It's a sign

As I am now a fully signed up FitBit fiend, one of the funnest things about walking more is how much of the city I get to see!  And while I'm wandering the city I get to see so many cool sights - the majesty of St Paul's; the quiet calm of Hampstead Heath; the pretty backstreets of Marylebone; and the many, many silly signs which advertise pubs, cafes, and businesses throughout the city.  Here are a few of my recent spots!

It's always coffee time :)  Spotted in Hackney.

A talkative bin near Tate Modern.

So they say!

Loved this sign near Holborn!

In Stratford they tell it like it is.

A little south of Kings Cross, the love for Rick Astley is going strong.

I love me a quote and a sign, so this Chalk Farm pub is fine by me!

One-and-a-bit out of five - luckily number 3 is the one I'm rocking.  I like smiling.  It's my favourite.
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Summer in the city....

Makes me think of this song.  And this one.  And this one.

Once I've finished that musical journey, however, I turn to the weather forecast, and when I see a predicted 32 degrees on Wednesday (90 degrees fahrenheit) my very Scottish soul starts to weep.*  

When I'm on holiday, lounging by a pool, embracing a siesta, wearing a sundress, those sort of temperatures sound inviting.

When I'm in London, wearing work appropriate clothes and shoes, travelling on the tube (because descending to the bowels of the earth itself is a great idea when the thermometer soars!)'s a trial.  Some cities, some cultures, do warm very well.  Brits, in the heat island that is our capital city?  It's more a survival mode!  As someone who is happier in the cold, the struggle is all too real when it comes to not melting in the heat, and not becoming a sleep-deprived cross-patch in the process.  With each summer in the city I've got better and better at it, however, and hopefully some of these wee pearls of wisdom might help you to navigate the sticky season here in town or elsewhere.   

Timing is everything.

London is at its most fiercely warm from lunchtime till late afternoon.  Obviously there are times when I have to be teaching then, but any other jobs, housework or tasks I try to move to early morning (I rise earlier in the summer) or the evening.  In the morning the temperature starts in the low teens and soars gently, and in the evenings it drops to the twenties.  If I can avoid doing ironing, cooking, filing etc in the warmest parts of the day I will.  I find myself very jealous of some of our Mediterranean cousins, who write off the hottest points of the day and take a seista.  I'm always pro more naps! 

Eat wisely...

Hit the veggies and the fruits.  Now is the time for salads, crudités, smoothies....the less fatty, calorific stuff you consume, the more pleasant you are going to feel.  Do allow a little ice cream though, because a. cold; b. delicious.  I love making us homemade smoothie-pops.

...drink wisely too.

Get your hydration on.  I drink buckets of water as is, but when it's warm I double down.  It's worthwhile noting that alcohol is far more potent when you're groggy from heat (it certainly is in my case!).  Alternating alcoholic drinks and soft drinks should help you to feel good.

Head for water, woods and hills.

The 'heat island' feels worst in the built up areas.  Head to a park, a hill, a lake or the river for a fresher air and (if you're lucky!) a refreshing, cool breeze.

Man, I love me a breeze.

Avoid the tube if you can.

As the day progresses the tube gets more and more overheated, with some lines (take a bow, Central and Northern!) tipping the thermostat at 30 degrees or more.  If you can walk for part or all of your route, consider it.  It seems counter-intuitive, but I know I get far less overheated walking, listening to some 90s pop, than I do crammed into someones armpit in a metal tube.  Some lines are better - the Jubilee, Circle and Victoria lines are less warm, and the Overground can be almost pleasant.  Try out a few routes to see what works for you.  I often take the Jubilee Line to Stratford then walk the half-hour home from there in the summer evenings - anything to avoid five minutes in the oven that is the Central line!

Embrace the air-con.

If you find it, enjoy it.  Hotel bars, restaurants, the chilled aisle in the supermarket.  There's no judgement in hot weather times.

Revise your makeup and work that wardrobe.

If you wear a tonne of makeup, it will slide off.  Go for light, dewy BB creams and foundations.  Waterproof mascara.  For wardrobe, think floaty, think comfortable, think natural fibres, think maxidresses, floaty tunics. wearing whatever feels comfiest for you.  I repeat, there's no judgement in hot weather times.

Learn a few cooling tricks.

Need a refresher?  Run the inner part of your wrist below a cold tap for thirty seconds.

Always carry a scarf or some hair grips so you can get your hair off your neck if required.  Does wonders!

Consider a handheld fan, an old-school folding fan (I carry one with pride) or a misting spray (I love the Avene one) for a pick me up.

Craving icy-cold water for your commute and morning?  Before bed take a slug out of a plastic bottle (or two) of water, then put it in the freezer.  In the morning take it out, and it will slowly defrost, giving you chilled water for a fair few hours.  Bonus - in a lunchbox this will also help to keep sandwiches and salads cool.

Be kind to one another, and have a sense of humour.  

We are all in the same, slightly sweltering, sun-baked boat!  If you have any further tips, I'd love to hear them.  Enjoy the sunshine, all!

*I'm aware to my friends in Texas and Dubai and Georgia, these temps are nothing.  However, I am a wuss, and London is not built for heat.  Bear with me, please ;)
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My Summer Reading List....

...this could be part 1 of 2...depends how much I read in the next few weeks!  As I make so many changes, one of the many and myriad things I'm excited about is having more time to read.  Here are the fourteen books I'll be loading onto my trusty Kindle for the last week or so of commuting, then Marbs, honeymoon, and a chilled August.

Please note that where I have linked to books I've affiliate linked - I always like to say when I do so (disclosure, baby :)).  If you're happy for me to benefit from your clicking or buying, go ahead.  I know I'm happy to do so but always appreciate knowing when that's the case.

1. God Help The Child - Toni Morrison

I haven't read a Toni Morrison book in far too long, but I love the way she crafts words.  This book has been recommended to me by several friends, so I'm excited to read it and be swept up in a story.

2. China Rich Girlfriend - Kevin Kwan

I enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians as a frothy beach read and this sounds like much of the same.  I love a good, challenging read, but when the sun is in the sky and I'm sipping a cocktail there's something to be said for a nice, soapy, easy read.

3. The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

This book seems to be everywhere at the moment - I'm looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype!

4. Funny Girl - Nick Hornby

I've long been a fan of Hornby's writing (High Fidelity is one of my top five books, for sure) so I'll be tucking into this gleefully.  I love his characters - whenever I read a Hornby book I feel like I'm amongst friends and kindred spirits.

5. How To Be Both - Ali Smith

This has been sweeping up prizes left, right and centre, and sounds like a read full of inventiveness and surprises.  Love picking up a book and diving into a different world.

6. Go Set A Watchman - Harper Lee

It's Harper Lee.

I'm so excited!

7. Techbitch - Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazzo

The friend who recommended this described it as a digital version of The Devil Wears Prada.  I adored TDWP as a beach read, so I am very much in for this book!

8. The Sunrise - Victoria Hislop

I love how Hislop evokes time and place so beautifully in her novels.  I adored both The Return and The Island, so I cannot wait to read this....perhaps on a beach somewhere.

9. Paper Towns - John Green

I read The Fault In Our Stars last year and enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to another entertaining YA read.  I'm such a John Green fan - his videos are brilliant!

10. Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella

I really enjoy how Kinsella writes and find her books fun and easy to read.  Perfect for a holiday!

11. The Wolf Border - Sarah Hall

As well as ploughing through some froth, I always like to include a few heavier reads on the holiday docket.  This book which deals with conflict and change and obsession sounds like the perfect addition to the list, and had come highly recommended by three friends.  Looking forward to it.

12. The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett

From the reviews, this sounds like it's a little Sliding Doors in its premise, and I love books, films and poems which navigate the 'what ifs' of life.

13. H is for Hawk - Helen Macdonald

My friend J said this was her book of the year and the premise looks intriguing.  Love a book that makes me think (as well as those candy coloured chick lit ones!).

14. The Woman Who Stole My Life - Marian Keyes

I tend to love Marian Keyes's heroines, and I'm hoping the same happens here.

So much to read and enjoy in the coming weeks.  What's on your current reading list?

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June Music Meme answers

On Monday I posted my latest Music Meme - here are the answers in full and a youtibe mix of the numbers for luck.  Love a good youtube playlist, me.

1. Chandelier - Sia

2. Doo Wop (That Thing) - Lauryn Hill

3.  Dilemma - Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland

4. Rather Be - Clean Bandit

5. Tik Tok - Kesha

6. Bye Bye Bye - N*Sync

7. Stay With Me - Sam Smith

8.  Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran

9. American Boy - Estelle ft. Kanye West

10. Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve

11. Life Your Life - T.I. ft Rihanna

12. Get Lucky - Daft Punk

13. SexyBack - Justin Timberlake

14. Earth Song - Michael Jackson

15.  Welcome To The Black Parade - My Chemical Romance

16. We Are Never Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift (cannot WAIT to see her in Hyde Park tomorrow!)

17. Are You Gonna Go My Way - Lenny Kravitz

18.  Heart-Shaped Box - Nirvana

19. Beverly Hills - Weezer

20. Unpretty - TLC

21. Born This Way - Lady Gaga

22. In Da Club - 50 Cent

23. Walking On Broken Glass - Annie Lennox

24. Bring Me To Life - Evanescence

25. Millionaire - Kelis ft. Andre 3000

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Taste of London with AEG

Last week it was the yearly Taste of London festival, held in the beautiful Regent's Park.  Food suppliers, drink purveyors, restaurants aplenty and kitchenware brands flock to show off their wares to London's eager foodies.  There are cooking demonstrations, entertainment, and tempting nibbles at every turn.  I was very kindly invited to come along by Currys and AEG, the latter of whom were hosting this year, so Shona and I headed over to see the sights on Saturday.  I love to cook and am always keen to learn new methods, taste new things and source new ingredients and gadgets, so I was very excited to attend!

After collecting our tickets and passes and doing a lap of one half of the stalls (including some incredible craft beer stands and a pavilion of Lindt goodies) we headed over to the VIP tent for a refreshing glass of Laurent-Perrier.  We also picked up our Taste of London recipe books which are full of amazing things to try - I think I'll be cooking up a few of the savoury options very soon!

Spekaing of savoury, there were so many yummy food options to try.  Shona and I got two 'Dead Hippie' burgers from Meat Liquor which were so flavourful and juicy you practically needed a bib.

The festival was buzzing - plenty of people soaking up the atmosphere and sampling the treats available despite the slightly grey weather.  June in London can be so odd weather-wise.

All the walking and sampling can evidently get exhausting!

Everywhere you turned there was another fun thing to try, drink to sip, or gadget to play with.

After an hour or so of pounding the park, Shona and I retired to the AEG area for another glass of fizz and some supremely yummy food, including still-warm-from-the-oven muffins, seen below.  Scrumptious!

Shona and I then headed across to the Let's Taste Live stage, where we were signed up for a cook-along demo with Jeremy Pang of School of Wok.  With his expert help we whipped up won tons and a delicious venison stir fry.  I love venison (spot the Scot!) but it has never occurred to me to use it in a stir fry - it was delicious!

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy won tons were to make when you broke down the steps!  AEG have a very nifty steam oven which finished off these prawn and spinach beauties perfectly.  We didn't win the "best won tons in the class" prize (*tear*), but did get a hearty "very good".  I'll take it!

Jeremy putting us through our paces.

These AEG induction hobs were amazing!  I'm currently a gas-hob girl but I was very impressed with the control these offered - the ability to control the heat in such a precise manner was great for stirfrying, where you're dealing with hot temperatures over a short period of time.  I think it would be superb for soups, poaching and sauces too, where you're reacting to what heat the liquid needs to maintain a boil or a simmer from moment to moment.

I also love the stop/go button - the ability to pause what you were doing when other things claimed your attention is such a clever thing to add.

Yes, I fell a little bit in love with the hob.

AEG's lovely rep Lizzie snapped this shot of Shona and I before the cooking began.  I love how we look like it's the first day of school!

My blogger friend Charlie was at Taste too and she took this shot of us after making our venison and broccoli stir fry with a sweet tamarind sauce.  I'm afraid I have no picture of the actual food....because we gobbled it up at a rate of knots!  I'll definitely be using venison in a stir fry again though - it was perfect, juicy and tasty.  

After washing up and returning our aprons (I almost left with mine on, oops!) we headed out into the festival to buy a few treats (creme brulee and pistachio Lindt bars, anyone?) and then happily wended our way home, full to the brim with good things.

Thank you so much to AEG for kindly giving me the opportunity to attend; we both had a wonderful time!

To see more pictures, news and recipes, check out the hashtag #TakeTasteFurther on social media.

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Music Meme (June edition)

I last did this meme a few years back and it was really fun (and musically geeky, which always works for me!). Reminds me of old school myspace quizzes.

The rules are:

Step 1: Put your music player on shuffle.
Step 2: Post the first line (or a few ;)) from the first 25 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing.
Step 3: Italicise the lyrics and post the details when someone guesses both artist and track correctly.
Step 4: For those who are guessing -- looking the lyrics up on a search engine is CHEATING!
Step 5: If you like the game post your own

I thought I'd start doing it every so often because it's always a giggle - if you know a song please leave a comment below or let me know on social.  Love me some music.

I'll also post the full list Friday.  To the music!

1. Party girls don't get hurt
Can't feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

2. Girls you know you better watch out
Some guys, some guys are only about

3. I.. love you, and I.. need you
Nelly I.. love you, I do.. neeeeed you - but

Dilemma - Nelly ft. Kelly Rowland
(well done, Haydy!)

4. We're a thousand miles from comfort, 
We have traveled land and sea

Rather Be - Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne
(well done, Haydy!)

5. Wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy

Tik Tok - Kesha
(Well done, 10eke!)

6. (Hey, Hey)
Bye, Bye, Bye
Bye, Bye...
Bye, Bye...
Oh, Oh..

7. Guess it's true, I'm not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love 'cause I'm just a man

Stay With Me - Sam Smith
(well done, Haydy!)

8. When your legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet

Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran
(Well done, 10eke!)

9. Just another one champion sound
Yeah, Estelle, we 'bout to get down 

10. 'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life
Try to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die

Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve
(well done, Haydy!)

11. You're gonna be a shining star, with fancy clothes, fancy car-ars
And then you'll see, you're gonna go far

12. Like the legend of the Phoenix
All ends with beginnings

13. I’m bringing sexy back
Them other boys don’t know how to act

SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
(Well done, 10eke!)

14. What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain...

Earth Song - Michael Jackson
(Well done, 10eke!)

15. When I was a young boy,
My father took me into the city
To see a marching band

16. I remember when we broke up the first time
Saying, "This is it, I've had enough,"

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift
(well done, Haydy!)

17. I was born long ago 
I am the chosen I'm the one 

18. She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak
I've been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks

19. Where I come from isn't all that great
My automobile is a piece of crap

20. I wish could tie you up in my shoes
Make you feel unpretty too

Unpretty - TLC
(well done, Haydy!)

21. It doesn't matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up

Born This Way - Lady Gaga
(well done, Haydy!)

22. Go, go, go, go go, go, go, shawty
It's your birthday

In Da Club - 50 Cent
(well done, Haydy!)

23. You were the sweetest thing that I ever knew
But I don't care for sugar honey if I can't have you

24. How can you see into my eyes like open doors?
Leading you down into my core where I've become so numb

25. I said her from the city so her got to be witty, witty
She said him from the country so him got to be funky, funky 

Millionaire - Kelis ft. Andre 3000
(well done, Haydy!)

Good luck, all!
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A Photographic Epiphany

I love blogs that are photo rich.

There are so many bloggers who take interesting, innovative, rich photos to inform their posts.

It's long been an area I've wanted to grow here on my own blog.  I'm looking forward to studying up and practising and improving as I have more time to devote to blogging and the many elements which surround it.

Imagine my glee, then, to be invited by Currys and Canon to attend a photography session (the brilliantly hashtagged #lightscameracurrys) this past weekend, to learn all about how to take our cameras off of the auto setting and up a level or nine. 

I packed up my diddy 'starter' camera and headed off to Kings Cross, bright eyed and bushy tailed (well, once I'd had my coffee!) and ready to learn.  I must admit at first I felt a little out of my depth - several of the other attendees had very swish cameras, gadgets aplenty and tonnes of knowledge - but then I calmed down and threw myself wholeheartedly into the proceedings.

The leader of the sessions was a lovely guy called Paul Hames.  He was such a great teacher (and being a teacher myself, I do not say that lightly).  He's an incredibly talented and knowledgeable photographer himself, but was also great at breaking down terms and techniques for novices.  That'd be me then!

With trepidation I flipped my camera off of auto (felt like taking the stabilisers off my bike for the first time!) and into the unknown, and slightly murky, waters of manual.

Paul patiently took us through time (shutterspeed), light (aperture) and sensitivity (ISO) - all things I had never adjusted on my camera before!  I think my food and London photos are going to improve hugely after his expert instruction.  He was an absolute fountain of knowledge - from what ISO or shutterspeed to use for different contexts and environments to helpful little tidbits such as when you buy a memory card, looking for one with a '10' in a broken circle on the label (rather than an 8, 6, or 4.  Guess who had a 4?).  Makes for quicker uploading and smoother shooting, apparently.

I am not kidding when I said I learned a lot!

I was sat with Nayna and Mel for the first part of the session - they were so fun to chat with and learn alongside.  Nayna I've met at a few food blog events before and it was lovely to see her again.  Mel I hadn't encountered before; she was delightful and so charming.  I found it quite funny that the two teachers in the room found one another!

Practising focus and shutterspeed choice.

You should see some of the shots that didn't work.

We were all enjoying playing and finding what worked for us, our cameras and our style.

Paul worked the room, making sure we were all feeling confident and ready to head out 'on assignment'.

All blog events require a quick phone check.  Tweet often, tweet well.

After an hour and a half of instruction, it was time to hit the streets and take some pictures.  I'm quietly proud of my efforts; having never shot manually before with this camera I think I'm mainly pleased that there are photos to show!

We walked up from Joe Blogs HQ to Granary Square, part of the new development a little north of Kings Cross.  There we were sorted into pairs; Haydn and I were one such duo and I immediately used my inherent bossiness to get her posing.  She was such a fun model - great face, happy to go with whatever we were trying, and utterly fine with me directing her to turn/move/smize, please.


Amusement at powerstance.

I like this shot - Haydy's so pretty and I like the way her eys are just off Blue Steel.  I think that's her reacting to me saying something ridiculous.

Happens a lot.

I liked this with the water between us.  It's a big shot but the focus still works, I think.

Then again, I'm a newbie, so may well be totally wrong!

I'm a sucker for jazz hands.

Haydy was so good with instructions.  Other people would have been thrown by my directorial commands, I'm sure.

Commands like "Be a FISH!"  I love the angles in this shot.

Sara and Jasiminne met this little fellow while shooting.  I got this quick paparazzi shot of him preparing for his close up.

There he is, working it for the camera!

It's a dog's life.


I enjoyed directing so much I even started getting Paul involved for a few calendar poses.  Here he plays tennis...

...and works that 'watch in a Sunday supplement' vibe.

Our final port of call on our wanderings was to look at the new swimming pool (the Kings Cross Pond) a little further north than Granary Square.  It's entirely natural (no chlorine or other nasties!) and filtered by plants.  I must confess I fancied a dip - I love swimming when it's cool out - but lack of a swimming cossie precluded such antics...

Loved snapping some of the buildings and sights.

My final shot feels very London to me.  The green freshness of the pool and its surroundings; the buildings of Kings Cross and the BT tower beyond; and the quintet of cranes, so emblematic of this city - always building, moving, growing.

A huge thank you to Canon and Currys for inviting me along for such an enjoyable and informative day.  I feel empowered and inspired and will hope to put much of what I learned into play on my blog posts in the weeks and months to come.
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Life Lately, According to Instagram

June is always a mad, mad month.  Between exams and school and fun and blog adventures, there's rarely a dull moment.  And if and when some free time does occur, I relish the chance to curl up and relax.

There has been some napping, I cannot lie.

Exam week and activity week are now behind us, and there are three and a half short weeks before summer break, honeymoon, and a brand new beginning...

Here are a few instagrams from my recent adventures.  I love how social media helps chart all the fun:

On Friday M and I went to see Rufus Wainwright at the Royal Chelsea Hospital (home of the Chelsea Pensioners).  The gig itself was wonderful and the venue was sublime, but unfortunately the rain that had been threatening to arrive all week finally did so.  With a vengeance.  Hence the rather fetching frizzy hair I'm sporting above and the delightful matching ponchos!

Rufus was superb live.  I've always rated his voice, but live it was even better - soaring, rich, operatic.  He utterly charmed the audience and ran through several of his best known songs (no '14th Street' though, alas) as well as new numbers and excerpts from upcoming projects such as his opera Prima Donna and a setting of a Shakesperian sonnet for next years commemoration of 400 years since the Bard's passing.

He was joined by Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys for 'Poses', which was great - two artists I adore in the same space is always a treat.  On 'California' he raised laughter by stumbling over lyrics but still charming us entirely.  For me the gig had three stand out songs amongst a glittering field:  'Vibrate', where Rufus' voice seemed to soar far into the twilight sky above; 'I Don't Know What It Is' was slowed down and sumptuous; and 'Hallelujah' was showstopping, it felt so intimate and confessional, like we were part of something sacred, holy.

We are all about the healthy eating right now - salads and smoothies and occasional steak (hey, we're not saints).  This was our weekly shop on Thursday, the checkout lady even commented on the healthiness of my selections.

Mini win - I'll take em all!

Our away days in Surrey passed pleasantly, with no rain and plenty of outdoorsy fun.  The lovely Lou also popped over for a cuppa - adore the chance to catch up with any of my lovely friends!

Deep in the woods.  Good for the soul.

One of my boys made me this lovely 4R Badgers Forever badge.  Our class motto is 'Once A Badger, Always A Badger,' and now I can wear that with pride.

Yesterday I went to an awesome blog event with Currys and Canon all about photography.  This is an area of my blog I'm keen to develop (haha! Photo based joke) and grow over the next twelve months so the timing was ideal!  I learned so much and left feeling really inspired and empowered.  Full post to follow soon.

Loved meeting this sweet bunny, who I was sorely tempted to bunny-nap.  Softest, softest fur.

I always watch movies or TV shows when doing the ironing, makes the chore far more fun.  I've just restarted Gilmore Girls, one of my favourite shows ever.  So funny and sweet.

Exam and report season = spreadsheets agogo.

It's been unseasonably grey and chilly here in London, so soup has been an option.  Butternut squash and pepper is a family favourite.

Chillier weather means cosy times for kits.  I love when they snuggle up together!

Last weekend we actually caught a glimpse of the orb in the sky and M and I very much enjoyed celebrating the wedding of two of our friends and toasting them at their reception at The Hurlingham Club.  With both champagne and vodka - the groom is Scots-Polish!

And yesterday was World Gin Day - so naturally I had to raise a toast to that too!

More fun to come, I'm sure :)

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