10 things 20 Somethings should do when throwing a Christmas Dinner

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I am trés excited for Saturday 12th December. Not only is it the official first day of Christmas, (don’t gimme any of that 1st December bullshit, it’s the 12th and you know it) but me and my nearest and dearest London pals are throwing a Christmas dinner. As we are all 20 somethings and attempting a Christmas meal, I thought the title for this post was very apt.

  1. Mistletoe – At the door, on the floor, in the cupboard that everyone opens thinking it’s the bathroom. Put it everywhere, chances are in your twenty something friendship group there’s either a couple, a maybe or some potential hook ups of tomorrow, either way, spread a little Christmas magic and be a Christmas cupid.
  2. Plan what you’re cooking at least the day before. Otherwise you will end up with half meat feast/half pepperoni dominoes setting you back around £25 pp. You could have gone gourmet for that price.
  3. On that note, budget: Set your budget at £10 or £20 per head for food and booze. You can get some really good deals in places like Iceland and Lidl without spending a fortune and can get some interesting German brands (Lidl especially) which will just make Christmas all the more authentic for you!
  4. Keep Secret Santa an actual secret. I mean myself and my friends tried to keep it secret this year and I worked out 70% of the formula of who had who and to be honest kind of ruined it for myself and others (sorry guys). You’re in your 20’s, you’re not going to be able to give each other £50 Liberty vouchers (I don’t know why I said this like as soon as you hit 40 you can afford that either) so set a budget -£5,£10 will do and accept your present of malleable fart goo from the pound shop and be merry and gay about it.
  5. Music – Don’t let any of your friends, no matter how close you are, choose putting on Kisstory Christmas over the traditional holiday tunes, but do allow your token Jewish friend to play Hava Nagila for a bit before the Turkey comes out the oven, then it’s Bublé time and you know it.
  6. Games – No Christmas dinner party soiree is complete without a family row and board games. These days, you’re hip and cool in your 20s and if you live in Shoreditch you’ll have been playing dirty scrabble since 2011, but for the rest of us folk who can’t grow beards that birds can live in, Cards of Humanity or good old fashioned Charades is the perfect way to get everyone drunkenly debating/arguing.
  7. Plan a night out in advance and agree where you’re going to go. You’re going to be bloated and full and not in the mood to go out but then those old pangs of going clubbing on special occasions will come back to haunt you from teenage/university years and you’ll just have to go out anyway. Better to be sensible and plan/mentally prepare for it as early as possible.
  8. Have a little nap before you head out. You’re old. This way you’ll last until 2am which is an improvement on Halloween’s 1am.
  9. Do get dressed up to the nines. It’s Christmas. You’re still young and hot-ish. Don’t comedy dress. No one is going to kiss ‘sexy Rudolph’ with face painted bright red nose, because no one is longer 18 and people actually develop standards as they get more sensible/age.
  10. Get prepared for that hangover the next day because it’s going to be disgusting. Take the Monday off work.Recuperate by having two day Domino binge with the money you saved on not getting Dominoes for Christmas dinner.

My Amazing Human Body: Rethinking and Refueling

Picture courtesy of Amazon and Dorling Kindersley

When I was younger I used to play a Dorling Kindersley PC game called My Amazing Human Body which was a game developed for learning about the human body from the inside out by using interactive games and activities. One of those activities was trialling a day in the life of Seemore Skinless (he was a skeleton lol) keeping up his food levels, making sure he was going to the toilet and keeping him entertained with different activities, roller blading, swimming, reading etc. Basically keeping him alive for the day without any one of his ‘Essential Categories’ falling below a certain percent.

As we move into a new month, and yet one step closer to my ominous 24th birthday, I’ve had an idea as to whether I can apply Seemore Skinless’ methodology to my own adult life. I’m planning to cut out the things that poison me, alcohol and junk food, and I’m going to embark on more exercise and healthy eating, like I got the memo late from January. I’m going to make sure I don’t pee myself in public like Seemore Skinless sometimes did (an animated roller blading skeleton is really distracting when you’re 6 ) but most importantly I’m going to refuel myself on knowledge.

Over the bank holiday weekend, I managed to visit 3 museums, and that was with DWs short attention span in tow for two of them too. And you know what? It made me feel good. I was learning and I forgot how good it feels to learn. You can learn from programmes, you can learn from books, or people or lectures or anything, and it’s so so good for you to learn. We’re all obsessed with mental health and am I happy? Am I depressed? Do I have enough money to do these cool things in London this weekend? But learning and discovery really is the key to our souls, through whichever medium you prefer.

You can binge through Reddit, or you can walk the portrait lined halls of the National Portrait Gallery, either way, it’s all about keeping your appetite for learning topped up percentage wise. It doesn’t have to be at 100% all the time, there were times in the game where Seemore Skinless had to do boring things like cleaning instead of reading his books but that’s okay, as long as you’re indulging yourself in knowledge somehow in some other area of your life.

I’m going to try and regain my literature knowledge this September and read a book a week, starting with Helen Walsh’s The Lemon Grove, and I’m also planning to write a blog post a day. Maybe it’s because it’s September and I still have that ‘back to school’ vibe ingrained in me but this time it’s not forced and it’s learning about new things not restricted to a curriculum. Send me your thoughts and suggestions, on here, on Twitter and on Instagram.

And remember: Knowledge is power.

Brighton: Britain’s Babe of The Coast

I’d never been to Brighton before this past weekend, can you believe it? Recently, some friends from university took the plunge and decided to move to the coast instead of inhaling the smog along with the rest of us in London. Their lungs full of fresh air and fresh decisions, away from the social and economical pressures of London.

Our friends actually live in Hove, Brighton’s tamer and less expensive neighbour. Pretty Edwardian houses intermingled with mock deco flats lines the stretch down to the beach and it has a quaint yet practical look and feel to it all.

Hove is full of little diamonds like The Wick Inn where scruffy meets neat, rough meets sweet and it’s the kind of establishment adorned with as many globes as there is beer bottles, and the right amount of neon lighting. At the weekend, there’s a special speakeasy cocktail menu buut the real gem at this pub is its quirk of selling Thai food. Eating out with boys who complain 100 times before you’ve sat down about ow hungry they are is annoying but thankfully the portion size and spice factors was well received.

I’ve heard a lot more about Brighton’s breakfast club in the recent months than I have about the several that are way closer to me in London. I haven’t got round to trying any of the London branches because no one should queue that long for breakfast so the slightly sleepier seaside setting of Brighton seemed the right the right location to break the fast between us all.

I chose the pancakes with bacon; since dropping my vegetarianism nearly a year ago now, I’ve been all about bacon and the BC bacon did not disappoint. If you want to eat your breakfast to the sound of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and Club Tropicana, then seriously, look no further. We also had a a lovely server Becky, who was not only really attentive but definitely went the extra mile, bringing the banter of Barnsley to Brighton.

The lanes have intrigued me about Brighton for a while too, and mostly because I’ve heard that they’re absolutely slamming for fashion. Proving their worth, I snapped up a psychedlic shift dress for £11 from Oxfam, and DW spent ‘the best £12 of his life’ on a moon cat t shirt. Bric a Brac shops galore, this is a horders heaven and I had to stop myelf from cluttering my life with trinkets and quirk past relics. Also my bag was already jam packed of googly eyes purchased from Tiger, which is also where the boys got their matching hats from. Which I can honestly say I wasn’t embarrassed of whatsoever, and instead jealous that I’d not purchased my own.

Brighton is also home to booze and as well as giving it out free on the street (it was only Radlers guys don’t get excited) they sell craft beers for expensive prices. But the bottles look great on a windowsill and they also look pretty fancy on a beachy instagram snap…apart from the only beach snap I got of DW drinking what looked and tasted like a can of Slurm.

Brighton Pier was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Old, slightly unstable, loud, tacky and a little bit sticky. With its Seagulls overhead look like they were hanging from string and its deckchair charm, this is a place that hasn’t changed much over 100 years but was at least not a place where eager Briton’s had their tops off in the arcade (hello Morecambe anyone?). The beach itself was rammed, I’ve never been surrounded by so much wobbling white flesh in all of my life. My only criticism of the pier would be the deafening disco tunes that blasted out near the rides, but you know what, like I’d pay £6 for a 30 second ride anyway.

As for Brighton’s night life, perhaps if I could remember a little more I’d be able to divulge but I guess that’s a homage to its cheap and cheerful drinks and terrible open mic Oasis sing-a-longs. Not sure how many people I told I was from Manchester and that I actually don’t like Oasis. In the end I was annoying myself. Although, alcohol does decrease the pain in your feet from the pebbles on the beach, and seeing Georgio Armani throw himself into the sea at 3am might now be an image I’m storing in my mind palace.

Brighton’s possibly one of my favourite destinations of British seaside I’ve ever been to, and did I mention there’s just so many dogs?

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16 Things You Learn Living in London

All kudos for this go to the Croydon Guardian and ma homeboi google images

It’s coming up to two years that I’ve lived in the capital and I’ve learnt lots of useful and interesting things about London. It’s perks, its quirks, its pits and its downfalls. Talking to friends, it seems some of them are unanimous to everyone living in London so I thought I’d share 16 (random?) of them. My number 1 won’t work, it’s being difficult, soz.

Sirens are background noise.Whether you live in Kings Cross, Brixton or Finsbury Park, you’ll definitely be hearing your fair share of sirens. They’re just a given. In fact, I struggle to get to sleep without them, which brings me on to my next point…

2. If you hear police helicopters but no sirens.The police are looking for someone and their sirens are turned off to maximise chance of capture. If the overhead buzzing of helicopter is right over your head, lock your windows and your doors.

3. ‘ERROR Seek Assistance’ is both a fear and the bane of your life. Your god damn oyster card is touching the god damn reader so just let me through you piece of shit barrier and stop embarrassing me!

4. If you get food for FREE – TAKE IT. Restaurant blogging, PR events open to public, food samples of new menu? IT’s free and it saves you cooking a meal tonight which in turn saves money. And we like money.

5. If you get drinks for FREE – TAKE THEM. Whether offered as part of a door package, or simply for showing up on the guestlist. Tweet bars, tag your friends, say where you are. And if that dodgy looking bloke offers you a drink – observe that FREE doesn’t always mean SAFE.

6. McDonalds/Burger King are about as gourmet food you’re going to get post 12am. Aint no Michelin staying open for you. Not that you can probably afford Duck and Waffle after a night out anyway and if you can – this blog isn’t for you…

7. The District line is the worst line out of all the lines and you will always be late using it. And even though it’s semi overground – still boiling.

8. The Victoria Line on the other hand is hands down the most efficient line. Well, that is if you’re either going North Zone 3 or South Zone 2….

9. You’ll never not be in awe of Big Ben. Coming out of Westminster station and looking up at that Bad Boy not only takes your breath away, you realise that it looks like a really big lego tower made with the fancy sets of lego that looks like real stone.

10. Peckham is posh now. So is Brixton. They even have cocktail bars.

11. If a club is described as ‘fresh, classy and well priced’, it’s probably a shit hole located on Leicester Square with a £10 entry free and free shot necklace on arrival.

12. Afternoon tea on average costs as much as one month’s council tax pp. I know which I’ll be spending my money on.

13. Tiger is the best shop for nothing but everything since Wilkos.

14. Zone 4 is way too far to travel for one evening. You’ve never seen your friends nice and pleasant house in Manor House because your dingy flat in Stockwell is just so much more accessible from Central.

15. ‘I don’t have any change, sorry’ is in your daily vocabulary now.

16. You currently don’t want to live anywhere else.

5 Ways to EAT FREE in London

Look at these cheeky friends, they’re laughing the bill away! Copyright food-freedom.co.uk

(and if not free – then for very very little)

I’ve kind of got over pretending that I can afford my lifestyle. People who don’t live in London always ask ‘But isn’t it so expensive?’ and you reply ‘Yeah but…[insert justification as to why you didn’t eat for three days this past week]. London is f***ing expensive and sometimes you know, girl gotta eat.

But instead of blowing all my money on eating out…which if I total up how many lunches, dinners, snacks and afternoon nibbles I’ve spent money on over the past two years living here would give me heart attack – it would probably be a bill in the thousands – I’ve found some thrify ways to pig out on a small or non existent price tag.

So, here’s my short but sweet list of how to eat free in London, or at least close enough to it that you won’t actually have to consider homelessness.

1. Sign up to Ultra Vie. This nifty little site started up earlier this year and is the way forward in getting to exclusive restaurant openings and bagging a nice restaurant for you and a plus one. The concept is simple, sign up and you receive an RSVP each month, or you can go premier for a small fee (Approx £30 p/a) and you get 4 RSVPs per month. I got an exclusive to Marco Pierre White’s infamous Rib & Oyster restaurant and took The London Adventurer as my plus one and this week I’m attending the Olympia Arts Fair Previews – not food but I’m hoping on a free canapé of some sort.

Pros: Exclusive invites to events and restaurants you wouldn’t normally be able to afford.

Cons: Site like these are becoming very popular very quickly, it’s literally fastest finger first.

2. Secret dining. Secret Dining is Mystery Shopping cool younger sister. You sign up to one of these sites like Secret Squirrels or Service Scan and you get a brief to go to a restaurant where you keep a beady but unassuming eye over the service, food and atmosphere, write up a report and get your meal reimbursed. You can even earn up to £20 per visit for some sites.

Pros: You get a lovely hearty meal, and all you have to do is fill out a form as to whether it was good or not.

Cons: The restaurants are a little samey samey and if you don’t submit your report in 24 hours you run the chance of not being reimbursed.

3. Hang out at BBQs. Now this one can get a little shady, but if you’re going to a BBQ at a friend’s, you’re entitled to eat the food. Yeah sure you look like the person who didn’t bring anything but themselves, but hey, they’re your friends, surely they understand how poor and hungry you are right now right?

Pros: Like an all you can eat buffet and friends are there too.

Cons: You will eventually be sussed as the friend who brings nothing to the table and subsequently is dropped by said friendship group.

4. Scout around on social media. There’s a lot of resturants in London and if they’re going to get anywhere promoting themselves, they will be doing on social media. Look out for Focus Groups where you go and east a meal and give feedback during as well as exclusive offers like ‘First 50 customers’ and even opening nights of new ventures. the possibilities are endless.

Pros: The possibilities are endless, you have to try before you buy.

Cons: You could get your hopes and dreams set on something free and then you don’t win. Sh*t happens.

3. Your friend is a food blogger. Chances are, if your friend is a good food blogger, you probably know all about the tips and tricks mentioned above already, and if you don’t, no offence but your friend isn’t a good food blogger. Food bloggers get invited to swanky events and normally because food is involved and so much opinion surrounds food, they usually get a plus one.

Pros: Your friend is a food blogger. Lucky you, you’ve hit the free food jackpot. Keep your diary free, you could be doing something last minute.

Cons: Your friend is a food blogger. They have friends too. Keeping your diary free might result in you not being #1 plus one choice that week and you’ll end up crying eating a Rustlers alone. Dear god, please do never eat a Rustlers.

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Boring stuff: Free Food picture is from Google Imaging ‘Free Food’ and choosing this RAD dude and the companies mentioned aren’t endorsing me, I’m just hoping to get free food out of them and bring it to the masses, like a modern day Mother Theresa with chips.

3 Free Things to do in London this Summer (because you broke, i’m broke, errybody broke)

Recently I’ve been participating in a lot of things that aren’t free and my recent house move and lack of money anyway have left me in a position where the only way I’m intending to have a social life this summer is by doing stuff that’s actually FREE. Here are 3 things that I’m definitely intending to attend in terms of swigging warm red wine from a Sainsbury’s bag and walking home because I can’t afford the tube.

Going to all the carnivals, all the street parties, all the parties in the parks.

Okay, so obviously you can buy things at each of these places, but the great thing about them is that you don’t actually have to.

Notting Hill Carnival on the 30th and 31st August is completely free to enter, and is a great day out for seeing the famous carnival that started in the sixties as well as listening to different types of music street by street.

Expect to see: Local entertainment in the form of street acts, mental homeless people and the LADS from Surrey who urinate on the street and are arrested by the met at 7pm.

Brixton Splash on 2nd August (rumours of a cancellation, I’m refusing to believe it) has great food which is actually sometimes free in this generous community, great music and great people.

Expect to see: A lot of flags, a lot of vibrant colours and smell a lot of different smells.

Then coming up this Saturday 20th June is Swedish MidSummer, a massive event held unofficially in Hyde Park each year, and is the largest party outside of Sweden each year. It’s BYOB, BYOF, and BYOM (Bring Your Own Maypole) to this delightful and dizzy party.

Expect to see: Gorgeous Swedish people, and not so gorgeous non-Swedish people trying to fit in with said gorgeous swedish people.

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London’s Hidden Gem: The Winemaker’s Club

wine

I’m a fan of Farringdon, something about the old Smithfield market and the remnants of Dickensian London make me see it as ‘real London’, before all the Shards and the Cheese graters and the walkie talkie buildings got in the way. Not only is there some beautiful architecture in the Farringdon area, there are some hidden gems like The Winemaker’s club tucked away underneath the Holborn Viaduct.

A couple of weeks ago I met up with some friends at The Fable which is just before the viaduct and even though it goes against my previous point about the old feel of Farringdon (it’s in a building of pure glass), inside it couldn’t feel any warmer and inviting. The walls are lined with pages from novels old and new, and one of the main features of the downstairs bar is the large dinner sized table which is a caved in snug enclosed with books upon books.

The Winemaker’s club drew us in because at first glance, it literally looks like the entrance to a secret den. It’s not dingy or dark, but instead had a Lady and the Tramp style table set up complete with waxed out wine bottle candle holders and checkered table cloth. The doors are weighted with wine bottles meaning you can only really push the door one way or risk glassing yourself and upon walking in, I was pleasantly surprised with the a) musky but sweet smell and b) the rows upon rows of wine on the wall.

Now the service works that you can either go ahead and choose a  glass of any of the eight wines they currently have in rotation, or you can select (with or without help) from the big selection of wines on the wall. It actually felt all a bit religious, probably to do with the high arch ceilings and the smell of old wood you associate with churches. We opted for a little help in deciding which wine we’d go for, and after a few conversations of nodding and pretending that I knew loads more about wine than I actually do…we chose a simple Italian Soardo Bianco Vespaiolo. If you’re buying the wine to take away, you pay the price on the ticket, if you’re staying in you pay an extra £5 on the ticket price. The space isn’t huge, but if you’re paying to enjoy a nice wine, you might as well go the whole hog and pay to sit in.

books

Every Tuesday from 7pm, the doors close and the Winemaker’s club lives up to it’s name by turning into a club…for wine tasting. About 10-15 people, paying £15 per head, are invited to taste wines from all over the world, chat over cheese and generally soak in the atmosphere. A great present for a visiting parent or just as something a bit different to do on a weekday.

If you want to reserve a place you can call 0207 236 2936 or visit their website thewinemakersclub