Friday, 31 July 2009

Past Finds - Part I

I seem not to have been doing very well on visiting charity shops, car-boot sales and auctions recently (Deptford market from last weekend aside). Mainly I think because I have spent the last few weekends in London, and I never seem to be able to find as many bargains in the capital. I find myself wandering round Spitalfields or Portobello admiring lots and lots of the vintage brooches and floral teacups, but resisting buying them as I know that sooner or later, if I am patient, I will find something very similar in one of my out-of-London charity shop trawls, and for a fraction of the price.

The town where my family live in Norfolk is excellent on the charity shop front, and also boasts a weekly auction where my sister currently works. I also always found Cambridge pretty good, and spent many a Saturday morning in the last year browsing the charity shops whilst M battled through Physics exercises in the library (I had graduated at this point, M, on his four year degree course compared to my three, had not).

So, in an effort to prove that my home is populated by many a second-hand item, and in the spirit of celebrating what I already own rather than going out and buying more STUFF (of which I have far too much), here are a few of my favourites....

A trio of gold birds that hang on the wall in the style of those old-school flying ducks, from a Norfolk charity shop.
One of my larger buys; an old nursing chair bought in auction for £12. It was originally covered in a faded green velvet, rather worn, with awful fluffy binding like a giant caterpillar. It's a shame I don't have any 'before' images. Anyway, I loved the shape, and the detailing at the top of the legs, so put in a bid for it with the intention of having it re-upholstered. The fabric was from a remnant roll in a sale and only cost a tenner, and the re-upholstering was about £50. Not my cheapest ever buy, but it is completely unique and I reckon it still cost less than a basic Ikea armchair. It sits in the corner of my bedroom for me to throw discarded items of clothing onto, or for friends to perch on for a quick chat whilst I finish getting ready, and I love it.

I have lots and lots of second-hand china that I have collected over the years from charity shops, boot sales and hand-me-downs from friends and relatives. These are just a few of the more recent pieces (aside from the stacked rose teacups in the bottom right-hand corner which are part of the very first rose-patterned tea set I ever bought). I think I will go on and on collecting this sort of thing, and then one day have a huge mismatched tea party for everyone I know.

(and thanks to Seeds and Stitches and I will Make Do and Mend for giving me the idea of a 'home shopping' post)

VV Brown

image from Grazia

Last night, a friend and I went to see VV Brown at Westfield Shopping Centre (of all places! - but Time Out were offering free tickets, and we are trying to be credit crunch friendly...although I admit I did squeeze in a bit of sale shopping). Despite the acoustics of the space not being as good as in a dedicated music venue, the performance was pretty amazing. VV Brown's songs have a retro fifties / sixties sound to them which I really love, and she performed with so much energy. Plus she has the most wonderful voice. I am definitely going to try get my hands on her new album.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Sleeping Beauty

image via artnet
For my birthday this year my Dad bought me membership to the Museums Association which means free entry into lots of exhibitions and galleries across Britain. I have been pretty bad about using it, so yesterday made the effort to visit the Hayward Gallery after work, en route to supper at Anna's. The current exhibition at the Hayward is called 'Walking in my Mind' and features the work of ten different artists, who have each created a piece of installation art to represent their 'individual mindscape'. There was one particular room, that created by Chiharu Shiota, that stood out most for me, perhaps because I had the Seeds and Stitches's fairytale post from Monday in my head. Shiota's room was filled with a network of black threads which crisscrossed each other over and over, reaching from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, but structured so that they created an arched walkway around the room. Suspended in the centre of the room were five white dresses, ballgowns or possibly wedding dresses, that hung there, entangled in the black threads. The whole thing was very fairytale-esque, and Sleeping Beauty in particular sprang to mind, with the castle and sleeping princess encircled by a wall of thorns. When I visited the artist's website, the image on the homepage made me think of Sleeping Beauty even more...very haunting, and rather suitable for a distinctly chilly summer's day.

image from here

Monday, 27 July 2009

This weekend:

Papa John's takeaway pizza and Mad Men DVD on Friday night with M and Cath (who brought gloriously sticky baklava from her local corner shop for dessert). Loving this BBC drama and love love love all the outfits worn in it.

Deptford flea market on Saturday morning where I found a rather sad looking brass lion coat hook that I have been trying to clean with vinegar and an old toothbrush. Coffee and hot chocolate from The Deptford Project cafe, located in an old railway carriage.

Saturday lunch at the recently discovered Comptoir Libanais on Wigmore street, a shared mezze platter followed by a rosewater macaroon. Delicious and very reasonably priced (although we were treated by M's older brother, so didn't have to worry about this!) and I would definitely recommend it.
The afternoon was spent lazing on the balcony with cups of tea and the remains of Friday's baklava and was interrupted only by my exciting discovery of a ladybird on my sweetpeas - so glad to have some help with the greenfly.

Saturday evening we headed to a friend's BBQ where we made the most of the warm evening standing around in the garden drinking Pimms, eating grilled peppers and catching up with friends.

Yesterday morning we went for a run in Regent's Park (hardcore I know, but we're in training for this, and we did spend most of the weekend eating!) then popped by the farmer's market to buy some Kentish cherries. Lunch included these radishes, which I must confess I bought largely for their bright colours, a baked Camembert and some new potatoes from Mum's garden.

Sunday afternoon I devoured the cherries as we sat at my ridiculously slow laptop and finally got round to booking a holiday after weeks of umm-ing and aah-ing about the destination.

At 5ish my friend Sophie arrived to stay for the night and we baked some cupcakes that were meant for Cath who we were planning to visit after supper. Unfortunately we never made it, the Jubilee line was down and after waiting 35min in the drizzle for a bus that never came we gave up and went home to eat the cupcakes ourselves with a cup of tea and Edward Scissorhands, which M and Sophie had never seen in full, and which is still as good as I remember.

Hope you all had relaxing weekends too.

Grey Monday

It is wet and grey outside, and this morning, after a very relaxing weekend, I didn't want to get out of my warm bed. Now I am up though, with a couple of cups of tea inside me, it's not so bad, and things are quiet at work at the moment which allows for a bit of cheeky posting.

I thought this was a cheerful image for such a gloomy day; the flowers were left by a friend for my sister when she returned home a couple of weeks ago after a small operation. How lovely to arrive back from the hospital to a beautiful bunch of hand-picked garden flowers sticking out of the letterbox. I couldn't resist taking a few photos as I thought they'd come in handy for a rainy day!

Monday, 20 July 2009

In which my oven behaves...

On Friday I made a batch of blueberry muffins for the weekend's breakfasts, and on Sunday I made a rather successful Victoria Sponge, complete with the homemade raspberry jam from a couple of posts ago, which I took to work today for a colleague's birthday. And my oven* behaved nicely for once and didn't burn either of them, although I did have to hover over it, and at one point intervene with some tin foil.
* which is somewhat temperamental due to it being a) very old and b) having a broken thermometer

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Airstream Dreams

I found the Vintage Vacations website via Lynne at Tea for Joy and now I am dreaming of a holiday in a 1950s (or 60s) Airstream trailer. Don't these look lovely? They are located on the Isle of Wight which makes them even more appealing - I have wanted to go there for ages and have heard wonderful things about the island's charity shops. M however is less keen...cramming his 6'5" frame into an aluminium box for a week doesn't fill him with much enthusiasm. I think I shall have to persuade a slightly shorter friend instead...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


Yesterday it rained. Actually, that is an understatement, it rained and rained and rained, torrentially, with some thunder, lightning and frighteningly agressive hail thrown in for good measure. I was caught in the worst of it on the walk home from the tube station and though only a five minute walk, by the time I got in my clothes were soaked through.

Later, I popped to the supermarket where, having failed to anticipate the rainy weather and the impact it would have on customers' purchasing patterns, they had boxes and boxes of surplus soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants) that they couldn't shift and had reduced to ridiculously low prices.

It seemed such a shame to let all that fruit go to waste, so I bought four punnets of raspberries and one of strawberries. As I don't have a decent freezer I decided to make some jam with the fruit I couldn't eat within the next day. I didn't have lots of empty jars, nor do I have a large jam pan, so I did only make a small quantity, but three punnets of raspberries produced 5 decent sized jars of jam, and hopefully went some way to decreasing the fruit mountain.

It feels a little bit Martha Stewart to say this, and indeed that is what they called me at work today when I told them - but it really was very easy...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Down the rabbit hole

I have just seen some images from the new Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland on the Guardian website. Not sure when it is out but I can't wait, I really like his work. The colours look amazing, although I suspect that this is going to be a far darker version than the Disney one if this rather creepy image of Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter is anything to go by!

Or how about this for the garden with the talking flowers?

The flower garden bit was only ever my second favourite scene, after the Mad Hatter's tea party as a definite first. I loved that eclectic collection of teacups and teapots even as a child! For my 23rd birthday in March I had my very own down-the-rabbit-hole tea party, only it wasn't tea in the teacups but cocktails instead. There were lots of cupcakes iced in salmon pink and pistachio green with edible glitter, and plenty of cucumber sandwiches. Three different types of cocktail, some of which we did actually pour from teapots, and a big bowl of raspberry punch, served in a massive glass punch bowl (with matching glass cups) that my sister picked up for me for just £3 in the auction house where she currently works.

And here are some pictures...

P.s I promise to tag some people with the questions Fay gave me soon...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Oooh I was tagged...

...thank you to Fay over at Dreaming of an Aga, it is very lovely to have been tagged, especially as I am so new to the blogging world.

What is your current obsession?

Well for the past two weeks it has been Wimbledon. Not sure what I'm going to do now though!

Coffee or tea?

Ooo tea tea tea. And I drink far too much, especially in my new job. I never drink coffee as I find it very bitter-tasting.
What’s for dinner?

I just had risotto with peas, basil and lemon.

What was the last thing you bought?

In the local farmer's market this morning; peas, a lettuce, half a dozen eggs and a bunch of pinks.

What are you listening to right now?

The sound of Kanye West (or so Google tells me) headlining the O2 Wireless Festival coming in over the rooftops to my open bedroom window.

What's the best gift you have ever been given?

I was given a lilac Raleigh bluebird with stabilisers as a birthday present sometime in the early nineties. That was a good birthday.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

Homemade strawberry and balsamic vineager ice cream that was (again as Google tells me - ah the power of the internet!) originally a Delia. Mum used to make it whenever there was a glut of strawberries from the garden and it is very tasty.

What do you think of the person(s) who tagged you?

Well I don't know her personally, but I very much enjoy reading her blog, and am very honoured to have been tagged!

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

A swimming pool surrounded by olive groves in the South of France somewhere - it has been so hot and muggy in London recently.

Which language do you want to learn?

Spanish and Mandarin would be pretty cool but I would settle for just improving my French.

What is your favourite colour?

It definitely varies but emerald green is always a favourite.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?

My silk tea dresses.

What is your worst habit?

I still nibble at my nails after years of biting them. But I no longer bite them right down, just give them the occasional trim when I'm bored or nervous!

If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on?

With all this hot weather I am rather desperate for a decent sized freezer (rather than the little cupboard in the top of my fridge that is currently all I have) so I can freeze chunks of watermelon to make watermelon daquiris, and make my own ice lollies. So I would probably put it towards that. Or towards a digital SLR which I have been longing for for ages, as all of my pictures are currently taken on a pretty ancient (in modern technology terms) Canon ixus.

What are you going to do after this?

Brush my teeth and go to bed!

What are your favourite movies?

Amelie for feel-good, The English Patient for tears, Stealing Beauty for summer romance envy.

What is your favourite fruit?


Favourite vegetable?

Asparagus. So I am very sad that the British asparagus season is now over.

What inspires you?

Really good books.

Your favourite book?

The Great Gatsby. I have read it so many times and still think it is wonderful. Fitzgerald writes the most wonderful phrases.

Do you collect something?

I want to say 'no', but I fear that having a full-to-bursting-and-still-being-added-to cupboard of second-hand floral patterned china constitutes a collection.

What is your favourite smell?

Jasmine flowers, or sweetpeas.

How many times do you press the snooze button before you get up?

I don't, I'm rather good at just getting up, especially in the summer when it is light in the mornings. Three years of rowing at university does that to you I think.

Cats or dogs?

Cats. But I never had either growing up. We had stick-insects then gerbils then guinea-pigs instead.