Thursday, 11 September 2014

Instagram Lately.

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Amazing foods at DF Mexico, Tinto Lounge in Bristol and the Bierra Moretti festival (pizza pilgrims and some epic handmade pasta

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A berry good snack, it turns out the secret to instagram likes is cat pictures, coffee before an early morning meeting

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Attending alunchtime concert in the library at Charlton House, RSVP to the wedding of some friends, making the house smell amazing with stewed plums and apples, a couple of new bits from No. 7

Here's what I've been doing on instagram lately. I'm @whereisharriet over there too.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Buying at auction (new chairs!)

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On Saturday morning I persuaded my dad to drive me over to Wandsworth to pick up these two beauties, which I won at an auction on Monday. He told me not to use the phrase 'won' but instead to refer to it as 'paying more than anyone else was willing to' (!) but acquiesced anyway - given all my family have been obsessed with auctions all my life he had only himself to blame for my addiction!

Growing up most of my parents' and grandparents' furniture was picked up at  local auctions and house clearances. My mum's first introduction to auctions was aged 14 when my grandfather sent her to a farmers' auction to get a good price on some wood! I do use ebay but I prefer to go to local auctions if I can - so you can see the pieces ahead of time and it's not such a hassle to get them home.

These are two reproduction Eames style office chairs, which I've been hunting for ages. I actually have a similar one covered in a yellow linen fabric, which the cats have taken over as their chair (and scratched to pieces) - so I am looking at getting all three recovered at some point in a matching fabric. Any tips for cat proof upholstery let me know! James and I have one long white desk from ikea for both of us, so I like the idea of having matching chairs to make our study area look a bit more cohesive.

My favourite auctions in London are Greenwich Auction and Criterion Auction (based in Wandsworth and Islington). They are both weekly slightly junky auctions, with a total hodge podge of stuff. You never know what you will find, and they are really fun to browse. A bit further afield is Woolley and Wallace in Salisbury, which are a bit posher. The online photos are really good quality, and the auctions are usually themed. Every so often they do a 20th century design auction, which is where my coffee table was purchased last year.

I have to say I don't often attend the actual auction, as they are usually long and at inconvenient times. I tend to place an absentee/commission bid where you give your maximum bid and the auctioneer executes it for you, at the lowest price possible. It's good because you set your maximum and can't be lulled into upping it in the heat of the action, but the downside is I have missed things I really wanted because they have gone for slightly over my maximum.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A picture of the week

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I'm usually pretty good at meal planning during the week, and sticking to it, but by the time the weekend comes all bets are off and we are scavenging leftovers in the fridge ahead of our weekly shopping delivery on Sunday afternoon. This week a couple of eggs, a pack of leftover salami from pizza making and fresh bagels made for a pretty good brunch.

This has been a weekend of unwinding and consolidating. It was James' first week back at school and I was travelling for work during the week so it's been nice just to spend a weekend sorting the house out, playing with the kitties and picking up a new home related purchase (but more on that another day).

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Muji To Sleep app review

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I'd say 80-90% of the time I sleep really well, and don't have too many issues drifting off, or even waking up once I've gotten over the shock of my alarm. Over the past six months or so however I have found that there are more and more times when my brain is so awake and churning over the events of the day (and what I have to do tomorrow) that I do find it hard to force it to quieten down and actually sleep.

I don't know if its a in-your-late-twenties thing, or a in-a-recession thing, or just a that's-life thing, but when I talk to my friends it seems I'm not alone in that I find myself thinking about work all the time. It feels like everyone is taking on more responsibility, or changing careers, or thinking about promotions and career progression, or career breaks and having a family, and it's all just really stressful!

An app can't really solve all that, but since I have been using Muji's To Sleep I have been drifting off better than before. It's basically a white noise app - which plays one of six soothing sounds to help you get to sleep. I love the crackling fire one, which makes me feel like I'm falling asleep beside a campfire, or you can listen to the wind whistling through the trees, or a mountain stream. It has a timer so you can set it to run for 30, 60 or 90 minutes, but most of the time I'm asleep within half an hour.

I've never tried a white noise machine before while sleeping, but I am totally converted. It gives you something to concentrate on, instead of all the thoughts in your head, but it is subtle enough not to be distracting when you are resting.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Make Up Lately Two

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I've picked up a few make up and beauty bits lately, a mixture of replacing things as they have run out, freebies and things I've wanted for a while. It's a fairly budget haul, mainly I have been spending way too much time (and money!) in Boots!

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Mac Lipstick - Ladybug

I finished off another six (eek!) Mac products - mainly eyeliners and makeup removers which I re-buy religiously - and so popped in to back to mac those puppies into a brand new lipstick. I picked Ladybug, which is my first Lustre formula, a really pretty everyday red. I've worn it a lot to weddings recently - as it looks great for day time when you want to dress up a bit, but not look like you are going on a night out with your make up.

Tangle Teaser Compact

I already have a the wet hair version of the tangle teaser and I love it so much I've been wanting to get the portable version for a while. What spurred me into purchasing was embarrassingly I'm getting a new work profile photo done next week (Finally! My current one is five years old and was taken on a very bad hair day.) and I wanted to have a little hair brush I could take to work with me to ensure everything is in place to avoid the same thing happening again. I love that it has a little protector which slots over the bristles to avoid you getting hand bag detritus in your hair brush.

Malin and Goetz

These little minis were free with a magazine (Elle I think), and are coming in handy as I am travelling for work a lot this month. It's a little lip salve, moisturiser and cleanser, and so far I've only tried the lip salve but I really like it. They don't really have a scent, and everything has quite a medicinal feel, but in a luxurious way. From the packaging to the products it gives the sense that they will really work.

Seventeen Stay Time Concealer

Oh look, this was in my last make up lately post, and here it is again! The fact that I have used it up completely and repurchased is a very good sign. It gives decent coverage without being cakey or too thick, and the price is really good.

No. 7 Stay Perfect mascara and Shade and Define eye crayon

This mascara is another old favourite and a rebuy after my old one got really gross (I kept it way longer than I should have! Sorry eyes!) It is the only mascara which I have found which doesn't smudge or flake at all on Boots were doing a buy one get one half price deal on No. 7, so I also picked up this eye crayon to try out. I like the idea of the crayon but the colour pay off is not great. I regret not getting a darker colour.

Hand Maid Cleansing Gel

I picked this up on three for two with a little mini shampoo and conditioner. There is nothing worse than being ill when you are away from home so I went a bit nuts purchasing things for my travels to try and avoid getting ill. I like that the smell of thing isn't too antiseptic.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Each Peach Pear Plum

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London has gotten very autumnal over the past week or two, and I spent the bank holiday Monday avoiding the rain and busying myself with indoor activities. My grandparents gave me a lot of plums from their garden last week so I stewed them with some cooking apples to make a fruit topping for my breakfast.

I don't really think this even qualifies as a recipe, I just sliced the plums in half and removed the stones, and peeled and sliced a couple of large cooking apples, then added three teaspoons of sugar, and three table spoons of water. I heated them on the stove with the lid on until the fruit softened, and then took the lid off and continued to cook them until they had reduced to a thick consistancy.

Eat with unsweetned greek yoghurt and maybe some granola (Next I need to make granola!). This freezes really well as well, so if you do have access to a fruit tree then it's a great way to make use of all the fruit you can't eat before it goes bad.

Monday, 25 August 2014

London Restaurant Wishlist

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Eating out is pretty much my favourite thing to do. Mainly because I love to eat, but don't love to cook. I tend to find the five or six restaurants I like though, and stick to them religiously until I get bored and I am getting to the point where I think I need ot branch out. Inspired by The SW6 I decided to make a list of all those places I've been meaning to try for ages, but haven't quite made it to yet...

Sodo Pizza - It's local, and it makes sour dough pizza. How have I not visited yet?

Patty and Bun - I think this needs to be next on my listin my hunt for the perfect burger joint.

DF Mexico - Mexican is probably my favourite cuisine and after reading about this place on What Katie Does it made it up my to eat list pretty quick.

The Pudding Bar - James hates that I like to eat different courses at different restaurants (he finds it really awkward when I go to places and just ask for a dessert menu!) so I feel like this is perfect solution. A bar which just serves pudding.

Bone Daddy's - mmmmmramen. That is all.

Albion Cafe - sometimes you just need baked goods.

Hawksmoor - the most expensive place on the list. One for a special treat I think, but the steak sounds amazing.

Brockley Market - Not quite a restaurant, butthis is so close to where I live and I can't believe I've never been. It is definitely happening soon.

What's on your restaurant wishlist, and do you have any suggestions for me that I need to add?!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. I've been meaning to share Jane's photos of China for ages 2. This gal has some good shoes 3. I love a good library 4. These summery desktops are in rotation on my pc at the moment 5. I am crazy for dip at the moment 6. Hayleigh's tip to Italy makes me long to go back

Hell yeah bank holiday weekend! It's the last one in the UK before Christmas though so I am trying to make the most of it. And book the rest of my leave for the year so I have a few long weekends to look forward to! I think I must be getting old because all I can say is wow this year is going by fast.

I went to see James' play on Saturday, which was good, and only got rained on a bit (it was outdoors). I was expecting a long solo trip up with my book for company, but randomly bumped into two of James' friends on the train also on the way to the play, so it was nice to have company. 

Today Reda and Kat are coming over for lunch which means I really need to clean this morning, as the house is something of a bomb site, or more realistically a cat-site as it's mainly cat hair everywhere!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Books in July and August

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I've gotten through a lot of books over the past couple of months - at least for me. I know for some people this is a tiny number of books - especially given one is basically a glorified picture book!

Outdoors by Diarmuid Gavin and Terance Conran

I actually bought this book for my parents a while ago and then borrowed it back now we are working on our garden for inspiration. It is absolutely massive - I can't quite believe I carried it all the way back from Bristol to London to give it to them for Christmas! I love it though - there are so many photos of amazing gardens, and some really great insight from Gavin and Conran on designing and planning your own garden. There is a section for everything from the urban and rooftop gardens most like my own little patch, to some stunning and huge country garden. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for ideas for their own garden.

Talk to the Tail by Tom Cox

I got this out of the library the same week we got our cats, for obvious reasons! It's a really sweet and funny memoir by Cox, of his life with six (yes six!) cats. He does a great job of portraying the personalities of each cat, and I loved reading about their misadventures. All in all a very easy and loveable read, especially for new cat owners getting very panicky about whether they are doing everything exactly right! Reading this definitely helped me chill out about cat ownership!

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

This is the sequel to Wolf Hall, and in my usual manner I am reading them completely in the wrong order, as this was the only one they had at the Library. Hopefully it won't make too much difference! It's quite a long and dense book, and I confess I've only just started it. I actually went and renewed it for another three weeks, as I don't think it will be a quick one to finish. I do like to get stuck into some more challenging books as well as my usual stream of easy reads, but they do take me a while to get through. I think I was reading Anna Karenina for about six months in the end! Hopefully this won't take me so long. It's set in the court of Henry VIII and I am loving all the court intrigue thus far!

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

I have never read any of Salman Rushdie's work before, so I figures it was about time I changed that. I admit I looked through the books available at the library and went for the shortest one! I haven't started this one yet - it's next on the list after I get through Bring up the Bodies. I suspect I might need to renew again...

The Great White Palace by Tony Porter

This is another lovely easy read, and another memoir. I am having quite a non-fiction kick at the moment - I just love reading about people's lives, which is probably why I love blogs so much! This is the story of how Porter and his wife purchased Burgh Island, and the decaying Art Deco hotel on it, and restored it into a beautiful luxury hotel. If you've seen the Poirot titled Evil Under the Sun you'll have seen this amazing hotel as they filmed it here. It's one of only a couple of Agatha Christie's stories to be filmed where she set it. My parents have been to stay as they are huge Art Deco fans, and I'd love to visit one day. I really enjoyed reading about the renovation work, and the behind the scenes look at running a hotel, especially one only accessible by sea tractor!

What have your read and loved recently?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A picture of the week

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This was the first week back after my holidays, boo! I think two weeks is the perfect amount of time off though. I really do feel like I got a chance to switch off and this past week I have still felt relatively relaxed and destressed. Any shorter and I would have still been thinking about work the whole time, but any longer and I probably would have run out of things to do with myself all day! 

I am home alone this week (well, with the kitties of course!) while James is off rehearsing for a play in Oxford so it's quite strange making meals for just me for the first time in a long time. I suddenly get to order everything I want from Sainsburies, which has ended up being a lot of raspberries and mangoes, and a lot of cake...

He's in Twelfth Night playing Sebastian, and keeps complaining because he's been cast in a role he doesn't usually play - the romantic lead. I keep getting 'but Harriet, I have to be all flirtatious and suave, I am no good at that' - I have pointed out he is welcome to practise on me if he's really struggling to get into character - but thus far he apparently hasn't felt that desperate!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Adopting cats

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For ages James and I have talked about getting cats. At first we were living in our no pets rented flat, so it was impossible, and then our long hours at work combined with the half finished state of our house meant we just weren't in a position to add a living creature totally dependant on us to the family.

However, now we have a vaguely livable house, James finished his teacher training and has had the whole of the summer holidays off, and I had two weeks of annual leave coming up, so the timing was as good as it was ever going to get, and we took the plunge.

So meet Hershel and Emmy - our beautiful new bundles of fluff. Bonus points if you guess where the names are from! We adopted them from our local shelter - the Celia Hammond Animal Trust. They lived there since they were found abandoned in a Tescos car park at just ten days old, so they are understandably a little nervous of people and of big open spaces. It's now been nearly three weeks since we took them home and one of the most stressful and rewarding three weeks of my life!

At now five months old they are verging on being young cats rather than kittens, so while on the plus side they are more able to look after themselves and don't need so regular feeding as a younger kitten, the down side is their most impressionable weeks are over, so it's taken a lot of effort to slowly bring them around to trusting us.

Hershel is the more curious and excitable of the two. He loves chasing his sister, his tail, a fish toy on a string, and anything else you might accidentally leave out which is chaseable! Emmy is much more shy, and is fond of finding a small space to curl up in. So far favourite spots have been behind the tv and under James desk, which meant a panicked trip to Maplin for cable tidies to try and reduce the potential damage she could do with all the fun wires she managed to find to play with!

I think this has definitely given us a glimpse as to what we might be like as parents - very panicky ones! We have both had points of being beside ourselves with worry - constantly asking google if they are eating enough, drinking enough, worrying they won't like us, and a particularly traumatic trip to the vet with Emmy with a potential eye infection. Do not ask about our many failed attempts chasing her round the house trying to get eye drops into her eye. It definitely set us back in the whole 'trusting humans' thing. But despite all that there is no more gorgeous sound I can think of right now than the purring of a little cat while you stoke or brush them, and I am so glad we gave these two a home. 

I always knew it was a big responsibility to get a cat, although I don't think I quite realised how much it would affect me. Currently I have spent an absolute fortune on finding their favourite type of cat food (they turn their noses up at Whiskers, only Felix is good enough apparently!), a scratching post they never use (but the sofa is sooo much better for scratching!) and all the other associated paraphernalia, my house smells of cat, and is covered in fluff and bits of litter, but I definitely wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, 11 August 2014

What's in my bag

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A new handbag means a new whats in my bag post, naturally! This bag was actually a very generous gift from one Lulu Guinness fan to another. A friend of my mum's is a big fan of Lulu Guinness' accessories, but was looking for a new home for a couple of things she no longer wanted, and knowing I was also a collector (albeit with a much smaller but still very treasured collection!) she passed this pretty birdcage handbag on to me.

I love the size and shape - it's big enough to fit my tablet in it, along with all my other bits and bobs, and if I take the tablet out it will also fit my camera at a squeeze too. The colour and fabric make it such a perfect summer bag. I added a vintage scarf to the handle to make it feel extra summery.

Inside I have my tablet (galaxy note 10.1) in a case from the Snugg, my iphone 5, vintage sunglasses which keep falling apart. Thus far I have been able to find the screw each time and put them back together but it's probably only a matter of time until I loose it and they are finally kaput. My keys, with an owl keyring James bought me and my Nectar and Waitrose key fobs (the Waitrose one is particularly good for free coffee when I shop!) and my sony headphones, which are the best quality for the price I have every tried.

I also have my purse, a reusable bag from Primark which is handy to have on me to avoid plastic bags, my Oystercard, a compact mirror from Muji, 17 stay time concealer for touch ups on the go, and my newest Mac lipstick in Ladybug, which is the perfect daytime red. It was my latest Back to Mac when I recycled some old packaging and I am so happy with my choice!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Shake Shack

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It has been nearly a year since I first tried Five Guys - one of two burger chains to make it across the pond from the states. Last week I went to try our its rival - Shake Shack, to see how they compare.

Shake Shack is based in Covent Garden, which is a fab location, and being able to snag a table in the of the covered market made it a perfect spot for lunch and people watching. I ordered a double cheeseburger, chips & cheese, and a peanut butter milkshake. James my ever agreeable dining companion (willingness to sit through me rearranging his plates for food photos being the main qualification required in exchange for me buying him dinner!) went for the Shack Stack - one beef burger and one mushroom burger, chips and a homemade lemonade.

At Five Guys the burgers blew me away, but I was less impressed with the chips (not American enough) or the drink selection (too American - I don't like fizzy drinks or beer so my only option was water). Shake Shack turned out to be pretty much the opposite. The burger were ok, nothing amazing, and a little too greasy even for me. The chips were epic though, and the cheesy sauce was delish. I did love the milkshake as well, it was full of flavou, but perhaps slightly too thick and sweet - I could barely get it up the straw! James choice of home made lemonade was probably a better one - much more refreshing after such a heavy and greasy meal.

I was also a little taken a back by the price. Overall our meals came to over £30 which felt like a bit much for a fast food restaurant. We did both size up on the burgers, which in retrospect was a mistake (I didn't finish everything, and still felt a little bit ill for the rest of the day), but the milkshake was £5 on its own, which seemed like a hefty price compared to other similar restaurants.

Ultimately I don't think either of these quite hit the spot for me. I've still not tried any of the likes of Patty and Bun or Meatliquor so I feel like the perfect burger joint is still out there, I just need to keep eating til I find it!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Garden Progress

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A spot of good weather coincided with me, James and both my parents being on holiday for a week, so I managed to bribe them all to spend a couple of days sorting out our mess of a garden. Actually it look surprisingly little persuasion. My dad, who has never previously shown any inclination to DIY suddenly seems to have decided my house is the perfect place for him to experiment with All The Power Tools knowing that if it goes wrong he doesn't actually have to live there so he seemed particularly up for it. My mum is the sort of person who will just absent mindedly start cleaning if you place a duster anywhere in her vicinity (she inherited this urge to clean from my grandmother definitely - I don't seem to have got the gene) so I just sort of popped a broom in her hand and let my dad know he could bring the power saw and they sort of took charge. Which was excellent as I know nothing about gardens at all.

The main reason for working on the garden was the damp in our back wall. The previous owners covered the entire garden with decking, which was very low maintenance, except they scrimped on the underlay, and the plastic used underneath was not letting any rain water drain away. This meant not only was the decking itself rotten and falling apart, but the damp proof course in my wall was being breached and just wasn't drying out. If not for the damp I  probably would have just left the garden as is for another year or so, and prioritised finishing areas of the house, but I really don't want to go through another winter with damp walls. Unless the heating is on full blast (and ideally the oven too) the whole kitchen feels really clammy and unpleasant in winter, so getting the wall dried out is top of my to do list before the summer is over.

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The good news was my dad made pretty swift work of the decking as it was so rotten, and had the entire garden (approx 6m by 5m) up in maybe 4-5 hours with the aid of his trusty power saw and a crowbar. My main job was making coffee and hammering off the rusty nails in the bits of wood, so my mum, who decided a summer dress and sandals was appropriate garden demo clothing, didn't get cut. James scheduled a work meeting in the middle of day 1, so managed to escape for a large proportion of demo day, and was thus relegated to carrying the wood out to the front to be taken to the tip.

The bad news, after all of that, is that underneath all the decking and plastic was not the lovely bare earth for planting I had hoped, but a lovely thick layer of concrete. Yay. I hope that removing the decking will still help the walls retain a bit less water, but unfortunately the concrete goes right up to the wall and means it won't dry out completely. Currently it looks like this:

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So a lot cleaner and tidier, with all the random stuff the previous owners left behind carted away (apart from the elephants, which I sort of like...) but not the most attractive concrete yard.

Our options are 1. to get the concrete dug up with jackhammers and a lot of men or 2. to cut a channel in the concrete by the house to allow for drainage and get damp proofing injected into the wall, which involves chipping off all the plaster and re-rendering the outside of the house. double yay.

Ultimately we will probably go for option 2 (cheaper and easier) and tile over the concrete to create a sort of courtyard garden with some big planters and a seating area. I suspect the fencing may need redoing as well, as the back one is buckling under the weight of the huge mass of vines which are growing up between the end of our garden and the start of my neighbours' in a small channel between the fences. We suspect it is a Russian creeper of some sort, it grows ridiculously fast and we are constantly cutting it back. The next tactic is weed killer as it is just impossible, but we want to try and will it off without accidentally contaminating any of my neighbours' gardens. Ideally.

My builder is dropping off some tile and paving catalogues (oh the excitement! It actually is quite exciting to me. I don't know if that is a good thing.) and seems to want to get started asap so it looks like the garden will be where all my money is going for the foreseeable future. I suspect it will be just perfect in time for winter and then we won't end up going in it for six months!