Me and Him over on Rock n Roll Bride

Screen shot 2014-08-18 at 15.34.47

When our super awesome wedding photographer Sharon Cooper told us she’d secretly submitted our wedding pics to Rock n Roll Bride I was pretty exited to hear that the wonderful Kat wanted to feature us. And now you can see her post all about our big day(s), I’m feeling incredibly honoured and excited!

I’ll still be writing more about our wedding….I wanted to keep a sort of diary of each day and will be sure to post it here soon. In the mean time though, if you’d like to see some more photos of our ceremony and reception you can see a whole bunch here!

Ems x

Miracles and Charms at The Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Trust describes itself as “the free destination for the incurably curious” and so it’s no wonder I loved my first visit last weekend. I only wonder why I’ve never made it there before, but then I do take comfort that there are still plenty of treasures in London as yet undiscovered by me.

We walk past the imposing building on Euston Road often, on our way to and from Euston station from the tube. But it was the posters on the underground that really got me there, advertising an exhibition of Miracles and Charms… What could be more intriguing than that and their invitation to ‘explore faith, hope and chance’?

It’s free to get in to what are actually two exhibitions in their own right: ‘Infinitas Gracias: Mexican Miracle Paintings’ and ‘Felicity Powell: A Charmed Life’. Not an instantly obvious pairing, but joined under the umbrella of the Wellcome Trust they actually work together beautifully. Long enough to get me happily engrossed, but not so long as to take up our entire Sunday, these thoughtful and beautifully curated exhibitions are certainly a must for us curious types.

First, we stepped through the exhibitions’ glass double doors to find a white washed room in which two walls had been completely covered in small panels of vivid artwork, rather like individually decorated tiles. A panel on the wall told us (as did the free, and highly informative guide leaflet) that the pictures were actually copies of hundreds of ‘ex-voto’ offerings, ranging from the 16th century to the present day. The story telling pictures depict scenes of families, couples, parents etc. asking their Saint for help in a time of crisis. A tribute to the divinity who had granted their requested ‘miracle’, the offerings are signs of gratitude commissioned by all manner of people.

20120204-195138.jpg     20120204-195131.jpg

At the foot of each are written the details of the dedication, but as they’re all in Spanish, and there were too many in that first room to have the translations next to each, it was up to us to guess the stories…. Some seemed relatively simple with parents praying next to their child’s sick bed, and various images of surgeons operating on people etc. Some of them though were a little harder to decipher, and were rather inappropriately amusing to us…..a man who had fallen out of a tree…..a car in the middle of a river…..we began to wonder if these Saints were being honoured for some rather every-day, mundane things, as well as the more ‘miraculous’.

20120204-195116.jpg     20120204-195123.jpg

In the next room, the walls were rather less crowded, with original ‘Votives’ from the 1800’s painted onto canvas, hung on the walls and protected in glass cabinets. These paintings represent the more elaborate, professionally painted ex-votos commissioned by the wealthy (later, those who couldn’t afford canvas would have them painted onto tin roof tiles which gave a beautifully lustrous sheen). Again, we saw a mixture of thank you’s for very dramatic events, as well as the every-day. The inscriptions below each often detailed how the commissioner ‘invoked the miraculous saint’ or ‘invoked with intimate truth at the core of my heart,’ whilst above this the pictures sometimes appeared in layers or strips to portray the passing of time, or two scenes in one painting. The rather naive images and the odd scale seemed to make light of disasters, whilst sometimes having the effect of dramatising the far less serious (‘freed from catastrophe’ might just mean someone survived a nosebleed!). In some ways, I began to think that these may well be excuses to celebrate the power of these Saints (‘for this was an evident miracle’), although a big part of me thought how wonderful it is to be so grateful just to live each day, and with ‘humble proof of recognition’.

The next room opened with its first long wall collaged with modern documents and artefacts, lent by the people of Mineral de Cata. Here, near to the entrance of one of Mexico’s earliest silver mines, is the church dedicated to Senor de Villaseca who is attributed with miraculous powers. Once the practice of dedicating ex-votos to such divinities diminished in the 20th Century, people instead began to offer other thank you’s to show their gratitude for answered prayers. The wall contains a bizarre assortment of tributes, such as a polystyrene food tray on which a biro-inked drawing thanks a Saint…. several wedding dresses, bouquets and veils express thanks for women who have found love…. and baby clothes thank the Saint for delivering a healthy child to the parents and ask that he or she grows strong and lives well. Again, I was rather bemused by this need to thank someone, or something, for what would largely in our culture pass as every day things, or at least simply the achievement of one’s own hard work.

One inscription that caught my eye, underneath a detailed architectural diagram, thanked a Saint for something surely attributable to the person himself rather than any other power: ‘I thank you with all my heart for this accomplishment: a warehouse with multiple uses.’ I found myself feeling rather sorry for the skilled surgeons and doctors in some of the paintings, who themselves were not attributed with saving lives, but instead the gratitude went to the associated Saint for granting a miracle. I wondered how one could feel satisfied in one’s own work and others’ skills when their successes were credited to some divinity instead.

The exhibition began to move away from these very visual appreciations though, as it presented details of a remote place called Real de Catorce, also in Mexico. Accessible only by a narrow tunnel of 3km, the site was a major source of Mexico’s mineral wealth in the 18th Century, and inhabited thousands of foreign investors, until 1910 when the mine owners fled in the Revolution. A curious sounding place, I soon became interested in this sort of lost city, especially as I learned that right to this day over 40,000 faithfuls gather there every October for the fiesta of St Francis of Assisi. Bright images in photos and video of the procession of the fiesta caught my attention, with crowds swelling through the streets and carrying a just over life size likeness of St Francis, high above their heads. It is the practice there for the faithful to leave small amulets in honour of this Saint, and these were shown sewn onto a robe as tiny metal eyes, ears, houses, hearts, animals, coins and limbs….each asking a particular prayer for health or prosperity. I loved these charms, especially in their clever arrangement on this robe and two walls hangings, and they provided a wonderful link to the next exhibition…….

Felicity Powell’s ‘Charmed Life’ is an exhibition made up of both her own work and some of the 1400 amulets collected by the Edwardian collector Edward Lovett. These charms, once owned by Londoners who believed they would ward off ill-health and bad luck, intrigued Powell who was ‘intrigued by the silent witness they bore to countless personal narratives’. Similarly enchanted by such treasures and the ‘comfort of things’, I delighted in viewing the tiny and beautifully detailed talismans and became engrossed in their possible meanings and their histories. A large horse-shoe shaped glass cabinet encased hundreds of keys, shells, glass shoes, tiny dice, dominoes and plenty of unrecognisable artefacts….all carefully arranged into meaningful groups.

20120204-194203.jpg     20120204-194211.jpg

Powell’s own work plays with scale and detail just like these objects, and one could certainly imagine using one of her beautifully intricate works as a charm of some sort. A video showed us, in reverse, the incredible process of how Powell makes her wax pictures on the back of mirrors. The effect of the video was almost magical and by the time we came to see the pieces themselves I adored their charm and complexity. Born seemingly of pure imagination, hands spawn coral and a head turns into a tree as roots sprout out from its neck. The vivid white and red on black (I’ve always loved this colour combination) serves to burst forth the subject from its backdrop, whilst it still seems as one inside its circular setting.

20120204-194136.jpg     20120204-194154.jpg

Her works were a perfect end to the two thought-provoking exhibitions, from which I gained some wonderful inspiration. In fact, I can’t wait to play with such scale and detail in some crafty arty projects I have got lined up….. so watch this space.

Cameras are not permitted in the exhibition, so I’ve taken these snaps from the little guide leaflet I took home, to at least give you an idea….. really though, I’d very much recommend a visit to anyone ‘Incurably Curious.’ Both exhibitions run until 26th February.

Secret Supper Club at the Back Door Kitchen

Where to expect the next super-cool, super-trendy, super-edgy pop-up restaurant venue? Church halls, warehouses, roof tops…. but one’s front room? Indeed, the clever boys of Back Door Kitchen opened the doors to their Secret Supper Clubs last autumn, in a *secret* location….their house.

When dear friend Jen asked if Adam and I would like to come along to her birthday dinner, she (needlessly) lured us with talk of secret feasting and epic menus…and of course we couldn’t resist. For just £22 each, we signed up for a tasting menu of ten courses, specially designed for Jen’s celebration. Jen had been cooked for before by the boys, and despite loving their Spanish Tapas, she commissioned them to work up a special menu for her based on their own nation’s delights….Italy. So, rather excited (and plenty hungry!) we grabbed a bottle of Italian red (it’s BYOB) and off we trotted, just over the river, to find this foodie extravaganza.

True to their promise, the location was indeed a bit of a find, but our winding walk around SE London built up our appetite at least. As we approached the glowing kitchen/diner from the cold, we were met by such yummy smells, as well as the lovely boys who welcomed us into their home and to the long table which cosily filled the room. Gifts and cards exchanged, and wine poured, we started right away with the first of many wonderful creations…..

Pecorino romano cheese nests with mora romagnola ham and balsamic vinegar glaze

Burrata laid on a bed of caponata salad

Mini aubergine parmigiana

Potato and mozzarella frittata

Char-grilled scallops with saffron and herbs flavoured Umbrian lentils

Baby octopus guazzetto

(rock octopus slowly cooked with cherry tomato olives and their own juices)

Pollo alla cacciatora

(chicken breast fillet cooked in wine and vinegar with green olive and rosemary)

Polenta con le spuntature

(oven baked Italian herbs and parmesan polenta topped with pork spareribs slowly cooked in red wine and tomato sauce)

Chargrilled squid stuffed with mushrooms and smoked salmon

Tiramisu n.47

(mixed fruit tiramisu)

The real show piece though was the incredible pudding…a huge fruit tiramisu. Crafted into an enormous dish and topped with candles, Jen’s ‘birthday cake’ was immense and mouth-watering. Having made her wish, we were served up generous portions of the amazingly creamy dessert, and even though we should really have been long past full, there wasn’t a morsel left over.

Seriously contented and a little sleepy, we reminisced over our incredible feast on the lovely walk home through Shad Thames. And yes, we will be back!

All photos from BackDoor47, with the exception of the last!


Edible Experiences

Tosca at the ENO

I’m sitting under the vastly impressive dome of the London Coliseum, and thinking how well the Italian Renaissance architecture echoes the very Roman setting of Tosca. My favourite opera is back at the ENO and I couldn’t resist seeing this wonderful production again.

From the first dramatic blast of the orchestra, I lean forward in my seat and the goose pimples form all over my arms. Perhaps it’s that music, combined with the historical setting which makes me want to see this performed again and again, and why I can listen to it so many times and never tire of it.

There has been chatter for as long as I can remember about Opera having had its day…that it’s elitist and exclusive, and suffers as an art form for it. And despite attempts to win over more vast audiences with bargain tickets and film directors taking on rather forgotten productions, I think it will be productions such as this one that will do best in keeping opera alive.

Acclaimed soprano Catherine Malfitano has staged an utterly thrilling and awe inspiring Tosca, with no theatrical tricks and no gimmicks, and she has done so to perfection. This production is all about Tosca….the stirring music, the intense story, and one of the greatest female characters of all time. Claire Rutter fills this part effortlessly and to hear her is divine.

Anthony Michaels-Moore provides a chilling Scarpia and as his voice meets those of the choir in the Te Deum at the end of the first act, I’m reminded of why I come to the opera and always will. Amongst the set of fragmented, layered, ever decreasing circles, simple chiaroscuro in the lighting design echoes and heightens the drama. Shadows are projected upwards and away across the stage, framing the diva and surrounding her with conspiracy and foul play…..in a pool of blue she sings of her piety and begs…..and as she opens the door to her lover’s torture, the burning light from beyond would have us believe she has opened the gate to some hell.

Like a season of 24, the action is played out for us minute for minute, and this I think is why it engages us so emotionally and thrillingly. How could anything be more dramatic than taking us on a journey with such a story, having us witness each string-quivering moment of contemplation, consideration, anger, spite, love, tragedy?

This opera sings to me more than any other, and if it’s not just because of  Puccini’s incredible score, it is perhaps because it offers me so many of the things I yearn for in art and theatre….Lust, betrayal, history, politics, religion, fate and love are all at work here. And what could make a more powerful recipe than that?

Tosca runs at the ENO until the end of the month.

The Stew House by The Dead Dolls Club

As far as pop-up restaurants go, I’m not terribly experienced. But in view of this year’s resolution to not miss out on things, and having only just made it to the very last night of the Minotaur pop-up, we booked early for The Dead Doll’s Club‘s new venture.

The Stew House is rather charming in its modesty, purveying the no-fuss staple alongside contemporary art. But despite the no-frills menu, the ‘secret’ location (shared only by invitation shortly before our booking date) and the request to dress up, was enough to capture my attention.

20120123-170231.jpg

We arrived to an unknown (to us) corner of Hackney, intrepidly seeking out the transformed venue, and finding our target behind heavy double doors and a red and gold glowing window. Inside we were met by a wonderfully long table set with candelabras, vases of pheasant quills and old liqueur bottles for water…..Above us, broad streamers made up a false ceiling, cleverly lit from behind in hot tones creating a cosy glow…..And on the walls false windows and fireplaces in thick black ink on white, interspersed with real framed drawings of antlered skeletons and strange portraits of men wearing feathers. The effect is of an opulent, ancient feast, somehow sprung up in a contemporary picture book, and as guests arrived dressed fopishly in top hats and blousey shirts I felt rather transported into a strange time that never existed.

20120123-170312.jpg

Our cocktails (a yummy LDC of Gin, Elderflower and Lychee) arrived in cute hexagonal jam jars as we chatted to our neighbours on our large, sociable table. And having been asked if we were hungry to start (yes we are!), we were brought pretty starters on slates. We did our usual half and half switch, as Adam started off with the veggie tart and I took the meat option before swapping half way through. The goats cheese and red onion tart was tasty enough and based on an excellent puff pastry. But the ham hock terrine with piccalilli was sublime and melt in the mouth tasty.

20120123-170341.jpg

And for the main event, we chose what seemed to be the super popular choices of Welsh Cawl and Venison with Port and Chocolate. The latter was made up of deliciously tender and tasty meat, but the sauce was rather too rich for both of us and we needed several of the hunks of seeded bread to get through. The Welsh Cawl however boasted both perfectly cooked meat and perfectly balanced sauce….everything was beautifully cooked and seasoned and brimming with fresh, hearty flavours.

I was somewhat upset that the bread and butter pudding the sample menu hinted at wasn’t on the evening’s menu, but the apple crumble with fresh custard that came as our pudding was by no means a disappointment (especially accompanied by a gorgeous Dark and Stormy cocktail).

But it’s really the surroundings and the fabulous atmosphere that will take us back to The Stew House, and probably next time with friends….I think it’s less of a couples night out and more of a group thing. And if they happen to pop up elsewhere in the summer, it’ll certainly make my list of birthday events!

The Stew House has been extended into February now….catch it whilst you can!

“Like the words are crawling back inside the ink…” Duke Special at Wilton’s Music Hall

I LOVE Wilton’s Music Hall. It’s insanely convenient at a mere two minutes walk from the flat, and I’m proud to have such a treasure on our doorstep. The oldest surviving music hall in the world is bound to be a special place, but Wilton’s is magical and awesome in the truest sense. The crumbly walls, peeling paint and ancient spiral pillars all add to an incredible charm, and when I took Adam there for the first time a few months ago he was just as enchanted as me.

And enchanted is just the word to describe how I feel about Duke Special too. His romantic ditties are the most wonderful cheer-me-up and I’ve been listening again and again since I saw him at the Roundhouse for the BBC Electric Proms years ago.

And I got to see both of these very special treasures at once.

When we went to Wilton’s those months ago for the Vintage Open House and Cake Competition, I was devastated to see that we’d missed a Duke Special gig just a week before. So, vowing never to miss anything there again, I signed up to their mailing list. And sure enough, I didn’t have to wait long until a newsletter popped into my inbox with the happy news that he was ‘back by popular demand’. Tickets were snapped up within hours, but we got ours just minutes after the email came in and we began to get excited.

It being the first time we’d been to Wilton’s as a music venue, it really was all we could hope for, absolutely perfect for his music-hall, vaudeville style performances. And as the support act came onto stage, we were positively beaming with joy over this gorgeous place.

Boo Hewerdine had been instrumental in the writing of the new album and so it seemed a natural choice for him to precede Duke. With a charmingly northern accent, Boo introduced his well known and lesser known songs, all of which he sang in beautifully smooth voice alongside his accomplished guitar.

Having announced that he’d be back later, Boo introduced Duke Special (and the wonderful Arco String Quartet) onto stage and we began a sort of musical journey…. In fact Peter would soon describe how he likes to ‘venture into new worlds,’ and this time we were going with him.

His new album, Under the Dark Cloth, was first performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It’s really a concert of songs, drawing inspiration from the very early photographs of Stieglitz, Steichen & Strand. This is his tribute to those pioneers who helped create an art form, and Duke uses breaks in between each song to tell their stories and interpret his feelings about them.

Using ancient looking slides and cleverly designed video art, Duke narrates his way through early photography in both song and speech. The images he used to create each song obviously spoke so much to him and in turn they captivated me, as his passion for them comes across so eloquently.

As we’d been by Boo, we’re again drawn in and involved in the performance and it’s impossible not to fall for the dread locked and eye-linered charmer, as he sits at his piano telling stories. He couldn’t be more wrong when he describes himself as ‘out of his depth’ as he effortlessly draws us back into more romantic, more dramatic times and worlds, and even though I know I’ll enjoy the album on CD at home, that’ll mainly be because it reminds me of this captivating performance.

The Under the Dark Cloth tour continues and I can heartily recommend a visit….

More left overs…. this time, PUDDING

Our left overs feast surely could not be complete without a pudding of left overs…. And so it was that a massive pan of muesli, porridge oats, dried fruit, oranges and other larder left overs came together to make an insanely good batch of flapjacks!

450g butter
450g brown sugar
1 tbspn Maple Syrup
1 tbspn Clear, Eucalyptus Honey
1 tbspn Thick, Blossom Honey
1 tbspn Golden Syrup
250g muesli
200g porridge oats
2 generous handfuls of dried fruit
2 generous handfuls of nuts, chopped
1 dessert spoon of mixed spice
1 orange, sliced

First, we melted all the butter in a large pan……there really was a lot….

Next, we stirred in the sugar, syrups and honeys to make a big treacly goo, before mixing in the muesli, porridge oats, spice, fruit and nuts…..

Then, having greased and lined and greased again a large oven tray…..we smooshed the mixture in, pressing it down into one giant gooey flapjack. On top, we placed some thin slices of orange (mainly because that needed using up too), and then baked it on the middle shelf of the oven at 150 degrees for about 40 minutes.

We took out the tray once the top was lovely and golden, then waited for it to cool before chopping it into bite size squares.

Lush!

A sugar sweet Christmas

I’ve recently been introduced to the wonderful world of Pinterest, and amongst all its fabulous offerings, it’s the Christmas ideas I’m currently most obsessed with. I’ve created a board of beautiful ideas along a Sugar Sweet Christmas theme…… here are a few of my favourites…..

This is where it all began…..a tree of sweeties in sugar icing tones…..

Source: trendytree.com via pretty on Pinterest

I was desperate to do this but really haven’t had time this year…..I surely will next Christmas though!……
This is how I intend to spend much of Christmas Eve!…..
I love Paperchase all year round, but at Christmas it’s off the chart!…..
I love this idea for glamming up ordinary fairy lights with ribbon offcuts……
 How beautiful are these! Definitely a project I want to try…..
 So simple and clever!…..
 I may need to hone my skills in meringue making before attempting these…..
I’m sure I can manage these though…..
 Probably my favourite tree decoration this year…..very clever mini versions of the Jeff Koons classic…..
And what would Christmas be without a gorgeous, festive dress…..
 The tree of my dreams….for this year at least!
Source: tumblr.com via pretty on Pinterest
Merry Christmas and happy Pinning!

Yummiest worky Christmas Gift! Festive Primrose Bakery cupcakes

We love gorgeous things to eat in the office. Just as much as we love things that are gorgeous to look at. So when our lovely florist Caroline came in with a Christmas gift from Primrose Bakery, we erupted into squeals of delight.

Each scrumptious cupcake was decorated with kitch and cute toppings on a Festive theme…here are a few of our favourites…..


Thank you Caroline!

Cleverest worky Christmas gift! Christmas Survival Kit

I LOVE Plunge Productions. Tim has worked on some incredible projects and his creativity never ceases to amaze me.

So it was no big surprise when I unwrapped the little mystery parcel from its brown paper packaging and found that inside was the most clever and fun gift I’d received in the office…..and that it was from Plunge.

The cute pink box takes the form of a ‘Christmas Survival Kit’ and is jam packed with useful and fun stuff……

Jammed into the tiny box is…..a book of Christmas Carols, chocolate bottle liquer, a golden wrapped pressie, wrapping paper, a make-your-own snowflake, a gift bow, a paper crown, an After Eight mint chocolate, Alka Seltzer, mistletoe, holly, a candle, Rennie, tiny scissors, a mini stocking (stuffed with tinsel, a hazelnut, a pen, wrapping string and a candy cane), a chocolate coin, a little Lego Christmas tree, gift tag, bauble and Father Christmas himself!…..Thank you Plunge!