Living for the weekend…. August Bank Holiday 2012 in London

Loooooong weekend!!!!! Yes, it’s here….the last bank holiday before Christmas!

We will acutally be up in Hitchin, where we’re moving next month. But I know that if we weren’t I’d be making the most of all the things going on in London….in fact we’ll be taking every opportunity to make the most of London before we leave in a few weeks!

Here’s my pick of the best stuff to do this weekend….maybe I’ll even get chance to pop along to one or two things on Monday…..

London Picnic Club at the Skyroom

“Running for the duration of the Olympics and Paralympics, the Skyroom designed by young architect David Kohn (creator of a Room for London atop the Queen Elizabeth Hall in South Bank) will gradually undergo a transformation into a garden with a difference- a colourful, living and breathing roof top oasis allowing guests to retreat from the London chaos below.

Share and enjoy exquisite food presented in the form of surprising picnic hampers, take part in garden games, catch a variety of exclusive and intimate  live music acts or stretch out on blankets and cushions to watch one of our especially selected movies at our mini screen on the green. The primary focus of the London Picnic Club involves a progressive and evolving food and drink menu that will show a strong relation to our developing roof top garden installation- keeping things seasonal and directly interactive with our space.

The experience is aimed to be surprising at all times, where our guests will discover new flavours in a playful and dynamic environment that brims full of creativity and connects people in new ways…

Platterform’s new head chef Alejandro Bello (of Ceviche fame) has collected and carefully reinvented select dishes from various corners of the world all assembled beautifully inside an iconic British picnic hamper. Designed as a sharing meal, expect London Picnic Club hampers to contain inspirational tapas style hot dishes, innovative ceviches and fresh garden salads as well as a fine selection of produce from local suppliers including artisanal bread from St. John’s Bakery, cheese from Neal’s Yard Dairy and charcuterie from Brindisa all served with home-made preserves and dips. Exotic desserts, fresh Summer fruits and surprising treats complete the package.

Drinks take inspiration from the quintessential British Summer garden where Platterform delve into the world of experimentation using their own garden ingredients to make shrubs (fruit preserves), infusions, cordials and bitters to combine with premium spirits, fresh fruits and hand picked garden herbs.

Grab your favourite picnic blanket and gather your friends for a once in a life time picnic experience!”

 £35 per person, advanced bookings via www.londonpicnicclub.eventbrite.com

Until 8th September (Monday-Friday  11am-10.30pm, Saturday  12pm-10.30pm)

The Floating Market moves to Little Venice

As you may have read, I went along to the floating market on Regent’s Canal a few weeks ago, whilst it was at Mile End….. the market has now set sail for pretty Little Venice though, so head there for yummy cakes, hat stalls, floating book shops and all sorts!

Until 2nd September, free entry

Frightfest

“Originally conceived by Paul McEvoy, Ian Rattray and Alan Jones, FrightFest staged its first event in 2000 at the Prince Charles cinema, near London’s Leicester Square. Its August Bank Holiday weekend date has remained a fixture ever since……. The objective of FrightFest was to provide the UK with a horror fantasy festival of similar stature to the market leaders in Europe, Sitges (Spain) and Brussels (Belgium). FrightFest has since evolved into a community where audiences and guests alike travel from all over the world to be part of the event’s unique atmosphere.”

Tickets are available from the Empire Cinema box office and here

Festival passes for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday are £160.  Single tickets are £12.

 

“Guilty Pleasures is London’s biggest, boldest, brashest and best night out. Packed with relentlessly energetic djs, acrobatic bedazzling dancers, live bands and speciality performers galore, over seven years it has established itself as the capital’s number one top spot for a P.A.R.T.Y. This Saturday 25th August, in collaboration with Time Out Live and MGM HD GP are bringing the most ambitious and thrilling party at London’s decadent Troxy Cinema with a live, interactive and exciting event where the worlds of cinema, music and nightlife collide in one colossal party…… 80s pop takes centre stage as Guilty Pleasures Cinema Party presents: Desperately Seeking Susan.”
The Troxy, Commercial Road
Saturday 25th August, 8pm – 2am, £10

Supperclub Carnival Weekend

“This weekend, we will be having an exceptionally turned on line up with our outside inside carnival special with a carnival themed menu with a serious twist…… With an extra special line up of entertainment for the club night we will be taking the carnival from the streets onto the sheets where we will be inviting party goers down for our carnival afterparty to enjoy our beds and booze late into the night.”

General Admission is £20

Events on over the whole weekend

If I make it to just one thing on Monday, it’ll have to be this!…..

Paw Pageant 2012

“The capital’s best-dressed, fugliest and smartest dogs will be hitting the dogwalk here at Old Spitalfields Market on Monday 27th August. Paw-perfect pooches will be competing to win prizes in eight categories, from ‘Dressed Up to the K-Nines’ to ‘Shoreditch Show Off’. There will also be a small specialist market selling a variety of great gear and tasty grub to pamper your pooch. In addition a glorious raffle by canine couturist’s LoveMyDog will be auctioned in aid of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home.”

Monday, Old Spitalfields Market, 1pm to 3:30pm, free

Have a fab one whatever you do!

Ems x

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Living for the weekend…. 18th and 19th August 2012 in the UK

Everyone’s upset and missing the Olympics, but with a weekend off from sport there’s plenty to divert you all over the UK….it’s even going to be sunny for the most part!

Designers Makers Market, Old Spitalfields, LONDON

A shameless plug first of all……. I have my very first stall at Old Spitalfields Market this weekend and I am more than a little excited! I adore the market, as anyone who regularly reads my blog will know, and so it’s a big thing for me to host a stall there! I’ll be part of the Designers Makers market, which features lots of creatives like me, selling gifts, jewellery, artwork and all sorts. It runs from 11am to 5pm and is free to get in!

Dracula at Whitby Abbey, YORKSHIRE

“Bram Stoker’s classic Victorian gothic tale is brought to life with a cast of 3 actors in a promenade performance in the ruins of Whitby Abbey. The tale begins with Jonathan Harker, an English solicitor, travelling to Dracula’s remote castle. From here the story reveals a shipwreck, a large black dog and vampires… These performances are suitable for children aged 8 and above. There will also be activities based on these and other myths & legends in our Time Travellers Big Top.”

Sat 18 & Sun 19 August, at 11.30am, 1.30pm & 3.30pm, £6.20 for Adults and £3.70 for kids.

Grow Your Own Festival, Parham House and Gardens, SUSSEX

“Join our experts for an inspirational afternoon of Master Classes and events designed to inspire you to grow your own fruit, flowers and vegetables.  BBC Radio 4’s Pippa Greenwood will be on hand to give you hints and tips on getting started with fresh healthy vegetables. Visitors will be able to see and talk to all the various producers and there will be a dedicated “Talks Marquee” where speakers will be discussing their areas of expertise throughout the weekend.  Q & A’s will be welcomed. There will be a “Flower Festival” in Parham House and numerous nurseries will be present and selling plants ideal for cut flower arrangements.”

Sunday 12th August, 11am to 5pm, £9 for adults

Kite Flying and Teddy Bears Picnic, Croome, WORCESTERSHIRE

“Discover the beauty and space of Croome – the ideal place to relax and unwind. The serene landscape and lakeside are full of paths which stretch for miles, taking you on a journey through 18th-century pleasure gardens. Bring your own kite or make your own! Bring or buy your picnic and enjoy Croome with your teddy, then make a parachute and watch him fly down from the top of our mansion house!”

Parachuting sessions for teddies are at 2pm and 3.30pm at Croome Court

Crieff Highland Gathering, SCOTLAND
“The day kicks off at 10.30am with a mix of local heavyweight events, solo piping and Highland dancing.From then on you will see a spectacular mix of traditional field events and modern day athletics and cycling which take place in the centre arena. Spaced around the park are Highland Dancing, Pipe band and bagpipe competitions, trade stands and a fun fair.”
Whatever you do this weekend, have a lovely one!
Ems x

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Something from the weekend….. Champagne, picnic, and friends

What a lucky girl I am! I’ve just had the most wonderful weekend….. This Friday coming is my 30th Birthday and so on Saturday I celebrated my ‘official birthday’ (well, the Queen got one!)….

I had spent most of Friday getting over my fun-filled trip to Paris, but I managed to head to Waitrose for picnic supplies and catch up on some photo uploading etc. before spending a relaxing evening eating pub grub and completing the crossword….

Then on Saturday morning it was time to cut the sandwiches and pack the picnic hampers before heading over to meet everyone. I’ve nearly always had a picnic to celebrate my birthday since living in London, and so for my 30th it seemed apt I did just that. I wanted it to be super special though, so I invited everyone to the stunning little secret garden within the ruined old St Dunstan’s church very near to the flat. It’s so peaceful and beautiful there, and I very much wanted to share that with my friends. And so we walked there heavily laden with picnicking paraphernalia, hoping that the few drops of rain in between the sunny spells didn’t spell disaster!

Once there, Adam, my friend Michelle and I set up ready for everyone….. we hung bunting along the benches and in the trees, spread out cute checked blankets and laid out the goodies I’d prepared…… Cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, home made sausage rolls, salads, fruit and cakes….. I also set up a sort of Pimm’s station and popped the cork on the first bottle of Champagne of the day before my dear friends started to arrive, bringing even more goodies with them! Jane had prepared some yummy crudites and brought along an amazing sweet red wine which is served with strawberries and ice, and Dave was kind enough to dash to the shop to replace the jam I’d left at home so I could serve up some delicious Duchy scones with strawberry jam, clotted cream and strawberries.

I am always so excited about preparing for such occasions and seeing everyone, that I forget that birthdays often mean presents! So I was delighted to receive so many wonderful gifts from everyone….. lots of beautiful flowers… books about how to host the perfect picnic, finding vintage things in London and how to fold napkins in all sorts of designs…. some gorgeous cocktail accessories…. a British themed board game…. a very pretty set of silver trinket boxes…. home made sweeties and preserves… and even an ‘Under A Glass Sky’ patchwork tote bag, hand stitched by my friend Hannah. What a lucky girl I am!

I had such a glorious time chatting to people, yumming up all the treats, and enjoying the shorts bursts of sunshine. At times it was rather like I had my own little private party in the park because so few people know if and visit it, so we nearly had the place to ourselves! Afterwards those of us that remained returned to the flat to drink more Champagne and eat cake, and by the time the last guest had gone I had just enough energy to fill the dishwasher before flolopping into bed!

Thank you to Adam for taking photos all day and letting me share some here…..

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We decided that Sunday should be spent resting up and catching up from the busy week…. we had lots of picnic leftovers too so I had a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon with Prosecco, followed by a second breakfast of donuts and coffee! I also used up lots of left over cherry tomatoes and things to make some fresh pasta sauce to keep in the freezer for a rainy day, planned a soup I’ll make later today from left over cucumber and mint, and then whipped up a salad for lunch with goats cheese, broad beans and asparagus. Yum!

Along with a big post-party clean up, I did a few householdy things, uploaded more photos and generally lounged about all day. As has become tradition, I labeled some of the corks from the bubbles with the date and occasion to keep as a memento, and safely popped away all my gifts. For supper we finished off some of the yummy bread left over from Saturday, along with the Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese and the home made chilli jam and red onion chutney we’d received as gifts. Then after finishing season 4 of True Blood finally, it was a very early night for us sleepy heads!

What a lovely ‘official birthday weekend’….. can’t wait til next weekend to celebrate my actual birthday!

Ems x

Plans for the weekend…..

After my little trip to Paris, and walking for miles and miles adventuring, the last thing on my mind at this moment is more of the same! Still, I know that after a good sleep, I’ll be ready for action again and wanting to cram as many things as possible into the weekend!

This Saturday sees my ‘official’ birthday celebration (same as the Queen!), with a big picnic in my secret garden with a lovely bunch of friends…. so that will just leave Sunday to fill up with fun. Here are some of the things I’m shortlisting…..

Treasure

Treasure is London’s ‘visionary’ jewellery show, and will be showcasing some of the most beautiful, exciting and vibrant contemporary jewellery in the UK this weekend. Held at the stunning Somerset House, this year’s show will be the largest event of this year’s Jewellery Week, and offers a unique opportunity to meet designers, view their collections and buy some of the very best jewellery design the UK and Europe has to offer. It’s open on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Tickets are from £10 and available here.

Anifandis Dimitrios

David Nash at Kew: A Natural Gallery

UK sculptor David Nash is exhibiting his work at Kew Gardens until March 2012, showcasing many of his sculptures, installations, drawings and film in place throughout the Gardens, glasshouses and exhibition spaces. In addition, Nash is also working at Kew to create new pieces using trees from the Gardens that have come to the end of their natural life, adding these pieces to the exhibition in October. It’s the perfect setting to thoughtfully present his work, which spans 40 years and shows his deep understanding of the properties of trees. Tickets are £14.50 for adults, whilst children under 17 get in free!

David Nash, Black Sphere at Kew Gardens

Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

Some of 
East London’s most iconic venues open their doors to host a fabulous range of classical and contemporary music, family activities, and special tours. Bringing together world class artists and locals alike, the festival draws inspiration from the creative hub of East London, with the aim of bringing people together, changing perspectives and engaging body, emotions and intellect. Tickets vary in price, but you can find out how to book here and there’s a map of the events here….

Spitalfields Music Summer Festival

The Shoreditch Vintage Fair

This Saturday 16th, The Shoreditch Vintage Fair is back and tempting us with 40 stalls of mens and ladies vintage fashion. There will also be a vintage tea room, and beauty parlour hosted by Lipstick and Curls. Entry is £2 on the door.

Shoreditch Vintage Fair

The Monocle Country Fayre

This event is a uniquely global take on the English tradition, complete with market stalls, face painting, a mini zoo, Allpress coffee and more!…… There will be games of tombola, guess the button and pirate hunting, as well as prizes donated by Lufthansa, Krug and Ralph Lauren! The marvelous Trio Manouche are playing at 12pm too. It’s free to get in, but donations are welcome in aid of The Committee to Protect Journalists. It’s open from 11.00 – 17.00 on Saturday and Sunday. 

 The Trooping of the Colour

Although The Queen was born on 21 April, it has long been the tradition to celebrate her ‘official’ birthday publicly in the summer, in order to benefit from the better weather! Trooping the Colour is carried out by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, watched by members of the Royal Family, invited guests and members of the public. Tickets are allocated to public via a ballot and of course are all now gone, but you can still turn up at the Mall to see events from 11am, culminating in a fly past at 1pm.

Trooping the Colour

Enjoy your weekend!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. Dinosaurs, Sphinx and other friends….

So the weekend huh? Good weather huh?! It makes such a difference when the sun shines and I had such a lovely weekend…..

We didn’t start out with a weekend full of plans, so when we saw the blue sky and it was warm enough to have the windows open, we decided we just had to spend the day outside. We’ve been wanting to go to Crystal Palace on an adventure for ages, so on a whim we packed a lunch and headed towards the overground. I went once before but years and years ago, and before they refurbished the dinosaur trail, so that’s where we headed first and sat on the grass eating our picnic of falafel and tabbouleh looking down at the park below.

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Picnic finished, we began to make our way around the Dinosaur Trail. Created in 1953, this was the original Jurassic Park, and whilst the original Victorian stone statues are now known to be anatomically incorrect, the creatures are all the more charming for it. There is now even an online audio trail to follow as you take the path around the lake to look across to the Dinosaurs on their islands. The park itself is beautiful, with huge rhododendrons blooming everywhere and pre-historic looking shrubs.

Once we’d looped around we also discovered the little farm there, formerly ‘Pets Corner’, where we met lots of other creatures…… There are two very smiley and vocal pigs…. four handsome goats….. a pair of ‘short and brutish’ Shetland ponies…. rabbits, chickens, birds, guinea pigs…. and perhaps my favourites, two beautiful alpaca and some sheep with lambs! You can get really close to all of the animals so it was great to stroke them and take some photos. And chat to them for a bit of course.

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Next we made our way up to the main park, where the famous and iconic Crystal Palace used to stand. It’s incredible to think how huge it was…. I wish I could have seen it. It was built originally in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1852, then moved to this site in 1854. There have been rumours of re-building it for years, and if I won the lottery, I know that’s what I would do. There are plenty of bits of the Victorian architecture left, all falling into disrepair and weathering away. My favourites are the Sphinx which stand at the opening to several grand stair cases.

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From there we made our way into town and grabbed a pub meal on our way to Trafalgar Square. There we met our friends Kate and Jason to see the LSO Open Air Classics….. The London Symphony Orchestra were to play a selection of Stravinsky suites right in the square. The series is open to the public and free. The orchestra sounded incredible of course, and although a little was lost in terms of acoustics because of the location, the atmosphere more than made up for it. It was great to be able to sit and relax with friends, listening to such wonderful music, and so brilliantly different from a normal concert experience.

We were disappointed though that our friend Martin, who had come all the way in from Hitchin to see it, was delayed by the wretched tube and then wasn’t allowed in! He was told by security manning big barriers that the square was filled to capacity, but we had loads of space around us, and more in fact than where Martin ended up, crowded outside the barriers! I hope they work out the problem before the next one.

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Afterwards we went into Covent Garden for some drinks at the Punch and Judy pub (it was Punch’s birthday weekend after all) before making our tired way home to bed.

Our day of adventure left us needing a long lie in on Sunday morning, followed by a hearty brunch (recipe here). Then we took the bus up to Islington to see our friend Vixie and her stall at the Wonder Hill Market. As usual, I didn’t manage to get away without buying something (another brooch of a very cute spinning windmill!) and we had a lovely time snooping about the various crafty and vintagey stalls. We bought a huge slice of chocolate and Guinness cake and went to see it in the church grounds opposite in the sun. It seems so long since we were able to do that!

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From there, we had a little wander around the back streets off Upper Street, finding some gorgeous houses covered in Lilac and amazing smelling Wisteria, as well as the pretty Angel Puppet Theatre. Unfortunately we made it to the Chapel Road Market too late for the Farmers’ Market, but we made up for it by finding a brilliant ‘fancy goods’ shop called Zebedees which had stacks of cool stuff.

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Back at home and we were ready for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. I did a little sketching for some jewellery design ideas I’ve had, before making a start on our supper. We’d saved up loads of broccoli and leeks from our veggie box for the week and so I made a big batch of soup. I was super pleased with it…. in fact I think I’ll share the recipe here soon.

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And then we snuggled up on the sofa to watch Fantastic Mr Fox….. I haven’t seen it since the cinema and had quite forgotten how amazing it is! We were laughing out loud at all the brilliant and original funnies, as well as rocking along to the awesome soundtrack. After that, we were ready for an early night and so we sat in bed planning next weekend’s adventures!

Hope you managed to make the most of the better weather too!

Ems x

About to turn 30…… some serious distraction planning

So this June I will be turning 30. I believe it’s customary to dread this, and although I have no idea why, the prospect does indeed fill me with dismay. But as with most things, I find that if I do plenty of planning, and have lots to look forward to over the summer, the impending doom doesn’t seem so scary.

And so I’ve been booking and planning and organising my way through the last month, so that the path to my 30th is filled with lots of fun activities. Here is what I have coming up this summer…..

Tonight I’m going to see Babel in Caledonian Park. It’s a site specific theatre project, produced by Wild Works and Battersea Arts Centre. Created specially for the park and its awesome clock tower, the promenade performance boasts a 300 strong cast and plenty of impressive effects. I am ever so excited…. although I would really rather it wasn’t raining! Wax jacket and wellies it is!

Babel

I’ve been wanting to see the Mondrian and Nicholson exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery, and I’ve just found out that you can go for free on Mondays….. so that’s where I’ll be heading next week, before the exhibition closes on the Sunday. I’m a huge fan of Mondrian, in fact I went over to the Hague just to see his work at the Gemeentemuseum, so I can’t wait to go.

Also finishing soon is the Hermes retrospective at the Royal College of Arts. The prestigious brand is celebrating its 175th Birthday this year and the exhibition will host exquisite leather pieces from Thierry Hermes’ beginnings in Paris and throughout the brand’s history. It’s free to get in too.

In the last week of May, I will finally get to see the theatre version of War Horse. I’ve been meaning to go for the longest time and we had to book ages in advance…. but we have managed to get front row seats for what promises to be an incredible, and emotional performance.

War Horse

I’m looking forward to my friend Siobhan’s Hen Do at the end of the month too. We’re going bowling and dancing and drinking…. sounds like lots of fun afoot!

But before the month is out, I get to see Anthony Minghella’s enchanting production of Madame Butterfly at The London Colisseum. I have loved each of the English National Opera’s shows I’ve been to see…. and have seen some of my favourites twice even. This is the production that I most wanted to come back though, and to share with Adam. He’s less keen about the opera than I am but I found this version so stunning and unforgettable that I hope he enjoys it nearly as much as me!

Madame Butterfly

It being my Birthday month, I wanted some pretty big celebrations in June. And rather conventiently, I’ll be starting right away with the Jubilee long weekend. I am most excited about the boat pageant on the Thames…. we are pretty close to Tower Bridge so I’m hoping to get a good view!

Soon after that it’s Adam’s birthday, and we’ll be starting celebrations with a trip to see 39 Steps at the Criterion. It’s another show we’ve been meaning to see for ages, so I can’t wait to see how it’s staged (especially with only a cast of only 4 playing 139 roles!), as well as dinner beforehand next door at the glorious Criterion Restaurant (Christian Bale once ate there you know!).

Criterion Restaurant

The following week will see the start of my birthday celebrations proper….. my very good friend Michelle is coming over from the States and we’ll be spending three days in wonderful Paris as part of her visit. I adore Paris and I’m looking forward to a less hectic trip there now that I’ve seen a lot of the sights….. I can’t wait to mooch about the markets and discover new places wandering the little back streets.

The next weekend will see my birthday picnic in my little secret garden in the City. There should be a good bunch of us there, hoping for good weather! The bunting is pressed ready, so I just need to fill a picnic basket with goodies! Drinks will be Pimm’s and most likely my new favourite….. our ‘Turkish Delight’ cocktail made from our own rose flavoured vodka and pink lemonade!

On my actual birthday weekend, Adam is taking me for breakfast at The Wolseley on Piccadilly. I’ve always wanted to go there and their breakfasts are famous….. I think I may go for something like the haggis and duck eggs or the kedgeree. I just need to decide what to wear!

And for another outfit dilemma…. on the sunday I’m being treated to the Pret a Portea afternoon tea at The Berkley. This is something else I’ve wanted to do for an age too! The elegant tea draws on the season’s trends and fashions, with cakes and fancies styled on key pieces of the season. I can’t wait to see which pieces make an appearance!

Fasionista’s Pret a Portea

Not one to limit my birthday celebrations to just a week, I’m continuing the following week with another trip to the opera. This time it’s the premier of Damon Albarn’s new opera, Dr Dee. I saw Monkey at the O2 and loved it, so I am super excited about this!

Then it’s the first wedding of the season for me…. this one is London based and I have my outfit all ready. I picked up a gorgeous champagne gold satin cocktail dress in the Reiss sale earlier this year, and will be pairing it with my beloved Kiki heels from Kurt Geiger. I’m also hoping to make myself  a hat in time too!

Kikis

July will be busy too….. we’re off to see Hitchcock’s Blackmail at a special BFI outdoor screening at the British Museum. I’ve not seen the film before but I have high hopes, especially with the unique setting. Here’s hoping for great weather again!

Next, we’re hosting a friend from out of London for the weekend….. I’m planning a wonderful dinner on the Saturday, but on Sunday the plan is to take the wine tour at Vinopolis. I’ve taken it twice before, as well as formal wine training, but it really is such a good day out that I wouldn’t mind doing it a hundred times!

I get another trip to the opera in July, as my friend Jane and I go to see Porgy and Bess. I’ve not seen this before, but I know some of the lovely and famous songs from it and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story goes. Even if it is a little emotional!

Porgy and Bess

We finish up the month with a trip to Devon for the next wedding. I managed to snag some bargainous First Class train tickets, so the arduous journey shouldn’t be unbearable! I’m looking forward to a weekend out in the countryside, and hopefully we’ll fit in some lovely walks as well as the main event!

So that’s my summer as planned so far! Still time to fill up August, although I suppose I may need a rest by then with all this going on! I’m hoping to book in some time with friends to have lots of dinner parties and soirees once the main holiday rush is over. And maybe we’ll fit in a mini break or two out of town. Hope it’s sunny!

What are your plans for summer?

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!

Secret Supper Club at the Back Door Kitchen

Where to expect the next super-cool, super-trendy, super-edgy pop-up restaurant venue? Church halls, warehouses, roof tops…. but one’s front room? Indeed, the clever boys of Back Door Kitchen opened the doors to their Secret Supper Clubs last autumn, in a *secret* location….their house.

When dear friend Jen asked if Adam and I would like to come along to her birthday dinner, she (needlessly) lured us with talk of secret feasting and epic menus…and of course we couldn’t resist. For just £22 each, we signed up for a tasting menu of ten courses, specially designed for Jen’s celebration. Jen had been cooked for before by the boys, and despite loving their Spanish Tapas, she commissioned them to work up a special menu for her based on their own nation’s delights….Italy. So, rather excited (and plenty hungry!) we grabbed a bottle of Italian red (it’s BYOB) and off we trotted, just over the river, to find this foodie extravaganza.

True to their promise, the location was indeed a bit of a find, but our winding walk around SE London built up our appetite at least. As we approached the glowing kitchen/diner from the cold, we were met by such yummy smells, as well as the lovely boys who welcomed us into their home and to the long table which cosily filled the room. Gifts and cards exchanged, and wine poured, we started right away with the first of many wonderful creations…..

Pecorino romano cheese nests with mora romagnola ham and balsamic vinegar glaze

Burrata laid on a bed of caponata salad

Mini aubergine parmigiana

Potato and mozzarella frittata

Char-grilled scallops with saffron and herbs flavoured Umbrian lentils

Baby octopus guazzetto

(rock octopus slowly cooked with cherry tomato olives and their own juices)

Pollo alla cacciatora

(chicken breast fillet cooked in wine and vinegar with green olive and rosemary)

Polenta con le spuntature

(oven baked Italian herbs and parmesan polenta topped with pork spareribs slowly cooked in red wine and tomato sauce)

Chargrilled squid stuffed with mushrooms and smoked salmon

Tiramisu n.47

(mixed fruit tiramisu)

The real show piece though was the incredible pudding…a huge fruit tiramisu. Crafted into an enormous dish and topped with candles, Jen’s ‘birthday cake’ was immense and mouth-watering. Having made her wish, we were served up generous portions of the amazingly creamy dessert, and even though we should really have been long past full, there wasn’t a morsel left over.

Seriously contented and a little sleepy, we reminisced over our incredible feast on the lovely walk home through Shad Thames. And yes, we will be back!

All photos from BackDoor47, with the exception of the last!


Edible Experiences

More left overs…. this time, PUDDING

Our left overs feast surely could not be complete without a pudding of left overs…. And so it was that a massive pan of muesli, porridge oats, dried fruit, oranges and other larder left overs came together to make an insanely good batch of flapjacks!

450g butter
450g brown sugar
1 tbspn Maple Syrup
1 tbspn Clear, Eucalyptus Honey
1 tbspn Thick, Blossom Honey
1 tbspn Golden Syrup
250g muesli
200g porridge oats
2 generous handfuls of dried fruit
2 generous handfuls of nuts, chopped
1 dessert spoon of mixed spice
1 orange, sliced

First, we melted all the butter in a large pan……there really was a lot….

Next, we stirred in the sugar, syrups and honeys to make a big treacly goo, before mixing in the muesli, porridge oats, spice, fruit and nuts…..

Then, having greased and lined and greased again a large oven tray…..we smooshed the mixture in, pressing it down into one giant gooey flapjack. On top, we placed some thin slices of orange (mainly because that needed using up too), and then baked it on the middle shelf of the oven at 150 degrees for about 40 minutes.

We took out the tray once the top was lovely and golden, then waited for it to cool before chopping it into bite size squares.

Lush!