January 2015 Archives

Late last year, I visited Chicken Shop/Dirty Burger on Whitechapel Road. I had been wanting to try these restaurants as I have read good reviews, and I happened to see that they had a branch down the road from where I worked. I promptly hopped on the bus and took a ride down Whitechapel Road so that I could finally try this restaurant. Of course, I walked across to Rinkoff Bakeries for a dessert, which I already covered in an earlier post!

Chicken Shop

I knew that although Dirty Burger are meant to do great burgers, they do not have an option that I will eat (I don't eat beef), so Chicken Shop is the menu that I went with. Both restaurants are located in the same building. In fact, from the outside, most people would not even know that there's a restaurant there. A simple doorway on a grafitti-covered green door is the entrance, and the logos for the restaurants are easy to miss.

Chicken Shop / Dirty Burger, Whitechapel

Once inside the restaurant, there's a cafeteria feel with high ceilings and industrial-style fittings. The brick wall has had a quick whitewash, and the menus are painted directly onto the brickwork. Dirty Burger is on one side, and Chicken Burger is on the other.

Restaurant interior

All of the tables were taken. Even during mid-week at lunch time, this place was popular. I was seated at the bar where I could see the rotisserie chickens turning and watch the staff prepare the orders. Several large ceramic chickens were dotted around the restaurant.

Chicken Shop

I ordered a 1/4th of a chicken and asked for breast meat and a side of chips. I did try the two sauces at the table, but these tasted a little too "manufactured" for my taste, so I disregarded them and was glad that I did not smother my chicken with them as I do at Nandos. The chips tasted lovely, and the chicken was alright but I felt that I was missing something. I was not exactly overwhelmed, even though it was a decent meal.


Would I go back? Well, I would not hurry back. I did not feel overwhelmed by it, but it was worth a try. That's not to say it was awful as it really wasn't. It just didn't meet my expectations. I do wonder if it's special because of the brand, and it's very "in" with the "hip" east London crowd, so it may be the type of place where people like to be seen at.  

For those wishing to try either restaurant, visit the company's websites for a full list of locations and opening times. Note that all of the different locations have a different interior 'theme':

Chicken Shop: http://www.chickenshop.com 
Dirty Burger: http://www.eatdirtyburger.com

Malarky's street art (typically found on shutters) is easy to recognise and was quite common in east London, although it has been a little while since a lot of the artwork was painted and the original pieces are either looking worn or have disappeared. The artist is known for painting foxes or cats, and he also collaborates with other street artists. I recently covered his work here: Malarky, Mr. Penfold, Billy and Lucas.


Malarky's work was one of the first pieces of street art that I had seen a couple of years before I started to blog about and take a big interest in the street art scene. I saw one of his foxes, and it was probably on a shutter on or just off of Brick Lane.

At the later part of last year, Malarky returned to London to create some new work on the shutters of shops. He also collaborated with fellow artist David Shillinglaw. The new pieces from the end of last year are below.


The first piece that I saw being completed in the middle of the summer was a high-profile shutter on the middle of Brick Lane. I saw Malarky painting the piece, and in the photograph below, you can see his paint spray cans and a bit of his ladder. (I didn't want to include a photograph of the artist, but he was painting the "Hello" on the left-hand side.)


A couple of shops away and still on Brick Lane, this yellow cat popped up. The piece by Mr. Penfold (that the cat appears to be looking at) remains, miraculously, but it has been tagged over a little.


And a few shops away, this new-to-east-London shop gets the Malarky treatment. It's located on Sclater Street.


More recently, Malarky collaborated with David Shillinglaw (Street Art: David Shillinglaw) to create this artwork near Old Street.


It was later painted over again by David Shillinglaw. 


I think the one below is new as I don't remember seeing it before. Perhaps I just walked by it when the shop's shutters were down.



The following Malarky fox and a face by David Shillinglaw was discovered on Hackney Road as I was riding past in a car.



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malarky/147873188573671

I have been a member of Degustabox, a monthly food subscription box for six months now. Each month, surprise products and samples of food and drink items are delivered to my door. I first saw this subscription service online somewhere and really liked what was in the June box, but I just missed out by a few days. I subscribed in June, but I did not receive my first box until July. You can see July, August, and September's reviews here. The remaining three months of my subscription are detailed below.


October's Degustabox contained several smaller items and some decent products - a few that were good and a few that were not so good. I really enjoyed a couple of the products. This is one of the better boxes.


Special K Cracker Crisps: (3/5) My favourite flavour of crisp/potato chip is BBQ. For a long while, getting this flavour was impossible, but other companies have been bringing it back over the past three or four years. The product has a nice taste, but I am just not that into it. Crisps/potato chips are not something I tend to indulge in, and I find them messy. 

Blue Dragon Sweet Chilli Sauce: (4/5) I have purchased this product before to use in a stir fry. It is a good product.

Get Buzzing Original Nutty Flavour Flapjack: (5/5) I enjoyed this flapjack, and I liked the flavour and the texture. I would buy these again as this tasted healthier and seemed to contain less sugar than other flapjacks.

Enhance Drinks in apple and blackcurrant flavour: (3/5) I have used squash to liven up water as I do find water to be difficult to drink on its own. Actually, I normally have my water ice cold with lemon. This was an interesting alternative, but I was not that keen on the artificial sweeteners, which tend to give me migraines.

Kent's Kitchen meal kit in tikka masala flavour: (1/5) This kit contains oil, spices, and curry paste to create a curry. The recipe requires adding tomatoes, yoghurt, and meat. I used chicken for this recipe and followed the instructions, but I was not happy with the results. The curry tasted bland. My partner also did not like it, and he could not even eat it because he really disliked the taste of it.

Solo Marshmallow Creme: (5/5) I like marshmallow cream, but I have never tried this brand before. This is an American product, and I've made chocolate fudge with this type of product before. I received the toasted marshmallow flavour in my box, and I enjoyed it. I made chocolate mousse with most of it.

Dr. Oteker extra dark chocolate and fine dark cocao powder: (5/5) This brand of dark chocolate and cocao powder suit my needs, and I used some of the dark chocolate to make the mousse with the marshmallow cream that I received in this box. These are baking products, and I do not do a lot of baking. There are other products on the market, so I am not typically fussed about which I buy. The quality of this one seemed good.

Bear Paws fruit snack: (4/5) This fruit-flavoured snack does not contain any added sugar. The snack tasted fine, and I like the fact that it's a healthy alternative. This product is aimed at children. 

Bear Alpha Bites: (4/5) This was an extra product in this month's box, and it is a healthier alternative to cereals that are higher in sugar. The taste was fine, but I would not replace it with my museli. This product is aimed at children.

Jelly Belly: (5/5) I have never been a fan of jelly beans, but I received the sour/tart flavour of the product, and I enjoyed them. I do love sour/tart sweets and prefer these type of sweets to chocolate. I may purchase these in the tart/sour flavour if I saw them; I would not buy the original flavours.

Bricohe bread loaf: (1/5) I am just not keen on this product. I am extremely picky about bread products, and this was not to my liking. I received other products from the brand in a previous box, and I was not too keen.

Brioche pain au lait chocolate chip: (3/5) I received croissants from this product in a previous box, and I was not keen on them at all. Howeever, I enjoyed these more but I would never go out of my way to purchase them.


The November Degustabox was very disappointing to me as I was not keen on the majority of the products, so it was a waste of money for me this month. Degustabox have one more month on my subscription, so I am particularly looking forward to December's box and hope to get many Christmas items. Perhaps they are saving all of the good products to next month.


Kettle Chips (Stilton & Port): (2/5) I do like Kettle Chips, but I would never touch the 'stilton and port' flavour. I gave these away and I was told that they were alright.

Pip cloudy apple juice: (4/5) I love apple juice, so these were welcome. The juice is watered down, so it does not have a strong apple flavour. I did enjoy them, but I would have preferred a stronger apple flavour.

Cool Dawn energy drinks: (1/5) These energy drinks are meant to be consumed after drinking alcohol. I thought they tasted awful, and it had a slight coffee flavour. After a sip, I threw the rest of it away. I gave the second one to a colleague to have after drinking, and he also hated it.

Holy Cow! sauces (Mangalore Malabar and Korma): (3/5) I love curry, but I found these sauces to be bland instead of spicy. I have had better similar products.

Branton carmelised onion chutney: (2/5) Chutney is one of those products that I do not eat. I gave this away to a colleague.

Lindt chocolate star: (5/5) I was never a fan of this chocolate brand, but these are nice. The inside is a soft chocolate truffle, and the outer is a soft chocolate shell.

Chai Latte: (2/5) I gave this away and the review was a "meh".

Stir-in Flavour shots (Garlic and coriander): (3/5) I struggled to put these to use, but I mixed one with some chicken and it was alright. I would have preferred another flavour.

Montano cider: (4/5) I do not have cider, so I gave this to my partner who said that it tasted alright, but he's also not too keen on cider.


I was not too impressed with my last Degustabox, which was the December box. I know others felt the same disappointment. I had expected more for the December box. More on that will follow.


Pukka green tea: (4/5) I do drink green tea, so this was nice to receive. It's not my favourite brand, but I found it to be ok.

Popchips (original): (3/5) I have previously tried Popchips when they became available, and they are alright. I'm not keen on crisps or potato chips as it's just not a snack I have regularly or enjoy.

Eat Chia: (1/5) Chia seeds are considered one of the superfoods, and these are recommended to be sprinkled on cereal or yoghurt. I have tried this product previously, and I am not sure about it because the results are not instant. The seeds do not have a flavour.

Bahlsen (milk chocolate and caramel biscuits): (5/5) These biscuits, which I have previously bought repeatedly, were not new to me. Two flavours were provided, and the caramel flavour was one that I had not previously tried. My favourite is the dark chocolate, which is a product that I do purchase from time to time, but this flavour was not one of the ones provided.

Glow Worm drinks: (3/5) These energy drinks can also be used as cocktail mixers. One of each flavour was provided, and the flavours were hit or miss for me. The flavours are cucumber and apple, raspberry and grape, ginger and lemonade, and pear/lime and spice. The raspberry and grape was nice, but I was not keen on the pear/lime/spice flavour. The other two flavours were good as well, but the best was the raspberry/grape.

Kent's Kitchen Madras: (2/5) I received the Kent's Kitchen 'Chicken Tikka Masala' in a previous box, and my partner and I both disliked it. This one was better, but I halved the amount of tomato in it because my partner dislikes tomato. This had a better flavour, but I still found that the spices did not blend as well as I'd expect they should.

Fry Light Chili Infused cooking oil: (4/5) This product is to be used in cooking to add flavour. The product works well with frying in a wok and can be used to add a little extra spice to fried rice.

Bonne Marman marmalade: (5/5) I love marmalade, so this was welcome.

Eisberg alcohol-free wine: (1/5) When I received the alcohol-free wine, I thought for sure this must be a mistake as Degustabox do an 'alcoholic' and 'non-alcoholic' box, and I signed up for the 'alcoholic' box. I'm not sure how I will use this as I do not really see the point in alcohol-free wine. I think this will be used for cooking, but it's sitting in my cupboard as I do not know what to do with it.

My verdict on Degustabox:

Although I did find a few nice products and one product that I have purchased since (as well as others that I would not mind purchasing again), I did not feel that it was value for money and some of the products were ones that I would never buy. Also, the past couple of boxes had repeated goods that I had previously received in the past six boxes, and some of these I was not keen on.

Ultimately, I cancelled my subscription so that it would not renew. I was also not happy with the way my response (criticism) about the December box was handled by Degustabox. I felt that they did not try to or care to keep my custom.

I think I expected something better for December's box as I was already greatly disappointed with November's box. November's and December's boxes were the weakest. (Now that my subscription has ended and many were upset, I do hope that they have made improvements. The January 2015 box is out now, and I've peeked at the contents and I'm quite happy to have ubsubscribed as I wouldn't have used a lot of those items this month.)

Do you subscribe to Degustabox? Let me know what you think!

After our visit and a lunch break at Bushmills Distillery along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, we drove down the road and stopped off at Dunluce Castle. The location of the castle has been fortified for many years, and it was the location of a fort before a castle was built on the site in medieval times. This castle is also used in the television series "Game of Thrones", so you may recognise it from that.


The current castle dates between the 15th and 17th centuries; the family (McQuillans) who owned the castle controlled the sea and region of north Ulster. Some of the stones from Giant's Causeway have been used in the building of the castle. 


The castle was taken by the MacDonnell family in the late 1500s, and many Scottish settlers lived there. During the Irish rebellion in 1641, the castle was taken over and the town of Dunluce was burnt to the ground. The castle was completely abandoned in the 1680s, and this is why the town no longer exists. 


Dunluce village was a busy 17th century village located just outside of Dunluce Castle. There is no visibility of that village now as it has been covered by fields. The car park for the castle was once the centre of the town (the diamond). Archeological finds from the village are on display in the castle.


The inner ward area of the castle is across a small bridge. The entrance building and some ruins around it that lead to the bridge form the outer ward. A pathway leads underneath the bridge to go down to the sea.

View while crossing the bridge

Columns near southeast tower

Manor House

The castle is built on steep rocky hills on the sea. A rumour about the castle is that the kitchen fell into the sea in the mid-1600s, and the castle was abandoned afterwards. Part of the castle did fall into the sea, but information boards at the castle claimed that it was unlikely that the part of the castle that fell into the sea was the kitchen.

Upper ward

The sea cliffs and caves around and limestone under the waves creates a unique sea environment. Basking sharks or dolphins are meant to be seen if one is lucky, but we did not see any on our visit.

Sea views from castle




After enjoying a look around the ruins, we left the castle and admired the views from the adjoining hillside. 


There are a few picturesque points to get a photograph of the castle from. We were fairly lucky with the weather as we did not have rain, and we did not have to contend with large groups of others visiting the castle.

The quiet town of Ballycastle is where we stayed for the night along the Causeway Coast after our visit to the Dark Hedges. We ate dinner at The Diamond Bar; this is located in the town square (or diamond, as they are known in Ireland) and afterwards walked down Quay Street, a leafy street with large Victorian houses. This street led down to the harbour where we enjoyed views and walked onto the sandy beach. I found some pretty shells and rocks.


Ballycastle, visited by Vikings and others from the sea in old times, became a popular and thriving town in the industrial age. Coal mining, salt, soap, glass, and bleach works (linen) were produced here as well as other items.

Ballycastle is only one of two locations in Northern Ireland for coal mining, and it is believed to have begun in the 1400s and stopped in the 1950s. The company had houses constructed for the miners, and the coal was exported to Dublin by boat. To attract men to the area to the mines to work, the owner actually bought large supplies of grain to make bread and offered loaves to his workers for half the price. 


The next day, we visited Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giant's Causeway before arriving at Bushmills Distillery. Bushmills Distillery, located in Bushmills along Giant's Coastal Causeway, is the oldest distillery in the world. The company is owned by Diageo, who also make the drink Bailey's Irish Cream. Whiskey is distilled here, and they operate tours of the distillery as well as having a restaurant and gift shop on location. We had lunch at the restaurant while we waited for our tour.

Bushmills Distillery

We took a tour of the distillery, but photographs were not allowed. We saw the entire process of the whiskey production from grain to liquid/vapour to heating and then bottling. The bottling and packaging was the most interesting as we could watch the bottles be filled, labelled, sealed, and packaged into boxes by smart conveyor belts and machinery that would push the bottles into certain areas and line them up for boxing and wrapping.

Bushmills Distillery

We were also shown to a room where we could see the effect that the wooden barrel has on the taste and colour of the whiskey. Barrels are reused after they contain other alcoholic drinks, and each type of wood produces a different taste. One display also showed different lengths of time of whiskey in a see-through barrel. As the years progressed, the whiskey in the barrel became less because it does still evaporate. This is why older whiskey is a little more expensive.

After our tour, we met in the bar and were given our vouchers for a free glass of whiskey. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to locate any photographs of our whiskey glasses. I had one of the easy-going selections, and we also received mini bottles of honey whiskey for free.


After the visit to Bushmills, we drove down the Causeway Coastal Route to stop off at Dunluce Castle.

Over this weekend, all sixty of the "Year of the Bus" charity art sculptures were on display in the Olympic Park so that they could be seen by the public before being auctioned off for charity. I tracked them all down on their trails last autumn, except I never got to get to see the ones in Croydon as they were only there for about a month over December. My original post with the London "Year of the Bus" bus art sculptures is here: London Bus Art Sculptures Celebrate 2014 'Year of the Bus'.


All sixty of the buses were on display with views of the Olympic stadiums and the ArcelorMittal Orbit in the background, and I went down earlier today to see them all. I got to see all of the buses that I had previously seen on the trails, and I also got to see all of the Croydon ones.


The Croydon trail also had some real gems, so I was happy to get to see these.

Diversity - Croydon BID


The Library - Year of the Bus


Pearl - Year of the Bus, Surrey Street Market - Year of the Bus, Trammin' - Berkeley Homes, Poppy the Party Bus - Centrale Shopping Centre, Flower Fairies - Whitgift Shopping Centre, The '75 Crocous Valley - Berkeley Homes

I really liked the bus with the crocus flowers; most of the above images are of the buses that were in Croydon.

Croydon Layers

Magic Bus Magic Carpet

The other one I liked was the tiled "Magic Bus Magic Carpet", which was also in Croydon.


Of course, I got some photographs of some of the old gems in front of the Olympic Stadium, such as the Kath Kidston sculpture.

Jungle Bus and Moquette (Whitgift Shopping Centre)

A couple of the buses at the Olympic Park were currently being painted, such as the "60 Years" bus, which I caught in progress.


In addition to the bus sculptures, a new Routemaster bus was also on display, and people could board it. These buses were launched last year. The "Battle Bus", dating from 1914, was also on display and could be boarded. This bus took soldiers to the front in World War I and was in Belgium and France.

Battle Bus (1914)

Did you visit the Olympic Park at the weekend and catch a glimpse of all sixty buses?

UK 2015 Glossybox Review: January

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Glossybox is a monthly beauty and skincare subscription box. The January 2015's Glossybox theme was "Fresh Start" and included five full-size items. My box arrived in the middle of the month. As well as the five full-size items, subscribers received another HelloFresh coupon, which I will not use. They included one of these a few months ago, and I did check the product out but it isn't for me. On to the reviews...

January 2015 Glossybox

MeMeMe eye line pencil in clay: This is a British brand, and the eye liner pencil is described as being soft and in a shade (clay) that suits all eye colours. I did not find the pencil as soft as I'd have liked, but I did like the colour.

Nicka K New York Colorluxe Powder Blush: I'm happy to receive this product as I have needed a new blusher for awhile. This loose powder blush comes in an applicator powder pot for easy application. I do like the colour, even though it's a little dark, but the applicator comes out quite thickly. I'm also not sure why extra money was spent on the mirror on the lid as this is too small to actually test your application of the product. I did not find it useful.

Jelly Pong Pong All Over Glow: This product is a brightening gel and can be used on the brow bones and cheekbones to create a glow. I was not sure about this product's results as the product does seem to be a bit dark and super-shiny for me, but I love the packaging.

Kueshi Natural & Pleasant Cosmetics Face Toner: This pink product is a facial toner thats purpose is to rehydrate skin. This product has a pleasant scent, but I have not used it long enough to see results.

Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm Superfruits: This is a clear moisturising lip balm that has a slight superfruit taste/smell, which I wasn't really that keen on. However, it made my lips feel soft and hydrated, and it comes in a small easy-to-carry tube.

What did you think of the Glossybox January 2015 box? I thought that it was a good box, and I preferred it to last month's.

Street Art: Borondo

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Spanish artist Borondo (Borondo Narcissus) had been painting the streets regularly in London early last year and the autumn of the previous year. His work, classical in style, often depicts portraits or figures. One of his common styles is to paint windows white and then etch his work into them, creating faces in the scratched-off paint. I like discovering work by this artist as it always looks fresh on the streets, yet it reminds me of classical paintings often seen in museums.

The large mural is painted off of Sclater Street and shows three entwined bodies.



The white etching style is located on Shoreditch High Street in a bricked-up shop window.


Other artwork has come and gone, and there were some real gems! Sadly, the work below has since disappeared.











I've had this post waiting to be published for a few months but wanted to capture a couple of additional pieces by the artists, but I have so far been unable to.

One of my favourite pieces (a collaboration) for awhile was watching the evolution of a row of faces in a lot behind Brick Lane. These faces evolved and other artists contributed. At one point, the whole wall displayed a different style of face!


I would like to see Borondo come back to visit the UK and paint some more on London's streets.

Street: Ghost Bikes

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Ghost Bikes are memorials for cyclists who have been hit on the street. These memorials feature a bicycle painted white, and these bicycles are located near the spot where the person was hit. The memorials were first created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003. Now, they can be spotted all over the world.

Some of the ghost bikes have other information about the person who was hit, and some contain flowers and messages left by friends and families.

I've recently spotted one of these ghost bikes in London on Commercial Road. I also read about them before, as I discovered several paste-ups of a portrait in Shoreditch. The portrait was named "Andrew", and I discovered many of these around. After doing some research, I discovered that Andrew was a reference to one man (Andrew Hull) who had been killed in an accident while riding his bicycle. More about this and the paste-ups can be read here: http://ghostbikes.org/london/andrew-hull

Ghost bike

The above ghost bike was discovered on Commercial Road near a flat I stayed in for a week in early 2013. It is a memorial for a sandwich worker, Javad Sumbal, who was hit at the end of 2012 on his way from Stepney to Shadwell to the deli. His work colleagues painted the bicycle white and placed it at the junction where he was hit. 

#JeSuisCharlie (Je Suis Charlie) Street Art

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A couple of weeks ago, the world watched as a group of radical terrorists murdered a group of employees (cartoonists) at a Paris publication, known as Charlie Hebdo. Those murdered were at their desk and doing their jobs - creating and drawing publications to sell to pay off their mortgages and create a living doing what they enjoy. The controversial drawing outraged a group in society, and I am not going to judge that what they did was right or wrong. However, a disagreement (about beliefs or something that someone is passionate about) is still not a reason to commit murder. Worldwide, this terrible ordeal touched many. A lot of love went out in understanding that the killers are trying to oppress the freedom of speech and instill fear in society. 

Pure Evil

In the days following this tragedy, London's street artists took to the streets to show their support for "freedom of speech". The words "Je Suis Charlie" (translated to "I am Charlie") were seen everywhere. Popular London artist Pure Evil updated his mural on scaffolding across the street from his shop on Leonard Street to read "Crayons are mightier than bullets #JeSuisCharlie".


Other works were in progress...


Meanwhile, well-wishers wrote various words of encouragement on the steel hoardings in the middle of Brick Lane.

Grafitti Life

'Grafitti Life' added a mural with a gun, encouraging a stop to violence and killing. 


However, not all locals in the diverse area of Brick Lane were happy with this 'campaign'. Furia painted one of his popular portraits on a wooden wall near Brick Street with the phrase "Je Suis Charlie", but this was promptly and crudely painted over within a day or two.

Je Suis Charlie

Also, the nice bakery on Brick Lane that I wrote about a few months ago that sells the delicious brownies and pastries (The Antishop) was in the press because the owner claimed that he was threatened by a local. I am surprised because this is London and this area of London is the most diverse in Europe, if not the most diverse in the world.

Freedom of Speech

The pencil is mightier than t...  John D'oh

While I cannot judge the publication on their choice of media to print and ridicule, murder is not acceptable. The world is already a horrible enough place without instilling fear and murdering those that you do not agree with. The purpose of this post is simply to show the response of this tragedy through the eyes of street art.

Rinkoff Bakeries, London

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I made a visit to Rinkoff Bakeries toward the end of November. Rinkoff Bakeries is one of London's best independent bakeries; they have been nominated for awards, including the BBC Good Food award for London's Best Bakery in 2014. 

The company started in 1911 by Ukraine immigrant Hyman Rinkoff. He set up shop in Montague Street in east London and then in Jubilee Street (off Whitechapel Road), where their bakery is still located. Today, it is located in an unassuming location behind/between blocks of flats with a cafe attached to the bakery. There's a small cafe on location, and their products can be sold here. The staff were friendly and seemed to chat to the locals here, and they let me take a few photographs.


The crodough (a cross between a croissant and a doughnut) is one of their best-selling products and one of their specialities. A couple of years ago, I visited their small cafe on Vallance Road (off Whitechapel Road and about a 7-minute walk from Brick Lane), and I tried the custard crodough. I'm miffed by the phase, though, and they did not win me over. I prefer my doughnuts and croissants to be separate, I guess! They are popular items, so they do have their fans.


Rinkoff Bakery is the last of several Jewish bakeries that were set up in the east end of London, which was a popular area with the Jewish community. Bagels were popular with the predominate Jewish community in the 1960s-1970s, and the bakery has changed direction and now sells wholesale to companies (1). 


After visiting their bakery on Jubilee Street, I noticed that the pastries and muffins are the same ones that my current workplace buys in bulk for free Friday pastries. (The chocolate and almond croissants are my personal favourite of the pastries and also the most popular with colleagues.)


Cupcakes were also good! I wish I had gotten the above photograph before they took out the cupcake that I asked to buy. :)

Rinkoff Bakeries has a small cafe on Vallance Road in east London, but it is not as nice as their main cafe. The main cafe is located at the following address:

222-226 Jubilee Street
E1 3BS

Opening hours:
Monday - Friday: 8-4
Saturday: closed
Sunday: 8-3

1) Jewish bakery evolves cater east London's new clientele. http://www.religionnews.com/2014/01/24/jewish-bakery-evolves-cater-east-londons-new-clientele/ [January 24, 2014].

I finally got the chance to go to restaurant "Bird", located on the southern end of Kingsland Road (in Shoreditch) near the railway bridge. I do not work that far from it, so I went a couple of times earlier this month to check out the menu. I had been to the restaurant last spring, but I only visited the "Doughnut Hatch" and got a cinnamon-glazed doughnut. "Bird" is known for its chicken dishes, and their chicken is free range.


On my first visit, I was intrigued to try the "chicken and waffles" meal. The waffle is made of cheddar and onion and comes with two pieces of fried chicken (I got a leg and part of a breast piece) and Maple syrup. The combination of taste is sweet and savoury, and this worked brilliantly together. I was impressed and loved the combination.


The interior of the restaurant looks like a tasteful cafe-diner with plenty of seats and exposed brickwork on the walls, and I loved the neon "Bird" sign.

"Bird" also serves wine, beer, and cocktails. I decided to try one of the cocktails, which was called "Buckeye Fizz". I choose this one as it's a famous sports team from the US state of Ohio where I was born. Vodka, fizz, and blood orange are the ingredients that make up this cocktail. 


The chicken and waffles were followed by and "ice cream sandwich doughnut". This includes one of their doughnuts in whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate and caramel sauce. Mine had a little bit of chocolate sauce, cream, and salted caramel ice cream. I am not too big of a fan of salted caramel, so I am not sure why mine came like that. I did get to choose my doughnut, though, and there was a choice between cinnamon and coconut. Cinnamon seems to be their signature flavour, and I had had that flavour before, so I choose coconut.


On my most recent visit, I decided to try the fried chicken sandwich. This contains breast meat fried in buttermilk. Slaw, mayo, pickle, and hot sauce were optional. Although I love spicy food, I was concerned that the sauce would taste "chemically", so I asked for it on the side. I left the mayo, slaw, and pickle off the sandwich as well as I do not like them. The crispy fries were a separate side. Overall, the burger was nice but I preferred the chicken and waffles. The chicken was juicy in places but a little dry too, but the fries were delicious.

I had two scoops of ice cream for the dessert. I choose a scoop of pistachio, which is one of my favourite ice cream flavours, and chocolate. I was a little disappointed with the pistachio as it did not have much flavour and tasted a little like it had crystalised. I prefer my pistachio ice cream to have chunks of pistachio. The chocolate was delicious.

I would return for the yummy chicken and waffles!

While walking around Spitalfields in London, I spotted two beautiful doorways of the former silk weaver's houses, the multi-storey shuttered brick houses around the Spitalfields and Brick Lane area. The silk weavers were from France and those that moved did so because they were Protestants and were prosecuted in their own country. Knowing that many of these people were from a region in France that had skills in silk-weaving, they were welcomed to London. They settled in this area of London and worked from their homes. The houses here are beautiful. The numbers on the two doors: eleven and eleven-and-a-half. 

Eleven and eleven-and-a-half

Giant's Causeway

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After our morning excursion to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in Northern Ireland, we made our way down the coast to Giant's Causeway, an area of beauty with natural basalt columns that were a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The area is a UNESCO World Heitage Site. It has been painted and photographed many times over the years. We received an audio guide tour that told us about the history of the location, the legends about it, and tours and lives of tourist guides in the old days.


The tour started at the top of the hill, outside the new Visitor's Centre, and the first audio guidepoint was here. We had a view looking down a paved road at an oddly-shaped green mounds along the cliffside. Along the sides, we could see some of the oddly-shaped basalt columns disappearing into the sea.


One of the items of interest was pointed out to us by the audio guide. Off to the left and as we were descending the hill to the cliffs is a rock shaped like a camel. 


All along the wooden fence on our way down the hill were millions of caterpillars or fuzzy worms that had just hatched and were crawling all over the place. Many had made some sort of webs. Steer clear of the wooden fence by the coast when visiting in early June if you dislike the fuzzy creatures. I did not mind them, but there were so many. The wooden fence was literally crawling with them.


The stone mounds on the way down the hill were interesting and one can easily see that these rocks were a result of a volcanic eruption and had cooled in circular lumps. The audio guide had a piece on this, but I cannot remember what it said about the rocks and their shapes.


As we came around the corner of the mounds, we saw Giant's Causeway unfold before us in all its glory. Quite a few tourists were already climbing over the stones and admiring them.


While we descended and walked toward the causeway. we were told about the legend of the giant who built Giant's Causeway. The giant, Finn McCool, lived with his wife on the coast and learned that he had a rival in Scotland. (The rock formations also appear in Scotland.) The two giants decided to have a fight, so Finn constructed a causeway from large stones to Scotland. While he was on his way to meet the giant, he saw how large he was and ran back home. Finn asked his wife to help him hide, and she disguised him as a baby. When the Scottish giant saw the size of the sleeping baby, he assumed that the father must be much larger and ran all the way back to Scotland, tearing away much of the causeway.


We climbed over the stones, and I took several photographs. The stones are amazing and made out of columns. Some of them are stacked higher than other ones, and these can be climbed upon. The stones finally disappear into the sea with waves crashing up onto them.







The hills above the causeway also have stories about them which relate to the giant's story. An organ and the back of the giant's grandmother can be seen in the hillside. I saw the organ but could not find the grandmother.



One of the trails appears to have been cut out of in between columns of stone. Visitors can walk the causeway trail.


In the giant legend, Finn McCool loses his boot on his run back home from Scotland, after seeing how large his rival is. A boot-shaped rock remains on the beach and is called "the giant's boot", and a photograph is below. A good photo opportunity is to have someone sitting on/inside the boot.


Next, I will be publishing my post and photographs of Bushmills distillery, located just down the road from Giant's Causeway.

On Sunday, the bloke and I paid a visit to Madd Cafe near Leicester Square. I had a voucher to use for macaroons and brownies and a bottle of Prosecco. We were the first customers to enter for the day, and we had the place to ourselves. Comfortable sink-in couches or tables were clustered around the cafe, and we choose to sit on the couch with a small table at the back of the cafe.


The cafe doubles as the entrance to the theatre, which is currently showing "Ghost Stories", which is marketed as a horror show with laughter. On my visit to the toilets, which is located in the theatre part of the venue, I noticed some dismembered mannequins and mannequins tied up with construction tape! They did not look real, so it was not that frightening. 

The decor is modern vintage and "Alice-in-Wonderland"-esque. Roses and a tea-garden feel with plants/bushes and bird cages are dotted around the front part of the cafe. The light shades above the bar area are top hats (perhaps the 'Mad Hatter' has a large selection of spare hats). This is appropriately named "Madd Hatter's Cafe", and I felt a little bit like I was Alice in "Alice in Wonderland".


The cafe serves tea, coffee, and alcohol. The tea is MASSIS brand and loose leaf varieties are available. There's also a large selection of coffees and lattes in different flavours, such as candy floss, butterscotch, gingerbread, chocolate, and coconut. Hot chocolate, iced tea, lassi, and smoothies are also available. I was interested in trying the hot chocolate, but I was "sweeted out" with the goodies that we received. 

For the desserts, Madd Hatter's Cafe sells cakes and cupcakes, and there's afternoon tea set menus available as well as the "Brownies, Macaroons, and Prosecco" option that we indulged in. This option could be enjoyed without the Prosecco and with two other drinks instead.


The "Brownies and Macaroons" included five different brownies and eight macaroons. The brownies were light and not rich at all, so they went down easily. However, they all tasted the same and did not have much flavour. I am glad that they were not too rich, though, as we never would have been able to finish them. The brownies came in different "flavours", but essentially they were all the same type of chocolate. We had two plain ones, one with raspberries on top, one with pistachio on top, and one with cranberry (or strawberry) on top. We were actually never told the flavours of the brownies or macaroons.


We had the following flavours of macaroon: two chocolate, a mango, a vanilla, a pistachio, two raspberry/strawberry, and a passionfruit (I think). We sipped our glasses of champagne and enjoyed our brunch snacks. Thankfully, we both had an English breakfast before partaking in Prosecco. I am not sure that we would have survived all of that Prosecco otherwise.

The afternoon tea was okay, and the macaroons were nice. I found that the brownies were disappointing because they all tasted the same, and it would have been good to have different flavours of brownies. This cafe is known for its tea, so it would have been nice to have a cup of that to try with the Prosecco option. Nonetheless, we had a nice morning.

UK Birchbox January 2015 Review

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January 2015's UK Birchbox (dubbed "Hit Refresh") is a collaboration with "Women's Health" magazine and is packed full of products appropriate to ring in the new year and kickstart resolutions (both fitness and well-being). The box comes with a set of twelve challenges, based on ideas to promote health and well-being, and these contain several tips. The lifestyle extra, a pilates band, was included; the box also came with a packet of green tea. Subscribers received several well-being and health products to help with their routines.


Stila lip glaze (in 'glitter'): This lip glaze is a popular product with a large fan base. I received the pale pink colour, marketed as the shade 'Glitter'. I was not too sure about the colour for me, but it actually blends into my lips and looks more glossy than anything. The gloss makes my lips feel moisturised, but the product feels slightly sticky to me so that is unappealing.

REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask: This exfoliating mask cleans skin and makes it look refreshed. The product is thick and sticky in texture and smells of marmalade. After ten minutes, I washed it off my face and neck and was highly impressed with how clean and soft my skin felt. The product is recommended to be used once a week. This is a product that I would buy.

Philip Kingsley Body Building Conditioner: The recommended use of this product is to use sparingly and on the ends of the hair only. I had previously received 'Philip Kingsley' elasticizer in a box and was not impressed with it as I felt it left my hair looking greasy.

HealGel: This moisturising gel promises to protect and restore skin. It encourages rapid repair from damaged skin and can be used on scars and acne, rashes, or any other areas of 'broken' skin. I do not have any areas of concern to trial this at the moment, but I did test a dry area on my skin and the gel feels soothing. I cannot vouch for the results. 

activbod Cooling Finish Lotion: This is a post-workout product that promises to cool down and re-energise muscles. I'm currently not visiting the gym as it's best to be avoided this time of year due to the crowds, so I will use this in the coming months.

Embrace Matcha green tea: I love green tea, and this brand claims to have 10 times the antioxidants of normal green tea. I found it a little weaker than the usual green tea I drink, but that's perhaps because this is a fine powder.

Birchbox (and Women's Health) pilates band: I am not familiar with pilates, so I will have to research how to use this band. Pilates bands are meant to tone, increase strength, and improve muscle endurance. 


What did you think of this month's box? 

John Wesley founded a chapel and built a house in the late 1700s, and this became the birthplace of Methodism religion. The museum and chapel are free to enter, and there is a small cost for a guided tour of the Wesley home. The new chapel was built in Wesley's time and it replaced a smaller one at the same location. Across the street is Bunhill Fields cemetery, which I wrote about here, and you can also see more photographs of Wesley's Chapel.

Wesley's Chapel Interior

John Wesley built the house in 1779, and it is an example of a London Georgian house. The house is opposite the chapel, and across the road is Bunhill Fields. (Bunhill Fields was the resting place of many non-Church of England people.) 

I took a guided tour of the house. Wesley lived here for the last decade of his life. Normally, he would travel the land to preach his religion to others, but he returned here in the winter months. His staff and other preachers stayed here as well, and I believe that there were six or seven who stayed here. The house contains many items from Wesley's time and other items that he owned. The upper floors have rooms that look over Bunhill Fields. 

Some of the furniture included an early exercise machine that Wesley could use when he was not traveling around on horse-back to keep in shape, and a chair that you could sit in backwards that had a desk attached to it.


The Museum of Methodist is located in the chapel's crypt, and it contains several items that belonged to Wesley. The family bible, pictured above, is particularly worn from use and survived a house fire. There's also the last pen Wesley used and stumps of large trees that he preached under around the country.


Out the back of the chapel is where Wesley is buried, along with some of the other preachers. This area is inside a small courtyard with modern offices surrounding it.


It's amazing that the beginnings of this major Christain religion started in this small area of London many years ago, and the history is still there.

This year, I received the Ciate Mini Manor Advent Calendar. Behind each door is a new nail polish or nail accessory for each day in the run up to Christmas. This advent calendar contained loose sequins and glitter. Loose glitter for the nail's top coat was new to me, although I know that it has been around for a little while now. My first application was a little messy, and I found that the glitter was quick to wear off and needed a top-up at the end of each day. However, using a clear top coat kept the glitter on the nail, which I feel is a better alternative.


I liked the design of the avent calendar, which looked like a toy house with windows or doors that could open to reveal the polish and accessories. See below for a day-to-day review of the colours received in the 2014 advent calendar.


1. Headliner: This turquoise colour needs a couple of coats on the nail to deepen the colour, and it dries in a matte finish.  

2. Sharp Tailoring: This is a pale grey colour, and a couple of coats are needed as it's otherwise a streaky finish.

3. Girl with a Pearl: These loose 'pearls' are meant to be used on nails to create your own look. One side is flat so that it can stick against the nail. I have never used nail embellishments.

4. Members Only: This pale colour needs a few coats as it's almost the same colour as my nails/skin and has a slight shimmer effect. It's not one of my favourites because it needs a few coats. (I paired it with the glitter colour I received the following day.) 

5. Sloaney, Sweetie: This is the first glitter nail polish in the advent calendar, and it consists of shinny light pink and silvery strands. The colour compliments yesterday's.


6. Runway Ribbon: This bright red loose glitter is perfect for Christmas. 

7. Tuxedo: This shimmery dark grey has a glossy finish and is a nice netural colour. I paired it with Sand Dune, Members Only, and Sharp Tailoring. This is one of my favourites so far, but it does need a couple of coats on my nails. 

8. Big Yellow Taxi: This bright yellow nail polish. I've wanted bright yellow nail polish for awhile, so this is welcome. A few coats are needed to get rid of streaky nails. I combined this with nails painted in Cupcake Queen (beneath door 16) and Amazing Gracie (behind door 17).  

9. Prima Ballerina: This loose glitter nail polish is a dark pink colour. I added this over the top of Strawberry Milkshake (behind door 11).

10. Mineral Clarity: This shimmery glitter polish is a dark blue-silver colour when dried. I love this polish.


11. Strawberry Milkshake: This is the colour of a strawberry milkshake - milky pink. The product appears to be a slightly lighter colour until it dries. This needs a good three or four coats to look nice.

12. Let it Snow: This is another colour perfect for Christmas. It is a loose silver glitter.

13. Silhouette: This polish is a dark red-purple. It is almost a dark berry colour. This is a nice sophisticated colour when you want something classy but not red. I wear this colour as an alternative to wearing bright red because I feel that bright red washes out my skin.

14. Unrestricted Glam: This is a glossy black polish, but I needed several coats of this to cover my nails, and it was still not the darkest shade of black. I paired this with the glitter 'Slumber Party', and it was perfect. This polish, paired with 'Slumber Party' is perfect with black jeans and a casual look.

15. Slumber Party: At first, I thought this was a polish, but it's actually loose blue-purple-black glitter. I love this glitter and it's perfect on top of the 'Unrestricted Glam' and is a great look with jeans.


16. Cupcake Queen: This bright pink polish needed three coats to look bright on my nails. I'm not a fan of the colour pink, but I painted one nail this colour and also used 'Big Yellow Taxi' from earlier in the month and a white polish (tomorrow's 'Amazing Gracie') to create a trio of shades on my nails. I love the results. This is a summery colour, though. Also, this goes perfectly with a glitter polish that I received later on in the month.

17. Amazing Gracie: This is an off-white nail polish. This needed several coats as it dries streaky as it's such a light colour. This also took a lot longer for this colour to dry when compared to the others. 

18. Tinsel Trail: These large blue and silver sequin flakes remind me of winter, so this is a perfect shade for this time of the year. These are loose flakes, so they require getting a little messy, and they are quite large, so they take a lot of fiddling to get the desired effect instead of over-hanging on the nail.

19. Candy Cane: This is a pink glitter nail polish. The polish itself is a semi-transparent pink colour, but I did not care for the effect as a polish on its own. The polish actually looks really nice on top of 'Cupcake Queen' from day 16.

20. Frozen Daydream: This is another loose glitter, and it's a dark blue colour. This is another wintery shade which I think could look sophisticated.

21. Nail Transfers: This long strip of nail transfers contains a wintery snowflakes pattern. 

22. Sand Dune: This is a shimmery gold polish. The colour dries a pale gold.

23. Sherbert Fizz: When I originally looked at this polish, I thought that it was a festive bright red. However, it's not. The polish dries into a sherbert pink colour, and it has a shimmer effect. This is more of a spring or summer colour.

24. Celestial: This is a larger-sized nail polish compared to the others. The polish is a glittery shimmery silver with larger flakes of glitter nail polish and smaller pieces of silver glitter. This is an extremely pretty polish.

Which was your favourite shade?

Ulster Transport Museum

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After a visit to the Ulster Folk Museum (covered in my post here), we paid a visit to the Ulster Transport Museum, which is located on the same site as the Ulster Folk Museum. Ulster Transport Museum has an exhibition dedicated to the Titanic as well as additional displays for everything related to transport: trams, buses, horse-drawn vehicles, trains, cars, and planes. As Belfast is home of the DeLorean car, which was famous in the Back to the Future films, there is naturally a display dedicated to these cars in the musuem.


The most impressive exhibition is the Titanic exhibition. Visitors could see artefacts that had been taken from the sunken ship before it was illegal to take them, a model of the ship, ship blueprints, and many other bits and pieces. The items taken included a soup bowl and a porthole, shown below. I wonder how many people on the ship looked through this on their voyage across the Atlantic. On display in the cabinet is also a water bottle, part of the engine telegraph, and part of the hull.


A display of steam engines, trams, buses, fire engines, and horse-drawn carriages was in one area.


Fire engines


Horse-drawn wagon

Horse-drawn wagon

I photographed the old typeface painted on the sides of the horse-drawn wagons. 

Vintage typeface / font

The next section is dedicated to cars.

Various classic cars

The DeLorean exhibit was the most detailed. This included a prototype of the DeLorean, a DeLorean without the body work on top of it, and a complete DeLorean.


After a visit to the Ulster Transport Museum, we went off to find lunch and then drove off to Carrickfergus to explore the castle, which I already posted about here.

Before the holidays, artist Amara Por Dios painted the large Village Underground mural off Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. Amara is a Swedish artist, and she has been to London quite a few times to paint the streets. Some of her previous work can be seen on the following post (Street Art: Amara and others), and she contributed to #WallsProject earlier last summer, and her painting on scaffolding on Leonard Street can be seen here.


The mural is black and white with bold black lines and features several grotesque-looking faces. Normally, her works use bright and bold colours, but this piece and another piece that I saw completed at the same time as this mural seem to be an experiment without colour.


The other black and white piece was painted at the same time as the Village Underground mural.


I have captured a few of her other pieces of work from summer of last year as she has been quite busy in London and a lot of her work was in prime-location street art walls. 


I loved the below image as she creatively used the traffic control box and incorporated it into her artwork on the scaffolding.



The following large wall on Sclater Street was painted not long before the Village Underground mural. It appeared in the autumn and I also saw its progress.


For more information about the artist, visit her website: http://amarapordios.blogspot.co.uk or her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AmaraPorDios

The bloke and I visited Liverpool on the weekend before Christmas. I really like the Beatles, and I have been wanting to do a tour of the Beatles' historical locations. This post covers photographs from previous trips to Liverpool as well as the mentioned tour. There's still three places that I have yet to visit: the Casbah Club, which was Pete Best's house (I've tried to visit it twice, but no one is around or answers the phone) and the houses of Paul McCartney and John Lennon (both owned by the National Trust), and I've also still not been to the Beatles museum in Albert Dock. Keep an eye open on this blog for those visits as I do hope to get to Liverpool at some point this year to finish off the Beatles Tour.

The Beatles in front of the Liver Building, Liverpool. Photo by Les Chadwick.

We were picked up at our hotel near Albert Dock by Eddie in his taxi cab dubbed "Penny Lane" from Fab Four Tours (http://fab4tours.co.uk). We had selected the three-hour tour (known as 'Lennon'), and although the day was cold and windy, the rain managed to stay away and we had a nice day for the tour. Our first stop was outside the impressive and imposing red-stoned Liverpool Cathedral. The size of this building is unreal, and it is one of the world's largest cathedrals. We were given a short history of it and told to visit it and climb the tower for good views. (We'll have to do this next time.) The cathedral did play a smart part in Beatles history. A young Paul McCartney failed his audition to become part of the choir here, but he did perform at the cathedral after becoming famous. 

Liverpool Cathedral

Our next stop was not far away; it was located just down the road from the Radio City Tower. We stopped at a common-looking three-floor Georgian building. This is the Mount Pleasant register office, where John Lennon married his first wife, Cynthia Powell in August of 1962. We were told that the Beatles manager Brian Epstein purchased the building to avoid word getting out that Lennon was married. The Beatles were starting to become famous then, and they were well-known in Liverpool by this time, and Epstein did not want any harmful press circulating that he thought may alienate fans of the group. John and Cynthia met at Liverpool Art College, and she ended up pregnant with their son Julian, which prompted John to propose.

John's legal guardian (aunt Mimi) did not approve of the wedding, so she did not attend. George Harrison, Paul McCartney, John's married aunt/uncle, and Brian Epstein were in attendance; Epstein was best man. Although Ringo Starr had recently joined the band, they did not know him well enough to allow him to attend. No photographs were taken of their wedding because Epstein did not want the word to get out about the wedding. After the wedding, they walked up the street to Clayton Square and had their wedding meal at Reece's restaurant, which was the same place where John's parents had had theirs. The wedding was kept secret. John had to perform with The Beatles in Chester that evening.

As no photographs were permitted, Cynthia later drew an image of her wedding day in the register office. In the drawing, a man on a road drill is outside the window and behind the registrar. The wedding day was extremely noisy with these roadworks going on outside that no one could hear what was being said.

Mount Pleasant register office and Cynthia's drawing of the wedding day

After John and Cynthia were married, Brian Epstein gave them the keys to one of his houses to use so that the wife and baby were kept secret. Previously, the house was used by Epstein for his encounters with male friends. It was not in a nice area of Liverpool, and the riots happened near to here. However, it is now one of the most attractive streets in Liverpool. It is a cobble-stoned street, and it has been used in films, television, and commercials. The house is 36 Falkner Street, and in the photograph below, it is the one with the red door. Cynthia and John were very happy here, and she had her baby Julian here. John wrote some of his early songs here, including "Do You Want To Know A Secret".

Falkner Street 

Just before we went to 36 Falkner Street, we had a quick stop at John Lennon's birthplace, a Liverpool Maternity Hospital (located at Cambridge Court), which is now a part of Liverpool University. Yoko Ono, John's second and last wife before he was murdered in new York City, had the plaque put up. In these years, German World War 2 bombings were common in Liverpool, but on the night when John was born, the bombings ceased. John's mother's name was Julia, and her husband Alf (John's father) was always at sea. John did not know his father well as he always decided to stay away. His mother eventually got tired of him being away and had affairs and fell in love with other men, and John actually had a secret half-sister from one of his mother's relationships. The half-sister (named Victoria) was born when John was very young, and Julia's father made her give the baby up for adoption. Later and when Julia eventually remarried, John's aunt Mimi made Julia give her John to take care of so that he could have a stable life.

Maternity Hospital

A short drive away, we drove past the pub Ye Cracke, located on Rice Street near Hope Street. This pub was frequented by students at the Liverpool Art College. John, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Cynthia frequented the pub, and it was a busy place. Inside the pub are meant to be photographs of the Beatles. We were shown a photograph of John standing outside the pub, and the door design, window text ('Houldings Beacon Ales') and tiling has not changed.

Ye Cracke

Our next stop was at Liverpool Institute, where Paul McCartney and George Harrison went to school. The building was meant to be demolished, but Paul McCartney and producer George Martin managed to save it. It is now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. Paul does often visit the institute (and Liverpool), and he shakes the hands of graduates. Next door to this was the Liverpool Art College building where John Lennon attended. They did not know each other at the time. The Liverpool Art College is currently under scaffolding as it was recently acquired by McCartney to expand the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.

Liverpool Institute

Outside of the institute is a sculpture by John King, called 'A Case History'. It was placed in 1998 as it won the competition. The artwork features several pieces of luggage, and some of these contain plaques with the names of famous people who studied at the institute. The names include the Beatles and former Beatles, but a couple of the items from the sculpture have been damaged or stolen.

'A Case History' by John King

We then headed to another part of Liverpool (Welsh Streets, Dingle), where the council have decided to force people to move out so they can gentrify/regenerate the area with new housing. In the middle of this is grafitti "European City of Culture?" on a wall amongst the abandoned houses.

Welsh Streets - Dingle - Liverpool

The abandoned buildings have been used in television programmes. Around the corner of this and on Madryn Street is Ringo Starr's childhood home at number 9. And at least one resident on this street has resisted and not moved out. Apparently, the council have now claimed that some of the buildings will be kept as is and some of the buildings will be torn down and new homes will be built. Apparently Ringo did not have any memories living at this house, and he did not live here for too long. Although boarded up, Ringo's house is covered in doodles left by fans. Apparently the resident who lived across the street from this house before being forced out, was a big fan of the Beatles and had 'Beatles' put into the brickwork (pictured below).

Ringo's childhood home

Ringo's house above had six rooms, but his father and mother separated when he was very young. The house was too large for the family, and Ringo's mother found another family who wanted to swap from a smaller house to a larger house. This resulted in Ringo and his mother moving to a smaller and cheaper house, 10 Admiral Grove, which is basically around the corner from the old house. We were told that the lady who lives in this house is a fan of the Beatles and has many Beatles items in the front room. She also has many stories about the Beatles and those who visited the street.

10 Admiral Grove

Around the corner is where Ringo went to school, and we were also told that many celebrities went to the same school. On the corner of Admiral Grove is the pub immortalised as the album cover of Ringo's album "Sentimental Journey". In the photograph below, you can see Admiral Grove just to the right of the pub where the fencing is. Houses did exist where the fencing was at one point, but they have been torn down and the terraced housing and Ringo's childhood home starts on the other side of the pub in this photo.

Sentimental Journey

Our next stop was a little bit of a drive away, and this was a visit to Penny Lane, the road made famous by the Beatles' song "Penny Lane". We started at the top of the road first, where we got a photograph of the Penny Lane road sign. Some of the signs have been replaced as the council was getting fed up with fans stealing the sign. To deter this, they painted on the walls. This has become a magnet for fans to doodle on.

Penny Lane

We drove to the other end of Penny Lane where the lyrics in the song make sense - "the shelter in the middle of a roundabout", the bank, the barber where Paul and his brother had their hair cut, and the fire station.

Penny Lane - shelter in the roundabout

Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, had fond memories of his childhood here. John Lennon also knew the area well as it was not far from his home. John would have also used the same barber. The barber shop was run by an Italian, but it's changed since then. Visitors can go inside the barber shop and have a look around; a small charitable donation can be made, and this goes to a Linda McCartney cancer charity. Images of the Beatles and old photographs of the shop and Penny Lane can be seen in the barbershop. We were also shown a child's 'seat' (wooden board) that belonged to the shop in the older days when the Beatles would have been children.

Penny Lane barber shop

I took a photograph of the cab we had, "Penny Lane", on Penny Lane!

Penny Lane

On the way away from Penny Lane, we passed the fire station, which is also referenced in the song lyrics.

Penny Lane fire station

The next stop was Paul McCartney's childhood home, and this was not too far away. This is located at 20 Forthlin Road. The property is now owned by National Trust, and it can be visited. The road does get quite busy in the high season, but it was not too busy when we visited. Apparently our taxi driver just missed seeing Paul McCartney drive to his childhood home and speak to visitors outside the window, though he did say that he had taken Paul's brother on taxi journeys around Liverpool.

The house has been refitted to look like it was when Paul lived there. Luckily, Paul's brother was interested in photography, so many photographs of it were taken so that they could make it look like it did when Paul lived there. Paul's bedroom was the one above the door. The house is only open from March and closes for the winter months, so we did not visit it on this trip.

This house was a sad one in a way. Paul's mother had wanted to move into a new house for awhile, and she finally was able to move into this nice house but died a few months later.

The house was purchased by the National Trust because of the important history in song-writing that was made here. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote some of their songs together here, and Paul wrote songs here as well. "When I'm 64" is one of the songs that Paul wrote here.

Paul McCartney's home

After visiting Paul's childhood home, we rode over to "Strawberry Fields", which John Lennon wrote a song about. The fields may have been used for strawberries at one time, but a gothic-style mansion used to exist beyond the red gate. The mansion was an orphanage when John Lennon was a child, and he did not live far away from here. This was one of the places that reminded him fondly of his childhood. Unfortunately, the mansion/orphanage burnt down. Fans of the Beatles stole pieces off of the red gates, so fake ones have been set up in its place. There are plans to create a visitor's centre here so that visitors can easily park in the area as this is just off the road at the moment and is not easy to access.

Apparently John was so besotted with this mansion from his childhood that he was drawn to an exclusive apartment building in New York City because it looked similar and reminded him of home, so he worked at getting an apartment there with his wife Yoko Ono. This was the building he was later shot outside of.

Strawberry Fields

After the visit to Strawberry Fields, we drove a few blocks away to the house (Mendips) where John Lennon grew up with his aunt and uncle, after he was placed in their care. The house was placed onto the housing market, and Yoko Ono purchased it and gifted it to National Trust to keep John's memory alive. Also, song-writing history was made here as John did write some songs in this house. Many of John's friends lived in the houses around here, but the area has also been built up. John would have been able to see the top of Strawberry Fields from this house. 

Unfortunately, John's mother was hit by a car not far from this house. She was on her way to see John and John had gone out. She stayed to have tea with Mimi and later in the evening happened to meet one of John's friends who lived around the corner. He walked her to the crosswalk to cross the road, which was not busy in those days. Unfortunately, a driver who was drunk hit her as she was crossing the road and she was killed. We were shown where this happened, which was not far from the house.

John's house has a blue plaque because he has been gone for twenty years. Like Paul's house, it is owned by National Trust and not open in the winter months. 

Lennon's house - Mendips

The next photograph is of George Harrison's childhood home (12 Arnold Grove), which I went to see in last summer on the way home from Liverpool. I was interested in seeing this house because George Harrison is my favourite Beatle. I have read online that the person who lives at the house currently does not like the publicity and the distractions caused by Beatles fans visiting at all hours and even trying to enter the house, so I was careful that we parked a couple of blocks away, and I quietly made my way to this small street and got a photograph. A few children were playing in the street, but it was a quiet cul-de-sac, and the front door was wide open.

This house had small rooms, and George Harrison's parents had four children. George was the youngest, and he was born during the bombing in 1943.

George Harrison's child home - Arnold Grove

Getting back to the taxi tour, the next place that we visited after Mendips was the third house that George Harrison lived in. (The second house that he lived in is in the Speke area of Liverpool, but it is quite rough and it was also not a nice place when he lived there and his parents tried for awhile to get to move to a new location.) The house below is also lived in by someone who would rather not be associated with the Beatles.

George Harrison house

After this visit, we were taken to Woolton. This is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney visited the cinema. 

Woolton cinema

We stopped a little further along in Woolton where there's a picturesque church (St. Peter's). In the cemetary here are references to lyrics in the song "Eleanor Rigby". John and Paul would have hung out with their mutual friends in this church yard. Although Paul said that the name "Eleanor Rigby" was made up, it is thought that it actually referenced the lady buried here. Perhaps he did not want the place to become a Beatles pilgrimage and destroyed by this fame. Although Eleanor Rigby was married, she kept her maiden name and was known by both names in the village. the "Father McKenzie" may have been a name on another grave.

Eleanor Rigby

Across the street from St. Peter's Church is the church hall. John Lennon and Paul McCartney met here at the church's garden fete. They were introduced by a mutual friend. John was a member of the Quarry Men band, and the mutual friend mentioned the fete to Paul and asked him to bring his guitar. By the end, Paul and John were friends and respected each other's music ability. A plaque on the hall commemorates this event. Our driver gave us a CD with information about this meeting.

Woolton church hall where John and Paul met

This concluded our tour. However, we had been to Liverpool before, so the remainder of this post will be photographs of other places with Beatles fame that I have visited. The photographs below show the Cavern Walks shopping centre, where there is artwork and sculptures dedicated to the famous band. Outside in the street (Mathew Street) is the pub district of Liverpool. The pub called 'The Grapes' is where the Beatles would have a drink before playing at the Cavern Club across the street.

The original entrance to the Cavern Club was next to the entrance to where this shopping centre is today. The artwork and statue of the Beatles in the shopping centre were created by Cynthia Lennon.

Cavern Walks

We went into the Cavern Club. I've been a few times before, but I had never seen the Beatles guitars and drum and the contract with the Beatles signatures. This display contained information about the instruments.

Cavern Club - Beatles display

We visited just before mid-day, and a band was practising. They were singing Beatles songs, which was appropriate. We had been the first people in the club, but a small crowd turned up to listen to them practice while we were there. This bit of the Cavern Club is what the stage would have looked like at the time of the Beatles, but the Cavern Club is only a quarter of its original size. The area where the Beatles performed no longer exists as it was torn down. Actually, the club is more popular now than when I visited in 2007, and one area is a large gift shop with Beatles merchandise.

The walls and ceiling were filled with grafitti from Beatles fans or simply tourists wishing to leave their mark. Other bands have played here, and there's a wall of bricks outside with the names of other musicians who have performed.

Cavern Club stage

I have a few shots of the exterior of the Cavern Club, and a statue of John Lennon is located across the street from the entrance.

Cavern Club

It may have been a little too early for cocktails before mid-day, but we decided to have one anyway. The Cavern Club serve Beatles-themed cocktails; each one of four cocktails is named after a Beatle. The one that appealed to me was the one named after my favourite Beatle, George. The cocktail "My Sweet George" contained Vodka, Triple Sec, orange juice, and Archers. The bloke had the "Ringo's Rum Drum", which contained rum and orange juice. "Lennon's Long Island" and "Macca's Magical Mystery" were also on offer. 

Beatles cocktails

The following photograph shows Mathew Street as it currently looks (summer 2014).

Mathew Street

This concludes the Beatles post for now, but check back for an update as I still want to see the National Trust Houses, the museum, and Casbah (if they ever answer their phone/emails). I plan to see them at some point this year.

Note that this post is not an endorsement.

I decided to give the beauty subscription box "My Little Box" a try for the past four months to see what it was like. Previously only available to French subscribers, this box is new (as of September) to British shores. Although December was my last box, I will continue to follow them and perhaps sign up again at some point in the future.

What attracted me to this subscription box was the box designs and illustrations as well as a nice mix of make-up, skincare, and other 'surprise' products.

December - Fleur De Force Box

December's box was put together by British blogger Fleur De Force. Each "My Little Beauty" box contains a three beauty products, one of which is from the "My Little Beauty" range. The subscription box contains more than beauty products. Each month contains a non-beauty product as well as magazines and an illustration. There's not another subscription box quite like it.

December's box contained some nice items to get ready for Christmas. This was my favourite box by far, and I can say that I will use all of the items this month. 

Cowshed wild cow body lotion: This lotion promises to hydrate skin. The scent (rosemary, lemongrass, and ginger) smells beautiful and energising. I am not too keen on body lotion as traditionally, it feels greasy on my skin, but this was just absorbed into my skin.

My Little Beauty lipstick: This reddish lipstick promises to look good on everyone. The lipstick glides on, and colour can be built up to make a bolder colour. I found a subtle look that worked for me with two light coats.

L'Occitane Precious Cream: This cream promises to minimise the appearance of lines and wrinkles, restore firmness, and protect skin. It's a thick cream, but it is easily-absorbed into the skin and does not feel oily.

String, coloured masking tape, gift tags: These are perfect for wrapping gifts, and I love the design of the tags and the red and black thread. The masking tape is patterned and also beautiful. The magazine shows guides on different methods of using the products to create nicely-wrapped packages.

Headband: I received a woollen grey headband (with sparkly silvery strands). I love this. I think that some subscribers received the woollen headband in a pale pink-brown colour, but I prefer the grey.


November - My Little Cosy Box

November's box theme is perfect for November. Each "My Little Beauty" box contains a three beauty products, one of which is from the "My Little Beauty" range. The subscription box contains more than beauty products. Each month contains a non-beauty product as well as magazines and an illustration. There's not another subscription box quite like it.

November's box was more interesting to me, and I found a couple of nice products.

StarLiner eye liner: This was my favourite product in the box. This eye liner is easy to apply and is cream-based; it simply glides on. I would buy this again.

My Little Beauty Mascara: This black mascara is easy to apply, but I found it to be clumpy and smudged easily. This was a little frustrating to use. 

Essie nail polish in coral: I am typically not a fan of pink products, but I do really love this colour. It is not really 'pink' but contains a hint of 'orange'; I suppose 'coral' is the appropriate name for the shade. 

Mug: This mug contains a cute illustration from the "My Little Beauty" team. The mug is angled. This is quirky and perfect for a small cup of hot chocolate.

Hot toddy bean bag thingy: This is perfect to warm during the cooler months to keep cosy as the beans inside can be heated and they retain the heat. I also love the red and polka-dot design.


October - Diane von Furstenberg

October's box is based on fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, famous for creating the 'wrap dress'. Each "My Little Beauty" box contains a three beauty products, one of which is from the "My Little Beauty" range. The subscription box contains more than beauty products. Each month contains a non-beauty product as well as magazines and an illustration. There's not another subscription box quite like it.

I was not so keen on this box as the products did not really appeal to me. I had not heard of Diane von Furstenberg before I received this box.

"My Little Beauty" cleanser: This is a facial cleanser and make-up remover. This did the job, but it's a product that I cannot get too excited about.

Kerastase hairspray: I rarely use hairspray, so this is another product that I was not too excited about. This seems to do the job.

L'Occitane hand cream: I am not sure how I would describe the scent of this hand cream, but it has a faint smell of honey and almond. The hand cream is thick, so a little goes a long way. The product contains shea butter to nourish skin. I've used this product before, but it did not excite me.

Lips Brooch: A lip brooch on a card reading "a kiss from Diane" is included in the box. I am not sure how I am going to use this.

Diane von Furstenberg scarf: Last but not least, the box contains one of three designs of scarf. I would have preferred the green design, but I got the bold blue and red leopard print instead. This would be sure to brighten up any outfit. The box that the scarf came in contains a guide on the different ways to wrap the scarf. This was the best item in the box this month as the beauty items were a complete "miss" for me.


September - My Little Parisienne Box

September's box was the first "My Little Box" to be made available to British subscribers as it was previously a subscription box for French subscribers only. The box contains French products, and every box contains one product from the "My Little Beauty" range. The box contains more than beauty products. Every month are surprise products as well as magazines and an illustration. There's not another subscription box quite like it.

NUXE multi-purpose day oil: This product is used by French women on their body, hair, and face. The oil has a light scent. I used it on my hair primarily, and it made my hair smell nice.

Laura Mercier foundation primer: This primer is put on the face before foundation to give a complete finish and minimise the size of pores and impurities. I did really enjoy using this product, and it seemed to give my skin that finish that it needed before putting on the foundation. I may buy this in the future.

My Little Beauty highligher (Stylo Lumiere): The product has a soft and creamy texture that can be used to highlight the browbones, cheeks, and other areas. This product is easy to blend and is my favourite product in the box.

Laptop Sleeve: This laptop sleeve contains a cute illustration from the "My Little Beauty" team. The laptop case is too small for my MacBook, so I cannot get any use out of it, unfortunately.

Stickers: This box contains a set of Paris-themed stickers based on the illustrations from "My Little Beauty". I love stickers and put add them to my postcards.


Have you subscribed to "My Little Beauty Box"? What do you think of them? Which was your favourite box? 

UK 2014 Birchbox Reviews: December

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Birchbox is a monthly beauty and skincare subscription box. Each month, a new box filled with five or six sample (and sometimes full-sized items) arrives in the post. The December 2014 UK Birchbox was designed and put together by Sophia Webster and came with a small striped on one side and leopard-print on the other side purse/makeup bag. I love the gemstone design of the box and the leaflets inside.


I received six products this month, and that does not include the Sophia Webster purse that I mentioned already.

Eslor firming collagen day cream: This cream claims to give skin a plumping boost, and it's exclusive to Birchbox. Day creams need time to monitor the results.

Electric Hair shampoo: This product claims to repair hair to improve nourishment and shine. A small amount goes a long way with this product. I thought that this was a good shampoo and did not require an additional use of conditioner, and it left my hair smelling nice the following day.

Eyeko Fat Eye Stick (in 'Smoke'): This full-sized product is another exclusive to Birchbox. It is a make-up crayon allows its user to create a smokey eye effect easily.

Models Own Nail Polish (in 'absinthe): A spolier was announced at the end of last month that allowed each subscriber to choose their own colour of full-size polish in the 'Velvet Goth' range from Models Own in a selection of five shades. I choose 'absinthe', a green colour because green is my favourite colour and I don't have a shade quite like this. I do like the colour, but the chunks of glitter can be quite big and the application was slightly lumpy. The polish did dry fairly quickly, though.

Trilogy Rosehip Oil: This product claims to rehydrate dry skin if massaged into it. This is perfect for the winter months when my skin dries out a little bit, and it does seem to do what it claims after a couple of uses.

The final product, the Benefit High Beam sample, came in a Birchbox miniature paper cracker. 

Benefit High Beam: This product can be used to create a blended highlight (dimensional) effect onto cheekbones and browbones.


What did you think about this month's Birchbox? I was happy with most of the products, and I loved the design of the box and the miniature cracker.

The Paddington Trail

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At the end of last year, fifty statues of Paddington the Bear appeared across London. Paddington Bear is a book by Michael Bond about a Peruvian bear who ends up in Paddington station in London with a note "Please look after this bear" tied around him. A film adaption (simply known as Paddington) has been in cinemas since the end of November, and this sculpture trail consists of several painted Paddington Bear sculptures to celebrate the film. Many of the bears are designed by British celebrities and other celebrities that had some influence in the film, such as Hugh Bonneville, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, David Beckham, and Emma Watson. The bear sculptures will be auctioned for children's charity NSPCC at the beginning of January.

Hugh Bonneville - The Journey of Marmalade

The Paddington Bear sculptures were on the streets from the beginning of November until the end of December, so they have sadly all gone now. They were spread across London, so I sadly did not get to see all of them due to them being scattered about the city and for the fact that the past two months have been busy with the Christmas season, holidays, and shorter hours of daylight. I saw all apart from five of the sculptures, so I did not do too badly considering one was far out as Heathrow.

Peru - Wonders of the World

Nicole Kidman - Blush

David Beckham - Golden Paws

Michael Sheen - Shakesbear

Ripley's Believe it or Not! - Paddington the Explorer

Matthew Williamson - Thread Bear

Ryan McElhinney - Fragile

Rankin - Bear in the Wood

Bears by Boris Johnson, Darcey Bussell, Emma Watson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Whishaw, Marc Quinn, Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankie Bridge

Zaha Hadid - R; G; B

Michael Howells - Good Morning London

Julie Walters - Primrose Paddington

Taylor Wimpey - Bearing Up

Canterbury of New Zealand - Paws Engage

Robin Partington & Partners - Brick Bear

Jonathan Ross - Futuristic Robot Bear

Lulu Guinness - Love Paddington x

Costain Skanska and the Paddington Partnership - The Mayor of Paddington

Davina McCall - Paddington Jack

Guy Ritchie - Dapper Bear

The Telegraph - Good News Bear

Bears by Benjamin Shine, Peru, Stephen Fry, Westminster Academy

Some of the bears were orgnaised into a trail. Although not all of the bears could be seen this way, this was a good way to see some of the bears. The trails included:

  • Royal Parks: This went through Hyde Park and up through to Westminster but only contained six bears over a long walking distance. 
  • Paddington Trail: This trail went around the Paddington and Little Venice area of London and consisted of several bears in a small area.
  • River and Historical London: This trail contains approximately eight bears centrered around the London Bridge area of the Thames
  • The Christmas Trail: This trail contained several of the sculptures around west London to allow visitors to combine this trail with seeing with Christmas lights.

Did you see any of the bear sculptures in the Paddington Bear Trail? I could not pick a favourite sculpture as all of them were completely different and there were so many good designs. The Paddington Trail map and information about the bears can be seen here: http://www.visitlondon.com/paddington/trail-map 


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