Friday, 31 July 2015

28: Birthday Wishlist

It's my birthday in...7 weeks so its right about time to start dropping some hints to the birthday fairy. Or just planning on what to treat myself to because that's the true joy of being a grown-up. I'll be 28 - my 18th birthday was a decade ago, how did that happen? Let's just talk presents instead:

late twenties birthday gift guide

I am building up a collection of cases for my iPhone 6 and this Marc Jacobs one makes a change from my colourful, cutesy cases. Needless to say, I'll be having several birthday gins and this cocoa gin sounds intriguing. A cute compact mirror for reapplying lipstick on the tube - the sort of essential item you'd never actually buy for yourself. I've just finished listening to the first Game of Thrones book on Audible and now I want to read all of them, in proper book form before I watch the series- I know that Mummy Lipstick will love them too (hint hint) and as much as I love my Kindle it has ruined the joy of passing on a good book. I've switched all of my jewellery to gold this year and love this Kate Spade watch. Pineapples will never get old for me and these earrings are beautiful. The ring is slightly more affordable! Quick and multi-tasking beauty products are my favourite and these Mac Casual Colour pots are so cute (Hi Jinks is my favourite shade but I couldn't find a swatch of that). Finally, as a secret glasses wearer - how cute is this ring for a grown up piece of costume jewellery?

What's your favourite?

(Hint to Mummy Lipstick - clink on the highlighted words to buy...)


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Hen Do Idea: The Oxford Yurt

It's summer. I'm in my late twenties. It's officially Hen Do And Wedding Season.

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Inside the yurt 
Last weekend I retrieved my festival camping gear from the depths of summer 2014 and headed out to the countryside for my friend S's hen do. Our destination was The Oxford Yurt - a tipi village in the Oxfordshire countryside for a festival themed do. The setting was the perfect escape from the city - fields for as far as the eye can see, a campfire for toasting marshmallows and just enough home comforts for a group of city girls to be happy!

The Oxford Yurt hen party

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Playing dress up 
The Oxford Yurt hen party
I bought along these metallic tattoos to get into the festival spirit  
The Oxford Yurt hen party
Relaxing on the terrace outside the yurt 
The Oxford Yurt hen party
Tea is served - these scones were incredible 
The Oxford Yurt hen party
Orange cakes and strawberry tarts 
The Oxford Yurt hen party
The outdoor table which we were fortunate enough with the weather to use for tea and dinner  
The Oxford Yurt hen party
So far, so civilised but it was a hen do...
The yurt we stayed in was beautiful and we had use of a kitchen and indoor and outdoor seating areas. Proper toilets and hot showers made this a cut above all of my past camping experiences and you can park your car a short walk from the tipi field making bringing anything you need for the weekend super easy (although all your really need is a sleeping bag, wellies if its muddy and drinks and snacks).

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Walking to the Uffington White Horse and taking the opportunity to pose with some sheep 
We had breakfast provided on Saturday and Sunday, afternoon tea on Saturday and dinner on Saturday included in our package - Sarah, the owner of The Oxford Yurt was so accommodating with our group's dietary requirements and the food was all delicious. There was always someone on hand to help us out -  be it with setting up the campfire or suggesting a walk to burn off those afternoon tea scones.

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Post-dinner cheese board 
Dressing up costumes and board games are provided and - because you really can't take the girl out of the city - you can charge your phone via the solar power electricity system, phew (and, sorry, the site did have perfect 4G signal)! With a group of fifteen it was a bit of a tight squeeze when it came to bedding down for the night but the futon mattresses provided were so much more comfortable than any of my past camping experiences that I definitely got the best night's sleep in a tent I've ever had.

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Sunset over the field - there's something so relaxing about being in the countryside 
The Oxford Yurt hen party
Toasting marshmallows over the campfire and feeling like a Girl Guide 
The Oxford Yurt does a range of hen do packages - there's definitely something for everyone and if you're looking for an outdoorsy but not too outdoorsy hen do experience then this would be perfect.  I think we all felt refreshed from our time in the country, made some great memories for S to look back on as her single girl days are nearly over and bonded with one another ahead of the wedding (something which I appreciate so much as a single girl guest!). Big thanks to Sarah and The Oxford Yurt and to the the members of our group who planned the weekend - I just did the Instagramming!

The Oxford Yurt hen party
Breakfast - we were given fruit, granola, yogurts, pastries and helium and eggs to cook ourselves 
Have you stayed in a yurt?


Monday, 27 July 2015

EventBrite Summer School: Literary Salon – 24.07.2015

This summer EventBrite are hosting a morning summer school – a chance to (in exchange for waking up a little earlier) do something creative before work and start the day in a positive way. I’m lucky that my official start time is 9.30am and, unless I have a meeting or course, I have time to fit in a gym class or breakfast with a friend before work. Evenings are less predictable and I’m actually a bit of a morning person anyway so these sessions sounded like just my cup of tea.

I attended the Morning Literary Salon with Emma Mills – promising a mix of literature and meditation (as well as free coffee) this session sounded intriguing and a great way to get Friday (and the weekend) off to a positive start. The summer school sessions are free or go up to around £10 depending on the activity. This one was £3.85 which I would say was money very well spent as £3.85 doesn’t get you much in London these days. Emma is a mindfulness advisor for Neom Organics and a meditation lover with an interest in poetry and literature. I think most of the group were keen to find out how meditation and literature could work together and I think by the end of the session we all agreed that they really do complement one another.

After wander through a rather deserted Carnaby Street – I love early mornings in the city when the world hasn’t quite woken up yet -  we assembled under the umbrellas outside Pizza Pilgrims just as the rain started falling. We started by introducing ourselves to the group and then doing a guided meditation – this was actually really relaxing despite being outside with a group of strangers! Emma reminded us that the world was continuing around us while we meditated and that we were with a group of like-minded individuals. Her guidance and the falling rain created the perfect atmosphere and I managed to forget that I was in central London and block out the noise from the businesses setting up around us and music blaring from a nearby shop and really focus on the present moment and not on whether I’d shut my balcony door before leaving the flat or whether I’d eaten too much sugar the day before (pretty much 80% of my usual thoughts really).

We then went on to discuss poems – focusing on “All The Hemispheres” by Hafiz. Hafiz was a Persian poet writing in the 1300s. I have come across some of his work before due to being half Persian as Hafiz is like the Persian Shakespeare and his words seem so relevant to modern life that it’s hard to believe he wrote them so long ago:

All The Hemispheres

Leave the familiar for a while
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season

Onto the meadow and shores and hills
Open up to the roof
Make a new watermark on your excitement
And love

Like a blooming night flower
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
And giving
Upon our intimate assembly

Change rooms in your mind for a day

All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart

Greet yourself
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
Back home

All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire

While stitching themselves together
Into the great circle inside of

I’ve never studied literature formally – I stopped English Lit after GCSE so it was really nice (and a tiny bit out-of-comfort-zone scary in the best way possible) to discuss our interpretations of the poem, knowing that there is no “right” answer and that no one was going to mark us or make us sit an exam on it. To me this poem is about opening our minds to the world but at the same time realising that everything we “need” is already there inside of us. Isn’t that a beautiful and re-assuring thought?  

We ended with another meditation session before being treated to some breakfast pastries and heading off to work. Even the packed Central Line and rain didn’t ruin my zen vibe. It’s amazing what taking a little time out to tune in can do.

Meditation isn’t just for hippies and yogis, we can all benefit from taking a few minutes each day to reconnect with ourselves and our thoughts. If you’re new to meditation I’d recommend the Headspace app for guiding you through the basics. The revelation for me is that meditation is not about “going anywhere” with our minds but accepting them as they are, noting thoughts and feelings but not overly questioning them or running after the good feelings or trying to banish the bad ones in our heads. We spend so much time working hard, trying to be good friends, good daughters, good colleagues, rushing from A to B, always feeling like we must be “doing” something or else slumping on the sofa in front of Netflix feeling exhausted. Meditation may seem self-indulgent or something that you don’t have time to do but if you don’t check in with yourself then there’s no hope of being able to be the best sort of “you”.

Have you tried meditation? What do you think about pre-work activities?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Day Off

I took last Wednesday off to run some errands and ended up having a pretty sweet London day. It's so easy to forget how amazing this city is sometimes when the daily grind has you convinced that a productive Sunday involves three back-to-back episodes of Breaking Bad (this from the girl who never used to watch TV).

The summer days are making me crazily miss the school and university summer holidays. Back when the city was my playground, a mortgage was something boring that my parents had to pay and adulthood was a future promise that was somehow going to be everything that my then-existence wasn't. While it still sinks in that real life doesn't come with any breaks, has no ends of terms to reassess and start anew, that there are no longer any tests to pass and "right" answers to be reached - a day exploring the city is sometimes just enough of an antidote to the adulthood blues.

But first we eat. Sophie, Sarah and I played at being ladies who lunch at the super cute Fleet River Bakery. An old university haunt of mine this tiny cafe does the best tea and cakes - I had a banana and walnut bread and a soya hot chocolate while we chatted away.

Lincoln's Inn Field provided the perfect backdrop for outfit pictures. I haven't bought anything new for so long - partly in disgust at how much I bought in my younger days resulting in a wardrobe so full it doesn't shut. I do feel like my days of over consumption of high street clothing are somewhat over - I have to practically force myself to buy things these days. So, yeah, everything I'm wearing here is old news and I couldn't even tell you what's "in" this season. Happy days.

Waving goodbye to the girls I popped into the V&A for the Shoes: Pleasure and Pain exhibition. For a shoe lover this exhibition is essential - I genuinely felt like I learnt a lot about the history of shoes and footwear across cultures.  And there are lots of pretty shoes to look at. The shoes for bound feet actually made me feel a bit shivery inside. Peppermint tea in the courtyard in the nicest takeout cup I've seen before made for a nice afternoon break.

I've seen a few of these DNA Trail sculptures around. I keep telling myself that I won't be collecting them but I probably will do anyway. This one was behind the Royal Albert Hall. It's all for a good cause.

When was the last time you took some time out?


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Barbican - Station To Station - 19.07.15

I'm always looking for fun free things to do so when I heard about the Barbican's Station to Station event (or "happening" as they call it) I couldn't wait to pop along. Unfortunately (or fortunately, actually) all of my weekends in July so far have been really busy so Sunday was my first opportunity to visit. With over 100 events taking place over the course of the month, no two days are the same and I had no idea what to expect. The "happenings" take place around the Barbican Arts Centre - it's a great way to explore and there are loads of helpful staff members to point you in the right direction.

Making art out of a daily ritual - toast! AVM Curiosities hosted a toast making session - armed with a Victorian toasting fork, we moved around  table making toast and then stencilling a literary quote about toast in chocolate and cinnamon - yum! I haven't made toast for about 5 years so it was good to remember that a toaster is a marvellous invention that does toast both sides of the bread at once.... Doing something as mundane as making toast with total strangers in an art gallery was definitely a conversation starter and I love this quote from Oryx And Crake (Margaret Atwood) "Toast was a ritual item devoured by fetishists in the belief that it would enhance their kinetic and sexual powers". I'll never think of a humble slice of toast in the same way...
I was lucky to catch a live session at 2pm - Olaf Breuning's Smoke Installation looked awesome as it turned the air on the lakeside terrance into multicoloured smoke. Five minutes later and it was all over, gone in a puff of smoke as it were... 
The Curve gallery is playing host to Aaron Koblin and Ben Tricklebanks's Light Echoes for the duration of Station to Station, three yurts with different colour schemes - I loved the white "honeymoon suit" yurt in the sculpture court. The Station to Station deckchairs were perfect for chilling in the sunshine and the bleakness of this poster in the art gallery caught my eye - I almost purchased it I could maybe do with something more cheery for my flat.

Station to Station runs until the 26th July so there's still plenty of time to check it out. I'll definitely be back as there are evening events going on too and all of the events are free (although you may not be as lucky as me to get a free snack too!).

Have you visited the Barbican Centre?


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Lovebox - Victoria Park - 18.07.2015

Yesterday was spent at Lovebox in Victoria Park. For the first time ever for me at a festival, there was no rain. I'm probably now going to be cursed with downpours for every other festival I go to. I was volunteering with Warchild (bookmark this page for next year as there are so many good volunteering opportunities) - giving your time and energy to a cause is so much more satisfying than dropping some money into a box. I had an amazing day and met so many awesome people - the situations that the charity and its workers deal with are so removed from my day-to-day life it's almost impossible to imagine.

I had such a blast working with the other volunteers and looking important in my high-vis vest. In exchange for a six hour shift (the time flew by - it was so much fun being outside and talking to people) we got free entry and a free lunch. I was directing visitors on the box office, answering queries and enjoying the best people watching opportunities as the crowds streamed in to the park. Once the shift was over, it was time to enjoy the festival - the park was decked out like a mini-Glastonbury with two stages, a roller disco, a skate ramp, a circus tent and so many awesome food options. I'm definitely starting to become a fan of day festivals - the twenty minute journey home and being able to shower definitely makes up for maybe slightly less of the good vibes and atmosphere that a camping festival has.

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

lovebox volunteering warchild

Have you been to any festivals this summer?


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Hyper Japan - The 02 12.07.2015

Hyper Japan just gets bigger and better every year. I attended last year and so had an idea of what to expect but being held in the O2 was a huge improvement on past venues. Spreading across three areas the exhibition was such an immersion into Japanese culture and a great way to escape London for a few hours without the 12 hour flight.

I arrived early - this event is always so, so busy and draws such a mixture of people; from Japanese ex-pats looking for a taste of home, Cosplay-ers showing off their crazy costumes or just a group of "lads" doing the most terrible karaoke I have ever heard in the gaming zone. I (predictably) spent most of my time int the fashion area, resisting taking all of the plushies home with me... The food area is such a treat too with Japanese street food at really reasonable prices - all the sadder that my chewing capabilities are down at the moment when takoyaki was only £3 (deep fried balls of pancake with octopus tentacles inside - way nicer than it sounds, believe me!).

Hyper Japan 2015
Imagine how little I'd get done if I had a Nintendo DS?
Hyper Japan 2015
Taking over the O2 - this was the fashion and food area.
Hyper Japan 2015
This is what my childhood looked like.

Hyper Japan 2015
Giant miso soup.
Hyper Japan 2015
Have a break - have a purple sweet potato mini KitKat? 
Hyper Japan 2015
The rainbow one really, really wanted to come home with me.
Hyper Japan 2015
Matcha and red bean shaved ice.
If you can't wait until next summer for your hit of all things Japanese then fear not - the Hyper Japan Christmas market is coming to Tobacco Dock on the 27th-29th November - see you there!

Have you visited Hyper Japan?


Thursday, 9 July 2015

Race For Life 10k - Blackheath, London 5.07.2015

On Sunday, I headed to Blackheath for the Cancer Research Race For Life - armed with my High 5 Wave glove (Scottish Power aim is to record 60,000 high fives which will raise an incredible £35,000 for Cancer Research UK - you can add to the wave by giving their Facebook page a like here). After a scorching hot Saturday I was expecting the same conditions on Sunday but the ever-unpredictable British weather instead gave us a torrential downpour for the twenty minutes before the race started and on and off rain during the race. I'm a fair-weather runner but I think that the rain actually helped cool things down a bit and while waiting for the race to start wasn't too fun I barely even noticed the downpour while I was running.

Race For Life Blackheath
Ready to race! 
I met up with Lizzy and Hannah for some posing (and sheltering in the rain!) in the Scottish Power tent and then to do the rather challenging (from a co-ordination point of view) warm-up. The race itself started at 9.30 and the route was two laps of Blackheath park. I'm not usually a fan of lap races but I actually enjoyed this one - the second lap was somehow easier as I already knew the route.

Race For Life Blackheath
Posing with our High 5 hands!

Race For Life Blackheath
The start area - slightly wet! 
Being a Race for Life, this was more geared around having fun, getting through the distance and raising funds and awareness for the work of Cancer Research UK (some of the "I'm racing for..." sings on other runners tops were truly heartbreaking). There was no bag storage at the start line which I've come to expect from other races and no chip-timing. We were led to the start line in rather vague groups of "runners" (sub-1-hour), "joggers" and "walkers" but this actually worked quite well - the start didn't feel too crowded and I just made a mental note of the clock time as I crossed the line. The atmosphere was really great - there were a few cheerers along the route despite the weather and it was nice to do an all-female race (the first few races I did were all female, back when I was new to running and absolutely terrified but I've since only done mixed events). As it was a Race For Life there was such a mix of people running - it's not a competitive event and a good third of the participants were walking it, if you're new to group races I'd definitely recommend a Race For Life to ease you in. Running an organised race is so different to just going for a run on your own and it's good to get as much experience of races as possible - having planned races in the diary definitely keeps me motivated to train!

Race For Life Blackheath
Mid-run photography - not the easiest but I wanted to capture all of the pink!
My race experience was so much better than I was expecting - having not done a proper run since the Bupa 10k over a month ago due to recovering from having my wisdom tooth out and suffering from a stomach bug which left me only able to eat beige food earlier this week I was expecting to end up walking / crawling! Instead I got a PB for this distance of 1:03:20 - I couldn't quite believe it when I crossed the line! The route was really flat which I think helped and despite never wearing my Nike Frees for longer than a 20 minute run in the past they were actually super comfortable, thank goodness! The finishers medal is pretty cool, too - another one for the collection and after four years of running I finally believe that a sub-1-hour 10k is a possibility when I've actually doing some proper training!

Race For Life Blackheath
My medal! 
Have you taken part in a Race for Life?


Monday, 6 July 2015

Foodies Festival at Alexandra Palace

On Saturday I headed "up norf" to Ally Pally for the summer Foodies Festival. The weather was so awesome, it felt like being on holiday. My friend T and I explored the festival and tried some amazing new foods - gluten free salted caramel chocolate brownie being the obvious favourite. The festival is touring the country for the next few weeks and is back again at Christmas, too. I loved the outdoor stalls, live music and we even learned how to make our own pasta from Aldo Zilli. The views from the palace are so amazing, I've loved this spot since I was a child so it was the perfect way to spend a sunny day just out of the city:

How did you spend the sunny weekend?

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