A Magical Mystery Birthday Tour

I like birthdays, and I love planning the perfect day for my favourite people. I especially like surprising people with fabulous birthday plans, so when it came to Matthew’s birthday on Saturday I hadn’t told him much – only that he was to wrap up warm and be ready to leave at 2 sharp.

We had a lazy morning in the flat with brunch and coffee, and then I led us to the station to begin our magical mystery birthday tour. Destination number one? The Natural History Museum ice rink!

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I’d planned our skating session to coincide with the sun setting, so the light was all gorgeous and golden and the museum itself looked pretty spectacular. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself! Unfortunately, Matthew’s scared face told a bit of a different story, but after watching the skaters for a little while, we headed to pick up our skates and strap ourselves in.

I didn’t take out my camera on the ice cause I just knew somebody would crash into me and send it flying, so unfortunately I haven’t got any pictures of the event itself, but Matthew proved that his fears were unfounded and we both survived just fine. You only get 50 minutes on the ice and it was already SUPER busy with lots of children (and adults…) who couldn’t quite control themselves, but we both had lots of fun nonetheless and by the time we came off the sun was well and truly set!

There is a cafe overlooking the ice which would have been fun to sit in and watch a little more, but I had other, more lavish plans for this birthday evening. First stop, a lovely little wander to Harrods to check out their Christmas windows.

Their theme this year is “Land of Make Believe” and I for one LOVED it. Teddies, ballerinas, a huge jack-in-the-box…they are absolutely magical.

As you would expect, it’s the tiny details that make the windows and the mice that run through them all were definitely a highlight for me. But by far my favourite were the Marching Nutcrackers!

It wouldn’t be a Christmas window display without the big guy himself, so I was very pleased to see this gorgeous, final window…

Just around the corner we bumped into another Paddington, this one Emma Watson’s predictably gorgeous design. We’re actually planning to follow a bit of the Paddington trail this weekend (today in fact!), but I just love bumping into them unexpectedly!

And then we continued our wander down Sloane Street to Sloane Square, to a bit of a hidden gem I had been told about at work. Just off Sloane Square you will find Cocomaya, the most delicious, sugar-scented, bakery/chocolate shop you ever saw. We ordered two hot chocolates, a slice of carrot cake and, on the recommendation of the waitress, a slab of the tallest chocolate cake in the world, and took a seat outside the shop so we could watch the well-dressed residents of Chelsea stroll past on their way home from Christmas shopping (and eavesdrop on the conversation of a group of Made in Chelsea minis planning their Saturday night out at the table next to us!)

Needless to say, it was all delicious. At this point in my life I consider myself nothing less than a carrot cake connoisseur and this one ranked pretty high up there, and the hot chocolate was deliciously rich (so much so I couldn’t finish it on top of all that cake…). Cocomaya have a couple of other London branches (Connaught St and Porchester Place) and they are also in Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, so keep your eyes out – since this trip I’ve also sampled their doughnuts which were just as yum!

Full, happy, and feeling suitably festive, we headed home. We were actually quite glad of the hour-long trip back to Greenwich as it meant we had time to digest all that cake just in time for the sparkly I had stashed in the fridge. The two hours it took our birthday Chinese to be delivered wasn’t quite as welcome, but we passed the time by watching hours upon hours of Orange is the New Black (M is now hooked!). Finally, I presented the birthday boy with a birthday custard tart, and we retired to bed…all ready for another birthday the very next day!

The London Photography Walk

Having a London blogging buddy who also happens to be one of my BFFs and an ex housemate of mine is really useful, mostly because it means that that awkward bit at the beginning of an event is totally non-awkward. So I was particularly pleased that Kate had also been invited on the Joe’s Bloggers London Photography Walk.

After work on Wednesday, I hurried over to Waterloo to meet the team and my fellow bloggers. Kate and I were a bit worried at first that we were the only ones there but we were led around a corner to find a whole crowd of bloggers, as well as our lovely hosts for the evening. We were handed out our packed lunches, I reduced myself to begging for a kitkat, and off we went, from Waterloo to Southbank.

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Tourguide Charlotte, from Best LDN Walks, did a great job of shepherding us all around (it was a bit like being on a more glam school trip) and pointing out all manner of interesting facts and so on. She was so friendly and funny and made everyone feel really at ease which was nice!

I have to admit that Kate and I spent quite a lot more time catching up than we did taking pictures. I had also forgotten to bring my normal camera so I was relying on just my phone (an ancient 4s), but some of them worked out well!

We made our way along Southbank, which was looking decidedly festive.

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…and then we were led into Leake Street tunnel, famous for being one of the only places in the UK where graffiti is “legal.”

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Charlotte produced a bag full of spraycans, and we were let loose on the walls! Kate and I got our hands on some silver paint and got to it. After a few false starts we kind of got the hang of it…unfortunately we were completely out of ideas as to what to actually write and so mostly stuck to cool things like our names. More practise needed I think!

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After that it was across Westminster Bridge, past good old Big Ben and then along Whitehall. It was really nice actually to see all these touristy bits of London, which I never usually make time to go and see, and since it was just your average Wednesday evening it was also really quiet.

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Probably my highlight of the trip was bumping into the Whitehall Paddington. I am on a mission to see all 50 Paddingtons before they disappear and I’m currently on 4…Stephen Fry’s traditionalist Paddington is definitely amongst my favourites! Unfortunately WordPress isn’t letting me upload my Paddington shot, but trust me he is cute.

We finished up the tour in Charing Cross, right in the centre of London, for a group shot before I had to dash for my train. I was a bit dubious about going on the walk seeing as how I hadn’t blogged for ages, but actually it was exactly what I needed: it was a great way to see London in a new light and get a bit of my blogging motivation back! As I said, Charlotte was great and I’d definitely check out more of Best LDN Walks in the future; they have loads of different themes and they are really relaxed and friendly. Big thanks too to the team at giffgaff and of course to Joe’s Bloggers for organising and for inviting me!

Back to Blogging: Life Update

HEY FRIENDS!

It has been a while hasn’t it! After starting my job, spending a long and very stressful time being homeless & searching for any and all flats, we finally found a gorgeous apartment in Greenwich. Naturally, once it happened it all happened VERY quickly and we then spent 3 weeks with no internet which doesn’t make for very good blogging habits.

However, after attending last week’s London Photography Walk with giffgaff, Best LDN Walks and Joe’s Bloggers this past Wednesday (post coming soon), my motivation to blog has returned and I’m hoping to be much much better over the next few weeks. I make no promises but we will see!

So. Since we last spoke, I’ve been doing as much exploring and getting out and about as possible, and have consequently been outrageously busy (I’m talking 1 “do nothing” day in the last 2 months). My little sister turned 18; we (quite smugly) celebrated Halloween with the most underappreciated costume of the year; I fell in love with Greenwich Park; drank a fair few PSLs; visited some fab restaurants, including the Rivington Grill in Greenwich, Tredwell’s in Seven Dials and Rabot 1745; saw Wicked as the belated, and best, part of my birthday present from M; found out I passed my Masters (phew); and much much more.

All in all, life is busy busy busy but I am excited to get into the festive spirit (yesterday I introduced Christmas songs to the office playlist, and followed that up with a trip to the Christmas market on Southbank and plenty of mulled wine) and also to start taking my camera out and about again!

As I said, look out for a post about the London Photography Walk very soon, as well as whatever photos I can dredge up from my camera of various other adventures. I’m excited to get back into the blogging world and I have the world’s longest “unread” list on Bloglovin, but first it’s Matthew’s birthday and I have a magical mystery tour of London to co ordinate!

The Highlight Reel: London Living

SO. After putting it off for a good year or so, I’ve finally taken the step into the real world and got a big girl job (technically an internship, but still). I’ve been there for a month now and so far I’m loving it. I am, however, currently homeless and owe my life to my BFFs & various family members who are lending me their beds/rooms/flats and so on, for which I am SO grateful!

Safe to say it’s been a whirlwind few weeks and I am hoping to get some real posts up soon about some of my adventures thus far, but in the meantime, here’s what’s been making the days fly by:

- Primrose Hill, the best and most aspirational people-watching spot of all (also good for a good old celeb spot and a chance to squeal over Henry Holland’s ridiculously cute pug, Peggy)

  • “Quiet nights” that have inevitably turned into ridiculous escapades in Dalston and Shoreditch
  • The most hysterical & perfect hungover Sunday last weekend. It was a day where everything was hilarious, and ended up with a sleepover for 4 with some of my best pals.
  • Friday nights (and indeed any night) on the Southbank. It’s so convenient from work that I have had two separate friend-dates and one real-boyfriend-date in the last couple of weeks. It’s always so buzzy and there is something very cool about hanging around in the shadow of the London Eye.
  • Time Out Magazine. Time Out Tuesdays are fast becoming my favourite days of the week!
  • How quiet Bermondsey station always is after the madness of Waterloo or London Bridge
  • Gavin Degraw, live in Kentish Town. He was GREAT.
  • All the reunions. After being so far away from most of my friends for all of last year, it has been SO nice to be able to meet them for a drink after work, or catch up on the weekend. Finally my huge FOMO can be cured!

This week I’m doing the commuting thing for a while so we’ll see how that goes, but I also have a couple of fun events planned and we are beginning the flat search in earnest so I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on my life goings-ons! What have you all been up to?

Blackberry & Apple Crumble

Well, the leaves have started falling and it is safe to say that autumn is here. We have a huge cooking apple tree in our back garden and over the years, my brother Dom and I have basically perfected the art of that most autumnal of desserts: the apple crumble.

The weekend before I headed to London, we decided to jazz things up a bit by popping down to the field down the road to scour the blackberry bushes as well. We got a nice healthy haul, and, back at home and with a few apples plucked from the tree, set to work.

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For the actual crumble, we used the following measurements, adapted from this BBC recipe:

  • 180g plain flour
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 45g demerara sugar
  • 90g unsalted butter

The reason that crumble is so great is that it is SO easy that it is literally impossible to get wrong. You literally just have to add everything together.

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Crumbling the crumble is one of my favourite tasks. It’s a bit messy, but it’s so satisfying watching it all come together.

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Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and chop them into rough cubes. They had gone a bit brown by the time I remembered to take a picture…

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Add the blackberries and put them all in a nice big dish.

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Then sprinkle the crumble over the top! Dom put a smiley face on the top which you can’t really see here, and we sprinkled some more demerara sugar on for a bit of crunch.

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Then just whack it in the oven (at like 200 degrees) for forty minutes or so.

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Dish it up while it’s still hot, and serve it with plenty of custard.

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The easiest (and most delicious) dessert in the world!

The Bloggers Festival

I am the worst blogger ever! Sorry! I will do a bit of a life update soon but for now, suffice to say that moving to London (sort of – I am still effectively homeless) and starting a new job has taken its toll on my blog-energy. But I’ve popped home-home for the weekend and I’ve found some time to sit down and tell you all about the Blogger’s Festival, which took place last weekend.

I’ve been looking forward to the event for ages, ever since I got my email invite from the lovely Scarlett – not least because it was such a relief to know that I’d finally be in London and able to attend an event way bigger than any I’d been to before! So last Saturday I headed on down to Tottenham Court Road and was promptly whisked up in a lift to the 31st floor, which has the most amazing views over London. It was kind of cloudy and foggy that day which was a bit of a shame but it still looked pretty spectacular!

The room itself was all decked out and full to the brim with bloggers. I’d ended up arriving a bit late so it was definitely a little bit daunting wandering in and trying to get my bearings!

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Scarlett had done a fab job getting some really great brands involved and there was TONS to look at.

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After seeing Quiz cookies in everyone’s pictures of every blog event ever, I was pleased to finally get my hands on one and can confirm they were delicious!

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I particularly loved some of the shoes on show by Ecco (who also very generously put a gorgeous leather pouch in our goody bags). I’ve always known about Ecco but never really looked at them properly but there were so many shoes I could have bought there and then!

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I was also introduced by the lovely Marika to Danish brand Minimum clothing, which I had never heard of before, but it is right up my street.

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I was also getting plenty of inspiration for winter & party wear…there were sparkles and jumpers all over the shop!

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I absolutely loved these super cool bee themed biscuits from Bee Good, who by the way were super friendly and lovely and also gave me some rather delicious vanilla & honey lipbalm which I’ve been loving this week.

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This is a really awful photograph but I couldn’t not mention iZ Beauty of London, who did the best nail transfers ever. I didn’t take a picture because the rest of my nails were so chipped and horrible but trust me, the two fingers I had done looked great and one is still going strong while I accidentally peeled off the other one yesterday. The lovely girl manning the stand gave me the rest of the pack and I can’t wait to try them out myself!

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Just as I was about to leave, the unmistakable scent of brownie filled the air and I followed my nose to find Sweet Pizzas, who were just bringing out some of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Brownie, buttercream and a whole host of sweets on top…it was simultaneously the best and worst thing I’ve probably ever consumed.

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Soon enough I had to dash as I had to make the journey first to Earlsfield and then all the way back to Kentish Town (via hellish Oxford Circus) but it was a really great event and Scarlett did such a good job organising it! I wish I’d been able to get there a bit early and chat to a few more bloggers, but I did finally manage to meet the gorgeous Katie in real life (I spotted her by recognising her boyfriend…creepy much?). We also got given some fabulous goodie bags with some amazing stuff in them which I am hoping to write about some of very soon, so watch this space!

The Reading List: SUMMER

Maybe it’s cause the rest of me was so relaxed that my brain started working at top speed, but I managed to read an absurd amount of books during the second half of my holiday and I loved almost all of them. Rather than review each of them individually, I’ve done a mass round-up of what I thought… (and sorry, there’s no pictures! I just moved to London and everything is everywhere! Normal service will resume shortly!)

We Were Liars, Emily Lockhart

This is one that I’ve heard the name of a lot and not really read what it’s about. The Amazon description mentioned Massachusetts and private islands, which is what I’m all about, and even though this wasn’t quite what I was expecting I really loved it. It basically follows Cady as she returns to her family’s private island for the summer after a serious accident a couple of summers ago, of which she remembers nothing. The book basically follows her as she deals with the mental issues she has experienced since, and figures out exactly what happened two summers before. I found the style a bit grating at first: it’s simple to the point of sounding harsh, which was a huge contrast to the style of Stiltsville which I finished right before it. But as soon as I got used to it it was absolutely fine and suited the main character/narrator, Cady, down to the ground, and I particularly loved the character of Mirren, Cady’s cousin. I didn’t guess what was going to happen at all either and I’d definitely recommend this!

Stiltsville, Susanna Daniel

Stiltsville was an emergency buy in City airport when my Kindle died five minutes before I got on the plane, but it ended up being probably my favourite book from the whole week. It’s a slow mover, covering protagonist Frances’ life from about 20 (I think) to late middle age as she meets, marries and builds a life with her husband Dennis and their daughter, who was maybe my favourite character of all. It’s definitely more character driven than plot, which meant I fell in love with all the main characters. It was the kind of book I would happily have read forever and ever – and it made me want to go back to Miami!

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

I’ve had this one on my Kindle for ages and to be honest I kind of forced myself to start it because I’d just bought The Lemon Grove and was dying to read that – but I’m so glad I did! I have a habit of automatically dismissing books that get really super popular (it’s the snobby English student in me) but this really lived up to the hype and I ended up staying up till almost 1AM because I honestly could not go to bed before I finished it! It kept me guessing all the way through and I will definitely be catching the movie!

Buying In, Laura Hempthill

This is kind of chicklit with a twist – it’s about a 22 year old, Sophie, and her first job in an investment bank in NYC, 2007-ish. I really liked it, actually, and I definitely related a LOT to Sophie even though there is no way I will be following her career path (and would be even less inclined to do so after reading!). Turns out Laura Hempthill worked in investment banks for 7 years before writing the novel so I guess it’s all fairly authentic – definitely an interesting, light read!

The Lemon Grove, Helen Walsh

I’d heard such a lot about this, I was expecting great things but I have to say I was a bit disappointed. It’s basically about a middle-aged woman (whose name I can’t remember, which says a lot) who starts an illicit affair with her step-daughter’s boyfriend while on holiday. While I liked the stepdaughter Emma’s character, the whole thing all felt a bit melodramatic and I felt like there were a lot of gratuitous sex scenes. I did still enjoy it and it made me wanna swim in the sea so it was a good holiday read, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it way less if I’d read it at home.

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

Technically I finished this while still in the UK, but it was on the way to the airport so it still counts in my book! I enjoyed this while reading it and I’d definitely recommend it, but it doesn’t really stand out to me as one of my favourites. That said, I liked the style and especially the character of Lux, and I’m going to try and watch the film at some point cause Kirsten Dunst is a goddess!

Easy, Tammara Webber

I have a feeling this is a self-published kind of deal and it was all very predictable and a bit melodramatic but I found that I couldn’t stop reading it anyway (and I’m not a girl who has qualms about giving up on a book halfway through). It’s set in college and it’s very much your average boy-meets-girl, but it does cover some interesting stuff about rape, victim blaming, and so on, and it involves frat boys and sorority girls (on a low level) which I’m always interested in. Definitely not a heavy read but enjoyable all the same.

Lastly, I’m currently midway through We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, which was recently been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. I wasn’t sure about it at first but now I’m really into it and although I haven’t had much time to read since getting home, I’m eager to finish it!

What’s been your favourite summer read? Have you read any of these or do you want to? Let me know!