Antique hunting in Wales

For me Easter always used to be about how much chocolate I could cram into my mouth, a trip to the beach (it’s still nice in NZ generally) and, later on, how much extra partying I squeeze into a four-day weekend. These days I only feel the need to consume a small amount of chocolate and as for the partying, well I can take or leave it. I must be getting old. Let’s just not mention the beach again.

This Easter I spent in Wales for the second year in row, staying with Mr Ukulele’s family. They live just outside of Swansea in some village I can’t pronounce. (No matter how hard I try I don’t think I’ll ever get it right.) And again like last year, they were only too happy to take us off on some day trips exploring gorgeous south and west Wales. First stop was two antiques shops in Llandeilo, a town in Carmarthenshire. I would’ve liked to walk away with half the stuff there. A massive range of old china, pictures, furniture and just about every old thing I could ever desire all. Unfortunately, there was just no way I would’ve been able bring it back with me on the train to London.

I’m still on the hunt for a perfect traditional blue platter. Unfortunately these were more antique shop prices than junk shop prices.

There was a grand selection of traditional Welsh blankets for sale. I’m still regretting not buying one as they were more reasonably priced than any you see in London.

Immediately next door to the antique shops (actually they are more like antique warehouses than shops) is the sweetest little garden centre. Again, I was tempted but sadly I couldn’t see it being easy to drag plants back on the train.

All the spring flowers were putting on their best show. The tulips.

The grape hyacinths.

And especially the fritillaria. I’ve been besotted with this bulb ever since I saw photos of its little purple checked flowers in a book when I was just a wee girl. They don’t grow in the Southern Hemisphere so I’m still quite fascinated by them. How are they checked? Just how? I did plant some bulbs last Autumn but sadly they don’t seem to have come up unlike the rest of my Spring flowers.

I left the buying up to Mr Ukulele’s mum, who came away with plants and a very sweet pressed glass cake stand.

I really wished we’d driven to Wales so I could have packed up a car with loads of plants and treasures from the antique stores. Maybe next Easter…

Paris: troisième partie (part 3)

Since our wee break to Paris is now officially AGES ago here are a few final photos…

I love the chairs in the Tuileries garden. Would quite like some for my own garden. Do you think I could smuggle some back on the Eurostar? Oui?

The beautiful canals with their arching bridges. I’ve never forgotten the glorious scene from Amelie of her skimming stones. (If you need to refresh your memory you can watch it here.)

The cafe at the top of the Musee d’Orsay is well worth a visit just to look at the way they’ve designed the space. And for the cake, obvs.

I really want to go back to Paris as soon as possible, but in more immediate plans we’re off to Stockholm next weekend! Wahoo. Any hints or tips of places to visit will be gladly received. Have you been to Stockholm? Where do you recommend?

x Charlotte

Bits and pieces: Chanel, beetroot and a vintage slip..

Gee whiz it’s been busy lately. Some days it seems I barely have time to breathe let alone write a coherent sentence (and I write for a living).

I’ve decided that a few treats are the only way to get by. I’m making this month brighter with:

1. New make up, and Chanel’s new spring nail colour called ‘April’.

2. Actually finding the time and will to paint my nails.

3. Beetroot for dinner. The bright pink vegetable that truly is the sweetest of them all. Roasted, boiled, raw, grated or baked in a chocolate cake: I adore it all. Especially when the mister cooks it for me and when it’s in all shades of gold and pink.

4. A green vintage slip I bought on a day trip to Brighton recently. It’s currently soaking in a bucket in my bathtub. A few minor amends and it will be as good as new in no time.

5. Breakfast. I’ve been making an effort to actually eat breakfast at home before work these days. This is apple, pecans, soy yoghurt and oats. Deliciousness in a bowl.

How do you cope when you are too busy to think? What little things do you do to cheer yourself up?

All photos by me.

Paris: première partie (part 1)

I’ve never really considered myself much of a francophile. I can’t really speak any French beyond “Bonjour. Parlez vous anglais?” As lovely as it is, cheese makes me break out in a rash. I’d rather have a piece of cake than a macaroon (don’t get me wrong I still delight in them and all their candy coloured goodness). And a classic striped breton top just doesn’t look any good on my curves.

But man o man, I love Paris. Every time I visit there, it reminds why it really does live up to all those clichés and romantic notions. I understand the urge that many have to just pack up their normal life and embrace the city of love and lights.

We spent a wonderful four days in Paris last weekend. We walked everywhere, photographed everything and ate more bread than you could shake a baguette at. We rented a small studio recommended by friends in the villagey area of Batignolles. And oh my goodness, what a lovely little area it is. It felt far from the swarms of tourists in nearby Montmartre, friendly enough to try to converse with the locals, and central enough to walk just about everywhere. There are not one, not two but three boulangerie on Rue des Batignolles where we stayed which made the Mr a very happy chap indeed. Gorgeous florists brimming with roses, wine bars and all the other things that the French do the best lined the little streets.

Le baguette. My waistline isn’t thanking me.

 You know this one, right?

The overwhelming dome in Galleries Lafayette.

You can see some more from our trip pics here and here. I’ll be posting more here later.

x Charlotte

Dreaming of Paris in the Springtime.

It’s almost three years since I visited the city of love and lights. Oh sweet Paris, this time next month I’ll be seeing you again.

My big sister and I spent a few glorious days, back in 2009, staying in a very cool apartment in Montmartre. It was my second time in Paris, and my sister’s hundredth (slight exaggeration). This is me looking sulky and tired (suffering after getting up stupid o’clock early to catch the Eurostar).

I think I spent almost as much time gazing out those windows as we did beating the streets.

I can’t wait to go back again. It’s silly that I’ve only been twice, and yet it’s so easy to get to with the Eurostar.

Mr and I are in desperate need of a holiday, having not left the UK since our epic trip last year. Our Eurostar tickets are paid for, an apartment is booked, and now I’m dreaming up new places in Paris to visit. So far on my list are:

  • the gardens at the Musee Rodin
  • Comptoir de l’Image, the bookshop as seen on The Satorialist
  • Catherine B’s vintage emporium, Les Trois Marches after reading about it on A Girl, A Style
  • Le Arts Decoratifs to see the Louis Vuitton Marc Jacobs exhibition, which opens the weekend we are there.

And then there are oh-so-many places to revisit:

  • Musee de l’Orangerie
  • the markets
  • the streets of Monmarte
  • the cute little kitchen shops where I nearly bought an absinthe spoon, but didn’t
  • the magnificant Musee d’Orsay
  • and the list goes on…

What are your favourite places to visit in Paris? Where are the best secret spots? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Image 1. by me, 2. & 3. by Sarah.

p.s. You can see my Paris Pinterest board here.

Snowflakes in my hair.

I love snow in the way only someone born in a sunny and humid climate can. I spent most of Saturday looking out the window anxiously, in the manner of a host waiting for an expected guest to arrive for a dinner party.

{I took this from my kitchen window on Saturday night – that’s how excited I was. You get the idea.}

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not keen on the cold months. But if there is fluffy, or even sludgy, white stuff on the ground, the cold endless grey of London’s Winter doesn’t seem quite so bad.

Hello Mr Snowman.

There’s the Mr at London Fields, clearly not dressed for the cold. No hat, no  gloves, and slip sliding around in his desert boots. I’m just as bad with the shoes, each year when it snows I have a total footwear dilemma.

It has been a very mild Winter so far, and I had convinced myself it would be Spring in no time. Judging by the weather forecast, I think it may be time to fork out for some Hunters

There really is nothing better on a snowy day than a brisk walk, a trip to the pub with friends, and a snowball fight.

x C

Oh hello there Winter…

…I was hoping you’d passed us by. Like everyone else in the UK, I’d been lulled into a false sense of security that Spring was on its way and that I’d be lolling in the garden sipping gin in no time. Sadly, I’ve had to dig out the mittens and wool tights again to keep away Jack Frost.

Despite the chill, I’ve been keeping myself motived to walk the four miles to work in the morning by trying out my new Christmas camera on the way, snapping whatever catches my eye and hopefully walking off the winter waistline in the process.

Everyday I walk past Violet cakes with a heavy heart, knowing that I can’t just pop in for coffee and a slice of ginger and molasses cake (truly the best cake I have ever eaten and yes I would have it for breakfast). But how cosy does the little cafe look in this pic? Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

This yellow beauty caught my eye as the ticket inspector checked its frosty windscreen. It’s such a daffodil yellow, and looks so cheerful (even with a thick layer of ice covering it).

I’m trying to take a couple of pics each morning, as I don’t have much time to spare (no time for dawdling otherwise I, a. get cold and b. am late to work). I’ll try and share them on here. I really appreciate the morning walk – it’s better than sitting on a crowded bus, surrounded by commuters, with coughs and runny noses, talking loudly on their mobile phones.

Fingers crossed I’ll get to take some snowy pics before this cold snap passes!

xxx C

Venice Beach – beer and nutters.

Venice Beach is weird. Everyone wants to sell you pot. It’s more beautiful than I ever imagined and it’s full of maniacs. I loved it. We stayed one night en route to New Zealand.  Next time I hope to explore Los Angeles properly, check out downtown and go celebrity spotting.  If you do visit Venice Beach I recommend the Venice Ale House for delicious beers and lunch or dinner.  I had a mean raw vegan salad and the other half rated his steak excellent. Just look out for the drunk redheaded American of Irish decent wearing a dodgy leather jacket. He’ll insult Jews, the Welsh and anyone who is listening. All while you try and eat your lunch in the sunshine on the boardwalk.

Ahhhh – just look at those blue skies.

Photos by Luke.

No resolutions around here.

I have very little willpower and even less when faced with a large glass of Merlot. So there’ll be no hard and fast resolutions around here.  I’ve set myself what I like to think of as goals, plans and dreams for 2011 instead:

  • Get some sunshine and visit the homeland. According to the doctor I am actually quite deficient in Vitamin D and because you need Vitamin D to absorb calcium I’m lacking in that too. So what better excuse for a trip home. Hurrah, flights to New Zealand are booked for February – four weeks of sun, family and friends. And introducing Mr Ukulele to a New Zealand summer. We’re stopping over in Tokyo for four nights on the way back to London (and to break the 28 hour plane flights ugh). I can hardly contain my excitement. Yippee!
  • See my friends more. 2010 was great but I often felt I didn’t see my friends as much I’d have liked, mostly due to tiredness, work and other commitments. 2011 I will be more sociable. I promise.
  • Discover Italy. I’ve only been to Venice and I’m hankering for a short Italian holiday. Perhaps for my birthday. Or I after I’ve paid off our big trip first!
  • Not let things get on top of me. Work is, well work. I’m planning on liking that more this year. And house sharing is always a barrel of laughs, love the girls but not necessarily all the other bollocks that comes with a full busy household, like bills, leaking showers, broken boilers, dirty dishes, and mess…
  • …which leads me to the plan to move in with the Mr Ukulele properly after our five weeks away. I’m sure the joys of trying to find a cute one-bedroom flat to rent in London (which doesn’t cost the earth and isn’t a dump) will be endless but still I can’t wait.
  • Make the most of my fabulous new Christmas present – a KitchenAid mixer! I will be christening it this weekend by doing some baking, probably something from the recipe book Chocolate Heartache. But made vegan for my afternoon tea party with friends. This year I will be baking machine.
  • Drink less but drink better. Nicer wine, preferably vegetarian and no dodgy bottles from the offie. (Unless it’s been a really god awful day) Cut out the beer all together, unless it extremely hot, like when we’re in NZ in February… uh-oh I can see myself failing that one.
  • Cut out dairy where at all possible. As a vegetarian I find myself often craving and eating too much cheese. And I’m not sure it’s particularly good for me. I’m halfway through reading ‘Eating Animals’ and I think cheese is ruined for me forever.
  • Walk more. I like walking around and observing, thinking. It’s obviously good for the hips too. So I’m going to ignore the cold and wrap up warm and walk whenever I can and when I’m not commuting great distances for work.
  • Get the Mr to teach me how to play the ukulele that he gave me as a bit of a joke for Christmas last year. Failing that, I gave him a gorgeous vintage tambourine as one of his Christmas presents this year. Perhaps I’ll just give that a bash. It’s complete with tatty old ribbons I’m going to replace. I’m thinking I’ll be channelling Stevie Nicks circa 1977.
  • Be a better blogger, write more frequently and get a better camera.
  • And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’m going to start making more stuff. Make some space for the sewing machine, make some Liberty print cushions, frame some pictures, do some embroidery and sew myself a dress. I haven’t really made much or sewn much since I came to London and I miss it.

Not sure how each will relate to each other, and if indeed they are all possible. Not eating cheese will be challenge and not drinking beer in the NZ sunshine perhaps even harder! What are the challenges you’ve set for yourself this year and can you give me any advice for achieving mine? What do you have in store for us 2011?

Festive feelings.

The girls in my house are feeling very festive. We have a beautiful tree from Columbia Road markets (that we managed to find some strong men to carry. Terrible, I know, that we had to resort to man-power but quite frankly none of us wanted to get gum or grit on our frocks),  a massive bunch of red berries with cotton & eucalyptus on the kitchen table and the sweet aroma of mulled wine is lingering after a wee party on Sunday.

Phone photo of our tree from my spot on the couch.

All we need now is some snow.

Rob Ryan's shop window on Columbia Road.

The Treacle window on Columbia Rd.

Santa's empty grotto on Columbia Road.

This will be my fourth Christmas in a row that I’ve celebrated away from home. Unfortunately, at £1600 tickets to NZ are a bit out of my price range (COME ON CHRISTMAS BONUS). But a trip home in the New Year is on the horizon.

Late night Wednesday Christmas shopping on London’s Columbia Road (near my house), always manages to diminish any feelings of homesickness that I can feel rising.

If only I hadn’t missed the deadline for posting overseas before Christmas. Dammit. Sorry NZ folk. Oh and the Christmas cards I wrote for you last year –  still sitting my drawer.

Right I’m off to make some gingerbread snowmen. Happy Tuesday.


P.s. Sorry for the lack of posts of late. Hopefully I’ll be able to post about our recent trip to San Francisco shortly. x