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Introducing the Neighbourhood Supper Club

At my birthday barbecue in August, I was chatting to my old school friend Louise and her partner Tom about my new local Italian - Trattoria Raffaele. (New as in I am a relatively new local, Trattoria Raffaele has been around since 2008.)  It is just a teeny tiny 30-40 seater, mains £8-£15 Italian, but for a couple of weeks in 2016 it was Trip Advisor's number 1 restaurant out of all the 18,000 restaurants in London. (At the time of writing this, it is number 110, which still puts it in almost the top 0.5% of London restaurants).

Now I am not saying I would necessarily head there if I had the choice between dining in there and one of London's Michelin star, champagne soaked spots, but sometimes (especially if I just wanted to wear jeans and a jumper) I might, and it is certainly the perfect cosy Friday night dinner. If you're ever in South East London, it is definitely worth booking a table and heading down Sydenham Hill for. Order something from the specials, and smile at the waiters, who if you are lucky will feed you wine whilst you wait for your table to be set.

Tom and Louise were keen to check Trattoria Raffaele out, and spoke highly of a Turkish around the corner from them in Stoke Newington, and so, the Neighbourhood Supper Club was conceived! With all of us living across London, we thought it would be a sweet idea to visit each other's local favourites. There are 11 of us in my school friendship group still living in the London area, plus our partners, so we have plenty of locals to get through, before we are even on the second round. (I think I already have Joanna's in Crystal Palace eyed up for the next time everyone heads south of the river).

Peppermint and white hot chocolate

Taking some time to read and write blogs has made my life a little better in countless ways: it has given me the courage to make outlandish homeware decisions like buying a teal velvet upholstered bed. It has reintroduced me to the relaxing world of Lush bath bombs. It has given me a reflective, creative outlet, and introduced me to a community of thoughtful, intelligent and artistic people. And, possibly most importantly, it has led me to be the type of person who makes their own hot chocolate. Come this time of year, the supermarket aisle with the tea and coffee is stacked with all the brands and all the flavours of easy peasy just add boiling water or milk hot chocolate. So who (but maybe chefs, and chocolatiers) would forgo those aisles full of easy peasy hot chocolate to grate, and heat and simmer? Lifestyle bloggers that is who.

The best hot chocolate I've ever had was in Angelina's in Paris, where I think they just basically melt bars of chocolate and serve it in a tea cup. They give you a jug of double whipped cream to help you take away the richness. Now that is the type of hot chocolate I am talking about, one so sweet and rich that double cream waters it down. None of this add boiling water supermarket stuff.

Not being a Parisian patisserie chef I don't have the Angelina recipe (though I would suggest melting a bar of dairy milk would get you quite close) but I love this recipe from Smitten Kitchen which is still rich and intense and delicious, but is maybe a little more drinkable day to day. Every year I make Smitten Kitchen's mix to include (along side some of my own blood and sweat and tears) in Christmas hampers for my friends and family, but this year I am getting in early with a little bit of experimenting. Christmas 2017 will be a real hot chocolate treat. I've swapped a little bit of the dark rich chocolate with some sweet white chocolate, but counteracted that with some peppermint to freshen it up. The result is deliciousness, in my opinion.

7 free apps to help make 2017 your best year yet

If your New Year's Resolution was to spend less time as a screen zombie, gawping at your phone, this post is not for you. If you ideally would have liked to make a New Year's resolution to spend less time as a phone screen zombie, but decided that was all too much too soon, then this is the post for you, because this post will turn you from walking dead phone addict to a walking catwalker...(?) Ok, so I couldn't actually finish that with a nice punchline but you get the gist -

Imagine if your phone, rather than a place to lose hours scrolling through the instagram accounts of people who go on holiday more than you, actually made you happier, healthier, more productive? I don't know why I am saying this as if its a revelation, I mean we've all heard of my fitness pal. (If no, where have you been and scroll down to number fourth app mentioned below.)

But basically the premise of this post is, phones can be amazing little goal encouragers. They are with you and your eyes are clasped to them almost all the time, so they are the perfect thing to encourage you to meditate or read a poem or not eat a second slice of that red velvet cheesecake.