Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Love - May


My reading challenge continued in May with 5 books completed, a little bit of a slowdown from April. This was partially due to the fact that I am walking more after work which cuts into my reading time on the tube as I am now walking from Bond Street to Liverpool Street a couple of times a week when the weather is fine.
This months reads are a mixed bag of mystery, murder, love and friendship and have taken me to Italy, Jersey, 'Up North' the South of France and the English countryside.
Last month I waxed lyrically about a new author that I had discovered Helen H Durrant, May saw me continue with the Calladine / Bayliss police partnership in the 4th book of this detective series with Dead Lost. The pair find themselves investigation a series of events which lead to a group of homeless people that have set up camp in a disused cotton mill, which as the story develops becomes more horrific. Alongside this the pair have to juggle their personal lives alongside their professional, as the investigation develops they find that the crimes are are further reaching than they imagined. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and with each story they become a little more darker and complex. D.I Calladine is definitely becoming a little bit of a guilty pleasure and look forward to reading the next in the series.
My next read saw be hoping the channel to Jersey for Georgina Troy's – A Jersey Kiss – here we meet Bea who along with dealing with a messy divorce is learning to live without her beloved god mother. Bea's god mother has left her, her beautiful home along with "A Jersey Kiss" which is proving to be a bit of a mystery. At work an old flame Tom reappears in her life, along with a gorgeous builder Luke who she hires to action some repairs to her home. With her ex-husband threatening court action for half of her home, Bea's life is a little chaotic, with the thought of losing her home, and some serious trust issues she has little time for romance, however things aren’t always as they seem and the mysterious legacy could be the thing that saves it all. This is a lovely story and I really liked Bea, being familiar with Jersey having spent some time there in my teens it was easy to visualise some of the places within this book. Having enjoyed this book I immediately downloaded the 2nd book within the series which is loosely connected to book 1.
A JerseyAffair is Georgina's 2nd book and features Paige. Paige is jilted days before her wedding and decides to spend her honeymoon for one in Sorrento. Paige is a shoe designer and has a small shop within one of Jersey's old department stores. Whilst on her 'onemoon' she meets Sebastian Fielding, a wealthy entrepreneur, he spends a platonic 2 weeks with Paige showing her the sights and sounds of Sorrento and its surrounding coastline and Paige's broken heart slowly begins to mend. On returning to Jersey Paige finds out that her department store is being taken over and the mystery buyer is none other than Sebastian, can their budding romance survive the threat of Paige losing her shop and  dealing with the press intrusion. Another delightful read from Georgina and had me scouring travel sites for a short stay in Sorrento. Sebastian is quite delicious and I enjoyed catching up with some of the characters from the previous book…. Book 3 is now downloaded and sitting in my "to read" list.
My 4th read of the month is a Jill Mansell novel – Three Amazing things about You. Jill is one of my all-time favourite authors and yet again she didn’t disappoint with this book. In this book we meet 3 women, Hallie, Flo and Tasha unbeknown to each of them they will all become connected in ways that they never would have thought of; Hallie is a young women who is on a donor lost awaiting a lung transfer having suffered with cystic fibrosis all her life. We meet Hallie as she is heading for the hospital having received the call that a donor has been found. Hallie for the past few years has been hiding a number of secrets; 1. She is the author of a blog which answers peoples problems via 3 things about you, what she has never shared is who she is and the condition she has, she shares her secret on route to the hospital. Her other secret is that she is in love with the most perfect man, something she has never shared with her best friend or even him an now time is running out should she share that secret too? Flo has met Zander through the most bizarre circumstances, Zander's scary sister loathes Flo and the thought of them becoming friends would send her apoplectic, anything more would send her crazy. Tasha meets her perfect man and the only issue is that he is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, the complete opposite to safe, planned Tasha. She spends her tome apart from him worrying that something terrible is going to happen. One day all these womens lives collide and their lives will be intricately woven for ever more. This was a thought provoking emotional read, and Jill manages to make you laugh, cry and think in every chapter. I loved Hallie and desperately wanted her life to be better… I will leave it up to you to read to find out if she got her happy ending and got the courage to share her secrets.
My final read for the month is The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard – Emmy Jamieson books a fortnights escape to a guesthouse in the French Countryside with her boyfriend Nathan. After 5 years their relationship has become a little dull and Emmy is hoping a couple of weeks in the south of France will inject a little life into their lives. Having barely unpacked Emmy's holiday takes a turn when she finds her boyfriend with his pants down with the owners cougar wife Gloria and the owner Rupert collapsing with a suspected heart attack unaware of his wifes antics. Nathan & Gloria scarper and leave Emmy holding the fort at the guesthouse and gites. With Rupert convalescing, Emmy agrees to stay and help out for the remaining holiday. She finds herself thrust into the heart of the local community which involves a sexy young gardener, and a infuriating delicious accountant. Emmy finds herself extending her stay and with Ruperts support she has some decisions to make about her future. This is a lovely read and one that I devoured whilst travelling through the French countryside on Eurostar with a large coffee and croissant. I loved Emmy and the characters were delightful. I do hope that Helen does a follow-up as I am sure that there are future stories with some of the supporting cast.
Thankyou authors for 5 fab reads for May, I've enjoyed travelling in Italy, France, Jersey alongside some heartache, murder, mystery, fun and friendship…. I am now 33 books into my 75 book reading challenge…. Here's the previous 28 from 2016.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Make-light in Hampstead

A few weeks ago I spent a fun filled Saturday afternoon exploring and
photographing the streets and heath of Hampstead with a dozen other ladies. I had never visited Hampstead before and grabbed the opportunity to explore this lovely little corner of London with Emily Quinton. I met Emily a couple of years ago when I attended one of her photography workshops, I enjoyed it so much I spent a day food styling with her last year. Emily has now added photography walks to her make light portfolio in some of London's most loveliest of places.
The walk started early afternoon and although the day was a little cold and overcast it didn’t spoil the fun that the groups of us girls had in the lanes and side streets of Hampstead. I'm not sure what any of the residents thought of us snapping images on our phones and cameras of their front doors and gardens, but I fell in love with many of the houses and gardens as we walked around.
 No time with Emily would be complete without a prop or two and a beautiful bunch of blooms from a local florist added much fun and silly image opportunities for some of us along with video fun from E herself.


After a good couple of hours of walking, photographing and chatting we finished the day off with tea & cake in a local restaurant, swapping images, instagram accounts and details. I enjoyed myself so much that I came home and booked for the next walk which will be within the grounds of Kew gardens.

Prior to meeting up with the makelight ladies I spent an hour exploring the heath and the surrounding streets leading to the high street. 















Some of my favourite images from the day are of a man and his gorgeous dog….

Friday, 20 May 2016

24 hours in Lyon ..... part1

I have already shared the 2nd half of my 24 hours in Lyon with some culture and food, the first half was a little different and evolved around a game of rugby. My trip was planned to attend the European Champions Cup Final between Saracens and French team Racing Metro.
This was Saracens 2nd time reaching the Final of this championship, having lost to Toulon in Cardiff at the last final, so there was much to play for in France. When Saracens won their semi-final I was on the internet immediately booking tickets for Eurostar and the game as I knew with Racing metro securing the other spot it would be incredibly popular. This game would also allow me to see one of my rugby hero's Dan Carter who now plays fly half for Racing after leaving New Zealand and the All Blacks after the world cup.
With the weather a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers it would make for a greasy game. The game was being held at the newly built Stade de Lyon stadium on the outskirts of the town. The main public transport to and from the ground is via tram, which was much fun and a first for me to travel to a from a rugby game in. One of the things that I noticed lots when I was travelling to and around Lyon is the poppies dotted everywhere. I saw lots from the Eurostar as I travelled across France and it really struck a chord to see them. There were several blooming around the ground which many fans commented on as we walked to the game.
I arrived at the game early as I had been told to expect lengthy security checks and they didn’t lie, aside from the Olympics this was the lengthiest checks that I had ever had at a game; including a full body pat down. Arriving at the game early allowed me to see Jonny Wilkinson being interviewed by Will Greenwood and the squads warming up between the very heavy rain showers. This also allowed me to spend lots of time gazing at Dan Carter and his thighs as Racing were warming up near to where I was sitting!.
Having purchased my ticket from the French ticketmaster I found myself surrounded by Racing fans who were very friendly and not too hostile as the game commenced!
With a fanfare of fireworks the game kicked off at 5.30 to a huge roar from the crowd. The ground was a sea of blue with pockets of red and black for the Saracens fans.

 From previous experience final games are usually tight fought contests, with neither side wanting to take too many chances, thus preventing conceding penalties and points. This game was much of that with both teams holding tight to the ball and points being gained from penalty kicks instead of trys.
All points scored by Sarries coming off of the boot of Own Farrell. Racing always seemed to be on the back foot and were penalised a number of times. With heavy rain during the warm-up hour it made for a slippery and greasy game with the ball being lost by both teams several times.
 2nd half saw Racing attempt a comeback and at one point with minutes to go I thought that they may push a try across the line, however the Sarries boys held their nerve and defence and were crowned champions as the final whistle blew.
Huge celebrations took place as the Champions cup was presented and red & black flags waved around the stadium to roars of "Sarries". Here are some images from the game and the after celebrations.

The atmosphere was amazing and I am so glad that I made the journey from home to Lyon to watch the game, I got to see so many Rugby heroes: Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and Sarries lift the Champions cup a bit of a dream weekend for a Rugby girl.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

24 hours in Lyon .... part 2

Last weekend I spent 24 hours in the beautiful old city of Lyon in France.  Lyon sits a couple of hours south of Paris by train and is in France’s Rhône-Alpes region. It sits at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its city centre reflects 2,000 years of history, with a Roman amphitheatre in Fourvière, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux Lyon, and the modern, redeveloped Confluence district on the Presqu'île peninsula between the rivers. With only a short time in the city and predominately there for a game of rugby I had to be very selective on what I wanted to visit and see.
My trip started at St Pancras where I boarded a Eurostar bound for Marseille which stopped at Lyon and Avignon. St Pancras is my favourite station in London, the architecture, light and ambience of the space is just stunning. Arriving early I ambled around enjoying the relative quiet of the station, even thou there was some people around. St Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering, it is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the world. It has seen huge decline and restoration over the past 30 years and is now the hub for all Eurostar international travel. How amazing must it be to arrive in London for the 1st time via train and see this beautiful building and hotel.

With a simple check-in and boarding we were soon departing London heading for the Channel, I had when booking my tickets managed to grab a Business premier ticket for the same cost as standard fare. This was a little luxury for what would be 4½ hours on a train. With a complimentary breakfast, drinks and magazines the time flew and we were soon pulling into Lyon Gard de Nord to disembark.
Saturday was predominately filled with the rugby which left no time for exploring, however Sunday dawned bright and dry and before I headed back to the UK on the afternoon train I wanted to explore this city a little more. A lovely lady who I had met on the train advised me on 2 things; if time is limited then the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a must for beauty, culture and history and as Lyon is renowned for its food then you must visit the farmers / food markets that run alongside the 2 rivers within the city on a Sunday morning.

With my hotel next to the metro I jumped on a train and headed to the old town of Fourvière, where I then picked up a ride on the Funicular (a tram/cable car carriage which cuts through the cliffs up to the top of the hill) to the Basilica. Perched on top of the Fourvière hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city of Lyon, from where it can be seen from many vantage points; not unintentionally, the basilica of Fourvière has become a symbol of the city. As impressive as the basilica is from the outside, nothing prepares you for how stunning it is from the inside. The ceiling, guilt work and stained glass windows are just beautiful. I arrived half way through the morning mass and it was lovely just to sit at the back and enjoy the hymns, and the ambience of the space.

Exiting the basilica the views from the grounds are impressive across the 2 rivers and town. Leaving behind this gorgeous old town I headed down the cliff and across the river to enjoy the food market. The market was fabulous, filled with the most delicious aromas, produce, groceries and flowers. It was a tempting treat and I created a picnic breakfast/brunch of fresh treats; pain au chocolate, nectarines, apricots, and coffee to enjoy sitting on the river bank. I also bought some cheese, apple tart and fruits to bring home along with a beautiful bunch of peonies.

It was soon time to head to the station to pick up my train to Paris, where I then boarded the Eurostar home. I really enjoyed Lyon and would definitely visit again, especially as the train is really easy and also has great train links to other locations including South of France, Geneva and Barcelona.




Monday, 16 May 2016

an evening at Koffmans....

Not sure where May is whizzing to but I'm still playing catch-up with blog posts from April!... at the end of April my friend and I spent a gorgeous evening being dined in a beautiful restaurant with a menu by one of my hero chefs; the fabulous Pierre Koffman.
As we had an evening planned at the Royal Albert Hall, I had booked the pre-theatre menu which allowed us to dine early. Koffman's is situated at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge and is quite beautiful.
As an avid fan of The Berkeley's instagram account, we entered the restaurant via the hotel so that I could peak at the stunning floral displays dotted throughout the hotel. The week that we visited the hotel and restaurant where filled with glorious pink blooms of roses, peonies and lisianthus complimented with candles and storm lanterns.
The stunning floral displays continued into the restaurant and complimented the beautiful décor.

With a Prix Fixe menu to choose from I opted for Blue Cheese Flan with walnuts for Hors-D'oeuvres, Pan Fried Skate wing with capers for Plats Principaux and Lemon tart with Lemon Sorbet for Dessert all accompanied by a glass of champagne. Everything was delicious, beautifully presented and the service amazing. Koffman's was a first for both my friend and I and we both said that we would definitely return again as we had enjoyed it so much.
I have visited the Berkeley for afternoon tea a couple of times and will now ass Koffman's to my list of London musts!... thank you to all for such fabulous, food, service and ambience. 

Guilty pleasure .....

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely evening with my friend C celebrating her birthday with some fabulous food and then an evening of entertainment at the Royal Albert Hall. It is ages since we both have caught up in much detail and it was nice to spend some time chatting over dinner before we headed to what is one of my favourite venues in London. 
I had booked for her birthday tickets to see Michael Bolton, now those that know me well and have followed my blog over the years will know that this isn't the first time that I have seen MB and it a bit of a guilty pleasure for both me & C.
On arrival at the venue we had a little problem with our seat, and the lovely man was able to accommodate us by moving us and we ended up in a box for the night!...so much fun!

With Gabrielle warming up the crowd Michael opened to a lively audience of which he serenaded, rocked and crooned his way through an impressive set list. What I like about seeing MB in concert is that his sets are incredibly varied, an acclaimed songwriter he has the ability to cover multiple genres and generations with his songs that he has written for himself as well as others.
Set list for the evening included;
·         To Love Somebody
·         Sittin on the Dock of the Bay
·         Said I loved you but I lied
·         That's Life
·         You Don’t know me
·         Nessun Dorma
·         When a man loves a women
·         To make you feel my love
·         Time, Love & Tenderness.
We had a fabulous evening, singing and dancing along with many others and have no doubt that we will book again to see Michael when he tours again.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hello May....

A little late with welcoming May, but hello. Life has been a little hectic and I will share more during May.
April finished a little warmer than it had started and the first week of May has been glorious.
I have some lovely things planned including a weekend trip to Lyon to watch the European Rugby Cup Final, another photography walk, and an evening with Beverley Knight.
I have a number of blog posts in draft to share including:
* my slimming world and walking adventures.
* my make-light walk through the heath & village of Hampstead
* continued adventures from New York and Washington
* my April make-over and evening with Michael Bolton
Regular posts will include the books that I have read during the month, my Instagram and social media favourites and share with you some of the slices of my life in London, home & the kits.
As you can see the blog has had a spring make-over from the yellows of April, to the blues and pinks of May.... heres to a fun filled month.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Goodbye April...

So I'm a little late in saying farewell to April, but life has been a little busy and stressful (something which I will share with you during May). April was a month of finding some time to continue my healthy lifestyle and enjoy the lighter mornings and evenings. I caught up with friends and made some new ones.
I spent a glorious Saturday exploring the village and heath of Hampstead which was a first for me and I loved it. I will share more of my makelight walk in May.

* I loved the lighter mornings and I'm now walking to the station through the park at least twice a week, the sunrises, ducks and sunsets are the perfect de-stress from work.
* Hampstead was beautiful, sprinkled with sunshine and yellow, perfect for this months blog palette.
April saw us move offices and we are now sharing a space with the Food buying teams, which lends itself to lots of samples!.. this lemon meringue and raspberry brownie from meringue girls were amazing (not great for the slimming world!!)
April had some cold spells, but signs of spring were everywhere and I enjoyed seeing the blossoms & spring flowers bloom.
A fabulous new space opened at work and I dined at the new Hemsley & Hemsley cafe. I had a lovely lunch with my 2 oldest besties which was filled with fun and lots of laughter. The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday and I spent an evening at the Albert Hall with my friend & Michael Bolton (guilty pleasure).
I hope you all had a fab April and a May filled with blossom, love, laughter and lots of fun.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Insta Love - April

Its Social Media Sunday on the blog today and time to share some Instagram favourites from April. Yellow hues are favoured on my blog styling for the month, and this features heavily within my insta likes as well for this month.  Sunrises, Sunsets and signs of Spring.
* Meanderongmacaron's lovely image of one of my favourite pubs in Marylebone (complete with bicycles) is delightful. Her feed is gorgeous and posts lovely images daily.
* Having shared some of my Washington adventures on the blog this month it was no suprise that this snap of the Washington monument captured my heart from Ben and Jerry's. Ice-cream and sunsets the perfect combo!.
* Love this picture of Minnie, my homemakery friend Kate's gorgeous terrier... she is just delightful and looks like she is having lots of fun in the woods.
* Dan Doherty executive chef at Duck & Waffle not only cooks the most amazing food, he also shares some fabulous sunrises 42 floors above the streets of the city of London. just gorgeous.
* This gorgeous sunset and blossom from the essex countryside is just glorious .. thanks Gem for sharing. Lovely to see some of  the lovelier Essex other than that on Towie, from one Essex girl to another.
* I have porch & plant pot envy from this post by Charlotte. What a welcoming site this is, and how lovely to come home to that everynight. #dreamhome. I love the images from the window that she shares.
* The Berkeley features twice in my insta loves for April; the first with this glorious shot of blossom and sunrise in St James Park and the 2nd stars Big Ben in a bed of daffodils, delightful. ( I will be sharing some of my own adventures at the Berkeley later this month)
* This lovely yellow doored house from cookiesncandies from a London lane is lovely. Marlene's feed is full of her travels and adventures across the globe.

Thankyou all for sharing such lovely images during April, they brightened some cold days and spread a warm glow of Spring hues.
With 3 instagram accounts now - @tcake31 for London life and things that I love, @tcaketess for planner, crafting & stationery happiness and my healthy eating journey on @tcakes_sw_adventure pop over and say hi... look forward to seeing what May brings on insta love.
I hope you have had fun with my social media Sunday loves ... here's some from previous months... 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Book Love - April

The book challenge continued in April, this month saw another 8 books read whilst on my commute in and out of London.
This months reads took on a darker edge with me discovering a new detective murder series which I have loved and a political thriller. Light relief was provided via the mishaps and fun across the worlds of journalism, house selling, coffee shops and chapters of fun in a toy store.
* Dead Wrong ~ Helen H Durrant - Dead wrong is the 1st book in the series of D.I Calladine & D.S Ruth Bayliss, set in the fictional town of Leesdon in the north of England. Calladine is a divorced 51 years old married to his job, Bayliss is mid 30's She uses her demanding workload as an excuse not to try too hard with the men she meets. 
Early one morning in a child's playground on the outskirts of the Hobfield housing estate a bag of severed fingers is found. This starts an investigation which feels like the killer is always one step ahead of the police in both the investigation and forensics. Juggling the investigation and his personal life Calladine continues to hunt the serial killer as more body parts appear across the estate. I was gripped with this book from the start which culminated in me reading 3 of the series within the month. Fans of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne will love Tom Calladine as much.
Finding Home ~ Lauren Westwood - Amy Wood finds herself temping in an estate agents and living back at her parents, a far cry from her perfect job, boyfriend and life in London. Broken hearted and jobless she is now entrusted to help sell a crumbling mansion Rosemont Hall, riddled with dry rot and secrets. Can Amy save it from the developers, bull dozers and her greedy boss and can a crumbling mansion heal a broken heart? - this was a lovely debut novel, good characters, feel good fun and entertaining read. 
Prime Deception ~ Carys Jones John Quinn, an investigative journalist on England’s biggest-selling and most notorious tabloid newspaper, is about to write the story of his life – a kiss-and-tell with one of the country’s most powerful men at its heart. But the story dies when Lorna Thomas, the kiss in his kiss-and-tell, kills herself on a quiet country road. Unable to accept her twin’s suicide, Laurie Thomas follows in her sister’s footsteps to London and to the heart of government. And as she becomes more involved in Lorna’s world, she grows more convinced than ever that Lorna did not take her own life. - This is a great political thriller that has front page headlines written all over it, great twists and surprises, perfect for anyone that loves the intrigue of downing street.
Mishaps in Millrise ~ Tilly Tennant - Phoebe's life was a mess; her boyfriend was killed in an accident and she lost her job. When she wishes for a new start she meets Jack and his adorable little girl, 5 months on and life is looking up. She's still with Jack, has landed a dream job in a toy store and Jack's little girl adores her. Phoebe is convinced that her happiness cant last; with Jacks mum on a vendetta against Phoebe, His brother Archie causing trouble, the toy-store going into financial decline and the boss's son hitting on Phoebe, life suddenly becomes complicated for her. This was a fun read, Phoebe is a sweet character and the supporting cast are a great ensemble, a fun read.
Dead Silent ~ Helen H Durrant A body is found in a car crash, but the victim was already dead . . . Women are going missing and no-one has noticed; Police partners, D.I. Calladine and D.S. Ruth Bayliss race against time to catch a vicious serial killer.  Calladine's personal life has got a little more complicated and this along with female university students going missing adds to his stress levels. This was a thrilling read and as enjoyable as the 1st book, great characters and plot if not a little disturbing.
The Last Word ~ A.L.Michael Tabby Riley’s online life was a roaring success. Her blog had hundreds of followers, and legions of young fans ardently awaited her every Tweet. Her real life was a bit more of a disappointment. Living in a shared flat in North London, scratching a living writing magazine articles on ‘How To Please Your Man in Bed’ wasn't where she thought she’d be at twenty-six – especially when there was a serious lack of action in her own bedroom.Although that might all be about to change when she’s offered a position at online newspaper The Type as a real journalist – and gains a sexy new editor, Harry Shulman, to work with. Harry’s confident, smooth talking, and completely aware that he drives Tabby mad. Which is fine, because Tabby’s dated an editor before, and it’s never happening again. Ever. But as her reputation at the paper grows, Tabby has to wonder: is it time to get out from behind the screen and live her life in the real world? - Tabby is a dream character, funny, a little bit of a clutz and lacking confidence in her real life the complete opposite of Harry; who is just is delicious, confident and a little naughty!. I really enjoyed this book and have already downloaded another of her books.
Catch a Falling Star ~ Emily Harvale   - Catch a falling star is the 2nd book in the Hideaway series and features Laurel. She’s young, free and single; she owns The Coffee Hideaway, lives in the prettiest village in East Sussex and is surrounded by friends… she may also be a suffering from some unrequited love with her friend Ned; Jamie McDay is miserable. Hollywood has become a gilded cage. The paparazzi are snapping at his heels, and since he dumped his co-star girlfriend in a spectacularly stupid public display, he’s been dropped from the Vampire series that made him a heart-throb, movie star. Visiting his friend, Gabriel Hardwick will cheer him up. Hideaway Down may be a bit ‘twee’ but local stunner, Ivy Gilroy could definitely put a permanent smile on Jamie’s face. That’s if he can persuade her to dump her boyfriend, Ned. This was a welcome return to Hideaway and its villagers, Laurel finds herself the attention of a movie star and his attempts to befriend her. Its a fun light hearted read and a perfect pick you up for a miserable commute.
Dead List ~ Helen H Durrant - the 3rd book in the Calladine series and this one features a killer that seems to have a 'kill' list. With no apparent connections to the victims or methodology of death, the only thing linking the deaths are 'tarot' cards left with the bodies. Calladine is perplexed and with 2 small girls missing and a new and upcoming DI from a neighbouring station stepping on his toes he has a host of things to deal with at both home and at the station. A great read, book 4 is on my To read list for May!.
Thank you authors for 8 fantastic reads, I've loved the thrills, fun & mystery from this months reads... I am now 28 books in of my 75 book reading challenge; here's the previous 20 from 2016.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

DC for the Day ... Monuments & Memorials.

My next part of my Washington adventure was to explore the monuments, parks and memorials within the national parks.
 I started at the Washington memorial, which was built as a tribute to America's first president, it wasn't completed until the 21st president was in office. Plans to build the monument were put in place before Washington was commander-in-chief of the American Army, he scrapped the plans as federal government funds were tight and didn't want to use public money for the project. After Washington died the plans were resurrected to build the monument in his honour. 100 years after the original plan President Grant authorized federal funds to start the build, the construction was built across 2 phases and was halted for 2 decades (this explains the variances of quarry stone as they couldn’t be matched) The monument stands 555 feet tall and contains 50 flights of stairs. 
The monument has survived an earthquake, hostage situation and is seen as a pivotal part of the Washington landscape.
 Two memorials flank either end of the Lincoln memorial reflective pool, the one that sits between the Washington and Lincoln is the National WW11 memorial. 
This is a beautiful tribute and I spent a long time walking around reading the dedications and plaques around the pool area. It honours the 16 million that served in the armed forces of the US and the 400,000 that lost their life fighting within the conflict. 
The memorial sits on 17th street between Independence and Constitution Avenues. It contains 56 columns, symbolizing unity among the 48 states, 7 territories and the district of Columbia.
The Freedom wall is littered with 4,048 gold stars, each star paying tribute to 100 lives lost. Either side of the  pool are 2 large structures which highlight the victories on the Atlantic and Pacific seas. This is a stunning memorial, one of my favourite points are the 24 bronze relief panels depicting life home and away during the years of conflict. As with all WW2 memorials, it was difficult not to become emotional as thoughts led to me grandparents and the stories that they told from their experiences during this time. This is a fitting tribute to a war that spanned years, countries and religions.
Continuing down the park alongside the reflecting pool, its hard not to walk this space without thinking of all the political and military movies and TV shows that have been filmed around this area. Favourites include; Forrest Gump, The American President,  A Few Good Men, St Elmo's Fire, White House Down, State of Play, The West Wing, and Scandal.
The Lincoln memorial is colossal, an icon sitting facing the Washington memorial President Lincoln was the 16th president of the US. At the time that the memorial was dedicated the US was in the middle of Civil war between the North and South, the dedication ceremony unified a number of people and it is this that has resonated with many ever since; There are few that don't associate this memorial with the legendary civil rights speech of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
I was lucky when visiting all the sites that the areas were relatively tourist free, a party of collage kids were having much fun with selfies on the steps!
Either side of the Lincoln memorial sit 2 gardens and memorial sites dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam wars, both are beautiful in there own way and are lovely tributes to those fallen.
The Vietnam memorial wall has 72 panels on 2 walls which detail 58,307 names lost within the conflict. The 3 serviceman statue is a bronze tribute representing European, Hispanic and African American soldiers.
The Korean memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War. The war was one of the most hard fought in our history. During its relatively short duration from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 36,574 Americans died in hostile actions in the Korean War theatre. Of these, 8,200 are listed as missing in action or lost or buried at sea. In addition 103,284 were wounded during the conflict. As with the WW11 memorial they are humbling and an opportunity for quite reflection to honour the lives lost.
Its hard to come to Washington and avoid any military or political sights, the whole of the centre of Dc is steeped in political and military history and non more so than Arlington cemetery. This was my next stop after Lincoln Memorial and a brisk walk across the Potomac river to one of the most recognised and iconic cemeteries in the world.
The space is peaceful, incredibly humbling and steeped with history; from the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, to the graveside of J.F.Kennedy the cemetery is full of white headstones lined up in military precision.
After a good couple hours of quiet contemplation along the Mall and within the cemetery it was time to jump on a bus and head to Georgetown for a cupcake and coffee and some sightseeing in this area.... pop back later this week when I share more adventures from my day in DC.


Monday, 18 April 2016

DC for the Day .... Avenues & Houses

Of all the fabulous things that I did on my NY trip at the end of 2015, my day trip (yes day trip!) to Washington was one of my favourites. It was also one of the most planned days I had as I wanted to maximise the most of my time in the city. Catching the early train helped as I arrived into the DC at 9.30. I stopped at Shake Shack in the station for a Shack breakfast (blog post to follow) and a refuel of sumpton coffee!
I had a long list of things I wanted to do including;
·    Pennsylvania Avenue & The White House, Smithsonian & Constitution avenue, Arlington memorial and Georgetown. – My Scandal moments would include some of these: The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Potomac River, travel on the Subway and drink red wine.!
There are a number of avenues leading off from Union station and I headed down the one that would take me towards the FBI building. One of the big things that I noticed about Washington from my previous visit was the heightened security measures in and around all of the city. One of the parks that I walked past was a memorial garden for police officers that have lost their lives on duty or active service.... lots to gun crime and some only months into their service. 
On my previous visit I went inside the FBI building on a guided tour which was fascinating, now you can't get near the building for concrete planters and bollards. It was still great to walk around and see some of the legal buildings around this area. The old post office tower was also a great way to see the city from a height, this has now closed and is being converted to a Trump hotel! (he is definitely moving into the district one way or another!)
Continuing down Pennsylvania avenue I came across the most famous house on this street…. The White House ( again somewhere that you can no longer visit) but still can view from afar. It’s a gorgeous Georgian building and I am completely fascinated by it, those walls of that building house so many secrets!. The last time I was there Marine One landed on the lawn and President Clinton ran out from the White House and boarded it to fly somewhere. No Marine One landing on the lawn this time, but there were lots of FBI agents around as the national tree lighting event was taking place later that evening.
As I stood facing the White House and thought of the presidents past and present, fact and fiction; Kennedy, Clinton, Obama, Bartlett & Grant (West Wing & Scandal!) I wondered who would be the next President to grace the Oval office... would it  be another Clinton or a Trump?!! with campaigning now in full presidential glory I am following avidly until the big night in November.
My next stop was back across the avenue into the Smithsonian Museum of American History – I could have easily lost half a day here and had planned to if the weather had been wet/cold. My one stop within here was to see Julia Childs kitchen – Julia Childs is one of America's most famous chefs and bought cooking to life on the screens of US networks. Her love of cooking started when she met her husband Paul and thought she should learn to cook whilst stationed in Paris. She enrolled in the Cordon Bleau school  and went on to publish her own Mastering the Art of French Cookery. On returning to the US, her husband built her kitchen to accommodate her 6ft 2" frame and it is this that now resides in the Smithsonian from her home in Massachusetts. The kitchen was delightful and I had complete book envy within the bookshelves.
Leaving the Smithsonian I headed across the gardens to the Washington memorial to start the iconic walk down towards the Lincoln memorial. Its hard to walk this space without thinking of all the famous movie moments that have been filmed here…… pop back tomorrow when I relive my Forest Gump moment and honour some heroes.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Book Love - May


My reading challenge continued in May with 5 books completed, a little bit of a slowdown from April. This was partially due to the fact that I am walking more after work which cuts into my reading time on the tube as I am now walking from Bond Street to Liverpool Street a couple of times a week when the weather is fine.
This months reads are a mixed bag of mystery, murder, love and friendship and have taken me to Italy, Jersey, 'Up North' the South of France and the English countryside.
Last month I waxed lyrically about a new author that I had discovered Helen H Durrant, May saw me continue with the Calladine / Bayliss police partnership in the 4th book of this detective series with Dead Lost. The pair find themselves investigation a series of events which lead to a group of homeless people that have set up camp in a disused cotton mill, which as the story develops becomes more horrific. Alongside this the pair have to juggle their personal lives alongside their professional, as the investigation develops they find that the crimes are are further reaching than they imagined. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and with each story they become a little more darker and complex. D.I Calladine is definitely becoming a little bit of a guilty pleasure and look forward to reading the next in the series.
My next read saw be hoping the channel to Jersey for Georgina Troy's – A Jersey Kiss – here we meet Bea who along with dealing with a messy divorce is learning to live without her beloved god mother. Bea's god mother has left her, her beautiful home along with "A Jersey Kiss" which is proving to be a bit of a mystery. At work an old flame Tom reappears in her life, along with a gorgeous builder Luke who she hires to action some repairs to her home. With her ex-husband threatening court action for half of her home, Bea's life is a little chaotic, with the thought of losing her home, and some serious trust issues she has little time for romance, however things aren’t always as they seem and the mysterious legacy could be the thing that saves it all. This is a lovely story and I really liked Bea, being familiar with Jersey having spent some time there in my teens it was easy to visualise some of the places within this book. Having enjoyed this book I immediately downloaded the 2nd book within the series which is loosely connected to book 1.
A JerseyAffair is Georgina's 2nd book and features Paige. Paige is jilted days before her wedding and decides to spend her honeymoon for one in Sorrento. Paige is a shoe designer and has a small shop within one of Jersey's old department stores. Whilst on her 'onemoon' she meets Sebastian Fielding, a wealthy entrepreneur, he spends a platonic 2 weeks with Paige showing her the sights and sounds of Sorrento and its surrounding coastline and Paige's broken heart slowly begins to mend. On returning to Jersey Paige finds out that her department store is being taken over and the mystery buyer is none other than Sebastian, can their budding romance survive the threat of Paige losing her shop and  dealing with the press intrusion. Another delightful read from Georgina and had me scouring travel sites for a short stay in Sorrento. Sebastian is quite delicious and I enjoyed catching up with some of the characters from the previous book…. Book 3 is now downloaded and sitting in my "to read" list.
My 4th read of the month is a Jill Mansell novel – Three Amazing things about You. Jill is one of my all-time favourite authors and yet again she didn’t disappoint with this book. In this book we meet 3 women, Hallie, Flo and Tasha unbeknown to each of them they will all become connected in ways that they never would have thought of; Hallie is a young women who is on a donor lost awaiting a lung transfer having suffered with cystic fibrosis all her life. We meet Hallie as she is heading for the hospital having received the call that a donor has been found. Hallie for the past few years has been hiding a number of secrets; 1. She is the author of a blog which answers peoples problems via 3 things about you, what she has never shared is who she is and the condition she has, she shares her secret on route to the hospital. Her other secret is that she is in love with the most perfect man, something she has never shared with her best friend or even him an now time is running out should she share that secret too? Flo has met Zander through the most bizarre circumstances, Zander's scary sister loathes Flo and the thought of them becoming friends would send her apoplectic, anything more would send her crazy. Tasha meets her perfect man and the only issue is that he is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, the complete opposite to safe, planned Tasha. She spends her tome apart from him worrying that something terrible is going to happen. One day all these womens lives collide and their lives will be intricately woven for ever more. This was a thought provoking emotional read, and Jill manages to make you laugh, cry and think in every chapter. I loved Hallie and desperately wanted her life to be better… I will leave it up to you to read to find out if she got her happy ending and got the courage to share her secrets.
My final read for the month is The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard – Emmy Jamieson books a fortnights escape to a guesthouse in the French Countryside with her boyfriend Nathan. After 5 years their relationship has become a little dull and Emmy is hoping a couple of weeks in the south of France will inject a little life into their lives. Having barely unpacked Emmy's holiday takes a turn when she finds her boyfriend with his pants down with the owners cougar wife Gloria and the owner Rupert collapsing with a suspected heart attack unaware of his wifes antics. Nathan & Gloria scarper and leave Emmy holding the fort at the guesthouse and gites. With Rupert convalescing, Emmy agrees to stay and help out for the remaining holiday. She finds herself thrust into the heart of the local community which involves a sexy young gardener, and a infuriating delicious accountant. Emmy finds herself extending her stay and with Ruperts support she has some decisions to make about her future. This is a lovely read and one that I devoured whilst travelling through the French countryside on Eurostar with a large coffee and croissant. I loved Emmy and the characters were delightful. I do hope that Helen does a follow-up as I am sure that there are future stories with some of the supporting cast.
Thankyou authors for 5 fab reads for May, I've enjoyed travelling in Italy, France, Jersey alongside some heartache, murder, mystery, fun and friendship…. I am now 33 books into my 75 book reading challenge…. Here's the previous 28 from 2016.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Make-light in Hampstead

A few weeks ago I spent a fun filled Saturday afternoon exploring and
photographing the streets and heath of Hampstead with a dozen other ladies. I had never visited Hampstead before and grabbed the opportunity to explore this lovely little corner of London with Emily Quinton. I met Emily a couple of years ago when I attended one of her photography workshops, I enjoyed it so much I spent a day food styling with her last year. Emily has now added photography walks to her make light portfolio in some of London's most loveliest of places.
The walk started early afternoon and although the day was a little cold and overcast it didn’t spoil the fun that the groups of us girls had in the lanes and side streets of Hampstead. I'm not sure what any of the residents thought of us snapping images on our phones and cameras of their front doors and gardens, but I fell in love with many of the houses and gardens as we walked around.
 No time with Emily would be complete without a prop or two and a beautiful bunch of blooms from a local florist added much fun and silly image opportunities for some of us along with video fun from E herself.


After a good couple of hours of walking, photographing and chatting we finished the day off with tea & cake in a local restaurant, swapping images, instagram accounts and details. I enjoyed myself so much that I came home and booked for the next walk which will be within the grounds of Kew gardens.

Prior to meeting up with the makelight ladies I spent an hour exploring the heath and the surrounding streets leading to the high street. 















Some of my favourite images from the day are of a man and his gorgeous dog….

Friday, 20 May 2016

24 hours in Lyon ..... part1

I have already shared the 2nd half of my 24 hours in Lyon with some culture and food, the first half was a little different and evolved around a game of rugby. My trip was planned to attend the European Champions Cup Final between Saracens and French team Racing Metro.
This was Saracens 2nd time reaching the Final of this championship, having lost to Toulon in Cardiff at the last final, so there was much to play for in France. When Saracens won their semi-final I was on the internet immediately booking tickets for Eurostar and the game as I knew with Racing metro securing the other spot it would be incredibly popular. This game would also allow me to see one of my rugby hero's Dan Carter who now plays fly half for Racing after leaving New Zealand and the All Blacks after the world cup.
With the weather a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers it would make for a greasy game. The game was being held at the newly built Stade de Lyon stadium on the outskirts of the town. The main public transport to and from the ground is via tram, which was much fun and a first for me to travel to a from a rugby game in. One of the things that I noticed lots when I was travelling to and around Lyon is the poppies dotted everywhere. I saw lots from the Eurostar as I travelled across France and it really struck a chord to see them. There were several blooming around the ground which many fans commented on as we walked to the game.
I arrived at the game early as I had been told to expect lengthy security checks and they didn’t lie, aside from the Olympics this was the lengthiest checks that I had ever had at a game; including a full body pat down. Arriving at the game early allowed me to see Jonny Wilkinson being interviewed by Will Greenwood and the squads warming up between the very heavy rain showers. This also allowed me to spend lots of time gazing at Dan Carter and his thighs as Racing were warming up near to where I was sitting!.
Having purchased my ticket from the French ticketmaster I found myself surrounded by Racing fans who were very friendly and not too hostile as the game commenced!
With a fanfare of fireworks the game kicked off at 5.30 to a huge roar from the crowd. The ground was a sea of blue with pockets of red and black for the Saracens fans.

 From previous experience final games are usually tight fought contests, with neither side wanting to take too many chances, thus preventing conceding penalties and points. This game was much of that with both teams holding tight to the ball and points being gained from penalty kicks instead of trys.
All points scored by Sarries coming off of the boot of Own Farrell. Racing always seemed to be on the back foot and were penalised a number of times. With heavy rain during the warm-up hour it made for a slippery and greasy game with the ball being lost by both teams several times.
 2nd half saw Racing attempt a comeback and at one point with minutes to go I thought that they may push a try across the line, however the Sarries boys held their nerve and defence and were crowned champions as the final whistle blew.
Huge celebrations took place as the Champions cup was presented and red & black flags waved around the stadium to roars of "Sarries". Here are some images from the game and the after celebrations.

The atmosphere was amazing and I am so glad that I made the journey from home to Lyon to watch the game, I got to see so many Rugby heroes: Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and Sarries lift the Champions cup a bit of a dream weekend for a Rugby girl.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

24 hours in Lyon .... part 2

Last weekend I spent 24 hours in the beautiful old city of Lyon in France.  Lyon sits a couple of hours south of Paris by train and is in France’s Rhône-Alpes region. It sits at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its city centre reflects 2,000 years of history, with a Roman amphitheatre in Fourvière, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux Lyon, and the modern, redeveloped Confluence district on the Presqu'île peninsula between the rivers. With only a short time in the city and predominately there for a game of rugby I had to be very selective on what I wanted to visit and see.
My trip started at St Pancras where I boarded a Eurostar bound for Marseille which stopped at Lyon and Avignon. St Pancras is my favourite station in London, the architecture, light and ambience of the space is just stunning. Arriving early I ambled around enjoying the relative quiet of the station, even thou there was some people around. St Pancras Station was opened in 1868 and is one of the wonders of Victorian engineering, it is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Architecture and one of the most elegant stations in the world. It has seen huge decline and restoration over the past 30 years and is now the hub for all Eurostar international travel. How amazing must it be to arrive in London for the 1st time via train and see this beautiful building and hotel.

With a simple check-in and boarding we were soon departing London heading for the Channel, I had when booking my tickets managed to grab a Business premier ticket for the same cost as standard fare. This was a little luxury for what would be 4½ hours on a train. With a complimentary breakfast, drinks and magazines the time flew and we were soon pulling into Lyon Gard de Nord to disembark.
Saturday was predominately filled with the rugby which left no time for exploring, however Sunday dawned bright and dry and before I headed back to the UK on the afternoon train I wanted to explore this city a little more. A lovely lady who I had met on the train advised me on 2 things; if time is limited then the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a must for beauty, culture and history and as Lyon is renowned for its food then you must visit the farmers / food markets that run alongside the 2 rivers within the city on a Sunday morning.

With my hotel next to the metro I jumped on a train and headed to the old town of Fourvière, where I then picked up a ride on the Funicular (a tram/cable car carriage which cuts through the cliffs up to the top of the hill) to the Basilica. Perched on top of the Fourvière hill, the basilica looms impressively over the city of Lyon, from where it can be seen from many vantage points; not unintentionally, the basilica of Fourvière has become a symbol of the city. As impressive as the basilica is from the outside, nothing prepares you for how stunning it is from the inside. The ceiling, guilt work and stained glass windows are just beautiful. I arrived half way through the morning mass and it was lovely just to sit at the back and enjoy the hymns, and the ambience of the space.

Exiting the basilica the views from the grounds are impressive across the 2 rivers and town. Leaving behind this gorgeous old town I headed down the cliff and across the river to enjoy the food market. The market was fabulous, filled with the most delicious aromas, produce, groceries and flowers. It was a tempting treat and I created a picnic breakfast/brunch of fresh treats; pain au chocolate, nectarines, apricots, and coffee to enjoy sitting on the river bank. I also bought some cheese, apple tart and fruits to bring home along with a beautiful bunch of peonies.

It was soon time to head to the station to pick up my train to Paris, where I then boarded the Eurostar home. I really enjoyed Lyon and would definitely visit again, especially as the train is really easy and also has great train links to other locations including South of France, Geneva and Barcelona.




Monday, 16 May 2016

an evening at Koffmans....

Not sure where May is whizzing to but I'm still playing catch-up with blog posts from April!... at the end of April my friend and I spent a gorgeous evening being dined in a beautiful restaurant with a menu by one of my hero chefs; the fabulous Pierre Koffman.
As we had an evening planned at the Royal Albert Hall, I had booked the pre-theatre menu which allowed us to dine early. Koffman's is situated at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge and is quite beautiful.
As an avid fan of The Berkeley's instagram account, we entered the restaurant via the hotel so that I could peak at the stunning floral displays dotted throughout the hotel. The week that we visited the hotel and restaurant where filled with glorious pink blooms of roses, peonies and lisianthus complimented with candles and storm lanterns.
The stunning floral displays continued into the restaurant and complimented the beautiful décor.

With a Prix Fixe menu to choose from I opted for Blue Cheese Flan with walnuts for Hors-D'oeuvres, Pan Fried Skate wing with capers for Plats Principaux and Lemon tart with Lemon Sorbet for Dessert all accompanied by a glass of champagne. Everything was delicious, beautifully presented and the service amazing. Koffman's was a first for both my friend and I and we both said that we would definitely return again as we had enjoyed it so much.
I have visited the Berkeley for afternoon tea a couple of times and will now ass Koffman's to my list of London musts!... thank you to all for such fabulous, food, service and ambience. 

Guilty pleasure .....

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely evening with my friend C celebrating her birthday with some fabulous food and then an evening of entertainment at the Royal Albert Hall. It is ages since we both have caught up in much detail and it was nice to spend some time chatting over dinner before we headed to what is one of my favourite venues in London. 
I had booked for her birthday tickets to see Michael Bolton, now those that know me well and have followed my blog over the years will know that this isn't the first time that I have seen MB and it a bit of a guilty pleasure for both me & C.
On arrival at the venue we had a little problem with our seat, and the lovely man was able to accommodate us by moving us and we ended up in a box for the night!...so much fun!

With Gabrielle warming up the crowd Michael opened to a lively audience of which he serenaded, rocked and crooned his way through an impressive set list. What I like about seeing MB in concert is that his sets are incredibly varied, an acclaimed songwriter he has the ability to cover multiple genres and generations with his songs that he has written for himself as well as others.
Set list for the evening included;
·         To Love Somebody
·         Sittin on the Dock of the Bay
·         Said I loved you but I lied
·         That's Life
·         You Don’t know me
·         Nessun Dorma
·         When a man loves a women
·         To make you feel my love
·         Time, Love & Tenderness.
We had a fabulous evening, singing and dancing along with many others and have no doubt that we will book again to see Michael when he tours again.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hello May....

A little late with welcoming May, but hello. Life has been a little hectic and I will share more during May.
April finished a little warmer than it had started and the first week of May has been glorious.
I have some lovely things planned including a weekend trip to Lyon to watch the European Rugby Cup Final, another photography walk, and an evening with Beverley Knight.
I have a number of blog posts in draft to share including:
* my slimming world and walking adventures.
* my make-light walk through the heath & village of Hampstead
* continued adventures from New York and Washington
* my April make-over and evening with Michael Bolton
Regular posts will include the books that I have read during the month, my Instagram and social media favourites and share with you some of the slices of my life in London, home & the kits.
As you can see the blog has had a spring make-over from the yellows of April, to the blues and pinks of May.... heres to a fun filled month.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Goodbye April...

So I'm a little late in saying farewell to April, but life has been a little busy and stressful (something which I will share with you during May). April was a month of finding some time to continue my healthy lifestyle and enjoy the lighter mornings and evenings. I caught up with friends and made some new ones.
I spent a glorious Saturday exploring the village and heath of Hampstead which was a first for me and I loved it. I will share more of my makelight walk in May.

* I loved the lighter mornings and I'm now walking to the station through the park at least twice a week, the sunrises, ducks and sunsets are the perfect de-stress from work.
* Hampstead was beautiful, sprinkled with sunshine and yellow, perfect for this months blog palette.
April saw us move offices and we are now sharing a space with the Food buying teams, which lends itself to lots of samples!.. this lemon meringue and raspberry brownie from meringue girls were amazing (not great for the slimming world!!)
April had some cold spells, but signs of spring were everywhere and I enjoyed seeing the blossoms & spring flowers bloom.
A fabulous new space opened at work and I dined at the new Hemsley & Hemsley cafe. I had a lovely lunch with my 2 oldest besties which was filled with fun and lots of laughter. The Queen celebrated her 90th birthday and I spent an evening at the Albert Hall with my friend & Michael Bolton (guilty pleasure).
I hope you all had a fab April and a May filled with blossom, love, laughter and lots of fun.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Insta Love - April

Its Social Media Sunday on the blog today and time to share some Instagram favourites from April. Yellow hues are favoured on my blog styling for the month, and this features heavily within my insta likes as well for this month.  Sunrises, Sunsets and signs of Spring.
* Meanderongmacaron's lovely image of one of my favourite pubs in Marylebone (complete with bicycles) is delightful. Her feed is gorgeous and posts lovely images daily.
* Having shared some of my Washington adventures on the blog this month it was no suprise that this snap of the Washington monument captured my heart from Ben and Jerry's. Ice-cream and sunsets the perfect combo!.
* Love this picture of Minnie, my homemakery friend Kate's gorgeous terrier... she is just delightful and looks like she is having lots of fun in the woods.
* Dan Doherty executive chef at Duck & Waffle not only cooks the most amazing food, he also shares some fabulous sunrises 42 floors above the streets of the city of London. just gorgeous.
* This gorgeous sunset and blossom from the essex countryside is just glorious .. thanks Gem for sharing. Lovely to see some of  the lovelier Essex other than that on Towie, from one Essex girl to another.
* I have porch & plant pot envy from this post by Charlotte. What a welcoming site this is, and how lovely to come home to that everynight. #dreamhome. I love the images from the window that she shares.
* The Berkeley features twice in my insta loves for April; the first with this glorious shot of blossom and sunrise in St James Park and the 2nd stars Big Ben in a bed of daffodils, delightful. ( I will be sharing some of my own adventures at the Berkeley later this month)
* This lovely yellow doored house from cookiesncandies from a London lane is lovely. Marlene's feed is full of her travels and adventures across the globe.

Thankyou all for sharing such lovely images during April, they brightened some cold days and spread a warm glow of Spring hues.
With 3 instagram accounts now - @tcake31 for London life and things that I love, @tcaketess for planner, crafting & stationery happiness and my healthy eating journey on @tcakes_sw_adventure pop over and say hi... look forward to seeing what May brings on insta love.
I hope you have had fun with my social media Sunday loves ... here's some from previous months... 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Book Love - April

The book challenge continued in April, this month saw another 8 books read whilst on my commute in and out of London.
This months reads took on a darker edge with me discovering a new detective murder series which I have loved and a political thriller. Light relief was provided via the mishaps and fun across the worlds of journalism, house selling, coffee shops and chapters of fun in a toy store.
* Dead Wrong ~ Helen H Durrant - Dead wrong is the 1st book in the series of D.I Calladine & D.S Ruth Bayliss, set in the fictional town of Leesdon in the north of England. Calladine is a divorced 51 years old married to his job, Bayliss is mid 30's She uses her demanding workload as an excuse not to try too hard with the men she meets. 
Early one morning in a child's playground on the outskirts of the Hobfield housing estate a bag of severed fingers is found. This starts an investigation which feels like the killer is always one step ahead of the police in both the investigation and forensics. Juggling the investigation and his personal life Calladine continues to hunt the serial killer as more body parts appear across the estate. I was gripped with this book from the start which culminated in me reading 3 of the series within the month. Fans of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne will love Tom Calladine as much.
Finding Home ~ Lauren Westwood - Amy Wood finds herself temping in an estate agents and living back at her parents, a far cry from her perfect job, boyfriend and life in London. Broken hearted and jobless she is now entrusted to help sell a crumbling mansion Rosemont Hall, riddled with dry rot and secrets. Can Amy save it from the developers, bull dozers and her greedy boss and can a crumbling mansion heal a broken heart? - this was a lovely debut novel, good characters, feel good fun and entertaining read. 
Prime Deception ~ Carys Jones John Quinn, an investigative journalist on England’s biggest-selling and most notorious tabloid newspaper, is about to write the story of his life – a kiss-and-tell with one of the country’s most powerful men at its heart. But the story dies when Lorna Thomas, the kiss in his kiss-and-tell, kills herself on a quiet country road. Unable to accept her twin’s suicide, Laurie Thomas follows in her sister’s footsteps to London and to the heart of government. And as she becomes more involved in Lorna’s world, she grows more convinced than ever that Lorna did not take her own life. - This is a great political thriller that has front page headlines written all over it, great twists and surprises, perfect for anyone that loves the intrigue of downing street.
Mishaps in Millrise ~ Tilly Tennant - Phoebe's life was a mess; her boyfriend was killed in an accident and she lost her job. When she wishes for a new start she meets Jack and his adorable little girl, 5 months on and life is looking up. She's still with Jack, has landed a dream job in a toy store and Jack's little girl adores her. Phoebe is convinced that her happiness cant last; with Jacks mum on a vendetta against Phoebe, His brother Archie causing trouble, the toy-store going into financial decline and the boss's son hitting on Phoebe, life suddenly becomes complicated for her. This was a fun read, Phoebe is a sweet character and the supporting cast are a great ensemble, a fun read.
Dead Silent ~ Helen H Durrant A body is found in a car crash, but the victim was already dead . . . Women are going missing and no-one has noticed; Police partners, D.I. Calladine and D.S. Ruth Bayliss race against time to catch a vicious serial killer.  Calladine's personal life has got a little more complicated and this along with female university students going missing adds to his stress levels. This was a thrilling read and as enjoyable as the 1st book, great characters and plot if not a little disturbing.
The Last Word ~ A.L.Michael Tabby Riley’s online life was a roaring success. Her blog had hundreds of followers, and legions of young fans ardently awaited her every Tweet. Her real life was a bit more of a disappointment. Living in a shared flat in North London, scratching a living writing magazine articles on ‘How To Please Your Man in Bed’ wasn't where she thought she’d be at twenty-six – especially when there was a serious lack of action in her own bedroom.Although that might all be about to change when she’s offered a position at online newspaper The Type as a real journalist – and gains a sexy new editor, Harry Shulman, to work with. Harry’s confident, smooth talking, and completely aware that he drives Tabby mad. Which is fine, because Tabby’s dated an editor before, and it’s never happening again. Ever. But as her reputation at the paper grows, Tabby has to wonder: is it time to get out from behind the screen and live her life in the real world? - Tabby is a dream character, funny, a little bit of a clutz and lacking confidence in her real life the complete opposite of Harry; who is just is delicious, confident and a little naughty!. I really enjoyed this book and have already downloaded another of her books.
Catch a Falling Star ~ Emily Harvale   - Catch a falling star is the 2nd book in the Hideaway series and features Laurel. She’s young, free and single; she owns The Coffee Hideaway, lives in the prettiest village in East Sussex and is surrounded by friends… she may also be a suffering from some unrequited love with her friend Ned; Jamie McDay is miserable. Hollywood has become a gilded cage. The paparazzi are snapping at his heels, and since he dumped his co-star girlfriend in a spectacularly stupid public display, he’s been dropped from the Vampire series that made him a heart-throb, movie star. Visiting his friend, Gabriel Hardwick will cheer him up. Hideaway Down may be a bit ‘twee’ but local stunner, Ivy Gilroy could definitely put a permanent smile on Jamie’s face. That’s if he can persuade her to dump her boyfriend, Ned. This was a welcome return to Hideaway and its villagers, Laurel finds herself the attention of a movie star and his attempts to befriend her. Its a fun light hearted read and a perfect pick you up for a miserable commute.
Dead List ~ Helen H Durrant - the 3rd book in the Calladine series and this one features a killer that seems to have a 'kill' list. With no apparent connections to the victims or methodology of death, the only thing linking the deaths are 'tarot' cards left with the bodies. Calladine is perplexed and with 2 small girls missing and a new and upcoming DI from a neighbouring station stepping on his toes he has a host of things to deal with at both home and at the station. A great read, book 4 is on my To read list for May!.
Thank you authors for 8 fantastic reads, I've loved the thrills, fun & mystery from this months reads... I am now 28 books in of my 75 book reading challenge; here's the previous 20 from 2016.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

DC for the Day ... Monuments & Memorials.

My next part of my Washington adventure was to explore the monuments, parks and memorials within the national parks.
 I started at the Washington memorial, which was built as a tribute to America's first president, it wasn't completed until the 21st president was in office. Plans to build the monument were put in place before Washington was commander-in-chief of the American Army, he scrapped the plans as federal government funds were tight and didn't want to use public money for the project. After Washington died the plans were resurrected to build the monument in his honour. 100 years after the original plan President Grant authorized federal funds to start the build, the construction was built across 2 phases and was halted for 2 decades (this explains the variances of quarry stone as they couldn’t be matched) The monument stands 555 feet tall and contains 50 flights of stairs. 
The monument has survived an earthquake, hostage situation and is seen as a pivotal part of the Washington landscape.
 Two memorials flank either end of the Lincoln memorial reflective pool, the one that sits between the Washington and Lincoln is the National WW11 memorial. 
This is a beautiful tribute and I spent a long time walking around reading the dedications and plaques around the pool area. It honours the 16 million that served in the armed forces of the US and the 400,000 that lost their life fighting within the conflict. 
The memorial sits on 17th street between Independence and Constitution Avenues. It contains 56 columns, symbolizing unity among the 48 states, 7 territories and the district of Columbia.
The Freedom wall is littered with 4,048 gold stars, each star paying tribute to 100 lives lost. Either side of the  pool are 2 large structures which highlight the victories on the Atlantic and Pacific seas. This is a stunning memorial, one of my favourite points are the 24 bronze relief panels depicting life home and away during the years of conflict. As with all WW2 memorials, it was difficult not to become emotional as thoughts led to me grandparents and the stories that they told from their experiences during this time. This is a fitting tribute to a war that spanned years, countries and religions.
Continuing down the park alongside the reflecting pool, its hard not to walk this space without thinking of all the political and military movies and TV shows that have been filmed around this area. Favourites include; Forrest Gump, The American President,  A Few Good Men, St Elmo's Fire, White House Down, State of Play, The West Wing, and Scandal.
The Lincoln memorial is colossal, an icon sitting facing the Washington memorial President Lincoln was the 16th president of the US. At the time that the memorial was dedicated the US was in the middle of Civil war between the North and South, the dedication ceremony unified a number of people and it is this that has resonated with many ever since; There are few that don't associate this memorial with the legendary civil rights speech of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
I was lucky when visiting all the sites that the areas were relatively tourist free, a party of collage kids were having much fun with selfies on the steps!
Either side of the Lincoln memorial sit 2 gardens and memorial sites dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam wars, both are beautiful in there own way and are lovely tributes to those fallen.
The Vietnam memorial wall has 72 panels on 2 walls which detail 58,307 names lost within the conflict. The 3 serviceman statue is a bronze tribute representing European, Hispanic and African American soldiers.
The Korean memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War. The war was one of the most hard fought in our history. During its relatively short duration from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 36,574 Americans died in hostile actions in the Korean War theatre. Of these, 8,200 are listed as missing in action or lost or buried at sea. In addition 103,284 were wounded during the conflict. As with the WW11 memorial they are humbling and an opportunity for quite reflection to honour the lives lost.
Its hard to come to Washington and avoid any military or political sights, the whole of the centre of Dc is steeped in political and military history and non more so than Arlington cemetery. This was my next stop after Lincoln Memorial and a brisk walk across the Potomac river to one of the most recognised and iconic cemeteries in the world.
The space is peaceful, incredibly humbling and steeped with history; from the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, to the graveside of J.F.Kennedy the cemetery is full of white headstones lined up in military precision.
After a good couple hours of quiet contemplation along the Mall and within the cemetery it was time to jump on a bus and head to Georgetown for a cupcake and coffee and some sightseeing in this area.... pop back later this week when I share more adventures from my day in DC.


Monday, 18 April 2016

DC for the Day .... Avenues & Houses

Of all the fabulous things that I did on my NY trip at the end of 2015, my day trip (yes day trip!) to Washington was one of my favourites. It was also one of the most planned days I had as I wanted to maximise the most of my time in the city. Catching the early train helped as I arrived into the DC at 9.30. I stopped at Shake Shack in the station for a Shack breakfast (blog post to follow) and a refuel of sumpton coffee!
I had a long list of things I wanted to do including;
·    Pennsylvania Avenue & The White House, Smithsonian & Constitution avenue, Arlington memorial and Georgetown. – My Scandal moments would include some of these: The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Potomac River, travel on the Subway and drink red wine.!
There are a number of avenues leading off from Union station and I headed down the one that would take me towards the FBI building. One of the big things that I noticed about Washington from my previous visit was the heightened security measures in and around all of the city. One of the parks that I walked past was a memorial garden for police officers that have lost their lives on duty or active service.... lots to gun crime and some only months into their service. 
On my previous visit I went inside the FBI building on a guided tour which was fascinating, now you can't get near the building for concrete planters and bollards. It was still great to walk around and see some of the legal buildings around this area. The old post office tower was also a great way to see the city from a height, this has now closed and is being converted to a Trump hotel! (he is definitely moving into the district one way or another!)
Continuing down Pennsylvania avenue I came across the most famous house on this street…. The White House ( again somewhere that you can no longer visit) but still can view from afar. It’s a gorgeous Georgian building and I am completely fascinated by it, those walls of that building house so many secrets!. The last time I was there Marine One landed on the lawn and President Clinton ran out from the White House and boarded it to fly somewhere. No Marine One landing on the lawn this time, but there were lots of FBI agents around as the national tree lighting event was taking place later that evening.
As I stood facing the White House and thought of the presidents past and present, fact and fiction; Kennedy, Clinton, Obama, Bartlett & Grant (West Wing & Scandal!) I wondered who would be the next President to grace the Oval office... would it  be another Clinton or a Trump?!! with campaigning now in full presidential glory I am following avidly until the big night in November.
My next stop was back across the avenue into the Smithsonian Museum of American History – I could have easily lost half a day here and had planned to if the weather had been wet/cold. My one stop within here was to see Julia Childs kitchen – Julia Childs is one of America's most famous chefs and bought cooking to life on the screens of US networks. Her love of cooking started when she met her husband Paul and thought she should learn to cook whilst stationed in Paris. She enrolled in the Cordon Bleau school  and went on to publish her own Mastering the Art of French Cookery. On returning to the US, her husband built her kitchen to accommodate her 6ft 2" frame and it is this that now resides in the Smithsonian from her home in Massachusetts. The kitchen was delightful and I had complete book envy within the bookshelves.
Leaving the Smithsonian I headed across the gardens to the Washington memorial to start the iconic walk down towards the Lincoln memorial. Its hard to walk this space without thinking of all the famous movie moments that have been filmed here…… pop back tomorrow when I relive my Forest Gump moment and honour some heroes.