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.

Pancake Day!

4 March 2014

It's Shrove Tuesday, which means...pancakes this eveningI know I can have pancakes all year round but there's something special about this one day of the year, rushing home from work knowing that dinner will be followed by a tasty sweet treat! 

There are heaps of fancy recipes around but my favourite type of pancake is the traditional delicate thin kind. They're so easy to make and we usually follow this recipe, taken from the BBC Good Food website.

To make about 12 pancakes, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine the flour, eggs and milk in a large bowl and whisk to a smooth batter. Leave in the fridge to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Heat some oil in a large frying pan and, when the pan is hot, coat the pan with some of the mixture and cook until golden. The first one always tends to go appallingly but still somehow taste delicious...

Keep them warm in the oven as you go along, otherwise someone's bound to come along and work their way through the pile sitting on the plate!

I like my pancakes with a squeeze of lemon and some sugar, but feel free to go crazy and add some jam or even *gasp* nutella!

Happy Pancake Day all :)


2 March 2014

I lived in Japan for four years after I graduated from university and it already seems like a lifetime ago.

So much has happened since I moved back to London - heaps of different adventures, I've established a new career, met a wonderful chap, moved out and got engaged - and I have no doubt that my time living in Japan contributed to all of those happy events. I was a very shy, passive 21 year old when I left university and was thrown completely out of my comfort zone to live and work in a country where I knew no one, could not read a word of the language and could only say a very tentative (and badly pronounced) 'hello'. I changed so much throughout those four years - I became more confident, interested in different cultures and, oddly, prouder of London while being away from it. You could argue that living anywhere different to where I grew up would have had the same effect on me but that's neither here nor there - Japan was mine, it was my home for four years.

This beautiful video, shared by a friend on Facebook, made me think more about my time in Japan than I have for a few years now. Sure, a lot of the scenes are very 'stereotypically Japan' but, at the same time, these elements are so much a part of Japan that you couldn't not include them. However, it was the little details that touched me so much and brought back so many memories. Taking the local trains to concerts with my friends, watching my students practice tea ceremony, the always awe-inspiring shinkansen, the delicious food and watching out for Mount Fuji because it would signal that I was almost home. 

I find it very difficult, still, to put into words how important my time in Japan and Japan itself is to me. I haven't been back since I moved back to London but I know that when I do return, I'll stop and simply take things in a little more. I want to relish the details, the moments that resonated so strongly with me when watching this video.

But until I do go back, I'll enjoy living vicariously through my friends who are lucky enough to be planning trips to this fabulous country and give them a list of about 800 must-dos, must-sees and must-eats! 

And when I do go back, I'm definitely going to see the bathing monkeys in Nagano. I'm still sad that I didn't get round to that during my stay!

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