Thursday, 17 April 2014

a little less floral

The sun seems to have disappeared today (and the bank holiday weekend ain't looking so good either) so what better time to bang on about some seriously colourful fabrics. 

As I've mentioned before nearly all the dresses I own are made with floral prints so, the next dress I make should not be. Here are some contenders...
Amy Butler's Hapi collection is stunning - particularly loving the glow, camel blanket and sky pyramid designs. Too bad the latter is only available in a linen blend. 

This fabulous collection by Arizona is coming soon to the Village Haberdashery. Love the one in the bottom left corner.
Lastly there's this from the Henna collection, a first from UK designer Beth Studley. I want a dress made from this v.muchly.
 Happy faux friday! I'm cooking for all the family on easter sunday and taking a trip to Essex on saturday to see a v.good friend :) tomorrow and monday I shall play by ear - really looking forward to a lie-in! Hope you've got lots of good stuff planned for the easter weekend too. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Reading & Seeing 16

Under the Skin
Chilling, sinister and amazing. Set in Scotland, Scarlett Johansson plays a seemingly attractive and friendly young women who picks up single and unattached young men on the pretence of giving them a lift somewhere. Once they're seated in her van, she asks if they'd like to come home with her. Unluckily for the poor bastards who say yes, they're not about to get their rocks off. They're about to meet their end because Johansson is some sort of alien. She's actually seducing them and taking them back to her creepy lair to harvest their bodies in one of the most terrifying sequences I've ever seen. But it's not just the action on screen that's frightening, it's the music. With very little dialogue, the music (and the stunning Scottish scenery) is a powerful presence throughout the film. It's unnervingly atmospheric - whether it was the eerie, minimal rhythmic beats or the frantic violin (or strings) music, I had goosebumps. Johansson is spot-on, as are the v.brief appearances of the supporting cast. Director Jonathan Glazer has been likened to Kubrick and I can definitely see the similarities. I'm not sure if this is still on at the cinema but I do highly recommend watching it on the big screen if you can. We had to watch something funny before going to sleep (I have a imagination) and I suggest you do the same.

In the Heart of the Sea (2000)
The true story of the Nantucket whale ship Essex which foundered in 1820 thanks to an encounter with a sperm whale. Its crew faced a harrowing 90 days in open whale boats searching for land in the Pacific Ocean, with next to nothing to eat or drink, apart from each other... Around forty years ago, a new first-hand account of the Essex crew was unearthed which is why Nathaniel Philbrick wrote In the Heart of the Sea. Before the diary of cabin boy, Thomas Nickerson, was discovered the story of the Essex was almost solely known thanks to the account of Owen Chase, the vessel's first mate, whose own journal was published soon after the sinking and rescue. Philbrick uses both these accounts, which sometimes conflict, in order to piece together what happened. As well as the narrative, Philbrick also provides some useful and interesting contextual information - whaling terms, maps, what life was life was like in Nantucket at that time etc. I also liked the fact that he tells us about what happened to each of the survivors. Yes, the tradgedy of the Essex is apparently what inspired Melville to write Moby Dick, but for me I thought this true story was even more fantastical and shocking. It's no secret that I couldn't get to grips with Moby Dick at uni but I thought this book was excellent and gave a real sense of what it was like to be a whaler in the mid 19th century. I read this in 6 days (into the early hours of the morning on a couple of occasions); I could not put it down. An incredible (and gruesome) story of survival, definitely worth reading before hollywood have its way with it anyway.

The Last Runaway (2013)
Another book set in America in the mid 1800s (I appear to have gone off on a historical story jaunt), however, this novel is centred around Quakers, quilts (yay!) and the underground railroad, a movement which helped slaves on the run to reach the boarders of Canada. At the centre of it all is Honor Bright, a young English quaker who finds herself v.much alone and somewhat stuck in a tiny, developing village in Ohio. Understandably she feels completely alien in her new home, and the majority of people aren't particularly sympathetic. Quite a fuss was made about this book, possibly because of Tracy Chevalier, but I have to say I found it rather simple and straightforward. (My auntie pointed out that the simple writing style is supposed to mirror the simplistic Quaker way of life. Or something.) I confess I did enjoy the quilting references but at times it felt like Chevalier, who'd obviously done a lot of research into the craft, was determined to squeeze in bits of her new-found knowledge when the story didn't need it. I like the mixture of third-person narrative and letters but unfortunately Honor is a little irritating, Jack Haymaker is terribly one dimensional (in fact a lot of the quakers are either beige or unpleasant) and the meatier characters (Belle and Donavan) aren't really given enough page space. The truly interesting subject - the underground railroad - sort of trundles along in the middle distance which is a shame because I think that's the book I'd rather have read.

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable
Chances are you've heard something of the hype surrounding this production of promenade theatre. Well, let me tell you, there's a damn good reason for it. I went last Thursday and I can honestly say it was probably one of the best things I've seen. Rather than sitting down to watch a story, imagine walking around inside it - following the action from scene to scene over four floors of the most incredible sets, silently watching the drama play-out before you. Well, that's what it's like and it was amazing. I'm not going to say any more because it's way more fun to discover stuff for yourself. They've extended it until the end of June and I thoroughly intend to go again. Intrigued? Read more about it here.

Monday, 14 April 2014

an unexpected long weekend


Last Friday I didn't go to work, instead, I went to visit the Hunterian Museum at The Royal College of Surgeons. Not for the faint of heart (or weak of stomache) - the museum houses a huge collection of specimens: human, animal, inspect, reptile. Some of it is pretty gross but hey! gross stuff can also be rather fascinating. As well as the specimens, there's also information about the history of surgeons including how they learned about anatomy, the tools they used to 'operate' (terrifying) and the way in which surgery has evolved and changed over time - the stuff about sterilisation and early plastic surgery for WWI soldiers was particularly interesting. There's also lots about the museum's name sake, John Hunter, who was some what of a pioneer thanks to his "scientific" approach to surgery. The Royal College is only about a 5 minute walk from Holborn station and faces a pretty leafy patch known as Lincoln's Inn Fields. Plus, the museum is free and has lockers to put your stuff in.
Friday evening was spent with a v.good friend in a bloody fantastic pub in Surbiton. Recently refurbished, it has a seriously impressive ale selection and a v.tempting menu (I can vouch for the scotch egg and sweet potato fries - cutlery and condiments arrived in this holder which I thought was cool). Seems like West London is finally cottoning on to the idea of mirco breweries and ale pubs (huzzah!) - which reminds me, I reeeeally must to go back to BrewDog in Shepherds Bush soon.

Saturday started off with delivering my fabric to the dressmaker in Forest Hill which is not only a load off my mind but also very exciting. We stuck around in South London for some breakfast on the terrace at Café St Germain in Crystal Palace, and v.nice it was too. In the afternoon I met some friends for a mooch about in Richmond and a stroll along the river before heading up the hill via Richmond terrace gardens. I'm not sure how but, I always seem to forgot how amazing the views are from Richmond Hill. My apologies, these pics really do not do it justice. An early night was desperately needed on Saturday after a v.busy week. We also finally caught up on Game of Thrones.

The gloriously sunny weather coupled with the lambing season (bear with me) could mean only one thing for Sunday... a trip to Vauxhall farm. We arrived by mid-afternoon and sure enough, munching away on a big bag of straw were 5 five week old lambs. One of the guys that worked there even brought one out so that the children (and me & mitch) could pet it. Tearing ourselves away from the lambs we stopped by to look at the bunnies, horses, pigs and hens. We also fed the goats and sheep before petting the largest guinea pig I've ever seen! The alpacas, who are usually more friendly, seemed quite content to sit and enjoy the sun on this occasion.
2 minutes from the farm is the Tea House Theatre, a very lovely, higgledy-piggledly (in a good way) establishment serving, you guessed it, tea and massive doorstop wedges of cake. It had a v.chilled out atmosphere - cakes were randomly distributed throughout the place and all the teapots, cups and cutlery were laid out on a large table at the back. They have a selection of books and board games that you can use so, whilst we listened to the live music (provided by a man playing what look like a lute?!) Mitch and I played draughts (I'm too stupid for chess). It's a little pricey but we did spend a good hour and a half there and the pot of tea we ordered lasted the whole time and, as I've mentioned, the slices of cake were ginormous. Their breakfast menu looked good so I'm tempted to go again to try that too.

All in all, a v.good weekend with lots of food, good company and a very healthy dosage of vitamin D.

Friday, 11 April 2014

BUDAPEST (part 2)

Continuing on from Tuesday's photo-fest, here's what Friday and Saturday looked like...
On Friday morning we headed away from the river towards City Park and Szechenyi thermal baths. We bought the cheapest ticket available which gave us access to all the pools and a locker. The thermal pools were all inside and, although they were relaxing, many of them were quite busy especially some of the smaller ones. So, we ended up spending the majority of our time in the outside pool (or 'sitting pool' as they call it). Not only was it heated but it also featured jacuzzi-type bubbles and a rapids whirlpool which was You can hire towels at the baths as well as robes to wear whilst walking between the pools. On reflection I think we should have done that because we ended up having to carry our soaking towels back to the apartment on public transport. City Park is home to Vajdahunyad Castle and had we not been super tired and starving (I've no idea why swimming pools do that to me) we would have visited it but alas. It's on my list to see when I come back to Budapest again.
Showered and towel free we descended upon the Book Café, (or Lotz Terem) so called (I presume) because you have to walk through a book shop and up an escalator to get to it. As you can see it has the most amazing ceiling/chandelier thing going on, and the coffee (and cake) is bloody good too! City breaks can get a bit knackering I find - trying to cram as much in as possible - so, I would highly recommend this café. It was the perfect place to relax, gaze at the ceiling, listen to the man playing the piano, drink delicious coffee and stuff my face full of cake.
On a side note, I really wish I'd taken more pictures of the buildings in Budapest. Loads of them were painted the most beautiful colours - yellow, peach, subtle pinks. Plus, the random mix of architecture styles - gothic, turkish influences - was a reeeeally cool.
I was v.aware that this was our last night in Budapest and I still hadn't tried traditional Hungarian goulash so, we hopped on the metro to a pub that had received a hell of a lot of good reviews on trip advisor, For Sale Pub. The goulash soup was a-mazing. Beef, potatoes, carrots, little things which reminded me of suet dumplings all in a spicy soupy with Hungarian chilli flakes sprinkled on top. Luv-er-ly. For Sale Pub isn't just known for its grub though, its decor is pretty sweet too. The walls and ceilings are covered in scraps of paper bearing notes from past patrons. Just like the thousands before us we left our mark :)
3 massive beers later, we took the tram to Kazinczy utca. The city is famous for its ruinpubs and we set our sights on Szimpla kert. It was pretty late when we arrived and the place was super busy. It  was huge - full of lots of bars, seating areas, shisha smoking areas, a large terrace area with a films being projected onto a screen. I sort of wished we'd gone in the day as that would've given us a better chance of exploring the place. Plus, I think there's a lot of food things there during the daytime. Oh well, I'll just put it on the list for next time :) We stayed for a giant beer and then headed back to the apartment but not before purchasing some of their delicious pizza.

We got up early on our last day, packed up all our stuff and went for breakfast at the seriously decadent New York Café. It's actually a hotel too I think. The decor was rather exquisite but the bill, thankfully wasn't. We both ordered poached eggs on toast (and I got mushrooms, tomatoes and sausages too) all washed down with a 'Power Package' smoothie. Not only was it the exact breakfast that I wanted, it tasted amazing and the presentation was awesome - really wished I'd taken a picture of it!

Seriously full, we waddled over to the river to see if we could get a boat ride on the danube. Before our ride disembarked we took a walk along the Pest bank towards the Parliament building (which is stunning btw) and came across the Shoes on the Danube memorial. It commemorates the victims who were shot into the Danube by fascist militiamen during WWII. It's a really moving and poignant sculpture.
The actual boat trip itself was alright, but it got a little chilly. It was nice to sit and look at the scenery but I wouldn't do it again. I think you're probably better off exploring places on foot to be honest.  
We spent our last hour in Budapest back at the Book Café - it really was worth a second visit. Tea, coffee, a couple of sandwiches, some shared dessert and then it was time to leave. 
We used Airbnb and stayed in this apartment - I'd recommend both :) Here's the chilli I brought back for Mitch and this is a little bottle of palinka. Wikipedia describes it as a fruit brandy but I was also told it's like a v.strong (40% alc.) wine... my sis and I each bought a bottle because we didn't get around to trying any, hopefully it'll be tasty. 

Till we meet again Budapest!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

experiments in dressmaking - Amelia

Started before we left Brixton and finished the night before Budapest, that's about two months in the making, but here she is... the Amelia dress by GreenBeePatterns!
Overall, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. The instructions were pretty clear but for some reason I spent aaaages trying to figure out the pockets and I still didn't get them right. (The left one is completely buggered but thankfully you can't tell from outside.)

The zip is supposed to be invisible, clearly it isn't, and it also sticks up at the top. The patterned asked for a 24 inch zip but I think I'd have been better off with a 22 inch. Not entirely sure how that happened. Annoyingly, the zip doesn't look so straight in these pics but it does when it's on a hanger... Ah well, at least it's wearable. And rather comfy actually.

It got its first wearing in Budapest and I've worn it this week too - reckon it'll see even more outings once the weather hots up.
The fabric is Anna Maria Horner - Dowry, Twill Bouquet in Navy which I got from the Village Haberdashery. I think I might have another go at the Amelia - I want to get those pockets right, damn it!   This or this might be nice, I really do not need any more floral dresses.

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