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!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Lazy Sunday Links

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1. style crushing on olivia palermo 2. lil's epic (and prize winning!) yoghurt and courgette bread 3. I am nuts for this wallpaper 4. a trip to the san fran flower market with sfgirlbybay 5. when I grow up I want to be sofia coppola 6. love this eclectic flat

It's the weekend! And I am half way through my holiday. I have to say I've been feeling pretty weekendy all week - it's been a totally chilled time, a few jobs, I feel like we've forgotten something and had to go to asda pretty much every day(!), and some laid back fun things too. On Tuesday we went to the British Library to see the Comics Unmasked exhibition, and on Friday to a free lunchtime concert quite local to us at Charlton House. We were the youngest people there by about 40 years, but the music was beautiful. A violinist with a piano accompaniment, we listened to some Schubert and Ravel. It's been ages since I just sat and listened to some music, so it was a lovely experience.

I really enjoyed the Comics Unmasked exhibition as well - though it was quite busy and a little difficult to see everything. What I found interesting was the had any sexual content cordoned off in a separate room, but the often incredibly violent images were just part of the main exhibition. Parental supervision is required for anyone under 16 to see the exhibit, but I just thought it was interesting that images of violence has become so normalised while sex is still so taboo. The exhibition was primarily around British Comic book artists, creators and graphic novelists, and it was good learning about our own comic history.

This weekend James and I went to a wedding (number three of the year!) of our friends Amy and Neil. It was in beautiful Lewes in Sussex and it was just a gorgeous day. Sore heads all round this morning though!


Friday, 1 August 2014

Moretti Movement

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On Wednesday I was invited down to experience Birra Moretti's Gran Tour of Italy. They are hosting a pop up street food market in London taking you on a tour of the most amazing tastes of Italy. During the evening James and I watched pasta being made by the Cooking Cooks, munched our way through some epic slices of pizza from the Pizza Pilgrims, and finished things off with some amazing gelato from Gelupo. And that was just our starter...

I loved watching everything being freshly hand made in front of our eyes, and at ridiculous speed as the chefs raced to fill the plates for the queues of people buliding up. Despite the numbers of people each plate of food was perfectly presented, and just the right size to leave you satisfied, but with space left to try the next dish!

James' favourite was the Arancina balls - balls of risotto stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and deep fried - the perfect snack to whet your appetite. My top choice was probably the hand made ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and topped with crumbled amaretti biscuits. It was like a dessert pasta, if there is such a thing?! A close second was definitely the gelato though. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth? It was so good I went back twice! Once for the chocolatey deliciousness of the Bonet flavour (named after a Piemontese pudding shaped like a bonnet) and finally for the Lemon and Sage flavour which was the perfect palette cleanser to end with.

The festival's last day is Sunday 3rd August, so get in quick if you want to visit! Tickets and info here.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The white shirt

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shirt courtesy tm lewin, skirt jigsaw, cardi - h&m, shoes - marks and spencer

After my blogging break I've managed to come back with not just two whole posts so far this week, but my first outfit post in aaaages as well. I kind of went off outfit posts recently. A combination of feeling a bit too old and boring for them compared with all the young whippersnapper bloggers out there, not finding the right spot in my new neighbourhood and no new clothes meant I just haven't been in the mood.

I am still not 100% comfortable doing them again - I only managed to find one full length photo I was happy with in the million or so I took to get these (baby steps) but it is definitely something I do want to keep doing every now and again, even if this isn't strictly speaking a fashion blog any more.

Anyway, enough of that. The reason for this outfit post is the gloriously simple but perfect white shirt I am wearing which was sent to me for review by TM Lewin. When I think TM Lewin I immediately think tailoring, and not without cause. This shirt fits so perfectly. It has a longer line than most shirts, so it stays properly tucked in, and the shape is perfectly cut in the bust area. Normally I have to size up when I wear shirts, as they tend to gape, but I had no such issues with this one. It's the perfect addition to my slowly growing grown up wardrobe.