Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Birthday Weekend Part One: Blow Ltd, Pix-Bar and Mahiki

This weekend, two of my lovely friends India and Sarah organised a number of amazing little surprises to celebrate my 21st birthday. So on Friday night, we packed our bags and left university behind us and headed up to London.

Our first stop was was Blow Ltd., the self proclaimed 'home to fast beauty'. Here, the girls treated me to a blow dry and a mini mani. I went for the 'Luxe blow' which left me with gorgeously bouncy hair, and cobalt nails with a glittery statement nail! I was really impressed with the stylists' ability to multitask (one on the nails while at the same time, my hair was being manipulated) and how quickly they managed to complete my 'look'. All in all, it was a great fun, girly experience and needless to say, left us all feeling perfectly primped for the night ahead!

After our visit to Blow Ltd., we rushed home and pulled on our best party dresses (while sipping a little champagne and eating some cupcakes- Fiona Cairns- my favourite!) and headed for dinner.

Next stop was Pix-Bar, a wonderful tapas bar Sarah had found. On hearing it was my birthday, the bar staff instantly rustled  up three glasses of complimentary cava which started our night off beautifully. We then attacked the tapas bar, taking no prisoners. Pix-Bar has a great system for ordering in the simple way that you don't. You just walk up to the bar where all the dishes are laid out, ready for you to peruse and take back to your table. You simply then keep your skewer which then tells your waiter how much you've eaten at the end! Once our drinks had arrived (passion fruit margaritas), we made multiple trips and devoured a plethora of dishes, from seared tuna to meat balls and croquettes, finally finishing on freshly made churros.

I loved Pix-Bar- the food was delicious and the staff were nothing short of fantastic! However eventually, feeling rather full we tottered out, ready to start dancing the night away at the Mayfair Tiki themed club, Mahiki!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Introducing Newcastle: a short post on a wonderful weekend

This weekend, I bundled on my thickest socks, my warmest coat and just about every jumper I own and ventured to the top of England to visit some very good friends of mine in Newcastle. I'd never been this far north before and had been warned it's fairly different to the south, especially climate wise! However, slightly apprehensively I ventured forth.

I was treated to a wonderful weekend of entertainment. On the Saturday, we went rock climbing inside a converted church, had lunch at a lovely little Italian where they were doing three courses for a fiver (!?) and sampled the northern nightlife (I was taken to a lovely gin bar, an equally nice pub and then some more studenty establishments, where I was unceremoniously introduced to 'trebles'!). On the Sunday, we decided to get cultured and so after an amazing brunch at the best burger place I've been to in ages, we headed off to the BALTIC- a modern art gallery overlooking the river. After much perusing  (and wishing that I'd thought to stick two nails point to point and sell them to an art gallery) we wandered back through Newcastle just as the sun started to go down, throwing the city into a whole different light.

I really enjoyed visiting Newcastle. My weekend had been full of laughter, good food, interesting places and wonderful people. The city also has a lot to offer and it wasn't nearly as cold as I'd been warned (although maybe I was just lucky!). It's definitely a place I'd be keen to re-visit and have a proper look around.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Lomography: Baby Fisheye

About a year ago now, I was bought a baby fisheye lomography camera for my birthday. This is a miniature film camera that, using special film, takes circular photos which have a bulging 'bubble' effect. Now, I've been really cautious with using up the film as there were only twenty two shots on the roll and it's notoriously hard to get processed.  However, a little while ago I finally finished it and recently I managed to find somewhere to get it processed.

Using the camera was definitely a process of trial and error. It's not digital, so there's no way of seeing exactly what you're taking and the shutter speed was so manual that it was either set at 1/100 (fine for very bright, sunny conditions) or at 'it will stay open as long as you keep the button down.' This has lead to some interesting results to say the least. A fair few of my photos came out completely black (which is frustrating since it cost £17 to get the film developed!) where as others have come out so blurry I can't even work out what they were photos of! Some of the photos however have come out quite well- they have a very soft pixel-y effect which is definitely novel. Essentially however, more came out badly than well.

But I think I've learned my lesson. I know now for the future to:
1) Only really shoot in bright conditions- trial and error with the shutter speed is interesting, but definitely not worth wasting half the film on.
2) Make sure to wind the film on accurately! I found that some of my pictures were half in, half out of the shot and I think this was due to 'overwinding' the film.
3) Get close to my subjects. The camera instructions do say to do this, but I don't think I appreciated just how close they really meant!

I've decided that I'll buy some more film and have another go and see what results I get. Despite my results being far from perfect this time around, there was just something that bit more exciting about shooting photos and waiting (and waiting and waiting) to see what they'd come out like. And who knows, maybe I'll do better next time?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Early Birthday Dinner: Chiswell Street Dining Rooms

Just before returning to university, my father (in a strange burst of pro-activeness) organised a lovely dinner for my 21st birthday at the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms. He'd booked a little private room named 'Grubb Street' for myself, my sister and a few friends to wine and dine the evening away. I'd never been to Chiswell Street Dining Rooms before and so was rather excited to see what it was like!

Upon arriving, my friends and I headed straight for the bar where we ordered some delicious cocktails. I had a passionfruit martini which came complete with half a passionfruit and a large shot of champagne! Once we'd sipped away our drinks, we headed for our room.

I have to say, I loved our room. It looked traditional without being stuffy- the walls were panelled and the place settings were classic, yet the colour scheme was white and lime green which made the room feel bright and not too formal. Once we'd settled down (and had a glass of champagne), we began perusing our menus.

Picking food is always a tricky process. My friend Frannie and I were carefully calculating which dishes we liked the sound of most between us and working out how best to divide up our various plates. Finally satisfied that we'd covered all the best bits of the menu, we gave our orders to our private waitress.

Then, a little surprise in the form of a scallop and black pudding amuse-bouche arrived! Now, I've never had black pudding before as the idea of its ingredients has always put me off, but spurred on by my champagne, I braved it and dived in. It was delicious! The delicately flavoured scallop went beautifully with the richer black pudding (which, by the way, was scrumptious and totally not what I was expecting!). Fast as a flash, the little dishes vanished down our throats.

Soon after, the rest of the food arrived. Each plate looked beautiful and tasted just as good as it looked. I particularly loved the parsnip soup with squash raviolini and the roast duck breast, both of which tasted superb!

After we had scraped our starters and mains plates clean, I was again surprised by the entrance of a beautiful birthday cake! The cake vanilla and chocolate, with a crown of chocolate spikes surrounding it and pieces of fresh fruit on top. After a rousing (and wonderfully out of tune) rendition of happy birthday, I blew out my candles and we settled down for pudding, coffee and cake! 

As we munched through our final dishes, I was also allowed to open my birthday prezzie from my Daddy- I was very lucky to receive a lovely Gucci purse!

Once we'd all finished and were feeling slightly more rotund, we tottered our way back down to the main restaurant for a final cocktail and chat, before all heading our separate ways. 

I had a wonderful evening at the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms. The food was truly delicious, the drinks delightful and the service good. But more importantly, I had an evening full of laughter and happiness which I think just goes to show it almost doesn't matter where you are, good company is what makes an event special (although in my experience, the better the food, the better the company becomes!). So a big 'Thank you' to my friends and family who made this early birthday evening so memorable.

Monday, 6 January 2014

An Open Letter to Broken Hearts

The other day I lost my best friend. My confidant, the person closest to me, who was always there for me. And as he left, he took me with him and all I am left is a hollow shell, empty and reverberating with what once was.

Everything that was once mine alone was made yours and I willingly shared it. Now, everything has your imprint pressed into the air around it and it’s impossible to ignore. As I reach to read a book, watch a program, play a game, it engulfs me, taking me back to times we had doing the same. My hand drops. There’s no way I can stand to face the memories, each one once so joyful and now so painful, each one etched deeply onto my heart.

Three years in our short lives is a significant time. So long, it’s near impossible to remember what I did before you were there. I find myself fumbling for the phone to relay something of interest to you and then I’m hit all over again- you won’t be there to receive it. Not in the same way.

I know over time, this will fade. But for now, I don’t want it to. To let go is to admit defeat and I’m not ready for that yet. I won’t be for a long time.

I know that you were wrong when you said this was the right thing. And so I stand, waiting, hoping, pleading, that something will change your mind and you’ll be back in my arms. But I can only stand and only time will tell.