Our Roman Holiday… 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

25 Aug

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We spent the whole day doing things I’ve always wanted to.”
Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

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Somewhere up on a rooftop in Rome, with St Peter’s illuminated in the background and a glass of cava in hand, I watched Roman Holiday for the first time. It was by far my best outdoor cinema experience ever. The 1953 film stars Audrey Hepburn as the not so perfect princess and Gregory Peck as her not so perfect knight in shining armour… set in the really rather perfect setting of 50s Rome. They whizz about on mopeds, eat gelato, sip coffee, fall in love… and do so without anyone ever breaking a sweat or getting sunburnt.

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Our Roman Holiday, on the other hand, well in most of the pictures I look less like an Audrey Hepburn princess and more just pickled. Being Scottish means that I can do about 30 mins in 32 degrees before I start to melt. Which meant that in our 5 days in Rome it was essential for me to eat my body weight in gelato and coffee granita. Absolutely essential.

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Our favourite gelato places were: Hedera Sweetness & Co, Gelateria del Teatro and Fatamorgana. We experimented with Lavender and Peach, Sicilian Peach, White Chocolate with Basil, Custard and Pine Nuts, Rose Petals and Violet Flowers, Cheese and Cherry, Cheese and Walnut Fig, and even Kentucky” (chocolate with tobacco). Did I mention we ate a lot of gelato in 5 days? 

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Also I now firmly believe that a coffee granita at Taza D’Oro is an essential part of any visit to Rome. The other half took a picture of me while eating mine; I have a really crazy wide-eyed look of ‘oh my freaking goodness’ while I’m devouring it. To say that I was a little hyper afterwards would be the understatement of the year.

Inbetween eating all the sweet icy things, we did take some time to see the sights of Rome… in fact, one of the things I hadn’t realised about Rome is just how many old things there are to see. And when you even start to think about how old they are, you get a bit dizzy… or at least you do if you’ve been living on gelato and coffee for the last few days.

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So, the Colosseum. It’s 1942 years old. That blows my mind. So we did what we do when faced with such an ancient artifact… jumping shots!

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Now the thing with the Colosseum (and all of Rome really) is there’s a lot of people about. Like a HUGE amount. And they will stare at you a HUGE amount if you sit down on the ground to take jumping shots of your other half… the tired, grumpy, exhausted stares of tourists who are hot, bothered and mind-boggled by too much old stuff.

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Definitely a ‘when in Rome’ moment… that was especially hard to capture as I was giggling too much. The other half assured me that jumping in that heat was particularly hard. Not that it stopped him of course.

rome spanish steps 700x410 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

Now I may have mentioned that Rome is really, really busy… London’s Oxford Street on a Saturday or Edinburgh during the Fringe you ain’t got nothing on Rome. But see in Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn eats ice cream on the Spanish Steps and there’s hardly a soul about.

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2014 07 02 20.03.02 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

Meanwhile on our Roman Holiday, this was the only way we could take pictures of each other without a bazillion other people in the background. (Well, almost. We do have an ‘arrgh, the Spanish Steps are soooo busy’ selfie of the two of us too. It’s actually one of my favourite pics of the two of us.)

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Because in reality the Spanish Steps look like this… yes, there are steps under there somewhere. See those people just standing at the bottom of the steps, contemplating whether they really want to go up them or not? I’m guessing they were surprised by how busy they were too.

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Similarly, the Vatican… we visited at the end of the day when officially it was closed, the crowds had dispersed and the sun was beginning to set.

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If you’re not a big fan of crowds and don’t mind not going inside, I’d highly recommend doing it this way… there was something weird and wonderful about having it to ourselves. Like we’d stumbled onto a Dan Brown film set. (One of those movies I’d only recommend seeing if it’s on TV and you’re having a lazy day on the couch… and you can’t reach the remote to change the channel.)

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But back to the very, very old stuff… Rome has a way of making you feel rather small and inconsequential (intimidating ruins!) and then you spot the seagulls…

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Turns out that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how much you’ve achieved, how regal, how impressive, how historic… you will inevitably end up a grand perch for a seagull. (This ‘philosophy’ may have occurred to me around 30 mins after I had the coffee granita. Plato and Socrates did all their best work after having a coffee granita.*)

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Or… and this is a big or… as a sanctuary for cats! Now this place (Largo di Torre Argentina) gets a big shout-out in the history books as it’s the place where Caesar was stabbed. Proper epic history right there. But it’s almost impossible to take this information in as it’s also home to a shelter (Torre Argentina) that looks after stray cats.

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We went just went to have ‘a look’… and only just came out without having adopted Nero the black kitty with neurological problems and Stevie Wonder the cat who’s blind. Not to mention the two tiny kittens who made me well up on the way out. (There’s a high chance eating a lot of gelato might make you susceptible to tears!)

nero the shelter cat at largo di torre argentina in rome 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

 

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shelter cats sleeping at torre argentina in rome 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

shelter cat sleeping at torre argentina in rome 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

shelter cat eating at torre argentina in rome 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

We didn’t catch this guy’s name but you gotta love a cat that is helping itself to everyone’s dinner provisions, while putting its tail in some other food at the same time.

Rome’s other surprise was the street art… I really hadn’t considered that there would be any. Let alone cheeky angel themed street signs.

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And it’s not just the street art, there’s humour and colour everywhere in Rome… faces in strange places…

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… and dashes of colour in even in the narrowest of winding back alleyways.

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And all to soon it was time to say goodbye to our little Air B’n’B apartment, and its wonderful rooftop view of St Peter’s, quirky Pinocchio touches, lovely tiles and colourful coffee makers.

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Bialetti Espresso Maker 700x700 Our Roman Holiday... 5 days of gelato, coffee, street art and, er, cats in Rome

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Until next time Rome, ti amo. You crazy city of relics, ruins, coffee, cats, gelato and  gulls. 

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I’ll miss eating watermelon on your rooftops… the only thing I ate more than gelato! (Honestly, I had a whole watermelon to myself one day. That’s how hot I was!)

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*May not be a historically accurate fact. Though I’m pretty sure Plato and Socrates would have enjoyed them too.

Everything’s going to be all bright… a mini new home tour… + tales from the old flat

24 May

Pink London brick – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

So in April we said goodbye to our first London flat (and goodbye to having wifi at home until mid May!).

I was blasé about this move. After all, last time we’d moved home, we’d packed up our entire lives, driven 10 hours, and moved country. This time, we weren’t even leaving South East London.

And unlike last time, we were so ready to move. Our petite place had become to feel even more so, like it had shrunk in the wash somehow over the last year. Perhaps it was the kitchen sink that was always blocked, the mould that refused to die in the bathroom (and then destroyed my Scandi shower curtain in revenge) or ‘the day ALL the blue bottles came’™.*

Which is not to say that the flat was all bad, not at all. Just as time went on, the things that were funny at first – like the step that always caught your sock and put a hole in it – became less so. But we did get much better at darning socks. And darn it – socks, blockages, mould and yucky flies aside – we had fun this last year. 2013 will always be the year we moved to London and that flat will always be part of that.

So we approached moving with the excitement of two kids waiting for Christmas. Impatient, a little grouchy, a little too over excited. We packed in a hurry as if that could make the move happen faster. And then all of a sudden, as with all things you wait for, it had happened.

We moved.

Living room 2 – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Which, of course, is an understatement. There was lugging, there was lifting and shifting, and cursing ourselves for having so many books (a hallmark of any move we have ever done).

Not surprisingly, packing up all your belongings into boxes (and a multitude of tote bags when you run out of boxes) was more tiring than I’d have liked to admit. And oh being without internet for such a long time, well, oft.

But it was totally worth it.

Living room 4 – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Records – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

I think we’re in the loved up phase with this flat… where every eccentric angle, every ray of dappled sunlight spilling through the windows, every drop of rain tapping at the skylight (possibly my favourite thing ever).

Kitchen window 2 – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

And ok, so it’s a rented flat, but it feels like it’s somehow very much ours and just to have somewhere to call home again is really rather wonderful.

Japanese sponges – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Of course, we’re still sorting things, working out what fits where, discovering a need for furniture we don’t have yet… and even with more kitchen cupboard space we still don’t have room for all the vintage china I’ve collected over the years. But that’s the fun of moving right?

Velveteencat + kitchen Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

And the furry felines we live with… well, they seem to have settled in just fine. There’s carpet to roll about on, stairs to scamper up and perhaps most importantly a bit more space from each other. (Theirs is a relationship built on being always at least a couple feet apart, unless there’s a spider in the room.)

Tiger fireplace 3 – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

60s Daybed – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Maybe its you 2 – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Foxowlcat on bed – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Veleveteencat – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

Fucking fantastic print – Conversation Pieces blog Everythings going to be all bright... a mini new home tour... + tales from the old flat

And the humans… we’ve settled in not too badly too. With more kitchen space, we’ve started cooking properly again (now we have an oven that doesn’t take 90 mins just to cook a veggie burger), I’ve started doing more crafty stuff (see the bright neon chairs in the second picture!), and generally just doing more happy chilling out when we’re at home (instead of frustratedly trying to tidy a flat that was impossibly impossible to tidy).

Yes, everything is going to be all bright now… or at least, a little more neon than before!

*******

 

*the day ALL the blue bottles came™…

A day that will live on in my memory forever.

If you’re eating, planning on eating, really dislike blue bottle flies, don’t read this bit!

[...]

London reflections… one big city, one little marble

2 Mar

Big Ben 2– London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

339 days ago, I moved to London… 

In those first days, people would ask regularly ‘are you absolutely loving it’? Those exact words.

And I didn’t have a good answer. Did I? I really wasn’t sure.

It was good. I liked it. It suited me. But love? 

It’s hard to love something so familiar and so strange all at once.

Big Ben 3 – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Big Ben – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

But, after nearly a year, I’ve realised that to love London is to admit you’re thrilled by something massive, sprawling, wonky, overcrowded, brilliant, bonkers, irreverent, complicated and altogether glorious.

It’s like a proper relationship. You’ll have your good days, your bad days, and the days that make you feel like there could never, ever be another city for you.

Carousel – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

London Eye – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Which is strange to say as I know a big part of my heart still belongs to Edinburgh (and I gave away some of it to Brooklyn and Tokyo too)… but it’s impossible to think of anywhere else when you’re staring up at Big Ben or gazing down on St Paul’s.

London Skyline – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

The Shard – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

It’s the old and new. The history. The heartbeat.

It’s the music that spills out of tiny flats on hot summer nights. It’s the solidarity of waiting on late buses. It’s the smiles in the crowds. It’s the voices you hear in the streets. The laughter, the anger, the humanness of it all.

The Shard 2 – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

St Pauls 5 – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

So here’s to you, you wildly strange place I now call home… this is my love letter to you, all with the help of a shiny marble and a rather gorgeous Spring day.

Yes, I think we can definitely call this love.

St Pauls 4 – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

St Pauls 2 – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

St Pauls – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Tate Modern – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Underground – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Zoe – London Marble – @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Colourful London @Convo Pieces London reflections... one big city, one little marble

Love you London. Thanks for the last 339 days, here’s to many more xx

The Red Velvet Pancake experiment… a tasty (but cautionary) tale

12 Feb

Sprinkles – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

“It looks like a bad burger”.

We both stared at the forlorn lump of batter, burning gently at the edges. Brown bubbles simmered on its surface. Smoke began to rise from the pan.

“I don’t trust this frying pan.”

At some point, suspicion turned upon the frying pan… because you know if you can’t blame the implements, what can you blame. We swapped it for another pan. This did not improve things. Perhaps more red food dye was the answer…

“For a lot of red, we’ve created a lot of brown.”

I stirred the weird lumpy maroon batter mix, thoughtfully. With every stir, the mixture grew browner. Not a nice chocolatey brown, but an inedible shade of blurgh. My main thought: pancake batter and natural food colouring were not a good mix. Also, it smelled strange.

 “This is going to look weird in the sewer after I flush it down the toilet.”

There was only one thing left to do with the mix – and it was not cook and eat it. So down the toilet it went. This was our second batch. (The first had not been nearly so disastrous, the third would be worse.)

“Are we just frying a cake now?” 
“Well, we are Scottish…” 
“We’re not deep frying it.”
“Not yet…”

By this point – the third attempt – we’d created some sort of pancake-cake-biscuit. And a high level of hysteria. Blame the food colouring, but now we just had a massive fit of the giggles. So much so, that I nearly choked on a mouthful of pancake-cake-biscuit. Which somehow seemed even funnier.

Sensible people would have given up… but oh no, not us.

•••••••••

So how did this misadventure involving a whole lot of red food colouring, batter and a potentially misbehaving frying pan come about?

Snowflakes and pancakes Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

Back in December, we’d stopped somewhere for breakfast. American breakfast. You know, the hearty, heart-stopping kind of breakfast that means you won’t have to eat again that day. And I spied on the menu… Red Velvet Pancakes.

Which seemed like a must order. I love red velvet cake so surely Red Velvet Pancakes were going to be AMAZING. (I was hungry, jet lagged and over-enthused.)

The very nice waiter informed us that their breakfast menu had finished for the day – but their lunch menu was now on. So I had mac ‘n’ cheese for breakfast. Which as your first meal of the day is a whole lot of wrong. (Yes, coming from the girl who wanted red velvet pancakes!)

Red Velvet Pancake – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, we had to come back. The waiter (a different one) eyed us nervously – two Scots demanding, pre-coffee, that they wanted breakfast was obviously more than he’d expected to deal with first thing.

He did a sort of hop from one foot to another as he explained that the usual guy who did the pancakes wasn’t in today but he was sure the Thursday guy could give it a go.

The pancakes arrived. They looked beautiful. So red, so pretty, so Instagram friendly.

But they tasted of… nothing. Not bad, but not great. Just bland. And then I said the magic words…

“We should make these ourselves when we get home. But better.”

Red Mix – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

Now to be fair, our first batch wasn’t bad. (Which is Scottish/British for pretty darn good.)

We’d used two tubes of Dr. Oetker food colouring gel and had some red-pink batter.

We need another tube. Sod the E numbers.”

But we only had two… so red-pink would have to do.

Red Velvet Pancake Hearts – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So we ended up with swirly, heart-shaped pancakes… which super tasty and pretty much tasted like red velvet in a slightly chocolate-y, red-pink way.

Sensible-ish people would have stopped there. (Sensible people wouldn’t be adding food colouring and chocolate to pancake batter would they?)

Red icing – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So we decided that we’d make another batch another day. But better. (Ah that word again.)

Now as you now know… batch 2 and batch 3 were an unmitigated disaster of inedible proportions.

But batch 4… well, this time we were going to nail it. Or die trying.

Red Velvet Pancake Mix – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

However… batch 4 also coincided with a Sunday. And where we live, supermarkets close early on a Sunday. (Well, too early for people who suddenly want to make pancakes at 5pm.)

So, we went off to the local corner shop for eggs, flour and more food colouring.

And came home with eggs, flour, pink Nesquik milkshake powder and red colouring for curries. 

Now, let’s get this out of the way. Nesquik milkshake powder does something weird to pancake mix.

To be fair, nowhere on the packaging does it indicate that you can make strawberry milk that you can add to batter.

So if you’ve ever wondered about this, wonder no more.

Heart Pancake Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, food colouring for curries it was…

We used a teeny, tiny, ickle drop and made pink batter.

Pink not red but the pancakes were rising and smelt lovely. So pink is where we stopped.

Love Pancake Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

And they were good. Insanely good. 

We had made rose coloured velvet pancakes. (I was so over the idea of red by this point.) But that wasn’t why they were so tasty…

In fact, it had nothing to do with the colouring or the chocolate… and everything to do with just being darn good pancakes. And the sprinkles, icing and strawberries.

Now sensible people would have stopped there… and for once, just for once, we were those sensible people. With happy tummies and a whole lot of pancake making mess to clear up, we called it quits on the red velvet pancake experiment.

Strawberry Love – Convo Pieces The Red Velvet Pancake experiment... a tasty (but cautionary) tale

So, on the off chance, you actually want to make some pancakes after reading this, here’s our tried and tested pancake recipe (cut out from New Woman magazine some years ago)… add chocolate and food colouring at your own peril!

Makes 6 large pancakes

Ingredients:

125g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp baking powder
2 large eggs, separated at room temp
250ml full-fat milk (don’t add Nesquik)
6 tbsp melted butter, plus a little extra for cooking
Sprinkles/fruit/icing/maple syrup for serving

How to:

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the egg yolks, melted butter and milk. Keep whisking to create a batter, but don’t overmix it (it’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy).

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold them into the batter with a spatula. Pour into a measuring jug and gently add blueberries (if you want blueberry pancakes of course!).

Heat a heavy non-stick pan. Add a tbsp of butter to coat the surface and pour in some of the batter. When bubbles form on one side, flip the pancake over with a spatula. Brown for 30 seconds or so and then continue with the remaining batter.

Serve as you please… though in my opinion, sprinkles are a necessity!

 

Santa, I know him! … and other Christmas New York tales

24 Dec

IMG 5800 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

On 34th Street is where we start this tale… all about a girl and a boy and a big shiny city called New York.

Now, they’d come here before – last time during a hurricane – and that hadn’t felt quite enough.

So they returned to do a re-do. But not for oh so terrifying Halloween this time… they came for Christmas instead, surely the weather would be less scary she said!

IMG 4791 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And oh New York, you did not disappoint. Yes, it was colder, the days were shorter, and our cheeks were pink from the biting wind… but it was all rather wonderful all the same. Especially as we were treated to a glorious coral-pink-orange sunset every evening.

IMG 5808 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And then there was this guy… now as much as I love Halloween, well, Christmas is Christmas. So there was Santa spotting to be done.

Turn a corner and all of a sudden, and you’ll find the red suited dude on motorbikes (NYC Santas have upgraded from reindeer). With Santa Claus is Coming to Town blasting out from somewhere. Obviously.

IMG 5818 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

But we couldn’t come all the way without meeting the real deal. Now watching Miracle on 34th Street had led me to believe that the actual big guy is to be found at Macy’s department store. So grinning – like the dweebs we are – we joined the queue to meet Santa…

What we’d expected was a big queue of kids that we could sneak past and get a quick snap – from afar. Instead, we turned a corner and an elf told us to ‘go this way’… and suddenly we were in a room – alone, well, us and elves – with Santa.

Still holding hands, we pressed ourselves against the back wall, possibly terrified, and had to be beckoned towards him.

IMG 4726 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Which resulted in this awkward photo with the ‘real’ Santa… who clearly might not be the real Santa as…

BcDUeBtCMAAf9tR Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… as when the legends Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart met Santa at Macy’s too, that’s definitely another Santa. Shock. Horror! (Also they seem a whole lot more onboard with getting their picture taken than us it has to be said. Cooler than us!)

IMG 5793 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

That said, give me the Yeti from the Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas window… and I am this happy. (Yeah, I know I am soooo logical!)

IMG 5805 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Essentially the window at Saks told the story of a Yeti who makes snow… who travels to New York. So far, so Elf.

IMG 5803 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

It was such a popular window that you had to queue to see it. Yes, queue to see a window! (We may have cheated and just taken these pictures over people’s heads!)

IMG 5802 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

As well as Santa (and Yeti) stalking, there was Christmas tree hunting to be done… so we went to see the Rockefeller Tree. Along with almost everyone else in New York. Nothing more festive that being crushed in a crowd of hundreds while looking at a big tree. Humans are weird when you think about it!

IMG 5156 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And it is BIG… but then when you look at it next to the Rockefeller Center, it’s pretty teeny really.

IMG 5811 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Instead my favourite Christmas tree of all was the one at the American Museum of National History with its origami decorations!

IMG 5810 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Complete with origami dinosaurs… really, really, really wished they had ones to take away!

IMG 5139 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

I can’t have been the only one hoping for an extra huge tree though as these HUGE baubles prove.

IMG 5798 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Imagine the size of the tree that would go with these lights! (I was a little happy to find these!)

IMG 4735 ERASER Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And when we weren’t tracking down all the Christmassy things… we were hanging out in Greenpoint and Brooklyn eating ALL the things.

IMG 5094 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Like vegan hot dogs from the indoor version of the Williamsburg Smorgasburg… London can we have have some vegan hot dog places, please?

IMG 5815 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Insanely sized and tasting pancakes that came with honeycomb butter (yes, honeycomb butter!) from Five Leaves

IMG 4433 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Crazy good ramen burgers for him… so good he went back twice. Really wished they had a veggie version!

IMG 4439 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And Cheese Pops for me… yes, a cheese plate on a stick. Still confused? See below.

IMG 4442 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Choux pastry with amazing cheeses and mouth-watering toppings. Each one was better than the last.

I had to run back to the guy who sold me this and tell him just how fricking amazing it was.

Then I didn’t want to eat anything else in case it spoiled the memory of those cheese pops!

IMG 4774 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

And when we weren’t eating ALL the things… there was street art to spot and walls to rock.

IMG 4554 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

You know you’re in an area that’s cool with street art when you can do it when the police are so close by.

IMG 5801 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Ok. Not entirely sure why ok = rarr in my book but apparently it does. Ok?

IMG 4742 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

A future record cover for a single that has not yet been recorded?

IMG 5794 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

Not a future record cover perhaps… but I get points for being exuberant. I may have just had a strong coffee. (Perhaps we can blame my new crazy ‘getting my photo taken’ style on my recent take-up of coffee?)

And of course no trip to New York is complete without the following:

IMG 4662 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… a trip to the wonderful High Line. I’ve been now on sunny days and on crazy cold days, and it’s beautiful whichever way.

IMG 4912 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… some theatre… and my second mention of the legends Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen. We were lucky enough to see them in one of my favourite plays. As they’d you expect they were legen… wait for it… dary.

IMG 5817 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… doing something totally random… and for us, this was going to a spelling bee. Yes, an actual spelling bee.

I have never felt so stupid in all my life. I knew two words out of everything from the whole night. (And one of them was a Scottish word ‘Strathspey’ so that was cheating!) However, it was very funny though – so many characters!

IMG 5020 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… and doing something else really random… like driving a NYC bus…

IMG 4850 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

… and did I mention the random… isn’t this the best Christmas decoration ever? Love you NYC!

IMG 4793 Santa, I know him! ... and other Christmas New York tales

So ah New York… you were big, you were shiny, you were busy, you were crazy…

You were colourful, you were exhausting, you were sparkly, you were full of calories…

And oh gosh you were rather damn lovely. So until next time…

Have a merry Christmas everyone… and if you see Santa, say hi from me. I know him. (Even if I am slightly scared of him!)

Flat rules… a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

27 Nov

IMG 4209 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Really we should have more practical rules for living in a small flat.

Like having less stuff, tidying more,
not leaving our shoes right at the door.

Food would be good, as opposed to empty
cupboards and only cheese in the fridge.

(Even if it is really good cheese.
Also: chocolate is not food.
The same goes for that jar of jalapenos.)

Oh we should.

But we don’t.

photo 4 11 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Instead we have things like a Menu-festo.

Designed to remind us how we want to live ours lives… as opposed to how we should.

And to entirely justify spending whole days (and nights) out exploring London…

So, yeah, if you’re ‘daring to freestyle’ then the dishes can wait.

If you’re ‘dreaming bigger’ then socks can ball themselves.

Or that’s what I told myself when I was putting all the letters on the board!

photo 1 1 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Other flat rules include…

No whining, no complaining, and no frowning
(if at least to avoid creating lots of forehead wrinkles).

Most of these rules apply at 6.30am/7am.
That’s my most likely time to whine, complain, frown
and be like a bear that’s just been woken up during hibernation.
(I do so love my sleep!)

IMG 3765 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Elsewhere in our little abode… we have Mr Tiger (and some polka dots too), this amazing I Pretend To Work print (not true but we love it anyway) and a framed tea towel from one of my best friends.

All three things sum up one rule completely: try not to take things too seriously.

(While the #velveteencat is demonstrating the rule that all interior shots should have a cat or dog in them. Fact. Really just look at a copy of Elle Decoration or Living Etc and you’ll see what I mean.)

IMG 3775 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

This rule… taped to the inside of our front door.

Mainly because a certain not really a morning person needs to be reminded of such stuff.

Yes, life is good.

(Even if going back to bed seems like a better option.)

photo 3 1 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Rule 6: No TV. Yes, really. We have no TV in London.

We left our old one in Edinburgh and then didn’t get another one.

But like all rules, this is made to be broken.

Instead we have a projector. So we can roll up this map,
and just project whatever we want to watch.

Which means the rule is really…

Rule 6: No bad TV. Only good TV and movies worth the effort of projecting!

IMG 3772 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Coloured chalk in our letterpress tray…
because sometimes you just need a bit of colour. Or a piece of chalk.

A definite rule that one.

IMG 3776 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Um, so this rule…

why be grey when you can be neon?

Maybe?

IMG 3774 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

This. Always this. I don’t think I laugh nearly enough.

Children apparently laugh 300 times a day.

Adults laugh around 20.

I’m aiming for somewhere inbetween…
without being that crazy, laughing by themselves person
everyone moves away from on the Tube!

photo 2 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Second demonstration of the cat rule…

IMG 3770 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

Not a rule… but a reminder. Crafting is good for the soul. Even if most of it is too bad to share on here.

I recently started a daily sketchbook – like an illustrated diary – and it’s so nice to sit and scribble just for the fun of it. They don’t have to be good, they don’t have to be bad, they’re just for me to see which is pretty nice.

photo 3 Flat rules... a teeny tour of our tiny home and its mottos

And one last rule… ‘Home is wherever I’m with you’. (As blocked by the #foxowlcat!)

So many people ask us if we miss our old home.

And while I miss the floorboards, the sunsets, the fireplace…
where we are now feels like home because it is.

I’m here, he’s here and the two little furry fiends are here.
That’s everything we need. Everything that home is.
(Plus a few sideboards, prints and chairs of course!)

We’ll always have Paris… two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie

7 Oct

Paris 9 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie

On July 28 2013, 9.49 pm and 32 sec.
A blue fly of the Calliphorides species, 
Whose wings can flutter 14670 times per minute 
lands in Saint-Vincent Street, Montmartre.

At the exact same time, near the Eiffel Tower, 
a girl from Scotland stands amid a crowd of tourists, 
with the biggest grin, perhaps ever, on her face.

Paris 2013 112 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie

Approximately 9 hours and 49 minutes and 32 seconds earlier...
She'd been drinking tea in her London flat, listening to the radio
And pondering what to do with today and two days off work...

"What about Paris?" This was her other half, making coffee,
And peering at his ipad with a slight smile on his lips...

Zoë raised an eyebrow, was he being serious? 
That small smile turned into a big grin...
Did she want to go? Mais bien sûr!

30 mins of frantic packing, random clothes chosen, 
A hotel booked in the 19th arrondissement...
A dash to the train station, for once on time...
The Underground behaving itself (it must have known)
And before you knew it, departure lounge.

		
		Paris 20 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
Zoë likes: impromptu visits to Paris... 
Going to the supermarche to buy French crisps... 
Saying merde just for the fun of it... 
And pretending to be Amelie for a day or two.

		
		Paris 12 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
Zoë does not like: windy days when wearing a flippy skirt. 
(This has now happened in Tokyo and San Francisco too. 
You think she would learn but no!)
Paris 18 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
Her other half likes: buying a baguette to munch on throughout the day.
And picking up delicious baked goods, with comedy names.
"We got a divorce in Paris... and it was damn good".

Paris 2013 132 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
He does not like: that he slips into Spanish when ordering in French.
Je voudrais deux divorce por favor...

 
		
		Paris 26 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
Zoë likes finding street art in unexpected places. 
She especially likes this beautiful ones by Alexis Diaz 
(He did a very cool Elephant Octopus in London which she loves.)


		
		Paris 2013 129 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
She also likes Rue Dénoyez – a much graffitied street in Belleville
Riots of colours, with layers and layers of art painted over art...
And at one end, Aux Folies... the perfect spot for a café au lait.
 
		
		Paris 55 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
And spotting space invaders by Invader...
High up on walls, perched on street signs, 
Some tiny, down by your feet...

		
		Paris 34 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

Some larger than life... just like Paris itself.
(Can you tell he lives in the City of Light?)
Paris 2013 44 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
In 2001, Zoë first saw a film about a French girl called Amelie, 
Who worked in a cafe called Cafe des deux Moulins...
 
		
		Paris 2013 25 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	
In 2013, Zoë first steps foot into that very cafe. 
There are no mad eccentric French characters, but... 
She does instantly fall in love with the tiled floor.
 
		
		Paris 2013 56 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

She also likes: the Metro station that's in the film.
(But not so much the tourists crowded round about it.)

		
		Paris 2013 10 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

And the Sacré-Coeur ... where Amelie leaves a treasure hunt 
Of sorts for the equally quirky lost boy she's in love with. 
(But not so much the tourists that are crowded round about it.)
 
		
		Paris 4 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

And likes the view... with all of Paris laid out before you.
(But not so much the tourists that are crowded round about it.)
Paris 2013 130 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
To escape the crowds,Zoë likes to visit the Louvre... 
(Only kidding. She came here to see the crowds.) 
That Mona Lisa lady sure gets everyone excited!
Paris 2013 135 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie

So many people, more impatient than you'll find waiting 
On a train at the Metro station...
So there's fun to be had in standing still,
Just watching them all, hurrying, scowling, 
Underwhelmed by the art all around them.
Paris 45 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie

Some people are more easily entertained than others though...
Especially when they find a Marilyn Monroe vent in a museum.

		
		Paris 43 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

But even people pretending to be Amelie have their limits.
(This smile says I want to go home now. I have been defeated by The Louvre.)
Paris 40 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
But this smile... is the pure joy of spotting gold dinosaurs
On the Champ Elysees. (Who are, ahem, better than the Mona Lisa.)

		
		Paris 2013 59 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
			
			
		
	

Zoë likes: returning to their weird but rather wonderful hotel 
Which has Batman masks (and other characters) over the lamps... 
Life is full of surprises is it not?
Paris 2013 58 Well always have Paris... two days of street art and pretending to be Amelie
"Luc, je suis ton pere."
Bet you didn't guess this post would end up with a Darth Vader mask!

*****
Today's October 7th, it's 9 o'clock in the evening
At the Trône Fair the marshmallow-mixing machine mixes marshmallow.
At the same moment, at the La Villette garden Félix L'Herbier discovers .
that the number of possible connections in a human brain 
is superior to the number of atoms in the universe. Meanwhile, 
at the foot of the Sacré-Coeur, the Benedictines work on their backhand.

At that exact moment, Zoë publishes this blog post and stops referring 
To herself in the third person, makes a cup of tea, switches on the radio 
And starts pondering what to do with her next days off work.

Idle of Wight… three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

31 Aug

photo 45 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Almost a month ago, we went on a trip back to the Isle of Wight… to be the Idle of Wight.

In my head, it was an Enid Blyton little adventure for two… camping, exploring, stopping for lemonade!

photo 46 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

We hadn’t been back to the island since our mini moon… originally we said we’d go back on our first wedding anniversary, so we were at least a year overdue on our visit!

photo 38 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Home for the 3 nights was a Vintage Vacations airstream again… definitely one of my ‘happy places’ in this world.

Give me a big tin can to stay in, a bbq, a deck chair and some retro Italian tunes (the only CD we played when there!) and I’m in heaven.

Oh yes, and a spot of sunshine doesn’t hurt either it has to be said…

photo 27 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Of course, going back here has reignited my craving for a caravan…

photo 17 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

This little guy with his cat ear lights and jaunty name was possibly my favourite… though I’ve recently spotted a version of him outside someone’s house on my way to work! So apparently parking a caravan outside your abode is more do-able in London!

photo 36 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Or even one of these… any will do if I’m being honest!

photo 16 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

(Evidence of happy place-ness: twirling until you get dizzy. I promise I am older than 5!)

photo 410 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Here I also discovered my other new love… tiny blackcurrant Fabs, which are fab indeed. They came in a box of 12. I may have eaten more than my fair share!

photo 111 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And then on to our Enid Blyton-style adventures… first to a Lavender Farm for lavender scones, cream, jam and tea, where I saw more bumblebees in about 5 minutes than I’ve seen all year long.

photo 211 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

I also discovered that taking pictures of bees isn’t the easiest thing… I have so many blurry shots of them bumbling about, and I kept having to move so I didn’t get stung (didn’t want to have a bumblebee’s death on my conscience!).

photo 210 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Oh and some butterflies too… who were just happily fluttering around. Less stingy those!

photo 29 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And then onto our next destination… believe it or not, this field is at a Garlic Farm!  (Yes, we were hitting all the farms that day!)

photo 48 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Having a bit of a Sound of Music moment here… I may have sang. (But I did wait until there were less people around!)

garlic farm convo pieces Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And even the garlic ice cream was rather nice too. (Garlicy in the way that salted caramel ice cream is salty if that helps explain it.)

photo 3 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

The next day we went to Ventnor… complete with deck chairs and authentic British pensioners…

photo 28 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And pretty beach huts, angel wing shells, lots of dried seaweed…

photo 212 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And of course dinosaur sand ‘castles’! (Accidental dinosaur hunting might still be a thing!)

photo 25 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Then it was off to this tiny little place… which actually is a tiny little place!

Yes, we went to my first ever miniature village, which was very Hot Fuzz (without Timothy Dalton being speared by a small church spire of course).

photo 43 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Knocking at a tiny door… and trying to spy if there was any furniture inside!

photo 13 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Having a Godzilla moment and threatening to destroy the mini village… everyone does this right?

photo 34 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And a train full of dinosaurs! I swear this was like this when I found it…

photo 24 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

This, on the other hand, was not like this when I found it…

photo 21 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

On the last day, we went to Seaview (it does what it says on the tin!) to swim in the sea… and idly talk about having a boat.

photo 31 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

Of course, I don’t really like boats but a girl can let the sea air go to her head!

photo 11 Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

And before we got the ferry home, the trip ended as all mini trips should end… with a scone that’s almost bigger than your head.

happy biscuit convo pieces Idle of Wight... three days of caravans, kitsch and prehistoric creatures

(And a happy biscuit just for good luck…)

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