence and curiosity.

// Helen Browning’s Chop House //

Where: 19-21 Wood St

I had been excitedly anticipating my visit here – I’d heard great reviews and, for me, it’s reputation alone had already outdone the greasy Spoons and influx of restaurant chains at Regents Circus.

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The main thing that is swiftly brought to your attention is that the produce is sourced organically, and the meat itself is brought in from Helen’s farm Eastbrook which is only 6 miles away from Swindon. Unlike the Spoons and Greene Kings, the Chop House does not advertise cheap processed meals, it is instead not shy of high quality and fresh dishes, which have been put together thoughtfully. I’d seriously recommend going in for brunch!

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// Balula’s Delicatessen //

Where: 9 Wood St

Just a few doors down from the Chop House is Swindon’s very own Deli come cafe. I had always noticed Balula’s but hadn’t ventured in until now – I was full from brunch but fancied a peruse and some inspiration for dinner.

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I was pleasantly surprised as I hadn’t realised there was a large dining area, or “coffee lounge”, and so much on offer to purchase at the counter. Balula’s reminds me of the cafes in Cirencester; independent, charming, and homemade. Unlike many of the coffee chains in Swindon’s down town, the cakes don’t look processed or as though they have been sat out for too long.

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As well as sweet treats and a lunch menu, Bulula’s also offers fresh meats, cheeses, fruit, and veg. I myself purchased some chorizo for my favourite scrambled eggs and a risotto dish – they were both spectacular.

// BAILA Coffee & Vinyl //

Where: 85 Victoria Rd

My favourite coffee shop in town has always been Darkroom Espresso, but I’ve now found a fantastic surrogate. Edgy, trendy, and contemporary – this has been a much needed establishment for Swindon’s young and alternative culture.

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Although I like to be alone when I get my writing done, I also like to be in a venue with some atmosphere – whether I want a flat white in the morning, or an Aperol Spritz in the evening, this progressive cafe come bar offers me both. BAILA also hosts a modest sized record collection to browse and purchase from. Furthermore come day or night there is always great music to be heard here, and that’s not just on vinyl – it also accommodates live music and DJs.

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*Note: BAILA has been refurbished rendering my above image outdated – I prefer the white walls though*

// Los Gatos //

Where: 1-3 Devizes Rd

I would strongly advise booking in advance (excluding weekends) when planning a visit to Swindon’s Tapas hotspot – it is a gem that consistently supplies high quality Spanish cuisine. Los Gatos is also a great alternative to the popular pub dining scene, boasting an array of delicious dishes which are designed and intended to be shared. As expected from Tapas, there is an impressive range of dishes on offer which accommodate meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans – the menu has been crafted and influenced by the owners’ travels in Spain.

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So far I’ve only visited of an evening, but each time I have remained pleasantly greeted by a buzzing yet intimate atmosphere. Furthermore there’s a smooth aura generated amongst the guests and staff, and it’s probably because this popular venue delivers on excellent value for your money leaving satisfaction levels high. I’ll certainly be returning soon to also check out the Los Gatos Paella Sunday specials!

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// Old Town Thai //

Where: 23 Wood St

Swindon is full of greasy Asian “restaurants”, so shamefully I was quite reluctant to give Old Town Thai a go, but I am pleased to conclude that I’m so glad I did. The food here is delightfully fresh tasting and not shy of flavour or authenticity – we ventured in as a group of three and because we were tempted by so much of the menu we ordered a selection to share (a manoeuvre I’d recommend).

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I feel I must also comment that the staff here are so accommodating and ready to take fire from guests who don’t really know much about Thai food – this enabled us to choose accordingly, leaving us extremely pleased. If you yourself are not familiar with Thai food, I would highly recommend opting for the classic Pad Thai, because here they guarantee an exemplary first time try.

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What’s more is that the venue itself is cushy, decorated with delightful Thai treats like mini Buddhas and cultural wall art.

// Give them a go //

If you’re like me and have unfortunately encountered some shaky experiences in Swindon, I hope I have been able to comfort you with some faith and enthusiasm (as well as alternatives to barricading yourself in at home). I am confident in suggesting you try out some of my selected favourites should you find yourself in the local area.

Essentially the rule is to stay up town and avoid the restaurant chains like our infamous teenage pregnancy trend – apparently this is now under control, but unfortunately the same cannot be said for our apparent love of unimpressive cheap eats. Although I have no intention of settling in Swindon, I’m glad that for the time that I am here the town is showing signs of progression.

// If you take a chance on some of my recommendations, I’d love to hear your thoughts! //

Pineapple Carving

So apparently this year people have turned from the traditional and gone for the more exotic this halloween and I couldn’t resist giving it a go myself.

A new hipster craze? Daring to be different? New and exciting? Whatever way you may look at it, I’m all for it. I’m really not a festive person – I’m a fully fledged grinch at 24 – so  personally I’m embracing the new trend. For you traditionalists, look at it as a pumpkin in fancy dress.

What really convinced me that this was the way to go this year is when I saw all the pictures of people pumpkin picking – a truly lovely sight and wonderful family day out for sure – and then I realised most of the pumpkins’ “insides” will be binned. Don’t get me wrong, I know many people that produce delicious autumnal soups and salads with the leftover pumpkin, but I also know way more people that chuck it in the waste. What did you do with your pumpkin?

I know it’s not traditional, and it most likely won’t catch on but I insist you try it out! Hell, because it’s not traditional, it doesn’t even have to be done at Halloween – this guy would be a great addition to most parties.

Pros for the pineapple:

  • eat while you carve
  • it’s sticky but unlike the pumpkin I’m alright licking it off my fingers
  • not as messy as the pumpkin – it’s really easy and quick to carve
  • it’s great if you’re like me and prefer to keep the fear factor down to a minimum
  • it’s livened up my Monday with a pineapple project
  • kind of looks like a Mexican wrestler
  • more people eat pineapple than they do pumpkins
  • …and lets not forget the obvious: FRESH PINEAPPLE JUICE!

If that hasn’t convinced you, it’s also great… if you like Piña Coladas.
For this all you need is:

  • the leftover pineapple
  • white rum
  • sugar (hardly any)
  • coconut milk/cream
  • a blender
  • ice
  • strainer (optional)

Measurements are varied, but essentially all you do is blend, shake, and pour. It’s all very simple and (trusting your mixology skills) delicious! Granted, having been a bartender I had the upper hand and was quite pleased with mine. Furthermore this can also be made virgin style – everybody benefits from this trending kind of carving!

// ¿dónde está mi calabaza? //

 

Review: The Hop Inn

// Where: 7 Devizes Road, Old Town, Swindon //

It’s a casual Sunday afternoon in Swindon, and to my surprise, a lovely one at that. After two cups of coffee and some light reading, I left Darkroom Espresso, met a friend, and we made our way up Victoria Rd.

Unfortunately Swindon town venues do not often accommodate these rare sunny afternoons – it’s difficult to find a harmonious balance between outdoor space and character in this area. Nevertheless, it’s the last day of the weekend – I want a cold beer and a bite to eat.

For Old Town, The Hop Inn introduces something more unique and unobtrusive compared to most of the residents on Wood Street. The majority of the bars in this area pride themselves on 2-4-1 cocktails, however this progressive nook on Devizes Rd offers a versatile range of craft ales and lager.

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The bar itself may be small but it does not lack character or an impressive display of beverages. Much like a snug, there is a charming cabin quality embodied by the log fire, exposed brick wall, and wooden bar. In contrast to this rustic feel, the restricted space has been opened by light pastel colours, large windows, and minimal wall art -it’s cosy, but not cramped.

If you’re too spoilt for choice, or unfamiliar with the products, talk to the bartenders. Friendly, and knowledgeable, the staff are happy to recommend and explain the drinks menu. Whether you’re after something fruity, light, hoppy, or uncomplicated, the staff will always find something that’s right for you and your tastebuds.

Having heard about the Hop’s new stone-baked additions, I found myself without hesitation pursuing their modest menu of freshly made pizzas.

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We go for no.9, Prosciutto: parma ham, parmesan, tomato, mozzarella, rocket, and balsamic glaze. The pizzas have few toppings, however they do not lack quality or fantastic flavour – simplistic, and understated, the chef is straightforward and resouceful with his culinary skills. A few slices in and the maker himself approaches us for the verdict. Mouths full, we earnestly attempt to convey our satisfaction, and as he should be, he is pleased- as pizzas go, this stone baked treat is light, fresh and tasty.

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When visiting The Hop, especially at the weekend, do be advised that seating space is limited, and for good reason. Don’t get me wrong, Swindon has plenty of pubs and bars to visit, however if you’re not after a Carlsberg, Stella, or Kopparberg, The Hop accommodates Swindon’s niche market for those who appreciate and have a thirst for interesting and unique beverages. All the same, if you’re not an ale or beer drinker, you are not without options – there is an extensive range of wines, ciders, whiskey and gin on offer.

Unlike ordinary pub chains, this venue is distinct and understated – the owners have done well here to combine honest intentions with contemporary demands. Whether it’s a casual brunch or a cushty evening out, The Hop is the place to migrate to this coming winter.

 

Review: Cox and Baloney’s Tearoom & Bar

// Where: 182-184 Cheltenham Rd, Bristol //

It was my friend’s birthday last week and having just moved to Bristol she fancied doing something a little different. Being the first of our friendship circle to turn 25, she opened the gateway elegantly with afternoon tea and prosecco at Cox and Baloney’s Tearoom & Bar.

What appeared at first to be a small cake shop on Cheltenham Road in Bristol, transformed into a marvellous restaurant filled with ladies lunching. Vintage, with modern touches, the venue boasts a variety of mix-match trinkets, crockery and furniture – all eagerly anticipating admiration from their guests.

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The menu offers a selection of lunch time treats which are perfect for groups of all sizes. Most of the girls opt for Lily’s Afternoon Tea with a glass of Prosecco (£22.50) and they are delighted to be presented with an elegant stand displaying a selection of sandwiches, cakes and scones. Moreover, despite the back room hosting 3 large tea parties (including a hen do), the attention to detail does not falter.

I myself, not a fan of scones, go for a salmon and cream cheese sandwich which is handsomely displayed in triangles and accompanied by crisps and a side salad (£4.50). The rest of the sandwiches on the menu maintain a British continuity from beef and horseradish, to somerset brie and cranberry sauce.

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The staff, attentive and accommodating, frequent the tables to replenish and offer drinks – they’re informative but not overbearing which generates a homely atmosphere. As expected, Cox and Baloney’s offer a wide range of tea from your Grandma’s classic to something more fruity and herbal.

Tearoom & Bar indeed, this venue transcends from day into night effortlessly – although only visiting for lunch, I am completely captivated by the rest of the menu which offers a range of cocktails, wine and chic sharing platters. I will certainly be returning to try out their mixed platter of local meats and cheeses, as well as the tea-infused gin cocktails. Furthermore I am equally intrigued by their breakfast and brunch menu which, much like the decor, is humble and quaint.

// Don’t be late for tea! //

Sweet Potato Fries/Wedges

I had some sweet potatoes left over from my Carrot & Coriander Soup so the only thing left to do was make some bangin’ fries/wedges.

This recipe is so easy to do, I promise! They’ll take about 35/40 minutes in the oven at 200° – I use this time to get everything else into check, so it works splendidly for me.

You’ll need:

  • Sweet potatoes (quantity dependent on mouths to feed)
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Mixed herbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 mixing bowl
  • 1 baking tray

Onwards…

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  1. Pre-heat oven
  2. Wash the potatoes but leave the skins on
  3. Chop them up into strips (you’ll understand my fries vs wedges dilemma)
  4. Place into the mixing bowl and add the olive oil, paprika, mixed herbs and salt & pepper, and yeah, mix
  5. Whack them onto the baking tray (I tend to sprinkle a little extra of the seasoning on too) and get them in the oven
  6. Every now and then give them a shuffle, but when time’s up…
  7. Serve!

To be honest you can use whatever seasoning you fancy, but I will always recommend paprika on them!

What you should be left with is some nice crispy skins and soft sweet potato. BOOM!

Enjoy!

 

Baked Egg in a Hole

Fancied something different this morning!

I used to make this when I was younger because I thought it was the coolest thing. Turns out, still pretty cool.

As I made this before work I have demonstrated the simplest and quickest way to get this breakfast done with no messin’ about.

You’ll need:

  • 1 egg
  • Butter
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 medium sized round glass (for cutting)
  • 1 baking tray
  • Salt & pepper

All you need to do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200° / 180° Fan
  2. Grease your baking tray with butter
  3. Using the edge of the glass, press into the middle of the bread and cut a hole
  4. Butter the bread (I recommend on both sides as it can end up dry)
  5. Place the bread on the baking tray and crack the egg into the hole
  6. Simply put in the oven for roughly 15 minutes
  7. Take out and season with salt & pepper

I was quite rushed this morning, so my pictured end result is without seasoning! You do not wanna forget that salt & pepper!

Enjoy!

Carrot & Coriander Soup

I am starting this week healthy (and hopefully it’ll end that way too…)

Carrot and coriander soup is a classic, and I’ve added a few of my personal favourites in this one!

I used:

  • Roughly 450g of carrots
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1-2 handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion
  • Garlic cloves (I used 3)
  • A pinch of salt & pepper, paprika, nutmeg & mixed herbs
  • Less than half a chilli (depending if you like the fire – add to your liking)
  • 1-2 tsp of olive oil
  • 1l vegetable stock
  • Blender (I use a hand one, but a processor works too)
  • 1 large saucepan
  • Some bread and butter on the side (optional)

 

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Now:

  1. Get everything peeled and chopped (I crushed the garlic)
  2. Heat olive oil in pan
  3. Add the onion, and when slightly softened, add the chilli
  4. Get all the herbs in (don’t forget to stir away)
  5. Whack in the potato and garlic
  6. Get the kettle on and allow everything to soften on a low heat
  7. Once soft, add the carrots and stock, then bring to the boil
  8. When bubbling away, lower the heat and allow to simmer for around 20 mins with a lid on
  9. Every now and then give it all a stir
  10. Time’s up! Blend it all together to your preferred consistency
  11. Serve up, and enjoy!

As per usual I made a little extra, and that’s lunch sorted tomorrow!

Also if you prefer a thicker soup, then simply use less water.

Enjoy!

 

Simple, slutty bagel

I can rarely buy bagels because they just go, pretty much instantly. Needless to say, they won’t last the week. When I do dare to invest, here’s what I go for at lunch…

You will need:

  1. 1 red onion and chive bagel (I go for New York Bakery Co.)
  2. Spinach
  3. Ham
  4. Cheddar cheese

Simply:

  1. Cut the bagel in half, and grill on both sides until lightly toasted
  2. Put cheese on both of the slices, then whack under the grill until dripping
  3. Take the bagel out of the grill, onto a plate and put in the ham, then spinach
  4. Whack them together, NOM BEAUTIFUL

For a little difference, try mozzarella with ham, or change the ham for salami, and spinach for watercress. I personally don’t use butter but you’re more than welcome to if it so suits you.

Also try fiery chilli pesto on one slice and original hummus on the other, then do the same as said before, and whack in the salami and watercress (my personal favourite).

Enjoy!