Category Archives: General

Connecting to the Heart

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
― Kahlil Gibran

I’m in a period of transition and uncertainty at the moment. All the major areas of my life are in flux and changing. My living situation is unclear, my job is only short-term and chaotic and my girlfriend is all the way over in Mexico (although not for long!)
It would be very easy not to feel grounded and to get overwhelmed by all the change and lack of a clear way forward but I naturally like to flow, (my triple water star chart reflects what I have already recognised in myself) and when I allow this all is good.

Legs and heart

Legs and heart – Hermione Armitage

Things were getting a bit much last week though and while I was discussing all of this with Felicity she suggested I pull an Osho Zen Tarot card. I got “Traveling” which you can read here.
To summarise it reminded me of the Lao Tzu quote

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving”

because it was all about enjoying the journey as a reminder that the important thing is to stay with the present. Your future is not created by endless planning and worrying but is instead manifested as a direct result of what you do right now. We plant seeds and as long as we are aligned and allowing, the right things will emerge for us.

The universe will unfold as it should…

So, how do we know we are aligned, and by that I mean in touch with what is really true for us, what we are passionate about, what makes us feel connected, at peace and happy?

The heart is a wonderful gateway. You can feel all of those things in your heart, you can’t figure it out in the mind because it will always be a reflection. The connection in the heart is always in the present and is where we feel this deep motivation.

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I was at the “Be Love” 11 hour Bhakti Immersion, an event all about the practice of devotion and singing which brings you straight into the heart. It was an amazing reset for me, an opportunity to ground in something far more powerful than the “material” security can offer.

I can have a big house, job and so on but if I’m feeling adrift from this centre then I don’t have peace. All the material stuff is impermanent and when you have this anchor in the deeper space of the heart it seems less important. If you can be happy in any situation then this is surely real freedom.

What is Sufism?
To feel joy in the heart when sorrow appears.

I should mention the fantastic work the Sivani Mata does in arranging these events which bring a large community together in such a beautiful space. We first met while travelling to the fantastic Colourfest, separated in the back of a car by bags stacked so high we couldn’t see each other!

I started teaching yoga on Wednesday at the Jamyang Buddhist centre, taking over from the lovely Naz who is taking the opportunity to head back to Mexico. I’ll be there every week with the class starting at 7.30. I’m charging £10 with the option to pay for a pass at a reduced rate – contact me for details!

I’ll also be running a meditation day with my yoga sister Emma in Bedford on the 8th November, it would be great if you can join with us in diving deep into this heart space and feeling our deep connection.

Feet and Heart - Hermione Armitage

Feet and Heart – Hermione Armitage

Photos courtesy of Hermione Armitage

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11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips

I was sent the following 11 top Instagram Food Photography Tips which I could probably use from the folks at Bookatable.

Tips for snapping food on Instagram
Read the full article – “Tips for snapping food on Instagram”
is a graphic produced by Bookatable.

My photography skills leave something to be desired so the potential improvement offered here is fabulous.

I know a couple of food stylists though and some of the things mentioned here are definitely reminiscent of the work that they undergo to ensure the best representation of the cooking or products they are trying to display.

Instagram seems to be all the rage but these tips are just as helpful for food bloggers or other budding photographers.

Bookatable are offering reviews and offers on all sorts of restaurants around the UK and parts of Europe. If they keep offering useful content like this then I’m sure it will help them gain readers compared to other competing sites.

I’d be interested to know your tips on Instagram food photography or indeed food photography in general.

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DJ Hype – an interview

I was asked to interview DJ Hype for a bio a while back – here’s what I learnt about the Drum ‘n’ Bass legend:

DJ Hype enters the Great Eastern Bear gallery and almost immediately, Bully, his good-looking Staffie cross, relieves himself all over a box. Hype is embarrassed and admonishes the animal with a push and a shout while we reassure him that it’s fine and this former brothel has probably seen worse. “It is a problem though because if this was someone’s house I don’t want him pissing on the shag pile, you know what I mean?”

The down to earth nature of Kevin Ford is testament to his approach. One of the pioneers of drum and bass, he has no interest in the celebrity circuit nor to become some sort of pop star but he remains one of the most well-respected and busiest DJs in the business.
“I class myself as not one of the inventors but one of the pioneers”

He started with Shut Up and Dance at the age of 13, mixing up Hip Hop and reggae in the early ’80s on a sound system he built himself.
Becoming a master at cutting and scratching, he was on MTV in 1989 representing Britain in the European Mix championships and competing in the DMC.

He was the biggest DJ on London’s most popular pirate station Fantasy Radio from 1989 to its end in 1990 while at the same time he was working as a producer with Kickin’ records where The Exorcist (his collaboration with The Scientist) reached No 1 on the MRIB Chart. “I remember hearing it on Kiss, Steve Jackson counting down, I wasn’t expecting much and then they called it out, I was quite shocked”

Despite the success with this and other tracks such as The Bee, Hype didn’t get as much credit as he felt he deserved and took the opportunity to join Suburban Base with Mark Ryder when it came up before working with Danny Donnelly on some of his biggest tracks like Shot in the Dark.

Hype won a series of awards in the mid nineties, notably in at the UK Hardcore awards where in 1994 he won Best Male DJ and in 1995 Best Radio DJ. He started at Kiss in 1994 and has been on there ever since, 18 years making him the longest running D&B radio DJ.

He signed for BMG/RCA in 1995 but didn’t want to go down the route the label was pushing him in.
“They were always asking “Where’s your live act?” but I was resisting all the things they were offering me saying “I want to keep it real, I don’t want a poster campaign, I DJ every week – that’s my live show”.

“I like being known for what I do but not for who I am. I hate the celebrity side of it. I don’t think it’s as bad these days for dance artists, but that’s if you want it and you court it.”

He tours almost constantly all over the world playing at some of the massive US festivals that Pasquale Rotella at Insomniac sets up as well as more intimate club sets.

“I enjoy the club thing, going around and spreading what I do. I’m out there every week of the year pretty much.”

“Nowadays I’m more of a self-proclaimed ambassador, I fly out and try and give them what I think is proper drum and bass, not a commercial angle to it. You know, a melting pot of it all. I’m pigeon holed in different ways but how I see myself I play true drum & bass.”

Last Christmas marked the 150th event of The Playaz at Fabric which started in 1999, making it the longest running monthly D&B night.

Of late, Hype has focused on his artists at Playaz, moving away from the production side.

“I don’t feel there is any producer that just goes on relentlessly. I got to the point where I couldn’t keep going. I had my son and a grandfather who was quite ill and I couldn’t spend the time in the studio. I do need to get back into the studio for my own career but I’m good at A & R’ing other peoples music.”

Hazard was his first signing about 10 years ago and anyone that he has collaborated with has usually done well, meaning he now has a roster of several with two or three new artists due to sign soon.
He has been working as an executive producer A&Ring, helping them to develop in their underground music, not stopping them making commercial tracks but tending to go the opposite way.

“The label is a full time job, being a DJ is a full time job and my son is a full time job. When I’m busy I complain, when I have a break then I’m like, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

He won the UMA Award Best Drum & Bass DJ in 2006
“They didn’t tell me about it – oh someone collected it for you, it took about 8 months of nagging before they had it ready for me.”

His D&B Arena mix CD in 2007 was their best selling for 4 years and he was given their Lifetime achievement award.

“At the Radio 1Xtra Xtra Bass Awards 2007 I won #1 D&B DJ. They phoned me up, ‘just letting you know you’re up for the award are you coming?’ I was like there is no way a Kiss DJ is going to win is there? Andy C was going down and he asked me to go. It was me, him and Friction and I was like, it’s going to be one of you two regardless. He said come and I was shocked, at the bar, completely drunk and I heard my name. I went up and was like thanks, catch me on Kiss and they were horrified – what do you want me to say! big up Kiss!”

Hype also did well at the National Drum and Bass Awards last year (2012), the label came second in best club night, he came second in best radio show and the label third in its category. He’s also been in the top 3 for best DJ in previous years.

“I keep telling people, I’m not old school, I’m old.”

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Craft Beer Rising 2014

Craft Beer Rising last year debuted at the Old Truman Brewery with Norman Jay on DJ duties and the cream of Britain’s breweries, both tiny and colossal, setting up shop to showcase their most interesting offerings.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

From the big boys like Adnams hiding behind a “craft beer” range to real independent spirits like King Beer and Ilkley there was definitely a broad range on display. The Craft Beer Rising format means they were all able to set their own stalls and promote as they saw fit which allows for the personalities to really shine through.

Craft Beer Rising

Craft Beer Rising

2 Themes we noticed at Craft Beer Rising were:

  • Black IPA – Almost everyone seemed to have one
  • “Craft Beer” as opposed to “Real Ale” – The Americanisation seems a popular terminology designed to bring in the ladies 😉

There was also an immense focus on Hops – we had so many conversations about “powerful” combinations and the skill of introducing them at the right time in the process. Firebrand Brewing from Cornwall took this one step further by displaying their ever-so-homemade “Randaliser”. This is a device which adds an extra hoppiness without the bitterness at the point of delivery by filtering through and topping up your pint from the tap. It added a clean and refreshing extra taste although seemed more of a gimmick for the show than something they were seriously planning to roll out.

Craft Beer Rising

Firebrand Brewing Co’s Randalizer

Bear Hug
These guys were offering the Hibernation IPA a chilled wheat beer/ Pale Ale for charity. They have bought 1 million sqft of rainforest and give 5 for every beer bought – you can find out more at – mygreensquares.com/promotions/bearhugcbr. The beer itself was a fresh and interesting combination of styles. I’m not normally a fan of Wheat beers but this one had something a bit different about it.

London Velvet

With a corporate-looking frontage, Ice sculpture cooling device and boasting a cross between Stout and Cider, London Velvet didn’t fill me with excitement. It was surprisingly decent actually, although without the marketing clout I’m not sure how likely it would be to take off. The idea is it’s a bit more classy than half-Guinness-half-Strongbow and a lighter alternative to a hoppy Craft Beer.

Rev & Makers Thornbridge
Reverend and the Makers were DJing at some point over the weekend at Craft Beer Rising, but they had also teamed up with the Thornbridge brewery to create a Summer ale. We were dubious how much involvement there had been but were assured that Ed Cosens from the band is actually an extremely keen amateur brewer and had created his own batch which had then been tweaked and recreated on a bigger scale. It was a very decent ale and we were pleasantly surprised.

Islay
A poor placement of stall saw the Islay brewery tucked at the far end of the hall, sheltered from their neighbours and without even a booth opposite. I suppose they felt at home. We engaged with the chap working there but he seemed a little mournful, his colleagues had buggered off to visit the Tower of London leaving him even more isolated.
We asked what it was about Islay that made their beers unique. Was it aged in Whisky barrels? Did it have tinges of Scottish Heather? Was there a particular style favoured by the islanders? It turned out that no, they didn’t, the beer wasn’t really brewed for tourists or for export, it was for the locals who didn’t want to drink whisky all the time. We tried the pretty standard craft beer on offer disappointed that none of the potential USPs had been grasped.

I’d taken a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich for a friend’s Stag do and it was unlike any brewery tour I’ve done before. This guy – with the cap and his back to us is Big Al and he is a gregarious drunk who made the whole affair incredibly entertaining. He was wandering around the Craft Beer Rising festival filming for something or other – I’d love to find out what!

Craft Beer Rising

Big Al

Truman’s reopened as a brewery in 2013 – although not at this site, and they were present to promote some fine ales. The thing I noticed, however was that the man from Sharp’s the previous year who had indoctrinated us into Quadrupel was here representing a different brand!

Craft Beer Rising

Truman’s

Perhaps the highlight for me was the enthusiasm and clout of King Beer. We were accosted on entry by a representative offering us a free CD (which contained a rather special mix of tunes curated to accompany their brews)

We got chatting to the head brewer who insisted that we try a selection of their offerings – and they have quite a range. He used to work for Truman’s and apparently could have gone back there but preferred to start his own operation.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

We then chatted to his assistant, who I will admit I first thought was a junior but after a couple of minutes of conversation it became clear he was a prodigy with a real knowledge of the chemical make up of beer and the brewing process.

Craft Beer Rising

King Beer

I hope Craft Beer Rising continues to flourish because it really encourages brewers to have a bit of character and allows them to show off their individuality in a way that other beer festivals do not.

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Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Travel with your taste buds with this Greek treat

Thinking of hosting a themed dinner and bingo party at home? Allow your guests to travel using their palate. Let them taste the wonders of Greece via the classic national dish: Greek Moussaka Eggplant. While the food takes about 2 hours to prepare and cook, you and your friends can enjoy some time to socialise.

Moussaka is regarded as one of the most popular Greek foods, thanks to the famous Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes. The casserole is not traditionally from Greece as some scholars maintain that moussaka was introduced by the Arabs when they brought the eggplant to Greece. Moussakka is an urban cuisine that, like Greece, is able to respond to new ingredients, religious, and traditional influences.

The rich influence of Greece to the modern world cannot be undermined. The Greek influence can be seen from events as big as the Olympics to as little as everyday things as the alphabet. Greek mythology is one of the biggest influences of Greece to the modern world. Even in the world of video games, countless Greek mythological references are prevalent among games such as God of War, titles are loosely based on the wonderful world of Greek Mythology. Meanwhile, Castle Jackpot creator IGT also tapped the creative muses of the Greek mythology by making Cupid & Psyche, a slot game that features the enduring love story that goes against all odds.

Here is a delicious recipe from About.com contributor, Lynn Livanos Athan:

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Greek Moussaka Eggplant

Ingredients:

3 eggplants
1 lb potatoes
1 ½ lbs ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, diced
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup red wine
¼ tsp allspice, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
8 egg whites, lightly beaten (please reserve yolks for Bechamel sauce)
2 cups plain bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese

For the Bechamel sauce:

1 cup flour
1 cup salted butter
4 cups milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg

Method

  • Prepare the vegetables. Make sure that you peel the eggplants while leaving a 1-inch peel around the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into ½-inch slices. Set them aside in a colander and salt them liberally. Peel and boil the potatoes until they’re cooked enough. The potatoes should not be too soft. Drain them and slice them in ¼-inch slices. Set them aside.

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease it. Add a splash of water as you beat your egg. Dry the eggplant with paper towels before dipping it into the beaten egg. Dredge them in the bread crumbs. Make sure you coat both sides. Bake them at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, turning them once during cooking. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees when eggplant is cooked. Set them aside.

  • In a large pan, cook the ground beef until brown. Add the onion, garlic, and cook for about a minute. Pour wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce before adding cinnamon, parsley, allspice, tomato paste, sugar, and tomato puree. Simmer for 15 minutes, so excess liquid can be removed. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Prepare the Bechamel sauce. Over low heat, melt the butter. Add flour while whisking continuously to create a smooth paste. Cook for a minute, do not allow the flour to turn brown. Add the warmed milk while whisking. Simmer over low heat for a minute, then remove from heat. Stir in beaten yolks and nutmeg. Bring back to heat and stir until sauce is thick.

  • Assemble the moussaka. Lightly grease a baking pan, sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of potatoes. Top with layer of eggplant. Add meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. Top it with another layer of eggplant slices before sprinkling again with the cheese. Pour in the Bechamel sauce covering the sides of the pan. Bake for 45 minutes over 350 degrees. Cool before serving.

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Immersive theatre: The Day Shall Declare It & The Drowned Man

Immersive theatre. It’s quite the thing.

I wrote a preview for Le Cool about this Wilderness production based on some Tennessee Williams short stories and then I wrote a review after going to see it for Weekend Notes. It’s extended the run now until 7th Feb so you still have time to go and see it.

the_day_shall_le_cool

It isn’t on the same scale as something like one of the Punchdrunk performances where you can go and get thoroughly lost in proceedings but it does get you up close and personal with the actors and is beautifully produced.

So what is Immersive theatre? Also called “promenade” or interactive theatre, imagine you are in amongst the action, with no delineation between set, actors, and audience, except, in Punchdrunk’s case that the audience wear white masks.

I also went to The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk’s new immersive theatre production in “Temple Studios” just next to Paddington Station.

This was on a different level altogether with a large cast spanning two storylines and a multitude of possibilities available to the explorer. It does feel like you are exploring rather than watching in an extremely detailed set which you can poke around to your heart’s content.

I felt after three hours in there that I’d only scratched the surface of the story being told and, while it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, it didn’t seem as focused as Faust, the first production of theirs that I enjoyed immensely. It’s a sexy, rollicking ride though which will leave you wanting more, I think I could go back two or three more times to fully grasp what was going on.

One of the issues with the scale of the production – with up to 600 audience members, is that following one of the main characters becomes a case of getting bundled into a large crowd of white mask wearing voyeurs. I saw some interesting side-scenes by wandering off by myself or chasing minor characters but this tended to confuse or create a more fractured storyline.

For example, the Asian girl who was always running scared but who didn’t seem to fit in either of the main story lines. I was nosing around the office of a motel when she burst in with another audience member screaming about barricading the door but just when I thought I was going to get some insight she bundled me out telling me it wasn’t safe to be in there. I was trying to position myself for a one-on-one scene with one of the performers but, alas, it never quite happened!

Immersive theatre certainly makes for an unusual and exciting night out. although don’t necessarily expect a straightforward story line or plot to follow!

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Brand X in Le Cool London

Brand X is a counter-culture classic film from 1970 and is showing in the Subway gallery at Edgware Road exclusively for the next two Fridays.

Taking on the culture of TV in a style that was a precursor in some ways to Saturday Night Live, this undermines the government of the day in a series of skits.

It’s creator Wynn Chamberlain was heavily involved with Andy Warhol’s factory and this project was a big success before Nixon’s powers that be allegedly clamped down on it.

I covered Brand X for Le Cool here:

Brand X in Le Cool London

Brand X in Le Cool London

It looks  pretty great! Here are a couple of other promo shots from the Brand X film:

brand_x_still_abby_hoffmann_in_the_money_program_2

Still from Brand X – Abby Hoffman in the Money Program – Chamberlain Family collection

brand_x_still_taylor_and_sally_press_conference_2

Still from Brand X – Taylor Mead and Sally Kirkland in the Presidents Press Conference – Chamberlain Family collection

BrandX_Sally_Kirkland_Taylor_Mead_Old_Plantation

 

Brand X – Sally Kirkland and Taylor Mead in Down on the Old Plantation – by Jean Franco Mantegna and courtesy of the New  York Public Library

BrandX_Ultra_Violet_Tomorrows_Stars_Today_2

Brand X – Ultra Violet in Tomorrows Stars Today – by Jean Franco Mantegna and courtesy of the New  York Public Library
 

 If you get yourself on their RSVP list then you can see the screening for free and listen to an introductory talk at the same time. On top of that they will be giving away free popcorn and you can bring your own booze. Sounds like a good way to start off a Friday night!

 

 

 

 

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Occupy Walking Tour in Le Cool London

So I started writing for Le Cool again and this event looks like a fun and interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The guys from Occupy have organised a walking tour around the City of London to tell the history of money and finance.

In the wake of the banking crisis and the protests over the last few years there is a lot to talk about and these guys have an entertaining way of explaining some tricky concepts.

 

Occupy walking tour in Le cool London

Occupy walking tour in Le cool London

http://london.lecool.com/event/occupy-city-of-london-walking-tour/

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Barcelona: Five Ways to See the City, Save Some Cash, and Live Like a Local


Perched on the northeastern edge of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most captivating and dynamic cities. Every year, millions of tourists flock to its renowned museums, laid-back beaches and buzzing public squares to experience the vibrant culture in all its glory.

Of course, that experience often comes with a hefty price tag. Like most major European destinations, Barcelona can take a serious toll on your bank account, and its cost can be especially daunting to American visitors trying to make the most of their dollar-to-euro conversion without staying in a hostel.

It’s possible, however, to create a truly unforgettable Barcelona vacation without breaking the bank. All you need are a few little tips and the willingness to experience the city from a more local perspective.

Book Your Flight on Tuesday Night

Airlines tend to post their deepest discounts mid-week, and Tuesday night is often the sweetest spot for scoring a deal before it disappears. You’ll find the best prices during the autumn and early spring low seasons, but even expensive summer fares can drop by hundreds of dollars if you catch them at the right time. Don’t forget to check fare-aggregator sites like Kayak, Vayama and Hotwire for the broadest range of options.

Rent an Apartment

Resort amenities are tempting, but apartment rentals provide a cheaper and more authentic experience. Companies like Oh-Barcelona offer privately owned apartments for a fraction of the standard hotel rates, and you can find options ranging from intimate studio spaces to five-bedroom houses. Search for an apartment near outlying neighborhoods like Gràcia or Les Corts for the best deals.

Fill Your Wallet with Travel Cards

For bundled savings on Metro trips and attraction tickets, grab a few of Barcelona’s unbeatable travel cards. The popular T10 card gives you ten Metro trips for nearly half the price of the regular fares, and the ArticketBCN card lets you explore the city’s must-see museums without paying separate admission fees for each. Looking for a more all-encompassing discount? Try the Barcelona card for city-wide deals on transportation, attractions and dining.

Get a Taste of the Menú Del Día

Most Barcelona restaurants offer an inexpensive daily menu during lunch, and this menú del día is a fantastic way to save a few euros while sampling the local cuisine. You’ll choose three courses from a menu of specialties and top them off with a small dessert or coffee. Don’t forget your phrasebook: Many restaurants print their menús del día in Spanish or Catalan only, and you might have a tough time finding someone to translate.

Wander off the Beaten Path

While popular tourist spots like Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Família and the Barri Gòtic are certainly worth seeing, don’t be afraid to explore more local-friendly neighborhoods like La Salut and Horta. You’ll enjoy lower restaurant prices, a bevy of free parks and the ability to stroll around some of the city’s most gorgeous public spaces without fighting through a sea of sightseers.

This article was written by Kevin Caldwell who is a writer for www.canalstreethotels.com. They provide travelers with hotel listings based on their distance from Canal Street in New Orleans.

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5 Things to do today

I met David Ridings at the London Bloggers Meetup last month and we talked about his blog 5 things to do today.com.

The concept is quite straightforward.  David takes lists from readers and other bloggers who suggest 5 things to do. It can cover many different topics and I decided I would focus on the spiritual side of what I have been studying over the last couple of years. I can’t say I’m really following my own suggestions on a day-to-day level since I’ve been back in the UK but it’s still a nice reminder!

So I chose:

1) Meditate

2) Practice Yoga Asanas

3) Eat healthy vegetarian food

4) Be generous

5) Do something you love.

You can see in more detail here what I wrote for him.

David works as a teacher and runs his blog in his spare time. It was interesting to hear from other Bloggers at the LBM how they are able to monetise their output and improve readership.  Talk of the growth of mobile internet and responsive design with that in mind was interesting and if nothing else the meetup inspired me to take the plunge and finally host the blog on its own domain.

The speakers recommended guest blogging as well so I’m very happy to have been able to help David out with his 5 things to do today!

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