Events, treatments, activities all get featured here, in the lifestyle section.

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide & Giveaway!

It’s December! We’ve made it! In 10 days I’ll be jetting off for a hot Christmas in Cambodia, and I can hardly wait. Christmas is my favourite holiday by far – food, gifts, family – what more could you want?

Highgrove Christmas DecorationThere’s a part of me that’s going to miss the fires and the lovely mulled wine – but I’m even more excited to spend Christmas with my family! I’ll also be flying from Cambodia to Tokyo to visit my Japanese family on the 27th, so I’ll be away from London for quite some time.

My favourite part of Christmas is gift giving. I absolutely love the feeling you get when you have bought something absolutely perfect for someone – I just can’t wait for them to open it!

Highgrove Christmas DecorationI like to think that for most of the people in my life, I’ve sussed out what they like (or at least I hope so). I’ve recently gotten more into getting experiences, or days out as gifts – a couple of years ago I got my boyfriend dinner at Dans Le Noir for his birthday, and last year for Christmas he got me some amazing classes at Leith’s, which I absolutely loved. Experiences are great, especially if you have a tiny flat like me – and I think they are perfect for the people in your life that are impossible to shop for!

When Red Letter Days got in touch to share their Christmas Quiz I was really excited, as it’s such a great fit! This interactive quiz is a great way to figure out what experience you should get someone. I tried it out with my boyfriend in mind, and they recommended a Craft Beer Tour – which actually sounds right up his street!

You can try the quiz out for yourself, and see what they’d recommend as a gift. I also tried the quiz out with my dad in mind – and they suggested that he’d like a luncheon with Prime Minister Winston Churchill at The Savoy, which seems pretty accurate. Unfortunately it’s not something you can get through Red Letter Days, but you can get a 3-course lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Restaurant at the Savoy. Handy!

You can try the quiz out for yourself – make sure you let me know what they recommend!

As a massive thank you for being amazing subscribers, I wanted to give away a 7-course Tapas meal with cocktails for two at the H10 London Waterloo Hotel. Just check out the view!*

London H10 Waterloo HotelDon’t worry if you don’t fancy facing the chill on the rooftop bar, as the experience is valid until the 6th of November next year. I’d personally save it for the summer, and have tapas, wine and cocktails with a view of Battersea Power Station, The Shard, London Eye and BT Tower. Perfect!

Highgrove Christmas DecorationAll you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter and take the quiz! Simple. Once the competition is over, I’ll send over the voucher in an email – the competition will be running until the 15th of December, which might make it the perfect Christmas present for the impossible person to buy for in your life.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have you sorted all your Christmas gifts out yet? Have you ever gifted an experience? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

*Photo taken from booking.com

I was gifted the experience by Red Letter Days, but all opinions are my own.

What I’ve Learned About Food Photography

I’m the first person to admit that I am not an expert in food photography, but I’d like to think that over the past year I’ve learned a few tips and tricks which have made my food photos a lot better than they used to be.

LiterEATure Series: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Rose and Pistachio Turkish Delight
When the fantastic team at Joe Blogs, along with Currys invited me along to a photography workshop at the Nikon School I was really excited. I own a Nikon DS3300, and wanted to learn a couple of tips from the experts!

Pulled Pork Nachos, Barrelhouse BBQ, Jack Daniels Tour, Lynchburg, Tennessee As all their events are, the evening was a great way to catch up with friends, discover a few tricks and, of course, take hundreds of photos of food.

Jack Daniels Ice Cream, Jack Daniels Tour, Lynchburg, TennesseeCurry's Food Photography
I won’t go in depth about how to use a DSLR, or about aperture/ISO, but I do want to share five things I’ve learned about food photography so far – and one that I learned from the workshop! So without further ado….

Curry's Food PhotographyCurry's Food Photography: Erin from Islandbell
1) Keep it natural

In my experience, nothing beats natural lighting – or at least, nothing affordable. If you can, take your food photos during the day.

Curry's Food Photography: Figs
2) Invest in the best

For the best photos, you need the right tools. There’s very little point in spending time setting up, and dishing up something beautifully if you are going to take it on your camera phone. While there are some amazing phone cameras out there, for amazing and high quality photos you just have to invest in a good camera, and some lenses. When I’m not using my Nikon, I usually carry around my Sony RX1oo II in my handbag, and I swear by it – it’s amazing in low lighting and takes beautiful shots. The quality of the shots has dramatically changed. At the Nikon workshop I was struggling to get the look I wanted until I borrowed one of their 60mm macro lenses – and I fell in love. I’ve added it to my Amazon wishlist – fingers crossed for Christmas!

Curry's Food Photography: Fruit CakeCurry's Food Photography: Fruit CakeCurry's Food Photography: Kiwi
3) Know when to close the deal – and when to back away

For certain dishes, you should go in for the closeup. I’ve generally found anything with cheese on it (like nachos) you should go in close. This rule doesn’t apply to things like meat, or fish – anything with bone in it, really. Something about seeing those things in detail are quite unappealing, generally.

Curry's Food Photography: Fruit Cake
4) Post-production

I used to whack my photos up, completely untouched by editing software. Talk about amateur hour. A few seconds spent adjusting colours, brightness, exposure and contrast makes a world of difference – taking a photo from a 5 to a solid 10.

5) Take as many shots as you can

Almost every single time I take photos, I always end up using the ones I take as an afterthought. I find I take a few, think I’ve nailed it, but the difference from taking a look on your camera screen to your laptop is huge! Take another version of a photo than you think is necessary – it might just be the best. Of course, people might slowly stop inviting you to dinner as a result, but who needs people like that in their lives anyway. I’ve definitely done you a favour.

My favourite tip from the Nikon workshop was about adjusting the white balance on the camera. HOW did I not know about this before? By manually adjusting the white balance on your camera when you’re in a dark place, the camera will then readjust all the colours around it based on your latest reading.

Like this photo below – the first, being very blue, to the second shot. All I did was adjust the white balance – and it’s made such a difference!

Curry's Food Photography: PeppersCurry's Food Photography: Peppers
My photos of these berries went from looking odd, and distinctly yellow, to this. Amazing!

Curry's Food PhotographyCurry's Food Photography: Berries
A massive thank you to the Joe Blogs team for having me – it was such an informative evening! I was invited to attend the event, but all opinions are my own.

What are some of your favourite food photography tips? Be sure to comment below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Rennie Happy Eating with SORTEDfood

For me, one of the best things I’ve discovered about blogging is the people, and the community that comes with it. It’s the food blogging community in particular – I absolutely love going to food blogger events, where I’m surrounded by people who get as excited as I do about restaurants, food trends, and unusual flavour combinations. The fact that no one groans or rolls their eyes when I get my camera out is a massive bonus too!

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food
Which is why I was so excited when I was invited by the lovely team at Rennie to attend their #RennieHappyEating event in Shoreditch. I always love attending food blogger events, but it was even more exciting as I would get the chance to meet the boys behind SORTEDfood.

SORTEDfood started out as a few guys recreating recipes and sharing their experiences on their YouTube channel. They’ve managed to grow it into a community of its own – a place where foodies can share their favourite recipes, and get stuck in.

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: CanapesRennie Happy Eating with Sorted FoodWhen you get the chance to sample some food from the foodie YouTube experts, you don’t really say no. So, despite having gotten off of a plane a mere ten hours before, I headed down to Shoreditch to find out a little bit more.

Just when I had gotten outside of the venue, my heart completely sank. A group of girls were clustered around the entrance, and assuming that they were also in for the same event, I began debating on whether or not I should go in at all – I was older than all of them by about ten years. Thankfully, these girls were all waiting for 5 Seconds of Summer who happened to be recording at the same place, and once I got in I was greeted by an assortment of glittery gin cocktails, delicious canapes and people my own age. Result!

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: CanapesRennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: Glittery Cocktail
Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: Glittery gin fizz

I caught up with some old friends, and made some new ones before the SORTEDfood boys took to the stage. (stove?)

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted FoodRennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food
As expected, they were hilarious – full of energy and as great to watch live as they are on YouTube! The first dish they prepared was an asian-inspired fried chicken dish with pandan pancakes. The pandan extract gave these such an unusual colour, and it was an inspired take on the usual chicken and waffles.

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: Pandan Pancakes with Fried Chicken
Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food
It was great to find out a little bit more about Rennie, too. I had absolutely no idea that they’d been around for 70 years – I love the old school ads they had on display, which were clearly targeted at housewives. Thankfully their campaigns have improved in leaps and bounds since – this year, they partnered up with the SORTEDfood boys to take part in their Rennie Mystery Box challenge.

Every so often, the team at Rennie send the team at SORTEDfood an unusual or exotic ingredient in the mystery box, and the team get ideas from their audience about what to cook with it.

So as the boys were cooking, all of us at the event had to put our names into a hat, for the chance to take part in a mystery box challenge of our own. But more on that later…

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food
The next dish they whipped up was the classic churro – but with a little twist – a coffee and chocolate sauce.

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food: Chocolate Coffee Churros
After all the excitement surrounding the churros finally died down, the names started to get pulled out of the hat – and one by one, we opened the doors to see what mystery ingredient waited behind each door.

My name got called, and I started getting a bit nervous – some people got ingredients I’d never even heard of before!

Thankfully, I knew what my mystery box ingredient was – and I whipped up a little dish too, but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday to find out what it is!

Rennie Happy Eating with Sorted Food
I had an absolutely fabulous time at the #RennieHappyEating event, and it was great getting to meet the guys!

What’s your favourite video from the SORTEDfood guys? Be sure to add it to the comments below, or let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Hillary’s Crafternoon at Drink, Shop, Do

I’ve wanted to go to Drink, Shop, Do for ages. It’s a great place for doing crafts, playing board games and a good night out – what more could you want?

Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop Do
Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoI was invited to go along for Hillary’s Crafternoon, where we would be making our very own jewelry boxes.

Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoWe were in the back room, which was decorated with some ‘punny’ totes and a disco ball. There was a wide selection of cakes, and a gluten free chocolate orange one for me, so I was very excited!

Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillary’s sell a selection of curtains, blinds and home accessories in a variety of different patterns. We used some of these to decorate our boxes with.

Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop Do
Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoAfter grappling with pins, glue guns and reels and reels of ribbon, it became very apparent to me that I am not at all blessed with crafting skills. While everyone else around me began to create beautiful boxes, mine looked totally amateurish! (Although the lovely people at Hillary’s did include a photo of it on their blog!) Luckily, I was able to munch and chat the afternoon away with the lovely Chynna and Olivia, who I was sat next to.

Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoAfter we were done with the boxes, we used some of the extra material for our own little projects. I ended up making a fascinator with some netting, which didn’t turn out as badly as I thought it might!

DSCHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop Do05736Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoAll in all it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and Drink Shop Do is such a great space – it’s got something for everyone!
Hillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoHillarys Crafternoon at Drink Shop DoHillary's Crafternoon, Jewelry Box Making, Drink Shop DoMany thanks to Hillary’s for hosting the Crafternoon. I was invited to attend, but all opinions are my own.

 Have you been to Drink, Shop, Do? Are you as useless at crafts as I am? Be sure to comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Drink, Shop & Do Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Forest Foragers

After my experience with Love Food Hate Waste, it really got me thinking about food (yes, yes, even more than before!). Not just about where it goes after it leaves our kitchens, but where we source it – so the timing was absolutely perfect for a foraging course with Forest Foragers.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseForest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseA two-hour drive away from London, we gathered in a little hall in the village of Witley for a day of learning, exploring and eating – all sourced locally from the woodlands around us.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CoursePeter, Marilyn, and Clifford run the Forest Foragers course, a comprehensive day that teaches you about the foragable (and edible!) world around us in the UK.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseForest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseWe arrived at 9 for tea, and spent the first part talking about different berries and mushrooms that can be foraged – from the delicious to the deadly. (On that note, please do not use the photos from this post as a reference – some of these might not be suitable for consumption!)

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseForest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CoursePeter and Clifford really know their stuff, and it was fascinating to get some pointers from them around the basics of foraging. It’s really important that you know the history of the land you are foraging from, as mushrooms really soak up the nutrients from their environment. They strongly recommend foraging from ancient woodlands, and not country parks or in the city. While the variety of mushroom might be edible, the toxins in the environment might make it deadly – the biggest case of mushroom-related deaths actually occurred after Chernobyl, when the locals foraged mushrooms had been completely safe to consume before the nuclear disaster.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseForest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseLunch was served, and they were so accommodating with my gluten-free request. The delicious lunch consisted of mushroom soup (with foraged mushrooms) as well as a salad with freshly picked sorrel and a vinaigrette dressing. I was absolutely gutted I wasn’t able to have the mushroom tart, which was made with caramelized onions, but apparently it was delicious – and it smelled great, too!

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseAfter lunch we grabbed our baskets and drove towards the woods. It hadn’t rained in a few days, which meant there weren’t as many mushrooms out as usual – but we ended up with an impressive haul of amethyst deceivers, charcoal burners and bay boletus. We even picked up some hawthorn berries, and ended up with a massive basket of freshly foraged food.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseWe arrived back at the haul and split into two groups – first, we had a cooking demonstration with Peter, and sampled some of our finds with a little salted butter. It was absolutely incredible – I have never had such amazing flavours, and it was all so fresh.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseWe then tipped out our finds and combed through them carefully with Clifford, who is a professional mycologist. This put my mind at ease, as you can get accidentally collect nasty deadly mushrooms really quite easily. Luckily we didn’t have any in ours, but some of the others in the group picked some up by accident, so it was really great that we could check!

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging Course, Hawthorn BerriesThe whole course took a whole day, until 5, and it was honestly the best fun I’ve had in a long time – getting out in the country, eating and learning – I was in heaven.

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseOnce we got home, my boyfriend and I immediately whipped up the most incredible risotto we’ve ever had – onions, garlic, white wine, rice and our mushrooms – simple, but insanely delicious. We also had enough left over for lunch the next day, and mushrooms on toast for breakfast too!

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseWe went to the course in Surrey by car, but Forest Foragers are running courses until the end of the year in Essex too, which is really easy to get to from London by public transport. It’s honestly one of the most amazing days out I’ve had in ages, and a really great way to learn a valuable skill!

Forest Foragers, Mushroom Foraging CourseThank you so much to Forest Foragers for the incredible day – I had an amazing time! They still have some courses on until the end of the year, which you can find on their website here.

Have you ever foraged a meal? Be sure to comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!