Rainy day post…. memories of sunny walks

Gosh I hate grey skies. It’s not so much the rain as the dismal colour of everything that makes me feel gloomy. Heck, give me a sunny shower to dance about in any day. But give me a sky the colour of an elephant’s behind, and I’m in an instant bad mood.

Still, despite the rather chilly start to the year, I do at least have some fond memories of sunny days out and about. In fact, since getting the hound, I’ve been feeling very ‘back to nature’ and loving filling my lungs with fresh air whilst stomping around muddy fields, and listening to the sky larks sing for me (yes, for me) in the blue sky. Gosh it sounds so far away and romantic right now, so here’s a reminder of what that all looks like, from my stack of iPhone photos taken on my recent walks…..

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Winter Warmers….for when you need all the help you can get!

I spent the freezing cold Saturday before last at my *outdoor* craft stall. And I was SO cold.

I thought I’d prepared pretty well….I wore a dozen layers and fleece lined boots, took high stools to sit on so that I was off the floor when sitting, and put cardboard down on the ground for when standing. I wore a hat and TWO pairs of gloves. And yet I was still colder than a really cold thing on the coldest day.

Adam even brought me blankets and a hot water bottle and a huge flask of tea. And I was STILL cold! I finally warmed up with a nice hot bath in the evening, but I still have chillblains on my feet for the memory!

So. I’ve vowed to be EVEN more prepared next time….especially as it’ll be a month further into winter (and we have a winter holiday in Austria planned too!). And what a great excuse to do some shopping! Here’s a round up of some things I’ve treated myself to already, and a few other things I have my eye on to keep the cold at bay…..

Hunter Chatel Snow Boots, Gloss White, £75

I spent ages last year eying up Hunter’s fab new snow boots. I got rid of my snow boots at the end of the winter prior because I’d used them to death, but as we didn’t get such a cold winter last year I never got around to buying them. But after this year’s cold snap, I convinced myself I should invest, and my glossy white Chatels arrived last week. They are incredibly cozy and comfy, and super duper warm. They also come in glossy and non glossy black, and  non glossy white. The soles are wonderfully thick, so it’s rather like walking around on a cloud of warmth to protect you from the cold ground, and the tops are elasticated to keep the warmth in too! I’m SO glad I got them and would really recommend them!

Hunter Original Fleece Wellie Socks, £17.00

Another investment I made last week were a pair of Hunter fleece welly socks. Designed specially to fit into either your high or short Hunter wellies, these are a wonderful way to keep snug inside your boots! I still wear a couple of pairs of cotton socks inside them, but they really are a help! I’ve also noticed that Joules have started making some too, to match their gorgeous wellies.

Sock Shop Heat Holders, 2.3 Tog Thermal Socks, £6.00

Perhaps my happiest find has been these AMAZING socks. Adam actually got a pair last week, and I was allowed to try them out…..and immediately ordered my own pair! Adam described the sensation of putting them on as ‘it’s like a million tiny pixies are kissing my feet’, and it’s fair to say that I can’t think of anything softer or cuddlier I’ve put on my feet! Heat Holders actually boast a tog rating of 2.3, which is around the rating our summer-weight duvet has, and they do a range of other products too….wellie socks, long socks, tights, leggings, gloves and hats! I want them all!

Thermal Fleece Shoe Insole

Another discovery I’ve recently made is thermal fleece shoe insoles. I was lucky enough to pick some up for only £1 from the market to try them out, and they were so good I went back for a pair to go in all my winter shoes and boots (as well as my slippers!). They work by stopping the cold coming up from the ground into your shoes, and of course they don’t take up as much room as a chunky pair of socks. They are widely available online and in shoe shops and have given a new lease of life to my Uggs and shearling-lined brogue boots!

66 Degrees North Unisex Vik Gloves, Blacks, £24

A few years ago, my dear friend Jane made me a gift of some amazing gloves. She came back from a cruise around the fjords raving about a brand I’d never heard of…and I’m so glad she did! 66 Degrees North are an Icelandic outdoor clothing brand, and as well as offering beautiful Nordic pieces, their range is also super high tech and made for very cold weather. The Vik gloves that Jane gave me are incredibly warm, even with my dreadful circulation, and they are even thin enough to put under another pair (sometimes you want to match your mittens to your hat, non?). They’re not cheap as far as gloves go, but I’d say they’re worth every penny. Oh, and the brand is now available at Blacks to boot!

66 Degrees North Women’s Kaldi Sweater, Blacks, £130

Sticking with 66 Degrees North, I love this technical 66° North Women’s Kaldi Sweater….it’s super pretty, but it’s specially made to keep you super warm too! It’s made from a wool and polyester mix and has articulated elbows for a closer fit, as well as a leather zipper pull embossed with the logo.

66 Degrees North Kaldi Arctic Mittens, Blacks, £40

66 Degrees North Kaldi Arctic Hat, Blacks, £60

And because I don’t think you can have too much of a good thing…..I’m REALLY hankering after these lovely mittens and matching hat. I love anything with a fur lining, and these just look incredibly cosy. They are also machine washable, which is pretty necessary with white accessories!

North Face Arctic Parka, £320

And possibly the best for last….. We watched the X Files ‘Ice’ episode recently, and I just fell in love with the coat Scully wears pretty much all the way through. I’ve searched and searched for one the same and this North Face Arctic Parka is pretty close. I adore the fur lined collar and the winter white insulated and waterproofed body. It boats a luxurious 550 fill down insulation for ‘easy defence against freezing temperatures’, and there is hidden fleece inside the cuffs to keep the chill out. It’s fully breathable and has stacks of handy pockets to stow your mittens and stuff in. I want it!

I hope you’re keeping warm in the chilly weather too, and do share any keep-warm tips!

Ems x

Splendid Snowy Sunday

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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



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


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


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


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


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