Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 17

A snap of a bedroom ceiling from William III's apartments at Hampton Court Palace - dream ceiling!

Ahhh a Wonderful Wednesday after a bank holiday weekend, is there anything sweeter?! A holiday is fabulous but one that everyone has had has its own unique quality - you're not the only one coming back after a break to be faced with all the letters/emails that have built up over the course of your break for a start. It also makes the week shorter too, even more so for me because I took yesterday off because it was my birthday. (Being a summer baby I don't think I could ever face having to work on my birthday, it's just not on).

This last week was filled with oodles of happiness and joy too. My mother in law has been staying with us since last Wednesday, which has been lovely, and we used the bank holiday weekend to do a couple of really touristy things that it takes someone visiting from outside London to inspire you to do. (Honestly, I know I could do these things anytime but somehow you just don't and I suppose that makes them extra special, together with visits from an out-of-towner). So without further ado, here are some of my favourite bits from the last week...

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♥ Being a Tourist in London... As I said above, we've done a few touristy things over the course of the bank holiday weekend, which I absolutely adored. As I'd been working up to the weekend, we took it easy on Saturday morning before spending the afternoon at the British Museum (which is actually something I do on quite a regular basis, love it there. On Sunday though, we spent the day at Hampton Court Palace, which is somewhere I hadn't been to for a few years. It was really busy as the GoodFood festival was taking place in the grounds too and, you know, bank holiday and all. They seem to have spent a lot of money over the last few years making the place more 'visitor-friendly' as there were lots of interactive-style exhibits and pieces of information hidden all over various rooms, meaning you picked up lots of little details that you might have otherwise missed. One of my favourites was in the small closet-type rooms in the Tudor apartments, where people might have gone to escape being looked at all the time in the larger appearance rooms - the wooden panelling on the walls was textured like cloth, to mirror the tapestries that would have been on the walls in the main rooms of the palace. When we visited the Georgian apartments, there was a play just beginning which led us all through the apartments and taught us snippets of information about that era that I had no idea about. (Although it initially panicked me when one of the actors tried to get me to join in a group dance - audience participation is one of my greatest fears.)


The gardens at Hampton Court are another reason to visit and the sun shone for us as we wandered around the grounds. The garden above is one of the Pond Gardens, originally ponds made for Henry VIII. Another top fact, which I shared on Instagram with the above photo, is that the eighteenth-century lead statue of Venue in the garden was discovered in 1892 in 'Mrs Grundy's gallery' - a private room in the palace used by a prudish housekeeper to hide paintings and sculptures which she felt were unsuitable for the public. Firstly, 'Grundy' - hilarious in and of itself. Secondly, I would LOVE to have discovered that room! It made me remember that one of my classics lecturers at university used to mention a theory of his that there's a secret room in the Vatican filled with all the rude bits lopped off classical statues - teehee!

On bank holiday Monday, we headed to London Zoo - somewhere I haven't visited for years and years! I think we saw pretty much everything over the course of the day. Like Hampton Court, it's become much more interactive than I remember it to be, and you can even walk through various areas with the creatures rampaging around you. The lemurs were a particular favourite, although seeing a sloth in the rainforest area came a close second. I didn't enjoy the butterfly experience so much, coming over a little claustrophobic in the humid tent with all the wings fluttering around. It was a fantastic day overall though. Top tip - bring a packed lunch as the food is quite pricey!


♥ Gorgeous Stationery and Art Supplies... When we were walking back to the station from the British Museum on Saturday afternoon, we stumbled upon the most gorgeous little shop selling art supplies and all manner of other stationery-related delights - L. Cornelissen & Son. Pushing open the door, it was like stepping back in time. Old wooden floors and little drawers filled with lots of tempting purchases - there were drawers just filled with pen nibs, for example. I went through a little calligraphy phase when I was younger...perhaps it's time to get back into that again? It was the kind of place that you could just browse in for hours and daydream about all kinds of different projects. I came out with a new pen and a notebook, but the difficulty now comes in deciding what to use it for! Does anyone else have 800 new notebooks which are too beautiful to write in and sit on a shelf just waiting for inspiration to strike about something perfect enough to fill their pages?!


♥ Takeaway Treats... Although we're really trying to be better with money and save more now that we've moved, a takeaway is a good treat every so often (and less pricey than eating out!) Since moving though, we've been on the hunt for a local curry place that delivers and on Saturday night, I think we found a new favourite locak place. Really fresh-tasting curries, not greasy and oh my goodness, we opted for some sides too and the dhal was amazing. The portions were huge too, so we had leftovers for dinner on Sunday too. Yum.

♥ Stranger Things... A few of the Wonderful Wednesday collective have been raving about this already but if you haven't watched it yet, you must. If you loved the Goonies when you were young (who am I kidding, I still love the Goonies), you'll love this. It's also got a hint of the Stephen King about it, leading me to watch some of it from behind my hands. We have only one episode left to watch and that's only because we've had a guest staying with us, otherwise we'd have devoured it all in a matter of days.

♥ Birthdays... I had such a lovely birthday this year! 34, which I wasn't too excited about celebrating in any large way - I'm not really a fan of the big party in any case (ties into the whole fear of audience participation, not wanting to be the centre of attention type thing) and just wanted a day with my mister, which was exactly what happened. We travelled into London, picked up a cake-based lunch at the National Portrait Gallery before going to the William Eggleston exhibition, which was all kinds of wonderful. We then stopped for a few drinks at a pub we went to on our first date before going on to dinner at La Polenteria, where the mister had booked a table. It's a gluten free Italian restaurant and it was fabulous. My goodness, their gluten free pasta tasted how I remember the real deal tasting and, although absolutely stuffed, I had to have the cheesecake when I saw that on the dessert menu. So delicious. I also wore my dungarees, which I'd been looking for an excuse to wear with my new wedges, which the mister had bought me for my birthday. Although fabulous, they are of course the shoes of extreme pain...the destiny of all beautiful shoes. Oh well, here's to 34 - may it be even more exciting than 33 was!


♥ Using my Actual Camera... Over the weekend (and on holiday of course) I've really enjoyed taking photos on my camera. I love the ease (and lightness!) of my IPhone but the photos really don't compare to a proper full-sized camera snap. Something I need to try to do more often I think.


What have been the highlights of your wonderful weeks?

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below (I do love comments!) or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoEmma, and the lovely Wonderful Wednesday newbies Samantha and Kerri - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 16


A few weeks off from the Wonderful Wednesday but for fun reasons this time - holiday-prepping and then holiday-enjoying. It is NOT GOOD to be back (sob!) but we had such a fantastic break. We were in Ireland for a week - a family wedding to begin with, with some extra days tacked on for good measure. I come from a big Irish family but we rarely went back when I was young because it wasn't really a proper holiday for mum and dad, having to travel from relative to relative and without the chance to truly relax and do nothing. We went when I was about 7 years old and it's one of my favourite childhood memories, so I leaped at the chance to go back again this time.

I won't make this week's WW entirely Ireland-based because I want to do a catch-up post anyway (*cough* photo spam *cough*) but it may feature a couple of times below...

So without further ado, onto the WONDERFUL...

♥ Jilly Cooper... Granted, I'm discovering her fairly late in life but oh my goodness, I think I'm hooked. I stumbled across her recent interview on Desert Island Discs and, despite knowing nothing about her nor having read any of her novels, I was completely charmed by her - she came across as so warm, engaging and so so funny. I hadn't thought of picking up one of her books before thinking that they'd be a little too 'horsey' for me - that was never my scene. I downloaded 'Riders' onto my Kindle for our holiday. I didn't get the chance to read a lot during the holiday itself because we were so busy during the day and I just crashed as soon as we got into bed (all that fresh air!) but I managed to dive in during a few long car journeys, on the flight home and over the last weekend and I'm hooked. I don't want to put it down! Naughty, absorbing and deliciously funny. Hee!

♥ Sunflowers... When we arrived home on Friday evening, I had the post-holiday blues something dreadful. The prospect of an immense amount of laundry didn't really help, although my Saturday morning clean did make me a little chirpier (am I alone in feeling extra happy in a clean house, particularly when it's cleaned in good time so that you have the rest of the weekend to enjoy it in?) I decided to treat myself to some blooms and picked up a bunch of gorgeous cheerful sunflowers. They're blooming beautifully in a vase on our kitchen table and seeing them has raised my spirits when I've come home every evening this week.



♥ Risotto... Luckily for me, my mister is a fabulous cook and does most of the cooking chez nous. But there's one dish that I can do better than him, which is risotto - I think you need the patience to give it all of your attention for a good while! We had a friend over for lunch on Sunday and decided to make a mushroom risotto with a gorgeous fresh green salad. A perfect combination and, despite stressing that I would lose my risotto magic and it would be a burnt crunchy mess, it came together beautifully. 100 top wife points to me.

♥ Soft water... Alas, not something I'm enjoying now that I'm back in London but  it was such a wonderful novelty in Ireland! My hair has never felt so soft.

Shameless Ireland photo spam...

♥ Great British Bake Off... The new series starts this evening! Need I say more?!

♥ Hazel Mountain Chocolate... While out in the car exploring last week during our holiday, we followed signs for 'The Burren Chocolatier', which led us to the Hazel Mountain Chocolate shop and factory. We popped into the factory shop to begin with where we tasted different types of chocolate and then picked up a few bars to take home. After that we decided to pop into the little tea room for some tea and cake (I was particularly excited as everything was gluten free). I chose a pot if tea and a slice of the orange blossom carrot cake. Honestly, I think it's the best cake I've ever tasted and that is not a comment I make lightly. If you're in the area, coeliac or not, you must go!


They were also advertising an event which I would love to go to - Yoga Bean - an early morning yoga session, followed by a chocolate mediation and then a gluten free cacao breakfast. Sign me up!


I hope you've all had a splendid week so far and are taking the time to enjoy some of this amazing sunshine! If you've taken this week off work, well played!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below (I do love comments!) or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoEmma, and the lovely Wonderful Wednesday newbies Samantha and Kerri - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight! 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

A Weekend with the Parents.

The mister was away this weekend, working at the Countryfile Live event in the grounds of Blenheim Palace. My parents and I had tickets for the show on Saturday but because I still wasn't 100% at the end of last week, I decided to stay with them all weekend. There's nothing like a little mothering and a few nights in your childhood bedroom to chase away the last remnants of a horrid bug.

And oh, how this weekend did me a whole world of good. My parents' garden is one of my happy places and curling up under their parasol with a book instantly makes my worries melt away. After carrying my case up to my room on Friday afternoon, I sat outside with my mum for a while having a catch up before heading into the kitchen to help with dinner. Sitting in the garden also gave me the chance to think about what I'd like to do with our own little outside space and to hopefully (perhaps next year now!) realise all my homegrown vegetable plans - Mum's currently growing courgettes, beans, spinach and blueberries.

Saturday morning was a slightly earlier start than usual but it almost felt like we were going on holiday as we had a quick breakfast before packing up the car to drive to Blenheim for the day. Once we were on the move, all thoughts of bed were quickly forgotten and I think that a lie-in would not have made being stuck in traffic later any sweeter as crowds descended on the event throughout the day.

The beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace.
It was a baking hot day but there was such a great, festival-like atmosphere in the grounds when we arrived, granted with a slightly older average age range than festivals I've been to in the past....and so many dogs - who looked just as hot as their owners, but there were lots of places for them to have fresh water and many of them were wearing ingenious wet coats to keep them cool.

We stopped for a coffee when we arrived and spread out the map to pick out our must-sees. There were lots of activities on offer, from archery to off-road driving, but the animals were the main attraction for me. I spent a while by the dog arena, learning how to train my future pup, saw some stunningly impressive shire horses in the equine arena and spent far too long in the farmyard area, exclaiming over the piglets, lambs and chicks. It has definitely put me off eating any of those animals for a wee while!

We found the mister and dragged him away for a spot of lunch. I was feeling a little dizzy at that point - a combination of heat and the last remnants of this dose, and the fact that I just hadn't walked so much in over a week. I was exhausted! There were so many food stalls, a huge range of delicious treats on offer (unless you're coeliac of course!) but I did manage to track down a place selling gluten free burgers - venison and bison no less! Thankfully there were no baby deer around to shame me into just having the bun... My appetite is still not back to where it was before but there's something about eating outside, I inhaled that burger.

Waving goodbye to the mister who headed back to his stand, we then wandered around some of the others - browsing all the delicious food for sale (was very tempted by some fudge) and the impressive array of country clothing. I briefly pictured myself going full-Mitford sister in a tweed ensemble before seeing sense and picking up yet another stripy Breton top. Slightly wintry for this weather but no doubt perfect for our trip to Ireland!

Saturday evening was whiled away in the garden again, with a light dinner after our large festival lunches.

After yesterday's early start, I had a little lie-in this morning...I'd got used to being back in my childhood single bed again - the first night was slightly hairier as I almost rolled out a few times. I had a quiet breakfast with my book before joining mum and dad for some coffee. We then headed over to collect my Nanny before going out for Sunday lunch, just the four of us. We went to a restaurant that we've been to a number of times over the years and they always do an amazing Sunday roast, even gluten free. With memories of the little creatures from yesterday still fresh in my mind, I opted for the veggie roast - a spiced lentil and spinach roast with a mushroom and thyme gravy. It wasn't incredibly photogenic (quite brown!) hence no snap of my food but it was so incredibly good and wow, so filling. They had a gluten free beer too which I hadn't tried before - a pale ale and, although it hasn't surpassed Celia or Estrella's gluten free beer, it was light and refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to a slightly heavy meal.

I feel refreshed and better than I have done in over a week. I hope you all had wonderful weekends too - do drop me a comment and let me know what you got up to, or pop over and say hello on Twitter or Instagram (I'm @happygoluckycat on both, helpfully).

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Wonderful Wednesday 15


Oh I'm having flashbacks of how wonderful last Monday was, when I started writing last week's little weekly catch-up with a second cup of tea on the go and the sun streaming through the windows on a glorious day off from work. It's Monday again as I type this intro and once again, I'm not at work but I'm curled up in bed, which is where I've been for most of the last four days when I haven't been bolting to the bathroom to throw up. Gastroenteritis, you are no one's friend! Seriously, I love my food so much and I just haven't felt like eating more than a few crackers and the occasional slice of toast and tea in the last few days - nothing is making my tum happy right now. WOE!

So this week's Wonderful Wednesday will be a little shorter and instead I'll be looking forward to vicariously living through everyone else's wonderful snippets - do stop by and let me know what's made your week extra special!

♥ NHS111... Not that I ever have spoken a word against our NHS but it's even more important nowadays to keep it protected and spoken-for because it is VITAL. Honestly, when I was curled up into a little ball of misery on Friday night having thrown up in 40 minute intervals for most of the day, they were so helpful and reassuring...and the thought that they were available at any time day or night throughout the weekend made me feel so much better.

♥ That mister of mine... Although mentions of him are regularly sprinkled through these pages, he has the honour of his own little paragraph this week because he's been splendid. From holding back my hair and ferrying glasses of water during the middle of the night to actually working from home on Friday itself because he didn't want to leave me on my own curled up with a bucket, my mister has been an absolute rock this week. I always knew he was but it's times like this, when you're crying your eyes out at 3am because you're in so much pain and there's someone right there with you trying to make you feel better and just being there because things always seem so much worse at night, that you know that you made the right choice. Thank you B.

♥ New Harry Potter book... I have it in my paws, a new Harry Potter story after so long! I haven't been able to get tickets to see the stage play (sob!) but am very excited to get into this. I haven't been able to concentrate much over the last few days but am hoping that this bug will be well and truly out of my system by the weekend giving me the chance to really dive in.

♥ Holiday planning... With everything else that's been going on, this has slightly crept up on us but we're off to Ireland towards the end of next week for a family wedding and an additional few days for a proper little holiday. I can't wait! I've started writing little lists of things that I'd like to see while we're there as well as the usual lists of things to do before we go and things to pack. A lovely excuse for a few more lists!

That's it from me this week, I'm afraid, my concentration is really not back yet... Hope you've had a wonderful week so far - stay healthy!

♥ Do let me know what's made your week a little rosier by leaving me a comment below (I do love comments!) or dropping me a tweet (I'm @happygoluckycat) or better yet, why not join the fabulous bunch of #WonderfulWednesday bloggers? Pop over to their blogs for a dose of mid-week happiness - SallyMichelleHelenKateJoEmma, and the lovely Samantha, who jumped on this merry bandwagon only last week - and then join me in counting down the days until the weekend. It's in sight!