Know Thyself

When you are trying to change career, you do a certain amount of naval-gazing. After all how can you make a decision about what you want to do in life if you don’t really know yourself; your likes, dislikes, motivators and fears. Aldous Huxley had a few words to say about this; ‘If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion.’ Deep.

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There are many ways of getting a better insight into you and what makes you tick. One of these is Myers Briggs. I hadn’t done one of these for ages and it was interesting to see that nothing has changed in the last 15 years or so. I’m a ESFP – Extrovert Sensing Feeling Perceiving (although I’m borderline ENFP). Interestingly, my husband is almost the complete opposite to me; he’s an INTP. Explanations of the various personality types can be found here or here.

On reading the explanations, I recognise a lot about myself; I am motivated by other people around me and love social occasions (even though I can be quite shy with a new group of people, I’m desperate to be part of things). This part particularly resonated with me;

‘(ESFP)’s disregard for standard procedures will take the form of passive resistance and ESFPs usually develop many skills to annoy the people they blame for their loss of liberty. ESFPs are prone to neglecting time-limits and situations requiring organized goals; under such circumstances, ESFPs will become bored and restless, and will quickly develop a feeling of emptiness.’

That basically describes me in my last job as an accountant!

I know there has been a lot of discussion about extroverts and introverts over the past few years; there’s even been a book written on the power of introverts (currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read). Like a lot of people I’m probably somewhere in the middle, with tendencies towards extroversion. I get energised by being around other people but I don’t necessarily like to be centre of attention.  I find working from home on my own difficult (although working in an office can also be a lonely experience, as I’ve discovered in past jobs).

I also had a proper explore of this blog.  Dilly-Tante has an interest in psychology (and has gone back to study it at postgraduate level at University). She has written a few posts on being a Scanner. It’s a term that’s been coined by Barbara Sher to describe a type of person that flits from one activity to another, never going deep enough to fully master it. I put my hand up to this one; I have the sewing machine and allotment books to prove it. I get very excited about new projects or ideas, but no-one would ever describe me as a ‘completer-finisher’.

There are also several websites and books which assist the career changer in finding their strengths. I did the online strengths survey on this website. And my top three strengths were: A Love of Learning (yep – see above), Curiosity and Humour. Now point me in the direction of a career that combines these strengths. Lowest in the list were Spirituality, Prudence and Perseverance.

None of this is going to change my life (or me). But I am enjoying a little delve into the world of self-knowledge and psychobabble. But maybe that’s because I’m a scanner?! And next week I’ll be exploring something different. Carp-fishing or jewellery-making perhaps…

Have you done a Myers Brigg test? Does it ring true?

The Year in Books: September

I didn’t get round to doing an August books post; as well as being in France for three weeks over the summer, my laptop went kaput the week before we went away. I’m not one for composing posts on my phone, so alas no #theyearinbooks for August.

My chosen book for the summer was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. And wow what a read. I loved it. It follows the life of Theo Decker, who is thirteen when tragedy strikes and his beloved mother is killed in a terrorist attack on an art museum. Theo’s life is torn apart by the explosion and he clings to the one thing that makes him feel connected to her; a small, captivating painting. The Goldfinch is heartbreaking (in the first section of the book, it’s all I could do to keep in the tears), funny (Boris is a brilliantly original character), and has some serious things to say about life’s big questions. But most of all, it’s fabulously entertaining, I could not put it down.

I also read Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell, as it seemed appropriate for the summer we were having. Again there were brilliantly drawn characters and I loved the details of family life in 1976. I also managed to fit in This Book Will Save Your Life by AM Homes. Having loved May We Be Forgiven, I wanted to give this one a go too. In many ways, the two books are quite similar; the main character is a flawed middle-aged man who is lost and looking for something more. It is also dark and very funny.

The Lowland2

For September, I’ve picked The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’ve read some brilliant books by Indian authors; stand-outs include A Fine Balance and The God of Small Things – I like a sobfest. I’ve never actually been to India (it’s pretty near the top of the list though), so it’s good to be visiting this part of the world in the pages of a book.

On the Radar: September

London design

 

Apart from a shiny new pencil case, what else does September have in store?

  • The London Design Festival kicks off on Saturday. There’s so much going on it’s almost overwhelming. So much to see, so little time. I love Confessions of a Design Geek’s guide to what’s happening all over London: makes it seem so much more achievable.
  • I for one, want to make the most of this glorious weather we are having at the moment. My parents get back from their summer in France, so we’ll be visiting them. They live close to Burnham Beeches. I’m yearning for a stomp in the woods. And perhaps a bit of blackberrying…
  • September is the month all the big cook books get released. Ottolenghi releases his second vegetarian offering, Plenty More on Thursday. I can’t wait to get stuck in.
  • It’s also Open House weekend coming up: a chance to visit some of the most iconic buildings in London. It’s too late to get on the ballot for 10 Downing Street now, but there loads of interesting places to visit.
  • And finally, a giant floating hippo has been floating up the Thames. I may try and catch a glimpse of him in his new home.

La Rentrée

In the words of Soul to Soul ‘Back to Life, Back to Reality’. *Fanfare*. I’m back. (I’m sure there’s another eighties pop song I could reference at this point, but I think I’ll leave it there).

France

So the holidays? We spent three weeks in France, eating as much cheese as is humanly possible. (Cut me and I bleed Camembert.) Drinking rosé in the sun. Sleeping under canvas (or in our case, a breathable, fire-resistant man-made fabric – I am forbidden to get one of those pretty bell-tents by my outdoorsy, practical husband). We stayed with friends and family – my parents have a place near the Pyrenees and one of my aunts and uncles spend half the year living near Montpellier. Fred swam to his hearts content – making massive improvements to his strokes. I became completely absorbed by the Goldfinch (what a fantastic summer read – #yearinbooks post to follow). Days drifted by, and turned into weeks. It felt like forever. And now it all seems so distant. Ah holidays….

Thud. We’re home. As much as I love being on holiday, I also love coming home: my mind full of plans and resolutions. For me, September is a bit like January without the cold weather, darkness and recrimination. It’s New Year lite. Time to sort my shizzle out, Obligatory healthy eating and 5:2 diet back in place. (One cannot eat all la fromage in France without the aftermath.) Time to get a job (eeek). It’s my fortieth next month (double eeeeek.)

Fred’s back at school today, so I’m hoping to get back into the blogging groove and perhaps be a bit more consistent with my posts. I’m aiming to keep the London posts, salads (and perhaps some more food – healthy eating and cook book obsession springs to mind), cafés and perhaps a bit more about the (ongoing) process of changing careers. It’s good to be back.

Cafe Culture: M1LK

M1LK in Balham is a popular place for weekend brunch. Whenever we’ve been in Balham on a Sunday, there’s always a long queue, obviously testament to M1LK’s ways with eggs. I took the opportunity to go mid-week for a spot of lunch. And I wasn’t disappointed. M1LK is a fantastic cafe.

M1lk

Appearance: M1LK is on a corner which means it’s blessed with windows on two of its three sides. This makes for a light and airy spaceThe mismatched vintage furniture and kitsch decoration is right up my street. I love me a neon sign. Outdoor tables on a pedestrianised street make it an attractive place for a pitstop on a sunny day.

Location: It’s in Balham. Back in the day, one of my closest friends lived in Balham. Let’s just say the last few years have been kind to this part of London. It’s definitely been gentrified. M1LK is just off the main road in Balham which means it has a slightly quieter outlook but benefits from the footfall.

Milk3

Menu: The menu is pure Antipodean cafe fodder. Interesting brunchy food using some more unusual ingredients. It’s on the pricey side of cafe food but the salad I had was delicious. (It was one of the specials – a beetroot, blackberry, goats curd and hazelnut salad…very ruby in its colour.)

Milk2

Clientele: The cafe was fairly busy on a weekday lunchtime. The clientele seemed to be fairly well heeled locals. There weren’t loads of mums with kids, which is surprising as this is a ‘nappy valley’ type area.

Coffee: As is befitting of an Antipodean cafe in London, coffee is taken seriously. My flat white was good.

Milk coffee

Overall: I’ve said this before but M1LK is my new favourite cafe in London. I loved the kitsch-chic interior and the menu was just the sort of thing I like to eat.

M1LK, 20 Bedford Hill, Balham

Hema3

Hema

Have you heard of Hema? It’s a Dutch shop that apparently supplies underpants to one in three boys back in Holland. However there’s more to Hema than smalls. They do a really good and reasonably priced range of home wares and stationery. And they’re opening shops in the UK. Hooray!

Hema4

According to their website, there are currently three shops in the UK, located in Victoria Station, Bromley and Kingston. Two of these happen to be convenient for me. And on my visits, I couldn’t resist buying a few things.

The goods on offer in Hema are bright and have a Scandi vibe. It reminded me a little of Tiger and Ikea. I was tempted by tea towels and stamps on my first visit. Here’s a picture of my spoils. I’ve got quite into making cards for all the birthday parties Fred gets invited to and I’m always on the look out for a new stamp to add to my collection. They do a good range of washi tape too.

Hema5

Second time round, I was in Bromley (not a shopping place I usually visit but it’s fairly close by and it has some good charity shops) and I came across Hema. This time I was tempted by the home wares and came away with a couple of green plates (£2 each!). I think they brought out the green of my broad bean fattoush perfectly!

broad bean fattoush 2

Inspired by Alexis’ holiday journal on Instagram, I also treated myself to a notebook. I think it’s rather dashing don’t you?

Notebook

Hema’s also great for craft supplies, party props and cook ware. There’s also food on offer (I love Dutch biscuits) and cheap make-up if that’s your thing. Although there are only three shops at the moment, according to the interweb there are plans afoot for more. They are also going to set themselves up online. Are you ready to get Hema’d?

Broad Bean Fattoush

I have been drowning in broad beans. Each week I get a Riverford vegbox and recently they have been rather heavy on the ‘ole broad beans. I’ve been podding and shelling manically – they’re pretty labour intensive, but worth it in the end.

And yes, it’s another riff on Middle-Eastern flavours. I can’t get enough of them. I would love to go there at some point in the future, but given the heartbreaking events in that part of the world I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Broad bean fattoush

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 250g podded broad beans, cooked and shelled
  • 1 little gem lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
  • A handful of rocket
  • 2 pitta breads
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 5 radishes, chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 75g feta cheese
  • Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Dressing

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 leaves mint, chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • salt and pepper
  1. Sprinkle the pitta breads with the sumac and crisp up in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes
  2. Make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a jar and giving it a good shake.
  3. Combine the salad ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Take crisp pitta and tear into bite size pieces, and put on the salad.
  5. Sprinkle the feta on the salad, using your fingers.
  6. Add the dressing to the salad and mix.
  7. Serve and enjoy.

Serves 4

broad bean fattoush 2

 

 

Cafe Culture: Esters

I mentioned in my last post that I would love to set up a cafe. At the moment, I’m very much in the research stages. This involves visiting cafes and having a coffee or maybe lunch (radical research plan, huh?) This blog is as good a place as any to write down my observations.

Esters2

First up Esters in Stoke Newington. ‘Why this cafe?’ I hear you cry. Well I‘ve been to this place in a previous guise and I knew the couple who set up Fred and Fran (now known as Esters). I liked it then, so I wanted to see what the new owner had done.  The previous owners have moved to Australia (where they are living in Bondi and making us jealous on Facebook). It was also an excuse to visit Stoke Newington…they are some lovely independent shops in Stokey.

Esters3

Location: On a residential street in Stoke Newington. It’s on a parade of shops and there’s also a pub but midweek, when I visited, it was not exactly a main thoroughfare.

Appearance: Pared back – wood and concrete. Pleasing on the eye.

Esters4

Food: A simple menu focusing on simple and seasonal salady and brunch type dishes. Unusual enough for you to want to pay for the food. I would have eaten everything on the menu. (They weren’t serving food when I was there).

Esters5

Esters

Coffee: They obviously take it seriously here. There were boards up telling customers where the beans were from. They have a big coffee machine. Size is everything when it comes to coffee machines (I have no idea if this is true or not, but I do note that the cafes that are serious about coffee all have whoppers).

Other drinks: A range of teas, fresh lemonade, chilled soft drinks.

Clientele: It was fairly empty when I visited (about 4.30 on a Thursday). The cafe was just about to shut. I can imagine it’s attractive to mums who need a caffeine fix, homeworkers, those who want a nice lunch. Local Stokey types would love it, I’m sure.

Conclusion: This is a fantastic neighbourhood cafe, with good coffee and an interesting menu. Definitely one to look at for inspiration.

(All pics taken by me except the one of the food (I didn’t eat there). This is from their website.)

Esters, 55 Kynaston Road, London, N16 0EB

A Blog Hop

I was rather chuffed to be asked to take part in this blog hop, firstly by lovely Lia from Tangerine Canteen and then by my fellow Londoner, Alexis from Something I Made, both are constant sources of blogspiration for me. The requests came at a good time. I was feeling rather disenchanted last week, wondering where I was heading with this whole blogging malarkey. It’s nice to feel connected.

1. What have been the doings/makings/scribblings at your desk/making table in the last week?  

I don’t have a desk or making table. (Can you hear the tiny violins, yet?) So I do all my writing sat on the sofa with a laptop on my knees. Probably not the best for the health of my lower back… I generally sit down to blog in the evening once my son is in bed and dinner has been cooked.

This is the view from the sofa…(you can see I have a mid-century obsession going on).

Living Room

I’m also in the kitchen a lot. Food is a big passion. I like eating it and I like cooking it. I love posting my monthly salad recipe so I’m trying to think of something suitably summery to post up for July. But my blog isn’t really a food blog (and my photography and food styling skills aren’t really up to the standard set on the internet), so I post a lot about places I’ve been and things I’ve done. (Which means I try to go and do things in London and beyond). I’ve done a few things recently that I need to post about (camping and an exhibition at the Barbican).

2. Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (influences, heroes/who, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)? 

I find inspiration everywhere. I love books, magazines, weekend supplements, cook books. Instagram is also awash with amazingness. And of course let us not forget blogs; food blogs, lifestyle blogs, interiors blogs. You name it, I’ll read it.

Like Alexis, I get tons of inspiration from wandering around London. It doesn’t have to be an exhibition. One of my favourite things to do is head to an area I don’t go to much and have a wander. There are always fantastically creative shops and cafes to inspire. I based the bathroom in my last flat on one I’d been to in a restaurant (Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea in case you’re wondering). Restaurants often have the best interior design. The menus can be pretty inspiring too.

tiles

I also love to travel. We’re trying to save for major work on our house, but seem to find ourselves booking holidays instead. Last year it was Copenhagen, France, Italy and Paris. This year we’re being slightly more restrained and ‘only’ going to France and New York for my significant birthday in October. I just love visiting these places and am often dreaming about the next trip.

I’m in a bit of a crux career-wise at the moment. I decided to leave my very dull career two years ago. I’m a trained chartered accountant. Anyone who knows me would know that this was a bad career choice. (I’m far too haphazard for accountancy). I’ve had a few jobs in different fields since then..However the ‘what next?’ question is looming large. I’m nearly forty and I still don’t know what I want to do. Argh! I’m a tiny bit obsessed with the idea of setting up a cafe at the moment (I can almost see my husband shaking his head at this point) so I’ve been visiting some cool cafes to see what works and what doesn’t. I may make a series out of it on the blog. My cafe would be heavily salad oriented, of course.

M1lk

 

(This is my new favourite cafe, M1lk in Balham).

3. How important is being creative to you & how do you blend this with your work/life/family balance?

I’ve never really thought of myself as a particularly creative person. At school I took the academic route (although I did enjoy creative writing and was good at it). I was always good at exams and went to a school which prized academic achievement. Then I went into a career that wasn’t creative. Who wants a creative accountant??! But I’m starting to realise that I do have a spark of creativity. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas for cooking, interiors and small businesses (my last boss thought this was a bad thing as my mind wasn’t on the job. ) It’s the realisation I struggle with. I need to slow down a little.. I expect things to happen immediately. Some things take time.

This blog was started because I wanted to explore other interests I had. I was stuck in a boring job and needed something else. Now I no longer have that job but the blog is still important to me. Most of my ideas don’t make it onto here though. I need to change that.

I’ve worked full-time and managed to blog, so I suppose I can find the time when I want to. But family life is my priority (and if I can get a blog-post out of it, so be it).

And now it’s my turn to pass on this blog hop. 

I’d like to nominate Angela from Little Apple Tree. I had the pleasure of meeting her at Blogtacular –  it’s always nice to meet an actual person in real life. Her blog is a  unique mix of craft, cake and Dr Who. And she lives in Bristol (I love Bristol). That city has a habit of producing some really interesting blogs.

The Goldfinch2

The Year in Books: July

Well it had to happen. I’ve had a run of books that I’ve enjoyed immensely. I could not fault Americanah or Burial Rites and looked forward to getting lost in them. My books for June, not so much. Apple Tree Yard was not an easy read. The words were fine, it was the subject matter I struggled with. It did not start well; the style of writing jarred with me and I did not especially like the main character. (It is written in the first person and she came across as rather knowing and dare I say it, smug). I don’t want to give away the plot, but something dramatic and rather harrowing happens in the middle of the book and then the rest of the story hangs off this. As a thriller, I expected there to be twists and turns but I could almost see them coming in Apple Tree Yard, I’m not averse to a good page-turner and was gripped by Gone Girl. Unfortunately I didn’t like this one half as much.

Secondly I read The Circle. Again it didn’t start well but it did get going in the second half of the book. The main character, Mae just seemed rather wet, but I now realise that this was key to what happens later on. The workings of the Circle, a large American internet company (an amalgamation of all the companies that dominate our online lives today..Google, Paypal, Twitter, Facebook…) did not seem that sinister at the beginning, in fact some of it was very funny. But slowly the Circle’s machinations became weirder and more intrusive. Transparency is key. There is no part of everyday life that can remain private. Small cameras are hooked up everywhere for people to watch. Anyone who disagrees with this way of doing things is hounded (with tragic consequences). The scary thing about ‘The Circle’ is that all of these developments seemed plausible. It could happen in the future. It certainly made me think about the way I use social media.

The Goldfinch

My summer read is going to be The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s a thick one, so I’m not promising it will be finished by the end of July. I’m sure I will have time for another book before the summer is out though, so I’ll be checking out the other ‘The Year in Books’ entries for some ideas.