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Maria Loves...Pie and Simple Banking

The internets have awed and inspired this week.

I often get lumbered with this decision: which dessert should I have? The mouth-watering raspberry coulis cheesecake or the my-thighs-will-never-forgive-me deep dark chocolate mud pie slab of a cake?  Well say goodbye to such indecisions! With the Split Decision Pie Pan the days of choosing between two flavours are no more.  If, unlike me, you're into pies of course....Surely, you could use this for normal cake too.  Don't call you Surely? OK. *

  If baking doesn't get your creative juices flowing, then this might just.  The Sensu (ie iPad brush) lets you paint across your screen as if it were a real life blank canvas.  And the result looks so authentic it's actually mind-boggling! This alone is making me salivate for an iPad.  Truly amazing.

Split Decision Pie Pan ($20)

  When we started up our wedding registry (which was essentially a bank account where guests very kindly deposited what would have always been a cash gift)  I thought about what a fantastic idea it would be if all special occasions had such lists.  Then all of your friends could contribute a small amount towards a big purchase that one person alone couldn't possibly afford.  Social Gift does just that.  It's great.  Although to be perfectly honest, I wasn't best impressed with their gift selection and prices.  I'm sure you could find cheaper.  Great idea though!

  My gym membership officially ended yesterday.  I'm reading posts like this one in my attempt to kickstart yet another healthy-living routine.

I am SO gutted this isn't available to non-US residents.  I am completely smitten with the way these BankSimple guys make managing your money look like so much fun.    

  "Two years from now, spam will be solved." - Bill Gates speaking at the World Economic Forum, 2004.  This and loads more ill-fated words can be found at the Bad Opinion Generator.  Prepare for hours and hours of fun/time-wasting. 

Love Johnny Depp? Love 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'? Then you'll probably want to see 'The Rum Diary', released in the US on Oct 28 and in the UK on Nov 4.  Johnny is back in the Caribbean minus all that eyeliner and gold teeth.  Judging by the trailer and poster, this looks like it's going to be a hoot.

The Rum Diary

* Props to whoever gets the reference!


My Made in America titbit for today: Coca-Cola.

In 1886, Atlanta pharmacist, John Styth Pemberton brewed up a concoction of cola nuts, cocoa leaves, caffeine and other similarly dubious condiments in an iron tub in his backyard, stirred it with a wooden oar from an old boat and called it Coca-Cola.

Pemberton viewed his invention not as the refreshing thirst-quencher that the world has come to love, but as an efficacious tonic for hangovers and other ills of the upper body (it was also discreetly hinted that it was a potent aphrodisiac.)   He failed to see Coca-Cola's true potential and sold two-thirds interest in the company for the measly sum of $283.29 in 1887.  By 1919, when the company was sold again, it had grown in value to $25million.


Made in America

Where else!?

If you've wandered down to the bottom right of my blog lately you may have noticed that I am currently nose-deep in Bill Bryson's Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States.  This little beauty is a bit of a drip-feed of a treat.  It's easy to jump in and out of and every time I do I learn something new and interesting.  So, what I thought would be cool is if I added a little tit-bit of something I learnt at the end of each of my daily posts.  That way, you guys can learn something new every day too.

To start things off, one of my favourite topics: chocolate.

Has the idea of chocolate-covered ants or chicken and chocolate sauce ever put you off the good stuff? Well, in the early days of chocolate bars, when they were first unleashed on the nation in the 1920s, they couldn't wait to cover things with chocolate.  One such candy bar was the Vegetable Sandwich, which, as you may have guessed was made of chocolate covered vegetables.  It's biggest selling point? 'The solemn assurance that 'it will not constipate'.  It contained cabbage, celery, peppers and tomatoes.  YUM!

Another such treat was the Chicken Dinner candy bar, "so-called because it was supposed to engender the feeling of well-being provided by a steaming roast chicken dinner.  Though few people were able to make the leap of imagination necessary to equate a chocolate peanut roll with a well-balanced meal, the Chicken Dinner sold well and survived well into the 1960s."

Are there any strange and wonderful chocolate related goodies where you're from? Would love to hear about them!

Yoghurt Sponge Cake


So yesterday was my birthday.  And what did I decide to do (other than work my little tushie off)?  Yes, that's right: I did what I'm starting to love more and more doing - I baked!

One of my favourite healthy dessert combos is yoghurt, walnuts and honey.  Very Greek and supposedly an aphrodisiac (hubba hubba).  I had lots of all of those things hanging around and decided to look for a recipe for a cake with yoghurt in it.   And thus I stumbled upon this recipe for a Yoghurt Sponge Cake by beautiful, Spanish Irene at Cream & Crumble.  The recipe worked a treat! So simple and super quick.

I decided to sweeten it up with some cream cheese frosting (recipe here: divine), crushed walnuts and a drizzle of Greek honey.

I followed Irene's recipe to the T and it came out moist, not too sweet and utterly delicious.

And that is the story of my birthday cake!

Picture taken by me and my new Instagram app. Woop!


Monday 26 September

...and today is my BIRTHDAY!


I turn 28 today so as a treat for you I've got a scene from one of my favourite movies of all time, 'Sixteen Candles'.  This timeless scene features a very young John Cusack and Anthony Michael Hall.  Hilarious stuff.

And some more viewing pleasure for you includes the below trailer for a film I'm dying to see, 'Life in a Day'.  Absolutely fascinating!


Wine Country

Honeymoon hint number 2.

I bring you experience number 506 from my book of the moment Make the Most of Your Time on Earth which will also make up what should be the "relaxing" part of our honeymoon marathon.

"With it's rolling green hills, bucolic landscapes and small towns heavy on antique charm, California's wine country, centering on Napa and Sonoma valleys, is one of the most beautiful places in the West.  Beyond touring the wineries - Beringer, Silver Oak, Stag's Leap, Robert Mondavi and many more, all of which allow you to sample the goods - there's no shortage of things to see and do.  Come here for a weekend retreat (preferably not at the peak of summer, when the hordes descend), and your first instinct might be to pack in as much as possible.  But in a place where the main point is to relax, indulge and melt away the stresses of modern life, that's the last thing you should do.

Beringer Vineyard

Instead, aim for just a few choice tastes of the good life.  Start with a spot of nature, either driving the Silverado Trail (parallel to Hwy-29) taking in the mountains and vineyards alone the way, or enjoy a peaceful walk through the woods in Jack London State Historic Park, once ranchland owned by the famed naturalist writer.  Next, rest tour aching bones and revitalise your senses by checking into one of the resort spas near Calistoga.  At Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs, dip yourself in a mix of heated mineral water and volcanic ash, or at Mount View Spa, enjoy the mud baths ad herbal applications, as well as aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and other refined New Age treatments that pamper both the body and soul.

Jack London State Historic Park

Round out your experience with a great, even legendary meal at one of the region's many gourmet restaurants; these days the area is known as much for food as the vino.  Foremost among these is Thomas Keller's 'French Laundry', an icon of California cuisine known for its blend of fresh local ingredients and creative, spellbinding presentation. It won't come cheap and you'll have to reserve months in advance, but it's reason enough to visit." 


I am practically drooling at the prospect of rolling hills, quaint little villages, volcanic ash spa treatments and fabulous food and wine.  Can you imagine anything more perfect?!


Pink Saturday?

Topsy turvy.

I missed a post on Thursday which means my Pink Friday turned into all the things I'm loving.  So, say hello to your pink Saturday!  

Have great weekends!






Maria Loves...Stickmen and Denmark

Deary me.

Deary, deary me.  I missed a post yesterday.  Oh the shame! Oh the horror! I've committed a blogger's sin.  That's fine.  I'm cool with it because that means today's post is extra super special as I've got a whole host of things I'm loving that I'd like to share with you.  I'm afraid your weekly pink-love injection will have to wait until tomorrow...

Read on and enjoy your Friday!

* I loves me some travelling and I sure do loves me some 5* holidays.  But sometimes, the supposed 5-starredness of a holiday doesn't meet your high expectations.  Enter who have put together a list of  how to make the cheaper holiday experience BETTER than the more expensive one. Hallelujah!

* is kinda like the younger, cooler, hipper version of Tripadvisor.  People who've travelled to or live in the destination will recommend hot spots and things to do as well as great boutique hotels. It's still in it's early stages, meaning the numbers of tips and hotels doesn't come anywhere near to that of Tripadvisor but the more we spread the word and the more people use the site, the better it'll get.  If you don't want to be overwhelmed by choice, this is the place to go.

* I love the Sugar and Charm blog and the more I read it, the more I wish I lived in a country home with a vast, luscious, foresty backyard where I could entertain my guests al-fresco.  The wedding and event designers have put together their top tips on Being a Charming Hostess.  I dare you to read these and NOT instantly start making plans for your next dinner party.

* Gala Darling always come up trumps.  The other day as I was perusing her blog, she mentioned this awesomest of AWESOME sites,  It's kinda like Spotify in that people put playlists together and you can listen to them - whatever.  But the beauty of this site is that you don't need to download anything and it's also a lot prettier to look at.  The members write great and oh-so accurate descriptions of their playlists and they will play one after the other without you having to do anything.  It has become my background soundtrack for when I'm working.

* Ingenious or gross, I don't know!  But take a look at the Grossest Billboard Ever for the new film Contagion (in cinemas in the US now and in the UK October 21).  It's got people talking, it's got people feeling, it's got people reacting - job done!

* Continuing in the marketing vein, check out these 10 Big Brands That Stopped Being Cool.  Absolutely fascinating!  I remember when Nokia phones were all the rage. And the truth about the Marlboro Men is positively fascinating.  It makes you wonder what brands today will stop being cool in the not-so-distant future...any thoughts?

* If you, like me, like to look at endless pretty pictures of glorious food (it's almost as good as actually eating it...almost) then have I got the site/app for you!  If you haven't discovered Food Gawker yet you are in for one heck of a treat!  Download for your iPhone or just visit the site, but you will never be lost for pretty pictures of the sweet & savoury stuff.  Click on the pictures and you'll be taken through to their original blog post and recipe (all the pictures are taken from blogs).  There's also the crafting and DIY equivalent, Craft Gawker.

* I am totally and utterly smitten with this Draw a Stickman site.

* The mister and I have been discussing places we'd want to move to if the situation in Greece gets any worse than it is now.  Lately, I've been loving on Copenhagen.  How could I not after reading the below entry on Wikipedia and reading this post of Joanna Goddard's 

"Copenhagen has repeatedly been recognized as one of the cities with the best quality of life. It is also considered one of the world's most environmentally friendly cities. The water in the inner harbour is clean and safe for swimming. 36% of all citizens commute to work by bicycle. Every day, they cycle a combined 1.2 million km."

It's consistently in the top 10 (if not top 5) happiest countries lists (as seen here and here) and has the highest standard of living in the world.  Other Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Finland and Norway are also frequently at the very top of these lists. 

Watch below for some audiovisual Denmark-ian love.


Have an awesome weekend!


Tips to Feeling Good

Try these tips today! Unlimited time offer!

If you've not heard of Gretchen Rubin, if you haven't read her book, The Happiness Project, or perused her blog, I urge you to step to it pronto!  I'm seriously not one to read self-help books or the like but I insist that this is not that.  It's a page-turner of a read, an instant inspiration-mojo injection, and a real fantastic motivator to setting goals in your life and keeping them.  It's not just about the goals though: her writing style and her personal stories have you chuckling and relating all in one breath.  It's been on the NY Times Bestseller List for ages.  I swear she hasn't paid me to write this, it's just that I truly adore this book.  And it's on my re-read list that I posted here so that should say it all.

On her blog the other day, she wrote a really great list of  '8 Tips to Feel Better about Yourself'.   They are truly fantastic tips for the overall bigger picture of your life.  I realised then that I had a list of my own tried and tested tips.  And here they are for your reading pleasure below

1.  Always drink more water than you think you should.  Aim high: try for 10 glasses a day and maybe you'll reach the recommended 8.  I always carry a 1L bottle of water around with me.  I have one camping out at my desk at all times.  If I drink two of these a day I feel like the best version of myself.  I think clearer, I'm somehow funnier, wittier, more clever.  I don't look as tired. My energy levels are sky high.  Not to mention after a couple of weeks keeping this up, how GREAT my skin looks!  If you wear contact lenses like I do (non-stop from 9am until at least midnight) I think you should definitely heed this tip.  I used to suffer from dry eyes but the amount of water I drink now has completely re-hydrated them.

2.  Brush your teeth for at least two minutes at a time.  I find the task of brushing my teeth incredibly boring and tedious.  There. I said it.  I hate brushing my teeth.  And yet, it must be done - morning and evening like a normal grown human being.  And I just think to myself, if I'm going to do it, I may as well do it right.  So, I time myself and aim to get at least 2 minutes of hardcore brushing.  Yes, it does help.  After a few weeks, my teeth are noticeably whiter and I do feel squeeky clean all over.

3.  Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.  Your face in the morning and the evening.  And if you can be bothered, slather some over your body too.  My favourite body moisturiser is hands down Palmer's Cocoa Butter.  It smells like chocolate (but not in a heavy, sickly way) and it has a tan-ish tint to it which I swear makes me look tan all year round (They don't advertise this though!).  If I slather this on before I go to bed, I wake up with the softest skin.  It also works brilliantly if you put it on straight after you come out of a hot shower.  And over time, it makes everything look a whole load smoother and toned.  The Mister HATES the smell though so I've been restricted in my usage. Sad smiley.

4.  Never, under any circumstance, pick at your face.  You know what I mean.  It's oh so tempting at times to tackle those blackheads head-on but trust me, you're only making the situation worse.  You are literally spreading dirt and bacteria all over your face and single-handedly causing another breakout.  It's a downward spiral.  Just don't do it.  Make a vow to yourself, today - now - to leave your face alone for a week.  I swear you'll see a difference.

5. Only occasionally skip dessert.  It's the best part of a meal. Come on.  I'm not saying have it every night, but if you're with friends or you're having a special night with your significant other, just GO ALL OUT.   I was at a birthday party the other night and I had a piece of the cheesecake, chocolate brownie AND giant cookie my sister made.  Having a sweet-tooth is part of who I am.  I feel it would be wrong to deny it of myself.  Life is short, make it sweet. 

6. Do 10 lunges a day.  Following on from point number 5, you've got to have balance in your life, right?  If you do no other form of exercise at all at least try 10 lunges a day on each leg.  That way you're living your life guilt-free and with a pair of glutes to die for.  I find them to be one of the most effective quick fixes ever.  It takes NO TIME AT ALL.  For reals.  Do them as soon as you hop out of bed.  I dare you. Plus, I don't know if it's just me, but I find that when men are asked whether they prefer boobs to bum, they always say bum.  If this is something that matters to you, at least it's completely in your power to work on it!

7.  Don't forget Mr. Please and Lady Thank You.  It is ridiculous, this day and age,  how often we come across rudeness in our daily lives.  It's as if these people were born missing this oh-so-important gene.  It makes such a difference to be kind to people.  Not just to their lives, but it will make you feel so much better as well.  It takes no time, no money, no effort - it could possibly be the simplest thing to do ON THE PLANET.  And yet, so few people actually practice being polite.  When you do come across such people, you feel your faith in humanity is restored.  Until someone comes along and with their grizzly-like face makes it all come crashing down again.

8.  Cook/Write a little everyday.  It seems I've been doing a lot of both lately.  I've certainly been writing everyday.  And the cooking isn't far behind.  The point is, I think I've gained some momentum.  I think I've written and cooked more in the past two weeks than I have in the past 2 years and the thing is, I keep doing it because it makes me feel great.  Even if I achieve nothing else that day, I feel like I have accomplished something by doing one of those things.  I've been productive in one way or another and I have something to show for my day on this earth.  Highly recommended!

Do you have 8 tips that are guaranteed to make you feel good about yourself? Please share!


PhD? Done!


The Hubster submitted his PhD today.  After years, months, days, hours and endless sleepless nights he can now leave all of his frustrations and boredom behind!

Now... Let's go live LIFE!


Movie Musings: Funny Girls

Haha funny...

Just last week, the wonderful Time Out London magazine compiled a list of the 100 Best Comedies as chosen by the cream of the comedy crop.  Oh I do love me some comedy! It's quite possibly my favourite movie genre. 

The list included some of (but not all!) my absolute favourite comedies of all time.  In no particular order:

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Dumb and Dumber
Napolean Dynamite
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
In The Loop
Best in Show
This is Spinal Tap
Get Him to the Greek
Night at the Roxbury

Two movies from that list are there thanks to one of the most talented comedy directors and writers of all time, Christopher Guest.  He wrote, directed and starred in 'Best in Show' and co-wrote and starred in 'This is Spinal Tap' amongst a myriad of other gems.  If you haven't seen them, please do! Or any of his movies - they're an absolute treat!

One of the things I love about him is that he more or less always works with the same troupe of actors: Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Michael McKeen, Harry Shearer, John Michael Higgins and three of the most underrated comedic actress in our midst today - Jennifer Coolidge (whom you may know from American Pie as Stifler's Mom), Catherine O'Hara (Kevin's mom in Home Alone) and none other than Jane Lynch aka Sue Sylvester.  Sure, everyone knows who she is now thanks to Glee but she was at her absolute best before the all-singing, all-dancing highschoolers entered her life.

It's commonly accepted that women comediennes are not funny.  And this is made obvious by the lack of female presence in Time Out's list.  There's Bridesmaids...but don't get me started on that.  Sure you have your Tina Fey's and your Kristin Wiig's but Jennifer and Catherine and Jane are in a league of their very own.  These women are gorgeous AND hilarious and they're keeping it up way into their 50s and beyond.  I love them and I think they each should get some sort of comedy lifetime achievement award.  

They've all done so so so much, but I've chosen some of my favourite clips from three of Christopher Guests' films, 'Best in Show', 'For Your Consideration' and 'A Mighty Wind' to showcase each of their unparalleled talents.

What do you think of comedy actresses today?  Who are your favourites?


The Wonderful Outdoors

From tree to swinging tree.

Last weekend some friends and I went to Adventureland just outside Athens.  It's a big expanse of a park, completely natural, in which the park developers designed various activities such as swinging through trees, climbing nets and zipping down loads of zip-line thingies (so much fun!)  There were three levels of difficulty to get through: Foxes, Wolves and Eagles.  We did all three...

I can't tell you how wonderful it was to spend all of that time in the outdoors; being in nature and taking on such physically, mentally and emotionally challenging obstacles.  Physically because a lot of it was darn difficult:  lots of climbing up steep wooden ladders and hanging off of ropes. My muscles just couldn't take it after a while.  Mentally because we were at such heights! And emotionally because we were terribly hungry all throughout the day and the darn place didn't serve any food. (Other than soft-serve ice cream which we had to wait 45mins for - and even then it was milk in a cone).  Needless, to say we were all tired and ever so slightly cranky by the end of it.

But no one was in a bad mood, that's for sure.  We had a fantastic time.  Maybe it was the clean air, maybe it was the proximity to the trees but something about it was truly cathartic.

That said, I urge you all to try something similar to this.  Or at the very least spend some time outdoors as regularly as possible.

It's good for the soul.

P.S. - It looks like I was all on my own, but I promise there was a whole bunch of us there!  All pictures were taken by my good friend George.


Highway 1

Born to be wild.

Eek! I cannot CANNOT wait to start planning our honeymoon - which has been delayed to March next year due to new (and exciting!) work commitments.  But that's ok, that's fine by me because that means we have a whole 5 months to plan the trip of a lifetime.

You may remember my mentioning the book Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth (in the post here) and how I'd make a list of all my favourite bits.  Well, here's one which is also a major clue to what we have planned.  All words are lifted straight from the book.

"Highway 1 starts in little Leggett, but most people pick it up in San Francisco, just after it has raced US-101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and wiggled its way through the city.  Roll down the rooftop on your convertible - this is California after all - and chase the horizon south, through Santa Cruz and misty Monterey and then on to Big Sur, one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline in the world, where the forest-clad foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains ripple down to a ninety-mile zigzag of deeply rugged shore.

You could easily spend a week in one of the mountain lodges here, hiking in the region's two superb state parks or watching grey wales gliding through the surf, but SoCal's sands are calling.  Gun the gas down through San Luis Obispo and swanky Santa Barbara until you hit Malibu, from where - as the Pacific Coast Highway - the road tiptoes around Los Angeles, dipping in and out of the beachside suburbs of Santa Monica, Venice and Long Beach.


Highway 1 eventually peters out at San Juan Capistrano, but most people pull off a few miles shy, finishing their journey in Los Angeles.  Leaving Malibu's multi-million dollar condos behind and easing gently into the downtown LA traffic.  It'll suddenly dawn on you that the hardest part of the journey is still to come - at some point soon, you're going to have to say goodbye to the convertible."

Although, rather than the said convertible, we've decided to go down the less cool path and do it RV style.  A lifelong dream of mine!

Yipee and Hurrah!

Maria xx


Pink Friday