Living for the weekend….. my London favourites

So this is the actual last weekend I’ll be living in London. I don’t expect to get a lot done, other than running my stall on Saturday and finishing the packing on Sunday. But I thought that with my impending farewell to London, I’d recall some of the best bits from living here, and share them with you….

Poppies Fish and Chips

On Tuesday we had our lovely friend Hannah to visit for the evening after she’d had a worky thing in town. Hannah wanted to go to Poppies before it was no longer our local fish and chip restaurant, and we were only to happy to oblige! The wonderfully kitsch 50s style diner uses sustainably caught fish, as well as other ingredients from Borough Market and even pies from my home time of Stoke on Trent! They have recently been shortlisted for a prestigious award, and will soon fight it out against the likes of Rick Stein in a bid to become the UK’s best independent fish and chip restaurant! And I really hope they win….the food has always been brilliant and the service is great to boot….I’ll miss it so much!

Wilton’s Music Hall

After our fish supper, we took Hannah just down the road to Wilton’s Music Hall for some cocktails. The historic venue hosts fabulous events, theatre, and music, but as it’s currently having a much needed refurbishment to its main auditorium, they are concentrating on the lovely bars they have. The Mahogany Bar downstairs serves a good range of beers, wines and spirits, as well as a few simple cocktails and free nibbles early on in the evening. Upstairs there’s an actual cocktail bar, as well as seating in some of the little rooms off their labyrinthine corridors. There’s also a ping pong table and regular quizzes, dancing and jazz music….we saw the resident band there (who perform every Tuesday) and certainly got toe tapping. You really have to visit this magical place though to get an understanding of its history and personality…there’ll be tours again once the refurbishment is over and I’d highly recommend you take a look in at least then, if not just for a tipple and toe tap before that.

Oliver Conquest

And whilst we’re on the tipples….. Our local, the Oliver Conquest has been one of our favourite finds since living in Central London. Having lured us in with a sign outside boasting their 40+ gin collection, they have now increased their library to over 50 gins! The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and will kindly keep a copy of their gin list behind the bar with your name on so you can tick off each one you’ve tried as you go. And whilst most of the gins need nothing more than a hunk of ice or a dash of their Fever Tree tonic, they will mix you a very fine cocktail and take pride in garnishes to match the qualities of each type of gin. Oh, and there’s a quiz too, as well as regular gin and other booze tastings…..AND they serve extremely good bar food (pork pies, nachos with a very good fresh salsa etc….).

Old Spitalfields Market

Another regular haunt of ours (as you’ll know if you read my Something From the Weekend posts) is the wonderful Victorian covered market Old Spitalfields. A true destination shopping experience, you’ll find great places to eat, independent shops and a few boutiquey versions of some well known brands. And that’s just around the edge of the real market! Seven days a week, you’ll find hand crafted treasures, bargain vintage finds and some brilliant flea market booty. They have special markets on certain days of the week, and on various Saturdays, including record markets, Judy’s Affordable Market, vintage pop-ups and this Saturday, the Designer Makers Market….which I’ll be hosting a stall at. With Christmas coming up, I can’t think of anywhere better to find something for everyone, and if you can’t make it to say hi this weekend, I’d highly recommend you make a visit in the coming months to fill your stockings!

St Dunstan in the East

On a hot, sunny day, there are few things I’d rather do than while away a few hours in my little City oasis. Largely destroyed in the Second World War, as well as being damaged in the Great Fire of London, the little roofless church now contains the most beautiful secret garden. This is truly one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to, and the stunning light and tranquil atmosphere there make for the perfect urban retreat. Whilst we’ve spent many hours there just reading, sun bathing and taking photos with the place all to ourselves, it has become more popular of late as a photography location so you shouldn’t be surprised to find models having their hair and make up done on the benches there before being snapped against the pretty foliage. Still, it’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic (I had my 30th Birthday party there in fact!), and you’ll not find many places more photogenic.
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The Monument

Very nearby is the Monument to the Fire of London, just 61m from where it started on Pudding Mill Lane. The huge Doric column was designed by Christopher Wren, and is worth visiting just to take photos from outside….although inside is where it really gets exciting. Within the column is a spiral staircase which takes the intrepid explorer right to the top, underneath the symbolic golden urn of flames. The views from there are just stunning, and it’s great for taking photos….there is a grill to stop you from falling / dropping things (much to my comfort) but the wires are far enough apart that you can poke your lens out for a clear shot. It’s only £3 for adults to get in, and you get a certificate to say you’ve done it too!

Mudlarking

Whilst atop the Monument, you’ll have had an amazing view of the Thames, and may even have spied a few mudlarkers along the banks! I have long been fascinated by the treasure hunters who trawl the urban beaches looking for exciting finds that come from the river. You can go on a guided tour in fact to show you the best places to look, and to learn about the history of the Thames and some of the things you can expect to find. It’s at least worth knowing where you’re allowed to go exploring and about the tides too….although I recently explored a little beach further East along the river, near Wapping where I got a wonderful haul! I was delighted to find lots of bits of slate that I’ll be using for presentation on my stall and around the house, as well as a pretty little glass and even a complete clay pipe! The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I filled my pockets with booty! It’s really a very rewarding activity!

Thames River Cruises

Still on the subject of the River, I have to recommend a river taxi along the Thames. There are occasionally free river taxis (like the one we went on last weekend for the Thames Festival), but if you’re not lucky enough to time your trip to coincide with those, the £8 or so to take a trip is very much worth it. There are lots of different companies offering different types of trips along the river from the various public piers. My first trip was from Greenwich on one of the City Cruises boats, which took us all the way to Westminster. Although you can take a more commuter friendly boat using your oyster card, I’d thoroughly recommend taking one of the sight seeing boats so that you have plenty of time for snapping photos. Most of the cruises will offer a free commentary from an unofficial guide, all of whom are super enthusiastic about telling you all about the places you’ll see from the river and the stories that go with them. It’s a lovely way to get about and to see more of London, and a great photo opportunity too.

British Museum

As some of you may recall, my (sort of) New Year’s resolution this year was to see every room at the British Museum. The boyf and I are both members and love our visits there for the special exhibitions, but we did realise that we’d seen only a fraction of the permanent display and wanted to remedy that. We started quite well, ticking off rooms from a copy of the museum plan, but having had the busy year we’ve had, we’ve still not managed nearly half of the rooms! Which I suppose shows just how much there is to see and do there…and all for free too. Of all the museums in London and all over the world I’ve enjoyed discovering, this is the one I know I’ll always come back to. I’m so very proud to have a museum like it, and I’ll never tire of visiting or raving about it. There’s an amazing exhibition on at the moment too (Shakespeare: Staging The World), so if you’ve not been for a while, or at all, then do pay it a visit. I know I’m going to miss going so often!

So with all the Olympics and Paralympics fun gone….the special festivals and events of the summer winding down….and the sun being a little less accommodating to those wishing to just sit and bask in it….there will always be plenty of other things to do in London. And I suppose that’s what I’ll miss the most. Knowing that there’s always something to see or do, no matter what the weather or time of year. I’ll miss being able to walk to some of the best places in the country….but of course that won’t stop me from hopping on the train now and again.

Ems x

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Something from the weekend….. Thames Festival and sun sun sun!

*snores*

I am again in need of a weekend to recover from the weekend. I was on a mission to make the most of this weekend, it being our last proper weekend in London….and by golly did we cram it in! I’ll be a bit of a packing zombie for the rest of the week, as I’m utterly shattered and just working on auto pilot now, but it was worth it!

Bright and early on Saturday morning, we were up and yumming up brioche ahead of our day out. After nipping into Waitrose to ask them to save some boxes for us (seriously, how many boxes am I going to need?!), we hopped over to St Katherine Docks to see the exhibition of classic and historical boats. Once we’d started to wander through the docks, we realised what a stunning day it was….and I started to wish I’d brought a hat and some sun screen!

We had a little picnic in the docks, whilst watching some sea cadets kayak around the central marina, as well as some performing keep-fit style displays and dance routines!

Adam has never been on a Thames river taxi, so it was very fortuitous that our last weekend of London adventuring fell on the Thames Festival and we could hop on the free river taxi from St Katherine Pier to Festival Pier. And we couldn’t have asked for a better day for it….so warm and such blue skies! We each took stacks of photos and enjoyed the talk from our guide who pointed out all the places of interest on the way.

We arrived to Festival Pier right on time to head up to the Riverside Terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, where Graeae and Strange Fruit were to present their production of The Garden. I’ve been wanting to see them for nearly ten years, after I heard about them and their performance at the Greenwich and Docklands Festival. The story tellers stand atop of four metre high poles, on which they sway around and even start to flip and somersault! It was a very sweet story and just gorgeous to see them performing in the sun, backed by blue skies and the river.

After that, we happened across a wonderful choir performing inside the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Hall….. Set up in the foyer, the South Africa House for London 2012 included an exhibition and a stage on which Take Note were singing. A small, amateur choir from South Africa, they had everyone dancing and bouncing…the music is incredibly moving!

Once they’d left the stage we took a wander down to the world food market behind the Royal Festival Hall, although it was so packed that we opted to walk a little further down the Southbank to find something to refresh us….. and although it didn’t get any quieter, we found just the thing right in front of the National Theatre. I’m a massive Fro-Yo fan, but Adam has always been a bigger advocate of ice cream….so it’s praise indeed that he chose The Little Mixing Factory‘s frozen yoghurt over their ice cream! And we were not disappointed! They blend fresh fruit in with their yummy natural yoghurt and the results are amazing! It’s certainly some of the best Fro-Yo I’ve had and very good value to boot!

Sweet treats in hand (although not for long…they were scoffed pretty quick!), we meandered along the Southbank amongst the thousands of people there. There were lots of stalls as part of the Thames Festival, as well as a Helter Skelter! The little beach in front of Gabriel’s Wharf was packed too with mudlarkers and sandcastle builders, but I was quickly distracted by the We Make London craft fair next to the OXO Tower. As it happened, my old college friend Nevada had a stall there for her delightful illustrations, pepper pots and baby clothes…it was so nice to see her and to peruse her gorgeous stall!

We hovered in the area for a little while, as the Rio festival was taking part there too, although there was nothing on stage just then so we continued our walk down the river to some more stalls outside the Tate Modern. It was pretty hot by then, and getting busier and busier with people, so we took a little back street short cut to Borough Market to get some refreshing juices (fresh lemonade for me…there is nothing more refreshing on a hot day!).

Refreshed a little, we walked further down the river for a snoop about Hays Galleria, and then onto More London where there were yet more stalls to look at, as well as the Blue Ribbon festival. The place was packed with festival go-ers and paralympics viewers in front of the big screen….and there was a big crowd at The Scoop watching some acrobats!

We were pretty shattered by this point though, so we walked back to St Katherine Docks where we’d started, and opted for an early dinner at Ping Pong to avoid having to cook!….and before long it was time to head home for a freshen up before making our way to our little ‘leaving London’ party!

We’d reserved a little area in our new favourite place, the Oliver Conquest, and arranged for a couple of dozen of our friends to meet us there for a send off. The pub boasts a list of over 50 different types of gin, as well as a yummy menu and lovely staff (who also know their gin!). Adam and I have been making our way through the gin list for the last few weeks….they kindly keep a copy for you behind the bar which you can tick off as you try each one! We’ve tried some amazing drinks there so we were really pleased to share the place with our friends. In fact, we were made up by the number of people who made it to see us off…..it made me a little sad to be leaving them all, especially after such a wonderful day in London too!

Next morning, it was a fry up we needed for breakfast (despite yumming up some of the amazing Oliver Conquest nachos, there was still a lot of gin to soak up!), so popped to our other local for a veggie breakfast before making our way back to Waitrose to pick up the boxes we’d had saved. I couldn’t resist a bit more packing once back at home, just to test out the boxes you understand (I’ve gotten addicted to packing!), but it was so lovely outside we decided we should really go out again soon after.

The wheelchair marathon was passing very near to our flat, so we walked down to Tower Hill to watch a bit, before walking a little further to our favourite place in London….. I’ve written about St Dunstan’s before (I had my birthday party there in fact!) and I must have taken hundreds of photos of the place. It’s a little ‘secret’ garden inside an old church in the City. It’s one of the most tranquil and magical places I’ve ever been too, with its lush planting, incredible light and beautiful architecture. As it was the last chance we’ll get, we took the opportunity to sit there for a few hours, just reading, chatting and sun bathing. It felt like the perfect Sunday activity in fact, and I felt so very relaxed for it.

Having caught a bit of sun, we ambled home, where I took a nice nap before making supper. We scoffed another load of my summery sausage dish, then slobbed on the sofa to watch the Sixth Sense (which I will never tire of watching!). That ended in perfect time to watch the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, and so our evening finished watching the fireworks for the Thames Festival and the closing ceremony from the flat windows….and hearing them too! So loud!

As you can imagine, I was fast asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow after all that, and I awoke sleepy but very content with our wonderful last weekend of fun in London!

Ems x

Living for the weekend……8th and 9th September 2012 in London

Well, this weekend sees the last weekend before our final week in London…..and whilst I know we’ll be packing and planning and organising, we still want to make the most of being in central London so we’re sure to pop out for some adventuring. As usual, there’s lots to tempt us…..and what’s more, I reckon you could do the lot in one day with a good pair of walking shoes!…..

The Garden

Friday at 6pm , Saturday at 1pm and 6pm , and Sunday at 1pm and 6pm

Southbank Centre (Riverside Terrace, in front of Royal Festival Hall, and Queen Elizabeth Hall)

FREE

I’ve been wanting to see the remarkable and incomparable Strange Fruit for years and years, and this weekend they are performing alongside Graeae to present  The Garden at the Southbank Centre. A “gravity-defying outdoor theatre in three stories of love, consequence and hope,” you’ll find the story tellers swaying through the air on four-metre-high poles, all as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme.

Homage To Rio

Saturday

Bernie Spain Gardens, next to the OXO Tower

FREE

From there, walk East along the Southbank of the Thames, and just a little way to The OXO Tower and the adjacent Bernie Square Gardens. There you’ll find special performances to mark the Olympics handover from London to Rio. Performers and artists from Rio and the UK have teamed up to create the largest Rio-style float ever seen in the UK. Expect flamboyantly costumed dancers, DJs, and plenty of Samba!

Blue Ribbon Village

Saturday and Sunday

More London, Tower Bridge

FREE

Next, keep walking down the Southbank and past London Bridge to Tower Bridge and More London (you can grab a bite at Borough Market on the way!). This weekend, the buzzing site will include a river and environmental zone with stalls and attractions from charities and businesses involved with the river’s ecology, wildlife, history and the industries that the Thames supports. There will be plenty going on, with swash-buckling sailors, pond dipping, willow sculpting and kayaking! It sounds perfect for kids (and adventurers like me)!

Classic Boats

Saturday and Sunday

St Katherine Docks, Tower Hill,

FREE

After that, just walk over Tower Bridge and head down the East steps on the North side, and into St Katherine Docks…..and so to discover  a replica Phoenician sailing ship, along with a collection of beautiful classic and historic boats in the Docks’ Central Marina. In addition, you’ll find the London Area Sea Cadets showing their boats and knot tying skills, and there’s even a free river taxi between Festival Pier and St Katharine’s Pier, to get you back to where you started or if you don’t fancy the walk there. Sailings are on the hour from Festival Pier and half past the hour from St Katharine’s Pier. The first taxi is at 10am and the last is at 6pm.

Last Night of the Proms

Saturday from

On the BBC, at Cineworld and Odeon cinemas, and ‘Big Screens’ all over the UK

I know that after that I’ll be ready for a long sit down, so why not settle in front of the telly to wave your union jack through the Last Night of The Proms?! It’s an amazing programme as always….I’m particularly looking forward to Puccini’s E lucevan le stelle from Tosca, Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, You’ll Never Walk Alone from Carousel, and of course the old faithfuls Pomp and Circumstance and Jerusalem. Whilst die-hard Prommers will be queuing on the South Steps for the limited number of standing tickets still available on the Last Night itself (just £5.00!), the BBC will be covering the evening so you can watch from the comfort of your home…..but if you’re wanting to soak up the atmosphere, you can head to selected Cineworlds and Odeons to watch in 3D, or find your nearest ‘BigScreens’ venue (including Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Dover, Edinburgh, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Salford and Swindon) where you’ll be able to watch out in the open.

Thames Festival Night Carnival and Fireworks Finale

Carnival from 7:15pm to 10pm, along Upper Ground, Blackfriars Bridge & Victoria Embankment

Fireworks from 10:30pm to 10:45pm between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges

FREE

And because I love a big finale…….the Mayor is throwing quite the party to wave me off from London. And there are few things I love more than a carnival and fireworks…..

To help bring the Thames Festival to a close, an incredible parade of illuminated dancers, drummers and lantern carriers will parade along Upper Ground, Blackfriars Bridge and Victoria Embankment. Expect (amongst many, many others)…. a Victorian travelling circus extravaganza of exotic birds and unusual animals….. ArtStart’s celebration of Dickensian London….. The Phoenix Catchers…. Walking With Giants….. and Mandinga Arts’  Chimera project featuring costumes and puppets, “weaving together human and animal, flora and fauna, fantasy and reality.”

The festival will end, as tradition dictates, with over a ton of fireworks exploding form a barge on the river itself. We watched comfortably last year from London Bridge and got a great view, although if you want to be closer do plan ahead and go early for a spot on Blackfriars or Waterloo Bridges.

Aaaaaand…..sleep!

Ems x

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

Something from the weekend…… The August Bank Holiday in Instagram

I bally love the weekend. Even more so a long weekend! Despite having lots to do with our impending move, we managed to have a very fun weekend in London as well as in our soon to be home town of Hitchin!

On Friday afternoon straight after work we caught the train into Hertfordshire to stay with Adam’s parents (and the dogs!) in Hitchin. After a yummy supper of fajitas, we watched the BBC Four documentary on Mark Knopfler. It’s an amazing programme and shows what a remarkably lovely and intelligent man he is, as well as an incredibly gifted songwriter.

It was early to bed though because we were keen to start early on Saturday and cram lots into our day! We set off earlyish into town, just a few minutes walk away, and to the monthly craft and farmers market which takes place around the gorgeous St Mary’s Church. I’m hoping to have a stall there myself when we move, so it was lovely to meet lots of the regular traders. I fell in love with the ‘The Knitting Ladies’ stall, which is full of hand knitted treasures, including the most gorgeous bears! The ladies are most proud of their celebrity knits….in one little basket resides Audrey Hepburn, Ziggy Stardust and a Clanger!

After a browse (and buying up some free range bacon, and home made fudge!) we took the minute’s walk to what will be our new home. Adam hadn’t seen it yet, as I viewed it by myself before we signed up, so he was super excited to see it for the first time and I couldn’t wait to go back. It’s a gorgeous property right in town….it’s actually Grade II Listed and belongs to a local historical trust. It’s full of beautiful period features, and there’s lots more space! I’m going to finally have a studio to work in, and there’s even a garden!

With all the extra space to fill, we set off to a local furniture warehouse afterwards to look for some pieces we’ll need. It’s a great place to look for bargainous things….it’s actually run by a charity that our friend Hannah works for, so buying their lovely second hand stuff helps them with their fundraising! We snapped up a wonderful little extending pine table with chairs for the kitchen…it’s the perfect cottagey looking table to fit in with the old house.

The thrifting didn’t end there though, as we popped into Letchworth and picked up some gorgeous dining chairs. As well as all the shops to look in, there was a sort of mini vintage car show going on in the pedestrianized High Street. I fell in love with a huge turquoise Chevrolet truck, and an amazing little camper trailer with a super cute kitchen at the back.

Next it was into Hitchin again for a snoop about, and to buy sausages for supper from the charming Allingham’s which is the wonderful butcher on the market square and has been there since the 1860s! We couldn’t resist some more furniture shopping though, and Adam fell in love with (and bought!) a stunning sewing machine and table. I also picked up a darling little camera….the Italian Comet S which takes 127mm film…can’t wait to get a roll and try it out!

After our busy day, we needed a serious re-fuelling and yummed up an awesome fry up! It was to the sofas after that though to slob away the evening in front of the telly….we watched the BBC Drama ‘Best of Men’ which I’d been wanting to see for a while. It’s about the first ever Paralympic Games at Stoke Mandeville, and the amazing work there of Dr Guttmann. We all really enjoyed the programme which featured Rob Brydon (one of my favourites from Gavin and Stacey)….it’s well worth watching for anyone interested in the games.

After a little Sunday lie in, we started the day with a nice long walk across Ickleford Common, past Gerry’s hole and over the railway to the Lavender and Sunflower farm. Everywhere looked very lush….. there was wild chicory flowering everywhere, and the fields of wheat just looked incredible. We saw lots of sloe berries getting almost ready to pick (we are planning on making a large batch of sloe gin this year again) as well as lots of rosehips that we plan to make something with too.

After that it was more furniture shopping, at the big shopping park in Stevenage. We tried out lots of sofas, but both chose the same as our favourite, so it was an easy decision and we left having ordered a gorgeous two seater and three seater in sanded and waxed leather, which is now being made for us in Italy….hopefully it’ll be delivered not too long after we move in!

That sorted, we drove to Benington Lordship for the annual chilli festival. The house and grounds are just stunning (I hope to go back in the new year to see the famous snowdrops!), so it was lovely to wander round all the stalls selling chilli-based products and chilli plants of every variety. We bought a big box of Stratta‘s award winning flavoured vinegars (including the lavender, elderflower, raspberry and blackberry)…..and yummy preserves from Jules and Sharpie (including their hot apple and sage jelly, the green chilli and lime jelly and the hot marmalade)…. I’m really looking forward to serving them up and cooking with them.

It was off home then for a quick fish supper, before packing and heading back to London. We wanted to cram as much into Monday too, so we had a big breakfast at our local, then made our way to the British Museum. We have membership there and we promised ourselves that we would see every room there this year….we’ve not done terribly well really but we have at least seen all the special exhibitions.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Shakespeare exhibition there ever since it was announced, so we made our way there first. It’s a wonderful exhibition, which comprehensively walks you through all the historical impacts and influences on the playwright, and on ‘his London’. It’s the perfect show for this year of festivities I think….I learned lots about the history of London and England, and the beginnings of Great Britain and our National identity.

It’s quite a big exhibition (well worth a visit and the £14 entry, although you can become a member and get in free!) so we needed a sit down afterwards…. There is now an additional cafe in the Great Court, run by Benugo, and we had a perfect double espresso and flat white there whilst watching the window cleaners high above us on the glass ceiling.

We couldn’t miss the chance to go and see the Olympic and Paralympic medals too whilst they are being shown there, so we popped in to see them and the exhibition about their design and the history of the medals. Right next door is the stunning clocks and timepieces room, so we investigated that next…..I fell in love with the huge gold ship clock which was used to call guests to dinner (it plays music via an internal organ, ‘sails’ across the table, and fires its cannons!). It was lovely to hear all the amazing clocks chime on the hour too, and there is even a charming cuckoo clock!

It was a lovely day outside when we emerged from the museum, so we sat in nearby Russell Square to eat the fruit we’d packed, before walking back to the bus stop. Once home I started on our supper of roasted butternut squash stuffed with ratatouille and topped with cheese, and we’d eaten it in good time to settle in front of the telly to watch our friends appear on Only Connect! It was ace to see them and their admirable performance….well done guys!

We were too shattered after our busy weekend to do anything other than sit, so we slobbed out watching The Incredibles on Blu-ray (which looks amazing!) before hitting the hay…… what an awesome long weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours!

Ems x

Wednesday Wants…. all about London on Etsy

So….I’m leaving London! In a little over a month me and the boyf will be moving from our Zone 1 flat, and out to lovely Hitchin in Hertfordshire. I’m super excited about it, but I have started to think about the things I’ll miss about London when we move. I’ve also started to hanker after a few of the souveniry type things around at the moment (thanks in part to the Olympics and the Jubilee), which I’d like to take along with me to our new rather-more-rural home!…..

I think this skirt is super cute! And useful too….it’s pattered with the London Underground map, so you can’t get lost in London whilst you’re wearing it! It’s made by Roobys and is available on Etsy for just £18 along with a whole load more ‘novelty skirt for grown ups’!

I already have the gorgeous Ward Lock & Co’s London Illustrated Guide, but this vintage London journal would be a great notebook for anything at all. It’s made from an old map of London, and recovered back, front and inside, with blank note pages inside. It’s only £4.59 from Etsy which is a bargain I think for a unique journal.

And for just £4 you can get this bumper load of London printed ribbons, by Bigfish on Etsy. I love the little guards print, and I could certainly see me using the Made in Britain print.

I’ve been collecting up a few old postcards for some projects, both in Paris and in London. I’ve not quite decided what I want to do with them yet, but this bumper load might inspire me! They’re just £12.12 for all 50, from Bursts of Creativity on Etsy.

I adore this Cath Kidston London print with all its iconic landmarks. I’d love to make curtains in my new studio with it, or else make some pretty cushions. You can buy a fat quarter of it from Boqinana on Etsy for just £3.93.

I’m sure I’ll be able to find some treasures as a token from my 12 years here in London, and hopefully I’ll make up some new products inspired by the City too!

Ems x

Something from the weekend: A beer festival, a scarecrow festival and other adventures in Instagram

We’ve had a wonderful long weekend!
Here’s the roundup… Instagram style…

With Friday off, we started in London at the Great British Beer Festival, which this year was at Kensington Olympia. I got to try some very yummy ales and catch up with some lovely people too!

After that we made our way up to Leeds to spend the weekend with Adam’s brother and sister in law (and their two dogs). His Mum came up too (with her two dogs), so there were four dogs there to entertain us!

On Saturday morning we drove to Kettlewell for their famous Scarecrow Festival. Once there, we took the dogs down to the river for a drink and a paddle. Piper is too refined to go in though, and Buddy’s not much of a water baby. So it was up to Newton to do the swimming to fetch sticks and Peanut had a paddle in the shallows just to explore.

Next we all took to the scarecrow trail to explore some of the villagers’ creations. There were scarecrow homages to the Queen and Prince Philip, Boris Johnson, Postman Pat, Woody from Toy Story and a whole scene from Holby City. I very much wished I lived somewhere so very idyllic and that I had the chance to make a scarecrow myself!

 

 

 

 

For lunch, we drove to nearby Threshfield and to the lovely Old Hall Inn. I ate a very scrummy Free Range Southern Fried Chicken Burger, and felt pretty tired and full by the time we piled back into the car to drive home!

After that it was a restful evening in front of the telly with Margaritas to watch some of the Olympic events…. We yelled at the screen in support of Mo Farrah in the Mens’ 5000m final, and got very tense and involved in the Mens’ 10m Platform Diving. I was overjoyed for Tom Daley, especially seeing how truly delighted he was with his medal.

It was a lie in on Sunday morning, followed by a breakfast of many many pancakes with maple syrup. After playing in the garden a bit with the dogs, we drove to Bramley Park for a walk. The woods there are so pretty and filled with gorgeous wild flowers. We walked down to and alongside the canal, throwing sticks for the dogs to swim in for. Again, Newton was the winner, but Peanut had a good go at hijacking him on his return to the bank to pilfer his sticks.

 

 

 

 

 

Once home again it was cups of tea and more Olympics watching before heading back to the station to catch the train to London. As the sun set on our journey, I spent a while staring out of the window at the pretty fields full of poppies and some of the stunning churches in the towns en route.

We made it home JUST in time to see the Olympics Closing Ceremony on telly. I didn’t enjoy them as much as the Opening Ceremony, but there were lots of bits I loved…..the Spice Girls, The Who, Take That, Annie Lennox….and of course the LED taxis which I was really rather taken with. I stayed up far too late to see the end (which I thought was ace….the cauldron for the Olympic Flame is just incredible) but we did manage to see the fireworks from the living room window again. A fitting end to a great weekend!

Ems x

The Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival

Adam and I are currently up in Leeds visiting family, and as our trip coincided with the famous Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival, we couldn’t resist going to see it ourselves.

There have been scarecrow based events going on in Kettlewell for many years, and people come from all over to see their annual festival. The little idyllic village sees its community working hard together to produce fun new ideas each year, all in aid of local good causes.

There is a different theme each year to inspire the scarecrow creators and to give clues to all the visitors taking part in the scarecrow trail. This year was unsurprisingly an Olympic themed festival, with the names of lots of the participating countries as answers to the trail quiz.

There were all sorts of wonderful ideas though, including a scarecrow scene inspired by the Willow Pattern, Postman Pat, a Maypole with scarecrow dancers and even a Boris Johnson scarecrow stuck on a zip wire! I was so delighted to see all the different ideas and all the effort that clearly goes in. The village itself is just so perfect for such an event….it’s so very quiet and pretty, so you can wander about at leisure in a gorgeous setting.

The village lays on a campsite and car parks to accommodate the extra visitors, and open up spaces to sell refreshments. We stopped off in one of the little cutesy tea rooms, for Yorkshire tea, and scones with cream and jam. We needed it too, with so many scarecrows to see, we were there for a good few hours finding them all and taking lots of photos.

Having found as many as we could though, we got back in the car and made our way to nearby Threshfield for a pub lunch. We’d been to the Old Hall Inn before when camping near Grassington and loved their menu full of local produce. Excited by the rare chance to eat chicken (it’s not nearly often enough Free Range and we don’t have it much at home as Adam is intolerant to it) I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken Burger, whilst Adam and his Mum chose the trio of venison (in a mini pie, sausages and with red currant jus), Vera went for the Lamb Tagine, and Ali the rather epic burger. Everything was gorgeous, and super filling! We practically rolled out of the pub, and only just managed not to fall asleep in the car!

Near home though, at Calverley, we spotted another bunch of scarecrows too! We all had such a wonderful day…. I took lots of photos which I’ll be sure to share once I’ve uploaded them at home…..until then though, here are my instagram snaps from the day…..

Ems x

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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

London 2012 Stamp

I love a stamp. Especially a self inking stamp. There’s something so satisfying about stamping something. It makes me feel important and official.

I think this dates back to my childhood, when I set up my own Post Office at my Nanna’s house during the school holidays, using a cardboard box with a window cut into it. I’d make my own envelopes and postage stamps, and then pretend to stamp them ready to be posted. I can’t vouch for whether they would ever get delivered, but my Nanna never made a formal complaint.

I found this beauty a few weeks ago at Paperchase, when my friend Michelle from the States was visiting, and it seemed acceptable for me to go souvenir shopping (despite having lived in London for over 10 years). I had absolutely NO need for it, but sometimes that’s half the joy in buying something, eh? AND it only costs £3. Three pounds! I’d have been crazy not to have bought it, and surely would have regretted it every day since, and probably for the rest of my life.

And I’m happy to say that it’s actually getting loads of use…. during the Jubilee, when I was selling my little corgi necklaces and Jubilee charm bracelets all over the world, I loved stamping their packaging with my special stamp. And now the Olympics is here, I’m sending all my orders out with the stamp on again. I think it’s nice when you receive something from far away that it looks a bit special and you can tell where it came from. Plus, our postage stamps in the UK tend to be a little dull when compared to Japan and New Zealand and places.

You can still buy them on the website…I’m not sure if they still have them in the shops. You should get one. They also have these lovely globe stamps, which are just £3 too. I’m going to save my sweet money and get one.

There’s a bit of a stamp theme going on at Paperchase in general actually. I also bought these cute little food pots at the same time as the stamp. They have lovely colourful stamp designs on them…one each of London, Paris, New York and Rome. They are dead handy, and store nicely inside each other like nesting dolls. They are a bargain too at just £7!

Again, I can’t think of a real use for them, but I’m sure I’d find something ace to do with these little stamp design wallets. They have that cool twirly string closure that I love, and they are only £1.50 for two. Hard to resist!