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[Explore] Columbia Road Flower Market




Columbia Road Flower Market is a place I have been meaning to visit ever since I moved to London three years ago. The thing is, I've never lived in East London (although that's about to change), and the thought of getting up at a decent time to make the 50 minute trip was just never that appealing. But now I've done it, I insist you ALL GO. I am soon moving into a flat with a balcony, and the fact completely thrills me. The last two years I've lived in an awesome flat, but we have no garden, no balcony and some shoddy windowsills that aren't quite robust enough to hold a decent pot plant. So clearly, I have grand ideas for my new lodgings (sssssh, don't tell my boyfriend!) which so far have manifested themselves into a Pinterest board and not much else.

However, now I've wandered down the bustling crowds at Columbia Road, I want all the flowers, all the herbs and all the plants I can muster. Alan Titchmarsh I am not, but this tending to horticulture is a good step in the direction for being prepared for middle aged. I'm not quite there yet, but at least I'll know my peonies from my poppies by the time that all kicks in. I bought myself a succulent (see second photo above) which seem to be all the range at the moment. I've been eyeing up terraniums in West Elm but have been scared to buy the actual plants in case I kill them instantly. The man on the stall said it's pretty hard to do as they can be kept inside and don't need much water, so if it lasts then that's £4 well spent!





Columbia Road Flower Market is on every Sunday from 8am until 3pm. Make sure you take cash as well, as none of the traders and very few of the surrounding shops will accept debit or credit cards. Let me know if you go soon, we can swap green fingered tips!

[Explore] The Street Art of East London

East London is well known for its street art. This goes beyond graffiti and is of a status much higher than any type of vandalism; these are usually commissioned works, hidden on every shop shutter, alley way wall and front door from Hoxton to Hackney. You may know Great Eastern Street, the road that connects Old Street with Shoreditch, and its famous 'Let's Adore and Endure Each Other' creation, but there is so much more to be found. You can even take a guided tour of the most well known street art, but if you don't want to fork out the money, just take a walk down Brick Lane and its side streets, or through Rivington Street and onto Curtain Road and keep your eyes open. Sometimes you'll spot something hidden behind a chimney stack or a drainpipe, other times it might be on the ground or wrapped around the corner of a building. There's no point putting your camera away, you will find another artwork sooner than you expect. But don't think that you only need to do this once. Every time I walk back through these streets there is a new piece on a new space, or an older work has been painted over. I took most of these photos this weekend when I was showing a visitor around the area, but some of these are from times past where I've remembered to take a photo before I walk past. Here are my favourites:














[Drinks] Cocktail Making Class at Mixology




I'm more than comfortable in the kitchen, following a recipe or baking up a storm, but when it comes to mixing a decent drink I get as far as vodka + mixer and potentially add a straw if I'm feeling fruity. I love a cocktail, but they are so overpriced in London and any old barman seems to think they can get away with serving up something brightly coloured and slapping a £10 price tag on it. A really amazing cocktail, like a good meal, sticks in your memory though. The one that springs to mind for me is the the Italian Job at The Connaught Hotel bar - a blend of orange, passionfruit, vodka and Campari made it worth the hefty cost. So I was pretty excited but also apprehensive about a cocktail making class, a part of me was expecting to be taught Woo Woos and Tequila Sunrises, the sort of drinks I used to drink in vast quantities as a student (and that's definitely not a good thing). 

Mixology is based on an unassuming street near Old Street and looks amazing inside. There are work benches with all the tools we would need, set up in the centre of a room surrounded by alcohol of all sorts, vintage mixing paraphernalia and ingredients that you would never guess to put in a drink (although it turns out the chorizo we saw on our arrival was just a pre-class snack for our teacher. Phew!).






We were taught the official names of the tools on our work benches, directed towards the liquids we'd be needing and then we cracked on with our four cocktails: a french martini, an elderflower julep, a triple rum daquiri and a flaming zombie. The daquiri was, without a doubt, my favourite, although each drink got progressively stronger (and more delicious) as we went through the evening. Cocktail making is a fine-tuned business, the measuring needs to be precise or the flavours are all wrong, even the type of ice can change the way a drink tastes. And it's physical work! If you don't have any upper body strength like me, then shaking your cocktail for a full minute and then attempting to break the shaker away from the glass are both hard tasks! The night finished with us hollowing out half a lime, filling it with overproof rum and setting it on fire - not the safest of tasks around flammable liquids and increasingly flammable humans. Did you know that shaking cinnamon over a flame makes it do that exciting blue sparking thing? Far too much fun.





Mixology Studios are in Shoreditch but they also have cocktail making class venues in North London, Central London, West London, South London, The City and Canary Wharf. Check out their Mixology website for more info.


Disclaimer: I was invited to Mixology with eBuzzing with work colleagues and was not expected to write a review. But I enjoyed it, so write about it I did!

[Travel] Exploring Cornwall

 


It only takes seven hours to fly to Abu Dhabi, a mere 3399 miles away. Thanks to the glory of modern rail, it takes almost the same amount of time to get from London to Cornwall on a train. It's a long slog, but going to Cornwall can be just as good, or better, than going abroad. If the weather is right, you could be mistaken for being in the Mediterranean as Cornwall has beautiful beaches with clear blue seas and the most yellow of sand, it's just that you have to swap out sangria for scones and paella for pasties. But I'm definitely OK with that. We spent most of our week driving from beach to beach, predominantly the surfers' favourite of Sennen Cove and the lesser known and trickier to access Gwthian and Gwenver. We even ventured down to a hidden paradise found in the book 'Secret Beaches'. I kid you not when I say we trekked through thistles, horseflies, stinging nettles, snakes and bogs, all on a very steep decline. I endured bites, stings and cuts to get down to the beach, which was beautiful indeed, but I spent the whole afternoon dreading getting back up the so-called 'path' again!


Cornwall is full of famous tourist attractions, but the county itself is huge. We contemplated the Eden Project until we realised it would take us an hour to get there from where we were staying. Instead, I left my boyfriend behind to attempt some waves and headed to Penzance where I got the bus to the tiny town of Marazion and St Michael's Mount. A beautiful castle perched  on top of a mound seemingly in the middle of the sea. At low tide you can walk across the causeway with no problem, but once the sea starts to come in, you could very well get stuck on a boat back across to the mainland! The house is still lived in by the St Aubyn family and has a rich history shown throughout the ornate rooms, furniture and church (with some creepy religious iconography to boot).



Did you know that Cornwall also has a Tate Gallery? Based in St Ives, it's a sister of the main galleries in London and has its own off-shoot: the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery, showcasing the works of the famous sculptor. If you don't know her, it's likely that you'll recognise her work, or you may have even walked past it on the side of John Lewis on Oxford Street. I'm no art critic, but all I can say is her sculptures are imposing and captivating, I stood staring for ages as I tried to take in all the curves and angles she's added to pieces. I have no idea what means what, or what had more meaning or symbolism, but I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the quaint little garden they all sat in.







By the time we headed back to London after a week, it had felt like longer; the best sign of a good holiday. Now whenever I'm feeling stressed, I'll just pretend I'm on the balcony of our beautiful holiday cottage with a glass of prosecco and a stunning sunset to soothe my woes. Until next year...

[Food] Sunday Roast at 100 Hoxton


There are very few things I love more than a Sunday roast. The thing is, when you travel further than your own front door to find one, the world and his wife seems to think that they can offer up something edible. But it's more than just meat and two veg, it's about finding the right combination and most importantly crispy roast potatoes. It's a fine balancing act and not everyone can pass it off, and I have to say I'm a traditionalist at heart when it comes to what's served up on the plate. That's why the roast dinner at 100 Hoxton took me by surprise. 




I mean, how could you resist this plate of awesome?! This is  rib of roast beef on wasabi pepper sauce with kale, mini Yorkshire puddings and a bowl of crushed parsnips and potatoes. Now the roast potato is sacred foodstuff, and ordinarily the thought of having chilli and coriander anywhere near them would make me reach for a stiff drink to calm my nerves, but you can't deny delicious food when it works so well!

I mopped up every single piece of food on my plate and washed it down with passionfruit, orange and apple juice, while my friend treated herself to a lunchtime cocktail. The atmosphere was like a cafe, and I wasn't expecting the food to be of such a high standard with this in mind. There was a steady stream of punters throughout the two hours we were sat down, all taking advantage of the roast dinners in the unlikely sunshine of the weekend. I could have easily walked past this place without a second glance but that is definitely to its advantage; 100 Hoxton is to be heard about on the grapevine and embraced by those who will appreciate it. It's a bit of a secret, but I like that.


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Another Blog Post on Tropical Prints


I'm wearing:
T-Shirt - Primark
Shorts - ASOS £30
Plimsolls - Urban Outfitters


I've read a million blog posts on this trend, but I can't resist joining in. These shorts are too epic to pass up writing about and I'm completely head over heels obsessed with them. I am well known for being extremely grumpy when it comes to summer dressing. I get too hot too quickly, and being tall I really struggle to find a skirt, dress or shorts that aren't far too revealing. However, recently I have managed to nab a few high waisted shorts that aren't super skimpy and suit my shape and age (I'm 25, I'm not wearing hot pants, thanks). These tropical print shorts aren't the average green palm tree that dominates most items ; I love how they are relatively neutral while still showcasing a pattern. They were lingering in my ASOS wish list for about a month, and on a payday fuelled whim, I added them to my basket. They are wide in shape which makes them extremely comfortable, and hides the cleverly concealed pockets (often a bug bear of summer clothing for me). I can be wary of things this shape (hello most midi skirts) because I'm rather blessed in the hip department, but I don't think these accentuate any unflattering bits at all, in fact, rather the opposite due to where they sit on my waist. I've got a pair of sports style shorts with fluroescent palm trees on that I bought for my holiday last year (they sound horrid but I promise they're not!) so I'll be digging those out if the good weather hangs around too!

Literary Memories

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Last night I had the most wonderful conversation with my housemate about books. We were sharing our latest literary purchases and comparing reviews of the books we've recently read when the conversation turned to our favourite memories of books. It struck me how many fond memories I have that centre around books and how the mere mention of a certain title will rouse situations long past and bring a smile to my face. Having recently read Fahrenheit 451, the core message of the book really made me think: are people losing books as an essential part of their lives? Are people really starting to think of books as an archaic medium, or as a colleague of mine described them 'terribly analog'? 

I want to share with you some of my favourite literary memories to show how important books have been in my life and hopefully remind you of a long forgotten memory where books have played a key part. Please do share your memories with me in the comments as I'd love to read them! 

1) Sitting in a tent on the last day of Download Festival in 2007 with torrential rain outside and not much else to do, I turned to the book I'd brought with me, 'You're Wearing That?! Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation' by Deborah Tannen. With nothing else to do, my friends lay down and rested their head on my knees and listened to me read out loud to them for half an hour until it was time to pack up the tent and go home. 

2) Joining in on my little sister's reading time, aged 9, as my parents read her Dudley Dun, a cardboard book about a small train that chugged along making the noise 'dud-a-le-dun, dud-a-le-dun'. We'd all make the train noise together and my sister would chew on the book until it eventually disintegrated through sheer love. 


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3) Visiting my uncle and being gifted a book ('The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde) purely because he thought (rightly so) that I would love it. The note he included in it is still my bookmark to remind me to share books with those I think will appreciate them. 

4) Meeting Audrey Niffenegger and getting my copy of 'The Time Traveler's Wife' signed. When she took it in her hands, she turned it around and said, "Wow, this is certainly well-loved. I love seeing my books like this."

5) Reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in the back of my parents car, aged 16, on the way back from my grandparents house and crying at how amazing it is. I tried in vain to try and explain the complexities of its story and the depth of its background to get them to understand just how much it had affected me, but I just couldn't put it into words, so I just started to re-read it instead. 

6) Listening to my boyfriend read excerpts of whatever random book he's plucked from the shelves of our holiday cottage. This happens pretty much every time we go away and I love that he can always find something to read that he gets engrossed in wherever we are. 

7) Taking a book to my teacher, aged 10, to show her this wonderful new story that I'd fallen in love with. Her name was Miss McCarthy and she had huge, flaming red hair and wore a lot of plaid dresses. She let me read her the whole blurb on the back and it was some unknown book about some boy wizard. I think his name was Harry and he had a big stone belonging to a philosopher...

Life: June 2014

June was a relatively quiet month on Instagram, although I think that just reflects how busy I actually was. I made time to wander around London which I love to do, and eat more than I should have. July is set to be crazily busy as it's the month before I move house so there's lots of admin to do with bills, plus a car boot sale to get rid of extra junk! And then at the end of the month I'm hosting a colleague from Beijing for two weeks, so I'll be showing her all the top tourist spots when we're not in the office. If you think there's somewhere we shouldn't miss then do let me know, I want her to fall in love with London as much as me!

Beautiful packaging on the shelves of Jenius Social (my review of their tapas evening class is coming soon!)
Definitely the best picture of the month at a colleague's leaving drinks!
A poor attempt at getting my life in order...
Cabaret on Battersea Barge (a review of this coming soon too!)

Comical plonk at Gordon's Wine Bar on a sunny evening
My mum's homemade chocolate pavlova for Father's Day
My new smoothie jar from Discovery Channel
Amazing ice lollies from Ice Kitchen

Some new reads for summer from Foyles
Gorgeous views over London at breakfast on Google's roof terrace
A non-London run on a visit to my parents' house
The old Harrods furniture depository along the Thames near Fulham
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review