Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hampton Court

With only a few days to go now until the Jubilee celebrations begin, it seems fitting to look at one of the most beautiful royal palaces in London - Hampton Court.  I've visited Hampton Court many times now, it's always top of the list for guests and I never tire of it.  I've seen it in brilliant sunshine, in the depths of winter, lit up as people skate in the grounds, in the pouring rain, but my favourite memory involves a boat trip down the Thames at dusk; as we approached the palace, those infamous chimneys came into view, sillouetted against the darkening sky.  Truly magical and evocative.
Home to many Kings and Queens - including Queen Caroline, Henry VIII and some of his wives, notably Anne Boleyn, Hampton Court has a prominent place in English history.

Kitchen Utensils in the Palace kitchens

This is what I call a fireplace!

Beautiful embossed ceilings and intricate plasterwork cover the palace

The Great Hall - one of the few remaining rooms from Henry VIII time

When he died in 1547 Henry VIII had more than 60 houses, but – in the second half of his reign – none were more important to him, nor more sumptuously decorated, than Hampton Court Palace.

Henry VIII is probably Hampton Court's most famous inhabitant and he loved the palace, lavashing time and money on it. By the time Henry finished his building works at Hampton Court Palace in about 1540, the palace was one of the most modern, sophisticated and magnificent in England.
There were tennis courts, bowling alleys and pleasure gardens for recreation, a hunting park of more than 1,100 acres, kitchens covering 36,000 square feet, a fine chapel, a vast communal dining room (the Great Hall) and a multiple garderobe (or lavatory) - known as the Great House of Easement - which could sit 28 people at a time. Water flowed to the palace from Coombe Hill in Kingston, three miles away, through lead pipes.

All of Henry’s six wives came to the palace and most had new and lavish lodgings. The King rebuilt his own rooms at least half a dozen times.

The palace also provided accommodation for each of the King's children and for a large number of courtiers, visitors and servants.

Even the staircases are ornate

Hampton Court is of course famous for it's ghosts; rumoured to haunt it's corridors and cloisters are Queen Caroline and Anne Boleyn.  A few years ago a CCTV camera caught this ghostly image on it's screen, and the palace have not been able to explain it away rationally...
What do you think?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Zara Shoe Love

Who doesn't love new shoes - and bags for that matter?!  The thing that I love about Zara is that you can get relatively decent quality clothes for a relatively decent price and they're always on trend.  As London edges out of the drab grey rain into the sunshine I'm being drawn more and more to the bright colours that Zara has in store...especially in the shoe department.  Have a look at these
Gorgeous raffia heels

Orange and pink - such a great combination

Fuschia colours

Neon brights

Coral contrast
Then once you've bought your favourite shoe - accessorise your nails with these gorgeous bright colours from Nars...
and go strut your stuff!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jubilee Dresses

If like me you're suddenly having a panic about what to wear this coming Jubilee weekend - then fear not!  The Jubilee celebrations seemed so far away and now, suddenly, they're upon us, and it's true, I haven't got a thing to wear! Anyway, I was having a trawl through the on-line shopping mall and came up with a few little things to inspire...
this gorgeous strappy blue, red and white dress

and this one I LOVE - London buses, Big Ben telephone boxes
These come from River Island.  Also check out here for these...

In the event of sartorial failure, just throw on your prettiest sundress, paint your nails red and hit the street party anyway!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Moments from the Weekend

Scenes from the beach
Summer has finally arrived and I made the most of it this weekend...It's been a crazy, crazy few weeks so I needed some down-time badly.  I spent Saturday indulging my inner child by taking my Godaughter for lunch and joining her on the Victorian funfare ride as well as catching up with an old friend and having a long overdue chat. Sunday was a blissful day by the beach at the Witterings.  It's amazing how if you walk just ten minutes along the beach you can have the entire place to yourself.  I had a magic moment too, when I was floating in the sea, no one around but me and right in front of me a bird did a perfect dive into the blue waters emerging with a fish. 
The cutest mini-bar cocktails (Thank you Lisa!) and glasses of wine in the sunshine with my bestie (was going to say 'oldest' friend!!!), followed by kisses in the sky, love all round ...

Gorgeous clapboard house and garden in West Wittering (want, want, want!)  If you look closely behind the white picket fence, you can see not only a wall-mounted shower to get rid of the sand, BUT a big bath too..

What did you do to celebrate the sunshine this weekend?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Five Things Making Me...Smile

Sometimes we just need to gaze upon something that makes us feel better on a bad day.  Here are some of the things that are currently making me smile...

How cute is this?
This makes me happy!  Fun in the sea and sun
A leafy green tunnel - I wonder where it goes?

Make a wish and watch it come true
Just being silly

What's making you smile today?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All that glitters...

I've had my eye on a glittery OPI nail polish for some time but just never got around to buying it; so, when I was browsing in a department store recently and I saw it in a pack with three others I just couldn't resist!
OPI New York Ballet Colours

They are a didi size but I've now tried all the combo's and used this tutorial to get the glitter just right.  How are you adding sparkle to your life?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flourless Chocolate Amaretti Torte

I'm not a baker - I don't usually 'do' sweet things and I get a bit stressed when I have to make cakes etc, however, this recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon was easy to follow, took ten minutes to make and tastes out of this world!  The amaretti biscuits add a fantastic almondy flavour and the resulting torte, is crisp on the outside and dense moist almondy chocolate on the inside.  It lasted less than 48 hours in the cake tin which tells you all you need to know!  Let me know what you think.

Flourless Chocolate Amaretti Cake

Makes 1 (9 inch) cake
1 1/4 cup amaretti cookies (about 20)
3/4 cup almonds
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 eggs
8 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place cookies and almonds into a food process and pulse until a fine meal forms (10 to 12 pulses). Pour mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Place butter and sugar in a stand mixer (or using hand mixer), fitted with a paddle attachment, and cream together, about 3 minutes.

4. Scrape down sides of bowl and with motor running add eggs, one at a time, until well mixed.
5. Add cookie mixture and melted chocolate and continue to mix until fully combined, scrape down sides of bowl and stir in vanilla.

6. Pour batter into a 9 inch cake pan lined with parchment and lightly greased.
7. Bake cake for about 30 minutes or until set in center and a small mound has formed. Allow cake to cool completely before flipping onto a large cake plate/platter. Carefully peel parchment from cake and dust with cocoa powder. Serve

I used Delia's conversion tables to go to metric/imperial measures from American 'Cups'.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What's in the (Gucci) Bag?

I promised you all a series on 'What's in the Bag?' and apologies that I've taken so long to do another...the truth is I did this post a while ago and saved it and when Blogger took us all over to the new interface it lost it!  Anyway, here it is again!! Firstly I want to thank Debs for allowing me to be nosy and empty her bag to my scrutiny!  Debs has one of the best bag collections I've seen and is the envy of friends and friends' daughters!!! Please excuse the quality of the photos.  They were taken after a few glasses of wine and in bad light so don't do this gorgeous bag justice...but enough rambling..

..the bag...
Gucci Snakeskin - a special present from Debbie's husband

Gorgeous detailing - fringing with gold studs and gold plates
Debs' stuff

from left to right...

1.  Nurofen Plus from Boots because "it's the only thing that shifts a headache"
2. Sunglasses from Chanel "I bought these in Harvey Nichols, Jackie O' style, big and simple without being too glitzy but very versatile".
3. Dailies contact lens' by accuvue "it's kinda freaky cos I only wear them in one eye!"
4. "These are my little known secret.  Linen vest tops from Massimo Dutti.  Great pieces at good prices and they look great under a suit as they're long-line.  You have to be quick tho' as they sell out quickly and go a size bigger as they come up small."
5.  Umbrella - "you don't want your hair to frizz up."
6.  Wallet from Louis Vuitton "my husband bought me this to go with my work bag.  It's eight years old and still going - indestructible."
Chanel sunglasses, Armani lippy and Nokia cell

7.  Rouge d'Armani shade 103. "A secret weapon for us girls.  It's the ideal beige lipstick, a perfect base and when you don't want to wear a bolder colour, it's just there.  I buy three; one for work, one for home and one to carry around."
8. Keys and my lucky elephant - a gift from a friend from Kenya "I love it, cheap and inoffensive."
Cartier pen, penhaligon's case and Vuitton wallet
9. Phone Nokia Music Express "it's easy to use and has all my numbers on."

10.  Cartier pen.  "A present two years ago for Christmas.  When you write with a fountain pen it instantly makes your handwriting better.  If I lost it I'd be distraught."
11. Penhaligon's cosmetic case "I carry my pen around in this"

Thank you Debbie - I'm off now to hunt down that beige lipstick and search out another victim for my 'What's in the Bag?'series...any offers?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tyler Knott Gregson

I discovered Tyler Knott Gregson quite by chance and was instantly hooked. He describes himself as ...

 a photographer.



Exploitable Genius.

Word Alchemist.

Thought Translator.

Boy With Faraway Eyes.


I love this - it makes me think and ponder what some of it means and what he wants to convey.  It was this poem that I came across first...

The words

‘I Love You’

were stuck inside

knocking on the

door to my throat,

asking politely

if they could come out

to play

with you


For those three words,

I decided to take down

the door and instead

put up a window

that I will always, always

leave open.

His poetry resonates somewhere within and I recognise his thoughts and the truths he is sharing - I love this one:

Let there be light, and let it always find a way, to find me. Bathe me, cover me, surround me and paint me when I most feel my color has gone.

This is one of his daily haiku's on love.  Here's another that speaks loudly to me:

If you pull the thread

that’s connected to your heart,

I will feel the tug.

If you like this little taster head over to his site and enjoy browsing through his archives, or sign up to his twitter for daily doses of haiku.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Close the Coalhouse Door - A Review

So, I promised you more about my theatre visit on Saturday...I went to see 'Close the Coalhouse Door' at Richmond Theatre.  It's currently on tour as a collaboration between Northern Stage and Live Theatre.  It started it's life in Newcastle, and although I'm a Geordie girl, sadly I couldn't make it up home to see it, so had to watch it with a lot of other fellow Geordie exiles down south.  I inadvertently booked matinee tickets for Saturday and was worried that there would be hardly anybody in the theatre - I mean, a play about the pits and miners, in Richmond, one of the richest suburbs in London?  Mmmmn.  I was wrong.  The theatre was practically full - and lively!  One deep voiced Geordie voicing his opinions and laughter freely throughout!! 
Written by Alan Plater, music and songs by Alex Glasgow and based on the books of Sid Chaplin, I have more reason than most to reiterate the lines from the play "it might be history to some people, to us it's family, pet" as Sid was my Grandad, a writer and also a miner.  Sid wrote about the things that meant the most to him - family, the mines, people's livelihoods and politics and Close the Coalhouse Door manages to visit all of these as it meanders it's way through the history of the pits as seen through the eyes of a couple celebrating their golden wedding.  Lee Hall (of Pitman Painters fame)has brought it up to date, as now of course, there are no working pits in the north-east, and I for one thought he did a great job.  As I watched and listened I became again, the 7-year-old who watched it for the first time with my Grandad and Grandma beside me.  I was filled with great pride, not only for the artistic endeavours of the people involved, but also for the grit and determination of the Geordie stock, of which I am proud to be part of.

If you'd like to catch this play - and I recommend it wholeheartedly - then it's off to Salford, Huddersfield, Guildford, Durham, Oxford and York.  Here's a taster of what to expect - the only thing missing is the brass band that took part in the original back in 1968.

Glimpses of the Weekend

"Rain, rain go away, come back another day"..and it did! It's been a lovely weekend, beginning and ending in sunshine...I've done some of my most favourite things this weekend which has been lovely - topping up the memory banks and recharging batteries, as I know the next two weeks are going to be horrendously busy.
Saturday was long and leisurely, late getting up, late going to bed and here's what I got up to:
A train ride into Richmond (along with hundreds - yes, literally - of people dressed up in 70s gear!!!)where I visited their Farmer's Market down by the riverside.  It's one of the best markets I've been to in West London, well-worth the effort of getting over there from Wimbledon.  The produce is just exceptional and there is a Lebanese food stall there that sells the most divine street food I've had.  This time we tried the flatbreads stuffed with aubergine, tomato and chilli and Lamb Burak's stuffed with lamb, coriander and potato; retiring to the grass down by the river to listen to the busker, eat and snooze for half-an hour in the sunshine. Bliss..
I bought some purple sprouting broccoli which I'm planning to steam and eat for breakfast with a poached egg..
Who needs the Trevi Fountain?!!!!
After a quick snooze it was off to the theatre (more of that later in the week) to see a wonderful production by Northern Stage and Live Theatre, before finishing off the day with dinner in one of my favourite restaurants; where the lovely waitress brought us complimentary apple liquers and as she put them down she smiled and said "this is because you didn't have any dessert, and because good energy attracts good things".  How right she is.  The perfect end to a really lovely day.
Sunday, dawned bright and fair again, so off to the Weald of Kent for lunch in a country pub
where the garden is left wild and rambling on the hillside, the old apple tree and the wild sweet-peas growing contentedly.  We finished off the day with a wonderful (but tiring!) walk up Box Hill and along the ridge that becomes the north downs before heading down to the valley bottom and walking through a wonderful meadow of grasses, buttercups, and dandelion clocks...
Views from the top of Box Hill across the Weald

Down in the valley the river, willows and grasses
and before I left I made a wish (or three!).  Wishing you all a wonderful week to come...x

Friday, May 11, 2012

Domestic Sluttery

What a fantastic name for a book!  I discovered this blog and from that I got this book...
What other encouragement could a girl need to be sluttish? Sian Meades says "Being a Domestic Slut isn't about letting yourself go.  Far from it.  But there's more to life than perfection.  Perfection is exhausting. Actually, it's NOT being perfect that makes women awesome.  And it's finding your own brand of not perfect that makes life so much fun".  Hear hear!  This book is full of great ideas split into four sections and beautifully presented on pastel polka dot pages with cute montages.

First up is 'Home Sweet Home'
Lots of ideas about boudoirs, art, clutter (domestic cluterry!)housework, and my favourite bit in the whole book 'Bedside table essentials' which tells me I need to have the following: something to read, a beautiful carafe for water, lavender essential oil, a notebook and pen and (this is my favourite bit) Sexy things.  LOL, I love it!  

Next up is 'Food and Drink'
"Domestic Sluts are always thinking about food..." I can't disagree with that..take your pick from recipes for paella, curry, toad-in-the-hole, veggie dishes and a great guide on how to layer a tiered cake stand properly (I never knew there was a rule about this!) and the highlight for me is a recipe for a Cosmopolitan cake - "boozy, cakey goodness in a girly shade of pink".  I'm lovin' it.

Next on the agenda is 'Style'
Covering key wardrobe pieces, buying vintage clothes, ten commandments of style, caring for your clobber, the five minute face and hangover cures.

Last up is 'Living'
In this section find out how to make delicious cocktails, how to pack economically, party-planning, bargains and haggling and secondhand sluttery!

This is a great book to pick up at random and browse through and would make a fab present for a fellow domestic slut.