Wonderful Wednesday 43

30 August 2017

I'm sitting here in my kitchen, sipping a cup of tea and writing this on the last day of an extra long (for me!) bank holiday weekend, and it's also my birthday! Could this Wednesday get any more wonderful?! I've been thoroughly spoiled already and it's not even 10am yet (as I write this), this getting older mallarkey really isn't so bad.

I'm breaking the trend ever so slightly this week as my Wonderful Wednesday is pretty much focused on this weekend, as it really was the highlight of my week. So without further ado, let the wonderful begin!


♥ Long weekend adventures... I've been looking forward to this weekend for weeks (having a birthday just after, with a few days off tacked on unsurprisingly has that effect!) and it really didn't disappoint - it contained everything I look for in a good weekend; time with my husband, good food, family catch-ups, a dash of culture and all manner of London adventures. The husband unfortunately has to work today so we decided to spend the weekend doing some of the things that I'd have chosen to do on my birthday itself and thankfully, it was gloriously sunny all weekend enabling us to spend a good amount of time outside adventuring.

On Saturday, after getting the cleaning out of the way, my husband made us a delicious breakfast (it's been an age since I've had boiled eggs and soldiers) and we then headed to Leighton House to check out the Alma-Tadema exhibition. Leighton House in Holland Park is the former home of the painter Lord Frederic Leighton and it is absolutely stunning in its own right, particularly the Arab hall with its mosaics and beautiful tiles. Upstairs, in Lord Leighton's studio, you'll find lots of his paintings and other artworks in different stages of completion. At the moment, with the Alma-Tadema exhibition on, his paintings are on display around the house. Although I recognised some of the paintings, he's a Victorian artist that I knew very little about but you're always onto a winner sending me to see something Victorian with classical themes, I loved it. It was wonderful to see some paintings I knew but had never considered in such detail before. Look at the perspective on this picture below, which I absolutely adore - how high they are looking down at the small ships below. I know that thought is is no way earth-shattering but I had never actually noticed or thought about that detail before. Oh to have that talent!

A Coign of Vantage (1895) - Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema
Image found here.

As it was such a beautiful day, we decided to walk from Leighton House through Holland Park to the Design Museum, which is now located on High Street Kensington. The building itself is absolutely incredible, I spent a good amount of time just standing in the main hall looking up! We didn't go into any of the paid exhibitions on Saturday but popped into the permanent exhibition on the top floor, which is an exhibition of contemporary design from three viewpoints - designer, manufacturer and user. It was really interesting to see the evolution of some products that I use everyday and to spot some of the things that have formed part of our lives over the years. If you're looking for a museum to add to your list when you're next visiting London, do check it out. There's also a really excellent shop (!) with lots of fantastic gift ideas if you're looking for something a little different for someone.

On Sunday we visited my parents for lunch. My brother and his girlfriend were there too, as well as my grandmother and my aunt and uncle, with one of my cousins. My mum put on the tastiest buffet lunch, including a homemade gluten free apple cake which I thought I'd be too full to try but hey, I managed it. Sunday was absolutely glorious down in London so we were out in the garden for most of the day until we were chased inside by the smoke of a neighbour's bonfire (seriously guys, on a bank holiday?!)

Monday was the most splendiferous of days! We started with brunch at my favourite café in London - Beyond Bread in Fitzrovia. I know I've raved about it here before but it really never disappoints and the thrill of knowing everything on the menu is gluten free and completely safe to eat just never gets old. My husband opted for the full English (he'd been for a 10k run already that day so it's fair to say that he'd earned it) while I deliberated between pancakes or waffles or something more savoury. In the end, the smoked salmon with avocado and poached eggs on toast won out but I'm still thinking about those waffles, even now as I write this...

Feeling exceedingly full but very happy, we then walked from Fitzrovia to Regent's Park and through there to Primrose Hill. Before braving the hill itself, we stopped for a few drinks in a lovely old pub on the high street, then wandered along the street and people-watched for a little while (well, dog-watch in my case...there are always lots of beautiful dogs in that part of London) before re-fuelling with some ice cream before heading up to the top of the hill. Although hot, it was a gorgeously clear day and the view from Primrose Hill over London itself is incomparable. The park itself was full of people; picnic-ing, playing games, reading or just having a little snooze in the sunshine. Everyone in London was determined to enjoy the bank holiday sunshine, it was a wonderful atmosphere.

We sat on a bench at the top of the hill for a little while, watching a chap with a dog who was just longing to have her ball thrown for her at every opportunity. He clearly just wanted a short rest and she kept picking the ball up, walking a little closer to him and then dropping it down again, looking at him expectantly. Even when he poured her some water into a little bowl he was carrying for her, she didn't lose focus. She took the smallest of sips before picking up her ball, dropping that into the water and then plucking it out again and dropping it down. Such a good dog.

We headed back down the other side of Primrose Hill and walking to St John's Wood, where we hopped on a train home. A lot of walking and talking with my favourite person, it was the best day.

♥ Extra long weekends... There's something particularly delicious about having a few extra days off, when everyone else is heading back to work! My body clock has been waking me up at my normal time for work over the last few days but it's been fabulous to curl back up under the sheets for a while longer. This morning, I put on an old Desert Island Discs podcast and lay in bed listening to Gregory Peck's dulcet tones. There are certainly worse ways to start your day.

♥ Delicious pastries... Thanks to that husband o'mine, I've been kept in delicious pastries for the last few days. He picked up a brioche loaf and two croissants for me at Beyond Bread on Monday and I've been eking them out ever since! I can't tell you how long it's been since I've had either of those things and my word, it has been worth the wait. This morning, I had a warm croissant with jam and it made my heart sing. What a way to start the day!

So, those are my highlights from the last week and now I'd better get ready and head out for my birthday day! I've also just noticed that all of my photographs this week have been food-related...definitely the sign of a good week. Hope yours has been just as good!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraMimmiMartinaLynseyKatie and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Wonderful Wednesday 42

23 August 2017

Short and sweet again this week unfortunately as I'm hurriedly typing this on Tuesday evening in between the internet cutting out - why on a Tuesday, internet o'mine?! As well as cutting short my Wonderful Wednesday-typing, it's also meant that I haven't had a chance to respond to some recent comments, which I always feel very guilty about. I will do so as soon as I can but without further ado, bring on the snippets of wonderful...


♥ Getting excited for Autumn... I know I know, August isn't even over yet and we've still been having some surprisingly warm and sunny days amongst the cold and rain. But it is feeling a little chiller at night and that makes me feel happy every year - despite being a summer baby, I am without a doubt a lover of the cold and crisp over the sun. I'm already looking forward to embracing my dresses, tights and boots, and digging out my scarf again.

♥ Long overdue catch-ups... Life really does get in the way sometimes and not always in the best way. We went out for dinner with one of my friends and her boyfriend on Saturday night - I don't think I've seen H since last year and her boyfriend since our wedding, almost two years ago. How does that even happen? It doesn't feel like that much time has passed. It was such a fun evening - lots to catch up on, unsurprisingly, and a lot of laughing, which is always the sign of a good night...that and curry. Yum.

♥ Quiet weekends... Apart from our dinner plans on Saturday night, I had nothing else planned for this weekend and it was bliss. I do enjoy having visitors but it's also so wonderful having the place to yourself again afterwards, and on top of our visitor last week was hugely busy at work - I kept feeling like the week just wasn't long enough, which is something that I never usually think...usually quite the reverse. On Saturday I cleaned cleaned cleaned, did two loads of laundry and changed the bedsheets, which left the rest of the weekend stretching in front of me with nothing else planned apart from catching up with some blog reading, my book and occasionally foraging for food. I wouldn't have changed a thing.

♥ Instagram... I know it's frustrating, with the algorithm throwing everything on its head meaning that you don't see things half the time and your posts aren't seen the other half of the time, but I'm really enjoying snapping photos to share at the moment and browsing lots of lovely photos on my feed. I'm trying to be a little more creative with the photos I share, with my usual rambly comment accompanying it, and loving all the imaginative pictures that other people share - my favourites are usually a good mix of the creative with the every day, country life inspiration and dogs. Do let me know if you have any favourites to recommend and send me a link to your feed too!

♥ Sunday me-times... If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I tried to engage in a spot of meditation on Sunday morning. This is something that I keep coming back to but also completely struggle with as I just can't . turn . my . brain . off. I try ever so hard to focus on the words but then before long, I'm thinking about something entirely unrelated and my brain has gone off on a whole new tangent before I drag myself back again and focus. I do keep coming back to it though because when I am able to concentrate, I find it very helpful and relaxing, and it was a really calming and peaceful start to my Sunday. I also got a few messages reassuring me that I'm really not the only one whose brain does that and it's the 'coming back to it' that counts. 

And then, what better way to round-off a relaxing Sunday that began with a spot of meditation? Why, with a little face mask time, of course. I slathered a lovely nourishing and moisturising oat and avocado face mask on for 20 minutes while packing my bag for the next day and doing a spot of tidying in the kitchen. Somehow it felt so much more relaxing than just doing the same tasks and rushing to bed 10 minutes later, and my skin was wonderfully soft afterwards too. It's something I always say to myself I should find a little bit of time once a week to do but I never usually manage it. Make some time for yourselves on a Sunday, my lovelies, it's a wonderful way of easing you back into the working week...

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraSarahMimmiMartinaLynseyKatieDebbieKelly and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

A visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

20 August 2017

As I mentioned in last week's Wonderful Wednesday post, I spent last Sunday enjoying the sunshine in Kew Gardens. I really can't believe that I've never properly visited the stunning Kew Gardens before, particularly when it was right on our doorstep, but that always seems to be the way with some of London's more 'touristy' sights. I know I'll be back again though, next time with a delicious picnic to fully appreciate the day. There are several restaurants scattered around the park but they were absolutely heaving on the day we visited. We did pop into the café by the main entrance at the end of our visit and I had a cup of tea and THE most delicious slice of a gluten free lemon and courgette cake - sounds dubious but it was super tasty.

I wanted to share some photos of our day...a little walk through the Gardens with us. Apart from the Treetop Walkway though. Did you know that giant metal structure shakes ever so slightly?! Neither did I. I was too busy praying/swearing to take any photos from there.

Onto the photos, beginning with the stunning Palm House.

The wonderfully peaceful Japanese garden:

All of your problems suddenly feel ever so slightly insignificant in the scheme of things when you're gazing up at the ancient Redwood trees...

Have you ever visited Kew Gardens? Did you love every moment of the Treetop Walkway?! Thoughts on making cakes with vegetables? After that courgette and lemon cake, I think I could be persuaded...

Wonderful Wednesday 41

16 August 2017

A few weeks without a Wonderful Wednesday as things were a little busy in the happygolucky-household and I just didn't get the time to sit down and write my little weekly catch-up. This week's is slightly shorter than usual too as we've had a visitor staying with us since Friday and so I've just snatched moments here and there to share a few things that have made me smile since we last spoke.


♥ A book you just can't put down... A friend lent me the book 'Restless' by William Boyd and I wasn't able to put it down all week, devouring it in about 4 days (and it wouldn't even have taken that long if work hadn't got in the way!) It made my morning and evening commutes fly by and it was one of those books that you spend all day just longing to get back into. In a nutshell, it's the story of a woman who discovers that her mother was a spy during WW2 but it is so much more than that. Thrilling, fascinating, an absolute page-turner. If you're looking for your next read, I couldn't recommend it more (if that isn't clear enough already!) I've already lined up 'Any Human Heart' to read next, which is another of William Boyd's books and apparently amazing.

♥ Friday night curry... Is there anything better?! We've had my mother in law staying with us for a few days and we celebrated her arrival on Friday by treating ourselves to a curry, delivered from a local (really tasty) curry house. I think it's made even more special when you know that you've planned it that evening and then spend all day looking forward to it, planning what you're going to have. I practically ran home. 

♥ Pre-birthday excitement... My birthday isn't until the end of the month and it's not an age to celebrate (trust me) but we wandered into town on Saturday to have a little look for things to put on my birthday wishlist. There's a bag in John Lewis that I've been coveting so that is firmly in the top spot. How exciting!

♥ A sunny Sunday at Kew Gardens... We used to live 2 tube stops away from Kew Gardens and only went once for the Illuminated Trail at Christmas, which was absolutely stunning. We had a slightly longer commute this time but it was still so worth it and I really don't know why we hadn't visited more often when it was that close! It was a glorious day to visit, the sun shone all day...although it felt slightly chilly for a few moments after the heat of the Palm House. We were there for about four hours and I don't know if we saw even half of the gardens - next time we'll be back with a picnic. Not planning to go on the Tree-Top Walk ever again though, that was a special kind of terror. 

♥ Neighbourhood puppies... Now this is partly a good thing and partly a really bittersweet pleasure considering how much I want a dog but there seems to be a sudden influx of puppies in our local area. I've been tackled a few times by an excitable little hound on my way to and from work or to the station over the last week and it's been absolutely wonderful! Their owners are always so apologetic too but is there anything better than an excited puppy jumping up at you?!

♥ Hampstead wanderings... This gets a special mention as it was actually the week before last. We've had two sunny Sundays in a row in lovely London town. My husband was away for a few days last week, returning on Saturday night and we decided to make the most of our Sunday together by going for a long walk on Hampstead Heath. Lots of people had the same idea as us but the size of the Heath means that you just don't feel like you're all on top of each other. We chatted, ate ice cream, dog watched and admired the brave souls swimming in one of the ponds. 

The area around Hampstead is really lovely too, with gorgeous houses like the one at the top of this post, lots of tempting coffee shops and Daunt Books where I could happily while away a few hours. I picked up a new book that's been on my list for a while ('Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson, if you're interested!) and chatted to the staff while paying, who then recommended another few books to me - the to-read list is growing ever longer!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoSamanthaKerri, LauraSarahPetaElLauraSarahMimmiMartinaLynseyKatieDebbieKelly and Em (I think that's everyone - shout at me if you're not on the list!) - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Stepping back in time in Solunto

6 August 2017

This is the last of my Sicily posts (from this trip at least!) and I've completely saved my favourite thing 'til last. A little happygolucky-fact, a childhood love of the Indiana Jones and the Mummy films led me to a Classics degree and dreams of becoming an Egyptologist. Alas that was not to be (student loans had to be paid off somehow!) but I'm still at my happiest wandering around an archaeological site and can find my way to the Egyptian/ancient Greek and Roman rooms in the British Museum blindfolded. 

When I was researching Palermo in the weeks leading up to our holiday, I kept coming back to a tiny section in the guidebook recommending an ancient Roman town, about a 20 minute train ride out of Palermo. Apparently, the fact that it's a steep 30 minute walk uphill puts a lot of people off and you can wander the partially-excavated site undisturbed. That was enough to move it right to the top of my must-do list - how often can you visit an ancient site without jostling through hordes of tourists?! So, was it worth the walk in the July sun? Abso-bloody-lutely.

Located high above the town of Porticello, on the slopes of Mount Catalfano, lie the remains of the Hellenistic Roman town of Solunto. It was founded in the 4th century BC on the site of an earlier Phoenician settlement. If the remains of the town around you aren't impressive enough, the sea views are spectacular too.

You wander along the main street towards the agora, but can also detour up the steep side streets and wander amongst the ruins themselves. There are the remains of the shops and poorer houses along the main street, with the larger villas higher up - some of which even have the remains of staircases leading to now non-existent floors above. 

The most exciting element of it all for me was the fact that could still see traces of the original paint on some of the walls, and mosaic flooring. It was absolutely incredible.

I think what made the whole experience even more magical for me was that we were the only ones there for practically the entirety of our visit and even when some other visitors arrived, there were only a handful. I think the walk does put a lot of people off but it really shouldn't. Granted, Solunto is not on the scale of somewhere like Pompeii but the intimacy of a small site makes you feel like you're stepping back in time, particularly when you can wander through the town so freely. If you're planning a visit to Palermo and fancy visiting somewhere very special, you must add Solunto to your list. Just don't forget your hat and make sure you bring lots of water!

Have you visited Solunto before? What's your favourite place to visit for a good ol' historical wander? It doesn't have to be classical - there are few things that beat a trip to a castle on a bank holiday weekend!

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