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