Foodie Friday: The Groundworks

Hitchin is a small enough town that the opening of a new eatery gets plenty of attention (yes, I really used the word ‘eatery’, and yes I’m turning into Daisy Steiner). More often than not though, it’s not so positive attention…..Adam and I are always moaning as more and more chains open up and there’s uproar about the licensing application for the planned Wetherspoons. We’ve been getting more and more frustrated with the lack of places serving decent veggie options, and us-friendly meat doesn’t seem to interest any of the restaurateurs around here. Not so in the case of Hitchin’s newest establishment, The Groundworks though.

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Image from The Advertiser Group

The childhood dream of two local boys, Tom and Ben, this place is about as independent as you can get and is breathing fresh air into what we had thought was a rather disappointing local offering. Curious about the brown-papered windows concealing the old cafe on the corner of the church yard, I snooped around to find you what was planned and soon came across the new website and Twitter feed. The teaser menu was most interesting and exciting, and when I got in touch to ask about the meat they planned to use I was yet more excited…..finally a local place we can get a good meal out!

Keen to find out when we could taste the artisan coffee and home cooked tasties the website boasted of, we had another snoop as we passed the cafe last weekend and found ourselves being invited in. The boys have totally refitted the place, and the reclaimed wood they’ve lined the walls in and made their tables from make you feel rather like you’re walking into a sauna, just without the awkward avoidance of eye contact and strategically placed towel. It’s beautifully fresh and tidy, yet still cosy and bustling. There’s a lovely big sharing table in the window, a reclaimed slate bar that came from a snooker table, and each table is centred with a pretty kilner jar filled with fresh garden flowers.

http://www.thegroundworks.co.uk/coffee/

Image from The Groundworks

Not having planned the visit we ordered just a couple of flat white coffees, which were delivered to our table by a friendly Groundworker in no time. Tom explained how he was still playing with the coffee grinder, so to let him know if they weren’t right, but our coffees were just perfect. Soon finding another at our table to try, I commented on how pretty the micro foam pattern on the top was, and next thing I know Tom is giving me a lesson at the coffee machine!

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Image from The Groundworks

Told that the full opening was happening on Monday, we planned a lunch there on Thursday to try everything out. I was due to meet up with the very talented Hilary (a friend of Adam’s Mum who also came along) who will be doing my wedding hair and makeup, and so we sat with a very yummy coffee whilst rooting through my Pinterest boards and dress silk samples at the big front table. Adam met us after most of the girl chat was out of the way, and we ordered the pulled pork (one a piece for Adam, his Mum and I) and the Caesar sandwich (for Hils).

Our lunches were brought to us on rustic wooden boards with side salads in the gorgeous white and blue enamel Falconware I love. The salad was fresh, simple and crisps, with no dreaded rocket and just a little light dressing which meant that I actually ate it all (unheard of!). The pulled pork came with a great crunchy slaw in a crisp brioche bun, and was bally delicious. I’ve never been able to eat a pulled pork sandwich out before because it’s so dreadfully tricky to find somewhere that makes them using me-friendly meat, so I enjoyed it even more I think. Hilary’s Caesar sandwich was just as impressive and we all left nicely stuffed.

When we returned to The Groundworks later (Adam’s Mum left the bottle of sloe gin we made for her in the window!!) it was still buzzing, and the warm tungsten lights that fill the place made it positively glow as we walked towards it. I know we’ll be back again and again for the rich, chocolatey coffee, and will more than likely try out their brunch offerings very soon.

I can’t believe we’ve had to wait this long for such a place in our new home town, but I have to say that the arrival of The Groundworks was well worth the wait.

The Groundworks officially opens tomorrow….wishing you all the best guys!

Ems x

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Foodie Friday: The Copper Beech Tea Room

I do love a quaint little tea room, and when we recently found this charming place I knew it would become a firm favourite. In fact, we took my Mummy there last weekend for her birthday, and she just adored it too!

The Copper Beech Tea Room is actually part of the Copper Beech Art Gallery, which is just a short drive away from Hitchin, Letchworth or Stevenage in Little Wymondley. The gallery sits within an oak-beamed barn on a working farm, and hosts both resident and guest local artists, as well as workshops….. you can learn cake decorating, painting in many styles, mosaicking, lino printing, hand applique, gilding and lots more! The owner actually spotted the self-made dinosaur necklace I was wearing, and once we got chatting about what I do invited me to bring some of my work along for her to see and perhaps sell!

We love having a wander around the gallery as we wait for our drinks to arrive, but then it’s time to settle down in the darling little tea room!

Nothing matches in the cosy little cafe….there are charmingly mis-matched chairs, tea cups on totally different patterned saucers and art work of all styles on the walls. One wall is dominated by a gorgeous large dresser, upon which stand various home made cakes for you to gape at! The menu is great for us…nearly all veggie, but plenty varied to boot. There’s a quorn spag bol, toasted ciabattas with your choice of fillings, pasta dishes and soup. For just £7.50 you can get any drink of your choice with any main meal, and for £10 you can also choose a cake!

On our most recent visit I opted for the mushroom bake, which is a seriously yummy sort of pattie with loads of cheese inside and all crispy and breadcrumby on the outside. All the main meals come with delicious home made coleslaw, pasta salad and a nice leafy salad (which I am happy to say is not dominated by rocket or raw onion which often spoils a side salad for me!). Adam and Mummy had toasted ciabattas, both of which were devoured! We can also really recommend the (pictured) stuffed mushrooms (with with parmesan risotto or with goats cheese and onion marmalade) as well as the goats cheese puff which we’ve had on previous visits.

Tea for one comes in a pretty little tea pot, whilst my hot chocolate was served in a huge mug topped with stacks of cream and hundreds and thousands! The meals are way too big to be able to tackle a cake straight afterwards (especially as the cake portions are massive too!) so our waitress kindly wrapped up our two slices of pineapple cake and slice of apple cake to take home! We made the right choice too….the huge portions made a nice pudding about an hour after we got home, and then stretched to pudding after our supper too! Both cakes were amazing to boot….seriously tasty and moist, just like a home made cake should be.

We’ll definitely be going again soon and couldn’t recommend the place enough….it may be small but it’s certainly perfectly formed, and beats the in-town chain lunch haunts hands down!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….Christmas is over. Dexter is over. The weekend is over.

The first weekend after the holidays is always much anticipated. We were looking forward to one filled with relaxation, and that’s just what we got.

On Saturday morning we had a rather long lie in, then went into town on a few errands…. We’re planning to paint our welsh dresser soon so bought paint and sugar soap and things in readiness. As a reward for our endeavors, we popped into the Hermitage Road Coffee Shop, which we have been loving since we found out how marvelous it is. In fact, we found out on Saturday too that it was included in the Independent’s 50 Best Coffee Shops list!

After our excellent Cortados and some home made biscotti, we headed over to Adam’s Mum’s for a lunch of home made soup. We worked that off with a nice walk around a nearby park and lake, where we said hello to the noisy geese and ducks, and made friends with a lovely dog who wouldn’t go into the lake to retrieve her ball so just stood barking at it!

After that I made a quick dash into Hobby Craft to replace some supplies I’d run out of for my Valentines cards (so glad I sold so many already!), then headed home to make a yummy Spag Bol for dinner. We whiled away the rest of the evening by finishing watching the most recent season of Dexter….we had only started it earlier last week, but as usual found it too compelling to watch any slower!

One of our resident pigeons enjoyed a relaxing weekend too….sitting in the water dish of our bird feeder!

We were up at a more reasonable hour on Sunday, and took a walk round a rather quiet car boot sale. We picked up a couple of things for the house….both tea related….a lovely silver tea strainer with a stand (which I’ve been after for ages) and an amazing penguin shaped tea infuser! The latter is most remarkable as it uses its beak to dunk the infuser into your cup, whilst the integrated timer ticks away for as long as you want to steep, then lifts out the infuser when the time is up and dings away to let you know your tea is ready! I love it!!

Our pretty silver tea strainer

And our awesome penguin tea infuser!

Once home we prepared a scrummy brunch of Lumber Jack Stacks (Belgian waffles, cinnamon French toast, pancakes, crispy bacon and maple syrup!) with a large batch of coffee, as our friend Hannah was coming over. We scoffed our rather naughty brunch whilst catching up and gossipping, then once Hannah had left we set about finishing taking down the Christmas decorations. I always hate doing it, as everywhere looks so bare when they are gone, and it’s just the final signal that Christmas is well and truly over. Ho hum.

Lumber Jack Stack!

2012 is over, and the decorations came down

I made a rather good sausage casserole for supper, after which we watched a couple of episodes of Azumanga Daioh, an anime show we are watching. Then it was reading in bed before an early night, ahead of the first *full* week of work after Christmas.

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..mainly eating and shopping

It was with a great deal of difficulty that I dragged myself out of bed this morning……it appears that I’m too old now for starting off the weekend with a 3am bedtime and lots of wine. Still, it was a super fun weekend, and I did manage a little relaxation time too! And we’ve only got two weeks left in London so I want to make the most of it!

After work on Friday it was off to the Post Office with the stacks of things I had to post….I’ve been listing lots on EBay to get rid of some things I don’t use any more before we move. That out of the way, we made our way to Hither Green, where we’d been invited to our friends Siobhan and Matthew’s new place for supper. We were a little early, so we took the opportunity to try out You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, the lovely little florist/coffee shop at the station, where I’ve been wanting to go for ages. It was nearly closing time, so we had our flat whites served to us outside on the pretty melamine tables….and the coffees were perfect! It’s such a darling little place, full of treasures and pretty flowers, and the yummy offerings are a real bonus!

By the time we’d finished, we were in good time to pop round the corner to our friends, for our first snoop around the place! It’s such a lovely flat…..really well laid out and organised, and Matthew and Siobhan have added lots of personal, colourful touches to make it special. The place also smelled amazing, with a lamb tagine in the oven, as well as Sophie Dahl’s chocolate cake……we were ravs by the time we finished chatting and drinking gin and Prosecco, so devoured the delicious meal which came along with yummy roasted veg and home made aubergine dip. The chocolate cake was the real triumph though….topped with creme fraiche and fresh berries, it was perfectly balanced and incredibly moreish.

As usual, we lost track of time in our hours of chattings and ended up taking the night bus home……it was a lovely walk over Tower Bridge from the South of the river though from the bus stop, and we flolloped into bed absolutely shattered at 3am!

A lie in was very much needed on Saturday morning, which fitted in perfectly with our days plans……we were heading over to friends Richard and Tara’s place in Farringdon to meet up for a nice late brunch. Knowing that the meal would probably cost us most of our day’s Weight Watchers Points, we opted to take the 40 minute walk there, through the City and Barbican (which gains us extra points). It was a lovely morning for a wander, and I know I’ll miss taking walks in the City, past the Guildhall and the pretty little gardens.

It was the first time we’d been to their new(ish) place too, and we enjoyed meeting their giant house rabbits! Our friend Sam was visiting for the weekend too, with her daughter, so the six of us popped around the corner to Giant Robot for a slap up brunch. It was a Bloody Mary to start for the most of us, and then their ‘Giant Omellette’ to eat….. both were utterly delicious and I left stuffed and sleepy!

We needed the walk back too, in order to wake me up a little and walk off the gluttony….so we ambled over to Old Spitalfields Market, where we met friends Kate and Jason to potter around Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair. I’d been eying up a little Hornsea Pottery Fauna Deer Vase the last time the fair was there, and I’d decided that if the stall still had it, I’d get it! And sure enough, the pretty I Heart Vintage stall was there as usual, and their shelf of cutesy deer ornaments still contained what I was after! I snapped it up and also spent a while snooping their other treasures and getting ever so tempted by various vintage tins, cuckoo clocks and weather houses! I managed to be good though, at least until I came across a stunning green gingham melamine drop leaf table…..I’ve loved the style for ever and moving into the bigger house means we have space for such things. I plan to use it as a desk in my little studio and can’t wait to set it all up!

It was straight home after that (after all, Adam did have a table to carry!), and most of the rest of the day was spent drinking cups of tea, eating and reading, until it was time for an early night.

Sunday started with another naughty brunch of Belgian waffles, banana and maple syrup…..merely to set us up for another day out and about! After having stuffed our faces we jumped on the tube over to Pimlico to go to the car boot sale there. It runs every Sunday, inside and out, and I’m a little miffed that I only recently discovered it and this was our first visit! It’s crammed with booty, and we spent a good while mooching about the various offerings.

I picked up a great haul……several little bits and bobs from a big gingham cloth of treasures on the floor (which Adam had to forcibly remove me from rooting in), a beautiful Toile bed linen set (exactly what I was after for a guest room in the new house), a wonderful little man’s travel set (which will be added to my Etsy shop when I have some more vintage stock), and a darling little sweater with tortoises on it! I’ll post some pictures of my finds soon!

We still had a little energy left for adventure, and needed a cup of coffee, so we walked just round the corner to the Tate Britain. It’s undergoing a lot of work at the moment, so we found it tricky to make our way about, but we eventually found the cafe, only to be served two rather rubbish Americanos. Still, it was worth popping in just to see their awesome collection of Turners (my favourite) and their brilliant shop!

After that though we were pretty shattered, and so once home it was more cups of tea and reading until it was time for a supper of butternut squash risotto and a quick film before another early night! Rock and roll!

Ems x

Tatty Devine “Name Necklace Now” Launch Party

Last night I popped into Covent Garden to join the party at Tatty Devine‘s Monmouth Street store….. This week sees their “Name Necklace Now” event to celebrate the launch of their permanent new in-store lasercutter. With this in place, you can just pitch up, choose an acrylic colour, chain colour, charm, and of course the name you’d like, and they’ll make it for you right away!

I have loved this brand for ages….. their original store is local to me, and I’ve been loving the special pieces they have on show at Selfridges along the Jubilee theme. I adore how quirky and over the top everything is…. the colours are just wonderful and it’s all so wearable (and inexpensive). The Rob Ryan and Belle and Sebastian pieces are also waaaay tempting!

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And in addition to this exciting new service, they have launched a brand new acrylic colour to add to the myriad of options!…. The lush lilac shade was revealed at last night’s party, and I was lucky enough to be given a lilac-themed goody bag to celebrate! All wrapped up in a pretty Tatty Devine tote came a gorgeous Penhaligon’s Lavandula classic candle, Essie’s beautiful Lilacism nail colour, Dylon’s fabric dye in French Lavender, a pair of House of Holland Pretty Polly fishnet anklets in Sweet Lavender, a giant packet of Swizzles Matlows Parma Violets, a mini box of Tea Pigs’ Jasmine Pearls, and a very pretty Tatty Devine heart shaped ring in the new acrylic shade. What treasures!

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It was super fun, all piling into the little store to ogle all the pretties. There were parma violets aplenty, and a rather lovely cider I’d not tried before. I spied so many pieces I would love whilst there….. Top of the list is probably the mirrored green parakeet…. stunning!

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The celebrations continue into next week with stacks of competitions, raffles, discounts and give aways. I particularly like today’s Friday the 13th themed giveaway to win an ‘Unlucky’ Name Necklace (enter by including @tattydevine on a #FollowFriday tweet on Twitter today. If you don’t win, you can still get 20% off any necklace with a ‘@’ or ‘#’ in store today). And if I were in London tomorrow I’d probably pop in wearing lilac (I have a very pretty Lulu Guinness shelly bag in the same shade!)…. you can get 20% off any Name Necklace in the new perspex colour when you drop into the store wearing lilac. Check out the shade in my name below! (That’s not me, just someone else with my name, but I want it!)

I wonder if I could get an ‘Under A Glass Sky’ name necklace in the turquoise mirror?!?!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. Sunday ‘Fashionista’ afternoon Pret-A-Portea at The Berkeley

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First round….. yummy sandwiches with the crusts cut off

On Sunday it was time for my final birthday treat….. after a nice long lie in (boy I needed it after the Saturday!) and slobbing about watching a few episodes of The Wire, we made our way to Knightsbridge for a very special afternoon tea. I’ve been wanting to go to the Pret-A-Portea at The Berkeley for years, ever since I heard about it in fact. No ordinary afternoon tea, their ‘Fashionista’ version of the traditional occasion draws inspiration from each season’s couture collections, creating incredible and stunning biscuits, fancies and meringues to match the trending colours, shapes and patterns.

After arriving to the gorgeous Berkeley reception, we were taken through the Caramel Room to our lovely window table. I was delighted to find a neon pink shoe with my name on to reserve the table for us, as well as all the beautiful Paul Smith China laid out ready. I went for the Couture Champagne Menu (when in Rome) and was poured a generous glass of Laurent Perrier Rose to start, whilst Adam went for the caramel and pear tea. Then before long we were served the first round of our tea…. a long plate of delicious sandwiches, including smoked salmon and cream cheese, Coronation chicken, cucumber and a tiny egg roll. All the fillings were perfect, as were the yummy breads (including a sun blushed tomato bread and a miniature oaty roll).

Next up came a large tea stand full of beautiful canapes and fancies….. we’d hardly dug into these when we were brought fresh plates of more sandwiches and then the canapes and fancies were replenished throughout too! The canapes included tiny teardrop spoons of crab, salmon, beef and feta, as well as a shot glass of a yummy cucumber and mint cold soup. I’ve had soooo many canapes in my time and these really were some of the best.

The sweet stuff is really where it’s at though. Having finished my Cham I was served the white peony tea (a new favourite of mine) which went beautifully with all the treats left to try….. Perhaps the most stunning was the Jason Wu romantic cherry bavarois with coconut cream, topped with a playful pink skirt and biscuit heel….. I also loved the clever take on Fendi’s nautical stripes in the form of a red and white striped vanilla cake filled with fraise des bois cremeux and topped with an over-sized yellow button…..

And because I’m such a girl, the two chocolate fancies were amongst my favourites…. Gucci’s Art Deco Grand Marnier and dark Valrhona chocolate mousse embellished with golden popping candy is absolutely divine….. and the homage to Michael Kors’ signature leopard print made with Grand Marnier was just scrummy! The most impressive to look at were the light blue Dolce and Gabbana blueberry sponge cake wicker basket, the Miu Miu vanilla bikini biscuit and the wonderful Christian Louboutin neon yellow chocolate biscuit…. but my favourite I think was the clever take on Mulberry’s summer at the seaside catwalk theme, with a tall shot glass of white chocolate creme de menthe and raspberry mousse topped with a lemon meringue, all perfectly emulating the sugar sweet tones of a maxi dress I adore.

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Very fancy fancies, inspired by Jason Wu, Mulberry, Fendi, Miu Miu, Michael Kors and Gucci

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Laurent Perrier Rose and the stunning Paul Smith china

I think we did rather well at eating the plates and plates of goodies brought to us…. it genuinely is a case of quality AND quantity! We did finally give up, a good couple of hours after arriving…. it is certainly a lovely way to while away an entire afternoon and is one of the most luxurious and indulgent experiences I’ve enjoyed. It didn’t stop there though, as our lovely waiter boxed up the fancies we couldn’t manage in a fabulous neon pink box, so I carried home the second of two very classy doggy bags that weekend! Quite the breakfast the morning after!

I can’t recommend this experience enough…. even Adam (who isn’t as trend crazy as me, and certainly wouldn’t usually opt for an afternoon tea) thoroughly enjoyed himself, and I left feeling utterly spoiled! It’s £39 for the Pret-A-Portea, £49 for the Champagne version, and £55 for the Couture Champagne menu which includes a glass of Laurent Perrier Rose. I think it’s superb value, compared to lots of more traditional afternoon tea, and especially as everything is replenished as much as you like and there’s no competition in terms of style. We booked a good few months ago, so be prepared to wait…… it is well worth it though even for someone as impatient as me!

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Menu inspiration card for Pret-A-Portea SS/12….. a super cute doggy bag and a show with my name on it!

Wednesday Wants…….. A trip to Selfridges full of wants

So I’m currently in Paris for a few days, but because I’ve managed to get relatively organised and I didn’t get around to this post last week, I thought I’d better schedule one in!

On Monday I took my American friend Michelle (visiting London for just a couple of weeks and now in Paris with me!) to Selfridges to look at some of their Big British Bang stuff….. I wanted to see all the special things they had on, and especially the roof top which has just been re-opened for the summer. There’s lots to see there during their special festival, especially if you’re into very British stuff….. there’s a lovely ‘Brittanica’ exhibiton of stunning 50s dresses….. The Bonpas and Parr Crazy Golf up on the roof, with cake inspired holes in the shape of London landmarks…. The first ever Highgrove pop-up store…. The Big British Shop, filled with extremely tempting British treasures…. A Dents exhibition of very Royal gloves…. The Daylseford roof top cafe….. and the Big Yellow Shop which features lots of iconic brands who have specially made their famous things in Selfridges yellow!

It’s no surprise then that I found LOTS that I wanted…..

Artisan mixer 6.9L frosted pearl, £799

I have a lovely white Kitchen Aid already…. I use it lots for baking and cooking and I wouldn’t be without it. But there’s no harm in wanting to upgrade right?! The new Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer is the best performing mixer in its class, and far bigger than the original one at 6.9 litre. As well as a bigger bowl, it boasts enhanced performance and a much more powerful motor (the man told us it was something in horse power, which made me think of cars so it must be powerful!). It comes in a lovely classy black, a sleek silver and a very cute candy apple…. but it’s the pearl one I love most…. the man let me stroke it and it felt sooooo good!

Dulcina peep-toe sandals, £845

There aren’t many things more British than a Pearly Kind and Queen….. and how better to honour that fine tradition than with Tabitha Simmons’ Dulcina sandals. Crafted from soft velvet, these elegant heels are accented with pearly buttons, embroidery and feather detailing. Love!

Ladurée: Savoury: The Recipes, £28

Following the success of Ladurée: Sucre, you can now get hold of this second volume of neverbefore – published recipes from the legendary Ladurée tearoom. Containing a hundred elegant recipes from Ladurée’s Chef, it’s full of beautifully photographed treats, and is stunningly packaged in velvety lilac, reminiscent of their famous macaron boxes. From duck foie gras with rose macaroon to vegetable tagliatelle with Ladurée tea and cardamom, as well as the taramasalata éclair with rose petals, the book presents a fine array of appetizers, main courses, fish, meat, salads and omelettes. Delish!

And on that note…. see you after Paris!

Ems x

Something from the weekend…… My first stall at a craft fair!

Wow! That was tiring! Friday feels like weeks ago already! I had the most brilliant weekend, mainly because of my first ever stall at a craft fair……

Friday evening was mainly spent readying for the F.U.S.S Craft Market, for which I’d booked a table to sell some of my stuff. I decided I wanted to take a good range of everything I’ve made, and managed to finish off my Narnia jam jar scene just in time. I have been wanting to try out some new things too, but the week just ran away with me…. but I did manage to make a prototype for my map jewellery on Friday evening, whilst chilling out ready for the busy day ahead!

Crafting tiny coat hangers for my Narnia jam jar

Hand Made 'Tibet' vintage map necklace, by me

It was an early start on Saturday morning…. our journey down to Hither Green (in South East London, where I lived for many years) was somewhat hampered by a complete lack of tubes (despite our being within 5 minutes walk of four different lines!), and DLR. Even the bus we wanted to take to London Bridge was on diversion, so we had to struggle there with our bags and boxes on foot. Still, we made it to the little village hall in good time and I managed to choose a nice table right at the front.

I’d been planning out my stall layout on the dining table, so it was mainly a case of un-packing all my stock and the various bits and bobs from the house I’d brought along to help display them…… lots of my old books became stands for my many vintage button rings…. my smaller glass cloche hosted a little scene of my beaded flower jewellery….. our low candelabra was used to hang my Day of the Dead jewellery….. and one of my cake stands became a place to riffle through the little stacking rings and vintage button brooches I’d made. All in all I was quite pleased with my eclectic collection of treasures, and I was soon complimented on my presentation by kind stall holders and the first few shoppers to arrive!

My stall at the F.U.S.S Craft Market

I found out about the market from an old school friend who lives in the area and volunteers for the F.U.S.S group. F.U.S.S are a community group who work hard hosting fairs and dances to raise money to improve the area. The craft market was held to raise funds for their planting project, and the group managed to get some wonderful press coverage to boost attendance. And there were surely plenty of people that came! We met so many lovely local people, and a few from further afield (thanks for coming south of the river Kate and Jason!), and so a huge part of our enjoyment of the day was chatting to people. I got some great feedback on my stuff too, and gave out lots of business cards as well as selling eighteen items! I was so pleased that people like my things, and it was a real boost to see peoples’ reactions (and of course to make some money for my efforts too!).

There were lots of brilliant stalls there, with more hand made jewellery, prints, vintage treasures, clothing and pottery……my  favourite would have to be the wonderful Matin Lapin stall though, which was run by my friend Vixie and co-hosted by the lovely Alex with her Animal Cafe cards. Vixie’s stall was the one I wanted the most things from, and because I’m a very lucky girl, Adam treated me to one of her creations….. a hot air balloon brooch, in brilliant bright colours… I am now wearing it on a chain as a pendant but I love that I can pin it to a blouse too.

Hot Air Balloon brooch (worn as pendant), by Matin Lapin

'it aint ALL bad...' hand drawn and painted greeting card by Alex at Animal Cafe

The volunteers from F.U.S.S also ran a marvelous refreshments stall, with tea, yummy cakes and delicious home made soups for sale. The lovely ladies even came around taking our orders, so we enjoyed plenty of cups of tea to keep us going, as well as pea and mint soup, ginger cake and fruit cake. And the gluttony didn’t stop there, because my friend Emma (Never Eat Wobbly Jelly) had made some amazing flapjacks which we devoured too!

We left on such a high, having had so many positive comments and lovely chats! I have already received a commission from someone I met at the market as well as some more feedback on Twitter, and I’ve been invited to another fair too! Adam had a brilliant time as well, so it was nice to celebrate the high with him and know that he’ll be up for helping me at future fairs. And I definitely want to do more!

We celebrated that evening with a bottle of fizz (we are experimenting with sweet Prosecco as the drier kind doesn’t agree with Adam) and a Chinese take out, both of which I feel we deserved after our hard day’s work! We snuggled up on the sofa to watch Avatar (which looks ace on Blu-ray!) but soon after that had finished we were beat and crawled off to bed to fall asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows!

We’d planned a trip to the supermarket and the cinema on the Sunday, but seeing the lovely blue sky outside we decided we wanted to have an adventure out and about. So we marched off to Brick Lane after our lunch of take away left overs, to discover some new markets to treasure hunt at. We wandered about for ages and found some brilliant stalls…. I came home with stacks of old sheet music, some slightly creepy porcelain dolls, a bulk lot of match boxes and loads of old books…. including another copy of the awesome Pears Encyclopaedia which I use to paint onto. I can’t believe my luck!

Treasures found at the Sunday markets

For supper, we feasted on smoked haddock with creamy mashed potato and buttered asparagus, before settling down to watch another episode of The Wire (starting to get into it now!). We spent some time talking through more ideas for things I can make, and I started on some little drawings, and then we were ready for a well deserved early night!

Very successful weekend all in all!

How was yours?

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. back oop North: a visit to Leeds

Did you have a good weekend? I certainly did! I was so busy yesterday though that I couldn’t share it on the Monday as usual…. I couldn’t wait to put my weekend purchases to use (more revealed later!).

On Thursday morning (starting the weekend early as ever), we packed ourselves some cheese sandwiches and a flask of coffee, and made our way to Kings Cross for another trip up North. Adam’s brother and sister in law live in Leeds with two wonderful dogs, so we were looking forward to a visit, and seeing some friends up there too.

Out walking the dogs, view from our window, snuggling up with the dogs

As soon as we arrived at the house, it was straight outdoors for a walk with the dogs….. we had left behind a foggy, grey London, so it was a delight to get outside into the countryside, under a much bluer sky. On our return, it was time for tea, and we began our weekend of gluttony with scones (with jam and clotted cream of course) and smoothies (to try to be healthy). We mooched about for the afternoon, chatting, putting the world to rights etc. until a supper of garlic and chilli pasta (I must get the recipe) followed by a film.

I’m not sure how we missed Warrior at the cinema (anything with Tom Hardy is usually prioritised), but I’m so pleased to have finally seen it. When I was asked if I’d like to watch a film about cage fighting, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but as one would hope, this film has much more to it. Telling the story of two estranged brothers, and how they transpired to enter the same cage fighting tournament, it’s impossible not to grow fond of several of the characters…… By the time of the big fights at the end of the film, I was really rooting for them. The fighting itself is pretty compelling too, and I have to say I came away thinking I really must go and see some in real life! (I believe they often have events like that at the Troxy so will be keeping an eye out!)

Smoothie, Scones, Pancakes

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, and another walk with the dogs, Friday morning saw us walking into nearby Farsley for a few errands. As we arrived to the bottom of the high street, we were enchanted to see the old fashioned grocers and DIY shop, and as we walked up the high street to the little Post Office, I was very taken in by this charming, Yorkshire village. Having posted my parcel (another order from my Folksy shop), we took a look into a little haberdashers I’d had recommended, R.L. and C.M. Bond Ltd. I was immediately blown away by the walls upon walls of buttons and ribbons, and soon began rooting through the little baskets of vintage haberdashery. I came away rather poorer in purse, although very much richer in buttons! I couldn’t wait to turn them into new treasures, on rings, cufflinks, bracelets etc….. and so that’s what I did for most of yesterday!

Farsley High Street, R.L. & C.M. Bond Haberdashers

We made our way into town on Friday evening, to meet dear friends Craig and Sheli. It was Sheli’s birthday yesterday, so we celebrated with dinner at Little Tokyo. We’ve all been meaning to go for a while, and it was certainly worth the wait. We started with cocktails in the little bar area upstairs, next to the cute koi pond…. Sheli had their Apple Mojo, Adam sampled the Blackberry Martini, and I went for a twist on my old favourite, their Bloody Geisha. I was pleasantly surprised to find I could really taste the wasabi used in place of Tabasco, without it being dreadfully hot…. in fact I really enjoyed this version so may well try it at home!

Little Tokyo, Bloody Geisha Cocktail

Next, we were lead downstairs to a beautiful dining area with chunky wooden tables and sunken seating. Adam and I shared a starter of perfect vegetable tempura, before our Bento box mains (Adam and I went for the tofu steak, Sheli the chicken teriyaki, and Craig the chicken katsu) all of which came with yummy rice, ginger-dressed salad and more of the wonderful tempura. Ours were about £12, and I can certainly vouch for their value….we were totally stuffed with the delicious meal and struggled to quite finish!

Tofu Bento Box, Little Tokyo, Vegetable Tempura

And we really would have left it there, had we not been presented with such alluring dessert menus….. (Japanese fortune cookies with sesame and coconut….. green tea ice cream….. ginger cheesecake with cointreau sorbet….. coconut ice cream….. lychee ice cream…..) but we really couldn’t turn down such wonderful sounding dishes, despite our groaning tummies. Sheli had a lovely strawberry sorbet, which came served in a bowl made from ice, in which were slices of kiwi and rose petals (will be copying that idea!)…. Craig went for the amazing ‘crispy parcels’ which are essentially marshmallow spring rolls (utterly incredible!)…. and Adam and I shared the delicious Japanese style profiteroles, which are filled with ice cream and topped with a yummy sweet seaweed and sesame sauce. We could not have been much more impressed…. I was particularly pleased to see Adam had enjoyed the meal, having spent time in Japan and struggling to find a good authentic Japanese restaurant in England.

Japanese Profiteroles, Strawberry Sorbet, Marshmallow Spring Rolls

The gluttony didn’t stop there though, as we breakfasted on pancakes with maple syrup on Saturday morning, before heading out to explore a newly opened exhibition at the University of Leeds. ‘Marks in Time’ opened on the Friday at the Marks and Spencer Company Archive, and is a permanent exhibition featuring just some of the amazing collection there. To celebrate the 100th birthday of Marks & Spencer in 1984, they began to collect together hundreds of historical items from all over the Company and created the M&S Company Archive. A dedicated team at the site has put together and catalogued more than 70,000 items from the last 128 years, charting the iconic brand’s history.

Starting with the company’s early years, large glass cabinets displayed cards of buttons, pretty tea cups, clocks and household necessities….. it wasn’t until the 1920s cabinet that clothing began to appear. The exhibition is a real reflection on fashion history though, as well as social history, charting trends throughout rationing, post-war optimism, and developments in food technology. True innovators, the display explains how M&S became the first store to sell fresh chicken using their ‘cold-chain’ method, and began to stock innovative new products such as Terylene and the chicken kiev!

It’s not a huge exhibition, but it is well curated and interesting, and with hands-on displays, dressing up and even a colouring in table, I’d say it’s well worth a look-in if you’re nearby. And it’s free to get in.

Next, we ventured back into town, and decided to investigate the Silver 70s exhibition at Leeds City Museum. Running until Sunday 22nd April, the free exhibition celebrates a highly eventful decade, inviting visitors to explore a house in 1970s Leeds. Filled with typically colourful and garish wallpaper and fashions, the exhibition features some very recognisable and much loved (by me at least) home wares, books and toys….. in each room I spotted memories in the form of Sooty puppets, a copy of Tufty, Fisher Price pull-along dogs, pastel coloured Tupperware (that my Mum still has!), stainless steel tea sets and that big plastic tree house toy that I think we had at nursery school.

Having been born in the 80s I was surprised to see so many things I recognised, but then I suppose things didn’t move quite so fast then….. and I’m not ashamed either, to say that I truly enjoyed the exhibition’s soundtrack of The Carpenters, Bee Gees, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac and The Commodores. I also loved the interactive elements….. design your own outfit and wallpaper based on 1970s fashion….. digging for fruit and veg reflecting the ‘grow your own’ culture and the wonderful ‘The Good Life’ show. I also got the chance to design my own Jubilee plate, next to a cabinet filled with Silver Jubilee memorabilia….. I can’t wait to see the equivalent collections for this year’s Diamond Jubilee! I wouldn’t at all mind a home filled with the gorgeous furniture and nick-nacks we saw though, and even the lime green kitchen units! Again, well worth a visit for anyone my age and older if you’re in the area.
By that time, we needed a sit down and some sustenance. We found both in the stunning Tiled Hall which sits between the Central Library and Leeds Art Gallery. Surrounded by gorgeously ornate green tiles, grand marble columns, a barrel-vaulted mosaic ceiling and the original parquet flooring (all only recently rediscovered), we ate yummy courgette and lime cake, and Caramac ginger fudge cake, along with great coffee. You can actually hire the hall for events….which I’ve mentally noted for future!

Afterwards we wandered a little into the gallery next door (especially enjoying the excellent Stanley Spencer paintings on the staircase) before heading over to snoop about the shops in the Victorian Quarter. I love the old arcades and the pedestrianised high street, not to mention the excellent selection of shops there! The Harvey Nichols window display was as impressive as ever, but better still were the windows at Mulberry which I’m sure were designed to tell Adam to buy me one of the Alexa hand bags cunningly draped over giant ice creams. He didn’t take the hint though unfortunately!

Dolls in the window at Mary Shortle, Leeds City Museum, Window at Harvey Nichols

For dinner, it had to be a trip to Bradford for a curry. We were super impressed by the extensive vegetarian options and gorgeous dishes at Saffron Desi…. the best of which was probably Vera’s Lahore Nihari Special with lamb cooked on the bone. My Channa Paneer Biryani was delicious too, and it was refreshing to see so many options for the vegetarian biryani…. rather than just the same thing as the others with the meat taken out!

Heading home rather stuffed, we settled down to watch How To Train Your Dragon, which Adam has been going on about for ages. It didn’t disappoint, and he’s probably right that it’s one of the best non-Pixar animations of recent years.

Sweet Lassi, Lollipop reward at Saffron DEsi

It was a slightly earlier start on Sunday, so that we could eat our breakfast of pancakes before heading over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in good time. I’ve been wanting to go for ages, and the clear day promised some good photo time. The park is a wonderful place that “aims to challenge, inspire, inform and delight”, and is visited by some 300,000 visitors every year. Open all year round, there is really nowhere like it I know of to see amazing artwork in the open air. The grounds themselves are worth the visit, and it was lovely to wander about with the dogs (who are allowed in nearly all the outdoor spaces whilst on a lead), especially on a gorgeous spring day.

There is certainly something about seeing such stunning sculptures in the remarkable landscape too, and in the natural light. I loved finding the next piece as we explored gardens, fields and woods. My favourites included Anthony Caro’s ‘Promenade’ which appears to be watching over the beautiful and expansive lake….. Antony Gormley’s ‘One and Another’ which is a surprise find atop a huge tree trunk, rather like those hidden on top of landmarks such as The Roundhouse….. Marcia Farquhar’s beautiful, giant rocking horse, ‘The Horse Is A Noble Animal’…… and Magdalena Abakanowicz’s ‘Seated Figures’ which preside in duplicated, rusted form next to the charming Camelia House. I also enjoyed spying at the menagerie through the trees (we had to take the route adjacent to the menagerie path with the dogs) and adored the almost secret grotto, Lady Eglinton’s Well, which is carved into rocks next to the reservoir damn. A little owl sculpture which used to sit above the stone dating the well to 1685 has long gone, but the spring it was built around still creates a well in front of the grotto, which was a gift to local people.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

As we crossed over the pretty bridge back to the car park, I was reminded of one of my interviews for my degree course, which actually took place at Bretton Hall, the house in the centre of the park. The others marvelled that I’d chosen London over this picturesque setting to go to college, and I had to rather wonder why I’d not been more tempted to spend my student days there. Still, things would have worked out rather differently I’m sure, so I’m grateful for my choice. We will certainly be visiting the sculpture park again though (which is free to enter…you just pay to park) as there is so much more to explore…. I’m hoping we can go in the summer for a whole day and take a picnic to eat on the lawn. I really can’t recommend a trip there enough.

Bretton Hall and Grounds at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

We drove home via Blacker Hall Farm Shop…. we’d foolishly hoped to have lunch in the restaurant there, forgetting that it was Mother’s Day. It was fully booked of course, but we still enjoyed pootling about the farm shop, tasting home made cakes and picking up some bits to tide us over….. including what is probably the best cheese scone I have ever tasted!

After we’d returned and packed ready to leave, we snoozed away the afternoon snuggled on the sofa with the dogs. But soon it was time to head back to the station to make our way back to London. The journey passed brilliantly fast as we watched a few episodes of my new favourite New Girl though, and before long, we were home for a much needed early night!

Ems x

P.S. My proper photos of the weekend are on my Flikr page, here…..

Sorting my growing button collection back at home

Stylishly Patriotic…. Union Jack crazy for the Diamond Jubilee



What with the Royal Wedding last year, and the upcoming Jubilee and Olympics, there’s never been a greater excuse (in my life time at least) to celebrate all things British. Amongst all the souvenirs and paraphernalia though, it’s our splendid Union Flag that will remain my fondest nod to the festivities. With more street parties, special commemorative dishes, and already busy media attention for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, I’m looking forward to plenty of red, white and blue…..and here is a sampling from my current favourite Pinterest Board, celebrating our wonderful flag…..


What could be more British than a pot of tea….especially one emblazoned with Union Jacks like Emma Bridgewater’s……



I can’t think of many places more British than my beloved Liberty….and amongst their Best of British offerings, it’s this gorgeous necklace by Stella Macartney I’m most after….



I actually have this stapler….when I found it I couldn’t disguise a squeal of joy for its shiny Union Jack glory….

Source: unionjackshop.co.uk via prettypretentious on <a style=’text-decoration: underline; color: #76838b;’



Of all the lovely Union Jack cushions out there, this is certainly my favourite to date! It’s a *Jack* Russell….wearing a Union *Jack* scarf….LOVE!



I’ve been after a Roberts radio for ages, and this one has got to be the best!….



Our flag is so iconic that it can keep its identity in any colour….I adore this stunning Liberty print quilt….



And almost any colour goes for this beautiful ribbon too, which I love in the traditional colours as well as the shades of green and grey….



The chances of me riding any kind of bicycle are slim to none, but perhaps this could tempt me…



And no British celebration (or any of mine for that matter) would be complete without the BUNTING… The Cotton Bunting Company has the best quality selection I’ve ever found and it’s this I’ll be hanging up everywhere come June!