Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Saving for the future

Life is expensive. Like, very expensive. I remember days when I was younger and I thought £100 was a lot of money but now I cry bitter tears when I see that's all I have left, especially when I see half my salary disappear every month to cover things like rent and bills.

I don't make things any better for myself either though. Some months/weeks this year I have pretty much been living hand to mouth, wondering how life and the the things I enjoy can cost so damn much.

This year, I had tickets to Glastonbury but cancelled. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the two main ones are:

1. I didn't want to spend £200 to see Coldplay. Just no.
2. I couldn't guarantee I could actually afford to be there. Festivals cost a hell of a lot even after you've handed over the ticket money. UK Credit have put together an interesting article that shows just how and why.

Like many people, I have dreams to buy a house in the future but I also want to see a lot of the world. Next year we have plans to go to Mexico and have two 30th Birthday Celebrations to sort out (hopefully New York AND California). That's some serious pennies.

I don't have any grand plans to save thousands every month. It's just not possible in London unless you're earning a ridiculous salary. Which I'm not. HOWEVER, I don have some variety of plan to sort my life out and save for these things without living in poverty (yeah, I know that's an exaggeration). I have rambled on about something similar in the past, but this time I am determined,

Step 1 - Cancun

After looking at flights and the resort we'll be staying at (boom for friends with timeshare), it turns out it's not going to be as expensive as I thought it would be. I'll only have to save £1000 to cover flights, accommodation and spending money and as we're not going until 2017, that means I only need to save £50 a month. Achievable.

Step 2 - 30th Birthday Celebrations

The main thing here is that they will be happening one month after the other. My best friend's birthday is in September and mine is in October. FORTUNATELY it won't be a thing until 2018 which means serious saving time. 

I haven't looked into the costs or logistics JUST yet but think if I can pop away £100 per month over the next two years, that should definitely be enough. It might be difficult saving £150 per month as I'm not exactly on the highest salary in the world, but as they're actual goals, I'm sure I can make myself do it.

Step 3 - Get a house

I am determined to not be stuck in generation rent for the rest of my life. I have decided that it's just not going to be a thing. 

My aim is to have saved enough for a deposit within 5 years. As long as schemes like Help to Buy still exist by them, it may be possible especially considering there are two incomes. 

I have no idea where to start with this one as house prices fluctuate and I have no idea where I plan on being in 5 years time. At least I have finally reached a point of determination rather than wallowing in my misery.

Saving is always hard, especially when you live in London, but as long as you can set some realistic goals rather than jumping on trends, you will get there.

Are you saving money for anything fun?

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with UK Credit but I was going to write something like anyway. All plans are my own and I'm actually doing these things.

Friday, 24 June 2016

That time I went camping.

camping in Brighton

I love camping. Well, the only time I have ever been camping is at festivals. I'm not sure if that 100% counts but in my head it does. You're sleeping in a tent, after all.

Recently, a pair of my boyfriends's best friends have got engaged. This is all very exciting and a decision was made for all of us to spend a weekend doing something and camping was clearly the answer.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I was very excited about this up until the moment I got to Victoria Station. Where all the trains were cancelled. I was going somewhere I had never been before. No one wanted to help me (I asked 5 different people and tweeted National Rail in anger), and I cried. Like, actual silent sobs that didn't seem to stop.

I got there though. And was rewarded for dealing with a traumatic journey with beer and tapas. Much better.

camping in Brighton

Our campsite, Housedean Farm, was beautiful and very quiet. Each pitch had a barbecue pit and I swear to God that the onsite showers are better than my one at home. All in all, a five star review for Housedean Farm campsite!!

It wasn't the actual camping part that I struggled with though... it was the fitness element and nature.

On our second day (technically first for me because of the travel drama), we went for a bike ride. I love riding a bike. I used to cycle to and from work every day until I wasn't allowed to anymore. I thought this would be a nice relaxing bike ride to the beach or something. Turns out it was mountain biking and I nearly died. Plus, swallowing flies, nearly falling off a bike and splitting the tyre AND getting stuck in field with angry cows is NOT the one.

Bike Hire Brighton
This is my really unimpressed cycling face...
To be fair, it was stunning, especially when we reached the top of Devil's Dyke, had a well deserved pint and admired the views. Just look at this:

camping in Brighton

camping in Brighton

The sky may be all grey and stuff, but it's still lovely. Plus, BUTTERCUPS. Maybe the 20km there was worth it in the end, who knows!!

On top of that, I had to be rescued by Gary from a Daddy Long-Legs in the tent, run away from bees and was highly annoyed when I trod is cow AND sheep poo. So pleasant.

I realised that as fun as the whole weekend was (really, it was), I'm definitely a city girl. I can't even deal with a house spider let alone the risk that they'll have snuck into my tent while I sleep. Also, having your air bed burst on the first day is really not the most helpful thing in the world. Sleeping on the cold, hard ground well and truly sucks metaphorical balls.

To me, camping is mostly getting drunk around a campfire after seeing a bunch of awesome bands on stage but maybe I'll up my camping game next time and won't be as useless... hopefully.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Reclaiming the word 'Nerd'

Recently, I have had conversations with my boyfriend and Little Miss Katy about what it was like for me at school. I didn't have the ABSOLUTE worst time there but it certainly wasn't all the fun in the world. I met my best friend at secondary school and genuinely have a lot of good memories... but there are also some not very nice ones that have stuck with me my whole life.

It's only recently that I have started to accept myself and feel confident in my own skin. Whether that's having some variety of body positivity (I'm sure that's a post to come later) or just dealing with the fact I'm a little bit odd. Accepting who you are is always hard, especially when there are a couple of things lodged in your head that have had you questioning yourself your whole life. This isn't a 'woe is me' post and I'm not after sympathy but, I promise, despite how long this post will inevitably be, it does have a point. 

I have never been 'cool' and that's fine. But when I was at primary school, I had to ask people whether it was OK for me to play with them at lunch time. Yeah, how horrible is that? The vast majority of the time they would say 'no' and I would either end up having lunch by myself or going to volunteer and help out with the younger children just so I had someone to talk to. 

I was a boffin/ a nerd/ a geek/ a weirdo. No one wanted to be seen with me at lunch time as it would obviously affect their 'play ground cred'. This was really the point where I started to realise a lot of girls were mean so I started making friends with boys instead. I had more in common with them. I was never really a tom-boy but they accepted me more than any of the girls did. We would play cops and robbers/ Sonic the Hedgehog (I would always be Tails), we played pogs and traded Pokemon Cards... all while the girls would do dance routines to the Spice Girls but I couldn't join them because they already had five people...

Even outside of school I didn't have a lot of friends. My parents used to joke that I was 'a princess in my tower' (all light-hearted because for a while they had no idea what I was going through). I preferred to stay in my room and read Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings and The Magical Far Away Tree rather than be exposed to further ridicule outside my own home.

Then I went to secondary school. It was slightly different because half of my primary school went to Lord Grey while the others (me included) went to Leon. I thought things would be better here but I quickly realised it wasn't true. There was one particular boy who only spoke to me when he needed help with homework, the rest of the time he would call me names. I desperately wanted to be accepted so I dealt with it. I wasn't exactly a high achiever but because I was reasonably intelligent, calls of 'Boffin!' would greet me pretty much every day I walked down the school corridors.

Then I discovered music. I had already been learning how to play the Trumpet but when I met Mr Hills, he encouraged me to do more than just have lessons. There was an orchestra, a choir and the music room was always open at lunch time. The music room became a safe place for some of us outcasts. We would play music and sing away and be genuinely happy... but then the bell would ring and we would become the 'band geeks' again.

For an entirely different reason I ended up moving secondary school. Again, I thought maybe this was a chance to have a better time. But I was wrong again (at least a little). 

On my very first day, I overheard something at lunch time that made my stomach sink. "Have you seen the new girl? Yeah, I thought she was pretty cool at first but it turns out she's in W (higher set) with the rest of the nerds. Yeah, she'll never be one of us". I couldn't understand what I had already done wrong, I was being punished for being smart before half of the year even knew my name. 

My first lesson of the afternoon, I met Charlie, Distracted. I was put on her table in English class because there was a spare space. I was really quiet despite her efforts to talk to me but I had already got into my head that this girl was too cool to be friends with me. Clearly I was VERY wrong because 14 years later, we're still best friends and I barely go a day without talking to her. 

Charlie introduced me to more people, some older and loads who had a similar, if not the same, taste in music. I had a little circle. I had genuine friends. And even though the 'nerd'/ 'boffin' taunts still followed me, it didn't matter. I had PROPER friends now.

Charlie and I celebrating A-Level results day.
It's while I've been putting these things together that I have realised that all the things I was mocked for at school have become cool and the internet has been a driving force for this. When I was teased for reading Harry Potter because it was a kids book, I am now a part of a massive online community/family. When I used to play the PlayStation with my brother and try talking about the games I've played, I was told that was 'for boys'. Now gaming is one of the most popular past-times in the world, people will always anticipate the release of the next console and it's cool to be a 'gamer girl' these days. 

I think that maybe if I had had the internet when I was younger, then maybe I wouldn't have been so excluded but, to be fair, I don't really need it. I think that, unlike most people, these things have actually made me stronger and more willing to accept myself. Recently, a friend introduced me as 'the resident nerd' and I was not ashamed. I was proud. I love her for it and after all this time (Always...) I have managed to accept who I really am. 

I am a Potterhead, a Whovian, A Band Geek. A nerd. Yes, a NERD. I am a nerd, it is my label and I wear it with pride. I'll shout it from the roof tops if I have to.

Be proud of who you are. YOU are awesome. It's a shame it's taken me so bloody long to come to terms with it myself but, in the words of Oscar Wilde:

Oscar Wilde Quote

Monday, 20 June 2016

I love the 90s: Little Nan's Rio Bar

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I don't really DO East London, if that makes sense. I lived on Old Street while I was at University so I think I just eventually fell out of love with East London. The 90s, however, are something I will NEVER fall out of love with. I was brought up on Britpop and have loved bands like Pulp and Blur for as long as I remember. I'm adamant that some of the best music and best films came out of the 90s and I refuse to admit that songs from my childhood now class as 'old school'. Just no.

Little Nan's Rio Bar in Dalston, pretty much combines a bunch of my favourite things - from childhood nostalgia to ugly teapots. The whole thing was decorated as though it could have been your Nan's living room but some kind of rebel had also taken over. It was amazing. Mismatched furniture with doilies on the tables yet surrounded by posters of Pulp Fiction and Fight Club (hellooooo Brad Pitt topless) with toy dinosaurs in random places.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

Obviously, this is the kind of place that would send us #Bangarang girls into all a frenzy. Seeing as we were the first people there, we automatically ran around everywhere taking pictures of everything before we got down to the business of the day... Alcohol, Obviously.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I love a good cocktail and I'm one of those people who loves it when they're served in teapots and tea cups. I have a collection of teapots at home so should probably start making some myself!

We left Erica in charge of ordering the booze and we ended up with three tea pots one with gin, one with vodka and one with rum. All of my favourite things. We were so excited that we hadn't even noticed a cocktail tea pot had already been left on our table as a welcome. Erica was very happy that there was a little card on it saying 'Lady Erica' so she completely over looked the extra pot of booze.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
I only chose this cup because it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast
After choosing our mugs/tea cups for drinking purposes we sat down and enjoyed some Uncle Jon from Jamaica, Queen Kitsch Bitch and another one I can't remember. My favourite was Queen Kistch Bitch and wish there was more of it. Once we were happily settled in and on our way to merry, we sat back and did what we all do best; gossip. We can talk for hours on end, and didn't even realise how long it had been until we were offered more drinks but had barely made a dent in  the ones we already had!!

When it came time to head home, the first thing we did was obviously abuse the photobooth room. Complete with props AND WIN MACHINE. Half of the videos I put on my snapchat don't make any sense now but I'm sure they were perfectly valid in the evening. Here's a snapshot:

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Emma Inks
All in all, a wonderful evening was had. If you get a chance to go down and indulge in the 90s nostalgia of Little Nan's, do it and do it soon. It's going to be there until August. You pay £39 for a block of time with unlimited cocktails (plus pick 'n' mix AND popcorn) or you can pay as you go. There were talks of reserving a table again some time in the future so I'm excited about the prospect of going back!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

From the brain of AJ: Shower Thoughts

Sometimes I do wonder how my brain works. Especially if it's first thing in the morning and I'm not entirely with it. To me, a shower is more than just a place to wash... Sometimes it can involve popping my phone in a strategic gap by the sink to amplify Spotify, in the vain hope no one can hear my warbles along to Les Mis (obviously doesn't work. I am NOT Anne Hathaway) and if I'm having a bath I have a tendency to perch my laptop on the toilet seat so I can have my Netflix fill and binge through some 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Most of the time though, I end up thinking of the most ridiculous things, anything from where the word shampoo comes from to remembering that stupid thing I did when I was ten years old and still cringing over it. It turns out that I'm not the only one to have weird shower habits though, recent research from Mira showers show some of the odd things we Brits go through. Apparently 10% of Brits pretend they're a water fountain, I'm not one of these people but I'm definitely one of the 29% of Londoners who think of witty comebacks to arguments that have already happened.

To jump on the bandwagon, here are my favourite things that I have thought of in the shower:

  1. I spend more time of the day talking to people on the internet then I talk to people in real life.
  2. I wonder if my goldfish can understand me but just generally doesn't give a fuck... although he's probably pissed at me for calling him Fatty Boom Boom every day
  3. *flash back to that time I tried to do a cartwheel over a chair in front of the whole class and landed flat on my arse*
  4. I used to think posters in my room could see me, and thought I was weird, with their judgemental eyes. I wonder what they would think now. Did I get better or worse?
  5. My Patronus would definitely be a Cocker-Spaniel
  6. I wonder how long a trumpet is if you were to unwind it... I must remember to Google that (*forgets*)
  7. Whoever decided mint would be a good ingredient for shower gel is clearly Satan
  8. When I was growing up, blogging was something introverts and geeks mostly did, now everyone seems to be doing it. When did it become cool?
  9. If magic was real, I would totally want to be able to fly. I won't have to wake up at stupid O'Clock to sort my life out.
  10. Why is there any need for a creature to have 8 legs. It's completely unnecessary (after crying at a spider in my bathroom)
Honestly, this is just a selection of all the ridiculous things that go through my head on a daily basis. As well as day-dreaming and talking to myself, showers are clearly where the most important questions in life spring to mind... or it all just shows how odd I really am. 

What's the most ridiculous thing you have thought of in the shower?

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Goosebumps Alive - Backstage Tour

Goosebumps Alive London

Remember that time I went to see Ghost Stories and I was terrified? How about that time I went to see The Woman in Black, cried and had to go and buy some shoes to feel better? Well, guess who thought it would be a good idea to go and see Goosebumps Alive... That would be me.

Last week, Milly from Mini-Adventures, invited me to go along as her +1 to see the show and go on a  backstage tour organised by Yelp London. I had been wanting to see it for so long because CHILDHOOD so I obviously said yes. Obviously forgetting that the Goosebumps books made me sleep with the lights on, even as a teenager.

No, just no. Glad I missed this room!
As the day went on, I realised what I had committed to and the nerves were kicking in. I pre-warned Milly about how much of a wuss I am and how it was pretty much guaranteed to scream and cry. She said she understood but then realised later in the night how I was really not exaggerating...

I do have one slight problem when I go to things like these, aside for being a complete and utter wimp, there's that whole Epilepsy thing I have. Fun times.

When we arrived I said 'One question, I have epilepsy...' (People started laughing immediately because it 'wasn't a question' despite the fact they hadn't even let me finish the bloody question out of sheer rudeness...), the dude on the front desk let me know which rooms would be safe and which ones I should avoid. Later on in the show, one of the crew members came up to me to take me into a separate show/room so I avoided the most risky of them all. Very kind. Very considerate. Hats off to you.

Image stolen from  Mini-Adventures

The show consists of disorientating corridors leading you to short performances of some of the original Goosebumps stories, set in a modern era, versions of 'Say Cheese and Die' with the new iPhone instead of a camera and 'Don't go into the Basement' showing the story of a young couple in love moving in for the first time.

I repeat. These books gave me nightmares as a kid. The first show we saw was 'Say Cheese and Die'. I was the only one in the room who screamed at the loud noises...

One of the rooms are also immersive where you're encouraged to participate. Normally this would be fun if it weren't for an evil clown man with Salad Fingers fingers who controls bloody Slappy the Dummy, the WORST of all Goosebumps baddies...

Goosebumps Alive London Review
Set for 'Don't go into the basement'
There are two rooms in particular that will stick in my mind for life. Actual life. 

There's the Lift and the Grand Finale. 

Milly had already warned me about the lift. I don't like lifts. Especially when there are scary things happening. Even though I knew what was coming, I still ended up on the floor by Milly's feet, holding her hand and crying. She still loves the fact that one of the cast members broke character to check I was OK. I was a god damn mess.

Also stolen from Milly but I did ask first!

But the last room was worse, There were clowns. I don't like clowns. They're evil and wrong and just need to be stopped. I managed to get myself into a safe spot to the side of the room (not the back or front, that's just bloody stupid, Are you asking to be killed by a murderous clown??) but, oh my, was I not safe. The bastarding clowns appeared out of nowhere and I tried to run. At one point Milly was hugging me where 'her boobs were keeping me safe'

Seriously, they should have paid me to be there because I brought so much entertainment.

Despite the fact I was terrified and crying and having all of the emotions... I loved it. 

The entire show runs on a military stylie scheduled with not only the actors being perfectly on cue for multiple performances in a day but also the special effects. When we went on our mini backstage tour, I was still jumping at things I knew were coming even though the show was over.

It's a shame the show is over now as I want to go again. Lord knows why, but I do. If it ever goes on tour/comes back, I urge you to see it.

* Disclaimer: I attended this event for free as Milly's +1. All hilarious tales of me being a pathetic mess and crying at everything are true. I'm not going to deny it. 

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Reasons I don't think I'm an "adult" yet

I am 27, I haven't lived with my parents for nearly 9 years now and somehow I'm doing this independence thing. Yet I still don't feel like an 'adult'. I'm sure I'm not the only one either. This has mostly been proven recently when Gary went away for a couple of days and I could NOT look after myself. At all.

If you look at some sitcoms, people of our age range already seem to have their sh*t together. In How I met your mother, at my age Ted was already an architect who then designed his own building in a very short time, Rachel was working in a fantastic position at Ralph Lauren before she was 30, and Howard from The Big Bang Theory went to God damn space. Yes I know they're all fictional, but still...

Sometimes watching these things just makes you think 'what am I doing wrong???' There isn't always an answer annoyingly.

There are a couple of things that make me think I'm really not a responsible adult yet.

1. Money

I never have any. I don't know what I do with it. All I know is that the 10% of every pay check I should have saved according to Ross and Monica's dad is definitely not there. I have a grand total of 8p in my savings account.

2. I can't plan for sh*t

I never know what the hell I'm doing. I have a diary in a pathetic attempt at being organised but I'm just rubbish at using it. Either I forget to put something in it or I forget I even have it. I tend to rely on my friends/Gary to know what I'm doing and when. I'm rubbish.

3. The idea of owning a house is oh, so far away

This isn't the same for everyone but, for me; owning a house = proper adult. Not just an adult, a PROPER adult. Being able to actually decorate the place you live in and make it your own. Unfortunately, I'm one of the people who is pretty much 'trapped' in London, or at least 'trapped' in private renting. The cost of living in this city is so high, a lot of people (me included) tend to go through stages of practically living hand to mouth. Yes, I'm stupid with money but it isn't all my fault. For the two bedroom flat in a house, which I do love, I could probably get a house with a garden somewhere else and still pay less.

Although salaries are definitely better living in London, it doesn't really balance out. Can you see how my thought process is a tad confused here?

4. If something goes wrong, my automatic reaction is to call my dad

*replace ginger kid with me and 'mum' with 'dad'*

Or Gary. Little things like getting lost, the first thing I do is call one of these and guaranteed they'd be able to help in some way. I can read maps etc and should really do the 'independent' woman thing more but when panic sinks in, regardless of the situation, I just need to call someone more sensible than me.

5. I fail at the basics

In 24 hours alone I managed to fail at pretty much everything. I forgot my lunch I prepared in an attempt to save money, I also forgot my purse so I couldn't spend money and therefore couldn't eat. I broke down in the bathroom because there was a spider and no one around to help me. I left the house in tights with holes in that I hadn't noticed AND MY UNDERWEAR WAS INSIDE OUT.

Seriously, what even happened. I can't believe it happened.

Adulthood always seemed to be a thing that would just hit me when I got to a certain age. It turns out it's really not, it takes hard work. Maybe I'll get there eventually, maybe I won't. I just need to guarantee that I'll never be left to my own devices for a long period  of time until I nail this sh*t.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Brunch at the 'Bel and Dragon at the George'

It strange how as I get older, so much of my life now evolves around food. In my early 20s, it was all about booze but now, the majority of my social life is all about food. This is particularly the case when I either hang out with #Bangarang and when Gary and I go to stay with our friends out of London. Seriously, all we do is eat. A weekend brunch is definitely my favourite. It means that it's acceptable to drink before 12 and stuff your face. Definitely the ultimate treat (not every day. Drink responsibly, peeps).

On our most recent visit to our friends', the plan was to be productive all weekend and sort the Garden out. That didn't happen. When we woke up a little too late, it was then decided we would go to brunch/lunch and then relax before doing all the hard work on Sunday instead. #Typical.

A short drive away is a tiny little village called Odiham where you'll find The Bel and George at the Dragon., It's a quaint little pub that's so old it's all wonky. Our friends had been here before, as they're both Gluten and Dairy free so we tend to trust their judgement automatically when it comes to food as I'm sure it can be difficult finding GOOD allergy free food. They've never got it wrong so far!

In typical AJ fashion, I did that 'eyes bigger than my belly' thing. The menu just looked so damn good! I do this every time and end up pretty much needing to be rolled out of restaurants.

The Bel and the Dragon at the George Brunch Menu
Golden Bubble and Squeak

To start I ended up going for the bubble and squeak with eggs and bacon. Mostly because Gary said he was having the pancakes so I knew I'd be able to try both.

I actually couldn't... The bubble and squeak was SO HUGE Gary had to help me eat it. This is generally a standard at any meal we have but not normally for a starter. God, it was tasty though.

The Bel and the Dragon at the George Brunch Menu
Blueberry Pancakes with crispy bacon
For our mains, Gary and I both ordered of the rotisserie section of the menu. I mostly did this because I personally think Roast Potatoes count as a food group in their own right so HAD to have them... even though I had ordered the Bubble and Squeak... 

My main was the Roasted Gessingham Duck Breast, served with Pak Choi and Split Peas. It was cooked perfectly to medium rare and was a more realistic sized portion. I managed to finish it rather quickly because it was soooo amazing. I didn't have many of the roast potatoes though... does that count as finishing. 

The Bel and the Dragon at the George Brunch Menu
Roasted Gessingham Duck breast

Gary isn't all that adventurous with his food really and opted for the Organic Chicken. When I say he's not adventurous, it meant the bread sauce was left untouched... All those onion rings though? Totally gone In a heartbeat.

The Bel and the Dragon at the George Brunch Menu
Organic Chicken with onion rings and bread sauce

There was no space for dessert... I struggled to even finish my after food latte. It was all so good, catering well to gluten free and dairy free customers and the portion sizes were more than generous, especially for me. I personally found it was a bit expensive (more than I can afford anyway) but it's clearly worth it. When I work out how to get to Odiham from here (or work out where it is) I will be going back.

Their Menu changes often but you can view their May Brunch Menu here.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Brazilian Wine and Food with Cabana

*Warning* - This post contains a lot of pictures of delicious food. Only proceed if you think you can handle it.

Cabana have been oh so very kind to us recently. In Islington, they treated us to a wine tasting and in Brixton  they had us all stuff our faces on the new menu. I was so full when I got home at the end of both events, I barely had to the energy to just put on my onesie and get into bed. SO FULL... and a tad merry.

After each event there were some key takeaways:

2. These cheesy dough ball things are a revelation
4. #Balls 

To be honest. They were two evenings of revelation.

As much as I like to pretend, I know sweet bugger all about wine, except that I don't like chardonnay and red is clearly the best. I didn't know Brazilian was really a thing (New World, yo) but apparently, it's pretty damn good. We had the opportunity to taste red, white and sparkling (ooh, fancy and delicious) as well as guided through what you would expect from a wine tasting. Except for the spitting in a bucket part you see on the TV... such a waste of wine.

Cabana Islington

We also discovered that cheese with honey is possibly one of the best combinations known to man. I thought so anyway.

My favourite wine (although I think I can safely say 'OUR favourite') was the Miolo Family Pinot Noir. I'm a red wine girl anyway but the fact that a red wine Being Erica likes exists is clearly a VERY impressive feat.

At Cabana Brixton, we were greeted with smiles Caipirinhas (normally £6.95 each) and chips and dip. Seriously, give me booze as soon as I arrive and you have a very happy blogger. As we were sipping away, we had the privilege to meet the owner. As we nattered away about our experience in the Islington branch, he had a bottle of the Miolo brought to our table. Such a nice chap!

Cabana Brixton review

As our starters arrived, Katy and I were too busy taking outfit photos and left the poor girls waiting. Knowing blogger pain, they didn't touch a thing and waited for us to come back and take all the pictures before they had a bite. Such good girls!

To start, we had a combination of their street menu dishes; Halloumi with Guava dip (£5.45), Crispy Lula Squid (£5.95) and some cheesy baked dough balls (£3.45). We also had chicken dough balls too hence the #Balls thing...

I swear I could eat those cheesy dough balls until I explode.

Cabana Brixton review

Our mains on both evenings were pretty much plates of meat. Cabana serve Meat Skewers or your choice, it means the meat is cooked so well it just falls apart in all its barbecue goodness. We had a selection of their skewers but you can choose what you want. I can say with authority here that they will all be delicious.

The desserts. THE DESSERTS. Most importantly, Nutella doughnut ball things of heaven. I don't think I really need to explain much more other than desserts = divine.

I can't really write any more about Cabana, it's so far away from lunchtime and it's making me hungry.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Good things last week #4

Things haven't been 'good' for a while which is why I haven't really blogged, let a lone a good things blog post. Things finally seem to be looking up though and I have actually started having a social life again. In between the business of events, seeing friends and starting a new Freelance role, I have done some pretty GOOD things

1. Brunch with friends out of London

Gary and I have been spending a bit more time out of London, either with family or friends. It gives us time to escape the business that is the Big Smoke and actually relax. When we spend time with our friends, it mostly revolves around food, which makes me so happy. This time we went to Brunch in a tiny little place called Odiham. A blog post will follow but in the mean time, here's a snapshot of the delicious food we stuffed our faces with.

Pancakes with Bacon

2. Blogging Mojo is back

Blogging has always been a way for me to chill out really, as well as meet people and develop my career skills (social media, yo). It's been put on the back burner, again, and how I have missed it.

3. Goosebumps Alive

I was scared absolutely out of my skin last week when Milly invited me to join her at Goosebumps Alive plus backstage experience with Yelp London. Obviously, a comedy filled blog post will follow but just imagine... me, a person scared of the dark, scared of everything and just generally a wuss... holding Milly's hand so I didn't get attacked by monsters.

Goosebumps Alive London

4. I started a new job

Well, it's another freelance  role but is just as good. I'm being presented with a bunch of new challenges and an immense work load... it's certainly keeping my brain ticking! The people are lovely and, so far, I genuinely enjoy going in in the mornings. #weird.

5. Bagarang meet-up

Something happened that has never happened before. A year a go Bangarang started and has grown so it's now 11 people strong. As hard as we try, we have never managed to get all of us in one room. These girls are the best bunch of friends I have and the fact that we managed to get all of together (with Charlie on FaceTime.. totally counts) was an absolute dream/miracle.

Emma made us all the food, we drank all the wine, we laughed, we cried, we sang Mariah Carey and more... Typically, it was just THE. BEST. NIGHT. I love you girls.

writer's block and broken lenses
Bangarang = Little Miss Katy, Jasmin Charlotte, Being Erica, Captain Charley, Bloody Hell Brennan, Me, Emma Inks, Broke in the Big Smoke, Country Mouse Claire, Charlie Distracted (on the phone), Mini-Adventures (Photo by Emma)

Seriously, these girls are the best.

All in all, it was a pretty good week and I'm so glad I'm feeling more like myself again.

What did 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Dinner at Dirty Bones Soho

writer's block and broken lenses

THIS IS A VERY LATE POST! I have been a little bit crap recently.

To bid Charlie farewell before her travels, the Bangarang girls used this opportunity to get as many of us in one room as possible. Turns out it's pretty difficult.

Everyone was raving about Dirty Bones (I think Emma had been for brunch there recently...) but me being the rubbish Londoner I am hadn't heard of it. But I trust the Bangarang girls and their thoughts on food so knew that it would be good.

Dirty Bones is just of Carnaby Street in Kingly Court, Carnaby Street happens to be one of my favourite places in London so I'm always happy to be there as a standard.

The restaurant is beautifully decorated, albeit a bit dark, and seemed to be constantly busy, obviously a popular spot.

Dirty Bones Happy Hour Cocktails

In typical Bangarang style, the first thing we did was take a look at the booze menu. Turns out it was happy hour so I obviously went for the Top Dog cocktail. It's a vodka, strawberry delight with chambord and Prosecco. Pretty much all the good things. The happy hour isn't exclusive to cocktails though and the wonderful Emma went for the Queen of the Night pale ale. You can't really say no to it when you take one look at the bottle.

Queen of the Night Pale Ale

There was a common theme when it came to the food though... Apparently fried chicken with waffles is a thing. Apparently it's really good.

It does look pretty good. 


I went for the Yankee Dog and am adamant I made the best choice. It was absolutely delicious and I was upset when I genuinely couldn't finish it. 

JUST LOOK AT IT! (Note, restaurant with poor lighting = bloggers actual worst nightmare)

The sausage is so big, it is merely perched on the bun. As you do.

The food at Dirty Bones is wonderful. It's not the most expensive place in the world, my Yankee Dog only cost £7 and I was beyond full so if you're looking for somewhere cheap to go and still leave feeling like you're going to burst, go here.

I am an honest blogger though and I do have one niggle. They were clearly understaffed that night and I was forgotten about after we had to wait 20 minutes to even order more drinks. Everyone but me got theirs (although they did have to wait around 20 minutes after ordering them). I was very upset but as I have worked in restaurants before, I decided not to kick up a fuss. It did save me £5 though!

Have you ever been to Dirty Bones?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Nails Inc Paint Can Review

Nails Inc Paint Can

Anyone who knows me, AT ALL. will know that I am very vain about my nails and have been since I was a teenager. Recently, my poor nails have been neglected as I just have not had the time to keep on top of them and chipped nail polish should definitely not be a thing. End of.

Now it seems like things are finally on their way up after months of crapness so I can get back to being me again... With my Killer Nails.

No word of a lie, Nails Inc are one of my favourite Nail Polish brands. The majority of my collection is made up of Nails Inc and a regularly ask for new bottles of my favourite shades for birthdays and Christmas. Heaven forbid, I ever run out of Baker Street!

Whenever I do my nails, I'm an absolute idiot and always seem to do them before bed, this means they get ruined immediately. Even if I do the special claw hands, using only my wrists to open doors or get my boyfriend to help me change, I always wake up with them smudged or with duvet prints. You think I would have learned by now... but no.

I've heard a lot of buzzing about Nails Inc's Paint Can on the interweb and thought I should probably give it a go. Some people have been raving about it and others... not so much. I like to come to my own conclusions on these things and if it means I can get an easy mani and still manage to get dressed my myself, we're already on to a winner. The fact that it also comes in my favourite shade, Porchester Square, is seriously the delicious icing on the metaphorical cake.

A couple of things. I did not do the best job at this, purely because I am cack-handed, was fighting with lighting possibilities and missed my fingers a couple of times... People online have been moaning about how this is messy; to be honest, it's just expected when you're essentially attacking your fingers with spray paint, it's also a well known fact that I cannot aim. At all. The video below is my second attempt at application:


I then proceeded to let it dry for too long and couldn't get it off my finger tips... until I decided to be clever and used a flannel. Worked like a dream. How did it take me so long to think of it? Seriously, I suck.

When I was done, I honestly wasn't 100% sure. I love Porchester Square but it was different. I was certain that it wasn't the right shade and it had a bit of a matt finish which wasn't made clear on the packaging. HOWEVER! I used a top coat and it was exactly as I wanted it to be, it even has a very faint shimmer which I enjoyed.

Nails Inc Paint Can Porchester Square

Despite my initial doubts, I do absolutely love it. It has lasted for 5 days now with no chips and it was one hell of a laugh to put on. I have no idea how many uses you get out of a can (especially seeing as I made one hell of a mess) but I will be using it again and will more than likely get more colours too. 

Lots of love over here for the Nails Inc Paint Can.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Strada Panton Street

writer's block and broken lenses

Being a blogger is pretty damn amazing sometimes. I'm not going to lie. Being a part of Bangarang is even better. When we were invited to go to Strada on Panton Street (courtesy of Erica) for their re-opening/we've decorated-ness, I obviously had to say yes... Italian is pretty much one of my favourite types of food and I don't think I had ever been to Strada before... Why the hell not?

When we got there, we expected a tasting menu, like so many other events we have been to before, but oh my... were we wrong...

We had the chance to order anything we wanted off the menu and the waiting staff treated us like absolute Queens. We are Queens, but still.

From the second I arrived to join Little Miss Katy and Erica, I was immediately offered a glass of prosecco and got the ball rolling with our pre-starters of garlic bread and tomato and pesto bread.

writer's block and broken lenses

When it came to the wine side of things, not only did we not realise we could have wine, but we also had no idea what to order. Our hostess (Sophie, she was an absolute legend) for the evening clearly knew the menu inside out which was amazing as it meant we definitely had something we would enjoy for once. I have been burnt too many times when ordering wine in a restaurant...

Erica and Claire went for white while Katy and I tackled the red. Not going to lie, I scoffed internally when we were given the usual spiel of how you can 'definitely taste chocolate' knowing that you don't put chocolate into wine. HOWEVER. The lady knew her shit. You could actually taste chocolate. I ended up ordering an extra glass that was the size of my face for when the bottle was gone... #Standard

writer's block and broken lenses
Aware I have already used this picture... but whatever
Being thee greedy buggers we are, and not really understanding the concept of 'eyes bigger than your belly', we were undecided even on starters so it felt like we ordered pretty much everything. Exaggeration but it was six starters is definitely more than enough for four people. We had two portions of Caprece (avocado, mozzarella and tomato salad), mushroom and truffle bruschetta, two portions of crispy squid and two portions of arancini - these are little fried rice balls and I'm pretty sure they are heaven in ball shape.

I can be quite funny when it comes to food. I have an irrational fear of seafood which I'm slowly getting over (I can't have prawns anywhere near me) but was a big brave girl and tried the squid. I was surprised that I actually liked it, it wasn't chewy and had a lovely flavour. I couldn't exactly eat a whole one to myself but well done to Strada for actually making me like it, even if it was just a little bit.

Another glass of wine down and it was on to the mains

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While we were all taking these pictures, the waiter (while opening another bottle of wine) joked that our food would taste much nicer while it was still hot... #LOL

I am a nightmare in restaurants because I never know what I want and tend to just see what I say when my order is taken and deal with it. It's not very often when I regret my choice but that definitely happened at Strada. Our hostess recommended the pumpkin ravioli, two of my favourite things. When I went on holiday to Italy as a teenager, I LIVED off ravioli and gelato... HOWEVER, I also really wanted the chicken and mushrooms... and Claire was undecided too so we ended up ordering a different meal each so we can taste a bit of everything. I avoided Erica's seafood linguine, because sea food, but trusted her judgement on how amazing it was.

My chicken and mushrooms was delicious, I can't really describe how lovely the sauce was but I kept dipping things in it because it was so good. THAT PUMPKIN RAVIOLI THOUGH. It was topped with amaretti biscuits in a sage butter sauce. It was divine and I really wish I had it. At some point it became a little too rich for Katy because butter, but the rest of us were there to help. Like the good humans we are.

writer's block and broken lenses

Another glass of wine later...

DESSERTS. Despite the fact I had to undo the button of my jeans (classy chick), everyone knows that your dessert belly is separate from your normal belly... FACT

Wanting something a little refreshing after all the richness and the fact I still had wine, I went for a mixture of lemon and mango sorbet. Simple pleasures but always wonderful. Erica had the tiramisu, there was cheesecake involved too. A lot of desserts. Obviously we couldn't eat it all but we did try and I had to proceed to undo the zip on my jeans too. Thank god for long t-shirts.

It's easy to go into a chain restaurant and just expect standard food and standard service, that didn't happen at Strada. As people who go to restaurants often to review, we're used to a certain level of service but Strada went above and beyond, giving us the V.VI.P treatment. BUT, looking around the restaurant during our visit, it wasn't just us. Every table was being treated wonderfully and receiving brilliant service and all the food came out of the kitchen looking beautiful, not just ours. A couple of times I did think that we were just being treated so well because we were there to review but it was clear that the staff at Strada really do look after each and every customer to a high standard so I told the cynic in me to shut the hell up. I will DEFINITELY be going back to Strada.

TL;DR Strada is awesome, the staff are awesome, the food is awesome and you should never underestimate how much Bangarang can eat and drink!

Many, many thanks to Sophie and the rest of her team at Strada. You treated us so well and gave us one hell of a night.

*Disclaimer: We were invited to dine at Strada but if I didn't like the scenario, I wouldn't write about it. All ramblings are my own.