Wednesday, 2 October 2013

God's Own Junkyard

I think it's fairly safe to say that I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to all things bright and shiny, so it probably comes as no surprise to hear that I have a keen eye for neon. I don't think I've ever grown out of that childlike wonder of seeing flashing lights at the fairground or the extravagant Carnaby Street Christmas displays.

Chris Bracey is the man responsible for creating many of the neon showstoppers we see around and about in London. Not only does Chris design and make these pieces, he also salvages and restores discarded neons from closed down theme parks and completed movie shoots. God's Own Junkyard, a London equivalent of Las Vegas' Neon Boneyard, is where Chris displays and sells some of the amazing lightboxes he has amassed over the 37 years he has been "The Neon Man." Currently located in Vallentin Road, Walthamstow, the junkyard is being forced to close it's doors to make way for housing developers, although Chris is determined that he will find a new home for the collection.

Sadly, the outdoor yard was cleared a couple of weeks ago now but you still have until November 10th to visit the Red Barn area. I was lucky enough to have a look around about a month ago now and had the opportunity to see the entire junkyard in all it's glory, which is why it makes me so sad to know that part of it is already gone. I would still recommend turning up and showing your support before the lights go out on this Walthamstow landmark, but for those of you who can't make the trip or missed out on the yard outside, here are just a few pictures I took of the delights on offer.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Kew Gardens

I have never been to Kew Gardens before this weekend, but over the years I've heard many friends' tales of their visits and the place has taken on a kind of mythical utopian status in my mind. I always intended to go and see it for myself but you know how it is when you live in London and you know you can go anytime; you never do. I'm ashamed to say that what finally tipped the balance for me was the neon brightness of the IncrEdibles posters that sprung up all over tube stations this summer, I'm a sucker for gaudy colours and pineapples. What can I say, I'm shallow. So on Saturday morning I set off bright and early to embark on my first Kew Gardens expedition.

I had no idea how huge a site it is. I mean, truly humongous! You could easily spend a long weekend looking around and leisurely investigating all the beautiful greenhouses and buildings. Sadly, I only had one day to see what I could and I barely managed a fraction of what is on offer, but what I did get to see was just breathtaking. Kew Gardens is how I imagine the Hanging Gardens of Babylon would look if it were situated in modern Greater London. It really is absolutely magical to stroll around discovering all kinds of plants and flowers that you never knew existed and then be casually greeted by a passing peacock in the grounds.

As part of the IncrEdibles exhibition, Bompas & Parr have set up a boating lake in Kew. The centrepiece is Pineapple Island which, you guessed it, is basically a giant floating pineapple. As you make your way around the lake, you are invited to row through Pineapple Island and visit the psychedelic Banana Grotto for which you must wear your specially provided 3D glasses. Negotiating our way around the lake as completely inexperienced rowers was a bit of a challenge but the incentive of the Banana Grotto kept us going and it was a beautiful day for messing about on the river Wind in the Willows style.

One of my favourite things about Kew Gardens was how much I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I wandered around. From Pineapple Island and it's Banana Grotto to peacock spotting and then encountering giant mushrooms made of hay. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

In the spirit of Lewis Carroll, I half-expected these shrimp plants to come to life!

Kew is a true Garden of Eden just outside of the smog and concrete of Central London, which really makes it even more of an oasis of calm and escapism. I will definitely be making repeat visits in order to see the parts I missed out on this time.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Sweet Treats: Witch Mix (Majomajo Neruneru)

The Japanese certainly know how to make sweets extra fun, don't they? Today I got to act out a childhood fantasy and mix a potion in a (plastic) cauldron thanks to Kracie's Witch Mix, or Majomajo Neruneru to give it it's Japanese name. Mixing the ingredients up is a little long-winded but it's also a lot of fun.

You start with a plastic base that has two circles, one with a star on the bottom and one without, and a detachable corner. The corner acts as a cup for when you add water to the mixture.

There are also five little packets of ingredients and a spoon for mixing.

The first step is to add pouch number one to the side of the pot without the star, followed by one corner cup of water and mixing it together. 

After mixing for a short time, you should see something that looks like this:

I'll admit the colour is not massively appealing so far, but it is suitably witchy-looking. 

Next, add pouch two to the mix along with another corner cup of water and stir again. 

The colour will now change to something more appetising-looking. 

Pouch number three now goes into the pot with the star on the base. 

This pouch contains little crunchy treats in the shape of stars and circles. You now have something of an enchanted Muller Corner and it's worth tasting at this point before you add any more pouches. 

Scoop some of the mixture, add some of the crunchies like a topping and enjoy. 

Now you can add another pouch. I added the black one first. 

Again, add a corner cup of water and mix. The colour will change again and the taste becomes a little different too. 

After this, you can add your final pouch, in my case, the pink one and watch what happens next.

The colour changes slightly once more and the mixture becomes frothier. The final result should look something like this:

This last mix was my favourite. Mostly because the foaminess made it taste like sherbet, which is never a bad thing. 

Like I said, it is a bit of a process to go through for a sweet treat, but I think it's a lot of fun and I'm a grown woman (allegedly) so I can imagine that little ones would love all the mixing and making. After all, who doesn't enjoy a little bit of pretend witchiness now and again, right?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Out and About: Grain Store / Hot Pepper Jelly

Grain Store
Granary Square,
1-3 Stable Street,
King's Cross,
London, N1C 4AB.

Grain Store is the new brainchild of award-winning chef Bruno Loubet and The Zetter Group, of the Zetter Townhouse fame. Situated just a few minutes from both King's Cross and St. Pancras stations, it is nestled in the hidden gem that is Granary Square. 
The staff are friendly and warm without being overbearing and the menu is something else. If you are a vegetarian then you are in for a real treat because there are so many non-meaty dishes on offer, but not to worry, there's still plenty of meat and fish to be had for the carnivores amongst us. There are so many new eateries springing up all over London on a weekly basis that it can be hard to stand out as something special but what sets Grain Store apart is it's interesting and varied menu. Here's what I had:

Starter: Focaccia, dukkah and olive oil dip.
Main: Corn bread with tomato relish, creme fraiche, pickled cactus and scrambled eggs.
Dessert: Strawberry, passionfruit and mango sorbet.
Cocktail: Truffle Martini.
As well as everything I had being absolutely delicious, it was also very reasonably priced. I had all three courses and a martini for less than £40, (although a word to the wise, check the price of the specials before you order) and to make the bill even less scary they present it in a rather adorable form.

Hot Pepper Jelly
11 Broadway Parade,
Crouch End,
London, N8 9DE.

Hot Pepper Jelly is the cutest little cafe in Crouch End, if not the whole of North London. It's run by the loveliest people who make you feel like an old friend or at least a regular from your very first visit. The walls are decorated with beautiful photographic pieces (which are also for sale) and, my personal favourite, a huge pepper print. 

It is quite small, which adds to the cozy feel of the place and the menu is full of good old comfort food alongside traditional dishes with a peppery twist. I had the most amazing American breakfast (bacon, banana and pancakes) and an absolutely divine Strawberry Dazzler to wash it all down. 

At the counter you can purchase a jar of Hot Pepper Jelly for yourself, which of course I couldn't resist doing. I'm not sure how I'm going to use it yet but maybe I can take a little inspiration from Hot Pepper Jelly cafe's menu. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Floating Cinema.

Pop-up cinemas have become a summer staple in London. Over the last few years I've been to see films on rooftops, in the grounds of stately homes and, most bizarrely of all, projected onto a mountain of fridges outside the Olympic Stadium, but a floating cinema was a new experience for me.
Strictly speaking, "floating cinema" is a bit of a misnomer; it's more of a floating screen really. The UP Projects boat travels to various sites along East London's waterways and screens a mixture of shorts, local history films and big screen hits. My friends and I went to Friday's screening of Tim Burton's Frankenweenie at Three Mills Studios, the very studios in which the film was animated.

It has to be said that there is always something a little romantic about an outdoor screening on a warm summer evening. We brought blankets and a picnic (and some booze, of course) and settled ourselves down on the grass canalside. Luckily it was a comfortably warm evening with clear skies and as the night drew in, the illuminated boat looked particularly beautiful.

Frankenweenie was a great excuse for a spot of fancy dress, although rather disappointingly, not many people had made the effort. Trust me, I had a good look around. I have eyes in the back of my head.

Being a Tim Burton film, Frankenweenie has just the right combo of light and shade in terms of both plot and characters, and made for an atmospheric choice. Although, one of the best moments of the night didn't come from the film itself but from the family of swans who casually glided past the screen around half an hour into the movie. I ask you, what other cinema provides that?

The Floating Cinema is a great way to spend a summer's evening and as an added bonus, it was also a cheap night out. Tickets had to be pre-booked but were free of charge and since you were able to bring your own food and drink, there was no danger of getting ripped off with extortionately priced bars and the like. The relaxed feel to proceedings is also a breath of fresh air compared to some chaotic outdoor screenings I've been to. London can be a wonderful place for events such as this and the Floating Cinema itself carries a message that could just as easily apply to the city itself: It could only happen here.