To get me out of a bit of blogging-block, I thought I’d share some random things from around the Internet that have made me smile lately.
1. Stacking ceramic beakers with logos inspired by Communist Poland. Surprisingly lovely.
2. I just want everything cat print from Paul & Joe Sister.
3. Bunting washi tape, ideal for making a quick handmade card or perking up an envelope.
4. A little playground near my home has been planted with poetry, thanks to Ministry of Stories.
5. Historically-accurate brass paperclip shapes: just pick your year and get a beautiful box of ten.
Picking special presents year after year can be a bit of a pain, especially when you’re like us and have no room left in your flat for any more physical objects! That’s why I love giving and receiving ‘experiences’ instead: dinner, cooking classes, something that you can enjoy and/or learn from rather than accumulating more stuff. So when Truly contacted me I was pretty excited. Their premise is great: you pick from a fantastic range of do-able gifts – especially strong on restaurants and food experiences but there are spa days, city breaks and outdoor activities too. Put in your recipient’s address and they get a lovely smart box in the post with a simple number/email to contact Truly’s concierge and make the reservation. No messing around booking something and hoping they are free on the date (or ruining the surprise by asking), but you can still pick out something personal.
Truly kindly gave me the chance to try one of their experiences out, and I opted for Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Capital Hotel. I invited my wonderful mum along because she’s a little envious of all the nice things Josh and I do in London, so it was great to be able to share something with her. She was delighted to get the box in the post and phoned me immediately to say thank you! She was down in London last weekend so we got the chance to book it up.
The Capital hotel is literally around the corner from Harrods. I’d never ever been in Harrods before, so a nose round the food hall was mandatory (wow, it’s busy in there). Tea is served in a pretty and cosy sitting room – with wallpaper and books lining the walls and a window open to the pleasant day outside it was a lovely place to spend the afternoon. We started with a glass of champagne while browsing the extensive tea menu.
Before long a tiered stand laden with goodies arrived. Delicate finger sandwiches on the bottom and a whole plate of sweet things for each of us – treacle tart, passion fruit tart, lemon sponge, baby trifle and a hibiscus maracon. They were all delicious – the moist sponge and creamy tart especially. If you run out or particularly enjoyed anything, the waiters will gladly restock it for you.
There was only one vegetarian sandwich but I didn’t even think to ask for a replacement; I’m sure they would have switched one of the others for a veggie option if requested. Never mind, more room for cake!
Just when we were reaching peak cake, freshly baked scones arrived with cream and jam. They were so buttery and flaky – my Devon-raised mum approved. You can even pack up anything you don’t eat into takeout boxes.
One happy mum and some serious daughter points for me! This was a great experience and my mum really appreciated it. Truly have this and loads of other luxurious gift experiences on their site including lots of Michelin-starred restaurants like The Square, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (which I reviewed here), Hakkasan and La Manoir. Any would do for my birthday present, in case you’re wondering. Thanks, Truly! Anyone else love to give or receive foody gifts?
Truly supplied my afternoon tea experience for review; views are my own
What do craft beer, Instagram-printed marshmallows and luxury bath soak have in common? They’re all startups from the clever folks at Mint Digital. Check out DeskBeers and Boomf at your leisure, but today we’re talking bathtime with The Bathory and their custom-made, hand-blended bath soaks.
The Bathory invited me to have a go at making my own soak a little while ago. It’s a pleasure to browse the lovely site and choose the perfect ingredients for your very own bath-time invention. First you pick a base of salts, either designed to soothe, detox or just bask.
Then you can layer on three essential oils: information is given about the properties and effects of each fragrance so you can pick ones that revive, relax or inspire you. Pop your choices in the basket and a few days later a beautifully-designed little bag lands on your doorstep.
You can clearly smell the fragrant oils even from outside the packaging! I couldn’t wait to give it a go. The jar is pretty enough to display on the shelf all the time and is enough for several happy bathtimes.
I went for a detox base with grapefruit, bergamot and rosemary oils, and it smelled absolutely amazing. You need to add quite a lot to get a truly scented bath, but my favourite way to use it is in the shower: mixed with a little olive oil it’s a dreamy shower scrub. It made my skin really soft and the scent lasted after I dried off. I’ll definitely be replacing my jar when it runs out – the question is do I stick with my current blend or try a new one…?
The competition is now closed. Congrats to the winner, Louise and thanks for all your entries.
Thanks to The Bathory for giving me a soak to review and one to give away.
Ugh, autumn is truly here isn’t it? I swear it got dark at 3pm yesterday, so miserable. In my mind the only good things about the gloomy seasons are of the edible and quaffable varieties: a few months of soups, stews and mulled things make it all bearable. So I was happy to get an email from Garden Trading asking if I’d like to try out an apple press from their range of harvest season products. If you haven’t heard of Garden Trading yet, they make timeless and practical homewares that look equally at home in a country cottage or a more modern setting: I’ve got their enamelled metal lightshades in both my bedroom and kitchen.
Here’s the sweet little apple press they sent me. Crafted from solid wood and pretty sage green painted cast iron, it feels solid and well made. It’s nice and petite so fits onto the kitchen worktop easily.
It comes ready to roll, complete with a mesh pulping bag, pressing blocks and simple instructions.
To give it a whirl, I bought a lovely range of apples from my local greengrocer: a mix of eating apples like Granny Smith and Gala for sweetness mixed with cooking varieties like Bramley for sharpness. Don’t they look pretty? The 9kg I bought yielded about 6 litres of juice.
The process is pretty simple, though you need a bit of elbow grease and be prepared to get pulpy and sticky! First wash and roughly chop the apples: I did this by hand but for a larger batch you’d probably want to use something more mechanised. Then you need to roughen/pulp them up a bit: we used a stick blender but a bowl food processor would have been quicker and cleaner. Give them a good whiz so they’re broken down but not entirely mush.
Load the mesh bag into the barrel and fill with the pulpy apple goop. (This photo shows our first try where we hadn’t whizzed them up enough and they would not press: the right consistency looks more pulpy than this.)
Pop the pressing blocks on top and start turning. Ta-da, out pours lovely apple juice! Of course you can just drink it right away, but I really fancied trying to make cider from it, with a little help from the live-in brewer boyfriend. It just requires a couple of extra supplies and ingredients – cider yeast, Campden tablets and PET bottles, all which I got from Brew UK – as well as the fermentation bottle and airlock which Josh already had from beer brewing.
The Campden tablet stops any wild yeasts or bacteria from mucking up the fermentation, as well as lightening the colour. After 24-48 hours the cider yeast is added, then it needs to be tucked away away under the stairs for a couple of months, so it should be ready just in time for Christmas. Can’t wait to try it!
We also had a bit leftover to drink straight away, to which I added some of this Morris Kitchen ginger syrup I got in Brooklyn. Delicious. The juice can be frozen too, which would be handy if you’re lucky enough to have a glut of apples to use up. All in all, top autumnal fun.
We went to the famous Brooklyn Flea, but to the Saturday one at Fort Greene, not the main Williamsburg one. It was pretty good – quite small (I guess the main one is bigger) and a lot of vendors selling new stuff but a few gem stalls with that awesome Americana I was hoping to find. Sadly the crates at $25-40 each were never going fit into my suitcase home…
But I did pick up a little 50s wooden K from a guy with a fantastic stall with little collections of just about everything: shoe lasts, baseball cards, gumball toys and so on. I fancied one of the big metal letters too, but again with the suitcase space.
Back in Williamsburg near our apartment on Driggs & Bedford was a big old emporium full of wonderful old junk – I think the store actually is called Junk from a bit of google research, and most reviews I found say it’s overpriced tat. It actually seemed fairly reasonably priced to me given that mason jars were selling at the flea for $25 each and they were $5 a go here. Old soda bottles and medicine bottles were $3-4 each too. I made away with a sweet grey and yellow bowl and some old cotton reels. Very sad the amazing huge lamp at the left of the last photo couldn’t come home with me too.
Bit of a tangential story here, but I love the NYC weekend stoop/yard sale culture so very much and this explains why. Sunday was a 30-degree day where we’d walked a hell of a lot and my poor swollen feet were completely clapped out from my shoes rubbing like crazy. I sat on a bench to recover a bit opposite a lady doing a yard sale, and she offered me some sandals she was selling for $3. Turns out they were nearly new Aerosoles and when I slipped my foot in it was like the heavens opened. No pain any more! I skipped down the street and that’s when I found some free mason jars.
They were laying outside someone’s house in a box on the street saying FREE on it, so I helped myself to a few. I guess they were used for someone’s wedding since they had ribbons on and a little candle wax left in the bottom. Love me some free street treasure. Best Day Ever.
It wasn’t all cheapskatery. I had a proper shop over in Manhattan at Madwell. Damn I love that store, please come to the UK? The aesthetic’s so very me and the clothes really feel very nicely made. I got a colourblocked sweater, nice rust-coloured trousers and a speckle grey cardigan – good autumn basics. I also bought a knit biker jacket from Anthropologie: it’s a bit cheaper over there.
The hipster grocery stores are a real treat to browse. Who knew $26 artisanal bitters could be so enticing?
Did a bit of interior store window shopping too: CB2, Jonathan Adler, West Elm (who I’m excited are opening up in London very soon), Paper Source. Sadly I didn’t make it to a Williams Sonoma this time, perhaps my favourite store discovery in San Francisco, but as they own West Elm too I am hopeful they might make an appearance on these shores sometime too.
Just a quick one to say that my Etsy shop is back online, and now I have some brilliant larger (A3) size versions of some of my favourite prints – Tea & Books in grey/yellow and green/blue, and Coffee Spoons – up for grabs.
And for all of next month I’m donating a proportion of each sale to International Cat Care, a charity who help cats in lots of ways, from promoting proper welfare to providing advice to vets and owners. (The rest will go towards Yoni’s astronomical vet bills.) So pop on over and pick up a print!
Firstly, thank you so much for all your comments and messages about Yoni. It was amazing to hear what a loved little cat he is from all corners of the internet, and hearing from you really did help me get through the days. He’s back home now, slowly getting used to normal life again with an extra big dose of love and support from us.
As promised, here are the things I made during my anxiety-induced sewing spree while he was in the vets.
First, a pair of jazzy culottes! I love culottes: the practicality of breeze-resistant shorts with the cuteness of a little flippy skirt is a winner to me. The pattern is the new Megan Nielsen Tania culottes, bought from M is for Make.
The pattern was really fun to put together – it felt almost like magical origami creating the pleats and crotch with simple folds and lines of stitching. The only thing I mucked up is the waistband with some wobbly topstitching – I might unpick and redo it neater. I also haven’t properly finished the bottom edge yet because I’m terrible at hemming, so it’s just overlocked for now.
The fabric is a vintage piece of 70s polyester with a gorgeous Scandinavian-looking mountain print. I love how the patten drape makes the peaks point up and outwards, a little reminiscent of fireworks. Just don’t make the mistake I did of ironing interfacing onto polyester with a hot iron – I burnt a clean plastic-scented hole through my first waistband piece, and luckily had just enough fabric to cut another. I’ll definitely be using this pattern again; in fact I’ve just bought some jersey that I think will make a great no-zip-required version.
(Excuse my face, I appear to have the dead eyes of someone who’s been worrying for three weeks straight..) This is another Scout, although radically different from my last one. The front is made from a vintage silk scarf, which was happily just the right size for the pattern piece. The sleeves and back are the same grey jersey as my ballet dress. Very pleased that this turned out just how I imagined it. The Scout tee is such an amazing pattern: so simple but hangs so well despite having no darts or shaping, and the possibilities for creative variations are vast.
Finally, a fail. I tried to take photos but they looked too awful to share! It was supposed to be a Sureau dress by Deer & Doe, made from a super soft piece of vintage cotton with an abstract tulip print, above. It seems in sewing that lots of small mistakes can add up to a big mess of a garment, which sadly I think happened here. I chose a size too big so the fit isn’t quite right. The neckline was gaping so I attempted a shoulder-line fix, then added a half collar which sits wonkily. The sleeve caps billow at the back. The skirt twists annoyingly to the side. I’m not sure if I’ll try and fix it some more, or cut it down into a skirt maybe. It would be a shame to waste the pretty fabric completely. Perhaps I should start making toiles before cutting the real fabric.
All of the fabrics came from The Shop on Cheshire St, which I visited with Jen one lunchtime (check out Jen’s blog for some much better photos and info, this unprepared blogger didn’t have her camera). It is indeed the treasure trove that countless bloggers promised: walls lined with shelves of vintage fabric, with even more stuffed into drawers and baskets underneath which you’re encouraged to rummage through. There’s everything from recycled curtains to half-finished handmade skirt pieces, plus loads of large pieces of 2-4 metre long cottons and polys, perfect for skirt or dress projects.
There’s also a great line in vintage notions, and basket upon basket of vintage silk scarves at around a fiver a pop. At the back are curtains, cushions and clothing and there’s also plenty of knitted scarves and crochet blankets. Prices are eye-poppingly amazing, ranging from a few quid for the smaller bits to no more than £15 for larger pieces (my take-home stash that made everything in this post was only £18). You’d be hard pushed to find such a lovely variety of prints in new fabrics for those kinds of prices. Find The Shop at 3 Cheshire St just off the top of Brick Lane – I’ll be back to replenish my stash very soon.
I brought back a few souvenirs for the house from Brighton, and gave the fireplace yet another rearrange…
I was happy to spot the Cable & Cotton shop in Brighton as I’d been hovering over the ‘buy’ button on their website for a while, after seeing their lovely bespokely-coloured bauble lights on Kerry’s blog. The shop’s a fun experience where you can fill a basket with your selection of colours from the containers, then you receive your appropriately-sized fairylight cable at the till. We picked some tones of yellow and grey to sit in our non-functional fireplace and make it feel a bit more cosy.
I’ve got a bit of a thing for West German / lava / studio pottery at the moment – again I blame blogs for kicking off this obsession, namely Fat Cat whose collection I’ve been coveting for a while. They remind me a little of the stuff my parents and aunt had when I was growing up, so there’s a certain nostalgia to my fondness for it. Sadly (or perhaps a bit luckily) it’s not Josh’s aesthetic cup of tea at all so I can’t go mad and buy loads to throw onto every spare bit of shelf, but I think a few selected pieces in more muted tones look great.
I got the Colin Pearson stoneware goblets from the Marina Car Boot for a fiver, and the brown tenmoku vase and candle dish from the Kemp Town Flea Market, £9 for the two.