Things I Love Thursday (18.09.2014)

18 September 2014

Today's Things I Love Thursday is brought to you by a very relaxed Cat, enjoying a blissful week off work. I've decided to share a few of the things I've enjoyed so far this week...

from my Instagram feed - here
Wandering around the gardens of Ham House. Monday was a beautifully sunny day and after a fun few hours trying on wedding dresses, my Mum and I decided to visit the nearby Ham House for a spot of lunch. If you don't have a National Trust membership, it costs £4.50 to visit the gardens and under house. 

We were quite hungry when we arrived (it's surprisingly tiring trying on lots of dresses!) so we headed directly to the Orangery for lunch. I had a baked potato with tuna and cheese, which was served with a delicious salad grown on-site in the 17th century-inspired walled garden.

We then walked around the kitchen vegetable garden, marvelling at the huge marrows and pumpkins, along the South Terrace border and in and around the beautifully laid out Cherry Garden (pictured above). We also visited the rooms below stairs, where we exclaimed at the recipes on display in the kitchen (udder pudding anyone?), Mum tasted some ale (alas not gluten free) and we explored the gorgeous bathroom. There are also a number of outbuilding to visit dotted around the gardens and my particular favourite was the dairy, with its cattle-themed furniture:

from my Instagram feed - here
We then decided to head back to the Orangery for tea and shared a gluten-free brownie, enjoying the last of the late afternoon sunshine. Why can't all Mondays be spent like that?

Portrait in Blue and Gold by Clara Drummond
BP Portrait Award 2014
Visit the National Portrait Gallery. If you hurry, you can catch the BP Portrait Award 2014, which closes on 21 September 2014. I spent a lovely hour or so wandering around this exhibition enjoying the magnificent portraits on display, as well as the replicas being created by the schoolchildren and amateur artists dotted around the room. My favourite portrait was Portrait in Blue and Gold by Clara Drummond, which you can see above. Quite a small piece, it could easily be overlooked as your eye is drawn to the larger works around the gallery, but I loved the colours and simplicity of this portrait and the fact that it was inspired by the Tudor portraits in the National Portrait Gallery. If you've visited this exhibition, what was your favourite?

I also popped up to see the Tudor Collection. I've always been interested in Tudor history but I'm reading Wolf Hall at the moment and was even keener to re-visit the portraits of Henry VII and Anne that I know so well. The Gallery has a special Tudors display at the moment, with works from its collection displayed alongside some impressive loans from other galleries. There were also some interesting facts about the restoration involved to bring these works back to their former glory as well as the secrets discovered by x-raying the paintings.

After wandering around the gallery for a few hours, I popped up to the top floor café for a spot of tea and cake (a gluten free cherry and almond cake - yum!). Definitely worth doing if you have time because the view out over the London skyline is simply wonderful. I snapped a photo, which you can find here. You can have lunch, dinner or afternoon tea...or just celebrate how fantastic it is to be in London with a glass of something sparkly.

Image found here.
Lots of lovely lie-ins! Do I need to elaborate further on that one?!

I'm heading to Cambridge over the weekend for catch-ups and fun times with two of my best friends - there'll be wedding plans and baby talk as one of them is expecting a little parcel. When did I become a grown up?!

Here are a few items I've bookmarked over the last week too...

♥ Career-themed posts are featuring on A Cup of Jo this week and I particularly enjoyed these 15 career tips from smart women. Letting go of the quest for perfection is something I really need to work on. It's just not healthy!

♥ A delicious recipe for raspberry almond cake. I think this would translate very well to a gluten free version...

♥ Wishlist: this skirt (and the jumper they've paired with it too!), this top, and this necklace.

Hope you're all having a lovely week too!

Ipad Mini-me!

14 September 2014

This year's birthday was a particularly exciting one as I unwrapped a beautiful Ipad Mini from my wonderful mister. I'd been wanting an Ipad ever since my friend Mel visited last summer with hers, and I saw all the possibilities it could bring to an organisey, planner-y, blog-reader-y soul like me. I put it out of my head though (too expensive!) but my mum getting one for Christmas only made things worse - would it be too much to say my family had to check my bag after every visit? Well, I did manage to resist but it was difficult.

So, after unwrapping a very familiar box on the morning of my birthday, I was more of an ecstatic go lucky Cat, than a mere happy one. It was a very early start to a birthday this year as well as I had an early morning appointment booked (10am! On a Saturday!) with my Mum to try on some wedding dresses. But I hardly noticed the time...until the mister actually had to take the Ipad out of my hands so I'd be able to leave the house on time. 

A few weeks have passed now but the thrill really hasn't worn off. Whereas in the past I'd crank up my clunky old laptop (she's quite a few years old now, bless her) to browse Instagram, Pinterest or my favourite blogs in the evening, or use my phone, it's a real pleasure to view them on the Ipad. I don't have the newest version but the images are still beautifully crisp, and it's just so much more convenient to use, usually either curled up on the sofa with a mug of tea or last thing at night tucked up in bed, when I really should be sleeping. *ahem*

I think I need to do a little more research to ensure that I'm getting the most out of my little Ipad though. As well as the usual-suspects (Pinterest, Bloglovin, Twitter and Facebook), I have Flow, which is an Ipad-friendly Instagram app. It has a larger display than Instagram and is a lovely method of browsing the site. I use Evernote to create notes, lists and checklists - I have a particularly detailed wedding checklist on the go, which is particularly exciting now that the year to go countdown has begun! I've also recently discovered the Pocket app. This enables you to save web pages into one place so that you can read them later, offline. It's especially useful for those of us with wifi-only devices, so I can catch up on interesting articles or posts when out and about. 

I would love to know if there are other apps I should download though...please let me know your favourites! If only to get me away from the Hay Day app, which I should never have been introduced to...

Things I Love Thursday (11.09.2014)

11 September 2014

It's been a wee while since the last one of these and it would be a shame to let some of the links I've been bookmarking over the last few months go unread. This week's (and slightly further back's) highlights are...

Image found here

I'm always excited when the Great British Bake Off returns to our screens and this series is no exception. I curl up with a pot off tea and something sweet to nibble, and enjoy all the mouthwatering treats on display over the course of the hour. I'm still keen to have some pie after last week's episode and this week's European cakes were incredible. (Also, how can I get involved in a Danish cake table party?!)  This series has even had its share of drama and scandal, but if there's one thing I took home after that episode, it was never to try to make a Baked Alaska...far too complicated.

Image found here
Crisper mornings... I've been noticing some frost on the fields in the morning this week as my train speeds through them on the way to work. I'm very excited at the thought of autumn...and the scarves, hats and hot drinks it brings! I may need reminding of this when I'm shivering on a train platform in the dark waiting for my train in the morning though, come November.

Link to my Instagram here
Oh stationery. Look at the treats that my friend M sent me this week! Time to start sourcing a special planner for the new year to put some of the items to good use...

Here are some links that I've enjoyed and bookmarked over the last few weeks (months?!) that are well worth a read. Grab a cup of tea and take your pick:

♥ Have you visited the new Foyles yet?

♥ Granted, I bookmarked this post at the beginning of summer but books aren't just for the beach, you know. I've read The Secret Keeper but I'm planning to tick off some of the others in this post at some point - Ten Historical Fiction Beach Reads.

♥ As I begin to think about my own hen party next year, I bookmarked this post on Hen Party Goodie Bags and thought it was a really lovely idea.

♥ Secrets to Staying Organised.

♥ I've always been intrigued by the various uses for different oils and this handy guide to essential oils provides a great overview. 

♥ I adored this post on Sunny Sweet Pea about rediscovering places that have almost been lost to the wilds of nature. It made me want to grab my wellies and go for a long walk somewhere well off the beaten track, and Winterton on Sea is now firmly on my must-visit list.

♥ Finally, how amazingly shamelessly good do these peanut butter and jam sandwich cookies look?! Definitely something to see you throughThursday and all the way into the weekend in the best of spirits.

What's been keeping you cheerful on this fine Thursday?

100 days later...

7 September 2014

I live my life by the words of Liz Lemon... Image found here.

Well, I certainly wasn't intending to take such a long break from these pages...100 days to be precise! When I last posted, summer was just beginning and I was feeling very anxious at the prospect of not finding a job before coming to the end of my training contract. 

Day 12
The weather is now distinctly chillier (hooray, bring on the scarves, woolly hats and cosy times with hot drinks!), I have a job (phew!) and, although being London-based throughout the majority of the last few months, I have fitted in a few trips to Lyme Regis and Ireland, and (looking back over my photos of the last 100 days) ate a lot of delicious food! 

Day 57
So yes, you may recall from my last post, that I had just signed up for the 100 Happy Days project, to try to find a happy moment each day and share it on Instagram with the #100happydays hashtag, and I did it! Today marked day 100 and I am hilariously proud of myself! Most of the time, I was able to find something that genuinely brightened my day but there were other days when I felt very blue and really struggled to think of something to photograph. On days like that, getting into the bath or coming home and putting my PJs on and having a cup of tea were highlights. But I think that it was a genuinely useful exercise, to look for something to make me smile when on any other day, I would give it up as a lost cause and go to bed feeling miserable. 

Day 99
So although my happy photo of the day felt slightly tenuous on certain days, I did manage to post a happy moment for 100 days in a row!

And now I'm looking forward to writing here again, recording autumn adventures and wedding plans...I may also include a few catch-up summer posts because I have a lot of good memories, thankfully recorded over on Instagram, amongst the job-searching woe. It's good to be back!

100 Happy Days

31 May 2014

From the wonderful Lizzy Stewart Diary
It's been a little quiet around this Happy Go Lucky Kingdom over the last few weeks... I'm beginning a job hunt at the moment and getting very worried and stressed in the process.

It's not good and, although I probably won't be able to stop myself from finding the whole process any less stressful, I want to focus on all the other good things going on at the same time. There are lots, really, but it's very easy to lose sight of them and instead dwell on how busy you are.

So I've signed up for the 100 Happy Days project. I'll taking part via Instagram, sharing a happy moment each day with the #100happydays hashtag. Apparently 71% of people don't manage to complete the challenge, saying that they were simply too busy. I'm determined not to let that happen, to find the happy gem in an otherwise disheartening day. 

Join me? :)

Review: Dishoom, Covent Garden (gluten free)

11 May 2014

Oh I love a delicious meal out with good friends; catching up after far too long over tasty treats and sweet cocktails. On Saturday night, we went to Dishoom in Covent Garden - a restaurant that we've been wanting to try for a long time but when we've turned up on spec, the queue has stretched all the way along the front of the restaurant and unfortunately hunger had won and led us elsewhere. This time we made sure to book in advance and, although advance was several weeks beforehand, there was only a 5.15 table for dinner and we snapped it up! Was it worth the wait? My goodness, yes.

Dishoom describes itself as a Bombay café - according to its website, these cafés, also called Irani cafés, are a Bombay tradition dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries which were brought to India by Persian immigrants. With their atmosphere of faded elegance, these cafés were part of the fabric of everyday life and used as meeting places by people from all walks of life. The Covent Garden branch was full of all walks of London life on Saturday evening - families, pre-theatre groups, couples and lots of tables full of friends, catching up, laughing and sharing food. A truly wonderful atmosphere.

Indian food is generally quite a good option for coeliacs, with most dishes being naturally gluten free. I told the waitress that I was coeliac and asked what options on the menu were gluten free but she was able to do even better than this and brought me a menu with the gluten free (and gluten free-adaptable) options highlighted. 

We decided to  choose a mix of smaller (gluten free) items to share, choosing the Bhel (puffed rice, Bombay Mix and nylon sev tossed with fresh pomegranate, tomato, onion, lime, tamarind and mint), Prawn Koliwada (crispy spicy prawns served with a tamarind and date chutney), Gunpowder Potatoes (smoky grilled potatoes broken apart and tossed in butter, seeds and herbs) and the House Black Daal. I then opted for the Mattar Paneer and some basmati rice. My friends chose the chicken ruby curry (also gluten free) and chicken Berry Britannia biryani (not gluten free). They also had garlic naan and roti, which are baked to order and looked very tasty.

It was all so delicious - light, fresh and wonderful flavours, spicy without tears (or hiccups in my case) and all so fabulously moreish. I snapped a few photos on my phone so you can see that the portions aren't as huge as a traditional curry house but they were quite deceiving - we were very full after our selection! I'll have a little less next time so that I can have the Memsahib's Mess as a dessert - a variation on Eton Mess, consisting of fresh cream, crushed meringue and strawberries, with rose syrup and gulkand. 

With everything washed down by good conversation and several large glasses of the Bombay Pimm's, the evening passed far too quickly. Coeliac or not, you must visit this restaurant when you're in London...but definitely book to avoid disappointment, or a long wait on a rainy summer evening!

How does your garden grow?

5 May 2014

Found via Pinterest
There's something terribly English about spending a bank holiday in your garden - pottering around in a contented fashion before sitting down with a glass of Pimms and enjoying the peace and quiet, perhaps with a bee buzzing lazily in the vicinity (not too close, mind!)

We escaped the city and headed to Norfolk for the long weekend, which meant that I actually got to spend
some time in a beautiful garden. I love our little flat in London but it is exactly that, very very small, and unfortunately doesn't have a garden. 

Found via Pinterest
So as the sun was shining brightly today, and I curled up in my mister's mum's conservatory with my first cup of tea of the day, watching the birds chase each other around her gorgeous garden, I started daydreaming about my future cottage and the fabulous garden I'd love to have.

There would be heaps of flowers of course, blooming around little stone footpaths leading to little concealed nooks where you could sit with a book on a warm day.

Fruit trees, herbs and a vegetable patch where I would grow all manner of seasonal delights, and make pickles, jams and chutneys to store in my larder. (I have a LOT of free time in my imagination.)
Found via Pinterest

A little pond.

Some sturdy trees for hooking up a hammock on a summer's day, and a wooden swing hanging from a high branch.

And last, but by no means least, some chickens scratching cheerfully through the grass and leaving eggs for me to go and collect first thing in the morning.

For now, as the buses pass outside our window, the foxes rummage through our bins at night and we can pop downstairs for a pint of milk late at night, I'm happy with our little London nook, but I'm counting down the days until I can have my own little cottage by the sea. And until that day, there's always Pinterest!

Weekend Catch-Ups

27 April 2014

It's been a strange sort of weekend. After a fun night out on Friday, catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in far too long, I woke up on Saturday morning with a horrible headache and spent most of the day in a migraine haze. To those of you lucky enough not to suffer from migraines - I'm so jealous! If you do, however, I'd love to hear any little coping strategies you've discovered. My usual technique is to take some painkillers and rub some tiger balm on my temples before lying down in a dark room - the tiger balm sends a delicious warmth though my head which somehow seems to reduce the tension.

Alas, nothing seemed to work on Saturday though and I spent a good amount of the day curled into a sad little ball and feeling very sorry for myself.

Thankfully, come late-afternoon, the mister (who was also suffering with a cold) and I had a visit from a good friend who came over just to cook us dinner - aren't we lucky?! A delicious monkfish curry with mushroom pilau rice, no less. We felt very spoiled. And full. 

Today I headed over to my parents' house to begin the terrifying job that is Organising My Bookshelves. Living in a tiny flat, I could only bring a tiny percentage of my books with me when I moved and so my childhood room doesn't really look much different without me there. However, it's about time to begin sorting through my books to put them into boxes to wait for the magical day when I can have my very own house with a library (and an attic bedroom, beautiful kitchen with aga, a study, and a garden WITH CHICKENS) so that my Mum and Dad can actually make some use of the room.

It wasn't an easy task - my books are stacked three-deep on the shelves and entirely in alphabetical order - my first Saturday job was in a library and, you know, I'm fun like that - so I felt quite sad taking them all down. I have so many memories associated with those books - childhood books, university texts and all manner of Japanese books picked up while I was living out there. It wasn't just the books themselves that evoked so many memories though but the little items tucked inside - train tickets from London to Scotland (I got through so many books on my journeys to and from university!), scraps of paper covered in doodles, old concert tickets and exhibition notes. As you can probably imagine, a lot of time was taken up by flicking through my favourites; deciding which ones can go into storage and creating a pile of others that are too well-loved to store for long.

Image found on Pinterest here
I have three big boxes that are almost full and two big bags to donate to my local Oxfam bookshop (although I'm loath to part with them). It's very much an ongoing process though and I'm already looking forward to un-boxing all of my boxed-up favourites again and arranging them on my future bookshelves.

So in a suitably nostalgic mood, I'm now curled up on the sofa watching the Artist - a gloriously nostalgic nod to the silent movie era. Very cosy.

A quiet weekend but enjoyable in its own way, and productive too. I hope you all had wonderful weekends. Can it really almost be Monday already?!

Places to Visit: Chartwell, Kent

21 April 2014

Last Sunday, the mister and I went to visit some friends and we all decided to take a little trip to visit Chartwell.

Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill and his family, and the house is presented to reflect what it would have been like during the 1920s and 1930s when the Churchills were raising their four children. The rooms of the house contain lots of lovely little mementoes, paintings and family photographs, and books, so many books! When you look out of the windows of the house, or step out onto the gorgeous little terrace, you can see out to the lakes, gardens and estate beyond, and once you've finished exploring the house you can enjoy rambling around the gardens and estate at your leisure.

The hillside gardens include lakes (with ferocious black swans!), a kitchen garden, beautiful flowers and a wild expanse of woodland. After enthusiastically enjoying some of the swings hanging from the trees, we found a sunny patch and sat on the hillside looking towards one of the lakes and the house beyond.

You can also visit Churchill's studio, which is located in the gardens, and contains a large collection of his paintings. We unfortunately remembered this a little too late and didn't make it in time so that's something for the next trip! But there's definitely more than enough to see and do if you don't visit this spot.

Despite the gorgeousness of the old house and the gardens, I think my favourite little detail was discovering some of the correspondence exchanged between Sir Winston and Lady Clementine Churchill throughout their very happy marriage. This side of Churchill was definitely not conveyed during my history GCSE! Throughout their correspondence, Clementine referred to herself as 'Cat' or 'Kat' and Winston was 'pug' or (later) 'pig'. The letters were often illustrated with a little drawing of a cat, pug dog or pig. Shameless romantic that I am, I loved reading snippets of these letters and I've hunted out a couple to include here. 

Soon after Churchill proposed to Clementine in August 1908, they began exchanging notes and he wrote:
"My dearest, I hope you slept like a stone... The purpose of this letter is also to send you heaps of love and four kisses XXXX"
Her reply to this note ended as follows:
"Je t'aime passionement - - feel less shy in French".
The couple continued writing to each other whenever they were apart and many years later, on 23 January 1935, Winston wrote to Clementine while she was travelling abroad:

"My darling Clemmie, in your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love... What it has been to me to live all these years in your heart and companionship no phrases can convey".
There's something so special about a handwritten letter, be it a note from a friend with all their news or a romantic missive. Time to dig out the note paper, perhaps?

Things I Love Thursday (17.04.2014)

17 April 2014

Things I Love Thursday (just about!) brought to you, after quite a few weeks, by a very happy Cat on the eve of a 4 day weekend... If that's not something to be happy about, I don't know what is. This afternoon I spent about 3 hours trying to make sense of an old accounts ledger whilst an outraged wasp flew angrily around the room. I could not be happier that today is over! In fact, this week hasn't been great so I really wanted to focus on some good things before the long weekend begins.

I can eat chocolate again on Sunday! I've managed to give it up completely throughout the entire period of Lent, without even a guilty Sunday nibble or trying to say that "chocolate cake doesn't count". I plan to celebrate by eating my body weight in chocolate, welcoming the day with a Cadbury Creme Egg for breakfast...

Blossom everywhere! The weather's getting warmer, my winter coat is banished to the suitcase of winter clothes (even if the mornings have still been quite chilly) and I've started planning picnics with my friends for the summer months. Doesn't the sun make everything better?!

Pugs. Just because. Don't they make everyone happy?!

Adventures and catch-ups with good friends. The mister and I visited Chartwell House with some friends last weekend and I loved it so much that I'm going to do a little write-up on here because it's completely worth visiting. I have a few dinner catch-ups planned over the next few days too - isn't life great when work doesn't get in the way?!

And a few links that I've bookmarked over the last week or so...

 10 foods that make you glow. An excellent excuse to eat more avocados!

 This recipe for quinoa burrito bowls.

 I'm a big fan of smokey eye makeup and love this quick routine - the easiest smokey eye.

 I can eat chocolate again on Sunday and I've been waiting to make this gluten free recipe for Millionaire Shortbread since the FreeFromFairy first posted it!

 A surprising look at what sleep deprivation does to your body.

 A Thrifty Mrs' round up of £12 and under pastel kitchen essentials - love the bird measuring cups and the mint scales!

 Watercress and walnut pesto with garlic-rubbed flatbreads - how delicious does this sound?!

Here's to a fabulous Easter weekend!

Review: Champagne Afternoon Tea at the ME Hotel, The Strand, London (gluten free)

6 April 2014

I had been counting down the days until Saturday for a long time. 'Afternoon Tea' was written in my planner and shone out at me, with glittery promise, throughout the dark, busy days preceding it. (Honestly, I changed departments at work this week so things have been more than a little stressful.)

ME Hotel's
Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea
The glorious opportunity to spend a whole afternoon drinking tea and eating cake was in celebration of a good friend's birthday (Happy Birthday for Tuesday, LT!) and I was also quite curious to see inside the ME Hotel, which has quite a prominent position on The Strand, close to Covent Garden and Waterloo Bridge. 

My friend found a deal for champagne afternoon tea at £25 per person, which is quite reasonable for London, and we were allotted a quiet corner in the Marconi Lounge, with plenty of room to chat and enjoy the experience. The hotel itself was a little cold and modern for my taste - I prefer a little quirk and tradition - and more than one of us almost wandered into one of the shiny black bathroom walls (not because of the champagne, I hasten to add!) 

I chose the Palace Brew tea, which according to the tea booklet is, "a full-bodied and spicy blend of Assam, Nilgiri and Kenyan teas." I do like quite a strong tea, which I can then adjust to taste with milk, and this really didn't disappoint. The second pot was very gratefully received!

As a coeliac, I of course had the gluten free option and, for the most part, it was very delicious. The sandwiches disappeared far too quickly, with the salt beef and pickle sandwich and the smoked salmon and cream cheese being particularly good. Some forward planning on my part meant I had saved these options until last (does anyone else do that with the items they're particularly looking forward to?!) and they were truly lovely.

The scones were also wonderful - light and not too crumbly, which can be an issue with the gluten free version. The small pots of jam were just enough for the two scones, with a lavish amount of clotted cream. I always spread my jam first, then dollop the cream on top - it just seems to work better that way!

My only criticism would be with the top layer because, as you can see, there were no cakes! I was given a small cylinder of vanilla custard with raspberries on top, which is lurking in the back of the photo, and some fruit flavoured gummy lollipops and strange marshmallow creations, which were stuck in pink sugar. They were very pretty but incredibly disappointing and, considering how easy it is to make gluten free cakes (and good ones at that!), a bit of a let down. 

The staff were all very friendly and attentive, without being overbearing. They started clearing away the bottom tiers of plates as soon as we'd finished them, which I found a little unnerving, but we didn't feel at all rushed other than that and we were able to sit and chat for a while after finishing. I find that very important after eating a lot of sweet treats - having to dash off would be disastrous! One difference to other places I've been for afternoon tea is that they didn't offer us additional sandwiches etc. afterwards. Going for afternoon tea is such a treat and often quite expensive, so it would have been nice to have been offered the chance for more of certain options. 

ME Hotel's
(non-GF) Afternoon Tea

So, all in all, I'd give it a grand 3.5 stars out of 5 - lovely attentive service, delicious scones and sandwiches, but lacking an important element (in my case) for an afternoon tea. Coeliacs need cake too, you know!

I didn't hear any complaints from the others though and their cakes looked wonderful, so I've included a picture of the gluten-filled afternoon tea too for your visual delectation. 

Hope you all have a lovely week-ahead - have some cake for me!

Mother's Day

30 March 2014

It's Mother's Day here in the UK and we have la famille coming to ours for Sunday lunch. The mister's making coq au vin and we're planning to extend the French theme to a little Françoise Hardy playing while we eat... I was up late last night making a pavlova and when I peeked inside the oven this morning, I saw that it hasn't even slightly cracked! C'est parfait! 

But for now, I'm listening to The Archers on Radio 4 and doing the frantic kind of cleaning that is the precursor to a visit from one's mother...

I think it's supposed to be a deliciously sunny day (in London anyway!) so I hope you all have a lovely day, whatever your plans.

PS: I hope you all remembered to turn your clocks forward one hour last night/this morning! My gosh, the lost hour hurts every single year but at least we don't have to deal with the shock first thing on a Monday morning - that would be far too much to deal with!

The Grand Budapest Hotel

25 March 2014

We went to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel at the weekend and it was wonderful; truly, perfectly wonderful. I have a horrible habit of falling asleep in cinemas - they're dark, warm, cosy...I work hard, don't judge me! - but I was totally gripped by this film. I was so disappointed when it ended and I realised I wasn't actually in the sumptuous world of the Grand Budapest Hotel itself.

Fast-paced, hilarious, shocking in places and oddly-moving, I adored every minute of this film. I don't want to say anything specific about it because I'm not sure how to without giving things away, and I think it should be seen for itself.

Go and watch it!

Follow this link for a neat little video showing how centering plays a key role in Wes Anderson's films. They are always beautifully, perfectly shot but this takes it to a whole new level!

London Calling

22 March 2014

(I don't know the source for this image - I pinned it here and it originally came from Tumblr. 
Please let me know if you know who I can credit!)

Oh London, you're fantastic. There's always something to do on a sunny (or not so sunny) day. I'm particularly fond of London's museums and galleries - so many wonderful exhibitions, a lot of which are free. I thought I would do a little round-up of some current and forthcoming exhibitions that I want to go to...partly as a little reminder for me but also to provide a little food for thought for anyone looking for something to do if they're making a trip to this part of the world any time soon. I may make this a regular-ish feature to keep up with up-coming exhibitions...

Current Exhibitions

BP Spotlight: Syliva Pankhurst - Tate Britain - until 6 April 2014 - FREE
An exhibition focusing on Syliva Pankhurst's artistic skills, focusing on her artistic skills in the fight for women's rights, designing badges, banners and flyers, and recording the lives of working women.

The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels - Museum of London - until 27 April 2014 - £10.00 (adult ticket)
"A major exhibition investigating the secrets of the Cheapside Hoard. This extraordinary and priceless treasure of late 16th and early 17th century jewels and gemstones – displayed in its entirety for the first time in over a century – was discovered in 1912, buried in a cellar on Cheapside in the City of London.

It will also explore the mysteries that remain, lost among the cataclysmic events of the mid-17th century: who owned the Hoard, when and why was it hidden, and why was it never reclaimed?"

UK Picture Editors' Guild Awards - Museum of London - until 11 May 2014 - FREE
A collection of some award-winning press photographs, and a chance to wander around the Museum of London at the same time!

Ruin Lust - Tate Britain - until 18 May 2014 - £11.00 (adult ticket)
A guide to the mournful, thrilling, comic and perverse uses of ruins in art from the seventeenth century to the present day. An oddly beautiful collection and they're usually stunningly presented at the Tate.

Bailey's Stardust - National Portrait Gallery - until 1 June 2014 - £14.50 (adult ticket)
"Bailey’s Stardust is presented thematically across a series of contrasting rooms and illustrates the extraordinary range of subjects that Bailey has captured: actors, writers, musicians, filmmakers, designers, models, artists and people encountered on his travels; many of them famous, some anonymous, all of them unforgettable."

Vikings: Life and Legend - British Museum - until 22 June 2014 - £16.50 (adult ticket)
According to the British Museum website, it will feature "Swords and axes, coins and jewellery, hoards, amulets and religious images show how Vikings created an international network connecting cultures over four continents. At the centre of the exhibition will be the surviving timbers of a 37-metre-long Viking warship, the longest ever found." I'm VERY excited about this exhibition! 

And two Future Exhibitions that are on my future must-do list...

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 - The V & A - 3 May 2014 to 15 March 2015 - £12.00 (adult ticket)
An obvious choice, considering I'll be on the hunt for my own soon! The V & A's exhibitions are always full of gorgeous details though and this one looks to be no different. From the exhibition's website - "On display will be the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding dresses from the V&A’s superb collection and will include some important new acquisitions as well as loans including the purple dress worn by Dita Von Teese for her marriage to Marilyn Manson and the outfits worn by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day. The exhibition will highlight the histories of the dresses, revealing fascinating details about the lives of the wearers and offering an intimate insight into their circumstances and fashion choices.".

Sherlock Holmes - Museum of London - 17 October 2014 to 12 April 2015 - £12.00 (adult ticket)
I've loved Sherlock Holmes since I first picked up a copy of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' as a teenager. This exhibition will look at why he remains so popular and how he has transcended literature, as well as depicting Sherlock Holmes' Victorian London. A must-see for me :)

Very excited about these! Now to start working my way through the list... What's also worth mentioning, for anyone unfamiliar with London, is that you can enter all the above museums and galleries for free and browse their various collections - you don't need to purchase any of the above tickets in order to spend a happy few hours (or more!) lost in the various rooms. The V & A's sculpture rooms are particularly fantastic, and I could happily spend hours wandering around ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome in the British Museum.

I'd love to know if there are any exhibitions you've been to recently or have in the diary that would be worth going to!

It's all about the Simple Things...

16 March 2014

The Simple Things
Have you read the Simple Things? I adore it! It's a monthly magazine dedicated to encouraging you to sit back and enjoy the simple things in life. It focuses on recipes with delicious seasonal produce, growing your own vegetables, local places to explore, crafts, hobbies and enjoying the wonderful outdoors. It's perfect for curling up with and planning your next adventure.

I often pick up a copy when travelling to Norfolk to visit my mister's mum (future mother in law! :-o) She lives in a tiny village and I notice that the pace of life seems to slow down as soon as our taxi arrives from the station. (As, I suppose, it has to when the nearest shop is the farm shop, which is about 1.5 miles away and has some scarily-restrictive opening hours to this London girl). If you follow me on Instagram (you can find me at 'happygoluckycat' or by clicking the link in the sidebar) you'll know that we were away in Norfolk this weekend and this time, rather than travelling up on a Saturday morning and losing most of the day, we travelled up after work on Friday, arriving late at night and falling straight into bed, only to wake up the next morning to the sun streaming through the curtains and the blissful silence that heralds a weekend in the countryside. It was wonderful.
Blue Skies and Green Fields
Londoner born and bred, I do love to escape to the country and weekends with mother-in-law-to-be are always so peaceful. While the mister was up a ladder cleaning gutters and trimming hedges (teehee!) I was curled up with tea, toast and strawberry jam, and a notebook to jot down little wedding-planning ideas. [Don't feel too sorry for him - he ran in with a gardening glove covered in spiders' eggs and shoved it in my face, causing me to scream the house down.] Highlights from the rest of the weekend include seeing a pair of pheasants strolling in the garden, curling up in a sunny patch in the conservatory and doing a lot of reading, a beautiful long walk through the village and round the fields (and seeing alpaca!), lots of tasty food and a Saturday evening watching Friday night's episode of Jonathan Creek and some Miss Marple mysteries. A wonderfully cosy retreat from a very busy week.

It's very easy to get caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives - rushing from one place to the next with a constant to-do list running through your head. It can sometimes be difficult to sit back and just enjoy life with the list of must-do/see/haves growing ever-longer. The beauty (and the terrifying nature) of the internet is that everything is at your fingertips, and the list of 'wants' can grow each day. In the spirit of this weekend and a delicious new magazine to savour over the course of this week, here are some simple things that I treasure...

♥ A pre-bed bath, PJs warmed on the radiator and freshly-laundered bed sheets.

♥ New stationery, particularly the delight that comes from writing on the first page of a beautiful new notebook.


♥ Curling up with a new book and a big mug of tea.

 A clean house and fresh flowers on the mantelpiece.

 Long conversations with dear friends.

 Walks by the fact, trips to the sea side in general.

 Christmas time, long scarves and sparkling lights in shop windows.

The first signs of blossom on the trees.

And last, but by no means least:
♥ Turning your morning alarm off when you remember that you have the day off work tomorrow! I shall of course be thinking of you all though!

What are your favourite simple pleasures?

Things I Love Thursday

13 March 2014

Happy Thursday! Friday's just over the horizon - we can do this, people! Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend? 

Here are a few things that I've loved over the last week...

I found this photo on Pinterest and the colours caught my eye straightaway in all their luscious, summery deliciousness. I don't know where the image originally comes from but do let me know if you do.

Beachy Head Boat Trip, 1967 - Tony Ray-Jones
Another image from the exhibition we went to last weekend. Aren't your eyes drawn immediately to the couple in the middle, lost in their own world? Then you start to take in the other people around the edges, looking anywhere but at the young couple. I do wonder what they're all looking at, just outside the picture.

"I like living. I have sometimes been wildy, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing" - Agatha Christie

I suddenly realised a month or so ago that I'd never read any Agatha Christie novels and I was determined to change that. I borrowed some Miss Marples from my mister's mum and devoured them in a few weeks. They are wonderfully comforting! Thank goodness for long tube journeys to and from work - you can get through a lot of books! I visited my local Oxfam bookshop on Saturday and picked up a couple more, including a Poirot novel for a (slight!) change.

And a few posts from around the magical world of the Internet that I particularly enjoyed, or bookmarked, this week...

♥ The weather definitely seems to be on the up and spring, perhaps even summer (?!), is on its way. Here are 4 easy ways to prep your skin for spring.

♥ This recipe for gluten free mint choc cookies - how tasty do they sound?! I'm not having chocolate until Easter but this has been bookmarked until then...

♥ How to be a happy blogger. Good points to remember when starting a new blog! 

♥ I'm terrible for getting home in the evening, putting my PJs on straightaway and curling up on the sofa until it's time to go to bed. This date night ideas post has some cute options for spending quality time with your other half, without breaking the bank.

What has caught your eye this week?

Sunny Saturday

8 March 2014

Oh, today really couldn't come soon enough! I've had a headache for the last 3 days in a row and it was only the thought of Saturday that got me through the end of the week.

Thank goodness for lazy Saturday mornings to make everything feel better! The sun was streaming in through the blinds and, with a new jar of blackberry and apple jam sitting in the fridge, we decided to make some small pancakes accompanied by jam and crème fraiche. I say 'we'...I sat at the kitchen table and painted my nails in a beautiful shade of lilac ('lilacism' by Essie if you're wondering) that I've been saving for the first properly sunny weekend of the year, and my lovely mister made a delicious brunch for us both. Bliss!

We then jumped on the train and headed over to the Science Museum to see the 'Only in England' photography exhibition, which is a show devoted to the work of Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr. Tony Ray-Jones (who sadly died at the far too young age of 30) spent the 1950s and 1960s travelling around England documenting English culture and what he saw as a disappearing way of life. His work was a great inspiration to Martin Parr, who selected a variety of the images on display from a selection of negatives stored in the National Media Museum's archives. The exhibition also includes Martin Parr's 1960s and 1970s' series, 'The Non-Conformists'.
Glyndebourne, 1967 - Tony Ray-Jones

Beautifully composed and observed, often humorous, with intricate little details woven throughout the photographs, the work of both Ray-Jones and Parr shows an England quite different to today but, at the same time, it also appears familiar. £8 is a small price to pay for a truly wonderful exhibition and it closes on 16th March, so do head over to the Science Museum before then if you get the chance.

While in South Kensington, it's very important to make a trip to the Hummingbird Bakery for tea and cake, and for the first time in too long (and surprisingly on a sunny day) there was a free table outside where we could sit and enjoy our cakes in un-rushed peace. We then walked through Kensington Gardens, discussing future plans and potential holiday options, and whiled away a lovely hour or so walking as far as St James' Park. Such a beautiful day!

And Sunny Saturday is due to be followed by an even Sunnier Sunday - long may this weather last! I am a huge fan of cosy scarves and hot drinks, but I'm truly looking forward to being able to wait for my train without having to huddle up in my coat and gloves in the morning.

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