Blog Every Day in May: Fantasy Dinner Party

“Dinner party time – Who would you invite? What music is playing? What are you eating? Is there entertainment? Let your imagination go wild!”

This is (unsurprisingly as an Event Producer and dinner party hostess addict) something I think about all the time. I fuss over what the table centres would be, who sits next to who, and what to serve. I think though, as it’s all meant to be fantasy, I can allow myself some fantastical indulgences….

The dinner would take place I think in my dream home, because there could be no place dreamier. If it’s summer we’d eat out in my Xanadu-like gardens, or in Winter we’d eat inside in my grand dining hall. I’d prepare the meal myself in my dream kitchen, but as it’s a fantasy I’d have staff hired in specially to help serve (all the better for my Hostessing bit). Dinner would be made from all the very best Organic, seasonal ingredients, and would probably be along the lines of a huge sharing roast dinner (all the better for everyone to get to know each other and break the ice by passing the dishes around). The table centres would be made myself that morning using some of the fantastical flowers from my fantastical garden, with lots of taper candles of course. I find live music a little imposing for small gatherings, so I’d create a playlist based on my mood and the season to play just as guests arrive…thereafter giving over to the sound of chatter.

For a proper dinner party, where everyone gets to enjoy the company of each other, I don’t think numbers should be more than twelve in total. So, that leaves me the tricky task of who to invite (using hand-illustrated cards written out individually)….especially as this is a fantasy, which as far as I’m concerned gives me free reign to choose anyone from any point in time or from fiction.

Anyway, bearing in mind that I’d like my guests to have interesting discussions with each other as well as with me, I’ve come up with this table plan…..

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I’d definitely want my amazing fiance Adam to be there to share the experience with me, then clockwise from him….Grayson Perry, who I find massively inspiring, although would probably be too shy to talk to….Katy Perry, who I think would have fun chatting to Grayson, and bring lots of fun chat….Elvis I’m positive would love Katy, and he’d be close enough in this position for me to stare at lovingly, whilst not so close he could see my blushes….Fox Mulder would be just as excited as me to be at a dinner party with Elvis, and he *is* my second favourite Special Agent….first favourite though is Special Agent Dale Cooper who I would just love to spend the evening chatting with, especially with Mulder right next to him so they could share their stories with me….

My favourite British Agent would have to go to my left, and because it’s what happens in all the books, as a woman, he’d have to flirt with me all night….I think Joseph Gordon Levitt would have good chat with Bond, but he’s really there because I want to match-make him with the guest to his left….Zooey Deschanel is about my favouritest girl celebrity at the moment and I would love for her to get together with JGL to make babies and save the world….another inspiring woman is next, star of one of my favourite films and just all round awesome Tilda Swinton….and for intelligent banter, whit and trivia, the last seat goes to the wonderful Stephen Fry.

Writing all this down has made me think what a wonderful reality TV show this would make…..win your Fantasy Dinner Party by competing against other people in a sort of Come Dine With Me style, then the TV show arranges for all your dream guests to come along to your house for sups. I’d go on THAT TV show for sure!

Ems x

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Blog Every Day in May: Travel Dreams

“If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would it be?”

Right now? Somewhere it’s not raining and where I don’t need thermal socks on!

But really, I do have lots of travel dreams. And in honesty, most of them are probably just that, dreams. I’m afraid I’m not very proactive when it comes to travelling….I’ve never prioritised it, found much time for it, nor saved the funds for it. My fiance, Adam, has by contrast travalled lots, and I look on his amazing travel photos in awe! I think it’s fair to say that if he’d not met me, he would probably still be going off on fun long trips, so I probably should plan on some travelling with him in the future, lest he resents me for spoiling his adventures!

I have a bit of a list of places I’d like to go to, and it’s constantly growing! Here are my top picks though….

Canada

Adam is always saying we should move to Vancouver, and I suppose as it usually makes the top three places to live in the world, it must have quite a lot going for it! I do love the look of the landscapes there, the idea of good clean living, skiing and all the niceness!

State of Washington

Now don’t judge me….it’s probably fairly acceptable to love Twin Peaks as obsessively as I do, but I can’t say I’m proud of how much I love the Twilight films! Still, that part of America has a real charm for me, and I’d love to go to the towns where these were filmed…and it would be an easy trip from Vancouver!

Tibet

Just because of Twin Peaks (again).

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New Zealand

It may be because the climate appeals to me more than Australia, or the incredible landscapes I see in the films (Adam is forever pointing out, saying ‘I’ve been there, it’s in New Zealand’ when we watch things). It seems like an amazing way of life here too, and Adam speaks very fondly of the people there and how kind they were to him.

Peru

Ever since I first saw photos of Machu Pichu, I’ve wanted to go there. I would LOVE to walk the Inca Trail, and in fact as Adam does too we are quite likely to do so together!

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Jordan

Some of my favourite photos from Adam’s travels were taken in Jordan, at Petra. I just adore the ancient architecture, and would be so excited to discover it one very early morning, imagining myself as one of those intrepid explorers who really did discover it after centuries!

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Japan

This is my favourite country I’ve never been to! I know I’d love all the kitschness, the food, the cherry blossom season, the architecture (in all its varying forms!), the history and the efficiency! Adam has been but would happily return…and I’m fairly sure we’ll have to go before too long!

As well as these destinations, I would just LOVE LOVE LOVE to go on a few road trips / super-deluxe tours! I’m crazy about the idea of a road trip for months and months to really explore all of North America (there is so much I want to see there….New York, San Francisco, the deep south, Niagra, Grand Canyon….), and it’d have to be in a huge classic American Car or with an Airstream! I also adore the idea of an incredibly luxurious trip all over Italy…I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been to in that country (Rome, Florence, Sienna and Pisa) and would jump at the chance to explore more cities there, as well as the coast and the countryside. I think another great travel project would be to see all the original Wonders of The World…I know they don’t all still exist (or possibly some of them never did!) but to find the closest thing to each would be amazing. I’d also love to visit all the ‘new’ seven wonders, although I’m not sure I completely agree with all of the list!

If I won the lottery today though (the big bucks, obviously, not a tenner) I think I’d have to go wild and plan a round the world trip to see all of the James Bond film and book locations….I’m a bit of a James Bond nut and some of the places I’ve read about in the books and seen in the films just seem like the most exciting places on Earth! And with the big bucks lottery prize, I’d travel with Valextra luggage, sail about on yachts with hot crew, get jetted about in helicopters, stay in all the finest hotels, take photos on a vintage analogue Leica, and drink Champagne on my private balcony for breakfast. Just like James Bond.

Well, the title WAS Travel *Dreams*!

Ems x

PS. Thanks to Adam for the photos!

Vienna: Must see and do

Well by now you’ll know that in Vienna you simply *must* drink lots of the excellent coffee, and eat copious amounts of cake and sausages. But what to do in between meal times?

We had such an amazing holiday in Vienna, and although a LOT of it was spent at the amazing Christmas Markets (half the reason for us going in honesty!) I think we did pretty well at soaking up what this gorgeous city has to offer….and here is what I’d recommend you do too….

You can’t really get away from Mozart in Vienna, although it’s not quite as Mozart-crazy as Salzburg! The beautiful statue of the composer in the Burrgarten is well worth a look, although you may have to fight through hoards of school trippers to get your photo!

I love the way you can see Vienna’s Gothic masterpiece, the Stephansdom cathedral from so far away, yet it sort of creeps up on you as you discover it up close. One side of the roof is decorated with a rather on-trend chevron tile design, whilst the other bears the Austrian eagle. Inside though is the real surprise, as we found it lit up in a rather crazy tie-dye effect!

The guide books said that if you only go to see one palace in Vienna, make it the Schloss Shonbrunn. And it is certainly worth the short U-bahn trip out of the city. The audio guided tour will take you through the palace’s tumultuous history and gives you an insight into the lives of its many occupants, including the famous Habsburgs.

The palace also boasts incredible grounds, including various themed gardens, fountains, a labyrinth and maze, and a stunning gloriette….the climb up to which is well worth the effort when you turn around to see the whole of Vienna before you.

And as if that’s not enough, your combined ticket will also let you into the palace’s own zoo, the fascinating Wustenhaus (desert house) and the breathtaking Palmenhaus (Palm house) which is actually a replica of the one in our very own Kew Gardens!

Vienna is home to the world’s first Lomography shop, and so a pilgrimage to its vast photo wall was a must for this analogue-lover. It also has a great little gift shop and the rest of the Museum Quarter in which it resides is worth a visit too.

We found out about the Globe museum by chance, and hadn’t planned it into our schedule at all, but as soon as we knew it existed we couldn’t miss it! The museum far exceeded our expectations, and not only houses some of the most visually impressive and historically important¬† globes in the world (including an entire room featuring globes from private collections) but also teaches you the history of globe manufacture using clever interactive exhibits….I had no idea it would be so interesting! A combined ticket also lets you into the Papyrus museum and the fascinating Esperanto museum!

Vienna is so famed for its musical history that it would be rude to visit without experiencing some live music. We opted for a rather touristy package at the Kursalon in the Stadtpark…..a sort of a variety show featuring chamber music, ballet and opera, this was the perfect taster and had everyone toe tapping along to the familiar tunes of some of Vienna’s greatest inhabitants.

And whilst we’re on music…..Vienna’s answer to the Hollywood walk of fame is great fun, with golden stars featuring famous composers’ names stretching from the Staatsoper, all the way under the U-Bahn station tunnels.

And whilst you’re there, take a look at the charmingly funny Opera loos! In London we have cockney cash machines, but in Vienna there is a public toilet where you can listen to opera! Love it!

I could also argue that no trip to Vienna would be complete without a good fix of Klimt either, and the Secession museum is a great place to get a feel for the artist. Home to his masterpiece the Beethoven Frieze, the building itself is just as impressive, with its owl motifs and Medusa heads over the door!

And just over the road is the colourful Naschmarkt, the city’s largest and most popular farmers’ market.

I personally couldn’t let the opportunity to visit an iconic Bond film scene pass me by, and so we took a bit of a walk over to the Wurstelprater Amusement Park (actually the world’s oldest amuseument park!) to see the Riesenrad…..those of you who are as fond of Bond as I will recognise the Ferris wheel and the sliding glass doors below from The Living Daylights. The 65m wheel also featured in the film The Third Man, as well as cult classic Sunrise.

Vienna really is one of those cities though that you can just amble around all day, and although we crammed in lots, I’d happily return again (in the summer perhaps) to simply soak up some of the lovely atmosphere there.

Ems x

Something from the weekend…. with a much enjoyed extra hour!

Well that was a lush weekend. Well, Sunday at least! Sometimes a great Sunday can make up for a so-so Friday Saturday though….

Our weekend began with a trip to the cinema on Friday afternoon…..Adam got off work earlier especially as I just couldn’t wait any longer to go and see Skyfall. For those who don’t know, I’m a MASSIVE James Bond fan. I got into the films as a teenager, and spent entire school holidays watching them all back to back, and then a couple of years ago I got all the books for Christmas and became hooked on them. So it’s fair to say I was fit to burst with excitement to see the much-awaited new film, and owing to my enjoyment of the last two, my expectations were pretty high (not to mention the fact that all the reviews were saying how they’d pulled out all the stops!).

But alas. I probably couldn’t have been more disappointed. Whilst I enjoyed the pure entertainment value of the film, and even liked its nostalgia and naffness, the more I think about it, the more I feel let down. I know there was backlash from the amazing Casino Royale, because the die hard fans all missed the innuendo and tacky gadgets. But I really felt that the new films were going somewhere, and building up to something….and in fact were far more like the books than the other films. But it’s like they forgot all the progress of the last two, and merely went back to the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan cringe-worthy naffness. The whole thing looked so cheap, with locations we’ve seen too much of lately, as well as bits of London disguised as Shanghai etc. And without wishing to spoil anything, I think they’ve lost the two best things that ever happened to the franchise….one I can’t say without saying too much, but the other being David Arnold as composer. His scores have been so intelligent and filled with clever nods for us super-geeks, and although I usually love anything Thomas Newman does, his score was brash and immature and utterly cringey. I just don’t think that Sam Mendes was the right choice to direct a Bond film (despite my loving his other stuff), and the loss of some of the other regular team too have really left a dent. Anyway, I won’t go on about it….I’m sure it’s rather dull for anyone who is less into the films than me anyway, and I’ll just get myself more riled up!

The rest of the evening was rather more successful, as I cooked up a massive Broccoloni Cheese in our new huge Le Creuset dish. Adam’s Mum came over to help us eat it (with the dogs too, who polished it off!). Then it was an early night ahead of a very early start on Saturday….. I was hosting another stall at the Hitchin Riverside Craft and Farmers Market, and had to be up and out by half past seven! It was SOOOO cold, and despite the incredible amount of layers I put on, I was still freezing and losing feeling in my fingers whilst setting up! Still, it was lovely to have such a great stall right next to the river and overlooking the church…..and with some rather loud ducks and geese for company too!

It was lovely to see some of the stalls I’d encountered at my last stall there, as well as some familiar faces, and ever so nice to meet some new people (and chat to them to make the time go faster!). My neighbors to the left were the lovely Christine and Bridget, who make beautiful hand knitted and sewn gifts and homewares…. whilst to the right was the wonderful Jo from Breakheart Hill Farm, with a wonderful selection of their produce. We chatted to Jo for hours about the farm and their dogs, and were delighted to find we could order some of their gammon joints too! That’s Christmas sorted! We also indulged in some huge back bacon from a local farmer who rears his pigs in the woods, as well as some delicious cupcakes from the award winning Crumbly Wumbly.

Rather annoyingly, it kept dry and fine all day just until we started to pack up! There was a fierce down pour that caught me off guard and unfortunately got to some of my paintings too. I managed to salvage most of it, and just need to do a couple of repairs to my Pet Pawtraits (more on that later!), but it was still rather miserable walking home with all my stock in the wet (despite it only being two minutes away!). Thankfully, Adam’s Mum invited us round for a nice stew for supper, followed by home made apple crumble and custard, so after the warmth of her Aga and a hot bath back at home, I finally warmed up again and was fast asleep in bed by ten!

My early night didn’t stop me from sleeping in though, and making use of the extra hour from daylight savings simply to snooze! I think I must have had about eleven hours sleep in total, but I felt great for it…especially after yumming up a massive fried breakfast! That set us up nicely for a walk round town and the car boot sale in the market place, and we rewarded ourselves for venturing out with cream cakes for lunch!

After that we did a little DIY at the house, then went for a lovely walk in the woods with the dogs. I so love this time of year, with all the stunning golden leaves, and so being in the woods was just wonderful. We did a little shopping after that, then headed home for a hearty sausage casserole for supper before watching Black Adder on the sofa under blankets, whilst I did a little knitting. Pretty perfect Sunday actually!

How did you use your ‘extra hour’? Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. adventures with apples

Boy was it good to have a nice simple weekend in our new home finally! It’s lovely to be busy and have lots of things to do, but I have really enjoyed just mooching about the house this weekend! We are nearly there on getting the place sorted (all boxes are now unpacked!!!) and have even hung most of our pictures.

Still, we did get out of the house a little and I’ve grown even more in love with my new local area…..

On Saturday morning, after a much needed lie-in, we yummed up poached duck eggs on toasted English muffins, then took the short walk into town. I’d completely forgotten that it was Apple Day in the old market square (despite getting all excited when I heard about it!) so it was a lovely surprise to find all sorts of apple-themed stalls there. As well as stalls for local farmers and their various types of lovely produce, there were bric-a-brac stalls and a tombola….plus a game of throw the maggots into the apple! Love it!

We pottered about for a while, buying a few bits and bobs we needed, and having a nosey about. I found a gorgeous Hornsea Fauna deer vase for my collection in the Oxfam shop, which I was very excited about! We had a stroll through the market too and picked up some lovely large pomegranates, as well as a huge chocolate muffin and an enormous cream donut!

We scoffed those back at home with a cup of tea, before making our way to Letchworth to drop off the mountains of cardboard we’d accumulated and to have a look for some bits of furniture we still need. We managed to pick up a lovely little plant stand for the stair well, but are still searching for bed side tables and our dream cocktail bar! Adam also picked up a wonderful vintage tweed jacket though, and we were both delighted to meet several darling greyhounds who were in town with the Greyhound Rescue West of England. We spent a good while meeting the wonderful dogs, who have the softest ears imaginable, and just love to snuggle up to you. We found out that it’s possible to foster them, or even just have them stay for the weekend for some post-op R&R, so we really want to look into that!

After supper, we decided to snuggle up on the sofa to watch a film. I’m incredibly excited about Skyfall (the new James Bond film) coming out this week, so we opted to watch Casino Royale to get into the spirit! Adam’s been practicing his cocktail making skills, so he rather aptly decided to make us Martinis to drink whilst we watched. He’s getting really good and they were delicious (although I still prefer his amazing Whisky Sours!).

It was another lie in on Sunday morning, and a bit more sorting out around the house. I also took some time to ‘feed’ my various Christmas offerings….. extra brandy went into the three cakes I’ve made, as well as the mince meat, and more rum went into my first attempt at Christmas pudding! We couldn’t resist a very quick trip to the market though, where there is a car boot sale each Sunday….well, it’s just so close! We managed to come back without buying anything though, which I think is a first!

We’d been lucky enough to be sent a nice big bag of cooking apples, which were harvested on Friday from Adam’s brother’s garden, and so I baked up some little apple pies for our afternoon tea……for which we were joined by dear friends Holly and Jamie, as well as their three super-cute children. We had great fun showing them the new house (especially as the children were so excited about all the secret doorways and all the different rooms) and indeed entertaining the children (although perhaps it was more a case of them entertaining us!). It seemed very quiet once they’d all gone, and I packed away the treasure box I’d been showing them, and the fake mustaches they dressed up in!

We had left over cottage pie for supper, and spent the evening writing letters and emails, before our sleepy heads got the better of us and we retired to bed with Horlicks and books.

What a lovely, relaxed weekend!

How was yours?

Ems x