Two Weeks In: 2016 So Far

Well I haven’t done too well on the 2016 objectives so far. Namely the “leave earlier” one: I’ve been working 7.30am-10.30pm every day, so it hasn’t left much time to keep up with the blog.

Here’s what’s happened in the first two weeks of the year (I warn you now, this is not the most exciting blog post)


Boxes: Hello Fresh

This was a new thing for 2016- Hello Fresh is a service that delivers you everything you need (pretty much pre-measured) to cook each night. The first week is done and it’s pretty good! It’s so easy to be generous with portion control usually, but as this is all measured out, it means you can’t over indulge. Also, it means you get some variation in what you’re eating each day. It arrived all packed with ice packs, so if you get it delivered to work it will stay cool for the day. There is also an app to go with it so you can “pause box” if you don’t fancy the menu they are offering for the next week.

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Bananas: NutriBullet Smoothies

The rest of food (breakfast and lunch), has come in the shape of NutriBullet smoothies which, when your week is crazy- like the last few have been- it’s a really easy way to prep your food for the day. I’ve been adding chia seeds as well. My favourite discovery has been a combination of my morning coffee and smoothie: banana, cashew nuts, coffee, cacao nibs, black cherries, oats and either yogurt (I’ve been using Icelandic Arla Skyr) and water, or yogurt and Alpro coconut milk.


Babies and Byes

The last week has been crazy in terms of goodbyes- both celebrity wise and in my personal life. It reiterated for me (not that I ever forget), that cancer is bitch. It also has reminded me that it’s foolish to not to go the extra mile for people who are in your family. It’s easy to think you’ll go visit someone, call them or write to them next week and then, before you know it, they’re not there.

However, to offset some of the sadness, there were new babies born into the family this week, which is exciting! I am terrible with babies (are they like dogs? Do they sense fear and inexperience and cry in reaction?!), but I’m looking forward to meeting baby Lia and giving her a handmade gift (it’s poor attempt at patchwork)


Last year, I ended up having to take 17 days of holiday in the last six weeks of the year. So, this year I want to spread the holidays out, and the first one is now booked! It’s one I have had my eye on for a long time- The Hilton Molino Stuckey in Venice. Mission by the end of the month is to have another city break, my annual “relax and do nothing” holiday and a more adventurous holiday (maybe India?)

So- it’s been low key so far, but versus this time last year (even with the sad news from this week), 2016 is waaaaay better!

New Years Eve at The Ox

The last dinner of 2015 was spent at The Ox in Cheltenham and it was delicious! The restaurant is downstairs in a building in Cambray Place and you enter through a leather, padded porch. The restaurant is dark, cosy and eclectically decorated (including a stuffed peacock and a ceiling mural). The staff were great: really welcoming, professional and I particularly loved the response of “yeah, that’s well lush”, in response to my dessert choice. Some of the best bits about living it the West Country! My photos aren’t great- low light and wobbly hands, but you can get a sense of how good it was!

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Bellini Bambino to start with and the beer was from the Wild Beer Company, which is also in Cambray Place. We then had the fresh bread (£2.50) to start (we hadn’t really eaten all day, knowing that we were coming for dinner!)

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For starters we had the Hickory Smoked Sticky Ribs with Chopped Salad (£6.50) and, from the “Toast” menu the Fois Gras Terrine with chutney and pickles (£8.50)

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Then, this really was the star of the show! A 30oz T-bone steak to share with triple cooked chips, green peppercorn sauce, leeks & greens (£65 to share). I have written before about how good the steak is in America and this is the first time I have had anything in the UK that resembles it.  The whole place had a bit of an American feel and they played great music: a whole load of soul and Motown, which perfectly suited the mood.

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Because it was New Years Eve, we also had dessert! It was a chocolate and salted caramel delice served with Chantilly Cream (there was something in it- but it’s not on their online menu!) and poached pear.

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I really loved this place, and it is such a good find. They have a restaurant in Bristol as well, but (to be honest) the parking in Bristol is such a nightmare, I would rather go over to Cheltenham! (You can park at either Beechwood or Regents Arcade and it’s a short walk)

Well recommended!

2016 Objectives

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I know, I know. Resolutions are stupid. So these are objectives for 2016.

They fall into five categories: health, learning, personal, work and other stuff.


Run a 10km in March

Run a half marathon in October (there you go sis, it’s on there. We’re going to Amsterdam. Or Stroud?)

Be more organised with cooking AKA “eat healthier”

Drink more water. Only drink fizzy drinks occasionally (I already started the latter in 2015). I should probably add cutting down on coffee intake.

Restart acupuncture and try out hypnotherapy to help my skin condition (it’s so expensive though!)


Learn about wine

Visit more of the places on “The List” (India, Costa Rica, Singapore, Cuba, Kenya as well as Lisbon, Venice and probably loads of others- not all in one year, just visit some of them!)

Read one book a month (I think I do more than this on average, but that’s because I binge read on holiday!)

Learn to code

Be a better photographer

Start speaking Spanish again

Play my piano more


Be a nicer person

Learn to hide my true feelings about people if they’re not positive (difficult…my face is expressive)

Be less naive about people: I trust people way too much and tell them everything!

Be a better friend


Help others more

Be more effective

Leave earlier (perhaps linked to the above!?)

Actually plan my development

Ensure my filter is always ON with colleagues!

Spread my holiday days throughout the year (I ended up taking 17 days in 6 weeks at the end of 2015!)

Other Stuff

Don’t get behind on laundry- a source of anxiety!

Organise my wardrobe- if I haven’t worn it for 12 months, I should donate it to charity (or throw it away if it is shite)

Overcome my fear (more like a dislike) of the hairdresser and get my hair cut (they are beautiful, well groomed, intimidating people who can be so JUDGEY!)

Get better at make up. I do the same everyday because I don’t know any better!

Happy New Year Everyone!


My 10 favourite photos of 2015

One of my 2016 objectives is to get better at photography (hence the book “Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs” in this post). I bought a new camera (a Fujifilm X-A2) in November as well. I am by no means any good at photography, but here’s a summary of my favourites that I took in 2015 (in chronological rather than preference order!)

London, February 2015

Taken on a Samsung Note 3

This is the view from the restaurant at the top of the Tate Modern, with St Paul’s Cathedral.


Chicago, October 2015

Taken on a Samsung Note 3

This is Marina City on the North bank of the Chicago River

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Chicago, October 2015

Taken on a Samsung Note 3

This is the Trump building on a foggy morning with the tower in the clouds


Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a Fujifilm X-A2

Shichi-Go-San at Meiji Jingu Shrine

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Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a iPhone 6s Plus

This is the view from the top of the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. I love the shot…except for the reflection of the Fire Exit sign in the window!


Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a Fujifilm X-A2

Tsukiji Fish Market- that place is crazy, and then we turned down this street, and it was peaceful. And all the people just…disappeared!

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Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a Fujifilm X-A2

Motsuyaki restaurant in Akasaka

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Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a Fujifilm X-A2

Women waving into an iPhone at Senso-Ji Temple

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Tokyo, November 2015

Taken on a Fujifilm X-A2

Man crouching down on the pavement in the rain in Akasaka

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2015 Highs and Lows

I’ve been conducting a poll.

I’ve been asking people to describe 2015 in five words. The sad thing is, the responses have (so far) not been positive. (Feel free to contradict by placing your five words in the comment box). It seems that 2015 was pretty shit. I concur.

Here’s the highs and the lows of 2015 from my perspective.

The Highs
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The Tokyo Trip- November 2015

I know we only went for 3 full days, but it was such a good trip!

It had been on the wanderlust list for a while and, whilst it was completely exhausting, it really was a brilliant holiday. Now I just need to find something to top it in 2016!

Writing a Blog- 2015

It never felt like a chore (nor should it!) but I have really enjoyed writing this blog.

It’s especially satisfying to review it at the end of the year and think of all the things that I did in 2015.

It’s like writing a diary except…you know…really publicly! Also, I now want to learn more about actually building a site. I originally laid this out in a table. WHICH I CODED. But I couldn’t code the width to be equal. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Changing Jobs- October 2015

Easily the pivot point of 2015. I was doing the most miserable, pointless job until October. I wasn’t learning anything, or shaping/changing anything- and those are things that motivate me. Everyday was just clock-watching. And complaining. It was unbelievably dull, and such a stark juxtaposition from the madness and quick pace of my role in America the year before. (ANYWAY…scroll down to “The Lows” for more on this one)

Changing to a new role in October has hugely improved my attitude, outlook and general mood. My job is really important to me, and not being happy in kind of put a damper on 75% of 2015!


Decorating Parts of the House- Spring 2015

My job kind of polluted everything- so I needed to find a way of being creative and accomplishing something. Undertaking some of the house projects was a big part of this. I love the changes, and how the house is looking.

Although…just read an article on house prices rising 4.5% in December. Maybe 2016 is the year we sell it!?

The Lows

My Job, January-September 2015

Partly, this makes me sound like a really dull person, but partly it is indicative of how my attitude towards work shapes so much of my life. I never understood it, when people complained about their jobs. I honestly always thought it was a case of people not trying hard enough to make a change or a difference. Anybody who I ever felt that about- I apologise. I now know what it is like to be trapped in a job that you hate and you cannot see a positive way to elevate yourself out of it. I ended up blaming everything: the role, my manager and in the end started to think I was bad at my job. However, now I am outside of it, it is clear that it was a bit of all of it. I allowed myself to be in a bad mood about it, which fuelled the self doubt- it was just awful. Anybody I was rude to or horrible to in 2015, I apologise. This was the likely culprit.

Feedback, Feedback, Feedback, January-September 2015

I hate it. HATE it. And it feels like 2015 was all about being assessed. And receiving feedback. A LOT of feedback. A LOT of feedback from a boss who, looking back, did not know how to motivate me. (I think this is such an important part of managing people. Accuse me of being a millennial, I don’t care.) I guess some of it worked. I used to get a lot of feedback that I lacked self awareness: this year’s end of year review noted that I was extremely self-aware. I guess that’s a good thing. It’s just fucking crushing to hear it all day, everyday! Mix it in with a little positivity, people!!!

The Last Chicago Trip, October 2015

75% of this year was shit. And I pined after my old job and life in Chicago. October was the pivot point in more ways than one. I visited Chicago, and lots of stuff clicked. It’s over. Life moved on for 9 months whilst I just wasted mine! It wasn’t the best visit, but it needed to happen!

Trust, 2015

I made some properly shit choices on who to trust in 2015. I guess when you’re unhappy, you’ll talk to anybody who’ll listen. I’ve use “you’re” and “you’ll”, but it might just be me! It’s taught me so much: I am naive. People are not necessarily fundamentally good. And don’t say anything to anyone outside your closest circle, unless you expect it to be shared! Surely this is shit I should have learned from five years of single sex education!? And, sorry to say it, but women are the WORST for this! Count the people you can trust on your fingers: I genuinely don’t think it is possible to have any more than that. And use common sense. (I can hear my mum telling me this now…she always said I trusted people too much and that most people will just use you!)

Bell’s Diner in Bristol

The Christmas holiday has started to induce cabin fever: after a long walk yesterday, we decided to head over to Bristol in the rain and visit Bell’s Diner. I have read (and heard) multiple reviews of this place, so decided to venture out to it. If you’re near Bristol, it’s about 10-15 minute walk from Cabot’s Circus. So you can park your car there and walk (a lot of the streets in Montpellier are permit only parking). It’s a great little tour of old Bristol as well as there being a whole load of interesting graffiti (potentially giving rise to the claim that you are more likely to see a Banksy than a policeman in Bristol!)

Bell’s Diner is on a corner in Montpellier. It’s a small place and we were seated in the main room, which is adorned with old scales, coffee roasters and ferns and plays great music.

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We were given a one page food menu, and an record album cover with an extensive alcohol list. (The neighbouring table had Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” as their menu cover, which I tried to snap as my dad used to play that song to us). It was lunchtime, so we kept it non-alcoholic, but the menu did have some wise words from Homer and Homer:  “The wine urges me on, the bewitching wine, which sets even a wise man to singing and to laughing gently and rouses him up to dance and brings forth words which were better unspoken.” from Homer’s Odyssey, and “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems” from Homer Simpson.

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The menu isn’t set up as starters and mains- it’s more like tapas. You order a few of them, and they arrive in no particular order.

We ordered Salchichon (the taste of summer in Spain!) which came with fresh bread. Then the Carrot, Caraway and Feta Fritters arrived which were served with beetroot. These were amazing, and probably the best vegetarian food I have ever had. Then there was Gnudi served with a Venison Ragu. I have never had Gnudi before: the translation from Italian is “nude”, and it it like Gnocchi but made from ricotta cheese rather than potato. The final dish (which isn’t photographed) was Chicken Oyster Pincho with Harissa Paste and Yogurt.

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All of this came to only £31 as well! Well worth a trek in the pouring rain for! 

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Hotels in 2015: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

 Here’s a summary of the hotels (that I can remember) from 2015: the good, the bad and the ugly!

The Good

I’ve divided “the good” down into “The Decadent”, “The Stylish” and “The Small But Beautiful”

The Decadent

The Melia, Vienna

This is a new hotel in Vienna and everything about it is polished and beautiful. I’m not the sort of person who takes pictures of rooms and bathrooms but the suites are stunning! There is a great restaurant called 57, which gives a great view over the river and the city.

The Public, Chicago

I stayed here in February for the second time. The communal areas (restaurants, bars and lobby) are beautiful. The lounge area has sheepskins and roaring fires. It’s a little bit out of the way, on the Gold Coast, but is really nice. The warning is, that some of the rooms are a little bit shabbier than the main parts of the hotel.

The James, Chicago

I have stayed at The James a few times (twice this year) but April was the first time I got a Loft suite, which has the movie den as well as a living room and bedroom suite. They are always nice rooms, but this suite was really good. The hotel is in a very central location, and if you’re staying there a while (and get bored of the room service menu), Big Bowl is around the corner!

The Stylish

Scandic Europa, Gothenburg

I really liked this hotel! The bar and restaurant were packed on Friday and Saturday, there was great music, the decor was eclectic- kind of quirky- but it worked. It’s really central: out the front you can walk to bars and the bus station, out the back you walk into the main shopping area. It wasn’t expensive either!

Le Meridien, Charlotte, North Carolina

There is a LOT going on in the foyer of this place! Of course, it’s grey, so I love it. They have so many different chair designs all over the place. There are screens showing modern art and photography, and it’s here that I first saw the photographs of Antoine Rose (read this article from Wired about them)

Small But Beautiful

Citizen M, London

This hotel in London has great design in the communal areas. It’s kind of a low cost but good quality model. The rooms are small but perfectly formed. The beds flush to the window mean you can sit in bed and see London. A Samsung tab means you can control everything from one point in the room, including the coloured lights that form the wall of the bathroom!

B Akasaka, Tokyo

Small but perfectly formed: this place is pretty basic, but gives you everything you need as a base for exploring the city. It’s five minutes from the metro stop, and you can easily walk into Akasaka, where there is a lot going on.

The Bad

The Travelodge, Battersea

It’s a budget brand, and I’ve stayed with them a few times. but this is not a great hotel. We booked it as a base for a music festival in Clapham Common, but it is shabby, with views over a car park. The benefits of it are that, it actually has pretty good parking. Which in London is rare. I would only recommend staying here if you knew you would be returning drunk.

Ibis Styles, Amsterdam

My least favourite of the year. We went to Amsterdam during a really busy time, and this is all that was available. Icky.

The Ugly

Ugly doesn’t necessarily denote bad. Just…not attractive.

The Rathbone, London

This place is pretty expensive for what it is. The rooms are like sleeping in the 1980s. The elevator is teeny weeny. The breakfast room is like an early ’90s cruise ship.

The Imperial Hotel, Copenhagen

This is in the Wallpaper Guide for Copenhagen, so perhaps I just expected more! It’s average. Average with the scent of cigarette smoke in the foyer. It is in a good location, and the rooms are ok- it just wasn’t what I thought it would be!

The “You’re ok, you’re just not my thing”

The Felix, Chicago

The rooms are nice and the bathrooms are lovely. Not sure it really qualifies as a “boutique” hotel though. It’s not offensive in any way, it just doesn’t move me either way.

The Godfrey, Chicago

should like this place. The architecture is good, the rooms are nice. They have a really nice rooftop bar with retractable roof. The only reason I can think that I didn’t enjoy my stay here is that is was the weekend of the derby and it was full of obnoxious women, tarted up and drunk. Maybe I would have loved it more if they hadn’t been there!

I am very lucky…

collageHere’s a round up of some of the lovely things I got over the last couple of days either for Christmas or in the sales.

I am very lucky to have such lovely (and generous!) people in my life xxx

  1. Philips Lumea Prestige £225 from Amazon
  2. Living Etc Magazine Subscription £34.99 from Magazines Direct
  3. Fitbit Charge HR £69 from Tesco
  4. Triangles Throw in Steel £30 from John Lewis
  5. Grey Herringbone Scarf £20 from ASOS
  6. Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Slow Cooker £44.99 from Amazon
  7. Mac Make Up Brushes £45 from Selfridges
  8. Elle Decoration Magazine Subscription £26.40 from Hearst Magazines
  9. Catbird Bronze Match Necklace/Bracelet $12 from Catbird NYC
  10. Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs £12.95 from Urban Outfitters
  11. Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs Of People £9.06 from Amazon
  12. OPI “Lost on Lombard” (£7.93 from Amazon) and Nails Inc “Porchester Square” (£5.50 from Selfridges)


What’s In My Handbag?

Part of the pre-Christmas ritual is cleaning and organising everything. Today was the turn of the handbag, where I threw out about a mile and a half of receipts (and those f*cking annoying coupons that print out at Sainsbury’s- there are so many of them!) and organised it back into something that resembles order.

So, here it is

The handbag is from P.A.P Sweden and is the Emma model sold here for €399. I got mine on Monoqi which is a design led flash sale site.

Headphones are Sennheiser Momentum which are available at Currys for £149 here but I can’t find them on the Sennheiser website. I try to take headphones everywhere. These are my main pair, but I also have a pair on in ear ones. Not really a fan of in ear ones though, makes me feel a bit icky.

Purse is ages old- a navy blue Salvatore Ferragamo. Just had a search to see if they have anything remotely similar on sale any more- they don’t!

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I carry a leather pencil case with five pens in it- two fountain pens, (one Cross and one Mont Blanc), two ballpoints (one Cross and one Rotring Pro) and a Papermate Flair felt tip style pen. All to write in my  Smythson book- it’s been being carried around for four years, so it is slightly worn but I love it regardless. I don’t think they sell the one with “Reach for the Stars” on it anymore, but they have a big selection of other ones here.

I always carry some mints, these are the coffee mints from Starbucks. They don’t sell them in the UK, so I stash up when in the US. The tin is just a handier way to carry them in your handbag. I usually carry whatever book I am reading at the time, just in case there is an opportunity somewhere to read. Unfortunately it often means that my books end up rather dog-eared. Latest book is “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

I always have my sunglasses with me, even though I wear glasses most of the time nowadays. They’re not prescription, but I do love them. They are Dolce and Gabbana and the model number is 2075. I can’t find them in the UK (I bought them in the US) but they are here on their site.

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In my Orla Kiely bag (from Target here) I have a Mac Mascara (Upward Lash), a Mac Lipstick (Velvet Teddy), L’Occitane hand cream (it is the best- I have the large and the travel sizes) and lip balm (Natural Shea Ultra Rich) and Burt’s Bees Cuticle Cream. I also have a travel perfume- I don’t wear this scent normally, so it is for emergencies only-it’s a Chloe rollerball perfume. I have only ever seen them in Sephora though. I also have a Sephora mirror (which came with a gift voucher but is really useful!)

2015 Music In Review

Now it’s that time of year when everything is “2015 in review”. Personally, I cannot wait to see the back of 2015, however, I am going to weigh in on the trend with a review of all the music I listened to this year.

My music world divides into two: in the car, and everything else. This is because, despite me buying all kinds of gadgets (that actually do work) to stream my phone to my stereo, until I get the proper Bluetooth thingy in the car, I will rely on CDs.
So, CDs in the car:
As it has been for the last…12 years… The Very Best of Euphoric House Breakdown. (on sale for the bargain price of £1.64? I can’t believe it!!!) A compilation from circa 2003 but it is SO good. Not least because it has Black Legend The Trouble With Me (yes. This was a contestant for the first dance at our wedding, I love it that much.)
New additions for 2015 included the Ministry of Sound 2015 annual, Ministry of Sound Old Skool Throwback Anthems  (it has a whole CD of UK Garage. A win in my eyes!) and The Year of House: One Year, One Sound. It was a pretty dancey car this year. Offset only by Dermot O’Leary’s Saturday Sessions 2015 album and Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit album. So that was the car. House every weekend? House every DAY more like it.
The next bit is my Spotify listening which I listen to at work or at home. Albums that are permanently available offline are
An Education Official Soundtrack: because this movie is beautiful, as are the songs in it. And, for anybody who knows me very well, you’ll recognise similarities between Lynn Barber’s teenage years and my own.

Arctic Monkeys- AM: it’s a really short album, but every track is great. If I need to do a piece of work quickly, without interruption I put this on and it’s kind of like music with a deadline.

Rudimental- Home: for when I need something familiar and fast paced to get something done (cleaning the kitchen…folding the laundry…)

The Best of Armand Van Helden: as an alternative to Rudimental for the aforementioned tasks.

Van Morrison- Astral Weeks An album that pretty much got me through my degree and thesis, plus just reminds me of my childhood

Then, luckily, I made new playlists pretty much every month! So I can divide down what I was listening to in 2015…first few months is a bit blurry, but the rest is pretty accurate!
 You can listen to the full “compilation” on Spotify here:

Finally- Kings of Tomorrow
Faded Lido Remix- Zhu
3am- Bobby Blanco
It’s Yours- Jon Cutler
Fade Out Lines- The Avener
Pray to God- Calvin Harris
Sexual Healing- Hot 8 Brass Band
Wicked Games- Parra for Cuva
Crushed Ice- MAM
I Wanna Feel- Secondcity
R E A L- Figgy Remix- Le Youth
Tracey In My Room (Lazy Dog Bootleg Dub)- Everything But The Girl
Wrote a Song About You- MNEK
Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better)- Felix Jaehn
Cool Like Me- Fryars
2 People (Feat Tara Busch) 2011 Rework- Jean Jacques Smoothie
Uptight Downtown- La Roux
Bump & Grind 2014 Radio Edit- Waze & Odyssey
Purple Rain Mousse T’s Home A Lone Mix- Chew Fu
Just Gets Better Original Dub Radio Edit- TJR
Better Love- Foxes
Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win- Santigold
Electric Feel- MGMT
Paris is Burning- Ladyhawke
Ready for the Floor- Hot Chip
If I Could Change Your Mind- HAIM
I Feel For You- Chaka Khan
I’m a Manchild- Uptown Funk Empire
Let Me Do My Thing- Hot 8 Brass Band