beer + sun = fun

a couple of months ago i started to learn a bit about beer. before that time i was very much in both the "i'll have a pint" and "i don't really like beer" camps... which makes no sense. what made sense is that people like beer, so i too will like beer. even if i didn't actually like beer. well, i've started to understand it's not necessarily "beer" i don't like, it's "pints of piss on tap" that i don't like, and there are many lovely beers out there that i do really like. so, when the opportunity to attend the london craft beer festival presented itself a couple of weeks ago, i knew i'd be a fool to say no.

i grabbed carmen for the day and we headed along to oval space by cambridge heath a few saturdays ago, ready to educate our palettes on some of the finest craft beers london's breweries had to offer. nervous? yes. excited? definitely. did we think we'd be a couple of the only females in the festival? no, no we did not.

well we certainly put some effort in sampling all the beers so we could definitely pretend we knew what we were doing, but with the "sample size" occasionally looking like a quarter pint, things started to get a little hazy after the first few. i do remember one particular beer called the 'bearded lady' by magic rock brewery, which i suppose was named as such because it was so thick and dark it could have been mistaken for my beard as i was drinking it. or, throwing it away.

my highlights were the kernel brewery's london sour raspberry, which was sweet and fruity and tasted more like a yeasty cider than a beer, and two incredible brews from beavertown - the gamma ray (i think), and a magical blend of coffee, whisky and hopps called 'spresso'; the coffee lovers' dream, according to all reports. it was a stout, yes, but it was the kind of beer you want to start your day with. in a total not-alcoholic kind of way. 

anyhoo, no two of those beers were the same 'kind' of beer, so i am still none-the-wiser when it comes to beers i like. although, according to little shaun - a beer nut, so to speak, i like a hoppy beer and i should choose an ipa when i'm deciding what to drink at the bar. or, you know, stick to gin.

with five or so samples under our belt. we decided it was time to eat. with not a lot of variety of food on offer at the festival, we decided to head elsewhere but not before checking out the libertines alley which we'd walked past on the way into oval space. there, we figured it was only right that we performed our very own fashun bloggah shoot with my new instax mini8* - problematically using up an entire roll of expensive film just working out how to use the camera. whoops!

satisfied with our wasteful adventure, we went off to find burgers to help dissipate the early on-set hangover that was threatening to ruin our sunny afternoon. burgers solve everything. hooray for burgers!

chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool.

i've been a bit stressed of late; anxious in the night, a busy mind and over-active brain, and not been sleeping so well. to be honest, i sleep perfectly well over a weekend, but come sunday night, i'm awake all night. literally, all night. for the past couple of mondays, i've been going to work on zero sleep - sounds highly exaggerated, i know, but trust me when i say that successfully managing insomnia is nothing to brag about. i've suffered on-and-off for years, so i know ~how to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, but that ~doesn't mean it's easy - i could do with all the help i could get.

enter avios. currently, i'm subscribed to nectar, tesco club, boots advantage, and superdrug beauty loyalty cards, as well as having at least five other coffee and food-related frequent-customer cards littering my purse. want to know how i benefit from each of these many loyalty schemes? so do i. besides the occasional free coffee or discount voucher through my door, i literally do not know how any of these cards benefits me one iota, and yet i regularly scan or show or collect the stamps like the consumer minion i am.

and yet, according to the points calculator on the avios website, i'm eligible to earn more than 15,000 points in one year, based on my ~current spend. that's the equivalent of two deep tissue massages (7,500 points each), three day-passes to thorpe park or alton towers (4,900 points each), hundreds of afternoon teas (from 2,000 points), unlimited bottles of gin (exaggerated, 6,000 points each), or even a weekend farm break for two (12,000 points), for free, every year, because of money i've already spent. that's... incredible.

in the name of second chances and market research, i put my previous bad experiences with traditional pampering and relaxation techniques to the side, and headed out on sunday to try out one of avios' pamper packages - hoping it would help me take the edge off. with the serenity massage claiming to help with relieving stress, inducing relaxation and counteracting anxiety, i was hoping it would help me overcome my restlessness, and leave me zen-like for the rest of my life. or, day, as it were. start small, yeah.

well, it totally worked. for an hour i lay there while a tiny human woman poured hot lavender oil on me, placed hot stones across my back, and carefully massaged my muscles into a happy, melty mess. an indian head massage alleviated all tension from my temples, and while the rain poured down against the tin roof above us, i'm preeeetty sure i fell asleep right there on the table - amazingly. i headed home that day and signed up ~straight away so i can start collection points myself. if that's the sort of benefit that's available to me, yearly, for free, then yeah... it's a no brainer.

as for now, i'm hoping that with thanks to the serenity session and the long, active weekend, my sleepless nights will be no longer. but you know me, i'm likely to whinge about it here either way.

*thanks to avios for making my pampering dreams come true.*

tattoo update.

this time last year i was turning thirty. well, this time and in a month or so. and last year for my thirtieth, i "treated myself" to the one thing i had really wanted for as long as i could remember, but could never find the balls to buy for myself; my first tattoo.

i stayed local and went to a friend of a friend for something "small" and pretty, and most definitely me - a pink rose. traditional, yes; "just like everyone else", maybe; just what i wanted, absolutely. for the girl who always wears pink on wednesdays, who has never met a flower she didn't like, and who's claimed this country as her own, an "english rose" was the perfect thing for my first piece. or, as my mum currently wishes was the case, my ~only piece.

i loved that tattoo with all my heart - it was perfect in every way, even though it was technically flawed. some of the lines were rough, the shading didn't heal as bright as i'd liked, and sadly, what i thought was just bruising turned out to be blow-out (where the needle has gone too deep and the ink settles lower in the skin that it should, leaving a blue, bruise-like blur), leaving the whole thing a lot more faded and murky than i would have liked. i still loved it, but the permanent reminder that it wasn't quite "right" started to make me really self conscious of it. and not in the way that people tell you you'll feel when you start to "regret the decision", because i didn't, not at all. it just happens (of course it would happen to me, though).

despite the fact the whole ordeal wasn't very pleasant, i wasn't put off, at all, if anything it made me want more, more. i'd started to follow a bunch of artists on instagram, and really pay attention to those with really quirky and girly styles. jody dawber was one of those artists. she was based up north at the time, but as luck would have it, an announcement on her bio said she'd be moving to essex in 2015. in the back of my head it was decided, i'd be getting my next tattoo done by jody, whether she liked it or not.

then life happened and yeah, it's now 2015. about three months ago, as i was scrolling through my ig feed i noted a "bookings" post from her, for canada. canada, north america. reading through the message, she announced she'd be off travelling around america at the end of august, and she was looking to book work where she was going. i panicked. i panicked a lot, and emailed her straight away and booked an appointment without even an idea of what i wanted. i booked an appointment. because panicked. an appointment i had to change with only a few days notice because of stupidity, but an appointment that i finally fulfilled last friday. 
i'd been back-and-forthing with the shop manager danni for weeks, throwing ideas at her. i knew i wanted jody to hide the blow-out by adding her style to the existing rose, and i wanted a deer. well, to be honest, i wanted a "stag in drag" complete with pink lippy and false eyelashes, and danni bloody loved the idea. other than giving her that brief, i had absolutely no contact with jody until the moment i walked into jayne doe in hornchurch for my appointment.

jody showed me the stencil of my stag in drag, and we assessed him for size in the space i had left on my forearm; with a quick consultation and comparison, we decided he wasn't going to fit. antlers, man, they're a ballache; they would have crept up my bicep and distorted the whole piece, and so we decided a fawn/doe would fit the area better, and so it was. jody added the floral crown to his (still a boy, i've decided) head, and i insisted on eye lashes still. 

i wasn't expecting her to, but jody reworked the entire original rose to make it brighter and fit better with the deer, and added embelishments like the blue ribbon and the yellow fading and polka dots on the outside to cover as much of the blow-out as possible. she really did an amazing job. we had a serious love/hate relationship for the whole time i was with her, because my sweet lord, that hurt a lot more than i remember it hurting. going over the original rose was probably the most excruciating pain i've felt in a long time, and i've just had a broken finger. remember? it was not nice, but i would still 100% recommend to everyone. 

so, lady doe nut (his stage name) is now healing well, and i am too impatient to see how he heals. he's so sweet and adorable - he has freckles, man! i feel like the photos don't do him justice, and he's already changed colour so many times since friday, so, i guess time will tell. if nothing else, i'm just pleased i finally got to meet jody, and get some of her original artwork on me. and that she covered up my blow-out and made me love my arm again. even though it currently feels like it's on fire.

park life.

my life is planned out meticulously, weeks in advance. my friends will often text and be like, "wanna catch up tonight?", and my standard response is a version of "nah mate, i've got stuff on; how about three tuesdays from now?" it's ridiculous, yes. do i prioritise badly? no, i don't think so. i accept offers based on the amount of notice given, because i like to know what my plans are in advance. i can't be the only person like that, surely, but it keeps my social life full, and in check.

so to have a completely free weekend in the diary, void of any plans whatsoever, is a rarity. and yet, it happens. come friday morning of this past week, that's exactly how my weekend was looking like; a blank canvas; with my flatmate away, and with my tattoo healing, i can't say i was too unhappy about that fact either. and then chloe told me about the free santander cycle hires all weekend, and in an instant, my unplanned saturday became full of ideas.

i insisted mike join me in ticking off one of my bucket list items before heading off on his spontaneous german adventure, and thankfully with the mention of burgers for lunch too good for even him to refuse, we had made a plan. i met him at bethnal green tube station around midday before heading to patty&bun by london fields to meet up with his friend gabi. i'd never been to patty&bun before, but with the smokey robinson firmly in mike's top three list of london burgers, i knew i was going to be alright.

and truth be told, it's now probably even in mine. the burger was fat. and juicy. i don't normally opt for a beef burger - with thanks to my bloody food intolerances for making red meat a bit touch-and-go for me, i'm normally a chicken burger kind of gal. not that day though, that day, i was all about the beef and bacon, and whole heartedly not the buttermilk chicken option. the smokey patty&bun mayo was all kinds of tasty, and the way that burger looked when i ripped the wrapper away from it was nothing short of sexy. thank god i'm the kind of girl who lives to eat and not someone who eats to live, because there was absolutely no easy way to eat that burger. i realised that after six napkins and a wet wipe.

with our meals devoured, it was time to say our goodbyes to gabi, and head off to find our nearest bike docking station. we strolled by the canal while our food digested, stopping for a break inside victoria park briefly because that much food needed more time that we'd considered to settle. the hottest day of the year was upon us again, and so the park was heaving with families and dogs and sunbathers, and it was nice to be able to sit in the shade and watch the revellers out on the lake - trying to paddle their way through the lake's still and stagnant water. fools! we were jealous of their fun, and given a cooler day and a properly-functioning arm, we might have joined them. next time.

eventually we found it in us to carry on with our plans, despite the ferocious heat, and made our way to a docking station outside the park. despite having downloaded the santander cycles app the night before, neither of us had thought to register or anything, and mike ended up unlocking his the old fashioned way while i stood in the shade creating my account. bikes unlocked, we were on our way!

for about ten minutes before we realised that mike's bike had a flat tyre, and the next docking station was completely full and not allowing me us to return/rehire bikes as quick as we'd like. in the early afternoon sun, i had a minor melt down and decided that maybe the hottest day of the year wasn't the most ideal day for "getting back on the bike", so to speak. because i'd downloaded the app during one of the free weekend events, it did mean i could continue to hire bikes for free all weekend, which was an idea... i prayed for a cool change!

there are a ton of other events coming up according to the website, so that gives me hope that perhaps i will get another chance again soon. i realise i'm talking like i may never get to ride a boris bike again, despite the fact they are all over london, but i just really do never get a chance. i'm hardly going to hire one on the way to work - central london roads terrify me, and there are no docking stations near where i live so it's just not really an option for me at a weekend. i loved the idea of cycling through the park, and although walking through it for those few hours was still a lot of fun and really peaceful, there's something about seeing it from a bike - kind of flying around the paths, that seems wheelie ideal (sorry).

we walked from the park to zealand road coffee shop on roman road for some iced coffees in the "shade" before calling it a day, and heading home. last i checked the temperature at bow road it was still 30 degrees at almost five pm, and i was knackered. full, tired, and with sore feet (stupid footwear for walking or cycling, to be fair), and ready for a dark room. it was a fantastic last-minute plan in the diary, but one that certainly paid off. 

maybe i should clear my diary more often, eh; look at all the fun i'm missing!

*thanks to santander for making this afternoon possible*

some happy things.

last week was a week that was a slow burner, but definitely ended on a high. with pay day looming, it was a quiet week for me, praying for survival until my monthly top-up of funds sees me rinse and repeat for another month of doing "stuff" and buying "things," forever wiling the days away in the endless pursuit of happiness. naw. a few things this week have kept me smiley, namely:

regulars; looks like i've been visiting the starbucks at baker street juuuust the right amount of times, because not only do they all know my name and order, but simona even adds love hearts to my cup now. she's a keeper.

timeless style; not only was i buzzing that my six-day-old greasy hair totally resembled miley cyrus, it also exactly-resembles the very same hair style i wore in my year 12 (last year of high school before university) class photo. which was in 2002. 

picnic with a view; on thursday night i shuffled over to guoman hotel tower bridge with a couple dozen of my fave london bloggers, for a some picnic fun on 'the lawn' by tower bridge. the lawn is a pop up bar and events space just outside the hotel that boasts some ~exceptional views of tower bridge and st. katherine's docks; as we drank mojitos and pimm's from the bar, we also snacked on some of the hotel's afternoon tea selection. not a bad way to kick start a long weekend, that's for sure!

"treating" ones self; on friday i mustered up all the courage i could, and voluntarily paid someone to permanently alter my appearance through ritual torture. oh yes, the tattoo was received. for three hours (bar loo breaks) i laid perfectly still, wincing in agony as mega babe jody dawber made my tattoo dreams come true. more on this in the week. it still hurts, but it's definitely love. 

last minute plans; i had no weekend plans until late on thursday afternoon, when it came to my attention that santander were offering free cycle hire over the weekend for new users. i'm a new user, and have wanted to go riding for so long but have been terrified to do so on open roads; i conned mike into joining me, and we headed into victoria park where it was safe to practise. we also had mega messy burgers, and i had a lot of lilt. it was an awesome day. if in fact that was the end of summer, then i must admit i spent my summer well.

so much serenity; my flatmate's away at the moment, so i had a great lay in, made some delicious pancakes, did some laundry, ~and spoke to my mum, all before 10:30 on sunday. with chores out of the way, i headed down to catford to le crisadore for a serenity massage; with all the headaches and sleepless nights i've been having, i thought a bit of "me time" was in order. for an hour i lay still as a tiny little human poured oil and placed hot stones and tenderly massaged my weary body, until i practically fell asleep to the sound of the pouring rain outside. bliss.

baby time; miss molly o turned eight days old on sunday, and so i paid her a little visit with some birth-day gifts. at eight days she's so tiny and tender and i was too scared (and hurt, see above re: tattoo) to touch her, but boy did i sniff her and kiss her and stroke her tiny legs with a lot of love and affection. 

dear female friends: please keep having babies so i don't have to, but so i can still have baby snuggles when i want them. baby snuggles are only fun when you can hand them back after.