Sunday, 11 December 2011

Give thanks for Christmas!

Our lovely friend Harmony is American and each year hosts a Thanksgiving party to remind her of home.  Now I know some of you will say its a bit late for Thanksgiving but I think living in London gives her the right to be a bit creative with her timescales.  This was the first year I've attempted to cook  a bit of soul food.   Here are my candied yams: sweet potato mashed with cream, nutmeg, ginger and lime; topped with marshmallow.  Dee-lish-us.

Appropriate seasonal musings will be resumed by the next post. Particularly as The Boyfriend and I have 4 Christmas get togethers over the next week. 

See you soon. x

Sunday, 4 December 2011


No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

Thomas Hood 1789 - 1845

Pah Thomas Hood! Pah and Pah! November has been glorious! I didn't get the chance to write much last month as both work and house buying have gone bonkers. Here are some of my highlights from November.

The Gerhardt Richter exhibition at Tate Modern is one of the best exhibitions of the year. Really well thought out exhibition and introduced me to some new work.  Definitely worth seeing if you're in London between now and 8 January. 
Gerhardt Richter - Seascape
Gerhardt Richter Gerric

Watching the Fireworks from Blackfriars Bridge in our snugly coats and scarves.  My mum always tries to catch a bit of the Lord Mayors Show on television every year as it reminds her of the day she brought me home from hospital all those years ago.

Looking out at the moons of Jupiter through binoculars.  We've not done it apparently there's an observation site in Hampstead where members of the public can pretend to be astronomers using amazing telescopes and speak to scientist for free.

The Wolseley
Afternoon tea at the Wolseley.  I love the Wolseley and if you've not been you really should go.  It is an impossibly glamorous grand European style art deco cafe.  Lovely dark wood, marble and chandeliers. The service is fabulous and unlike some of the other places you can go for tea in Piccadilly its not the tiniest bit stuffy or gimmicky or outrageously expensive. Lots of people were quite dainty with their cakes but The Boyfriend and I really enjoyed them - particularly the pistachio macaroon.

This was our first time for afternoon tea, but The Boyfriend and I have had some fabulous breakfasts at the Wolseley. The Eggs Benedict is the nicest that I've ever tasted.  A sister restaurant The Delaunay is also opening on Monday 5 December.  Let me know if its good if you try it out first!

Eating and drinking too much cheese, cake, wine and Crabbies ginger beer.  There's too much going on to worry about diet - plenty of brides wear wedding dresses with elasticated waists nowadays.

St Pancras Hotel Kings Cross
Celebrating my anniversary with The Boyfriend with an amazing massage at the St Pancras Hotel Spa.  We have happy memories of the hotel. We had cocktails in the hotel the night we got engaged and we even thought about the hotel as a wedding venue option at one stage. [Note to self: I should post about the places we aren't getting married soon...].  

Anyhow, for our anniversary treat I had a massage and a facial and The Boyfriend had a massage.  It had been a particularly stressful week at work and a stressful week chasing solicitors, buyers and estate agents.  However I left feeling fantastic, with light behind my eyes and skin that actually glowed. There are lots of day spas and hotel spa's in London.  I would happily recommend this as one of the better ones.

See you soon x

Friday, 25 November 2011

Pick up a penguin

Last night The Boyfriend and I went to a talk by the chief scientific advisor for Frozen Planet put on by the Friends of Stroud Green Library, who served wine and retro penguin biscuits.  Nice touch. 

 Now The Boyfriend has has a physics degree which he doesn't get to use day to day. So he was particularly excited about lots of graphs and scientific explanations from Dr Mark Brandon. The Boyfriend tells me his best result at university was in oceanography and he thought about applying to the British Antarctic Survey.  However I know what he's like in the cold so don't think that would really have worked out.

I enjoyed the talk as the whole thing was grounded in great stories about how the whole Frozen Planet was put together and the life of a polar researcher.  More importantly there was a half told story about being given a black eye and a bloody nose by a penguin.  I love penguins. other news I don't want to jinx things by getting too excited but there's a good chance - a very good chance - we might be in our new flat by New Year... cross your fingers please...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Birds of a feather...

The golden warm autumn days returned briefly to London.  Briefly, as in on Saturday I only needed a cardigan, but by this morning there was fog everywhere when I woke up. Gloves and scarves c-o-l-d.   But as I say, Saturday was glorious. So The Boyfriend and I headed down to Barnes to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

We spent the first part of our visit in the hides overlooking the wetland and saw cormorants, great crested grebes, little grebes, bittern, wigeon, cranes, oyster catchers, different kinds of gulls, swans, ducks and geese. There was a rumour that mallard ducklings had hatched because of the weather fluctuations, but we didn't see any. Hope they've survived.

I particularly liked this little chap who we think is a Nene or Hawaiian Goose. He took a shine to The Boyfriend and tried to peck a chunk of his Redwings. Yes that's right, once again The Boyfriend cut a dash as a Shoreditch squire on an outdoorsy day out.  

The highlight of the day was just before dusk when all the birds started to flock in the half light and we were surrounded by tens of whistling ducks making high pitched calls to each other.  And just as we left the bats started to cluster.  Such a lovely day out and only an hour across London too.  I think we'll go back in spring or summer to see how things have changed.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Birthday: Part 2. Manon

My final present from The Boyfriend was 2 tickets to see the English National Ballet at the Royal Opera House.       

We started the evening with an early dinner in Les Deux Salon in Charing Cross. We have been meaning to check out the restaurant for ages. I ordered monkfish with tiny sweet onions and The Boyfriend had pasta with pumpkin and mushroom.  I don't think the food is as good as Arbutus but we had a lovely meal anyway.

I enjoy contemporary dance but didn't know much about classical ballet before we went so I looked up the plot of Manon on the internet earlier in the day.  

The ballet is set in 19th century Paris and it is the story of a beautiful but poor girl - Manon -who falls into the world of aristocrats, beggars and courtesans.  Manon and a young student called Des Greiux are in love and they try to run away together. However her corrupt brother Lescaut has promised that she'll become the mistress to an old wealthy aristocrat and she is seduced by the promise of comfort and riches. The lot of a classical heroine is rarely good, and the unfolding story is a genuinely moving tragedy.  The performance itself is fantastic and I was surprised how clear the story telling was. Even if we hadn't looked it up it was easy to follow what was going on. 

The dancing was beautiful with amazing shapes and lines from strong charismatic dancers.  The leads were amazing and conveyed the tender and passionate relationship between De Greiux and Manon. My favourite scene was in De Greiux's student room. The ensemble cast were also brilliant and there were brilliant mini-vignettes danced by the ensemble dancers that helped establish the narrative but also add humour. 

Overall it was an amazing experience.  The orchestra sounded fantastic. The hyper modern bars and restaurants felt super glamorous. The gold and red colours in the theater and porcelain blue 19th century ceiling are opulent. But most importantly I experienced the whole thing with my lovely boyfriend.  We've cut back a lot of things this year because we've been saving for the wedding, moving and like everyone else worrying a bit about what the future holds. I've been feeling the strain a bit recently so this was a particularly thoughtful treat.  One of the reasons I love The Boyfriend so much.    

Manon is still running until 26 November and if you can get tickets then I'd highly recommend it. 

Please Please let me get what I want...

Now I'm a huge fan of The Smiths, albeit a fan who was born a few years too late. A Smiths fan who could empty the year 11 common room by putting How Soon is Now? on the communal stereo and still used to ache whenever she listened to that track in her twenties.  A Smiths fan that bought Morrisey's solo stuff even though most of its not as good as The Smiths and Morissey is disappointingly, well, a bit of an idiot left to his own devices. A Smiths fan who turned up a Morissey gig carrying gladioli 15 years too late.

Smiths loving credentials established? Good.  I therefore feel entitled to say how amazing this John Lewis short is about a little boy getting excited about Christmas presents. 

The Boyfriend showed me this on Friday night and by the time we got to the twist at the end I had tears in my eyes. Enjoy.


Saturday, 12 November 2011

Birthday: Part 1. The Presents

So it was my birthday on Wednesday and I had the most wonderful day.  I had amazing presents from The Boyfriend:

Lovely homeware gifts from two of my favourite interiors shops, including this lovely blanket for autumn snuggling hibernation and this enamel milk pan for autumn hot chocolate.  I love the colours and I would probably not have picked them myself so they were a real treat. 

 A DVD of A Single Man which we saw this together at the cinema when we first started dating. Gorgeously shot and one of the most beautiful romantic films.

That book by Caitlin Moran that I haven't got around to reading yet.

I also got some lovely flowering plants from my parents. An orchid which adds a vibrant shot of pink against the grey walls in our living room and which replaces the many orchids I have managed to kill over the years.  Some pretty (as yet unidentified flowers) and a hyacyth which will smell sensational when the flowers start to open up. 
My favourite present however is probably Esther, the adorable little donkey which The Boyfriend adopted on my behalf.  A private joke between us. I love her and I think we should go to and see her in Norfolk. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Everything and the kitchen sink

While we wait to sort out a new home I dream of kitchens. Kitchens with range cookers and white units and marble work surfaces. This is in fact my dream kitchen, although if I was being very picky I'd quite like some exposed brick work too.  I can't remember which blog I found this on but the original source is this Swedish Estate Agent which is a fantastic source of interiors inspiration.

The Boyfriend likes hyper modern glossy looking kitchens a bit like this one on The Age of Aquarius.  

The Boyfriend also has a thing about long stainless steel handles which I haven't seen anywhere and do not actually believe exist in anywhere other than his imagination.  Do you know different?

In the meantime I'm growing pragmatic about finding our new home.  It will happen when its ready I guess.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Autumn Stew

With the changing of the season's we have started to eat cosier food.  We took delivery of another supply of vegetables from my parents garden earlier in the week, including some big slices of pumpkin. Now my father is particularly proud of his pumpkins.  The very first time that The Boyfriend went down to meet my family, my father made him take photographs of my little niece to prove his prize pumpkin was larger than a 3 year old.   So anyway on Friday night we had a delicious pumpkin curry made from a simple yellow curry paste and coconut milk.

Tonight we had a sweet potato and feta stew with lots of warming spices.  We needed something hearty today having danced into the small hours at our friend Jo's birthday party. The Boyfriend also spent an overexcited afternoon at Loftus Road watching QPR's victory over Chelsea. I hope he'll sleep tonight.

Does anybody else have any tasty autumn dinner recipes to share?

Friday, 21 October 2011

We Need to Talk About...

As you know, I've been looking forward to watching We Need To Talk About Kevin since I first saw the trailer. I know I'm in a minority but for some reason I don't enjoy Lionel Shrivers style so I didn't finish the book but I liked the essential narrative. 

The film shows Eva, living a contrite, pleasureless life. Targeted by local vigilantes, working in a low status job, a figure of hate or curiosity amongst her neighbours.  Flashbacks tell Eva's story of how she ended up this way and why she accepts this as her lot.

Starting as a free spirited, well travelled career woman, Eva does not take well to pregnancy from the start. She is unable to bond with her baby or escape his crying.  She cannot nurture her defiant, incontinent, selective mute little boy. As he grows up Kevin builds on her unease and lives up to her low expectations, constantly goading her, tormenting his innocent younger sister while seeming to connect with his father. Eva is split between nervousness about her son and guilt at the thought she has somehow made him this way.  Over the course of the film, mother and son are in a symbiotic relationship leading up to a mass act of violence.

The cinematography is great.  The soundscape is clever and arresting - the sprinklers are haunting.  There is a repetition of intense red colour schemes throughout the film.  Splatter patterns are repeated. The lead characters mirror each others mannerisms, looks and behaviour.   

Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly and Ezra Miller are all fantastic.  Not to mention the young actors who play the little Kevin's.  Ezra Miller was at the screening last night and the audience really did shrink away from him a bit, although he had folk queuing up to have a fag and a chat as we left.   

This is very definitely a good film and I may even try the book again.  Although I thought it was fantastic and lots of folks will disagree with me, but I didn't love this film. Something about it felt too "deliberate". What do you think?

Recently I've also rather guiltily enjoyed Drive which I didn't think I'd like at all.  We also saw the Black Power Mix Tape as part of the London film festival.  It was great to see some impressive footage - especially the interview with Angela Davis - but somehow it didn't quite seem to hang together.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Weddings and Movie Stars

Its been a quieter more snuggly weekend after a busy week. So I've enjoyed looking through a bit of this coffee table book Weddings and Movie Stars which came out earlier in the year.

As you might remember I have a bit of a thing about old hollywood weddings.  The weddings are obviously glamourous and the dresses are beautiful but there also tends to be something quite simple too about how they celebrated.  There often seem to be smaller numbers of friends and family and many of the weddings take place in registrary offices or city halls. 

I love the book's cover photo of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. Apparently when they were pronouced married Lauren clapped her hands and said "Oh goody!"

The book has lots of weddings from the 1920s to the present day, including stills from films as well as real weddings. Its got my favourite shots of Elisabeth Taylor's wedding to Richard Burton, but there others too.

I like this photo from Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi's wedding.  The story goes that Anna was revealed to be from a Welsh shipping village after claiming to be an Indian princess.    

Love this picture of Frank Sinatra and Ava Garner... 

...And this one of Mick and Biance Jagger leaving Marylebone Town Hall

All in all a gorgeous book and lots of wedding inspiration. We think we may have found our wedding venue - although I'm trying not to jinx it by talking about it yet. I am thinking of starting a regular posting on novice wedding planning though.  I'll be back soon. x

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Only Way is Essex (And a Little Bit of Suffolk)

So after the hot weather last weekend, this Sunday was the real start of autumn. The boyfriend and I went for a long walk in Manningtree following some of the Essex Way footpaths to Dedham along the river Stour and to Flatford. 

It was the most perfect autumn day with clear bright sunshine, a sharp breeze and fresh earthy smells.  Autumn colours were everywhere.  Wide open green meadows, brown, orange and yellow leaves, trees and lichens. 

The first five miles or so we didn't encounter any other people.  We did get a little intimidated by some horses crossing the footpath through a farmers field and so we hid under a fence.  But the horses were just being friendly.  Oh dear!

There was just something fantastic and romantic about being outside in the countryside. Hay barns, acorns, conkers, lichen growing up walls, little streams, kissing gates, styles, weirs, rusting roofes and an abandoned tractor.  For lunch we stopped off at a beautiful old yellow beamed pub in Dedham Vale for a ploughman's and pint of cider.

I grew up in Essex and can remember punting on the Stour in summer holidays so loved seeing the little fleet of boats as we wandered along the river after lunch.  There were more people on this stretch, although it was still quiet.

We reached Flatford, the home of John Constable and the inspiration for much of his art.  Willy Lott's cottage has been preserved and there's also a teaching facility in a national trust centre. Here is my almost Hay Wain. 

We made it back to Manningtree just before it got dark, slightly achy from a long day but happy and contended.  I've felt rejuvenated and calm all day.  We will go back. x

PS. I think  have mentioned before how outstandingly stylish The Boyfriend is? Well I thought I might add that while I wore old leggings and my gym trainers for our walk The Boyfriend was dressed head to foot in Albam

Saturday, 8 October 2011

A little bit of Paris in North London

 Once a month some the shops in Crouch End stay open late on a Friday night for the Barboot.  They serve free wine, cocktails and cake and there are also people selling second hand goods and pretty home made things.  Last night the boyfriend fell in love with a rockabilly pocket square and a Japanese nudey lighter in the Haberdashery where we sometimes go for brunch; and he found a 1962 tube map in Moors Bar - the Victoria Line doesn't even exist on the map.

The real find of the night was Little Paris which for some reason I had mistakenly assumed would be a bit twee. It turns out that almost the opposite is true.  Its full of authentic industrial metal work and contemporary French designers. Utterly gorgeous and unusual stuff.  We particularly liked this 1940's cabinet. Great inspiration for when we find the new flat.  We will go back.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Baking Hot in Finsbury Park

It was our friend Andy's birthday party yesterday and we started off the afternoon in Finsbury Park. The grass was covered in beautiful red and brown autumn leaves.  The sun was strong and golden at an unseasonable 30 degrees in London. One of those gorgeous afternoons catching up with an extended circle of friends and drinking lots of wine and eating lots of cake in the park. The only thing was we were able to do this in October rather than August!
I made chocolate Guinness cupcakes based on a Nigella Lawson recipe. I was originally worried that the cake mixture was too runny as all the ingredients are melted together on the stove before they are cooked and I hadn't made cake this way before.  But I shouldn't have worried the cakes turned out really moist and chocolatey with an undertone of spice from the Guinness.

The picture above is from Nigella's website.  And my cakes are below!  I made cupcakes and a few special cakes in little heart shaped moulds.  The Boyfriend argued against the use of strawberries but I thought it was a nice accompaniment and the cakes went down very well with everyone at the picnic.  
I mentioned before that I want to get some practice baking as I'm thinking of making my own wedding cake when The Boyfriend and I get married next year.  I've not baked much in the past at all and I really enjoyed the practice.  I've also discovered that one of my favourite bloggers is going to do a series on baking classic cakes.  I may try to bake along with the blog. All advice very welcome.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Flat: Post

So The Boyfriend and I decided to withdraw our offer on the flat.  We had a summit in our favourite pub and both agreed that
the cons outweighed the pros.  We wanted to carry on so that we could get going and book the wedding; and we didn't want to let people down.  We knew we should stop because the estate agents were bullying and unreasonable; the flat had subsidence, damp and we just didn't love it enough. 

We were disappointed but it was definitely the right thing to do. After some terse emails with the estate agents we just feel relieved.  Always right to go with your gut at times like this I think.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011


A bit of a sad day. The survey on our flat doesn't look good. We spotted some damp the first time we looked around but it seems like its more extensive than we thought and there's subsidance and some historical damage.  The vendors estate agents are trully horrible, putting a lot of pressure on us to complete to an unrealistic timescale and annoying our solicitor and The Boyfriend's estate agent. 

It is starting to feel like it may not be worth it. I think we may have to walk away.  It is sad because The Boyfriend and I had planned so much around buying this flat.  Growing vegetables in our little garden. Styling all the nooks and crannies. Creating our new home. We have also been waiting for the sale to go through before booking our wedding venue.

Obviously I know that not buying the flat you want is not sad compared to lots of other things. We have a very lucky life. The disappointment won't last.  If this doesn't work out there will be somewhere better for us.  But I still can't help feeling a little sad.  We will sleep on it.


Monday, 26 September 2011

What would Louise (Brooks) do?

Now I normally wouldn't include this but, oh my my my this is all so pretty.  

I really like the pretty vintage-style scanties courtsey of Playful Promises.  What would Louise do? Or Marilyn? Or Elisabeth? Or Rita?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Boyfriend Loves Me More Than Queens Park Rangers...

... and he's at Loftus Road watching QPR play Aston Villa this afternoon. But he did like reading about the pretty unfootbally wedding of QPR sub Rob Hulse earlier in the week.

Oh dear I just checked the score and it looks like Villa have scored in extra time...  A good job I love him so much x

Postscript: Ended up 1 - 1.  The Boyfriend is cursing the referee.

American Graffiti on Chelsea Bridge

When The Boyfriend was 7 his parents took him to the Chelsea Cruise to watch the classic cars drive along Chelsea bridge as a birthday treat.  Watching cars was followed up by a vanilla ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce - the kind of chocolate sauce that goes hard after you pour it so you have to crack it with your spoon to get to the ice cream.  The height of sophistication when you are 7. And one of The Boyfriend's most treasured childhood memories. 

All the wedding planning has got The Boyfriend thinking about cars again.  A 1950's Ford Anglia as a wedding car maybe? An Alfa Romeo Giulietta? What about a Mustang?

After a bit of googling we discovered the Chelsea Cruise is still going, every last Saturday of the month. It stopped for a few years in the 1990's when it got take over by boy racers and got broken up by the police but it is now very much a scene for old car enthusiasts.  So last night we went down. 

Chelsea Bridge was all lit up and looked fantastic as we walked up from the Kings Road.  There were around a hundred cars, mostly for the 50s and 60s.  All amazing shapes and colours and in some cases with spoilers and lights.  My car knowledge isn't very good but The Boyfriend was very excited and knowledgeable about rare cars. The crowds really mixed too. Some staunch enthusiasts who have come every month since the 1970's; families with (mainly) little boys on shoulders, students practicing with their DSLR's, rockabilly types and excitable tourists like us. We may not need a wedding car, but if we do then I think we've found a great place to find advice. 

If you like old cars then I recommend American Graffiti for some inspiration.  Set in 1962 the film is about 2 boys scheduled to leave for college in the morning spending their evening cruising the strip in their cars. There is a young Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard and Harrison Ford too. I've only seen this clip so far but looks good and we're watching the DVD tonight.

American Graffiti: George Lucas: 1974

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Thank You Mr Ottolenghi

I couldn't think what to make for dinner tonight.  Then I remembered this recipe from the Guardian magazine from Saturday.  I give you my take on sweet potatoes with figs, goats cheese, chili and shallots (because I didn't have any spring onions as the recipe suggested). It was very nice - thank you Mr Ottolenghi! 

The Boyfriend and I also discovered the Great British Bake Off tonight.  I think we're getting into it a bit late in the series but plenty of cake making inspiration I think. 


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Open House Part 2: Green Lanes (and not so green lanes, streets and buildings)

For the second day of open house we went to a disused Edwardian butchers in Holloway. This is its original tiled floor and a frieze of cows and sheep on Hampstead Heath from one of the counters.

 The butchers is very well preserved with a mahogany serving kiosk and even some of the original machinery and meat hooks. It is clearly a labour of love for the owner who lives in the basement below which used to be the butchers ice-cellar. He said he is planning to turn the butchers into a coffee shop in a few years time. 

I love these art deco tiles.

Next we met the lovely ladies of the Hornsey historical society who were extremely knowledgeable about local history. We then wenton to a contemporary conversion on the other side of Harringay Station. 

The flat we're hoping to buy is quite modern so we're always looking for style ideas.  The flat was more The Boyfriend's taste than mine but I liked the concertina doors to the garden and the glass paneling everywhere which kept it light and bright even on a cloudy day like today. I also liked the bright pops of colour which made it seem homely.

The last stop off of the day was the Green Lanes festival for some fantastic Turkish food, swing dancing to jazz bands in the rain and a few drinks in the beautiful and friendly Salisbury Hotel. A good day.

Open House Part 1: You Spin me Right Round Baby

Open House weekend has been fantastic this year.  It didn't start well.  The Boyfriend and I were tired and bickering so grumpily rode the lift up the BT Tower. The lights in the lift flashed and it was announced that we were travelling at 1400 feet per second as our ears popped.

As the doors opened the view was instantly amazing.  There are 360 degree views of London through huge floor to ceiling windows. You can just about feel a slight pulse as the whole space slowly rotates. Occasionally the pulse becomes a jerk that would make you fall over it you walked in the opposite direction.
One of the guides said that when the top of the BT Tower was a restaurant the waiters and waitresses would find it difficult to give customers the right meals as they would be in a different part of the restaurant when the meal was served from where they placed their order!

From the tower you can see every iconic building in London.  The Gherkin, The Lloyd's Building, and the big beasts of Canary Wharf. Parliament. Big Ben. The London Eye. Tate Modern. Tower Bridge. The Phillishave. Alexandra Palace. The Olympic Stadium. Kings Cross St Pancreas Station. Senate House. The dome of the British Museum. Central St Giles. The Crucible. The Shard. Battersea Power Station. University College London.  Crystal Palace transmitter. Regents Park, Green Park, Hyde Park.

Even without the architecture the BT Tower is fabulous for watching the world go by. There are secret roof gardens,  London buses, workman on building sites.  I watched Tower Bridge open to let through a boat and then slowly collapse again as if nothing had happened.

The Boyfriend and I are, of course, long made up with each other. But we both regret not experiencing the such amazing views together properly. We will definitely put our names down for next years ballot. By then we may even be married...