Why celebrating the New Year at home WINS

I genuinely can’t remember when I last celebrated New Year’s Eve outside my home.

I suspect it was that awful time I ventured into central London to see the fireworks at the London Eye….first we were rammed into a hot sticky bar where we couldn’t sit down or go to the loo, and getting a luke warm drink was just not worth the effort….then we fought our way into a tiny vacant spot within view of the fireworks, only to have cheap cider spilled on our hair and get elbowed in the ribs….and then of course it was the five hour journey home (which would usually take twenty minutes) because all the buses were crammed with revellers and parents with giant buggies, and the wretched bendy bus doors would fail every other minute due to some ignorant fool blocking them. Oh joy.

I can’t even remember the fireworks from that night, which tells me that either the rest of the experience far out-weighed them, or they were just not all that good anyway.

I do like to celebrate things. And I love a good fireworks show (I do mean good though).  But there just comes a point when the negatives out-weigh the positives, and I think that going out on New Year’s Eve is one of those occasions. And as such, for the last many years I’ve done New Years at home. Here is why:

  1. The free bar. Even if you only buy in a couple of bottles of plonk, you’re probably going to have something nicer to drink that if you go out. There’s no queue for the bar, no escalated prices and you can have what you like, when you want it. We opened a bottle of fizz last night and had a little gin too….all great quality booze, chilled just right, without the hefty price tag and having to get all Hulk just to be served. If we’d not opened the fizz I expect Adam would have made us yummy cocktails instead, and much better than the ones you can buy in most bars.
  2. The comfort. There’s an expectation that you dress up and make an effort if you go out for New Year’s Eve. Glittery dresses and high heels have their place (and I love them as much as the next girl), but when you’re going to be on your feet for hours, and potentially out in the cold and wet too (crazy weather last night for sure!), well it’s just no fun any more. At home you can wear your jarmies and slippers, snuggle under a blanky on the sofa, and all within easy reach of whatever you want…including a clean loo with no queue!
  3. The travel. I hate public transport at the best of times. Whilst I used London Transport for a good twelve years and had a certain fondness for sitting on the top deck of a route master, at New Years it’s over-crowded, smelly and often a bit scary. I hate the waiting around and the silly, ignorant people walking about in their own little bubbles. And don’t get me started on taxis. No, the walk from the sofa to bed is enough for me on New Year’s Eve.
  4. The high expectations. I’ve always found there to be an immense pressure to have The-Most-Amazing-Time-Ever when going out on New Year’s Eve. For me that’s a kiss of death, as it gets my hopes up (easily done) only to dash them because the odds are stacked against it. It all just seems a bit forced, and that’s not how great nights out happen. Instead I’ve always been left feeling rather deflated, which let’s face it, is no way to start the new year!
  5. The fact that you can have a great time another night. Whilst for years I thought Adam and I were just stick in the muds about New Year’s Eve, I’ve come to realise that lots of people feel the same way. We’re all in the same boat, and even if I planned a great party at home (thus getting to celebrate in comfort but with the bonus of more people to celebrate with) that would still leave a load of people having to find their way back to their homes late into the cold, wet night. For a few years I actually celebrated the New Year a week or two later, with a bunch of people going out for a lovely meal together for “New New Years”. It was a great idea because everywhere was less crowded, there wasn’t the pressure to have the best night out of the year, and getting home again was just like a normal night. And nobody felt like they’d missed out by not doing it on New Year’s Eve.

So there you have it. My party-pooper’s guide to New Years. I have no regrets…I’m back on the sofa under a snuggly blanket again, after having had a great night’s sleep and an amazing brunch. And just to prove I’m not a complete fuddy duddy, and I do like fireworks, here’s how Sydney brought in the new year with some very Ems-approved fireworks…..

Ems x

 

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Muddling Through: The Manhattan

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Good evening and welcome to my first proper post in ‘Muddling Through’, a beginners guide to cocktails, written by a beginner.

As my introduction said, I’m going to be focussing on classic cocktails (at least for now) and few are more widely known than the Manhattan. This also seemed a rather apt choice as it’s one of Ems’ all time favourite cocktails.

Invented in The Manhattan Club, New York as early as the 1870′s (though it seems no one can say for sure) the drink has changed very little since then. As with the Martini the only real change seems to be a gradual decline in the amount of Vermouth added! That said, with these kinds of drinks there are a great many variations and the Manhattan in particular is popular with bartenders who enjoy injecting a little of their own style into their drinks. For simplicity though I’m going to stick with the most basic. Don’t however let my use of the word ‘basic’ fool you in any way! The Manhattan is a very sophisticated cocktail and when done well is a truly great drink!

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The Manhattan

Ingredients

  • 2 Measures Rye/Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Bitters

Depending on how sweet you like your drinks you can simply increase or decrease the amount of Vermouth added (I’d suggest increments of 1/4 measures).

Method

  1. Combine the Whisky, Vermouth and Bitters in a mixing glass/cocktail mixer half filled with ice.
  2. Stir together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Yep, that’s it! So if you read my introductory post you should see why I told you to treat yourself to the good stuff! With drinks like this you’ve not got much to cover the taste of poor quality alcohol, so best not to risk it!

Rye is the more traditional Whisky for use in the Manhattan, but as I’ve found American Whisky sparsely stocked in UK supermarkets to say the least (there is so much more to life than Jack Daniels and Jim Beam!) you’re unlikely to find a Rye outside of the Internet, or if you’re lucky a very well stocked off-licence! In which case you will be more than fine with a good Bourbon.

As for Vermouth, if you can find yourself a bottle of Vermouth Rosso you can add an extra level of depth to your Manhattan by adding up to half a measure. Again depending on how much Vermouth you want to add in total and how sweet you want it, you’ll either add it or replace some of your sweet Vermouth with it.

Finally feel free to experiment with different Bitters if you can get hold of any. Orange is good, and I’d also recommend Cherry….lots of Manahattan recipes include burnt peel or a cocktail cherry.

For anyone interested, here’s how I’m currently making my Manhattan at home:

  • 1 Measure Pikesville Straight Rye Whisky
  • 1 Measure Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whisky
  • 1 Measure Cinzano Vermouth
  • 1/4 Measure Vermouth Rosso
  • 5 Drops Cherry Bitters

In all honesty I’m making it this way as I’m not in love with the Pikesville (it’s also my first Rye), so once that’s gone I plan to try another Rye and if I like it may end up making my Manhattans with just that. You never know, which is why it’s good to experiment to find what you like as the flavours and sweetness in a drink like this differ from person to person!

However you end up making your Manhattan, I hope you enjoy it and let me know about your experiences!

Until next time!

Adam

Muddling Through: Tools of the Trade

Hello again!

Now, before we begin with the recipes I thought it might be pertinent to make a few suggestions as to the little bits of equipment you might need in order to make yourself some tasty cocktails! I’d hate to see anyone get halfway through a recipe before realising they were missing something!

So, on to the fundamentals…..

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A Cocktail Shaker

Unless you were planning on stirring all of your cocktails together in a glass, you won’t get very far without one of these!

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A Jigger

For measuring your liquids. Remember what I said about recipes and chucking in more of this or less of that? It won’t always work, so you’re going to need one of these. They come in various shapes and sizes but in the UK at least you’ll most likely have a 25/50ml one.

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A Bar Spoon

For stirring… Its long, slender design helps maintain a smooth stirring motion rather than a whisking one you might get from a regular spoon. Also used for layering drinks.

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A Strainer

For pouring your drinks into your nicely chilled glasses! The strainer is a bit more versatile than the built in one in the lid of your shaker and offers a bit more control.

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A Muddler

For mashing ingredients such as sugar, lime and mint.

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A Zester

For zesting fruit and cutting twists.

That’s about it for now! That’s almost certainly everything I’ve used so far, with the exception of a knife, but I’m betting you have one of those already!

Next post we’ll aim to include some liquids shall we!

Adam

Guest Post: Muddling Through

Adam

Hello. My name is Adam and Emily has asked me here today to talk to you about cocktails. Now, are you sitting comfortably? Good, then we can begin…

Welcome to a little corner of Ems’ site I’ve titled ‘Muddling Through’, a far from expert series of sporadic posts by me, focussing on alcohol and the wonderful art of making cocktails. The idea is for me to share with you drinks and cocktails I prepare here at home, as I slowly develop my skills in Mixology. We thought it might make a nice change to write from the perspective of the learner (as that is very much what I am!) in the hope of making the recipes seem a little more accessible, so I’ll do my best to explain everything as I learn it. It may be the case that you know a thing or two yourself, in which case I would welcome any input and for anyone interested, perhaps we can all learn and get pleasantly inebriated together!

A little background on the origins of my hobby can be found on my own blog ‘Unfamiliar Ceiling‘ where I have posted about a couple of drinks already. However as Ems has been asking me to do a little Boozy section for her for so long, and as I neglect my own blog enough as it is, I thought it might be nice to contribute to her little bit of the internet! I have quite a different style to Ems which will be clear if you read my blog, so I hope these posts fit in nicely here!

And that’s about it really! I hope it proves useful to anyone wanting to make their own cocktails and offers a little something different to what I’m sure are a large number of other blogs and sites (and of course books!) out there essentially providing the same recipes. I’m going to try to make it as simple and transferrable as possible so hopefully it’ll always be as easy to follow as I found it to make!

In terms of drinks, for the moment I’m most definitely a classics man (you’ll see a lot of Martinis from me for sure)! I’ve found that there are a number of benefits to focussing on these drinks. Firstly they often have very few ingredients so if you want to make them, you don’t have to go hunting for liqueurs or fruit and whatnot. What you’ll need should be easily accessible from your local supermarket. Also they’re classics for a reason, so why not start with the best?! Finally they’re full of alcohol, by which I mean you’ll really get to taste the spirits you’re using and get familiar with them. The downside of course is that they can also be the least forgiving because they don’t have large quantities of mixers etc. to hide any flaws!

As for the style of my posts, you’ll find that I probably won’t provide actual quantities for a lot of drinks. I will instead list ingredients in terms of ‘measures’ and the reason for this is twofold. Firstly, there are different size jiggers so you might have a 25/50ml jigger, whereas the next person might have a 1/1.5 fl oz jigger. The other is so that you can easily scale the drinks up to make more by simply scaling up the size of your ‘measure’.

Some advice before we begin (sorry for anyone expecting a recipe from this first post! Patience, young grasshopper! Patience!)….

  • You will need lots of ice. Ice is very much your friend in this endeavour. Love the ice.
  • Freezer space for chilling glasses is also important. If you’re not using ice in the glass, chances are you’ll be serving into a chilled one.
  • Treat yourself to the good stuff. I’m not saying go and buy the most expensive booze out there, not at all and I certainly don’t. Check out what’s well rated (e.g. on the International Spirits Challenge 2013 Awards you’ll see one of ASDA’s own gins is a gold award winner!), or buy yourself that bottle of Vodka/Rum/Bourbon/Gin you tried ages ago and really loved but always thought it was a bit too much and what difference does it really make when it’s with coke/tonic/lemonade anyway? Well, you’re not drinking it with coke any more! Think of it this way: That really nice bottle of gin, from which you will get over a dozen good strong drinks, is the same price as buying less than half as many Gordon’s and tonic at the pub.
  • Enjoy it, but do take it seriously. There’s a reason a Long Island Iced Tea from the American bar at The Savoy is better than one from Cucamara. It’s because the guys at The Savoy really know their shit and don’t have a bottle with ‘Long Island Mix’ on their shelf that they just pour into a glass and top up with coke. Yes you pay for the difference, but the difference is worth it. So at the risk of sounding like a bit of a tosser: if you treat the drinks right, you’ll taste the difference. Mostly my point here is that you really are dealing with recipes, and recipes have precise quantities. You don’t tend to make cakes better by chucking in extra flour or eggs, and the same applies here.

That really is it! I’ll hopefully be back with you very soon with a drink for you all to try! In the mean time I think I’d better start swotting up!

Adam

Something from the weekend….a picture-worthy few days

I’m always snapping away on my phone, truth be told, but this weekend seemed to give me more in the way of picture opportunities than usual. It was indeed a lovely weekend, filled with fun but relaxation too. Anyway, I thought I’d share my instagram feed by way of summing it up…..

Friday night started the weekend with cocktails, as it always should…..

…..we played Guess Who…..

……and then Adam beat me at Triv!

Saturday began with a lovely long dog walk……

…..we headed to Barton Springs for a nice change…..

…..and the sun shone for us rather splendidly!

We found a darling little tea room and gallery for lunch…..

….where they serve an epic Hot Chocolate…..

….and yummy tea on quaint mis-matched china…..

…..as well as lush lunches like the stuffed mushroom on toast that I went for!

Once home we set about hanging our new treasure, the huge antique map of London that looks rather marvellous on our lounge wall…..

….and after that it was an afternoon of snoozing as it all got too much for my boys!

Another lovely walk on Sunday morning, this time at the stunning Chick Sands woods….

….I love all the little dens people have built there!

After a yummy breakfast of Staffordshire Oatcakes (the last left in the freezer after my Mum’s visit!) we pootled around the market and car boot sale, where I picked up some little treasures….

…..and where my favourite stallholder gave me this incredible menu from the 60′s!

We finally took the tour of the museum opposite where we live in the afternoon….

….and took part in a Victorian lesson where we had to practise reading parrot-fashion…..

…..did maths in old money on slate….

….and worked on our handwriting with a dip pen!

The rest of the day was more relaxing, eating and watching of Buffy. Bliss!

What did you get up to?

Ems x

Vienna: Drinks

Whilst we were preparing for our trip to Vienna last year, it quickly became apparent that one thing we could greatly look forward to was some exceptionally good coffee. Adam and I are constantly frustrated by our country’s rubbish attempts at cafe culture (you know, the over-crowded chain cafes, noisy with crying babies and fake coffee-making noises, and the over-frothy burnt milk that is supposed to pass as a coffee) and although we’ve found a few exceptional places in London and in Hitchin, we were excited by the prospect of being able to get a great coffee in lots of places.

Our guide book also offered us temptations in the form of cocktail bars, Gluwein (the yummy mulled wine you can buy at the Christmas markets) and of course, lots of cakes and things to go with them. And we certainly weren’t disappointed either! We spent many an hour just relxing in one of Vienna’s lovely cafes, and were so pleased with the bar we first found that we didn’t bother going anywhere else!

So, here’s my round up of Vienna’s cafes and bars….

The first place anyone usually tells you to go in Vienna is Cafe Sacher. The famous hotel is located right behind the Staatsoper (opera house) and is a mecca for those wanting to try the iconic Sacher Torte. The dense chocolate cake was first created by the hotel’s chef Sacher in 1832, and the original recipe remains a hotel secret (as you’d expect for what they claim is the most famous cake in all the world!). And whilst the cafe is delightfully traditional and ever so proper (mind you choose the smoking or non smoking room as you prefer….not something we are used to any more!) and the cake is nice enough, it’s certainly more about the experience of going rather than the cake being any kind of special. There, I said it. Don’t hate me.

Purists may dislike me for it, but I actually much preferred our visit to Cafe Sperl, another Vienese favourite although a little more hidden away behind the Museum Quarter. The speciality here is Sperlschnitte, a sort of crispy-topped, dense chocolate torte-style brownie….and BOY is it special! The coffee here was perfect too, and I could have happily whiled away the entire day in the decadent surroundings (even if the service there is a little more brusque!).

I’m usually the sort of person who stays glued to their guide book and only ventures into places recommended by it….but that just makes it even more of a pleasure when I find somewhere by myself! Orlando di Castello didn’t need a Trip Advisor rating to draw me in….the huge shiny glass windows fronting onto one of the squares we visited for its Christkindlmarkt, revealed a stunning interior, and we all know I’m driven by appearances! This place is beautiful though…fresh white walls and furniture are accented with pretty red flower bud motifs, and the attractive looking menu was the sort I just like to stare at and then point at random to order. Despite that though, the coffees here were nothing short of amazing….we visited twice and tried several of their specialities (usually involving booze or ice cream…or sometimes both!) and we were wowed by every one.

Cafe Pruckel isn’t too far behind Cafe Sacher in terms of reputation. Right next to the Stadt Park within a gorgeously deco building, this is the sort of cafe that people sit in for hours reading the papers and slowly drinking their way through their long coffees. Despite the informality though, this is a buzzing cafe and the offerings are just delicious. We tried the Schoko Weicher and Topfelstrudel, both of which were deliciously rich and totally dreamy. And whilst I stuck with a (admittedly yummy) standard coffee, Adam went to town with one of their super-boozy, super-naughty coffee specials, which happily set him up for the cold outside!

As I mentioned, we didn’t venture bar-wards too much after finding our favourite place…..we loved the tiny and charming Loos American Bar near the cathedral, but it was far too smokey for us and crammed from early on….and we had great cocktails (and burgers!) on our first night at the late opening bar in the Museum Quarter….but the only place we really settled in was Kruger Bar. You’re asked to leave your coat with the lovely lady at the little foyer kiosk, then if you prefer to sit in the smoking or non smoking room (nicely separated by glass so non-smokers aren’t bother at all!). We were presented with a very comprehensive leather bound cocktail menu and brought yummy nibbles as we settled into our gentlemans’ club style leather arm chairs….and what’s more is that our order even satisfied my cocktail-snob of a fiance! We tried a good few of our favourite classics as well as some of the house specialities, and all were great quality and good value to boot. I’d definitely recommend nesting-in here for a few pre-dinner martinis, or for your post-opera night caps.

Prost!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….our first overnight guests!

I’m still feeling pretty pantsy all told (hence the late posting of this), but we just *had* to have lots of fun this weekend because we received our first overnight guests! Dear friends Matthew and Siobhan made the journey up from London to spend the weekend with us, straight from work on Friday. It was so lovely to catch up with them, and host them in our new home.

I had spent much of Friday cooking, so that I didn’t need to do too much whilst our guests were here. But we scoffed some lovely cake that Siobhan had made first of all (apple, pear and almond…yum!) along with a pot of tea, then it was a tour of the house before a supper of cottage pie. We had some of Adam’s wonderful dark chocolate and banana loaf for pudding, and then he made us Mint Juleps and Espresso Martinis whilst we chatted the evening away!

On Saturday morning, I served up a big kedgeree breakfast to set us up for the day, and then we took the short walk to the amazing Eric T Moore bookshop. Matthew especially loved the place, and at more than one point we lost him and thought he may just spend the entire weekend there! I picked up some yummy rosemary bread and brownies for lunch from our favourite local bakery, Quotidian, then we toured our guests around town. I had surprisingly managed to remember quite a lot of the things we’d learned on our recent Hitchin History walk and the Ghost walk, so I shared lots of random bits of information as we browsed a few shops.

After that, we took them into St Mary’s church, which is right in the centre of town and the largest church in the county. It’s pretty opulent and really rather impressive! Then we stopped in on the market on the way home, clean forgetting that we had bought brownies already and picking up some obscenely huge cream cakes for later.

I had made Sweet Potato soup with ginger, chilli, lime and coconut for our lunch, which we yummed up alongside the delicious Quotidian bread. Then it was off out again, and over the road to the British Schools Museum where there was an exhibition for the local art club. We saw some wonderful pieces, all at very reasonable prices too!

From there we took the little walk around to Adam’s parents’ place to pick up the dogs, and then from there we walked over to the old Priory grounds for a little stroll. Newton was rather nervous, as he always is this time of year, due to the gun shots of nearby pheasant shooters, but we managed to pay a visit to the Charlton Pig Table and say hello to our piggy friends!

It was a lazy supper on Saturday, as we headed over to our brilliant local pub, The Half Moon, for some lovely beer and pub grub. The pub dog ‘Moon’ was unusually friendly and spent lots of time sniffing around our table for any bits of food (which we weren’t allowed to give to her) and a little affection. Then back at home we gorged on the cream cakes we’d bought and sat around drinking liqueurs and playing board games.

On Sunday morning we continued the gluttony with a breakfast of Belgian waffles with bananas and maple syrup, then attempted to walk it off a little with a pootle around the market and the car boot sale. It was great to get there at a reasonable hour again as the traders really don’t all hang around! I picked up some very lovely miniature playing cards, a wonderful old book of pianforte music and a stunning children’s tea set from the 1940s!

Once home again, we just about had time to conclude the complete tour of the house by showing our guests the cellar and the garden. It was a beautiful day out, so lovely to see the garden all autumnal and sunny. We picked a big handful of fresh bay leaves for Matthew and Siobhan to take home, then made our way to the station as they needed to get back into town for lunch.

Adam and I spent the rest of the afternoon on another walk with the dogs, before heading to Adam’s parents’ for a supper of fajitas. Then it was home for more X Files and an early night. Rather blissful weekend!

Living for the weekend…… 1st and 2nd September 2012 in London

I’ve been making lots and lots of lists this week, in readiness for our move……and not just packing lists and furniture buying lists either. There are so many things I want to do and see before we leave London…..I’ve lived here for 12 years and still haven’t done everything I want to! But then I’m sure I could stay another 12 and still not get through the ever-increasing list! And we’ll not to be too far away, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack and just make sure I get to as many things as is reasonable! There are a good few things on the list for this weekend of course, and lots of them things that are only on for a few days, so they get priority……

Kings Cross Ice Cream Festival

1st and 2nd September, 11am to 6pm

The Granary Building, Granary Square, Kings Cross

Free entry

This free, family friendly, two-day festival showcases the best ice cream makers in London and the South East and celebrates the history and production of ice cream in the region. Ice cream enthusiasts will learn about the history of ice cream and how it’s made, as well as having the chance to get involved with milking cows, making art, and making ice cream using the latest in nitrogen technologies.

Bowiefest

31st August to 2nd September

ICA, The Mall

Tickets from £10

You may well be as shocked as I am about this, but believe it or not, David Bowie is 65 this year and his seminal album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is celebrating its 40th anniversary! And what a great way to celebrate the man of awesome….with the UK’s first film festival dedicated to David Bowie. The festival includes screenings, talks, Q&As, and is going to make for a truly unique event.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Medals

Until 9th September

The British Museum, Room 37

Free entry

As part of my quest to see every room at the British Museum this year, I popped into Room 37 this Monday and was very impressed with the mini-exhibition there. The display tells the story of the production and design of the medals for the London 2012, including details on the mining of the metal by Rio Tinto, the process of the designs by David Watkins and Lin Cheung, and the fascinating production by the Royal Mint. As usual, the British Museum goes the extra mile by giving historical context for the medals in the shape of 19th and 20th century objects highlighting the longstanding links between Britain and the Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Regent Street Festival

Sunday 2nd September, 1pm to 8pm

Regent Street

Free

Head to Regent Street this Sunday for the thirteenth annual Regent Street Festival. Expect eentertainment on the street itself, as well as in-store activities and discounts. The restaurants in the food quarters, Heddon Street and Swallow Street, are also serving special menus and cocktails to boot, and you can keep up to date with everything going on using the Living Regent Street app on your iPhone.

Liberty Festival

1st to 3rd September

Various locations

Free entry

As part of the Mayor of London events for 2012, Liberty Festival offers Londoners the chance to watch the world’s top deaf and disabled performers and artists from the UK and beyond. At venues ranging from the Southbank Centre, BT London Live in the park, the BFI and Potters Fields at More London, you can see comedy, theatre, film and music events, as well as watch the coverage of the Paralympic Games.

The 39 Steps

Criterion Theatre, Picadilly

Special offer tickets from £20

I wouldn’t usually single out one show as a must-see in one of my weekend ideas posts, but I saw this for the second time last night and I just think it’s an unbeatably good night out. Start with a pre-theatre dinner at the stunning Criterion Restaurant (just £19 for two courses on the their set menu, which is packed with seasonal and ethically sourced produce as well as home made bread and butter!), then head just next door to the theatre to see this brilliant show….. Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps, has been cleverly and hilariously adapted for the stage, and has won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy to prove it. With a brilliant cast of just four, the story is acted out using wittily chosen props which imagine up the dozens of settings. It’s fast paced, intelligent, and super funny…..and with special offers on tickets with Time Out, there’s no excuse to miss out!

I hope that’s inspired you! Have a fab weekend!

Ems x

Living for the weekend….. ideas in London for 4th to 5th August 2012

Had enough of sport yet? Got a numb behind from sitting in front of the TV all week? Need a little fresh air?….. Well you can embrace the party spirit going on in London (and all over the UK for that matter) without fear of your eyes turning into squares or losing your voice from cheering…. I’ve said it before I know, but there is SO MUCH going on this summer, sporty and not-so-sporty….get out there!

Now this is my kind of sport…. the Sacrilege project is a co-commission by the Mayor of London and Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts, designed by Turner Prize-winning artists Jeremy Deller. Most notably though, it’s a bally inflatable Stone Henge!!! This king of bouncy castles is making its way around the country, but this weekend you can find it in London!  Check their website for locations, which feature open spaces all over the UK until 9th September.

Now if you’re going to get that kind of exercise, I say you have the right to stuff your face with yums to make up for it. And not far from Saturday’s Sacrilege location at Burgess Park, you’ll find FEAST at London Bridge. Said to be London’s ‘most exciting and daring food experience’, this festival of food features some of the captial’s most coveted food retailers. It’s £6 to get in when booked in advance, or £8 on the door.

Also nearby, within the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre, you’ll find Marcos Saboya and Gaulter Pupo’s ‘aMAZEme’….. A giant maze made from over 200,000 books, the installation is inspired by the writer and educator JL Borges, and will be there until 26th August.

And on the subject of books….. East London based The Book Club is hosting its Base Camp event until 12th August. Expect a very British affair with some sporty bits thrown in…. ping pong, table football, a paddling pool and an ice cream van sound like perfect summer diversions to me! There is plenty of good food and lots of yummy drinks too, screens to watch the Games, plus prizes for the winners of silly sports and activities. Fun!

Just down the road at the Old Truman Brewery, you’ll find the London Designer Sale this weekend. This sample sale will house excess stock and samples from top designers and brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Francesco Biasia, all at up to 80% off the RRP!

And if that’s not enough of a designer fix for you, why not head to Harvey Nichols? It’s not just the fabulous array of posh threads that has my attention though, as the department store is currently hosting Penhaligon’s Peoneve Multi-Sensory Terrace. Celebrating the launch of Penhaligon’s new summery Peony-inspired fragrance, the Fifth Floor Terrace has been transformed into a ‘stunningly eclectic and multi-sensory garden with an inventive cocktail menu and dessert menu inspired by the notes within the fragrance.’ I’m super excited about this, as a Penhaligon’s super-fan and lover of peonies (they are always around over my birthday so have been a firm favourite for years), and the thought of menu and cocktail matching to this scent is just amazing. I have my eye on Penhaligon’s Peony Punch which is served in an enormous version of the iconic Penhaligon’s scent bottle, as well as the White Chocolate & Peony Mousse. There are also specially created boozy ice pops in very British and floral flavours. You can see the menu here and make bookings here.

Now we just need the sun to keep shining!

Ems x

When we met the Domestic Sluttery, er, Sluts….

Just a quick post to say thank you to the lovely ladies of Domestic Sluttery who hosted a splendid cocktail evening yesterday. I took the boyf, and fellow Domestic Sluttery fan Siobhan along to the lush Malmaison in Clerkenwell. There we met pretty Sian (who I’d actually met a few weeks ago when she spoke at the LoBlography event) and pretty Frances, amongst other Sluttery readers, and drank lots of cocktails in the plush Champagne bar.

We started (and finished) with yummy Sex on the Beach cocktails, for which we decided on a collective noun of ‘An Orgy’. After that I tried out the Apple Martini and the Peach Bellini, both of which were super, and served by our very own fabulous barman to boot. Seeking something more manly, Adam did venture to the main bar downstairs, where he chatted about very special rums and sampled a rather lush Old Fashioned made from rum.

It was a lovely way to spend the evening….trying out a new bar, meeting new folk, and just chatting about nothing in particular. I’m afraid I was far too busy chatting though to take any photos to share here, but Adam did get all snap happy with Sian’s camera for a while so no doubt there will be some to see on their site soon. But because I don’t like to post without a pretty picture, here’s one of the dress I wore (actually the first vintage dress I ever bought….I’ve had it nearly 15 years!) and how I painted my nails to match….!

Ems x