Something from the weekend…. with a much enjoyed extra hour!

Well that was a lush weekend. Well, Sunday at least! Sometimes a great Sunday can make up for a so-so Friday Saturday though….

Our weekend began with a trip to the cinema on Friday afternoon…..Adam got off work earlier especially as I just couldn’t wait any longer to go and see Skyfall. For those who don’t know, I’m a MASSIVE James Bond fan. I got into the films as a teenager, and spent entire school holidays watching them all back to back, and then a couple of years ago I got all the books for Christmas and became hooked on them. So it’s fair to say I was fit to burst with excitement to see the much-awaited new film, and owing to my enjoyment of the last two, my expectations were pretty high (not to mention the fact that all the reviews were saying how they’d pulled out all the stops!).

But alas. I probably couldn’t have been more disappointed. Whilst I enjoyed the pure entertainment value of the film, and even liked its nostalgia and naffness, the more I think about it, the more I feel let down. I know there was backlash from the amazing Casino Royale, because the die hard fans all missed the innuendo and tacky gadgets. But I really felt that the new films were going somewhere, and building up to something….and in fact were far more like the books than the other films. But it’s like they forgot all the progress of the last two, and merely went back to the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan cringe-worthy naffness. The whole thing looked so cheap, with locations we’ve seen too much of lately, as well as bits of London disguised as Shanghai etc. And without wishing to spoil anything, I think they’ve lost the two best things that ever happened to the franchise….one I can’t say without saying too much, but the other being David Arnold as composer. His scores have been so intelligent and filled with clever nods for us super-geeks, and although I usually love anything Thomas Newman does, his score was brash and immature and utterly cringey. I just don’t think that Sam Mendes was the right choice to direct a Bond film (despite my loving his other stuff), and the loss of some of the other regular team too have really left a dent. Anyway, I won’t go on about it….I’m sure it’s rather dull for anyone who is less into the films than me anyway, and I’ll just get myself more riled up!

The rest of the evening was rather more successful, as I cooked up a massive Broccoloni Cheese in our new huge Le Creuset dish. Adam’s Mum came over to help us eat it (with the dogs too, who polished it off!). Then it was an early night ahead of a very early start on Saturday….. I was hosting another stall at the Hitchin Riverside Craft and Farmers Market, and had to be up and out by half past seven! It was SOOOO cold, and despite the incredible amount of layers I put on, I was still freezing and losing feeling in my fingers whilst setting up! Still, it was lovely to have such a great stall right next to the river and overlooking the church…..and with some rather loud ducks and geese for company too!

It was lovely to see some of the stalls I’d encountered at my last stall there, as well as some familiar faces, and ever so nice to meet some new people (and chat to them to make the time go faster!). My neighbors to the left were the lovely Christine and Bridget, who make beautiful hand knitted and sewn gifts and homewares…. whilst to the right was the wonderful Jo from Breakheart Hill Farm, with a wonderful selection of their produce. We chatted to Jo for hours about the farm and their dogs, and were delighted to find we could order some of their gammon joints too! That’s Christmas sorted! We also indulged in some huge back bacon from a local farmer who rears his pigs in the woods, as well as some delicious cupcakes from the award winning Crumbly Wumbly.

Rather annoyingly, it kept dry and fine all day just until we started to pack up! There was a fierce down pour that caught me off guard and unfortunately got to some of my paintings too. I managed to salvage most of it, and just need to do a couple of repairs to my Pet Pawtraits (more on that later!), but it was still rather miserable walking home with all my stock in the wet (despite it only being two minutes away!). Thankfully, Adam’s Mum invited us round for a nice stew for supper, followed by home made apple crumble and custard, so after the warmth of her Aga and a hot bath back at home, I finally warmed up again and was fast asleep in bed by ten!

My early night didn’t stop me from sleeping in though, and making use of the extra hour from daylight savings simply to snooze! I think I must have had about eleven hours sleep in total, but I felt great for it…especially after yumming up a massive fried breakfast! That set us up nicely for a walk round town and the car boot sale in the market place, and we rewarded ourselves for venturing out with cream cakes for lunch!

After that we did a little DIY at the house, then went for a lovely walk in the woods with the dogs. I so love this time of year, with all the stunning golden leaves, and so being in the woods was just wonderful. We did a little shopping after that, then headed home for a hearty sausage casserole for supper before watching Black Adder on the sofa under blankets, whilst I did a little knitting. Pretty perfect Sunday actually!

How did you use your ‘extra hour’? Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Ems x

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Something from the weekend…..mainly eating and shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ems x

Something from the weekend…… The August Bank Holiday in Instagram

I bally love the weekend. Even more so a long weekend! Despite having lots to do with our impending move, we managed to have a very fun weekend in London as well as in our soon to be home town of Hitchin!

On Friday afternoon straight after work we caught the train into Hertfordshire to stay with Adam’s parents (and the dogs!) in Hitchin. After a yummy supper of fajitas, we watched the BBC Four documentary on Mark Knopfler. It’s an amazing programme and shows what a remarkably lovely and intelligent man he is, as well as an incredibly gifted songwriter.

It was early to bed though because we were keen to start early on Saturday and cram lots into our day! We set off earlyish into town, just a few minutes walk away, and to the monthly craft and farmers market which takes place around the gorgeous St Mary’s Church. I’m hoping to have a stall there myself when we move, so it was lovely to meet lots of the regular traders. I fell in love with the ‘The Knitting Ladies’ stall, which is full of hand knitted treasures, including the most gorgeous bears! The ladies are most proud of their celebrity knits….in one little basket resides Audrey Hepburn, Ziggy Stardust and a Clanger!

After a browse (and buying up some free range bacon, and home made fudge!) we took the minute’s walk to what will be our new home. Adam hadn’t seen it yet, as I viewed it by myself before we signed up, so he was super excited to see it for the first time and I couldn’t wait to go back. It’s a gorgeous property right in town….it’s actually Grade II Listed and belongs to a local historical trust. It’s full of beautiful period features, and there’s lots more space! I’m going to finally have a studio to work in, and there’s even a garden!

With all the extra space to fill, we set off to a local furniture warehouse afterwards to look for some pieces we’ll need. It’s a great place to look for bargainous things….it’s actually run by a charity that our friend Hannah works for, so buying their lovely second hand stuff helps them with their fundraising! We snapped up a wonderful little extending pine table with chairs for the kitchen…it’s the perfect cottagey looking table to fit in with the old house.

The thrifting didn’t end there though, as we popped into Letchworth and picked up some gorgeous dining chairs. As well as all the shops to look in, there was a sort of mini vintage car show going on in the pedestrianized High Street. I fell in love with a huge turquoise Chevrolet truck, and an amazing little camper trailer with a super cute kitchen at the back.

Next it was into Hitchin again for a snoop about, and to buy sausages for supper from the charming Allingham’s which is the wonderful butcher on the market square and has been there since the 1860s! We couldn’t resist some more furniture shopping though, and Adam fell in love with (and bought!) a stunning sewing machine and table. I also picked up a darling little camera….the Italian Comet S which takes 127mm film…can’t wait to get a roll and try it out!

After our busy day, we needed a serious re-fuelling and yummed up an awesome fry up! It was to the sofas after that though to slob away the evening in front of the telly….we watched the BBC Drama ‘Best of Men’ which I’d been wanting to see for a while. It’s about the first ever Paralympic Games at Stoke Mandeville, and the amazing work there of Dr Guttmann. We all really enjoyed the programme which featured Rob Brydon (one of my favourites from Gavin and Stacey)….it’s well worth watching for anyone interested in the games.

After a little Sunday lie in, we started the day with a nice long walk across Ickleford Common, past Gerry’s hole and over the railway to the Lavender and Sunflower farm. Everywhere looked very lush….. there was wild chicory flowering everywhere, and the fields of wheat just looked incredible. We saw lots of sloe berries getting almost ready to pick (we are planning on making a large batch of sloe gin this year again) as well as lots of rosehips that we plan to make something with too.

After that it was more furniture shopping, at the big shopping park in Stevenage. We tried out lots of sofas, but both chose the same as our favourite, so it was an easy decision and we left having ordered a gorgeous two seater and three seater in sanded and waxed leather, which is now being made for us in Italy….hopefully it’ll be delivered not too long after we move in!

That sorted, we drove to Benington Lordship for the annual chilli festival. The house and grounds are just stunning (I hope to go back in the new year to see the famous snowdrops!), so it was lovely to wander round all the stalls selling chilli-based products and chilli plants of every variety. We bought a big box of Stratta‘s award winning flavoured vinegars (including the lavender, elderflower, raspberry and blackberry)…..and yummy preserves from Jules and Sharpie (including their hot apple and sage jelly, the green chilli and lime jelly and the hot marmalade)…. I’m really looking forward to serving them up and cooking with them.

It was off home then for a quick fish supper, before packing and heading back to London. We wanted to cram as much into Monday too, so we had a big breakfast at our local, then made our way to the British Museum. We have membership there and we promised ourselves that we would see every room there this year….we’ve not done terribly well really but we have at least seen all the special exhibitions.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the Shakespeare exhibition there ever since it was announced, so we made our way there first. It’s a wonderful exhibition, which comprehensively walks you through all the historical impacts and influences on the playwright, and on ‘his London’. It’s the perfect show for this year of festivities I think….I learned lots about the history of London and England, and the beginnings of Great Britain and our National identity.

It’s quite a big exhibition (well worth a visit and the £14 entry, although you can become a member and get in free!) so we needed a sit down afterwards…. There is now an additional cafe in the Great Court, run by Benugo, and we had a perfect double espresso and flat white there whilst watching the window cleaners high above us on the glass ceiling.

We couldn’t miss the chance to go and see the Olympic and Paralympic medals too whilst they are being shown there, so we popped in to see them and the exhibition about their design and the history of the medals. Right next door is the stunning clocks and timepieces room, so we investigated that next…..I fell in love with the huge gold ship clock which was used to call guests to dinner (it plays music via an internal organ, ‘sails’ across the table, and fires its cannons!). It was lovely to hear all the amazing clocks chime on the hour too, and there is even a charming cuckoo clock!

It was a lovely day outside when we emerged from the museum, so we sat in nearby Russell Square to eat the fruit we’d packed, before walking back to the bus stop. Once home I started on our supper of roasted butternut squash stuffed with ratatouille and topped with cheese, and we’d eaten it in good time to settle in front of the telly to watch our friends appear on Only Connect! It was ace to see them and their admirable performance….well done guys!

We were too shattered after our busy weekend to do anything other than sit, so we slobbed out watching The Incredibles on Blu-ray (which looks amazing!) before hitting the hay…… what an awesome long weekend!

Hope you enjoyed yours!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. Thursday and Friday, and the Old Vic Tunnels Summer Holiday Camp

The weekend, as all special weekends should, started on Thursday. I’ve been loving the cool events going on at the Old Vic Tunnels, so I didn’t take much convincing to go to their Summer Holiday Camp…. and even if I had, the promise of bouncy castle, trampolines, Punch and Judy, and popcorn would definitely have sealed the deal!

It’s not a natural venue for a summer themed event, but I do have a fondness for the tunnels, as I’ve seen some super stuff there and it reminds me of the venue under London Bridge where I produced one of my first events more than ten years ago. As one would expect, the place had been decked out in plenty of bunting, hoola hoops, wind breaks and pretty lanterns resting in vines draped across the ceiling, so we were soon into the spirit (especially as the Great British Summer was being its usual self outside and raining!).

We right away found that one tunnel had been set up as a badminton court, so I proceeded to embarrass myself in front of Adam and the attending security person, by showing how rusty I’ve gotten. Still, it was all good-natured fun and I did see a fast improvement over the evening, especially when we played as a doubles team with some other event goers and it got a little more competitive! Next, we hopped onto the bouncy castle and became amazed at how fast we became tired and short of breath….I used to bounce around on those things for hours as a child! Then it was a quick play around on the netball court before grabbing ciders, popcorn and deck chairs in readiness for watching the Punch and Judy show.

Now I love a Punch and Judy show, always have done, but Adam couldn’t recollect having seen one ever so it was a double treat! The show was really well played, and dead funny….as one would expect it was not in the slightest bit politically correct, but then that’s the tradition right?! I was also delighted that the Tootsie Rollers were to perform as I’ve been wanting to see them for a while….their retro style is very fitting for the type of events I produce, so I was keen to see them. They are super fun and cute, with gorgeous vintage costumes and dance moves…. I was pretty envious of their lovely hair styles and tap shoes too!

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The Tootsie Rollers on stage at the Old Vic Tunnels Summer Holiday Camp

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Waiting for the Punch and Judy Show to start at the Old Vic Tunnels Summer Holiday Camp

Well it being a school night, we didn’t stay too long, especially with a fun packed weekend ahead of us….. Friday was my actual birthday so I enjoyed a pretty relaxed day, before Adam came home and made me my special birthday supper. He is a genius when it comes to cooking eggs, and one of my all time favourite meals is eggs royale, so I put him to the test making his first ever hollandaise sauce and he excelled himself as usual! I chose another treat to drink alongside supper… one of my all time favourite wines, the Bacchus from Chapel Down in Kent. It’s so light and crisp and appley and summery…. I love it!

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Adam’s Eggs Royale

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Chapel Down Bacchus

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

Something from a pie-filled weekend…..

Good morning and a happy Monday! How was your weekend?

I’m feeling the effects of a weekend filled with pie…that is, I feel a bit like a pie myself! Still, it was fun…..

If you read my post on Friday you’ll know that I was looking forward to a weekend celebrating British Pie Week. On Thursday, we started the weekend early with a trip to Apples and Pears for pie and cocktails. As such, Friday evening was a quiet one…..

After a little early-evening shopping we settled down to watch David Lynch’s Inland Empire, with a pizza and wedges for supper. The film had us both utterly confounded, and we spent much of it staring at the screen in disbelief or laughing nervously. It’s not at all a film with a linear plot, and nor do you get a nice rounded off ending…. but the basic idea behind the film (I think) is that an actress takes on a new role in a film, which is expected to do very well and get her very noticed….. but the screenplay is based on another film, which was started but was never completed because the story was said to be cursed, and the male and female leads were murdered during the filming. Beyond that, I understand very little (although reading some reviews on it since, I don’t think you’re supposed to) but the film certainly kept us entertained (with characters’ heads turning into rabbit heads, and big scary faces all up in the screen). I don’t know that I’ve seen anything more bizarre in my life…. and the whole reason we were so keen to watch it was how much we’d enjoyed the utterly crackers Twin Peaks. But as Adam said, Inland Empire rather makes Twin Peaks look like neighbours!

The flower stall entrance at Liberty

On Saturday morning it was a breakfast of cheese omelette to set us up for a busy day….. we started by giving the flat a quick clean before I headed into town, leaving Adam playing Playstation. I had a very important rendezvous with Siobhan at Liberty….. I was going along for her first wedding dress fitting!!!! Arriving a little early, I got off the bus next to H&M and had a quick look at their Marni collection, before heading over to Liberty to dribble over the Manolo Blahnik window displays.

Marni at H&M

Manolo Blahnik at Liberty

Manolo Blahnik at Liberty

Bursting with excitement to see the dress (and to have the excuse to potter about Liberty) I arrived to the lovely flowery entrance, and we went up to the fitting rooms (oohing and ahhing at lots on our way). Of course everything regarding the dress is top secret, but I will say that Siobhan looks absolutely stunning! We rounded off our visit with a little browsing…. I tried on the lovely new Liberty print lined Barbour jackets (really have my eye on the navy one!)…. and we couldn’t help but linger a while in the handbag department and around the incredible vintage costume jewellery (want it all!).

Fitting rooms at Liberty

Next, it was back on the bus to head over to Spitalfields and meet the boys. The market was hosting a Women’s Fair to celebrate International Women’s Day, and we enjoyed a root about the lovely stalls of jewellery and gifts etc. Favourite though was the East London Women’s Institute stand, from which we purchased several delicious slices of cake! By the time we’d eaten those though, we needed a rest before heading over the road to Poppies for our supper, and so we tootled back to the flat for a sit down.

Adam and I have been experimenting with lots of different home-flavoured vodkas, and with a new rose vodka to try, we had Siobhan and Matthew as guinea pigs. This flavour is probably one of our favourites now….it goes incredibly well with lemonade (I garnished with a slice of lemon and a dried rose bud) and was well-recieved all round. Next up, we sampled our cardamom vodka with lemonade, bitters and lime (another favourite of mine) and then our jasmine tea vodka with lemonade and lime. I think I’ll post a bit more about our vodka flavouring soon.

Rose vodka with lemonade all round

Suitably rested, we went back over to Spitalfields to have supper at one of our local favourites, Poppies Fish and Chips. It was the first time Matthew and Siobhan had been, and we were a little bothered to have to wait a while for a table (I didn’t know before, but you can book!)…. still, we chatted away the wait and it wasn’t long before they’d made up a table for us and we were yumming up our supper. It being pie week, I opted for the veggie pie…. Poppies take great pride in where their ingredients come from (the sustainable fish is from Billingsgate, the potatoes from Turnips in Borough Market, the chicken is free range…) and I was delighted to see on a previous visit that their pies are supplied by non other than Wrights Pies of my home town Stoke on Trent! In Stoke, we have pie shops dedicated to their wonderful products and I really do miss them! With Poppies chips, mushy peas and gravy though it was a real treat and I devoured the lot along with my pot of tea! The others enjoyed the lemon sole and rock, as well as some of the wonderful Meantime beer they stock. And so we practically rolled out of Poppies and back to the flat for a flavoured vodka night cap, before Siobhan and Matthew headed home.

Hot chocolate with marshmallows (photo courtesy of Adam)

By Sunday morning we were in much need of a lie in, and so it was a lazy start to the day we enjoyed. For breakfast, Adam made amazing hot chocolates from especially thick Jersey milk, with little marshmallows on top. Then after a bit more faffing about, we popped to Waitrose for groceries (and Duchy Originals hot cross buns for tea!). When home, we completed the crossword as tradition dictates, before we began preparing an early dinner…. We couldn’t end pie week with anything other than pie, and I’ve been meaning to make my (Savoury) Sweet Potato Pie for Adam for ages. And so Adam grated the potatoes whilst I made the almond-rich pastry….and an hour later it was ready to serve up warm with a yummy fresh slaw (grated carrot, thinly sliced onion and red cabbage, mixed with olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkles of sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds) and a dollop of creme fraiche. Lush!

My sweet potato pie with slaw and creme fraiche

We finished up a relatively restful day slobbing out in front of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World…. I’ve not seen it since the cinema although we’ve had it on Bluray for ages, and I’d forgotten how truly awesome it is. If you’ve not seen it I would really highly recommend it to any Edgar Wright fans, comic book fans, computer gamers and musos. I still can’t decide if I want to be Ramona or Knives more!

Anyway, hope you had a great weekend….do share any pie-based adventures!

Ems x

A week in Instagram

It’s been a busy week of baking, shopping, walking and lazing about. Here’s how some of it looked……

Spring Risotto for supper

Birthday banana bread for Adam's mum

Hedges. And her tongue.

Piper enjoys a chin tickle

Taking the dogs for a walk at sunset

Walking on Ickleford Common

Snow drops by the river

Early blossom on the Bullace

The moon

Cola cupcake

Hope you’ve had a week of pretty things to see!

Ems x

Planning for a rainy weekend……

We’re set for rain this weekend, so you’ll have to plan well and ensure you have indoor plans too! Here are some of my ideas for things to do in London and beyond……

Shopping

St David’s Day True Taste Market at the Southbank Centre

In celebration of St David’s Day, the usual food market behind the Royal Festival Hall will showcase Welsh produce including lamb, cheeses and chocolate. There will be lots of Welsh products to buy as well as cookery demos to watch from the likes of James Sommerin and Rhodri Edwards.

An exhibition

Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum

I love this world-renowned annual exhibition and have been going for years. Hosting the most remarkable images of nature, wildlife and the environment inside a specially built space within the museum, I adore the mixture of rarely seen wonders of the world, alongside comical and diverting images that could well have been taken on our door step. The photographs are selected from thousands of entries all over the world, and presented beautifully on backlit screens.

I would very much advise booking online in advance and going earlier in the morning as it does get very busy.

Until 11th March

Adults £9

To drink

Town House, 31 Beauchamp Place

Whilst you’re in Knightsbridge at the Natural History Museum, visit the elegant Town House Bar. Serving a variety of cocktails and Asian Yakatori skewers over three floors, this sophisticated venue is nestled within an ivy covered Georgian house on exclusive Beauchamp Place.

A recipe

On Saturday, I’ll be sharing Adam’s Healthy (ish) Spaghetti Carbonara recipe…. so get in the eggs and bacon.

A Film

You can still catch The Artist and The Descendents at lots of cinemas, both of which I suggest you don’t miss. We’ll be off to see the well-rated The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel though…..will let you know how it is! I can’t recommend Rampart I’m afraid though, as much as I thought it was going to be brilliant. Woody Harrelson is marvellous but I’m afraid I found the film rather dragged.

Out and about in London

The Big Egg Hunt

200 eggs created by leading artists, designers, architects and jewellers (including Polly Morgan, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Bruce Oldfield, Nicky Haslam and Mat Collishaw) have been hidden all over the capital. A fundraising event for Elephant Family and Action for Children challenges the public to try spot them all, in order to win The Diamond Jubilee Egg which is valued at over £100,000……the unique piece of jewellery has been specially crafted by Faberge, and is encrusted with 60 fine gems on an 18 carat gold egg.

At the end of the hunt, all of the eggs will be gathered together to be auctioned for charity. But I have my eye on the Le Collier Plume D’Or which has been created specifically for the Fabergé Big Egg Banquet charity auction and is one of a series of unique couture egg pendants, “created by Fabergé to re-imagine and pay homage to the artistry and ingenuity of the legendary, iconic jewelled Imperial Easter Eggs, the most famous of Fabergé works of art, and a vital part of the continuing legend.”

We’re hoping to enter the photography competition once we’ve been on our hunt….. there’s a chance to win a great Sony camera and to have your photo exhibited at Somerset House as part of World Photo London.

To help you on your hunt you can find zone maps here.

And to stand a chance of winning the big egg prize you need to get hunting soon….. all text entries must be in by 3rd April.

Good luck! And have a brilliant weekend!

Ems x

Something from the weekend….. Wildlife, chess, port and other pursuits

Well, despite plans to have a quiet weekend at home, we appear to have jammed it with plenty of pursuits……

The Natural History Museum

We started with a trip to the Natural History Museum on Friday to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. I’ve been going for a few years now, and we thought we were being terribly clever in booking to go during one of their Friday Lates…..however, it seems everyone else did too so the exhibition space was fit to burst when we arrived and we struggled to make our way around. Still, it’s always a wonderful exhibition, and this year was no different.

Heading home too late to be bothered to cook, we decided on a pub supper before retiring home nicely sleepy. First thing on Saturday and we were out on a jeans hunt for Adam….which turned into a rather full on shopping trip (can’t complain though). We made our way back from the shops at Bank though via our lovely secret garden, coffees in hand. St Dunstan’s is our little City oasis….we love to sit there in the gardens inside the remains of the old ruined church. And so we sat, and took a few snaps, and drank our coffees.

St Dunstan's

We couldn’t sit about all day though, and our tummies certainly wouldn’t let us……so it was off home for lunch next. Knowing we wouldn’t have time for much supper later, we cooked up a bowl of our super easy and super yummy pasta….. wholemeal penne, long stem broccoli, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Then it was off to Waitrose for the week’s shop where I picked up their weekend magazine…..I’ve taken up doing the crossword and after Adam gave me a quick tutorial I decided I’d start to do the Sudoku too.

It was off to the cinema for the evening to catch Hugo. We’d missed it first time round so I was pleased to be able to see it on its BAFTA tour. I’m so glad we did too….. it has to be one of the most enchanting, magical and touching of films I’ve ever seen and in fact I think it might make my top ten even. I’ve rather gone off 3D films, especially the ones that seem to revolve around the effect and offer little else….. but this film is so impressive and visually stunning. I adored the story too, perhaps because it revolves around so many things that I love…. imagination, adventure, design, books, theatre, cinema…. and the period in which it’s set is so magical too.

Sunday Roast

Sunday was largely spent cooking a big roast lunch….roast potatoes with onion, garlic and rosemary….roast parsnips with maple syrup….roasted carrots with fennel seeds….sausage meat stuffing with sage and onion….buttered leaks….roast chicken for me and gammon for Adam. We had a rather early bottle of red alongside and afterwards settled down to watch Brief Encounter. Neither of us had seen it before but it was a perfect lazy Sunday watch….the soundtrack did have me hankering after listening to Rachmaninov though, so we spent the afternoon listening to piano music whilst Adam began to teach me to play Chess.

He let me win of course, before we spent a lovely evening eating cheese and biscuits, and drinking port. And for entertainment I finally gave in to watching Akira…. I have to say I had high hopes for it, having heard how great it’s supposed to be. But I’m afraid it was all I could do not to fall asleep for the second half, and I didn’t enjoy it at all as much as I thought I would. Still, it was a pleasant sleepiness which saw me off to bed early with a hot chocolate.

Hurrah for lazy(ish) weekends!

Pancake Day!

Ready, steady, flip!

My name is Emily and I can’t make pancakes. There, I’ve said it. It is a constant source of embarrassment to this northern lass that I can’t make Yorkshire Pudding or Toad in the Hole (I’m usually a pretty good cook otherwise). It’s the batter see, I can’t make it work. It always comes out too runny or lumpy or just doesn’t work when it’s cooked. I suppose I shouldn’t feel too badly…. the pancake making in my home as a child was always a man’s job (although my Mum can at least boast a decent Yorkshire Pud).

And so it falls to the man of the house to make them today. I’ve prepared everything at least so that he only has to whip up the batter and get flipping. Here’s what I’ve got ready to go with ours…..

  • Free Range Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Cheese – the first ones will be savoury
  • Chopped Banana – a classic
  • Nutella – we have too many catering size tubs of this lying around for some reason and must get through it
  • Maple syrup – we are huge maple syrup fiends in this house, any excuse
  • Banana curd – this was home made by us and is brilliant with waffles, so we’re hoping its first pancake experience is a good one (perhaps I’ll share the recipe soon)

Growing up, my understanding of making pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was that it was a way to use up foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of Lent. I now believe it’s also a way to cram in all that good stuff too, before embarking on your fast….. I don’t suppose very many of us go beyond giving up chocolate these days, but a tradition’s a tradition right?!

Apparently, in places like Newfoundland and Labrador, small tokens are frequently cooked in Shrove Tuesday pancakes. It sounds rather like finding the sixpence in the Christmas Pudding….. each of these tokens though are meant to be divinatory…. for example, the person who finds a coin will be wealthy. This reminds me of the little amulets the pilgrims to Real de Catorce leave for St Francis of Assisi that I saw at the wonderful Miracles and Charms exhibtion.

In England though, Shrove Tuesday means pancake races……. a tradition said to have originated when a housewife was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time, until she heard the church bells ringing for the service and raced to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. In Olney, where the fabled housewife is said to have lived, the most famous pancake race in the country has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to the finishing line while tossing the pancakes as they go. Apparently, if a man wants to participate, he must dress up as a housewife!

The seaside town of Scarborough celebrates by closing the foreshore to all traffic, closing schools early, and inviting people to skip using long ropes from the nearby harbour. Whilst the children of Whitechapel in Lancashire continue a local tradition by visiting houses and asking “please a pancake”, to be rewarded with oranges or sweets. It is thought the tradition began when farm workers visited their wealthy neighbors to ask for pancakes or pancake fillings. And in Finland and Sweden, the day is associated not so much with pancakes, but with the almond paste-filled semla pastry.

We’ll be keeping it traditional this year though, and so I’m just waiting for Adam to get home to start cooking!

What are your plans for your pancake supper? Any good fool-proof recipes you can help me out with?

Happy flipping!

Ems x