Wednesday Wants: Transition Wardrobe

So it seems we’re actually getting an Autumn this year, huh?! I feel like this time over the last couple of years has just been a single step from summer into winter, but I’m currently finding it a lovely in-between. I know some people find it a pain choosing what to wear at this time of year, but I’m loving it….whilst I’m always sad to say goodbye to my Summer wardrobe, I’m very happy not to have to start layering up too heavily yet, and I do like to dip into my wardrobe and find some long lost treasures to play with.

It being milder than I’ve found it as this time in the past couple of years (despite moving North and being warned of the temperature difference!) I’ve been able to wear some things I haven’t in ages, and put together lots of new outfits. I’m loving getting use out of my short sleeved jumpers…they’re too warm to wear in Spring and I need sleeves in Winter! And I’ve been re-finding lots of skirts for them to go with, along with my uniform of thick tights and boots.

Of course, all this re-discovery in my wardrobe doesn’t stop me from looking elsewhere, and so here is a round up of some pieces I have my eye on to see me through the transition from warm to cold…..

The foundation for an Autumnal outfit as far as I’m concerned is a darn good pair of boots. It’s proven (by scientists and me) that if your feet are warm, the rest of you is more likely to be too. I have an amazing pair of Shoe Embassy brogue boots that have seen me through all seasons for the last few years….they’re fleece lined for extra warmth and I’ve never had such a comfy pair of boots before. I’m constantly complemented on them, and I know that my next pair will be along the same lines…..most probably these….

Shoe Embassy, Brick Lane boots in Burgundy Ink, £89

Shoe Embassy, Brick Lane boots in Burgundy Ink, £89

Working upwards, it’s some super soft and cosy tights next. I’ve been a big fan of Heat Holders for ages, and was delighted when they brought in some new shades in their range of tights. The black and navy ones are super all-rounders, but its my purple and brown pairs that come into their own at this time of year….

Heat Holders, 0.52 Tog Tights in Purple, £8 fro Sock Shop

Heat Holders, 0.52 Tog Tights in Purple,   £8 from Sock Shop

With thick tights and boots I think the next thing needs to be a short skirt. Unsurprisingly, the shops are full of heritage tweeds and such as usual at the moment, but I’ll never complain….as much as I love all things bold and bright, I just adore the cosy feel of a lush woollen tartan…..

Tommy Hilfiger, Moon Wool Skirt, £115

Tommy Hilfiger, Moon Wool Skirt, £115

Tommy Hilfiger, Risa Check Skirt, £115

Tommy Hilfiger, Risa Check Skirt, £115

It’s fair to say that I get serious wear out of my Aran sweater all year round, but I love wearing it over skirts with boots at this time of year most. A short knit with a cute skirt is just adorable I think, and oh so Audrey Horne a la Twin Peaks!….

Tommy Hilfiger, Farida Sweater, £115

Tommy Hilfiger, Farida Sweater, £115

I’m currently watching Mad Men, and amongst the very many outfits I’m coveting (mostly Joan and Betty!) Betty’s riding jacket is getting a lot of my attention. I have a gorgeous vintage tweed jacket with corduroy trim that a very dear friend gave to me, and it’s getting LOTS of wear at the moment. I wouldn’t swap it for the world, but as you can’t have it (!), here’s what I’d pick as a spare….

Hobbs London, Herringbone Jacket,  £229.00

Hobbs London, Herringbone Jacket,

And because even when it’s drizzly and chill outside, there’s always room for a pretty dress, I’m currently eyeing up this treasure which I know would see me through right until Spring. It actually comes in three different tartans, all stunning, but this one is just divine in my opinion and the perfect antidote to the post-summer blues….

Boden, Isla Dress, £134.10 (Was £149.00)

Boden, Isla Dress, £134.10
(Was £149.00)

Last of all, one final cosy cover up…. The perfect cherry red of this woollen cape is such a pick-me-up and would pair beautifully with those checks. You need to see it in its full glory though on the model, hence the extra photo of the camel version….

Avoca, Classic Cape in Berry, €169.95

Avoca Classic, Berry Cape in Red, €169.95

Avoca Classic, Berry Cape in Camel, €169.95

Avoca Classic, Berry Cape in Camel, €169.95

So here’s to kicking through the fallen leaves, hot chocolates and another excuse to shop!

Hope you have a lovely Autumn!

Ems x


Catching up: July

I can’t believe it’s August already….it seems the summer is going by in a flash! July was just as much fun as June though, and it finally felt as though the real summer weather had arrived….

It all started with a most amazing wedding weekend up in Yorkshire. Two of our friends were getting hitched and rather than settle for just one day of frivolities, had planned an epic Wild West Weekend! We drove up on the Friday and dressed up Western style for the pre-wedding party, ate fish and chips for dinner and then went to bed in our very own Tipi!!!

Breakfast next morning was a lush barbecue, then we set about some sun bathing and a few jobs to set things up before we donned wedding attire and the lovely humanist ceremony took place. The whole thing was outside, which was made even more splendid by the astonishingly good weather. It was another barbecue for supper, as well as a bouncy castle, sumo wrestling, gladiator jousting and a live band to dance to. It has to have been one of the most thoughtful, personal and unique weddings I’ve ever been to (which is A LOT) and I just loved every minute of it.



July was the month for DIY and gardening…..I wanted everywhere to be as pretty as I could manage in time for our Engagement Party, and built two picnic tables (which also got painted white and had chintzy covers and cushions made specially for them) as well as getting the garden as colourful as possible! The party went wonderfully and it was gorgeous to have so many friends visit us to celebrate….even if it was a whole six months on from the actual engagement!



With the warmer weather came lots of lovely long dog walks, with lots of lovely wildlife to be found along the way too…..



The Hitchin Duck race took place in town and we went down to see them off… was a slow race though so we listened to the ending from the garden some twenty minutes later!


Above all else, July was for spending time outdoors and enjoying the lush weather……


Hope you’ve enjoyed the summer so far too!

Ems x

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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






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

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

Ems x

The Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ems x










Living for the weekend….. ideas in London for 4th to 5th August 2012

Had enough of sport yet? Got a numb behind from sitting in front of the TV all week? Need a little fresh air?….. Well you can embrace the party spirit going on in London (and all over the UK for that matter) without fear of your eyes turning into squares or losing your voice from cheering…. I’ve said it before I know, but there is SO MUCH going on this summer, sporty and not-so-sporty….get out there!

Now this is my kind of sport…. the Sacrilege project is a co-commission by the Mayor of London and Glasgow International Festival of Visual Arts, designed by Turner Prize-winning artists Jeremy Deller. Most notably though, it’s a bally inflatable Stone Henge!!! This king of bouncy castles is making its way around the country, but this weekend you can find it in London!  Check their website for locations, which feature open spaces all over the UK until 9th September.

Now if you’re going to get that kind of exercise, I say you have the right to stuff your face with yums to make up for it. And not far from Saturday’s Sacrilege location at Burgess Park, you’ll find FEAST at London Bridge. Said to be London’s ‘most exciting and daring food experience’, this festival of food features some of the captial’s most coveted food retailers. It’s £6 to get in when booked in advance, or £8 on the door.

Also nearby, within the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall at the Southbank Centre, you’ll find Marcos Saboya and Gaulter Pupo’s ‘aMAZEme’….. A giant maze made from over 200,000 books, the installation is inspired by the writer and educator JL Borges, and will be there until 26th August.

And on the subject of books….. East London based The Book Club is hosting its Base Camp event until 12th August. Expect a very British affair with some sporty bits thrown in…. ping pong, table football, a paddling pool and an ice cream van sound like perfect summer diversions to me! There is plenty of good food and lots of yummy drinks too, screens to watch the Games, plus prizes for the winners of silly sports and activities. Fun!

Just down the road at the Old Truman Brewery, you’ll find the London Designer Sale this weekend. This sample sale will house excess stock and samples from top designers and brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Marc Jacobs, Ferragamo, Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Francesco Biasia, all at up to 80% off the RRP!

And if that’s not enough of a designer fix for you, why not head to Harvey Nichols? It’s not just the fabulous array of posh threads that has my attention though, as the department store is currently hosting Penhaligon’s Peoneve Multi-Sensory Terrace. Celebrating the launch of Penhaligon’s new summery Peony-inspired fragrance, the Fifth Floor Terrace has been transformed into a ‘stunningly eclectic and multi-sensory garden with an inventive cocktail menu and dessert menu inspired by the notes within the fragrance.’ I’m super excited about this, as a Penhaligon’s super-fan and lover of peonies (they are always around over my birthday so have been a firm favourite for years), and the thought of menu and cocktail matching to this scent is just amazing. I have my eye on Penhaligon’s Peony Punch which is served in an enormous version of the iconic Penhaligon’s scent bottle, as well as the White Chocolate & Peony Mousse. There are also specially created boozy ice pops in very British and floral flavours. You can see the menu here and make bookings here.

Now we just need the sun to keep shining!

Ems x

Ideas for the weekend….. Sun in London……?…… At the weekend….??

So the weather man says it’s going to be a lovely weekend by all accounts! And I for one plan to make the most of it!…..

The much anticipated Shakespeare, Shaping the World special exhibition has finally opened at the British Museum this week! The museum has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company to present ‘a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city, seen through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare’s plays’. Part of the World Shakespeare Festival (which in turn is part of the London 2012 Festival), the exhibition runs until 25th November. Tickets are best booked in advance from the website and cost £14, although Members get in Free!

My name is Emily and I am a photo booth addict.

Since photo booths popped up a few years ago as party entertainment, I have hired stacks for events and weddings….leaving me with plenty of chances to ‘test’ them out!….I have a whole box full of photos of me pulling various faces and wearing odd wigs and giant sunglasses! Booth Nation provide an awesome range of booths for hire, and to celebrate the growing popularity of the photo booth, they are hosting the first ever Photo Booth Festival this Saturday! There will be food, drinks, music, and of course LOTS of photo booths to play about in! What fun!!!

As long as the sun is shining, why not head to the beach? And for Londoners this July and August, there’s a beach right here in town! The Roundhouse is hosting the Camden Beach on its rooftop, with a tiki bar, deckchairs, ping pong….and of course some bucket and spade action! It’s open from 11am to 11pm daily, and is free to get in….there are also happy hours on Mondays to Fridays from 5pm to 7pm for buy one get one free cocktails.

Open City is hosting two very exciting photo tours this Saturday…. ‘From Wren to Rogers‘ will look at how to photograph the City and focus on its impressive mix of history and modernity….. whilst ‘London Riverside‘ will take in the iconic London river-scape and help to discover the city’s links with the Thames. The tours are about 3 hours long and cost £22.50…. don’t forget your camera!

Following the success of their amazing Stew House this winter, the Dead Dolls Club have teamed up with the London Fields Brewery to host A Summer Affair. Expect a true party atmosphere with DJs, brilliant beers, incredible food, and stalls, as well as BBQ Butchery mast classes. It’s free to get in too!

So it seems it’s been going on forever, but with the opening of the Olympics just a week away, the torch relay is finally hitting London this weekend! On Saturday the torch will travel from Greenwich to Waltham Forest, and on Sunday it makes its way from Redbridge to Bexley. You can keep track of it here….don’t forget your union jacks! (image courtesy of Freddy Boo)

Enjoy the sun folks!

Ems x

Summer of 2012 Fever….. Ideas for your weekend, all over the UK

It’s hard to understand, what with us having this super-gross-and-vile wet Summer, but there really is a festival spirit going on this year. For whatever reason people are getting excited (be it that big games thing, the Jubilee, or maybe even the rain if you like rain, or if you’re a duck) there is so much going on all over the country….. it would be a great year to have a helicopter to get about and do everything, but if you’re not so lucky then there is sure to be something going on within a bus ride away from you.

Here’s a little round up of exciting adventures I’ve spotted, and would go to if I had a helicopter…. Enjoy!

Ems x

Dance Photography Exhibition by Tim Cross

An exhibition of striking performance images taken by Tim Cross-an artist whose two passions in life are dance and photography. Also, archive footage from the Royal Opera House and costumes on loan from the Royal Baller School.7am-9pm each day.

The Forum Trust, Millennium Plain, Bethel Street, Norwich, Norfolk

Latin American Tea Dance with Wurlitzer & Learn to Dance sessions

Latin American Tea Dance to the sounds of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ which rises up from beneath the stage in the Museum’s concert hall. Additionally, there will be a DJ’s selection of popular dance music and an interval for refreshments. The event is suitable for all levels, no partner necessary and includes two learn to dance sessions featuring the Rumba, Cha-cha and a sequence dance. The hall has a fully sprung dance floor and offers a fun relaxing environment to glide in your own “Strictly” session. 

399 High Street, Brentford, Brent, West London

Rhythms of the World Festival

The Rhythms of the World festival, originally organised by the local Oxfam campaigns groups, has evolved into one of the biggest – and best value – world music festivals in the UK with over 31,000 attending in 2011. People come from all sectors of the community and the event features both local talent as well as artists from around the world.

Hitchin Priory, Tilehouse Street, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Pleasance Ahoy: Tall Tales from the Riverbank – Comedy Barge

A Comedy Relay on a narrow boat, follows a group of comics and their guests as they embark from London on a watery adventure…… Destination the Edinburgh Festival! During the journey, impromptu pop-up comedy gigs are performed to dedicated crowds in various secret inland locations, and along the river bank from the roof of the boat. 

The comedians will explore the heritage of the UK waterways, interviewing the people they meet along the way, investigating local traditions and quirks. There are 4 pop-up comedy gigs performed at various secret locations in the UK near London, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Four gigs will take place in Scotland. The entire journey can be followed by GPS and satellite on the web, and the daily digital logbook will contain blogs, podcasts, interviews and recordings of the shows, and much more watery madness.

Happy Days, International Beckett Festival

HAPPY DAYS is the world’s first annual festival to celebrate the work and influence of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. HAPPY DAYS will take place each year in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where Beckett spent his formative years attending Portora Royal School. Enniskillen is at the heart of the Fermanagh Lakelands, amidst of the most beautiful landscape in Europe. The inaugural HAPPY DAYS takes place 23rd – 27th August 2012 with FREE visual arts events from 3rd July. The Festival is collaborating with the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, and coincides with the 400th anniversary of the founding of Enniskillen.

Enniskillen, Northern Ireland

The Humble Market: Trade Secrets

Part performance, part experience, Trade Secrets presents us with an universe threatened with complete control. Using the lens of the marketplace to ask, “What do we really trade? What should be traded? And what cannot be bought?” Trade Secrets is inspired by the spectacular rise of Brazil as an economic power and the trading cities of the Northwest in the UK and Southeast in Brazil. Through a choreographed journey of interactive vehicles expect intimate provocations that confront us with the follies of mass consumerism. 

FACT (Foundation For Art & Creative Technology), 88 Wood Street, Liverpool, Merseyside

Stan’s Cafe: Of All The People in All The World

Theatre company, Stan’s Cafe are bringing 989kg of rice to the RSC, a grain for everyone in the country. An array of local and global human statistics will be weighed out in rice and arranged in labelled piles by a team of auditors.The work will evolve and respond to real time events, news and performances as they happen during the World Shakespeare Festival. By presenting statistics in tangible form, Stan’s Cafe, for 2012, will create for us a playful and at times politically charged work of art.

PACCAR Room, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Marie Thereza Alves – Ballast Seed Garden

Seeds of Change is the overall title of an ongoing ballast seed garden project from Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves. When ships came into port in Bristol they were weighed down with ballast (earth, sand, rocks, etc) which they dumped onto the river banks. In this ballast were seeds carried from ports and regions (and their regional trading partners) involved in trade with Europe. These seeds, which can lie dormant for hundreds of years, germinated and grew, contributing to the development of the ‘European’ landscape.

Working with the University of Bristol Botanic Garden, Arnolfini and Bristol City Council and utilising a disused grain barge, Maria Thereza Alves has created a Ballast Seed Garden on Bristol’s Floating Harbour, populated with a variety of non-native plants, creating a living history of the city’s trade and maritime past.

The design of the floating garden has been developed by German designer Gitta Gschwendtner in close collaboration with the artist Maria Thereza Alves and Nick Wray of University of Bristol Botanic Garden.

Bristol Floating Harbour, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol

Wednesday Wants….. Dream Dresses for a Dream Summer

So apparently it’s mid-may, and despite the fact we’ve seen little to no sun here in London this year, it’s just a few weeks now to Summer proper. I always have hope though, and even if I don’t ever manage to break out the summer wardrobe this year, it won’t stop me from oggling loads of super summery dresses…..

All Saints, Quilted Prom Dress, £195

My summer dress leanings will always be a bit retro, but how wonderfully 50s is this dress by All Saints? Developed from the concept of panelling using heavy zips, which feature around the armholes, their Quilted Prom Dress also features a voluminous collar created using pleating folds that then form into a fitted waist. I love this silhouette, and the beautifully subtle colour of the hand dyed silk and quilted stitch detailing. Definitely a day to evening winner.

Joules Calantha Dress, £79.95

Joules Calantha Dress, £79.95

And for the picnic outfit….. I adore this dress from Joules (I also featured the matching skirt a few weeks ago) for its pretty toile pattern, cross over detail and the bright pink over-sized exposed zip. Certainly comfy enough to wear all day, and team with bright pink pumps (although I also love the wellies in the picture with it!).

Reiss Hetty, £159

And summer wouldn’t be summer without a pretty but easy to wear shirt dress. This gorgeous one from Reiss is fitted right into the waist before it flares out to the hem, just as I like it, but with a little asymmetric twist on the waist band. It also boasts pockets and a super cute and neat collar.

If the weather improves even the slightest, I’ll be hopping into my summer dresses…. and even if not, I can always wear them around the house!

Ems x

Back to June….

Clockwise from top left: Our Take That Progress Tour tickets….Adam’s birthday meal at Pearl….Summer party at the Tower of London….My personal best on iPhone Trivial Pursuit….Prettys at The Waldorf Astoria Syon Park….Vintage Geekery for Adam’s Birthday Party….

June was a busy month for work and saw the start of the summer party season in earnest. Our first party of the month was for a wonderfully fun repeat client for whom we created a Super Heroes in 3D party at Old Billingsgate, just a few minutes from home. We’d had the idea from all of the super hero films coming out this year and that so many of them are boasting super-high-tech all-singing-all-dancing 3D effects….we made it gorgeously retro though by creating 2D props printed in anaglyph style 3D effects (Kapow! and Zoing! Etc.) and styling in vintage comic book primary colours. After a bit of negotiating and luck, we managed to bag the marvellous Essentials (mentioned in May) for the reception tunes, and then after dinner it was the incredible Mad Hen who took to the Super Hero suits and filled the dance floor. Later to play at Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall’s wedding, they’re possibly my all time favourite party band, and we couldn’t help but have a dance from the viewing gallery whilst they played Sex on Fire, Jump Around and Professional Widow.

Disco disco….comic book table centre….Mad Hen….

They were to join us at our next big party too, as we hosted a very jolly summer fete at the Pavilion at the Tower of London. Right in the moat, we set up old fashioned stalls and guests could try their hand at ‘Skittles’, ‘Bunco Booth’, ‘Hook a Duck’, ‘Tin Can Alley’, and ‘Coconut Shy’, whilst inside our beautifully painted backdrop of the Tower was set up with a full tea party prop display in front ready for the photographer to direct everyone into wonderful scenes. And of course the whole pavilion was filled with bunting. Of course.

The Tower of London….The Tower of London Pavilion….Mad Hen….

The only problem with big summer parties of course is that one pins ones hopes so much on fine weather and spending time outdoors. And we especially wanted to make the most of the stunning grounds for our next party at the Waldorf Astoria, Syon Park. We’d even brought in giant inflatable games and laser clay pigeon shooting, but alas the British weather was yet again against us and everyone was bound indoors (apart from a few intrepid guests who were eager to try and happy to don our lovely ponchos!). Still, the Waldorf Astoria is exquisitely well decorated and full of beautifully well thought touches of design, and so we didn’t mind being indoors too much at all. Especially with the pastry chef’s incredible sweetie station to keep everyone going….like something from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, this table of sweet treats was laid out for pudding and filled to bursting with lollipop toadstools…. apothecary jars of nougat….. footed bowls of marshmallows…. jellies…. honey comb chocolate…. popcorn….. Bliss!

Sweet treats and pretty decor at the Waldrof Astoria Syon Park….

There were more sweet treats as we visited the elegant Apsleys for High Tea at the 5 Star Lanesborough at Hyde Park Corner. The gorgeous room, topped with charming symmetrical chandeliers and framed by wonderfully dramatic collages of classical paintings, is the perfect setting for an elegant tea. And the knowledgeable waiter who told us all we needed to know about the exceptionally comprehensive tea menu brought us our chosen infusions in niftily labelled silver pots before talking us through the contents of the various pretty plates and tea stands he brought to follow. It was important to continue to look elegant of course as we ate our way through little quiches, brioches, finger sandwiches and darling and colourful fancies. And I think we did. Until they were all gone!Afternoon Tea at Apsleys….

More treats were in store as I took Adam out for a special birthday dinner to Pearl at the Renaissance Chancery Court. As we were celebrating his 30th birthday, I’d spent an age umm-ing and ahh-ing over where to take him, trying to think where he would most enjoy, rather than just where I really wanted to go. In an attempt to choose a ‘manly’ option I very nearly opted for Comptoir Garcon for its gamey, meaty offerings, which I’d told myself was more fitting than Les Trois Garçon where I’d been hankering after. But after I’d raked through dozens of reviews, and at a risk of choosing somewhere with ever so slightly girlier décor, I opted for Pearl for the incredible sounding french dishes created by the precise hand of our much admired Jun Tanaka.

Perhaps because it was a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was pretty quiet when our cab pulled into the darling courtyard of the hotel, set back from busy Holborn. Inside though, we were delighted by our quiet corner table and the atmosphere travelled in from the busier bar so that we weren’t to feel lonely. From the off, the service was impeccable and we were looked after by no less than four members of the impressive team, although we were never confused as to the role of each. Having been slow to finish our gorgeous pre-dinner cocktails, I decided on a wine to go with our mains and the expert sommelier was sent for. This charming man helped in my choice with confidence, grace and honesty, and then helpfully readied our bottle in time for our mains service.

Dinner began with the presentation of a very pretty amuse bouche of cucumber foam, after which we both chose the same starter: ‘BEEF’ Roast Marrow Bone with Onion Confit, Beef Cheek Croquettes, Watercress Dressing and Wild Garlic. Adam had not had much experience of offal so I was surprised to see him choose this, but as a big offal lover myself I could not wait to try this very delicately presented offering. The marrow bone was beautifully rich and buttery, and the cheek croquettes incredibly delicious alongside the wild garlic. The pretty, tiny portions didn’t take us long to devour but there was so much flavour we didn’t feel cheated and we only looked forward to our main courses. For me it was ‘CHICKEN,’ (Roast Spring Chicken with Macaroni, Lemon Confit, Asparagus and Lemongrass Consomme) which was gorgeously comforting and summery at the same time. And for Adam, the ‘SOLE,’ (Cornish Sole with Artichoke Gnocchi, Roast Baby Artichokes and Seashore Vegetables) which was meaty yet perfectly delicate.

We weren’t brought our ordered desserts until we’d been served ‘pre-desserts’ in the form of tiny glasses filled with creamy couscous and fruit coulis, a sort of european rice pudding. Then we did swaps on our two desserts (we often struggle to choose so have half and half)….. ‘GRAPEFRUIT’ (Grapefruit and Ginger Trifle with Lemon Cake, Stem Ginger Ice Cream) and ‘LYCHEE’ (Lychee Jelly and Raspberries, Rose Ice Cream and Pink Praline). Both were wonderful in their complexity and thoughtfulness, but we were only to be wowed again as our lovely waiter brought out to Adam a decorated plate of chocolates wishing him a happy birthday! We finished up with more cocktails in the gorgeously elegant bar, which we also vowed to return to for an evening of indulgent drinks too. All in all, we couldn’t have been more impressed by the impeccable service, the incredible finesse and the refined originality of Pearl.

Pearl at the Renaissance Chancery Court….

After dinner….walking home and opening presents….

It being a special birthday, we of course extended the celebrations for a good few weeks, and the weekend after Adam’s special day saw a trip to his home town of Hitchin for a curry supper with friends and a catch up with family. As ever, we relished the excuse to spend some time out of London relaxing, and in fact on the Sunday ventured over to the second hand book shop in town (quite literally only a stone’s throw away from Adam’s parents’ cottage). The darling shop, much like many of its ilk is crammed from floor to ceiling with shelves upon shelves of exciting texts, positively exploding and toppling with carefully catalogued treasures which I could explore for hours. The smell is familiar of course, that combination of dust, leather and old wood, and so wandering the enchanting isles of this place and delving into a huge hard back makes you feel like some intrepid explorer in a scared, secret cave. Upstairs there are armchairs, coffee table and rugs, which I found far too inviting to pass up and found myself flicking through pretty picture books in comfort whilst Adam investigated the History section. Most impressive though are their beautifully bound sets of Dickens, Shakespeare and collections of Classics, which Adam and I dream of furnishing a grand library with (complete with those slidey ladders and an ancient Globe of course).

We couldn’t let a special birthday pass without a party though, and so once back in London preparations began for Adam’s ‘I don’t want to be a grown up’ party. Adam had asked everyone to dress as their favourite kids TV show character from the 1980s, and we’d themed the party snacks to match….. Adam donned a cavalier’s outfit with ears and a painted nose as his hero Dogtanian, whilst I couldn’t choose between Penelope Pitstop and Velma from Scooby Doo, so did both and switched half way through the night. We also saw friends dress as Mr Ben, Bagpuss, John Craven, Evil Edna, a My Little Pony and Tigger. For the yums, we made Penny Crayon Bread Sticks (I painstakingly sharpened the end of bread sticks and applied colour to the tips to make them look like crayons), Foghorn Leghorns (spicy breaded chicken goujons), Porky Pig Three Ways (sticky worcester sauce chipolatas, chorizo and parma ham), Turtles Pizza, Slimer’s Jelly, Pink Panther Pie (pink blancmange with pink glitter sprinkles and marshmallows on top), Family Ness Puddings (Butterscotch Angel Delight set with wiggly worms to look like swimming lake monsters), and Bananaman Cake. With 80s tunes, Dogtanian on TV and the bubble machine at full pelt, we were far from the sophisticated dinner parties I’d usually aim for, but with many a Gummy Berry Juice and Ectoplasm cocktail inside us, we partied way past bed time.

Family Ness Puddings….Bananaman Bread….Bubbles….Pink Panther Pie….Guests….Barr Lemonade….

With summer in full swing, it was time for a new season’s fads and fancies to come around. And in terms of music it was the 70’s fashions trend I think, that kicked off my constant replaying of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and The Eagles’ Hotel California. All of a sudden we could hear them everywhere too and for a while I didn’t want to hear anything else as they brought me a kind of sunny, lady back mood. For food fads, it was a light bite lunch that got me obsessed with the couldn’t-be-simpler tomatoes on toast. For some reason they were my savoury of choice for every meal, and for weekend lunches I’d slave away for twenty minutes, preparing a vine of cherry tomatoes to perfection with our home grown thyme and basil, Heston’s vanilla salt, black garlic and olive oil, before grilling them and devouring them on toast. But it was the frozen yoghurt that became the super-fad of the summer as I went crazy for plain fro-yo whenever I could get it. It seemed that there were plenty of places cropping up too, just in time for my new craving, and so I’d often opt for a large fro-yo as a grabbed lunch between meetings rather than the sandwiches I’d been getting bored with. And I would like to think its low or no-fat benefits helped make up for all the summer barbecues too!June Barbeque at Casa Wapping….

It was in June that we finally got to see the much anticipated Svengali by the intriguing Derren Brown at the Comedy Theatre in Covent Garden. I’ve enjoyed his TV shows a lot, but unlike Adam I’ve never seen one of his live shows, although I was lucky enough to work on the creative for the gorgeously designed Circus show he toured a few years ago. A few friends had already been to see the show but Brown had sworn them to secrecy so I knew nothing about it, and went with an open, but excited mind. Now likewise, we too were sworn to secrecy, so technically I’m not to divulge anything from the show. But never one to keep my mouth completely shut, I will offer my ambiguous critique…..

I suppose it is the cheeky parlour tricks and mystical stunts that make Brown’s shows ever popular, and of course his showmanship is what holds these together and sets him apart from his competition, but for me a large part of coming to a show like this one and what would usually impress me is the high production value. The build up created in the sound, the lighting and the setting really interests me, and if it’s done well can really draw me in to a good production. And many things did impress me in Svengali, including an intriguing set, and thoughtful distractions such as notes passed around the audience to involve us. But when it came to the suspension of our disbelief, sloppy props and rather naff stunts did somewhat spoil the magic for me, and after all, we were all there to be fooled and taken in by the misdirection. And what is a great showman without his box of tricks?

Now really the close to this post ought to be my memories of a certain concert that made one of my favourite bits of June, but at the risk of comparing two vastly different medium (Derren Brown and a pop concert that is), and angering two huge fan bases (of which I would count myself member of both) I’m going to have to rave about what I expect will be one of the most impressive productions I’ll see this year in a separate post. And I’m not ashamed to be posting an entire blog on Take That’s Progress tour, nor the thousands of words I’ll no doubt spend ranting about how wonderful it was. But at least this way, those of you who find the prospect utterly toe-curling have had your warning!


Clockwise from top left: Channelling the 70’s vibe and Margot of The Good Life in floral jump suit and wedges….. Carry On prints in the snug at Wild and Woods….. prize May purchase: Deco silver pineapple candelabra….. home made pot … Continue reading

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