Smile: It’s the Weekend!

I thought I would start a regular Friday feature, in which I share a few things that have kept me smiling through the week, and will hopefully see you smiling into the weekend!

1. Discovering new perfumes.

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 2.58.16 PM

I always seem to have sample files of perfume lurking at the bottom of my handbag. On a whim, I fished out Space NK’s Laughter Jour the other day and squirted it on my wrist. To my surprise, I absolutely loved it. It’s very light and fresh and perfect for everyday wear. Their Laughter Nuit is rather nice too, and suitably a little more glam.

2. Laughing out loud.

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 3.08.51 PM

This blog is hilarious. I discovered it just this week, as I’d heard great things about blog founder Esther Walker’s new cookbook. Having read the book introduction visible on the amazon preview, I immediately bought the kindle edition and searched google for the blog. I chuckled my way through past posts and will start the book asap. Walker has a wonderfully human and incredibly funny writing style that warms you to her instantly. The recipes look pretty yummy too!

3. Learning about wine.

pairing wine with food

I enjoy wine, although know hardly anything about it. Thanks to my (ever trendy) Grandmother, I discovered the brilliant Wine Folly, a blog about wine for novices and seller of some fantastic posters to further your wine knowledge.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

 

Advertisements

Honeycomb Bars

IMG_2398

 

Honeycomb Bars, recipe from Home Baking by Jo Wheatley

Before I moved to Kingston last August, I lived in a charming, but tiny, studio flat in Hampstead that had a kitchenette in which I could barely turn around, let alone swing a cat. I had two hobs, a microwave, a minute fridge and no oven. I became very good at making risotto and soup, but didn’t bake for 4 years. Now I’ve made the move into a much bigger flat, I’m in love with my (at least in comparison) gigantic kitchen and am taking enormous pleasure in cooking and baking as much as possible. My cookbook collection has grown exponentially, and I’ve delighted in taking inspiration from a wide range of cooking styles and cultures. As very much a beginner cook, however, I do also appreciate recipes that can be thrown together in minutes, with no real cooking required!

As someone who loves to entertain, I’m also very aware of being a good guest. If I can possibly find the time, I like to make something to bring along with a bottle of wine to a dinner party. Jo Wheatley’s Honeycomb Bars are wonderfully easy to make, can be prepared ahead of time and are a delicious treat to serve alongside after dinner coffee. I recently made them to bring to a friend’s, and they were much appreciated! Next time, I think I would make the bars with dark chocolate, as they were a little sweet for my taste, but kids would love them just as they are. These would also be great to bring along to a picnic, whenever we get some sunshine back!

Honeycomb Bars

100g unsalted butter, melted

25g soft brown sugar

3 tbsp cocoa powder

4 tbsp golden syrup

400g milk chocolate (or dark, if you prefer it less sweet)

200g digestive biscuits

8 Crunchie bars (I actually only used 7 as I, er, ate the 8th. If, like me, you have no self-control – fear not! You can always just add a few more digestives to make up the difference. Note: a Crunchie bar weighs 40g.)

30x23cm baking tin with a depth of about 4cm, lightly greased and lined with with baking paper

Put the melted butter, sugar, cocoa powder and golden syrup into a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon until well combined. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water (or I melted the chocolate in the microwave, keeping a close eye so it didn’t burn and remained glossy). Place the digestive biscuits and Crunchie bars in a ziplock bag and roughly crush with a rolling pin until you have bite sized shards in a variety of different shapes. Add to the bowl and mix together to combine. Spoon into the lined tin, press down firmly into all the corners and top with the melted chocolate. Chill for half an hour or until nearly set, then slice bars with a hot knife (dip knife into cup of boiling water). Return to the fridge to firm completely. 

Pop your squares into a pretty tin lined with paper and share them amongst your friends. Enjoy!

Fresh Florals

IMG_2197Top, Uniqlo; leggings, Uniglo (now on sale); espadrilles, TOAST (a brilliant £5 buy in their most recent archive sale); earrings and necklace, Alex Monroe for Evans; watch, Swatch; ring, charity shop find; nail polish, Essie Boat House

This year, I discovered what a fantastic deal Uniqlo clothes are. When I’m looking for simple, stylish, inexpensive clothes then I head straight to their website. I love easy to wear leggings and tops in bright prints for a relaxed weekend look as I potter about in the patio garden.

IMG_2206

IMG_2223

IMG_2221Uniqlo often have extremely successful collaborations with top designers; in the past I’ve snapped up pieces from their Orla Kiely, Lulu Guinness, Celia Birtwell and Laduree collections. I’d definitely recommend keeping an eye out for forthcoming collaborations as pieces tend to sell out very quickly.

Summer Party

IMG_2334Dress, Avoca; jacket, Sandro; bag, vintage Chanel; shoes – I can’t even remember! earrings, vintage; ring, Otazu; bracelet, gift; nail polish, Chanel Mimosa.

It’s the time of year where your diary starts to fill up with dinners, barbecues, birthday drinks and engagement parties. This outfit I find ideal for long summer evenings on the terrace, preferably with a cocktail in hand! Pair a pretty floral dress with chunky jewelry, a tuxedo jacket and a tousled side braid for a fun, but polished look.

IMG_2284

IMG_2329

IMG_2303

One of my very favourite places to sit out and enjoy the sunshine and a glass of wine in London is the rooftop terrace at Orrery. Bliss!

London Summer

IMG_2250Dress, Toast (archive sale purchase; similar here); belt, Sandro; handbag, Tamara Fogle; beach bag, Tarango (a fair trade company, with products handmade in Bangladesh); shoes, Chanel; watch, Swatch; necklace Baccarat; earrings, Lindex (similar here); sunglasses, Anthropologie; nail polish, Essie Boat House

Over the bank holiday weekend, I decided to take some time simply to enjoy the sunshine and explore the delights of my neighbourhood. I moved to Kingston at the end of August last year, but have been so busy since that I’ve barely had any time for exploration. With London looking so beautiful in the sunshine, I decided it was about time I pulled on a summer dress and took a walk through the wisteria scented streets of Kingston and Richmond.

IMG_2236

IMG_2243

IMG_2274

IMG_2258

IMG_2279

IMG_2263

IMG_2253Warm, sunny days in London are rather rare, but when they do happen, they more than make up for all the rain!

Old Fashioned Girls

Marilyn Monroe jumps

Marilyn Monroe, image via here.

The above picture pretty much shows just how excited I am to announce the launch of a joint venture between Rachel of Book Snob and me: we are Old Fashioned Girls. This blog will offer a daily insight into our lives with a picture posted by one of us every week day. We will share the things we love as girls who perhaps have slightly old fashioned tastes: beautiful paintings, exhibitions and theatre we hope to attend, products we enjoy, recipes, photographs and much more. We are also working on writing and gathering material eventually to publish a quarterly edition of some kind. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Old Fashioned Girls as much as we do! For a bit more information, check out our About page.

2013

IMG_1923

Happy New Year!

I hope you have all been enjoying the holiday celebrations. I’ve had a fabulous time welcoming the new year. It was a bit hard to say good-bye to 2012, as it was quite a special year for me, but 2013 is already looking like it will be equally fantastic.

The lovely Rachel came to visit, and we planned some fun treats for the last few days of the holidays. We  ahhhed in appreciation of the fireworks and sang Auld Lang Syne squashed in with hundreds of people in front of the London Eye, before heading back to friends’ house party to toast with champagne.

The real highlight of Rachel’s visit was some wonderful theatre. After reading Mary’s brilliant review, we were keen to see The Dark Earth and the Light Sky at the Almeida theatre.

116690270_dark-eart_356560cThe Dark Earth and the Light Sky, Almeida Theatre 2012-13. Image via here.

I was blown away by the incredible performances of all the actors and the beautifully written script, which was touched with both great wit and heart-wrenching poignancy. The Dark Earth and the Light Sky explores the poet Edward Thomas’ complicated relationships with his wife Helen and great friends Eleanor Farjeon and Robert Frost. Thomas’ plight as a burgeoning poet and his struggle to understand his place in the world is told through the different perspectives of each of the characters surrounding him, and scenes flip from present to future so that the tragic end to his story casts a shadow from the start. I was completely gripped by the play and am now eager to see other productions at the Almeida. We had gone for the cheapest £8 seats, which were barely a restricted view and were very close to the stage. At less than the price of a movie ticket, a trip to the Islington theatre is a fantastic way to have a memorable night out.

kiss-me-kate_2410980bKiss Me Kate, Old Vic 2012-13. Image via here.

Another brilliant theatre experience was seeing Kiss Me Kate at the Old Vic. In contrast to The Dark Earth and the Light Sky, this sparkling musical was full of fun and laughter. The production was wonderful with stunning sets and costumes, and the (almost) 3 hours simply flew by! I particularly enjoyed the dazzling rendition of It’s Too Darn Hot. This show was a real feel-good, and Rachel and I left with huge smiles on our faces.

2013 is a lot of fun so far, and I’m very excited by what lies ahead.

Tea and Chekhov

Autumnal Tea: smoked salmon and cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches; quails’ eggs with sea or celery salt; scones; brownies and an iced pumpkin spice cake. 

I had a fabulous time over the weekend hosting a Book Blogger Tea Party with Rachel, SimonPolly and my Mum. I felt a bit of a fraud as I can’t claim to have ever written a book blog, but I am at least an enthusiastic reader! Although I am in the same book group as Polly, have met Simon several times and have found a ‘kindred spirit’ in Rachel, it was wonderful to spend an afternoon all together, having a proper chat, laughing a lot and munching on the treats pictured above.

Simon brought along a game that he bemoaned none of his (non-bookish) friends would play; I can’t remember the name but it was lots of fun! You have a pack of cards with a book title, author and plot summary written on each of them, and everyone has to write down what they think is the first or last line of the book. These are all then read aloud (including the real first/last line) – whoever guesses which is the true one gets a point, and if anyone guesses your version in mistake for the real one, then you get a point too. Often, it was harder than you might think – for instance, no doubt everyone can rattle off the first line of Pride & Prejudice, but what about the last? I amazed myself by winning, as I’m generally useless at games, but I’m not sure how I’d fare in another round…!

Polly, Simon, Rachel and Me. 

After tea, Rachel and I went on to the Young Vic as we had tickets to see their production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. What a disappointment! I was expecting something quite special, as had read some excellent reviews, and was still thrilling from having seen Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic (a truly fabulous production). Far from finding Benedict Andrew’s version of Three Sisters particularly radical or inspired, Rachel and I were simply bored stiff. Olga, Irina and Masha’s longing for Moscow paled against my desire to be out of the theatre. Indeed, I was only jerked out of my ennui-induced stupor when the people in front of us periodically leapt about 5 feet into the air, dramatically covering their ears whenever a large bell was rung onstage. Despite copious ‘shocking’ swear words strewn throughout the dialogue and a rather dreadful rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, the play failed to grip.

Gala Gordon, Mariah Gale and Vanessa Kirby in Three Sisters, Young Vic, London. Image via here

Fortunately, although the production was a disappointment, the company certainly wasn’t, and Rachel and I still had a fun night out, although I hope our next theatre outing will be more successful!

All in all, it was a lovely weekend, and being in the company of such lovely bloggers has inspired me to do a bit better with my own blog. I’m currently ploughing my way through the PGCE course at Roehampton University and recently moved to Kingston so life has been a bit of a whirlwind lately, but I feel I could at least do better than a post every few months…!

And now I’m off to bake yet more brownies for my next set of visitors this weekend. Happy Thursday, everyone!

Who Would Have Thought?

I still can’t quite believe this photo is real. It’s just an iphone snapshot, a bit grainy and dark, but to me it’s absolutely magical. Who would have thought I’d ever get the chance to meet Darcey Bussell? Certainly not me!

As a ballet fanatic, from a young age I’d poured over The Young Dancer, a guide to ballet Darcey Bussell had written in association with the Royal Ballet. I raced through her autobiography A Dancer’s Life as soon as it came out. I had postcards of her dancing in Swan Lake and La Bayadère stuck up on my walls, alongside Viviana Durante and Sylvie Guillem. I grew up with Darcey as my idol: an exquisite dancer who transformed the ballet world with her energy, lyricism and those incredible legs. Not only a beautiful ballerina, she impressed me with her humility, courage and unerring grace.

You can imagine, then, how excited I was (even having left my dancing days well behind me) to have the chance hear a talk Darcey Bussell gave at the V&A last night, in celebration of her most recent book. The photographic memoir is full of the most gorgeous pictures and is also a fascinating read. I was so thrilled to get my copy signed:

Most of all, however, I delighted in listening to Darcey reminisce on her days as a Prima Ballerina and laugh over her most recent escapades at the London Olympics and as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. She is an incredibly eloquent speaker, and I am sure every member of the audience could have sat and happily listened to her all night! The intimate, low-key setting with Darcey and her husband and children mingling with the crowds made the evening a true success, and will remain an evening I for one will never, ever forget.

My Rachel Riley Summer

All dresses and boleros shown in this post are Rachel Riley.

I think that whenever I look back on the summer of 2012 I’ll have a big smile on my face. After a busy few months full of end-of-term chaos, back injury, an exam and endless paper work to surmount, I was very ready for a break by the end of July. So far, the summer has been a perfect mix of rest and activity.

I’ve very much enjoyed having the time to read (this book is wonderful), go to the cinema, make new friends and catch up with old, attend a meeting of my craft club, drink Pimms, see a great exhibition and play, eat a cheese platter at La Fromagerie, walk along the beach at Canford Cliffs in Dorset, discover new areas of London, picnic in Kensington Gardens, become a little yoga obsessed (this website is *amazing*), paint my nails silly colours and – most excitingly – flat hunt.

I’m not the only one in a good mood. Everyone in London is full of Olympic fervour and – unusually – national pride. Public transport is (for the most part) running like a breeze, and even at large stations like Waterloo, far from dodging manic pedestrian hordes, I’m only trying to avoid the bucket loads of free ice-lollies that are constantly handed out.

I must admit though, that the Olympics have rather faded into the background for me as I am caught up in my own private adventure this summer. The next couple of months are going to see a great deal of change, and I have to keep reminding myself not to wish the next few weeks away, but to live in the moment and to savour the last of my time in Hampstead.

When I look back on this summer, though, I am not sure I will think of it as ‘the summer I moved,’ or the ‘London Olympics,’ as much as ‘my Rachel Riley summer.’ Rachel Riley has been one of my most exciting recent discoveries, and I must admit I went a little mad in the fantastic summer sale. The dresses I bought (pictured above) have provided a wonderful uniform for the hotter months: simple, beautifully made cotton dresses with a vintage feel and unusual prints. I love the Rachel Riley shop on Marylebone highstreet and can’t recommend a trip there highly enough. Most of the clothes are made for children, but a wide selection is also available for women at the back of the shop. Also, do have a very good rummage in the sample sale boxes, which is where I found one of my very favourite purchases – the navy dress with the polka dot bow. I know I am going to be wearing these dresses for years to come, but they’ll also always remind me of my lovely summer in 2012.