Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

La rentrée September 8, 2013

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 11:21 am

ImageIn France, when they reach the end of summer and everyone picks back up where they left off, they call it la rentrée. The word sounds a lot like re-entry, and that’s sort of what it is – going back to work and normality after the holidays. So, after having neglected Busywork for a couple of months now, this is me picking up where I left off.

I have actually been at home for much of the summer, but now that it’s September and there’s a chill in the air, it feels like a new start. I find this more so that when the new year starts in January, because the weather then just carries on as it has been, there’s no real seasonal change.

I ended the summer on a high note – a day in London with my friend Jane (hello Jane!). It was something we’d talked about doing for a long time, perhaps more than a year, but we finally got round to it, and the weather gave us a perfect late summer day.

We visited the Chelsea Physic Garden, pottered around the very nice shops on the Kings Road, and then headed to the OXO Tower for cocktails. I had done this back in March when Megan and her friends were in London, and was very keen to go back. They had switched to a summer menu for their Not Afternoon Tea, which meant the options were completely different to those I’d had in March. I went for the chocolate bubbles option, and everything on the plate was amazing (pictures here). That was followed by a very refreshing gin cocktail, and then we were on our way, walking across the Thames to St Paul’s and a view across the city as the sun dipped in the sky.


Down on the farm May 28, 2013

Filed under: Nature and wildlife,Places to go — lauravw @ 3:08 pm

pigletsMy mother commented the other day that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. Not a good sign. The usual excuses apply: busyness, laziness, procrastination.

Anyway… The other day I took a trip with my parents to a small farm where you can pet the animals. It’s an ideal time of year to visit a place like this – there were baby animals a-go-go. There was also plenty of cherry blossom, and a tea-room that was worth a visit.

I’d like to think that one day I will live somewhere where my neighbours keep goats. (Or have goats myself, but it would be so much easier to just live near some.) There was a small family of them on the farm, and I always like seeing their smiling faces.

I was also rather keen on the rabbits, and for a short time was able to hold one of the younger ones. He was promptly returned to his hutch when he started to nibble my Boden coat though – and there is still evidence of teethmarks. While we were there, mum and I spotted that one of the rabbits had been making a nest, and we actually spotted two tiny rabbits be born – it was quite exciting to be there for the first few moments of their lives.

If you’d like to see more pictures of cute little animals, there are plenty more on my Flickr account.



There were more cocktails… March 18, 2013

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 2:23 pm

towerbridgeFor much of the last week I was in London, enjoying a bit of a holiday during some of the coldest weather we’ve seen all winter. Not great timing.

Megan (also known as Not Martha) and some of her friends had flown over from Seattle to visit people. They spent some time in Bath and then Cornwall before they, and I, travelled to London for a few days. Unfortunately a few of them had or were getting over a cold, which curtailed activities slightly, but we still had chance to see some of the sights.

Almost as soon as I arrived, I headed out to meet Melissa (also known as Fehr Trade): it was nice to meet her in person at long last, and I also enjoyed having a tour of her houseboat – during which I asked about some of the more pratical things like where your post is delivered if you live on a boat, and how your rubbish is collected (by boat!).

Dusk was falling as I walked back along the Thames, and that made for an interesting walk – I enjoyed seeing Tower Bridge in the twilight.

The following morning I went with Megan and her friends to have a late breakfast at Nopi, which was an interesting experience – our table was right by the kitchen, and so we could all watch as our food was prepared. Also interesting were the loos, which are covered in mirrors! There are so many mirrors, in fact, that an arrow on the floor points you in the right direction when you have finished admiring your many reflections and are ready to leave.

Then there was shopping – I think we should be grateful that this group of tourists made such a contribution to the economy while they were over here! The next day (Monday) I caught a train out to Wivenhoe in Essex, to meet up with an old friend who has moved there. I have very little experience of Essex (I think I had only been there once before, to visit a university) and didn’t expect the place to be so charming! It was covered in snow, and we trekked along muddy footpaths through fields to collect her daughter from the local village school. I was sent back to London with homemade cake to eat on the way.

Tuesday was our last full day in London, and contained two highlights for me. The first was an exhibition I hadn’t wanted to go to: Light Show at the Southbank Centre. I get a lot of migraines and so was anxious it would trigger one. Luckily for me it didn’t, and I found the whole exhibition really enjoyable – they don’t let you take pictures inside, but there is a video on their website that’s worth a look. (I would have loved to take pictures, but I think not allowing photography is a wise choice here, as people standing around with their cameras would have altered the atmosphere in the space.)

And finally, we ended our holiday with Not Afternoon Tea at OXO Tower: no tea, and no cake – just four puddings and a cocktail. It’s not cheap, but the food and drink were excellent, and I felt very well looked after. And the view is worth paying for too. Be warned if you go that the cocktails are strong – so strong that I quickly stopped worrying about the cost and ordered a second one…


Extravagance February 11, 2013

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 1:20 pm

cocktailsWe had a particularly extravagant Saturday afternoon this weekend. For some time now we’ve had a £100 voucher for a very fancy Nottingham restaurant burning a hole in our pockets, and this was the day we decided to spend some of it.

We’d been given the voucher as a thank you for looking after our friend’s two cats after she died last year – we cared for them for just over six months, and then found a new home for them. Her family gave us the voucher to thank us for our help, which was a lovely surprise. And I’m happy to report that the cats are very happy in their new home – we get fairly regular updates, and have been to visit them.

The restaurant, World Service, doesn’t offer a great deal for vegetarians – there’s only ever one vegetarian option on the menu, and I prefer to go to places where I have a choice about what I eat. But then we had a very bright idea: we would spend the entire voucher in the bar.

And so on Saturday afternoon I went with Andy and my mum to sit around drinking for a few hours. We raised a glass to our friend, and to her cats, and we had a wonderful time. It felt decadent being able to order anything off the extensive cocktail menu, without having to give a thought to the price – something we would never do under normal circumstances. We giggled and drank, enjoying the log fire and the luxurious surroundings – something I could really get used to.

We didn’t even manage to spend the whole £100 – which gives us the perfect excuse to go back and do it all over again in the near future.




A day at Chatsworth November 25, 2012

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 2:07 pm

The week before last, I was able to spend a day at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

I went three years ago, at the same time of year – they really go to town on their Christmas decorations, and the place looks awesome. I preferred the decorations in 2009 – this year was a pantomime theme, which is not really to my taste. Having said that, I still loved how it looked, and as usual took lots of pictures while I was there.

This mantelpiece, covered in fruits and greenery (and tiny toy mice!), was my favourite – I loved the natural colours and the lack of tinsel. But a bit of sparkle can be nice too.

The picture on this post was taken on a walk round the grounds. The roof of this little building was covered in moss, which I loved. There were still plenty of leaves on the trees that day, but with the heavy winds and rain we’ve had this week, I expect it all looks very different now.


Autumn is on November 12, 2012

Filed under: Nature and wildlife,Places to go — lauravw @ 4:32 pm

We got up early(ish) yesterday to head to nearby Wollaton Park.

It seems a lot of other people had the same idea, as it was unusually busy for a cold Sunday morning.

The bright sunshine was illuminating all the trees, and if you stopped and watched them, you could see leaves gently falling to the ground.

We saw a few deer – you can see this stag’s breath in the cold morning air. These two were a little more cautious, quietly pottering around under the cover of the trees.


1940s dance-off September 14, 2012

Filed under: Places to go — lauravw @ 6:29 pm

Two weeks ago we went to a 1940s weekend at Rufford Abbey, which is in Sherwood Forest, north of Nottingham.

It was a free event, and my expectations were low – we’ve been disappointed in the past by events that promise a lot but deliver little. It was quite a trek getting to Rufford by bus, but within two minutes of arriving I was watching people in authentic 1940s costumes dancing, which made my journey totally worthwhile.

There were so many people in costume, people who were part of the event and people who were simply attending it. A large part of the site was devoted to the military, which clearly played a big part in life in those days. What I enjoyed most were the civilians – and as you walked round the site and heard them chatting with each other, you could see that quite a few people remained in character. I heard a women dressed in lower-class clothing be very respectful towards a woman who was clearly of means, and I saw plenty of others who seemed utterly caught up in the past, in a good way.

There was a fly-by from a Spitfire, and then more dancing. The dancers were from the Festival Swing Dance Society, and they looked to be having tremendous fun. The programme of events indicated that there was a dance class being offered by the Society, and I really wanted to be part of it. Andy didn’t want to dance, so that meant I had to be paired up with one of the instructors – which meant I got personal tuition! Disappointingly, it turns out I’m not a natural when it comes to swing dance, but I did enjoy myself at least.

As ever, I took a lot of photos, some of which are now on Flickr.




Shopping in Marylebone June 21, 2012

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 3:03 pm

As much as I loved being in London, I was happy to get home to our quiet streets and to our garden. A life of crowded pavements and pushy pedestrians is not for me. Not all of London is like that though – you only have to venture a little way off the tourist track to find yourself in more civilised surroundings. We made a trip to Notting Hill (to visit the Hummingbird Bakery – more on that another time!), and also to Marylebone High Street, where you can potter around to your heart’s content. It’s a narrow road, with plenty of pedestrian crossings, and there’s a lot of good stuff to see within a short distance – a bonus if you have already walked a lot, as we had.

We started in the Conran Shop, at the north end of the street. This kept us busy for quite some time – Mum and I are both fans of the Conrans, and there were three floors to explore. They sold my favourite mixing bowls – Rosti Margrethe, two of which I carried back from Paris on my lap some years ago. (They only had white ones in the Conran Shop – my collection of five bowls are in more colourful hues.) They also sold Kusmi  Tea, which I have wanted to find for a long time since I saw it on Decor8 three (!) years ago. I had no idea whether the tea would be nice; for me, it was all about buying the pretty tin it came in. (I’ve tried the tea now though, and yes, it’s good tea. And the tin! The tin is pretty.)

As you work your way south, you can visit Cath Kidston, Skandium (a whole shop of Scandinavian homewares), and an excellent kitchen shop called Divertimenti. There are plenty of other places to browse as well, mostly selling luxurious things for your house (Emma Bridgewater pottery, a bookshop specialising in travel, and fancy eateries are all right there). If you are someone who has a thing for ribbon, VV Rouleaux is close by as well. We had lunch at Strada – an upmarket chain that I thought we didn’t have here in Nottingham, but it turns out we do, so I expect we will go there again before long.

After lunch we headed for St Paul’s, which I think is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s not cheap to get in, and be warned that they no longer allow photography inside. This was a bit of a disappointment to us, especially since the ‘no photography’ signs aren’t visible until after you’ve handed over your admission fee. I can sort of understand their reasoning, but I think a ‘no flash photography’ option would be more appropriate. We very much enjoyed exploring the building though, and I love the fact that the cafe is in the crypt – it is all too rare that I get to eat coffee cake and drink tea whilst sitting in a crypt.

Mum and Andy then went to the National Gallery, while I took a walk along the Mall, as I wanted to see all the flags. It did look beautiful, although I must admit that I am starting to experience bunting fatigue. The Queen must be sick of the stuff by now too.

So that was the last full day of our trip. We managed a walk around Hyde Park and Kensington the next morning – I’ll write about that next.


Boat trip along the Thames June 20, 2012

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 2:27 pm

Thursday was boat trip day, a special request from my mother. We took a bus from our hotel to Westminster, and walked around Westminster Abbey and Big Ben before heading to the dock. (I love Big Ben, it’s my favourite London sight and I always love to see it. Plus it reminds me of National Lampoon’s European vacation, which is the sort of low-brow film I love to watch on rainy days.)

Frustratingly, you can’t get a boat that calls at both Tate Modern (Bankside Pier) and Greenwich, so we took a boat to Greenwich, and then changed at St Katharine’s Pier on the way back (the pier right next to Tower Bridge, which is another of my favourite London sights). From there we took the very useful RV1 bus all the way to the Tate. (If you’re a tourist in London, I really recommend looking into the bus routes – the traffic is horrendous and so it can take a long time to get from A to B, particularly around Oxford Street and Regent Street, but it’s nice to be able to see where you’re going and to jump off if you spot something you’d like to get a closer look at. And so many tube stations involve lengthy underground walks before you reach the platform, so a bus is better if you are already tired from walking around all day. The RV1 bus links up a whole loads of things that, as a tourist, you’ll be wanting to see – some of which are not so easy to get to on the tube.)

The boat trip itself was nice and relaxing, other than the fact that an entire primary school was on there with us. The children were very excited and noisy, but in a nice way – it all added to the atmosphere.

And as for Tate Modern… I had been several times before and so knew exactly what I was letting myself in for, but Mum and Andy were a bit disappointed by the art. (Something they rectified later in the week with a visit to the National Gallery.) We all like art, but much of the modern art is just a bit too out there for our tastes. I must tip my hat to the ‘artist’ who managed to sell the gallery a pile of bricks back in the 1970s, described as a ‘minimalist sculpture’…

Anyway, whether you appreciate modern art or not, it’s still worth visiting for two reasons: the shop and the cafe! The shop has a great selection of art books (many of them featuring ‘proper’ artists, rather than the sort who simply move a few bricks into a pile), and the cafe does excellent food. Higher up in the building (the 7th floor, I think) is another bar and cafe which has wonderful views across London.

Again, the rest of my pictures from our holiday in London are here. Next up: shopping on Marylebone High Street, and exploring St Paul’s Cathedral.


Hampton Court Palace June 19, 2012

Filed under: Places to go,Travel — lauravw @ 11:25 am

On our second morning in London, we woke to sunny skies – a very welcome sight, since we had planned to visit Hampton Court Palace.

None of us had been there before, and we all loved it – the gardens are incredible, and we saw them at a time when there were plenty of things in bloom. There is a walled rose garden, and as you walk around it, the perfume from the roses hangs in the air. The buildings are impressive, and some of them are almost 500 years old – King Henry VIII even lived there!

There is a lot to explore inside, but most of our time was spent in the gardens. I’d love to go back there, and if you’re planning a visit to London, I would whole-heartedly recommend a visit. I’m sure there would be plenty to see later in the year too, but to see all the flowers in bloom and the trees in leaf really makes it look wonderful.

I took so many photos on this trip – you can see the rest here. Next up: our boat trip along the Thames, and a visit to Tate Modern.