28 October 2015

Hello + Goodbye


First a hello.

Michael, Jon's cousin came to visit us again this week. It was so lovely to have come round-- not just because he is family because he's a deep thinker and we had some awesome conversations.

We also explored the Egyptians tombs and Grecian marbles of the British Museum. Our goodbyes seem to sneak up on us faster than usual.

It hasn't just been with Michael either, but with everyone and everything.


Yesterday was my last day with the children I fill-in nanny for (I care for them when their regular nanny has the day off).

With a pair of them, we discussed that I'd be leaving for a couple of months. I asked two of them, if they had any advice for me (particularly Tilly, whose been to Australia several times already).

"Well, she said, "I don't... but my regular nanny gave me daddy some good advice."
"Oh? What's that?"
"She told him to lose his fat, otherwise he'll get sick and die."

Solid advice from the nanny front. I'll make sure I keep that close to my heart.


Anyway, we leave tomorrow and it is a mad house trying to pack and organise things so that the last-minute subleter will have everything they need. *sigh* stress stress stress!

But all will be well tomorrow when we finally take off!

25 October 2015

Australian Checklist

Everyone... THE VISA ARRIVED!

Praise!! Honestly, I thought I might be stuck here husbandless for the next months, but as luck would have it, the BRP card arrived yesterday.

Now I finally feel like I can let myself get excited about Australia. I decided to take a little trip round Instagram, and see what is in store... I made a list, which is mostly for myself, but I thought I'd share in case others find themselves in a similar situation.

Brisbane

We will primarily be living in Brisbane, so the majority of my list will be the adventures within the area around the city. Here's my Brisband list:

1) Pet a Koala

Apparently in New South Wales it is illegal to hold a Koala (due to the fact that people can pass disease to the animals). Luckily, we won't be in New South Wales! So, bring on the cuddles.


2) Visit the Botanical Garden at Mt. Cootha

It's tropical, lush and has an amazing view of Brisbane. Definitely a must.

A photo posted by Georgia Low (@georgialow) on

3) See a Kangaroo in the Wild

Jon's new boss told me I could hop into one of the company trucks and ride shotgun with one of the drivers down to Sydeny. Then I'd see plenty of kangaroos... probably as roadkill. :( I determined to see one a live and jumping.


4) Check out the Museums

I love love LOVE aboriginal dot painting-- not just aesthetically, but the deep and beautiful spiritual symbolism behind them is so wonderful! I am very excited to works at the source.

A photo posted by Sarrita King (@sarritaking) on

5) Go Snorkeling + Feed a Dolphin

Off the coast of Brisbane there is an island (Moreton Island) with shipwrecks you can go snorkeling in. There is a special area where you can feed the dolphins.

6) Go on the Sky Walk in the Rainforest

About a 50 minute drive south of Brisbane is a rainforest with these amazing rope bridges you can walk out on to! Jon is going to have a heart attack, but I can't wait!


A photo posted by elligoesoz (@elligoesoz) on

4) Stroll around Southbank

There is a stretch in Brisbane, that apparently nears beachy-city perfection. With lovely flower covered walkways, a mini beach, and all the amazing shops and restaurants you can imagine, I'm excited to go exploring.


A photo posted by @vcmochilando on

5) See the Skyline at Night

When I first found out we'd be going to Brisbane, I (naturally) googled it and was baffled by what a gorgeous skyline it has. Why have I never really heard of this place? A night walk to capture the beautiful cityscape is a must.


6) Visit the Gold Coast

Just south of Brisbane is a stretch of coastline known as the Gold Coast. It is arguably the best stretch of beach in the world and is a surfers dream. Nature has some pretty stunning moments in this area and I mean to capture a few of them on film.




We plan on taking a few weekend trips. The only one we have settled on right now is Sydney, so here's a few things on Sydney list:

1) See the Sydney Opera House

This one has been on my bucket list since I was about 8. Hello beautiful, I'm comin for you.

A photo posted by Arief Sunarto (@ariefsunarto) on

2) See the Nutcracker Ballet in Sydney Opera House

This is a Christmas must. Period.


3) Eat one of these milkshakes

I think it is pretty clear that that hope for a sexy beach body just won't be possible when there are little glories like this to eat.

A photo posted by @enjoy.yr.life on

Have I missed anything? Probably... if you have recommendations, please let me know below! I'm very eager to learn anything and everything there is to see...

22 October 2015

Rainy London + Startups

rainy london
Rainy days are some of my favourite days in London.

It's not oppressive, like you might think. The clouds are so high up, that sometimes it feels like maybe the sky was meant to be grey instead of blue. 

I especially love the way rainy days paint the city in this soft milky light. It make everything feel so cozy-- like God has just covered the sky in a blanket of goose down.

On days like this, I just like to wander... after the rain has died down (mostly to save my camera), I just like to explore. 

London lifestyle bloggerLondon lifestyle bloggerLondon lifestyle bloggerLondon lifestyle blogger

After exploring, I went to see Jon at his new office. Valtegra has an office in the City, but their "engine room" is in Hammersmith. It's definitely a different vibe. At Jon's old office, it felt like everyone more or less dressed the same, and people sort of had the 9 to 5 mentality. Things felt sleek, stable, predictable.

At his new place, you can tell the building is full of start ups. There is this buzz of hungry excitement everywhere... guys wearing tight, trendy suits and converse shoes pack into the elevator next to brainy, bearded hipsters. The potential for success feels infinite. 

I know Jon's pretty excited. Valtegra's relatively short existence, thus far, as been pretty eventful, with lots of wins right out of the gate. Hopefully we'll see a few more in the work Jon will be doing down under.
  London lifestyle blogger

19 October 2015

Scents

On Friday, I walked to the library with Lauren (one of my old students), and this blast of October air hit us on the way out the door.

It was that cool, enveloping air that smells of dying leaves and pumpkins and maturing. I stood there for a second,  just taking in how poetic it all felt, when Lauren gasped.

"Miss Jessica! You know what?"
"What?"
"I just realised, it smells just like YOU out here!"

So, apparently, I smell like autumn.

It is funny how smell can trigger moments and memories. London has a very specific scent-- it's this complex mixture of smoke, rain on stone, and something faintly sweet, like lilacs. I don't know how they could possibly bottle it, but if they could, I'd bring it with me to Australia and spray it everywhere so it smelled like home.

I've been trying to squeeze a few of my favourite things in, since I know we'll be leaving soon. 

We spent the other day in South Kensington at the Farmer's Market (while sporting this rather patriotic jumper my MIL sent me + a skirt I made all by myself!)


I bought myself an outrageously overpriced pumpkin... and Jon, a chocolate brownie.


Later, we went up to Barraco, our favourite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, to throw ourselves a goodbye party. So many people came! It was wonderful...

My brother, Kevin, also got his mission call letter to serve as a missionary for our church. He'll be going to the San Salvador, El Salvador mission just before Christmas! I'm so darn excited for him. I've no doubt he'll do amazingly well.


Also, we've also been fighting with the home office about my new visa. Although Jon's has arrived, my biometric residency card (which has my visa on it) has been stuck in limbo. I'm not sure what we'll do if it doesn't go through... prayers would be much appreciated in that regard.

Today though, I've noticed that I've been less stressed about the visa situation. I've decided to attribute it to the fact that my flat smells like chicken soup and vanilla candles. Those two things together make everything smell homey and delicious and like everything is going to work out.

16 October 2015

Odney Bridal Shoot

Guys, the photos from my wedding were a bit of a disaster. I seriously spent half my budget on this photographer and she pretty much blew it. There were a few salvageable shots (which I hold dear), but she didn't even shoot them in RAW (gah!), so I couldn't go back and edit the bad ones.

Odney wedding

This has to be one of my biggest regrets about my wedding day. So, when Mark Nortcliffe asked me if we wouldn't mind doing a bridal shoot together, I think I literally screamed yes.

Mark had photographed us before, and I knew he was amazing, but my respect for him jumped to new heights on this shoot. Here is a behind the scenes look at our day:


First of all, styled shoots are a nightmare and a half to put together (I discuss a bit of what goes in to them here). You have to juggle about twelve different vendors and pray that everyone shows up and hope that none of your equipment breaks down. This particular shoot, which was done for the Odney Club (an exclusive John Lewis employee resort), was larger than most of the ones I did, and Mark carried it out effortlessly.

Secondly, when I found out about the shoot, the one caveat I gave him was that I wanted a modest wedding dress. I know I have a lot of young Mormon girls reading this blog and its important to me to show that it is possible to be stylish, while still sticking to their standards. I knew this was a big ask, and-- if I'm being perfectly honest-- I didn't think he'd be able to do it.

However, he not only found one, but found TWO gorgeous MODEST wedding dresses for me to model. Unless you've been a bride (or even prom dress buyer) who has had to traverse the strapless evening gown market, you have no idea how insanely difficult this is. Mark, you are seriously my new hero.

Another champion of the day was Natalie, my hair and makeup artist. Never have my lips looked so big and beautiful!
1940s hair and makeupRockabilly hair and makeupVintage Styled Bridal Shoot

The funny thing about the styling is that this was not the look I was expecting. Not that I minded AT ALL, especially given the fact that (unbeknownst to anyone else) Jon's middle school crush was Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer. So, he was definitely a happy camper. I'm usually extremely self conscious and would probably never seek out a gown like this, but I have to say, I really loved it (and it is only £225 at Ghost London right now, which I think is pretty amazing for just a beautiful gown).

Vintage Styled Bridal Shoot1940s bride and groom1940s bride and groomCutting the cakeEnglish Table setting

Our second look was less 40s and more 50s... in sort of a whimsical Alice-in-Wonderland sort of way. I love love loved this dress (it is from Heart Aflutter Bridal)... and Jon looked especially snazzy. But when you have two well-dressed men like Mark and his partner Chris dressing you, you are bound to look chic.

Vintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal Shoot1950s bride on a bridge

When I was a kid, I used to think my soul belonged in the 1950s. I loved the music, the fashion, the picture perfect fascade of suburban America.... That little pang of longing lasted for a long time. Then, one day in middle school I realised that the 50s had no internet. And if there was no internet, who was going to answer my endless stream of questions? At that moment I realised I was born in the right time and at the right place. 

Still, can we go back to full skirts and hats? Pretty please?

Odney Club WeddingEnglish Countryside weddingVintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal ShootVintage Styled Bridal Shoot

The Odney Club was fantastic. They were so accommodating-- and even gave Jon and I a free nights stay and dinner to thank us for modelling for them. It definitely made me think I should be working for John Lewis...

English hedge wedding

A bit thank you to Mark and all the other wonderful vendors that worked on this shoot:

Mark Nortcliffe Photography - Planning + Photography
Ghost London - 40s Dress (Sylvia)
Natalie Morton - Hair and Makeup
Elite Hire Ltd. - Chairs
Venue - Odney Club (exclusive for John Lewis Employees)

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13 October 2015

Autumnal Daal with Poached Eggs Recipe

Daal with poached eggs recipeWith all this talk of spiced pumpkin this and spiced pumpkin that, it was probably time to mix it up with a slightly more exotic autumnal favourite: this butternut squash and mushroom daal. I love it because it is both has that warm, cozy thing going on, but still makes use of the seasons produce. Alternatively you could use pumpkin or sweet potato instead of the butternut squash.   
Up close indian daal
 Autumnal Daal with Poached Eggs 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

 Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms (roughly one package), sliced
  • ½ small butternut squash (about 500g), peeled, deseeded and cut into 1inch chunks
  • 3–4 tsp keralan curry paste
  • 6 vine tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
  • 2/3 cup (130g) red split lentils, washed
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 28g fresh coriander (cilantro), leaves chopped
  • dash of vinegar

 Instructions 

1) Heat the oil in a wide, shallow saucepan or saut√© pan. Add the onion and mushrooms, and cook for 5–6 minutes until wilted and nicely browned.

2) Add the squash, curry paste, tomatoes, lentils and 300ml water. Cover with a lid and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and the sauce has thickened.

3) Take a second shallow saucepan and add a cup of water and a dash of vinegar. Bring to a steady simmer.

4) Crack an egg into a bowl and gently drop in the simmer water (egg whites first).

5) Allow egg white to just turn a translucent white then remove with a slotted spoon. Transfer to curry pan and arrange to your liking.

6) Replace the lid and cook over a low heat for 1 minute, until just set. Scatter with chopped coriander to serve (either by itself or over rice).

Tip: Alternatively you can put the eggs directly into the curry, but it doesn't look as nice and I somehow always overcook the yolks when I do it that way.

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11 October 2015

Australia

Test art in notebook announcementWe have an exciting announcement to make, well a couple actually...

1) Jon landed his dream job at the British investment firm, VALTEGRA, and

2) as a result WE ARE MOVING TO AUSTRALIA for 2 1/2 months, in just two and a half weeks! 

Now, all this deserves a lot more discussion, which will happen in subsequent posts, but for now, here are the answers to the most common questions we've gotten from our family and friends. [Jon's response in teal, Jessica's in pink]

What city will you be moving to?

Brisbane--
... although we are also planning on travelling up the Gold Coast and to Sydney.

Why do you have to go to Australia for so long?

Well, the main reason is to help one of our [VALTEGRA'
s] portfolio companies with their accounting and reporting. We want to see a few cycles to make sure they are getting things right. Additionally, there might be other investment opportunities that come up and it would be helpful to have someone on the ground to do the due diligence. 

What will Jess do while she's down there?

I'll be housewifing it! We've known that this was a possibility since the summer, so I've planned my life and work accordingly. I'll be writing and photographing my adventures here on the blog :)

What will happen after those 2 1/2 months?

We'll come back to London. 
Jon's bro, Andrew, will be visiting in late January and we're insanely excited about that.

What are you most looking forward to?

Diving into my new job and adding value to the company. 
Holding koalas and seeing kangaroos in the wild like this

What will you miss most about London?

Christmas festivities. Because Australia is in the Southern hemisphere, they're currently heading into summer. 
My mom's response to my whinging about it was, "boo hoo. You get a tropical Christmas. Remind me why I should be feeling badly for you again?" Which was fair, but hasn't stopped me whining about how much I'll miss Christmas in London.

When do you leave to go down under?

Halloween!

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09 October 2015

Handbags + Les Miserables

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One of things I've enjoyed most about teaching our entrepreneurship class on Saturdays is that I've been reminded of how important and exciting collaborations can be. I took my two female students and we organised a little photoshoot together. Andrea designs handbags, and Ran is starting her business as a personal stylist. I brought in the lovely Hannah Joy to be our makeup artist, and between the four of us we had a killer shoot.

After Hannah had worked her magic, Andrea, Ran and I went out around South Kensington and went shutterbug happy. Andrea's bags looked fantastic and Ran's styling was on point (I literally had a dream last night that one of my old classmates told me I dress like a troll, so Ran's input was much appreciated). 
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Being away from photographing professionally for the past year and a half has made me forget what a wonderful synergy happens when everyone puts a little bit of themselves into the mix. Thanks for the reminder ladies. You rock :)

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Later, we had a double date with James and Kate. We officially got the two hooked on Shake Shack (which, with Kate's Kiwi accent, sounds like "Shag Shack"), so we went back to Covent Garden and gorged on the fatty goodness of burgers and milkshakes.

I truly think that Kate is (outside of my family) my favourite human. I love her so much I want to buy her a place right next to mine so we can barge into each other's houses for the rest of our lives, like Lucy and Ethel. Plus her and James are so fun together, which is sort of bittersweet as he returns back to the States in a couple of weeks. It will be a sad, sad day for us all when he leaves, but we're super glad to have known him while he's been here.

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After burgers, we went to the Apple store so James (who works for Apple) could bask in it's florescent-lighted glory. Below you can see James gasping in shock and joy at seeing the customers using the app he developed, as he walked by. It was seriously the most adorable thing...

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Then we got a little lost in Chinatown on the way to the theatre. James had bought us all tickets to see Les Miserables, which- in all the many musicals and operas I've seen in my life- is still my absolute favourite. It seriously feeds my soul!

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Finally we found the theatre. The show was remarkable... I bawled like a baby through most of it. Fantine was PHENOMENAL. And Cosette looked exactly like my friend, Kayleigh, which added a whole new dimension to her romantic subplot, which I definitely enjoyed.

The last time I saw the show was at the beginning of my Senior year in high school. I was totally heart-broken, so Eponine was singing my jam. While all my friends walked out saying, "I want to sing in a show like that one day," I remember thinking "I'm gonna write a show like that." And I did. A whole darn opera. It does sound a lot more impressive than it really was, but I have admit, I'm pretty proud of what came outta me. Hopefully, one day it will become an actual production.

I was really surprised to be hit with the exact same feeling this time around. I haven't composed anything concrete for years... but I had this massive knock-you-off-your-feet inspiration hit me mid-show. GAH! I'm super exciiiiited! It will probably take me a good long time to get it out, but it will be fun to see what happens.

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Anyway, after the show we went to Snog for some frozen yogurt. We just ate and talked and laughed and it was perfect. Love these guys to bits.