Expat Living

living room

Home Update with Amara


Regular readers will know that we underwent home renovations last autumn/winter. Now that the work is mostly done, and I’ve bought 90% of the furniture needed, I can now think about accessories. Last month, I was invited to an interiors event hosted by the lovely folks from Amara. And I was beyond excited to get some styling tips from the pros so that I could update my home. So of course I had to share my new found knowledge with you (as well as show you how I’ve styled a few products from Amara).

Our day began with a talk and Q&A with Sam Hood. Sam co-founded Amara with her husband Andrew in 2005. While it began as an interior design business, Amara then added a shop filled with amazing home accessories before becoming an online marketplace for amazing interiors. Amara now offers a wide array of beautiful pieces on their site, from home accessories to furniture to clothing. And they even offer design inspiration on their site for amateurs such as myself.

Then Elle Taylor, the senior stylist from Amara, showed us some ways to organise and style our shelves. I tend to just stick things on a shelf or cabinet, but there are so many ways to add texture and depth and made your home look like it was styled by an expert. The rule of odds is one way. Group items (from vases to prints) in an odd number. I realised that one of the issues I’ve had with my living room artwork is that there is a grouping of six. I think one more item would make it perfect.

This amber vase is one of my Amara gifts. I think if you have pretty vases then you don’t need to spend a fortune on flowers. And this vase is such a statement piece, you don’t even need flowers. It would look lovely grouped together with other vases. We got shutters installed in our home in February. I still had the curtains up in the living room as I wasn’t sure if we should keep them. Sam kindly noted that we had to choose between curtains and shutters. So we took down the curtains, and it has made the room look even brighter. Thanks Sam!

My bedside table was looking a bit boring, so my new Tota glass jar has added a bit of elegance to it. This forest green jar really works with my green-ish bedroom. The only problem is, ever since I realised that the jar was treated with lacquer (so it can be used to hold food), I keep imagining filling it with Skittles or Smarties. Not very dignified, but oh so delicious.

And last but not least, I have added some quirky-cool attitude to my doorway. The doormat is one of the first things that people notice when they come into your home, and a leopard doormat is full of animal attraction. We still need to do the flooring downstairs and get a new front door, but for now the doormat has added some much needed flair.

I think I have learned quite a bit from Amara. I am being more thoughtful as I group items and decorate my house. Another great tip is waiting to buy your accessories. Some of us get so excited when we move into a new home or renovate and you buy loads of cushions and bits. But it is best to wait until you paint and have furniture as your colour schemes and style may change. I am now thinking of my colour palette and ways to make my house stylish but still functional. I can’t wait to use more of the tips as I continue updating my home. If you want more inspiration, have a look at A Baby on board and The Joy of Five for their favourite tips from the day.…


Mummy Makeover with Regatta

I live in dresses and leggings. And even though I have many outdoor adventures, I am not dressed like I am about to go creeping through tall grass or stomping in the mud. In September, Regatta invited me (and three other mummy bloggers) to a style masterclass with Vogue Williams. Vogue is a model and TV personality, and is the new face of the Regatta AW16 Heritage collection. Vogue and Regatta helped me find a sportier look for my weekends.

Regatta considers me to be a ‘Weekend Explorer’ because my family and I spend our weekends walking and discovering new areas. I like my clothes to be practical and warm. This is all true, but I never seem to be dressed appropriately for our walks. I normally wear my trainers which always leave me with wet toes. And my winter coat is made of wool rather than a fabric that will keep me dry.

Vogue showed me some lovely fleeces which I can wear with a nice cosy (and shower-proof) coat, as well as some cute welly boots. And I can’t believe that after 14 years living in London, I have my first pair of wellies. I feel like I finally look like the ‘Weekend Explorer’ that I am. I also got my make-up done (I am normally just a lipstick kind of gal) and my hair straightened, so I looked like a very elegant explorer.

My daughter Moozles was at the masterclass, and she was thrilled with my makeover. She loved the burgundy coat and the wellies, though she did think I could do with some sequins. Maybe at the next makeover? 😉 Have a look at this video to see how the other mummy bloggers and I transformed.…

Restaurant food

Amazing Food, And Views, at Kojawan

Dining with views of London is kind of having a moment isn’t it? Especially in London. Why have a boring meal looking at your partner/friends when you can be looking at gorgeous views of the city?! So when my chef friend Omar Romero Quezada told me he was opening up a restaurant on the 23rd floor of the Hilton London Metropole, I couldn’t wait to try it out. A couple of weeks ago, when the kids were staying with my in-laws for the weekend, Husband and I headed to Kojawan for a long, boozy lunch.

Kojawan is a futuristic restaurant that serves Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese fusion. I love Japanese food, but am new to Korean and have no idea about Taiwanese cuisine. So I was a bit nervous about the menu. Not for me, but for Husband who prefers a roast dinner to sushi any day of the week (in fact, he doesn’t eat any fish whether it is cooked or raw). It turns out that I needn’t have worried. There is loads of delicious food, no matter what tickles your taste buds.

First of all, we did not eat any of the mains. We shared booze food, starters and desserts. Booze food is basically the snacks you would get if you are just going to Kojawan for drinks. But they also make a great compliment to the starters. We enjoyed the crunchy cabbage, crispy chicken, zucchini fries (which are courgette chips, and they are amazing) and hot cricket bombs. Yes, those kinds of crickets. The cricket bombs are basically fried cheese balls with crickets inside, plus there are some crickets on the side that you can sprinkle on top.

Next, we tried the rice sandwich (like a crab sushi), pork belly and octopus. Octopus is one of those things I always order when I see on a menu, and this one did not disappoint. I could have easily eaten the entire plate, but I shared, reluctantly. Octopus is not to everyone’s taste, but if you like seafood then you should give it a try.

Then it was time for dessert. The thing is, whenever I normally go to a Japanese or Korean restaurant, I don’t get pudding. I have tried before, but I always feel like I’ve wasted some calories. And even though I felt pretty full, Omar insisted we try some items from the ‘sweet spot’ section of the Kojawan menu. So we finished our meal with a pantako, mini slushy bubble teas and the taipei block. And honestly, they were all really lovely. The pantako is a fresh and fluffy pancake while the taipei block is a fudgy peanut butter cake.

I cannot say one bad or mediocre word about the food as everything was gorgeous. And happily, the drinks did not let the food down. Besides fab cocktails creations, I was thrilled to try a pint of Kirin Ichiban that had a frozen head. I am not a big beer-drinker, but I really enjoyed this. I also found a new love – plum sake. So delicious and I could easily drink this all day long. And if you are a fan of wine and cocktails, Kojawan offer a 2-4-1 Happy Hour everyday from 11.30pm to 12.30am.

Normally such great views come with a high price, and to be honest Kojawan was not cheap. Though it feels better knowing that Kojawan pay their staff a fair wage (enough so that tipping is not even required). So, if you’re planning to go to a high-end London restaurant that offers amazing views of the city, then you won’t be disappointed with Kojawan. The decor is cool (like you’re on a Japanese spaceship), the food is delicious and the service is attentive (and already paid for).


Checklist christmas

Christmas Preparations – November checklist

Don’t worry, this won’t be one of those posts where the writer/blogger boasts how they are all ready for Christmas one month before the big day. I am not one of those people who start shopping for Christmas in July, or even September. For me, Christmas preparations begin in November. That’s part of getting in the holiday spirit. I shop, I decorate, I watch crappy movies on the Christmas24 channel (by the way, I am totally addicted to the latter, don’t judge me). Then in December we get and decorate the tree, and attend lots of fun Christmas parties/events. So, I thought I would share some of the things I do in November so that December doesn’t feel too hectic.

Father Christmas


I find that if you visit Santa too close to Christmas Day, there’s a chance that your child will change their mind by then and it will be too late to get that gift. This weekend we’ll be visiting Lapland UK. We’ve never been before, but it looks amazing, especially with the huge amount of fake snow they’ve brought in (top photo). First of all, the children receive a personalised letter from Father Christmas, inviting them to Lapland UK. Once there, there’s a toy factory, ice-skating, biscuit-making with Mrs Claus and of course a meeting with the big guy. And Santa looks nice and fat. Last year we had two visits to Father Christmas (not counting one at pre-school and one at regular school). Both Santas were young and skinny, and I think one might have been a bit drunk. 🙁


I try and do at least half of my Christmas shopping in November (though many shops have great sales on the week before Christmas, which is when I buy any clothing gifts). But I try and get all the kids’ presents in November. Not only does it spread out the cost, but it makes you feel happy buying gifts for your loved ones, which is great for getting in the Christmas spirit. We also try and buy festive treats like mince pies, Christmas cakes and biscuits, panettone and alcohol in November to further cut down the costs in December. The only issue is that you must hide these things away or you will eat/drink everything before you get the chance to shared them with your loved ones. November is also a good time to order your Christmas grocery delivery, if you shop online. We once went grocery shopping on Christmas Eve as I heard you could find great deals. There were no deals, just a lot of frantic people. Lesson learned.

Family Photos


If you’re thinking of getting photo Christmas cards, or if you want to have photos to send to family with your Christmas cards, take the photos now. Either with a professional or on your own. Even if you don’t do anything with the photos, take them. Christmas Day always ends up being so busy that often we forget to take a family photo.

Christmas Outfits

Yes, it would be good to sort out your Christmas party outfit ahead of time. But I’m thinking about the kids. Last year I really wanted to get the kids matching Christmas pyjamas. This is not easy when you have children of the opposite gender, four years apart. Anyway, the cute pjs were out of stock last December, so I had to take whatever I could find in their sizes. Same goes for Christmas jumpers. Buy them NOW.


That’s it for my November Christmas Checklist. Anything you’d add? Are you all ready for Christmas? Or maybe you haven’t started? Or else you’re almost halfway done like me?…

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