Yorkshire Photo Walks: Taster session at Gallows Hill Nature Park, Otley

Last Saturday, despite the drizzle and chill, I went along to join in on a local photo walk. Adam had heard about it at camera club when Tom came along to tell everyone about his Yorkshire Photo Walks. We signed up right away and headed just down the road to Gallows Hill Nature Park where Tom was hosting a free introductory walk to start the season off.

It was a good excuse to explore the park, which it turns out is just across the river from where I walk the dogs most mornings. It’s a beautiful place, even when it’s grey and wet. Tom filled us in on how the walks work and then dished out a little piece of paper to each of us, on which was written a theme for us to base our photos on. I got ‘fading summer’ as a title for my photos, and so off I set!

Tom came around to each of us as we took photos, to find out more about us and to offer help. This free taster session was just an hour long, but usually they’re two hours and at the end everyone goes to the pub to review the shots they’ve captured. There’s a Flickr group too where everyone can see what other people have been up to during the walks.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of my photos from the walk. I enjoyed spending a whole hour just trying things out and playing with my camera (it’s a Canon G12 in case you’re interested!), and I’m quite pleased with the results.

Snail on a branch, Otley, YorkshireFallen golden leaf in nettles, Otley, Yorkshire Double exposure trick with depth of field, Otley, Yorkshire Curly autumn leaf, Otley, Yorkshire Golden vine leaf, Otley, Yorkshire Wet and speckled leaves, Otley, Yorkshire A hiding crocodile lead, Otley, Yorkshire Red firework autumn fall foliage Autumn fall seeds on dried Queen Anne Lace Golden autumn fall leaf in green foliage Sycamore glider seeds, autumn, fall Like a perching dragonfly, sycamore seeds Gnarly dried leaves, autumn, fall Vacated bird nest

Tom runs regular photos walks right across beautiful Yorkshire….there are night time walks and even a full weekend of walks you can join in on too. Each walk is usually about £15 and you can see the full list of those coming up here. You don’t need any special equipment for most of the walks….I just took along my compact camera (and iPhone!) but of course there were people there with DSLRs and tripods and whatnot. I’ll be tempted to take along a film camera on a sunny day. There are some walks just for SLR users, but everything is set up to cater for all different abilities and the people there who have been to lots of the walks all rave about what a great teacher Tom is.

I’ll look forward to updating you when I’ve been on my next Yorkshire Photo Walk!

Ems x

 

About these ads

Something from the weekend….Foraging, gardening, making and treasure hunting

I had such a lovely weekend! The weather really does help of course, and all the sunshine hours make such a difference!

I spent a lot of the weekend gardening….the front garden has been transformed after many hours of hard work and is benefitting from having been totally dug over and filled with plants! I can’t wait to see it all bloom, although I guess I have to wait til Spring for that. Still, it looks better already and has tidied up the front of the house no end.

We did some great foraging too…..we picked loads of blackberries and elderberries from the local common, as well as some sweet pea pods and honeysuckle berries I’ll be planting for next year. We also raided the back garden, and came back indoors with stacks of apples, more blackberries and greengages too. There is a medlar tree that is also looking rather full, but I think we have to leave those a little longer before harvesting them.

We spent an absolute age rinsing the elderberries, plucking them off their stalks, rinsing them again and then bottling them….I hope it’s going to be worth it! We made one bottle of elderberry schnapps and one bottle of spiced elderberry liqueur….can’t wait to try them! I made jam from the greengages, and it was probably my most successful yet….it tastes yummy and is the perfect consistency so I’ll have to share some tips soon!

As is traditional, we also visited the antiques market on Friday and the car boot sale on Sunday….I picked up some great treasures to use at the wedding and the place was really buzzing in the fine weather. It was also the crafts and  farmers market on Saturday, and we dawdled around there awhile, spotting some great new stalls too.

Other than that, it was a weekend of domesticity, relaxing, cooking endless amounts of marrow, walking the dogs and watching more Buffy. Bliss!

Here are a few photos from the weekend…..

Ems x

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

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

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

…..we played Guess Who…..

……and then Adam beat me at Triv!

Saturday began with a lovely long dog walk……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…..did maths in old money on slate….

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

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

What did you get up to?

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Walk to Work

“Describe or photograph your walk to work. Or journey to work if you use transport. Is it pretty or incredibly dull? Can you find something of interest on your way?”

When I first read today’s prompt I was tempted to walk you through my walk to work in photos or a video or something…until I forgot that it was actually today and when I just came to write it, and hadn’t done any preparations at all! Still, the walk from my bedroom, downstairs and into my home studio wouldn’t make for *that* interesting a post, so I’ve decided to share an old walk to work with you instead!

I lived in London for 12 years in total, from a student living in South East London to my last place right in the City. My last year there was easily the most memorable, probably in part due to living so centrally, and making the most of the Capital (especially during Summer 2012 when there was SO much going on!).

A lot of my fond memories do come from my old walk to work though, as I’d leave our flat at Tower Hill, walk over Tower Bridge and along to Borough. I would sometimes cross over at London Bridge on the way home for a change, and walk through St Dunstans or the Tower of London. Which ever way I walked though, whatever the weather and time of day (I would often finish quite late) there were always sights to see and things to photograph…and so I thought I’d share with you some of my memories of that great walk to work….

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: A Day in the Life

“Tell us about your typical day. Or maybe do a photo diary of what you are doing on the hour every hour for 12 hours. Or you could sum up what you did today.”

I’ve been fancying doing one of these ‘Day in the life’ posts for ages, but the truth is, there is no typical day in my life, and so I was worried it’d all come across a bit odd! One of the things I love most about having given up my ‘day job’ and moving out of London, is that no two days are even remotely the same, and I get to pack in all sorts of things I love doing!

I do admittedly have little bits of routines….I walk the dog in the morning and afternoon….I like to do house work on Fridays so the place is nice for the weekend (although it doesn’t always pan out that way!)….and Sundays usually start with a lie in and end with an early night! But, lest I bore you to death with my Friday house working activities, I thought I’d share a sort of ‘best bits’ version of my day….all things I do get up to, but not necessarily in the usual spirit of a blow-by-blow ‘A Day in the Life’….

NB. All times are very *ish*

7:00 am 

Wake up….often naturally but sometimes with my alarm or Adam’s. Before the clocks turned I was waking up wonderfully naturally at a rather respectable 6:30am, but since then I’ve been struggling to drag myself out of bed!

7:15 am

After using the bathroom, I often just sling on a coat and walking boots over my PJs to take the hound straight out for a walk. It always feels a bit of a drag to begin with, until I see his bright face and wagging tail, all excited, and once I’m outdoors I love it. We walk most mornings at the Priory grounds near us….there are lots of public pathways in all sorts of different routes through the farmland, and Cooper loves to meet his dog friends there and run about like a crazy. We sometimes get picked up by his Grandma Liz (Adam’s Mum!) who might take us to the nearby common for a change, or will drop me off at the office I work at sometimes then walk him with her two dogs over at Letchworth or Willian. I do love our walks together at the Priory though, just the two of us through the morning mist, or across the deserted fields listening to the sky larks in the blue skies above us.

8:15 am

Once home, and after the habitual ‘welcome home’ doggy biscuit, I prepare Cooper’s breakfast (he still needs feeding up so he gets two large meals a day!) and then make coffee and cereal for Adam and I. We have intercom phones in the house because it’s a bit rambling, so I call Adam on the kitchen handset to tell him it’s ready. He’s already been working since I got up, so it’s a nice little break for him and we chat for a little until he goes back up to his home office.

8:45 am

After breakfast I shower, get dressed in proper clothes and put on my makeup….even if I’m going to be home all day, I still at least do my eyebrows and put mascara on. If I’m off out anywhere special I’ll make an effort to look nice, but otherwise I just wear what’s comfy and practical!

9:00 am

And so to work! I do go into an office in Letchworth once or twice a week to work at the local CVS. I love working there as I get to do so many varied things (I plan events, help with publicity and communications, and am currently overseeing the new membership process) and I get to drink LOTS of tea and chat to all the lovely people there.

If it’s not an office day though, I’ll often spend the morning in my studio at home, working on orders or creating new stock….I adore my studio and it feels like such a luxury to have a space of my own to work in. This week I’ve been working on a miniature sculpture for a bride and groom getting married in Texas….I love working in miniature so it was great fun!

There’s usually a tea break or two during the morning, when I’ll stretch my legs to the kitchen, then take a cuppa up for Adam. The hound usually follows me about, although of late he’s been settling upstairs on the guest bed in order to catch the morning sun!

11:00 am

I’m often popping into London for meetings and what have you, and yesterday for example I made the journey to East London to take some stock to a new pop-up shop some friends are opening. I also often take stock to more local shops, who sell some of my hand made jewellery for me….I love doing it this way as I don’t have to store the stuff at home and once they sell, all the money is mine rather than having to pay Paypal or anyone!

This morning though, as it’s a Friday, all three of us popped to the market for a wander. Fridays are my favourite at the market, as it’s Antiques and Collectables day. There are always loads of brilliant stalls, some with expensive antiques, some with wonderful thrifty finds, and some full of really random stuff! I love a mooch about there, and it’s nice for Adam to get away from his computer screen, not to mention how much Cooper loves a sniff about and getting lots of fuss from other shoppers! I often buy things from the market to sell online on my vintage Etsy shop, or we buy pretty things to make our home nice.

12:00 noon

We have lunch quite early, for no reason other than we like our food really! So at around noon I start making us something….often a nice soup from scratch, or if we’re being naughty like today, a cheese toasty! Cooper gets lunch too at the moment, a nice big Bonio biscuit, as he needs some more flesh on his ribs! We eat at the kitchen table like at breakfast, and usually I’ll have the radio on in there….nearly always tuned into Gold FM, my favourite!

1:00 pm

Back to work. This might consist of more work in the studio, setting up my mini photography studio in the dining room and taking pictures of my stock to list on Etsy, a little blogging, or some house work. This week I’ve been enjoying spending a little time out in the garden though in the afternoon, just slowly tidying things up, weeding, water the pots, and throwing a ball for the hound (who doesn’t ever bring it back, just runs around the garden with it like a crazy).

Whatever I’m doing is usually punctuated by more cups of tea, and visits to Adam’s office upstairs, as well as lots of fuss and cuddles with the pupster.

4:00 pm

I think I love the afternoon walk even more than the morning one in some ways. Maybe because it’s often a little longer, or we see more people and dogs, or maybe because Adam usually gets to come too. Again, we’ll often walk at the Priory, although we have a different route through the ‘burbs and some playing fields for when it’s raining, to avoid the mud! I often take lots of photos on our walks, as the surroundings are so stunning. It’s so wonderfully relaxing!

5:00 pm

Again, we eat early….I set to work on dinner. Favourites at our house are Butternut Squash Lasagne, Cowboy Meatballs and my rather wonderful Chilli (even if I do say so myself). I usually cook as I have more time on my hands than Adam does, and he enjoys a rest after being in his office all day staring at data! He is however in charge of cooking certain meals, especially if I’ve been out for the day, so he will often make his amazing Spaghetti Carbonara!

We eat at the kitchen table again, unless we have guests, in which case we might eat in the dining room. Cooper has his dinner too at a similar time, or when I’m cooking ours, and if we have a pudding he gets an extra treat!

7:00 pm

After dinner it’s ‘sofa time’ which is Cooper’s second favourite time of the day! He gets to snuggle on the sofa with us whilst we blog, plan stuff, or do other computery or internety stuff. Then we’ll usually watch a bit of telly….although we don’t actually watch ‘live’ telly at all, preferring to watch series on DVD all at once! We are currently making our way through the X-Files….we’re on season seven at the moment….although we do sometimes watch a little anime in between, like Azumanga Daioh or Magic Users Club.

9:00 pm

We are usually pretty early to bed….we love our sleep….so at about nine we take Coops out into the garden for his last ‘spend-a-penny’ and then he races upstairs for his bedtime Chomping Chew! I think this is his favourite time of the day…he LOVES his chews and seems very happy to settle down on his bed for the night once he’s had it!

We then tend to read in bed, play computer games (awful at bedtime I know, but I never find it hard to get to sleep!) or do more internety stuffs. Now it’s lighter in the evenings though I want to get back into the habit of knitting or crafting something to wind down in the evenings.

10:30 pm

After brushing teeth etc. we settle down in bed, and as I’m very lucky that way, I nearly always fall asleep within a couple of minutes….and there I stay for my nice solid 8 to 9 hours beauty sleep, until it all starts over again for a brand new day…..

Ems x

Something from the weekend…..cakes, walks and rummaging

It was a close call, but the rain didn’t dampen my weekend….

On Saturday morning I pootled around the house, cleaning and tidying whilst Adam walked the hound….Friday hadn’t gone as planned so it was good to catch up a little. Then after a nice big brunch (Adam poached some very yummy duck eggs for us!) we made our way into London, leaving the pooch with his Grandma Liz (that’s Adam’s Mum!).

We made our way to friends’ Richard and Tara’s flat in Farringdon, Tara and I leaving the boys to get up to mischief whilst we headed into town for our friend Brigitte’s hen do! First of all we took in a lovely afternoon tea at a hotel on the Strand, then went bowling at the fun All Stars Lanes, before we had a big dinner together. We didn’t go in for the traditional Hen stuff (L-plates and penis straws etc!), but chose instead to honour the occasion by all wearing fascinators in light of the fact that the Bride and Groom have requested no-one wears hats to the wedding!

As the pup had a sleepover at his Grandma’s, Adam and I managed to get a nice lie in before we went to pick him up. Then after a late breakfast, we took a turn around the Sunday car boot sale at the Market, then went along to the second Great Hitchin Rummage Sale at Bar Ab nearby. Lots of local shops had taken up a pitch there, in what is sort of a one-day pop-up shop….and some of our favourites were there to tempt us with the rummagy loot….Jolly Brown and Red Eyed Dove had a stack of goregous vintage treasures, whilst Mamacita’s Cakery (new to us) were selling a table full of dreamy looking sweet treats. We picked up several of the latter’s offerings, then made our way home to yum them up!

Because there are so many cupcakes and such being sold on similar stalls at the moment, it takes a lot to impress us….we’ve really only tried one stall’s cakes and been truly wowed (how we miss Flavour Town at Old Spitalfields now that we’ve moved!). However, the amazing yums by Mamacita’s Cakery really did impress us, and we scoffed a Dulce de Leche cupcake, a Mexican wedding biscuit and a ‘bronze’ biscuit (each) in close succession! Definitely will be trying more of their treats!

To walk off the gluttony, we took the hound to the common for a nice jaunt, then went back to Adam’s Mum’s for a dinner of fajitas, followed by some of her amazing freshly baked scones (with clotted cream obviously!).

Back at home we had a relaxed evening on the sofa. I finished off a little drawing project for a competition (Oasis’ new butterfly collection cover photo) and then had the customary early night!

Hope you had a lovely weekend too!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….our first overnight guests!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something from the weekend….. a rather rainy weekend

This weekend was a wonderfully long one, owing to Adam having to take some days holiday before the end of the month. And so on Thursday evening we trotted off to the station to catch a train up to his home town of Hitchin. It was getting late by the time we arrived so there wasn’t much time to do anything (especially after the catch up chats) other than have dinner. Adam’s Mum had cooked us the most delicious veggie bake….layers of different veg with mozzarella in between and all topped with herby breadcrumbs. Yum!

Our excuse for visiting was that it was actually Adam’s Mum’s birthday weekend. And so I was very excited about giving her the home made gifts I had made….. as well as a yummy banana loaf I had painted two canvases for her, one of each of her dogs. She was absolutely delighted with them too, and we were all pleased to yum up the banana bread over the weekend!

Banana Bread

On Friday morning (trying to remember it wasn’t yet Saturday!) we popped into town to go to the lovely flea market that’s there every Friday. We’ve had some real success there before, having found some wonderful vintage buttons and my incredible 50cm high Victorian Bell Cloche on the last visit. This time it was a darling little white leather flask I couldn’t resist….. I bought it for just £9 from the military stall, and it has a wonderful silver badge on the front with my initials (also the Queen’s!).

Vintage military hip flask from Hitchin Flea Market

We also couldn’t resist the chalk board sign in the window at Halsey’s (the gorgeous little tea room / gallery / deli just off the market square which dates back to 1854) which advertised Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar as the best cheese in the world…..and so in we went to buy a large chunk for lunch when we got home. And we can certainly concur with the judges…..melted on toast in the Aga it was absolutely delicious….just the right balance of creaminess, sharpness and a little earthiness which comes from aging the makers’ truckles inside the famous cave.

Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar from Halsey's

In the evening, it was off to Letchworth and the sweet little Broadway Cinema there. It was lovely to have a change from our usual large cinema in London….the audience were much better behaved and the auditorium is very charming in Deco styling. The film was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and we all loved it….. I’m so very fond of many of its cast (Judie Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith…..) and it really is a very funny and heart warming film. The film’s setting had us all hankering for an Indian meal though and so it was over to Sagar for a curry. All the food was divine…. Adam had an amazing veggie curry in a banana sauce…. and my vegetable Biryani (made with Rose Water, pistachios, coconut and almonds) was lush! And when we’d finished our meal, we were presented with a whole tray full of sweeties, as well as chocolate mint thins with the bill. AND our lovely waiter then made us up his special night-cap (and wouldn’t reveal the secret recipe!) all on the house. Great place.

As the weekend proper started, I decided on three breakfasts to set me up for the day. First breakfast was All-Bran with milk….second breakfast, fruity granola with Rachel’s Organic Vanilla Yoghurt….and third breakfast a lovely slice of granary toast with marmalade and butter. Yummy!

And having yummed this all up we walked down to Gila Timur, a shop on the way to the station, to meet Adam’s Dad for some browsing. From outside, it looks like any other independent furniture shop, but inside it is a treasure trove of gorgeous pieces from all over the world. Adam’s Dad had wanted us to see the Indonesian sculptures there which are absolutely stunning….. I also loved all the gorgeous furniture made from reclaimed boat timber which still has layers of chipped paint on it. Having gotten chatting to one of the owners, he told us about his pride and joy which resides in one of the rooms in the labyrinthine basement….. an enormous (we think at least 9 feet tall) and incredibly intricate wood carved sculpture of Hanuman, the Hindu deity who appears in the form of a monkey. The owner explained how it is common practice for such sculptures (that is, carvings not made for tourists, and of such immense size) to be imbued with a spirit, and we certainly felt a presence about the sculpture like nothing we had ever experienced.

After a jaunt around all the charity shops and a trip to Waitrose for dinner ingredients, we spied a chance in between rain showers to go out for a walk with the dogs around Ickleford Common and Gerry’s Hole. The light was gorgeous as the sun began to set over all the damp trees and grass, and the dogs enjoyed running for sticks (as well as a little swim in the river for Newton!).

Ickleford Common

Walking the dogs

We worked up quite the appetite after our stroll, so we were pleased to be heading over to see some friends and cook dinner for the six of us. I’d made my signature Chilli last time, so it was Adam’s turn to make his wonderful Carbonara. Everyone yummed this up, alongside wine and cider…..and we remained at the table to eat cola cupcakes made by Holly and to play my all time favourite board game: Cranium. We played boys versus girls, and having cheated terribly, the boys beat us by a hair. It was a brilliant game though, highlights including the boys having to roll a length of sculpting clay as long as Adam’s left foot (between them, and using only their left hands)…. Martin’s whistled rendition of Tomorrow from Annie….. and my expertly sculpted toilet.

Cola cupcake

Sunday brought a shocking amount of rain, and so we decided to stay another night to avoid traveling home in it….or from leaving the house at all really. We started the day with a naughty breakfast of Belgian waffles with strawberries, ice cream and maple syrup…. and then settled down to some rainy day activities such as completing the crossword, eating home made fudge and lounging about. I did manage to be a little productive though and wove a few pendants from beads in the shape of snow drops, inspired by our countryside walk the day before. Hopefully I’ll get these onto my Etsy Shop this week. For supper, it was roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and all the trimmings….. gosh it was lovely with a glass of red (and with a pudding of ice cream and chocolate Torte made by Adam’s Mum’s friend for her birthday!). We finished off a slobby day watching the classic no-brainer Van Helsing (hurrah for Hugh Jackman!) before falling asleep very full and contented.

Snow drops next to the river

This morning we lay in before another waffle breakfast (this time without the ice cream so very healthy) and then packed, ready to leave. After a short and tolerable train journey home, we popped to Waitrose for the week’s shop and returned with fresh coffee and Duchy Originals Hot Cross Buns…..which we devoured whilst completing the cross word.

What a wonderfully relaxing weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours too,

Ems x

Splendid Snowy Sunday

It’s taken us ages to find a free day to meet up with our friends Siobhan and Matthew, but finally today we managed a whole Sunday together. As they live in South East London (near to my old stomping ground) we thought we’d take the opportunity to visit the Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Royal Observatory, as well as have a snoop around the market.

Having managed to get out of bed at a reasonable hour (considering it was Sunday), we decided to head off a little earlier than planned to take some photos on our walk through Greenwich to meet them. The snow slowed us down a little with signal failure at our DLR stop, but we managed the walk to the next one along thanks to my very snug sheepskin coat, Alpaca socks and my trusty Hunter boots. Once in Greenwich, we began our wander through the Old Royal Naval College, snapping the various scenes we’ve seen in so many of the Dickens series. On our way, we found a temporary structure on the King Charles Lawn, beside which was what looked to be a miniature jousting area, marked out by bunting and several yurts. It rather looked like we’d missed something, so we carried on to the gorgeous Painted Hall for some snaps.

20120205-190456.jpg

Outside, a team from the Council were busy shoveling the snow from the central pathway, which seemed an odd length to go to in such a place. But they provided a great subject for our snowy photos, with the Queen’s House and Observatory behind.

20120205-190434.jpg

Next we headed over the road to the National Maritime Museum and around the beautiful Queen’s House where we began to hear the happy noises of the park as couples made snow angels and children threw snow balls. It was when we got into the park proper though that I got really excited to see everyone dashing around, over-joyed to be out in the snow. The squeals as people got playfully thunk-ed with snow balls, and the barks of over-excited dogs tearing around brought such a grin to my face…. the place was the noisiest I’d ever seen it and the atmosphere was genuinely joyful. I found myself bounding around squeaking with delight!

20120205-190506.jpg

On the large hills running down from the Observatory, dozens of people were sledging on beautiful traditional sleighs, stream-lined plastic sleds and even bits of cardboard and in one case an old door! Despite the slightly treacherous walk up the steep path to the top, everyone was having such a lovely time and it was so gorgeous to see everyone whisking down the slope in the opposite direction that we didn’t mind the hard going at all. And waiting at the top were our dear friends, commentating on which of the snow crafts were most effective and who was ‘winning’.

20120205-190524.jpg

So, all assembled, we headed straight inside the Observatory to see the exhibition. It’s been running for three years now and Adam and I have been to every one. It’s a short but well curated exhibition, and free to get in. When we first went I had no idea of the possibilities of astro-photography and what was achievable with such little specialist equipment. The images are always eye opening and awe inspiring, so we wouldn’t dream of missing it.

Entrants are asked to submit photos in several different categories: ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’, ‘People and Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’. There is also a prize for ‘Best Newcomer’ and this year they have added a new prize for photographs taken with a ‘Robotic Scope’. The Deep Space photographs always grab me, because of the surreal, seemingly computer generated quality in the colours and shapes captured. It’s incredible to think what is going on so far away from us, and how vividly someone can capture it. I especially loved Michael Sidonio’s Fighting Dragons of Ara, in which oily colours and patterns form a mind boggling amount of detail. This year, I also really enjoyed the People and Space photographs, and especially Jean-Baptiste Feldmann’s Hunting Moon in which the subject appears to be catching the moon in a net.

20120205-191824.jpg

Back out into the cold and we were ready for something to fill our tummys and warm us up, so Siobhan took us to Bianco right next to the Cutty Sark. Needing an instant warm-up, I ordered a Cappuccino which arrived quickly (thank goodness) and expertly made (in fact, one of the best I’ve had outside Italy and Monmouth). Adam and I decided to do our swapping trick, ordering the special pizza of the day and the baked gnocchi to share.The pizza was perfectly thin and crispy, very authentic, and well laden with its toppings of fresh tomato, mozzarella, Italian truffles and Parmesan. Even though it was pretty large, we demolished every tasty mouthful. The gnocchi too was delicious, baked in a tomato and basil sauce, and topped generously with toasted Parmesan.

20120205-191802.jpg

The cute cafe suffers somewhat from the noises of young families, and is a little over-cosy for my taste, but then its location and the quality of the food far outweighs these slight inconveniences.

Next, we were off into the wonderful covered market, where I’ve spent many, many hours but haven’t been for over a year. We used to go regularly when I only lived down the road, and things have changed a little bit now with new shops and stalls. The wonderful 360 Degrees Vintage clothing shop had us all rustling through busy rails of gorgeous treasures, and Adam picked up a stunning military coat with big pointy collar and shiny buttons. The food stalls are also far too tempting, even though we were stuffed from lunch, but we got away with only a small purchase of Maple Pecan flavoured coffee beans.

Just outside, we discovered an enchanting shop called Lush Designs, in which lamp shades, cushions, totes and cards are covered in delightful illustrations of animals, nature and architecture. The colours and lines feel almost 70s, whilst the application of the drawings feels very contemporary and we all quickly picked out our favourites and ‘wants’.

20120205-191855.jpg

20120205-191904.jpg

It was soon time for another warm-me-up, so we hopped over to Bar du Musee for hot chocolates. After those and some more shopping (Siobhan picked up two beautiful dresses in Joy, where I also spied the gorgeous necklaces of Jenny and Jimbob) we began hearing rumours of a parade due to go through Greenwich at 5pm. Presuming this was a one-off thing to celebrate Greenwich being named a Royal Borough as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we decided to hang around to see it….with another hot drink, this time Chai Cafe Lattes and Spicy Mochas at The Organic Cafe.

20120205-191911.jpg

Before long though, it was time to try to find this rumored parade, and following the men in fluorescent vests and the cars at a stand-still, we marched back down to where we’d seen the temporary structure and bunting earlier (which also explained the snow shoveling), just in time to see the very front of the parade pass by. Just like in the park earlier, there was a proper party spirit as hundreds of people passed by with lanterns, some in Royal and historical themed costumes, but all loving the buzz of the parade. Several marching bands, troupes of cadets and a marvelously energetic band (who are you please?! the ones wearing all black with red sashes!) who had us all hopping about to the beat.

20120205-191921.jpg

The Royal Naval College had been lit up in bright pinks and purples, with a gobo of the Royal Borough’s Coat of Arms right at the top, and inside the tent adjacent, the brilliant Fat 45 warmed us all up dancing to their fabulous ’11 Piece Jump Jive Big Band’!

20120205-191928.jpg

By now though, we’d been out in the snowy chill for almost eight hours, and had become rather sleepy. So it was back to the DLR, farewells to our fellow adventurers, and home to snuggle on the sofa with a pot of Assam and a cosy Vetiver and Cardamon candle from White Company. What a splendid, snowy Sunday.

20120205-191936.jpg

We would all recommend the Astromony Photography exhibition, which runs for just one more week until the 12th February). The snow though, well who knows?!