Huawei G7 & the Ultimate Lifehacking Workshop

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the Ham Yard for a ‘Lifehacker’ workshop, to celebrate the launch of the new Huawei G7 phone, where a rather excellent evening was had by all.

Huawei G7

Let’s get straight into it and discuss the phone, shall we? I am far from a tech blogger, but I knows what I likes, and I, uh, likes what I sees – for want of a better phrase. It’s a nice weighty thing, about the size of my old Samsung Galaxy Note: light enough to carry around, big enough that you can actually watch things on it, and type. Much as I’ve been having an full blown love affair with my Sony Xperia Z3, I’d never watch anything on it. This baby has a 5.5 inch display!

A few tech specs: download speeds are up to 150Mbps, which I believe translates into ‘hella fast’. The whole thing feels incredible slick, very speedy and terrific if you’re a multi-tasking, mega-distracted, slightly hyper phone user like me. It features a 3000 mAh battery, which means that you can use it for a couple of days at a time without charging. Do you remember in the 00s when your phone lasted for a few days? Before your iPhones came along and begged to be charged every hour or so? Well, that. Perfect if you work in social media but hate plug sockets, like me.

Negative points? The resolution is a little lower than I’d like at 267ppi, vs 319ppi for my Xperia Z3, but it’s still bright and clear. Cosmetically speaking, the casing is nice enough but looks more expensive in the white version. Functionality-wise, I’ve only played around with social apps and Spotify, but I’ve heard rumours of lag in game play. I’ll have to report back when I’ve had it a bit longer!

Huawei are positioning the G7 as a phone that will improve your day to day life. It’s speedy, it has that gorgeous big screen, it has an 13MP camera, the battery life is extremely appealing, and it comes in at under £200. The ‘Phone Manager’ feature is ace, as it scans your device and helps you clean up battery draining apps etc. OS is Android KitKat, so existing Android users should get on perfectly fine, but iFans may find the transition a little harder.

Generally speaking, the Huawei G7 is a good, solid mid-range phone, and I’m looking forward to exploring it properly.

Lifehacker Talk

The evening kicked off with a talk by two chaps from Lifehacker, a sort of real life version of Reddit’s LifeProTips. They talk us through how to make the most of each part of our day, thanks to our ever present mobiles. Tragically and also ironically, I was fielding some important work emails for almost the entire duration of their talk, which meant I think means I will now live a very unproductive, flabby and ultimately unhacked life. HOWEVER, I would like to share with you their greatest tip of the night, which was about the app If This Then That. In short, it allows you to create ‘recipes’ for your phone functions. E.g. ‘If I post a picture to Instagram, then post it to Twitter’. The app will then post the photo as a native pic to Twitter automatically. It’s a great way to streamline the way you use your phone. I’ve given a fairly rubbish example, but check it out and create as many recipes as…well, this guy below.

Cookery Masterclass with Sam Stern

Sam Stern is one of my all time food heroes, especially as my mum adores him. We’ve been consulting his excellent ‘Eat Vegetarian‘ book for years, and he’s your man for easy, please-y eats. He’s about to launch a book on cooking for one, which is going to be a million times sexier than this:

Sadly I couldn’t make anything as the recipe was mackerel & horseradish pate – which looked amazing. i just stood back and observed – but from general reactions it was a top notch recipe! I’m very excited about his next book, as I like cooking for myself and myself alone very much, and I think this book is an excellent concept.

Cocktail Masterclass with Iain Griffiths of White Lyan

When I spotted that Iain was going to be hosting this particular segment of the evening, I got terrifically overexcited. If you haven’t heard of Mr Lyan, then you need to sort your life out, son. Iain works with Ryan Chetiyawardana, founder of White Lyan, and one of my newly discovered impress-your-date venues, the Dandelyan Bar at Sea Containers. That’s a lot of names to digest, but if you care at all about drinking, I recommend that you commit them to memory. I’m going to be writing a separate review of Dandelyan soon, so hold your horses, ok?

Both venues have a unique approach to cocktail making: a refreshing change in a city where I am endlessly having pitchers of Porn Star Martinis slopped over me in every. Single. Venue. Instead, we had a table full of fresh fruit and herbs, salt, Mr Lyan’s own blends, San Pellegrino, tequila…I could go on. Iain guided us through the creation of three distinct and delicious cocktails: a clean G&T with the Mr Lyan Diamond Rickey blend and grapefruit, a zesty Pamela with tequila and pomelo juice, and my personal favourite, a Bloody Mary with yellow Isle of Wight tomatoes and green Tabasco.

A big thank you to Iain, and you all need to take my word for it and check out White Lyan and Dandelyan. 

Memory Masterclass with Dominic O’Brien

Just a quick note on the final speech as I’m running out of room, but we had a session from memory champion Dominic O’Brien. He was engaging and delightfully mustachioed, and his talk was a perfect blend of useful tips and party pieces. For example, he gave two people a copy of The Sun and asked them to pick pages – he then recited phone numbers, stocks, or any information found on the page. I obviously chose Page 3. Dominic also taught us some useful ways to remember numbers, and I will share my favourite: he assigns each number to an image. A ‘2’ becomes a swan, a ‘3’ is a heart, a ‘0’ is a football etc. Start with that, and you can build your own story using the numbers. As someone who forgot my own phone number the other day, I’m looking forward to utilising these tips.

All in all, it was a fun and informative night, and an ingenious idea for a press night. Thanks for inviting me down, I had a terrific time! (And not just because of the yellow Bloody Marys and macaroons…)

Lima Floral

I wasn’t sure what to write up from the weekend, because I was fortunate enough to go a variety of excellent places over the weekend: Dandelyan and the Rumpus Room at Sea Containers, Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Plum + Spilt Milk…but I opted to jot down a few notes on Lima, where I went for brunch on Sunday. I am still without proper DSLR, so please forgive the phone pics…

Lima is a Peruvian restaurant tucked away on Floral Street, just away from the surging crowds of Covent Garden. Known for delicate and well-balanced dishes, they’ve just launched a new brunch menu, for which I was a very willing guinea pig. The restaurant itself is light and airy, and the staff kindly accommodated our request to be seated upstairs in the sunshine, as opposed to our original spot downstairs in the Pisco Bar. The decor is inviting and fairly eclectic, full of blue hues and tapestries, and some envy-inducing china plates. My companion opted for a latte, and I decided to try one of the plum and rosemary ’emolientes’, a refreshing drink that is served warm. It was delicately flavoured, sweet without being saccharine, and entirely delightful. There are two different categories for brunch: a lighter Andean breakfast, and a long lunch. We were busy agonising over what to choose from the Andean menu, when our waitress told us we got EVERYTHING on that menu. I’m pretty sure I heard the Hallelujah chorus from some distant place.

10440289_10100215192865580_2138655496290978919_n

11045334_10100215192970370_836116524311757118_n

The menu seems fairly unassuming, descriptions are simply put and don’t try to hard. This is often my favourite kind of food experience. I’d much rather be delighted and surprised, than work through a load of tortured descriptions including the words ‘foam’, ‘scorched’, ‘dusted’, and other examples of gastrolinguistic engineering. For our first course, we had sharing bowls of warm, creamy quinoa porridge with apricot; yogurt with eucalyptus and mint, and a bowl of fruit with maca root, honey and bee pollen. This was possibly some of the finest yogurt I’ve ever tasted, like eating a creamy cloud. I usually avoid ordering fruit in a restaurant as it seems like a waste, but this was fresh and full of flavour, and the quinoa porridge had all the comfort of your mum’s most reassuring rice pudding.

10440910_10100215192765780_3441986452760913208_n

10985401_10100215192690930_510683119083632353_n

For the ‘main’ course, we were served potato pancakes with a perfectly savoury sauce, and an egg frittata with delicately cooked carrots and spring onions. As a vegetarian, I got an extra serving of pancakes, and my friend had a suckling pig brioche bun, an arrangement that we were both very happy with. I was initially skeptical about the small portion sizes, wondering if we should have chosen a ‘pile ’em high’ brunch venue, but we were so stuffed after this course that we nearly didn’t have room for pudding.

Yes, pudding. Every good brunch deserves fine puddings, and this was quite something. An quenelle of coffee ice cream with cacao crumble, two tiny bright meringues, raisins in a sugar syrup, and alfajores with dulce de leche. I want you to remember the word ‘alfajores’, because they are truly the most glorious biscuits in the entire world. Imagine a flattened down Viennese whirl: melt in the mouth, clouds of icing sugar, but with a caramel filling instead of jam and cream. I cannot impress upon you enough how pleasing they are.

11043030_10100215192471370_6647723304640786662_n

The whole thing was £18 a head, which I think is very reasonable for a three course meal. You can also tack on unlimited Prosecco for £10 each, but after a Saturday morning of bottomless Bloody Marys at the Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings (try saying THAT while drunk), I gave it a miss. We went for 11am, but I would recommend kicking off a little later as the pudding course makes it feel a lot more like a proper lunch. That would be my one bit of feedback: the pudding was quite astonishingly sweet, and I left with something of a sugar headache – but it was worth it for the alfajores.

Thank you to Lima for a uniquely delicious brunch, and in particular to the charming staff for making it such an enjoyable experience.

11041262_10100215192815680_8473543156771899523_n

10401646_10100215192621070_5256853131244453778_n

11034307_10100215192296720_1232173040553777600_n

11046543_10100215192231850_6880462343341975400_n

Cashew & Pomegranate Pancakes

HAPPY PANCAKE DAY! Truly one of the most noble days of the year. I remember finding out that Shrove Tuesday was called ‘Mardi Gras’ in French, which translates to ‘FAT TUESDAY’, and feeling like that was the most glorious name for a day ever. So with that in mind, here’s my fairly healthy pancake recipe. In honour of Fat Tuesday, this dish features good fats, like the cashew nuts!

IMG_9125

I added a scoop of cashew butter into my pancake mix as well as for a topping, because I wasn’t particularly sold on the two ingredient egg/banana pancakes everyone’s been raving about. I mean, they’re perfectly fine – but fine in a ‘wow, these are two ingredients, they actually taste alright for a healthy pancake’. I don’t want something that just tastes ‘ok for a healthy alternative’. Nope, these are delicious in their own right. The cashew butter fluffs everything up, and there’s no need for syrups when you’ve got pomegranate.

I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did!

IMG_9136

Pancakes
1 ripe banana
1 egg, room temp
1/2 tbsp cashew butter
Coconut oil

Topping
Pomegranate
Mixed berries
1 tsp cashew butter
Spoonful Greek yogurt (optional)
Sprinkle coconut palm sugar, if desired

Method

(Serves one)

1. Mash the banana together with the cashew butter, and whisk in the egg

2. Heat the coconut oil, spoon three dollops of mixture in and cook for a couple of minutes on either side, until golden brown

3, Add toppings as desired. EASY!

Screenshot_2015-02-15-20-21-05~2

IMG_20150215_142412

Hotbox & Columbia Road

I apologise for the amount of ‘lifestyle blog’ cliches about to be unleashed on you, but I’m afraid I’m going to do it anyway.

Last Sunday we headed out to Shoreditch for brunch at Hotbox on Commercial Street. Renowned for top notch barbecue food, the venue opened in late 2014, and has just expanded the menu to include an absolutely stonking brunch. This also involves a bottomless option: all the Bloody Marys, Prosecco and Mimosas you can hack for 25 quid.

IMG_9061

We got there on time to avoid longer queues – I even missed The Archers to haul myself out East, but I regret nothing. From the second we arrived, the staff were a delight, calmly and politely handling the jostling queues. The waiter we had was an absolute peach; chatty and attentive without being disruptive. The venue itself is dark and cosy, with long tables and benches, high stools and ledges. Everything has been designed with precision: tiny glasses are topped up from an industrial steel jug, lightbulbs are bare, black frames abound. The music is excellent: from Sly & the Family Stone to Roxy Music within a track, ideal for a Sunday.

IMG_9052

The brunch menu is instantly appealing – we opted for Huevos Rancheros, avocado and roasted corn on sourdough, and smoked mac & cheese. To turn down the opportunity for macaroni cheese at what is ultimately a breakfast hour is criminal, and I question anyone’s motives for doing so. We shared all our dishes (particularly difficult on said mac & cheese…there was nearly a fight) which was a strategic move designed to give us as much of the menu to try as possible.

IMG_9055

Dipping a spoon into the Huevos Rancheros was a glorious experience thanks to eggs with exactly the right amount of runniness, a green coriander sauce, and a reassuring dollop of chunky guacamole. The sourdough dish was an excellent balance of sweetness from the roast corn, spice from paprika, and the creaminess of the avocado. I’ve been let down by so many macaroni cheeses in my life, and joyfully this was not so at Hotbox. Oozy and smoky with a crispy topping, I could happily have eaten a whole panful. The Bloody Marys were pleasing but perhaps a little watery, although the spicing, celery AND lemon wedge were spot on. I cannot recommend Hotbox enough – just make sure you get there as close to 11.30 as possible. After all, you can listen to The Archers on iPlayer.

IMG_9058

Barely able to move, we somehow manouevred ourselves down Brick Lane and through the market, on a floral mission. I used to keep flowers in my room as a matter of course, but when I started trying to cut down my expenditure, they were the first to go. I forgot how cheering heading home with armfuls of fresh flowers was, and meandering down the market was a joy. We took our time (we didn’t have much choice, given how stacked the place was), and enjoyed the sunshine and a coffee from one of the little wall cafes that appear all over the area.

IMG_9066

By the time I headed home, I felt like I’d been on holiday. I’m often staunchly anti-East, just because I’m a big fan of South West. But on a Sunday, there was a special atmosphere. There’s not really anything like it on my side of London – the energy, the people, the architecture of the place. I’m determined to explore more of this city, instead of just sticking to my little corner, so stay posted!

IMG_9088

IMG_9080

IMG_9085

IMG_9070

IMG_9074

IMG_9089

IMG_9107

IMG_9114

Secret Mondays

Firstly, apologies for this very long post! I wrote it straight after the session and was quite inspired…

I’ve become aware recently that I need to take a bit of time to address the way I think, the way I work, and even just the way I spend my time away from the office. Working long hours in social media has fried my brain. The constant switching from task to task has shortened my attention span, broken up my thought patterns, and left me with this insistent tugging feeling at the corners of my brain, like there’s always something I’ve just forgotten to do. I have a screen in front of my face for most of the day, I’ll sit in front of the TV with my laptop out, balancing a phone in my hand and skipping from app to window to remote. I’m in so many different places at once, and yet not really in any of them. My thoughts are half-formed, always about to turn to the next thing to deal with.2015-02-09 09.26.26 1

I read a while ago that while you think you may be multi-tasking by constantly switching between what you’re working on, your brain actually stops and has to restart again to address the next thing. It’s harder to get anything finished, you’re overloading your brain with too much information, and you end up feeling overwhelmed. Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside or reading books. I could retreat into my own head for hours. These days, I watch as notifications pile up on my phone, emails flood into my inboxes, and I am further trapped behind screens. I’ve been trying to implement two hours without any screens every weekend, and the first time I tried it, it felt like days. Then it suddenly started feeling lovely, and I was conscious of everything I was doing, not numbing myself with a phone.

2015-02-09 11.20.22 1

I’ve been questioning the way I do things for a while, and looking for a better path, but it was by pure coincidence that I stumbled across Calmworks. Last week, I’d just tried a Vivid Matcha drink, and was dancing around with giddy joy at how delicious the Pear & Rhubarb juice was, and how I couldn’t taste the unbearably grassy classic matcha taste. I took to Twitter to share my delight, and on the Vivid page I spotted something about mindfulness. I’d heard about it, vaguely, and admired the principles of slowing down and being in the moment. A few clicks later and I’d signed up for a very mysterious #SecretMonday event with Calmworks. This is due to be a monthly event at secret locations across London, features a talk and various exercises, plus a perfect opportunity for networking. Tonight we were at the House of St Barnabas, and the crowd included journos, techies, PR types, captains of industry etc.

2015-02-09 11.37.14 1

Despite a childhood spent barefoot wandering around fields, reading poetry and whatnot, I’ve traditionally been very dubious about things like meditation and yoga. I’ll be the first person to yell BORING, running off to my fast paced cardio or my loud music. I’ve never had any inclination to look introspectively, and if anyone has forced me to meditate, I’ve spent the entire time thinking about what to have for dinner. Lifestyle improvement programmes, self-help and general surrounding jargon freak me out. The tiniest hint of patchouli oil and you won’t see me for dust. So let me be clear – mindfulness is not the same traditional meditation, and encourages you to pay close attention to what’s happening in the present moment. It’s more like an exercise for your mind, training yourself to think in a certain way, and taking a step back to reflect. The Calmworks website reassured my hardened, cynical heart, looking as it does like the beautifully designed homepage of some tech startup.

Even so, I was worried we’d be greeted by some tie-dyed, brain-fried old dude, telling us to imagine invisible threads and clear our minds. Thankfully not – there was wine on arrival, and two excellent chaps (Malcolm Scovil and Alexis John Bicat) to welcome us in. No one had the sheeny light of the born again in their eyes, no one was talking about chakras, and there was absolutely no incense. Instead, we were told to choose a coloured envelope, which contained a handwritten, uplifting quote, and a question to ask at least three people by the end of the evening. In case you were wondering, my question was ‘Growing up, what was your favourite toy?’

2015-02-09 11.37.20 1

The atmosphere was inviting, friendly, and accessible, and Malcolm was a wonderful and entertaining host. I cringed at precisely zero moments. We had a talk from neuroscientist Dr. Tamara Russell, which was absolutely excellent, and dispelled any remaining fears I might have had about the hippieishness of the night. In short, she talked a LOT of sense, both in scientific and emotional terms. Alexis then took us through some mindfulness exercises, which were a million times better than normal meditation. For one thing, he explained that getting distracted was perfectly normal, and that the aim was just to try and slow your thoughts down. This got easier with each exercise, and I found myself getting surprisingly emotional at one point as I filtered through thoughts. It’s alarming how rarely most of us pause. Alexis was a brilliant teacher, not least because his final exercise involved eating chocolate. I can see why he’d be the ideal person to lead mindfulness sessions at various high profile companies.

2015-02-09 11.38.52 1

I don’t want to reveal too much about the night, as I think it’s something everyone should experience for themselves – and after all, it is called *Secret* Mondays. But it’s so important to develop techniques like this to become stronger, happier and more capable in life, and to understand how to live in the moment.

A huge thank you to Calmworks, to Malcolm, Tamara and Alexis for a truly incredible experience. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it. IMG_20150209_214008

Vegetarian Pho with Courgette Noodles

image2

I had to practically sit on my hands not to do a punny title, because ‘pho’ is a total gift to those with a love of terrible puns. If you read it as written, you’ve got classics such as ‘pho my god’, ‘pho way’ etc. If you go pho-netically with ‘fuh’, you can go down an enjoyably unsavoury avenue.

image

Anyway. The point is, I really love pho, but it can be hard to find a decent vegetarian option. When Nam on Old Compton Street closed for good last year, I also closed my heart to a decent bowl of veggie pho. I traipsed hopefully to other Soho Pho (Sopho) establishments, but none of them hit the spot. Also, I frittered away all my cash on Christmas presents, so homemade (phomemade? I’m really sorry, I can’t stop) was the way to go.

image4

I found the process of making the broth extremely soothing. Something about cooking this kind of food feels like it’s good for your soul. I recommend gathering and prepping all your ingredients in advance in a nice orderly way, and keeping counters clear for full relaxing benefits. I swapped in courgette for the noodle part, because I’m on a ludicrously cliched January health kick, but you should do as you wish. I was also going to boil an egg and pop it in too, but I decided against it, but the egg still snuck into the photos.

Forgive the slightly rubbish pics, my DSLR is in Sussex, so these are phone photos! Pho-tos. image3

For the Broth
1 white onion, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
1 litre vegetable stock
1.5 tbsp soy sauce

For the Noodles
1 courgette
1 Portobello mushroom
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp butter

Garnish
Bean sprouts
Mint/Thai basil
Chili
Lime

1. Heat the onion, garlic and spices in a dry pan over a medium-high heat until the veg begins to char.

2. Add stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and heat on medium-low for 25 minutes.

3. Spiralize the courgette, dry it and salt it, then pan fry in a little butter until it begins to soften. Place in your serving bowl, along with the sliced red pepper.

4. Slice the Portobello mushroom and pan fry in the courgette pan with leftover butter until it softens, then add to the noodle bowl.

5. Strain the broth then pour it over the top of the noodles, before serving with the plate of garnishes.

Last Days: Festival of Love on the Southbank

output_OJ4kge

Exhibitions at the Southbank Centre are generally something I avoid, purely because it sometimes feels a bit too…well, corporate, I guess. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I suppose I assume I’m not going to have that much fun at them, because everything’s going to be very serious, and I won’t be allowed to touch things and engage with them. And there’s a part of me that tends to feel like I should try and find something elsewhere, like it’s some kind of huge cop out to go to one of the busiest tourist destinations in town.

That said, I found myself with too much time on my hands one Sunday after working in the morning, and was at a bit of a loss for what to do. I always like strolling down the Southbank, whatever the weather, so I found myself having a quick cloudy lemonade at the Hayward, and looking through the literature for what was on. Something caught my eye: the Museum of Broken Relationships had set up an outpost, pulling in contributions from London’s broken-hearted residents. I’d read about the museum before, and it really grabbed my interest. People submit artifacts from relationships they’ve been in that have fallen apart. It’s incredibly voyeuristic, but ultimately a fairly uplifting experience. Pain is universal, broken hearts are commonplace, and many of the stories accompanying objects are about how the person concerned has moved on with their life.

I spent a good couple of hours in The Heartbreak Hotel, where not only can you forensically dissect past romances, but you can also examine letters to Cathy & Claire, the agony aunts at ‘Jackie’ magazine in the 70s. You step into an interpretation of the Jackie offices, complete with blocky wooden desks, typewriters and extendable desk lamps. The letters themselves are fascinating, with advice written from most members of the Jackie staff (Cathy & Claire never actually existed). While you’re in there, you can also grab a cocktail from the Department of Good Cheer, and get dressed up as famous pop heartthrobs.

I liked it so much that I revisited the weekend after with a friend, this time going into the Tunnel of Love, which I was a bit too freaked out by to go alone. We wandered in down a corridor of pin ups, both likely (Jennifer Lawrence) and unlikely (David Mitchell). Everything was pink neon hued, saturated in saccharine. At the end of the tunnel we reached a large space with a big Twister board, some viewing booths and a DJ space. Obviously we made our way straight to the DJ booth and started scratching up Donna Summer before viewing a wall of lovelorn confessions written by visitors to the exhibit.

All in all, the Southbank is an excellent place to while away a few hours, and I recommend you giving the Festival of Love a final send off before it vanishes after this weekend.

IMG_8267

IMG_8270

IMG_8274

IMG_8275

IMG_8283

IMG_8286

IMG_8288 IMG_8291