The Sky Garden

London is not known for its bargains. Quite the opposite, it regularly features as one of the most expensive cities in the world. ‘How much for a pint of beer?’, you can hear the cries far and wide. So when there’s a bargain excursion to be had, I’m there with bells on. The Sky Garden costs absolutely nothing and it has the wow factor. If you live in London or are planning a trip, I would highly recommend booking yourself a ticket.

SkyGarden4

SkyGarden1

The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden. It’s at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known as ‘The Walkie Talkie’ – 35 floors up. It’s impressive. The garden is lush and well planted. It even smells good; there are scents of thyme and rosemary which waft around the space.

Our tickets were for 10.30am, I was pleasantly surprised at how much space we had to roam around freely, taking in the views. It wasn’t overly busy. We probably spent about an hour up there and it did seem that there were more people by the time we left. So if I had any advice, it would be to book for the earliest part of the day you possibly can. Although I can imagine the views are stunning at sunset.

2015-07-30 11.31.09 2015-07-30 10.59.48-1

SkyGarden2

If hunger strikes, you can treat yourself to a cake and a coffee whilst you’re up there. We didn’t so I can’t comment on how good they taste..but they did look pretty good. And I noted the prices. Not horrendously expensive.

SkyGarden3

It’s not somewhere you can just turn up to and expect to be let in. You have to book your ticket online (a couple of weeks in advance) and take some id with you when you arrive (a bank card will suffice). But with a bit of organisation, you can take in some pretty spectacular views. Not bad for nowt.

2015-07-30 10.48.32-1

 

July: On the Radar

Woah 2015 will you slow down? Time is just flying by.. The boy has two weeks left at school and there’s a lot to pack in. Summer holidays loom. I like to have a few things planned over the six weeks but I don’t want to over-schedule. It’s nice to just hang out and take things as they come. Here are a few things I do want to do over the next few months:

Carsten Holler slides

  • Weeeeeeeeeee. The Carsten Holler exhibition on at the Hayward Gallery looks like great fun.
  • If we have another heat wave, I’m definitely heading to Beach East. Sand, a bar called Pub Tropicana and live music events. Sounds fantastic!
  • Taking inspiration from Alexis over at Something I Made, I love the idea of doing some wild things during the holidays. It’s definitely a time for getting the hands dirty.
  • Have you been to Savage Beauty? I’ve got tickets to see it in July. I’ve heard it’s extraordinary.
  • We’re heading up to the Peak District at the end of the month. We’re camping with a group of friends – all the kids are boys and my husband has plans to take them climbing. Heights and hard hats are not my thing, so I’m thinking of having a little day trip to Sheffield. Jen’s blog post came at a good time. Sheffield, quite evidently, has some gorgeous cafes to hang in.

What have you got planned in July? Do tell…

 

What next?

crossroads1

I’ve written about my career woes before. I find myself (again) in a position where I don’t know what to do next.  I don’t ever remember having a dream about what I wanted to do when I grew up. Now I am (supposedly) a grown-up, these decisions are not getting any easier. Lots of my career decisions have been based on the ‘oh well, let’s give it a go and see what happens’ school of thought. And of course…PANIC! I’m sure the reason I chose to go and work for KPMG after university to train to be an accountant was sheer panic. The ‘I’ve had loads of fun at university and not given this a second thought before now, but I need to earn some money and quickly’ type of panic. I suppose I was lucky I left university in an era of graduate jobs. At least I could get a job, although I’m not sure that it was the right one for me. But it’s all a learning experience…

I think perhaps I have been struggling with these types of decisions for a long time. This time the act of deciding has almost become paralysing. I’m so frightened of making the wrong one, it’s almost easier to not make one at all. I’m at a standstill. Not moving. Scared of failing (again).

Thankfully I’m not the type of person to dwell on past mistakes too much. I’m very good at deflecting those negative thoughts. So I’m not unhappy (having a supportive husband is a massive part of this, of course). But as well as not being one to beat myself up about my failings, I’m also prone to inaction and indecision.

But I do know that I don’t want to be an accountant. So what next? Well I’ve done the NCTJ and had a stint at a rather well known website (you know the one, it’s for Mums).  The job was not the one I wanted and to say there were office politics is an understatement. So I left. And now I find myself jobless, still wondering what to do next.

I may as well write down all my current ideas with the hope that if it’s written here, it’s almost like making a pledge to do something. I need to do something. Unfortunately at the ripe old age of forty (gasp – feels strange to write that down), I’m neither in the financial position to retire nor am I ready to give up the idea that I can do something interesting that I enjoy and perhaps uses my brain. It’s not a lot to ask…

Writer: It’s what I originally wanted to do after making the decision to leave accountancy, however it’s not that easy. I’m not unique in having this dream; there are a lot of people out there who harbour similar passions. There is also an expectation that you will work for free for a while, I did it for a while and didn’t like working for nothing. I realise I need to work on my networking skills. And I need to write…dur.

Salad maker: There’s someone on Instagram who set up a community kitchen in Sydney where she delivered salads to her customers by bike. (I love/hate Instagram in equal measure for giving me an insight to people’s perfect(ly edited) lives.) I have this romantic vision of doing the same. Minus the huge, scary buses in London. (I admit I’m terrified on cycling on the road in London). Maybe I need a cute little car instead? Mmmm. Maybe I need to concentrate on the business side of this idea, rather than the vehicle?

Teacher: I’ve been volunteering at Fred’s school since October so I’m under no illusions that this is really hard. I can also see that it’s very rewarding. The kids are gorgeous (and a few are a little bit challenging too).  I feel I need to be 100% committed if I do decide to go down this route. At the moment, I’m probably about 75%. Teaching assistant is a realistic alternative and I’m going to look into this more.

Cafe owner: Again on paper, this is perfect. I love food, I love interior design and would relish the idea of putting together a menu, learning all about coffee and designing a little space to welcome my customers. But realistically I have no experience and am I romanticising all the work involved? Yes probably. I have applied for a few jobs in cafes and so far, no luck! It seems my lack of experience is a problem here. (As well as my lack of capital…)

Echeveria in pot

Succulent grower: Another one I can blame instagram for – have you seen the shop Botany in Hackney? It’s gorgeous. It sells plants, macrame and has that seventies vibe which is oh so of the moment. Basically I want to waft around wearing flares and a cheesecloth blouse and sell the odd plant here and there. It’s not too much to ask is it? (Perhaps not a desire to make career plans around).

Food PR: Can you imagine? You’re basically paid to eat in restaurants and then promote delicious food. I could definitely do this. Although I suspect my waistline would not thank me.

Farmers’ Market stallholder: This could combine a few of the ideas above. I’ve also toyed with a few others over the years..but I’ve never actually done any of them.

So what next? The main message I’m getting is that I either want to work with food and set up a little business or go down the education route. I actually think I work far better with other people than on my lonesome, so if I set up a business, I’m looking for a partner in crime. So far none have been forthcoming (all my friends are gainfully employed).

I am going to make an effort to do something. 

Watch this space.

Cafe Culture: Nanna’s

Nanna’s in North London bills itself as ‘a cafe with a serious case of nostalgia’. And who am I to argue? If you’re a fan of vintage furniture and ceramics, fresh flowers and an innovative menu, then Nanna’s is a must-visit cafe.

nanna's

Appearance: Nanna’s has ‘great bones’ as an architect would say. The cafe has massive windows which let the light stream in, and the walls are covered in green and white tiles (I wonder what the shop used to be?). It’s a great space. Then add to this the vintage furniture, fresh flowers and details such as retro teapots being used for water and you’ve got the makings of a gorgeous cafe. As there are comfortable sofas and chairs to relax in, I could have happily sat there for hours.

Nanna1 nanna3

Location: Nanna’s is located near Highbury and Islington tube station. It’s on quite a busy road but the view outside is pleasing. It would be a lovely place to stop for refreshment after a wander down Upper Street, which is has some excellent interior shops on it. (Twenty Twenty One, Smug and Folklore to name a few).

Menu: I visited at lunchtime and was tempted by all the sandwiches and toasties on offer. They offer some unusual (and delicious) toppings and fillings. I had the brie, kale, pistachio and honey pesto toastie. And yes, it was as good as it sounds. I want to return so I can try one of the open sandwiches.

nanna2

Clientele: The comfy seats mean that there are a fair few laptop lingerers in Nanna’s. Not a bad thing as long as they are keeping themselves topped up with coffee and food. It has a lovely relaxed atmosphere so I don’t blame them.

Coffee/ Drinks: I didn’t have a coffee but the beans are from local roasters, Alchemy. I did enjoy the Square Root rhubarb soda I had. It was really refreshing.

nanna5

Overall: Nanna’s is a brilliant addition to the Islington cafe scene. I loved the vintage decor and the food was offering something above the usual cheese and ham toastie. The cafe also had a good selection of magazines. So if the comfy sofas don’t persuade you to take your time, perhaps a peruse of Kinfolk magazine will instead. If vintage is your thing, give Nanna’s a go. It’s a gem.

nanna6

Address: 274B ST. PAUL’S ROAD N1 2LJ

Photos all mine except first and last one from Nanna’s website.

A Wander Around Bristol

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know we headed West for half-term. We had a week in South Devon and then stopped in Bristol for a night on the way back. I’m not posting in chronological order here as I’m going to share a few pictures of Bristol before (if ever) I get round to the Devon ones.

Firstly, I should probably tell you that I love Bristol. Love it. I went to University there and so it shall forever be connected with good times in my mind. It’s the place I first tasted a little independence, fell in love, partied and generally had a very fun time. Perhaps a bit too much fun sometimes?

Bristol roses2 2015-05-30 12.10.08-1

I remember first visiting Bristol on a University open day. The sun was shining and I was hanging out with my boyfriend at the time and all of his school friends. I don’t think I even visited the History department. My decision to pick the University was based entirely on the fact that it’s a beautiful city that looks even better in sunshine. I don’t think I ever regretted that choice (although I do remember being slightly jealous of my friend who was at Uni in Manchester which was at the height of the Madchester, Hacienda scene. Oh the mind of an eighteen year old).

This time round, I didn’t have many plans; I just wanted to wander and soak in the laid back atmosphere. I did manage to visit a few of my old haunts.

Coloured houses on top of a hill are a Bristol icon. I lived in one of these in my final year. I had to revisit my old road in Cliftonwood to see if anything had changed. The house I lived in was still painted sage green and was as scruffy as ever. Still rented to students perhaps?

2015-05-30 11.06.01-1

Bristol is hilly. Very hilly. At the end of my second year at Bristol, I broke my ankle. It’s a long story and involves me, my ex-boyfriend and a twelve foot high fence at Glastonbury. In those days everyone jumped the fence (or that’s what my Devonian boyfriend told me). I do remember staring up at it from the bottom thinking ‘mmm looks higher than I thought it would be’. At that point, I should have decided not to do it. But of course I didn’t. I was young, foolish and reckless.  And not very good at jumping over fences. The inevitable happened. I jumped, I broke my ankle (pretty badly), I was ‘helped’ by some hippies with painkilling tinctures, my dislocated ankle was put back in its place (ouch!) and I was carted off in an ambulance (full of others who had various mishaps involving the twelve foot high fence.) I spent two weeks in hospital in Bath afterwards and had three operations on my ankle. Not my finest hour. But anyway, said injury meant I was on crutches for a very long time. Combine crutches and hills and you get very strong arms. If I could insert a stong arm emoji into this here, I would. Those hills…

Bristol roses Bristol pastels

Clifton in the sunshine. Sigh. It’s full of Georgian splendour. The Royal York Crescent is the reputedly the longest crescent in Europe.

Bristol crescentI wasn’t in Bristol to shop, but there are some very nice shops in Clifton. I was particularly taken with Papersmiths, a shop devoted to magazines and stationary.

Bristol papersmith Bristol magazines

I also lived around the Gloucester Road area in the year after I graduated. I was trying to figure out what to do next and took a job in a call centre to make ends meet. It was a fun time. My rent was low and my flatmates were students.

Strangely an old friend from where I grew up has recently moved to Bristol and lives one street down from my old house. This area has really seen some changes. Gone is the twenty-four hour kebab house on the corner (they used to sell us under the counter booze after the pubs had shut – naughty them), the Gloucester Road is now full of independent cafes and shops. And lots of charity shops. I loved my wander there. We also stopped for refreshment and a quick read of Harry Potter in a cafe called Bakers and Co. And very nice it was too.

2015-05-30 14.43.32 2015-05-30 14.50.15 2015-05-30 14.41.33 2015-05-30 14.41.52-1It was lovely to spend a day in Bristol and I’m not going to leave it so long next time. I could honestly see myself living there one day. *checks Rightmove*

 

 

June: On the Radar

Apparently June 1st is officially SUMMER. Well if this is Summer, give me Spring any day.  You may have noticed that it’s really not very hot out there. Thankfully the weather people are promising warmer climes for the weekend. Just in time for Fred’s first Beavers’ camp. I do hope they are right for all of their sakes. No-one needs a load of wet, overexcited Beavers to look after. (I do worry which google search terms will bring new readers to my blog after that last sentence. They may be rather disappointed.)

So Fred at Beavers’ camp = evening of rare, childfree fun for his parents. What shall we do? London is full of possibility. In fact, the whole of June is looking rather promising.

sunset london

 

  • It’s Stoke Newington Literary Festival this weekend. My favourite food writer, Diana Henry is doing a talk. How can I persuade Michael that he needs to come with me? (Clue: I probably can’t).
  • I love the look of this cafe. If I’m honest, I need a little health kick after my holiday. The belt is feeling a little tighter… But being healthy does not need to feel like deprivation. This place looks amazing.
  • Did you watch True Detective the first time round? I loved it. I wonder if the second season will live up to expectations? We’re soon to find out as it starts at the end of June. (No Matthew McConaughey this time though. Sob.)
  • It’s the Marylebone Summer Fayre at the end of June. We won big at the Monocle Tombola last year so I’m keen to return and try my luck.
  • When it comes to pickles, Lia is on my wavelength. I love the look of this salad/pickly goodness. There’s a similar recipe in Ottolenghi’s Plenty More using quick pickled mushrooms. It’s delicious. Or this one on his website. Yum.

*Image is from here. A bit of wishful thinking on my part.

Kitchen Wishlist: Green

From the featured picture, you’d be forgiven in thinking that this is a post about Madmen. The final episode is on Thursday and I’ve been following the lonely exploits of Don Draper since the beginning. But no, this is not a post about how brilliant Madmen is. It is, of course, brilliant so if you haven’t watched it, it’s time to invest in a box set now. However this is about my love of green and how best to incorporate this into my new kitchen.

Madmen is/was about so much more than a brilliant script and its characters’ existential crises. The costumes and sets deserve a mention in their own right. This motel scene caught my eye on Thursday as it incorporates the colour combination I’ve been trying to envisage for my kitchen. 2015-05-19 08.18.47Stop oogling Don Draper and look at those colours; two different shades of green warmed up by a rusty orange. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

colours2I spied this kitchen area on the Modern House (a constant source of inspiration) and was instantly smitten. I like the way not all of the cabinets are green. The orange cushions on the sofa also warm the scheme up.

modern houseIf I’m not willing to risk green cabinets, painted chairs are a good way of adding a bit of verdant colour. These are rather nice in a white kitchen.

green chairsOr these painted different shades of green, spotted on Decor8:

chairsAnother way of adding a pop of colour is painting a door. This one is painted Arsenic by Farrow and Ball and goes rather nicely with the copper pot on the table.

arsenicdoorAnd of course, the ultimate way of adding a splash of green is by including some plants in your scheme. This house featured on Designsponge was full of lush greenery.

plants1 plants2Opinions please? Would you have a green kitchen or should I stick to greening it up with plants and foliage?

Credits: Door, Cabinets, Chair, Chairs, Plants

Life, Lately

Life, lately has been rather busy.

On Saturday, my friend, Davina and I completed a 40km walk through the Sussex downs for charity *said in best Smashy and Nicey voice* (remember them?) Obviously, we didn’t want to embark on such a challenge without doing a bit of training first. Who I am I trying to kid? Training was minimal so we were pretty pleased we managed to finish it.

2015-05-09 13.11.16

Events did transpire against us in some areas. I can look back and laugh now but I must admit there were moments of sense of humour failure at certain points of the day.

We arrived in Chichester feeling tired and slightly deflated from the night before (it was the election night, I had intended to get to bed early but had been sucked into watching the coverage by the surprising first exit poll. When I did eventually decide to get to bed, sleep was elusive. Far too much going on my head.) So an early night before the walk in a comfortable hotel bed seemed like a good idea, after some carb-loading and a restorative glass of wine, of course. Things don’t always work to plan…

Who knew Chichester had a trash metal band scene? Well Davina and I do now as our ‘hotel’ (I use the term lightly) had the brilliantly named HELL PUPPETS playing on its premises the night we were staying. (Yes – thrash metal = loud guitars and screaming.)

No, we didn’t get much sleep. 

The walk itself was beautiful and the weather perfect – not too hot, not too wet. We did have a little shower, but we were in woods surrounded by carpets of bluebells at the time and even in the rain, this is stunning.

2015-05-09 11.26.10

Davina picked up a knee injury at the 21 km mark. She managed to do the rest of the walk with one straight leg. Go Davina! (She rather enjoyed getting her knee squeezed by a handsome Irish Med student though..)

I had a hacking cough and sounded like Darth Vader when any exertion was required. There were a few large hills so *insert wheezing sound here* LUKE, I AM YOUR FATHER.

It took us 10 hours, but we did it. And surprisingly I was not too stiff the next day. Nor did I suffer blisters. In fact, we totally WALKED IT.

So while Saturday was spent mainly walking, Sunday was spent hunched over Facebook like a stalker. Let me explain..I went to the Grand Designs show last week. My kitchen project is ongoing. It may win the prize for the longest running kitchen conversion ever but I digress… You may have noticed that I love cooking, so the ‘kitchen’ area of the show was my first stop. I oohed and aahed over the beautiful ovens and hobs. Stroking induction hobs as if they were my babies. At the AEG stand, a lovely man told me about a competition on Facebook. He said they hadn’t been many entries so why didn’t I give it a go? I duly took a (terrible) photo and uploaded it to their competition page.

The objective was to get votes on Facebook and retweets. I have a pretty average number of friends on Facebook but it was pretty obvious that no-one else was really making the effort, so I decided to start canvassing support and my friends and family stepped up to the challenge. To cut a long story short – I had one main rival (Adrian) and we obviously both spent the final day contacting everyone we know with a Facebook account. It was nail-biting stuff. I am pleased to say I won this epic battle!! The prize being £5,000 worth of AEG kitchen appliances. How very, very exciting. So I’m in the process of choosing them now. My kitchen dreams are closer to becoming reality. Party at mine when it’s done…

May: On the Radar

May looks set to be a cracker. The diary is fizzing with activity and fun things to do. Let’s hope the weather plays ball.

blossom

  • May is the month that sees my ‘hood (Dulwich) put on a festival. There are festival fairs, events and performances, but the highlight for me is always the Artists’ Open House. Over 200 artists open their doors over two weekends; and there are some amazing houses (and art) to see. I love wandering from house to house, trying out local hostelries on the way.
  • Also in Dulwich, the first ever purpose-built art gallery, the Dulwich Picture Gallery is putting on its own little festival involving cinema, vintage clothing and kids’ workshops. Looks like fun. (Not so subtle subtext: COME AND VISIT DULWICH – THERE’S LOADS GOING ON,)
  • This weekend sees the Streets of Spain festival coming to the Southbank. Spanish food and drink, what’s not to love? Last year Morito had a stall and the pork belly chicarones were perhaps one of the most delicious things I ate all year. Hopefully this will inspire a little Spanish sunshine too.
  • Next weekend, I’m off to the Sussex downs for a sponsored 40km walk/hobble. The things you sign up to in the dark month of January!
  • It’s also the start of Rooftop Cinema season – I’m all booked for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

I feel like I’m hardly scratching the surface. So much to do, so little time. What are you up to?

The Year in Books: April

Where does the time go? I’m having one of those unintended blogging breaks. Lots of potential posts swirling round my mind, no actual action. Oh well. I have been reading though..and here’s the post to prove it.

Last month I read ‘Elizabeth is Missing‘ by Emma Healey. And I loved it. The book tells the story of Maud, an elderly lady with dementia. It doesn’t sound like the most gripping read, but the book is brilliant. Maud is convinced that her friend, Elizabeth has gone missing and is determined to find her. The present is deftly interwoven with the past, and we learn that there is a unsolved mystery in Maud’s past, which is linked to her resolve to find Elizabeth.

In Maud, Healey has created a wonderfully believable and sympathetic character. Her descent into dementia is heartbreaking but is not without its lighter moments, she forgets words and has wonderful ways of describing everyday objects. She captures her sense of confusion, her sense of frustration at how she is treated and impatience with those around her. The book  really made me think about what it must feel like to have dementia and how hard it is for close relatives. My own grand-dad had Alzheimer’s but I was too young to really understand what was going on.

The book is also successful as a page-turning mystery and it had me gripped until the very end. Yes, I loved ‘Elizabeth is Missing’.

I also read ‘Girl on a Train‘ by Paula Hawkins. Another unreliable narrator, another page turner. This time it’s alcohol that blurs the main protagonist’s memory; Rachel has issues with past relationships and the demon drink. She takes the same seat on a commuter train into London and imagines the lives of the residents of the houses that line the route. One of which she used to share with her ex-husband but he now lives there with his new girlfriend. There’s another couple living in the same road who Rachel sees everyday, she thinks they are the perfect couple,  and she’s constructed names and lives for them. Then the ‘perfect’ wife goes missing and Rachel can’t remember what she was doing that night…

I loved the premise of this book. Having done the kind of commute where you can see into people’s gardens, it’s easy to start imagining what kind people live there. The character Rachel, who was slowly self-destructing was also very believable; she had no self-confidence and could see no way of regaining a happy life. There were times when the book left me slightly bored. It was not a book I devoured, whereas I could not put Gone Girl down. (This is an obvious comparison – they both have Girl in the title and are part of a genre called ‘domestic noir.) However there were enough twists and turns to keep me reading and the ending was particularly nasty.

2015-04-09 08.06.15

Next month, I’ve decided to have a little break from the novel and tackle some non-fiction instead. I found this book in a charity shop. Blood, Bones and Butter a memoir written by Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner/chef at Prune, a New York restaurant. It’s often hailed as a brilliant foodie book and so far, I’m impressed by Hamilton’s writing. Also, I’ve got a David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day) on the go; I needed something a bit lighter and funnier and having listened to him on Radio 4, I know that Sedaris is certainly funny.