Kopparberg Urban Forest

Much as I like South West London, it has a couple of big downsides. Primarily the lack of proximity to East London, which is where all the good stuff is. If you want some third rate DJ playing chart cheese while people in salmon trousers do non-ironic mumdancing, S Dubz is definitely the place for you. That isn’t to say we don’t have some good stuff over this way, but it all tends to fit a bit more into my ‘that was an absolute SCREAM’ category than the ‘that was a really chilled night’ one. Maggie’s is a scream. Beaver Lodge is a scream. Bunga Bunga is the screamiest. IMG_20150703_193320

But you catch my drift – if you want somewhere that isn’t quite so…well, so ‘hair n’heels’, then you’re going to have to venture further afield. Kopparberg Urban Forest was top of my hit list last Summer but I never quite made it along, so I made it top priority this time around. As with last year, they’ve created a sort of Scandinavian/East London composite, full of food stalls and wooden light fixtures decked out with foliage. Jam jars full of flowers hang near fairy lights, and there’s a little bandstand type thing in the centre that reminded me irresistibly of Groundhog Day.IMG_20150703_185805IMG_20150703_191345IMG_20150703_183807

The frozen strawberry & lime cider hit the spot after a long hot day and crammed Overground journey, and once we’d got hold of some sweetcorn fritter wraps, we started to unwind and enjoy our surroundings. DJs for the night were the awesome ‘Rock the Belles’, a kind of collective of female DJs, bands and artists, and they were playing an excellent selection of both old school and…new school (is that a thing?) hip hop. Now, being white middle class girls who went to private school in Sussex, my friend Sophie and I are quite obviously PRO hip hop dancers, so we really went for it. I mean, REALLY went for it. IMG_20150703_194437 IMG_20150703_200929 IMG_20150703_210529 IMG_20150703_211141

Emily Rawson, founder of Rock the Belles, got on the decks for the last few hours of the evening, and played a bit of everything from Roots Manuva to Kendrick, plus an awful lot of stuff that I’d never heard before but danced like a loon to anyway. She was EXCELLENT and I highly recommend you looking her up if you live in London. The whole thing had an enjoyably 90s vibe, and to our delight we happened to see an actual, honest to god dance off unfold. Very relaxed at first, everything turned up a notch as it started to get dark, and the place really came into its own.

IMG_20150703_225046The Urban Forest finishes this weekend, and entry is FREE, so I strongly recommend you get yourself down there for the closing events. Just make sure you wear shoes you can dance in. IMG_20150703_225054IMG_20150703_225139

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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…)

St Ives Day Seven

The final days whizzed by in a flurry of confusing weather and…well, more food. The town started to hum and buzz with talk of the oncoming storm. Hatches were beginning to be battened down, town-dwellers told us how lucky we were to be heading home before it hit.

That said, Friday was one of the most glorious days of the week, and I set out to make the most of it with a walk around the headland, where I always like to pretend I’m a tragic Thomas Hardy heroine roaming the rugged countryside. A Thomas Hardy heroine with a DSLR and sunglasses, that is.

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Not far into my walk, however, I spotted one of the most terrifying scarecrows I’ve ever seen. I thought they were just supposed to scare birds, not people?

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By a stroke of luck, some of my lovely family were also down in the Wall of Corn for the week, and we all united for lunch at Porthminster.

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I wore a dress for the first time this week. It felt really weird.

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I started lunch with a cocktail and found myself dizzying somewhat after a single sip: whisky, cider with ginger, tonka bean and chilli syrup…

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I had the most incredible vegetable curry – savoury but aromatic, full of fresh veg and coconut milk.

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If you go for one thing at Porthminster, make it a dessert. While the language of the menu may put you off (all ‘deconstructions’, ‘foam’ and ‘naked brulee’), the puds are where the chefs display phenomenal skill. I had the aforementioned “naked brulee”, essentially a square of chocolate crème with the finest crispy brulee layer, plus peppermint honeycomb, vanilla milk sorbet and brownie dust.

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My uncle had caramelised bananas with a pistachio aero mousse, whisky cream and salted caramel, and Mummy Simmons had petit fours, displayed a la rock.

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Followed by a short stroll along the beach.

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And finally, I visited the Tate, who do free entry on Friday evenings. I’ve never had much success with the place as I’m not a huge modern art appreciator. The only exhibition I’ve enjoyed in the past was one by Simon Fujiwara. This time, however, the exhibition Aquatopia combines modern pieces with paintings by J.M.W Turner and Stanhope Forbes. It was immersive, atmospheric, and only made me roll my eyes once or twice – quite an achievement for the Tate.

Bye bye St Ives!

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