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Monthly Mixtape #5

I haven't had the chance to write one of these posts for a while, predominantly because I spend bloody ages picking which songs I want to share with you. These Monthly Mixtapes are pretty personal as I think they show all facets of my personality and taste, both of which are open to scrutiny! As I've said before, I don't think of myself as a musical aficionado, but what I do pride myself on is having a really varied taste, and having something to tune into whatever my mood may be. Let me know what you've been listening too in the comments!

Figure It Out by Royal Blood

Have you heard the Royal Blood album? WHY NOT?! You do know you can listen to it on Spotify AND read this blog at the same time right? In the first time for a long time, there is a guitar band that are taking my fancy. If you count listening to their album four times in a row a 'fancy'...

I'd Rather Go Blind by Etta James

When Etta James died last year, I listened to her 'best of' in memorium and realised how many classics can be attributed to her. This song is just so incredibly lovelorn and beautiful, you just don't get songs like it now without them sounding incredibly moany and miserable. This is simple and pure and delicately gorgeous.

Introdiction by Scroobius Pip

I was livid this week when I realised that I'd missed Scroobius Pip's free drinks meet-up. The rapper/spoken word poet promised he'd buy a drink for everyone of his fans that turned up, to celebrate reaching 100k Twitter followers. To make up for it I've been listening to his solo album and it really is one of my favourite releases in the last few years. Make sure you watch the video for this too, it's shot in one take!

Sissy That Walk - RuPaul

I did say I'm not a music aficionado! I am a HUGE fan of RuPaul's Drag Race, and recently finished watching season six on Netflix. If you've watched it before, you'll know that each season coincides with the release of one of Ru's singles and this time it was Sissy That Walk. It is so god damn catchy and the video is bloody hilarious too. If you're looking for disco tack that doesn't take itself too seriously, whack this on before going on a night out!

Breakfast at The Delaunay

When a close friend moves abroad, it is essential to see them off in style. Claire is my go-to friend for finding weird stuff to do in London, from all nighters in cinemas to dining in the dark, so when she told me she was moving away, I knew we had to say goodbye in style. As her schedule was incredibly busy, we managed to squeeze in a breakfast date, and decided to go to The Delaunay - the sister restaurant of The Wolseley.

Located on Aldwych, just off the Strand, it's pretty unsuspecting but the sign outside hints at the regal interior. It's only been open a couple of years, but it looks like it's been there for decades. Decked out in dark wood, warm leathers and deep greens, it has an air of formality but without being uncomfortable. There was a range of diners there, from tourists to business meetings, so we didn't stand out as we excitedly scanned the menu.

I have already made a promise to myself that on a cold winter morning, I will be going in for a bowl of hot chocolate and a baguette, as it sounds like the ultimate luxury. I'm going to take a book and a big scarf and pretend I'm in Paris before braving the icy temperatures of London. But this time, as it was a special occasion, I decided to go for pancakes as I rarely make them at home. I went for bacon and maple syrup, and Claire plumped for berries and cream. The pancakes were light and fluffy, and we washed them down with a pot of English Breakfast tea and some freshly squeezed orange juice.

It was the perfect way to say goodbye to a dear friend and send her off to her new life in the Middle East.

Have you been to The Delaunay? Where are your favourite places to go out for breakfast?

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[Thinking] Friends in Far Away Places

People always tell you that as you get older your friendships change. You grow apart and that's fine, you always still have your core group of besties that will be there for you no matter what. What you don't get told is that those people might move away. And I'm not just talking about somewhere else in the UK, I mean that they move to another country, and that can be pretty hard to deal with.

Three of my closest friends in the whole world now live abroad, with the shortest journey to see one of them being a seven hour flight. There's a lot of conflicting emotions to deal with when a friend moves abroad, many of them I admit are pretty selfish, but when you are used to a person always being around and always being contactable at any time, it's a big change to your life when you can't just pick up the phone, especially because the likelihood is that they're actually asleep. Time zones are a bitch for long distance friendships.

The main worry when they move is that you'll lose contact with them. Now if they really are as close a friend as you know they are, this isn't really a problem, but you'll worry about it regardless. What if they meet better friends? What if they forget about you? What if they think you're needy when you try and get in contact? You don't want to hassle them, but you certainly don't want to just leave time to dwindle away waiting for a Whatsapp message or Snapchat from them. The thing to understand is that they WILL have new friends, and they WILL be busy living an exciting life without you. The new friends bit is hard, and I won't lie, there can sometimes be a bit of jealousy seeing these people spending quality time with the person you adore when you can't. One of my best friends lives in Australia and is getting married next year. I never imagined that I wouldn't be the one flicking through bridal magazines with her or going to dress fittings, but I've had to come to terms with the fact that she needs a friend to help her with these things, and that friend really does have to be in the same city and country as her.

It's odd not knowing every little thing going on in their lives anymore, but a Skype chat or Whatsapp conversation suddenly rectifies that. My far away friends still tell me every minute detail of what they've been up to when I talk to them, with catch-ups sometimes taking hours because there's just so much to tell. They're the same people they were before, and they still want to know what's going on in my life too. It's very much a two-way effort, and sometimes it gets a bit tough when you don't hear anything for a month and you start worrying they've moved on despite having known you for so many years. 

I think the thing to understand is that a friend from your home country is different to that of a friend you make abroad. My long distance friends live in Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Australia, and I've known them for a long time (7, 8 and 24 years in fact) - they are friendships that are built on literally knowing everything about that person. They are practically family, and I'm not in competition with their friends abroad, I'm just in a different category.

Obviously the massive plus side of having friends that aren't in England is that you get to go and visit them. It's extremely strange seeing where they live and how they go about their daily life in an environment that is so incredibly different to where you've grown up with them, but they love it and so I do too. They are excited to show me their lives and share the secrets and tips they've come to know whilst living there. This year I've been to Sydney and Hong Kong to visit friends, and it was so thrilling to see that they are blissfully content in their new(ish) surroundings. They've got homes, partners, friends and jobs, and they are happy. That's really what I want for my friends more than anything. So despite the fact that I have a little cry every now and then when I need them around, or I get upset saying goodbye to them when they jet back, I know it's the right thing for them and I'm so proud of them for following their dreams. 

Their adventures make them the independent, exciting and powerful women that I want to be associated with. And no matter how far away they live, I still love them to bits and know that they love me too. 

[Food] Make My Magnum at Selfridges

One of my favourite places in London is the Selfridge's food section. Yes, the denim department is amazing, and the rooftop bar open this Summer is pretty cool, but I love to wander around the shelves stacked with all sorts of exotic, never seen before tins and cans and bottles full of delicious mysteries. I'm definitely a taste hoarder; I see something with great packaging or a fun serving suggestion and I instantly want to buy it, regardless of whether I can actually use it or not. Having recently moved house I've realised how full-to-the-brim my cupboards actually are, but Selfridge's current pop-up demands to be eaten there and then, mainly because it will melt otherwise.

The Magnum x Selfrdiges pop-up allows you to have your own custom Magnum made for you right before your eyes. First step is your toppings, and there is plenty to choose from, from pistachios and rose petals through to goji berries and brownies. You get to pick three, so I went for cinnamon sugar, meringue and edible gold flakes. 

Then you get to pick between a regular vanilla ice cream 'base' or an Infinite Chocolate one. I figured with all the sweet toppings I'd picked that it would be best for me to go for vanilla, despite how much I secretly wanted the chocolate one.

You can then choose to dip the ice cream in either dark, milk or white chocolate. Once the ice cream has been covered (I went for dark), the toppings are shaken over the top so that they stick to the quickly drying chocolate. It's then drizzled in another chocolate of your choice (milk, in my case), and you've got your finished ice cream. And oh, I was one happy customer once I was done. I love Magnums as it is; my grandad always used to buy me one as a kid and then get angry with me when I could never finish it. This one wasn't any different either, although in my defense I had had a massive lunch. But a Magnum with dark chocolate, covered in sweet, crunchy toppings was certainly a good way to see off a Tuesday evening. 

The Magnum x Selfridges pop-up is open until 31st August and costs £4.50 per ice cream.

[Food] Nose to Tail Tapas Cookery Class at Jenius Social

I should have written about this sooner. It's not because I didn't want to, it's because there is SO MUCH TO WRITE ABOUT. My evening at Jenius Social is like nothing I have ever done before. I enjoy cooking, I love to discover new recipes, and I love feeding other people (I get that from my mum). But I have never even contemplated cooking offal. I'm not all that confident with different cuts of meat, and I'm trying to expand my fish repetoire, but offal? As in, the INSIDES of an animal. It just doesn't sound appealing but it DOES sound intriguing, and when Jenius Social invited me to try their Nose to Tail Tapas Class, I held my breath and apprehensively accepted.

Jenius Social is a new venture in Islington, providing a massive range of daily events including masterclasses, supper clubs and cookery classes, hosted by professional chefs and experts in their shiny social space. The kitchen is wonderful, with two large islands for participants to prep and cook everything from scratch. This isn't like other cookery classes I've been to, these guys really let you get completely hands on, with mini hobs on each place so everything is down to you alone. We were introduced to our tutor for the evening and watched him introduce our 'exotic' ingredients for the evening. My favourite part was that if we couldn't see what he was doing, there was a camera directly above the hob which showed us everything on a big screen. Brilliant forward-thinking!

And on the menu?

  • Potted Beef Tongue Madeira
  • Spicy Pig's Ears Tacos with Guacamole
  • Breaded Lamb's Testicles with Peanut Butter Sauce on Quinoa
  • Pig's Trotters Pressed Terrine
  • Braised Oxtail

Handling completely new ingredients like this was a real novelty, but eye opening to realise that it isn't as scary as it sounds. Yes, I did have to remove some preeeeeeeetty long hairs from the pig trotters, and I couldn't resist a stupid photo opportunity with the pig ears. And I made lots of obscene jokes when handling the lamb testicles (who wouldn't?!). But seeing these transformed into dishes that not just looked, but smelled AND tasted delicious blew my mind.

Without a doubt, my favourite was the lamb's testicles - the one dish I didn't know if I'd even be able to try before I got there. I wasn't too keen on the terrine as it was quite gelatinous, but really, everything was beautiful, and we had more than enough! I had such a wonderful evening, I'm now planning which other classes I want to attend. I think bread making and pastry making are next on my to-do list, so there goes my healthy eating plan!

Check out what's on at Jenius Social here, and let me know if you'd ever try offal!

Disclaimer: I was invited by Jenius Social to attend the class but was not paid to write a review. All (very positive!) opinions are my own and all photography is by myself or Ashleigh-Jayne O'Connell.

Secret Cinema's Back to the Future: Top Tips to Enjoy Your Evening!

Image source

The one photo we got of ourselves dressed up before we had to ditch our phones and cameras!
Last weekend my little sister and I dressed up in our 50s finest and headed down to a secret East London location to immerse ourselves in Secret Cinema's newest and biggest ever event: Back to the Future. If you're unaware of the cult of SC, it takes the fad of outdoor cinemas and turns them into incredible experiences that make you feel as though you are actually in the film itself. You may have seen when I went to the Dirty Dancing screening hosted by sister company Future Cinema, where the whole of Kellerman's Holiday Camp was recreated for us to wander around before settling down to watch the film itself, we had an amazing time!

This time around, Secret Cinema have rebuilt the town of Hill Valley, the home to our favourite time traveler since The Doctor, Marty McFly. The level of detail is incredible, with a whole town square featuring real shops you can peruse and businesses you can get involved with. I won't go into loads of detail as it is after all, a secret. We weren't allowed to take cameras or phones in so I have no pics to share with you, so instead I've got some top tips for how you can make the most of your visit to 1955.

1) Go in fancy dress
You may feel stupid wearing it on the tube there, but you'll feel even more stupid when you get there and realise you are the only person in a crowd of about 600 not wearing it.

2) Take a waterproof rug to sit on
The main seating area is astroturf and a standard rug will retain any rain that has fallen that day to make some uncomfortable sitting.

3) Take layers!
We took coats and blankets to keep us warm when the film started around 9pm. You don't have to cart it around with you all evening though, which leads to point four...

4) Claim your spot earlyPut your rug down (take something to weigh it down too or it'll blow away in the wind) and leave your non-valuables in your place. It gets pretty crammed there and if you leave it too late you'll be sat at the back or squeezed into a tiny spot next to the one guy who's never seen the film and keeps asking why Doc has a car instead of a police box.

5) Invest in the cardboard chairs
They are only £5 and allow you to sit up comfortably for the whole film. Genuinely the best thing I bought there and I'll be keeping it for future outdoor cinema experiences!

6) Interact with the actors
The production has 100+ actors 'living' in Hill Valley. We had a great chat with Goldie Wilson in Lou's Diner about how he has big ideas beyond being a waiter, and spoke with locals about the 'storm' that was going to hit the town that night. If you love the film as much as I do, you'll be able to think of an alias pretty quickly and it makes it so much more fun.

7) Cheer, applaud, quote-a-long. Get involved!
When the film is on and the actors are doing some amazing stunts right in front of you, show your appreciation. When the warm-up actors come on beforehand, do the dance routines they teach you. Don't just sit down, have fun!

8) Take a watch
With no phones allowed I had no idea what the time was for the whole evening.

9) Buy a disposable camera
Turns out these are allowed in 1955. They sell them on set, but I didn't see them, I only found out from a friend afterwards. I'm gutted I didn't realise, especially as my sister paid to get some 50s style victory rolls done in her hair and they looked amazing, but we don't have any proof!

10) Keep your eyes open
Once we'd settled down on the rug about an hour before the film was even due to start we kept seeing characters from the film walking past us. Lorraine and her friends skipping through the crowds, Biff and his mates causing havoc, Marty looking confused and bewildered as he walked through the town square. 

Despite the teething problems reported and the fiasco trying to buy tickets, this production was really worth the money. I'm so glad we went and luckily for you, there are still tickets available to two final dates on the 21st and 28th August. In the words of Doc Brown, "You're gonna see some serious shit!"

Life: July 2014

July has been super busy but really good fun, I can't believe it's actually August already. This year is going so fast! Thankfully we've had some great weather in London so I've been embracing it and heading outside as much as possible. August is going to include moving house and arranging my first ever hen do for a friend so it'll be pretty stressful but it's all for very exciting reasons. Hope July treated you all well, let me know what you've been getting up to!

Getting inspired by #Girlboss by Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso
Ilotopie: Fous de Bassin (Water Fools) on Willen Lake at Milton Keynes's International Festival
Our final sunset in Cornwall
I made pasta pie!

A payday treat full of baking inspiration
Visiting the Camden Hells pop-up brewery on the Selfridges rooftop
Truthful signage on Brick Lane
A gorgeous new find from the Backyard Market by menswear designer Alec Bizby

Passive aggressive sign at Brick Lane Coffee
Ironic street art
My first ever seven letter word in Scrabble!
A car boot full of stuff to sell at the car boot!
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review