Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Book love

If you know me, you might already know this, but when it comes to present-buying, I take things seriously.

I have been known to miss people's birthdays entirely because I haven't found a gift I like enough to buy. (Note: I do not recommend this.) My record for belated gift-giving is around 13 months. (Again, not recommended. Sorry Nat!)

I usually start researching waaay in advance but then procrastinate about potential options for ages. Quite often I'll have the perfect present in my head and then get increasingly frustrated when I can't find an exact physical representation of the image in my mind. And when I do buy something and feel like I've hit the wrong note, I remember it for years. Actually years.

Anyway, all of this is a long-winded way of saying that at least with birthday and Christmas gifts, you get another chance every year. But christening presents? There's only one opportunity to get it right. And it's not like you've known the person you're shopping for very long - in fact, you have very little idea what kind of person they're going to grow up to be, what they'll love, or care about, or cherish.

Forgive me for saying this, but I really doubt it's going to be a silver egg cup.

So I tend to go with books. Beautiful, ornamental books that serve as both bookshelf eye-candy and future escape to other worlds. Fairy tales, adventure stories, some of my favourite classics, in hardback, and preferably with gorgeous illustrations.

They're surprisingly hard to find. But I think I might have hit the jackpot, courtesy of Barnes and Noble. These three are about to form a christening gift for a certain little boy:

Because, in the words of J.M Barrie, all children, except one, grow up. And if they grow up imagining pirates  and treasure, Toad of Toad Hall, crocodiles and fairies and messing about on the river - well, so much the better.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

This country is, like, big.

Really fucking big.

So maybe for an American it's not weird that you can spend Saturday and Sunday on the west coast, with weather like this:

Then by Monday find yourself on the east coast with conditions somewhat less balmy:

But I definitely can't wrap my head around it.

I repeat, people.

From this (somewhere around 27 degrees):

To this (hovering around minus eight):

All this is a very long winded way of saying I just got back from a very brief trip to New York. And it was cold. But also seriously beautiful.

I feel like I'm doomed to see New York in tiny increments - I've been three times now, and not one of those stays has been for much longer than 24 hours. This time around, I had high hopes of paying a little visit to Brooklyn via the East River ferry, but after my return flight got bumped forward a couple of hours, I reluctantly concluded I didn't have enough time between finishing work and heading to the airport.

Plus, to be honest, just stepping out of the hotel made me think my face was about to shatter into thousands of pieces it was so freezing - hanging out on the river didn't sound all that appealing.

Plan B involved hot chocolate.

Serendipity is best known for its frozen hot chocolate. And there were some (clearly deranged) people in there choosing that, flying in the face of outside temperature, but I played it safe and went for the classic option.

Greedy? Yes. But I was bulking up before heading north through Central Park to the Met for an afternoon of culture. What can I say? I'm so freaking cool.

I do really love art galleries (and they're a great place to go when you're in a city on your own, like I was). But the main attraction this time around was the Matisse exhibition that's running until March.

It mainly examines how he used pairs, trios and extensively reworked his paintings as he questioned and re-examined his work - at one point late in his career, he even called in a photographer to take dozens of photos of the various stages he went through in the creation of one painting.

I highly recommend it, if you like Matisse. If you don't, never mind - the Met is ginormous. There's bound to be a room you do like. Armour? African sculpture? Old Masters? Abstract Impressionism? Musical instruments? Cafes? Art galleries always do a good cafe.

NYC, I love you. And maybe one day I'll actually have time for a more leisurely visit...

Friday, 18 January 2013


I'm not really feeling much need to document my life this week. It's been fine but dull, I've been ill, everything feels like a chore, blah blah blah.


Instead I thought I'd entertain you with the few things that haven't felt like a chore this week.

Like trawling this little (occasionally somewhat rude) piece of internet awesomeness, discovered here.

Image from

Or listening to this song on repeat. While mourning the sad fact that while Nick Cave is playing in LA next month, tickets are $140. Which is INSANE and cannot be justified under my 2013 austerity measures.

Which are in place so I can do muchos, muchos travelling of one form or another this year. Like maybe go here:

Maui, baby! From here via Pinterest.

So yeah. In the words of Arnie (who I almost kinda met this week but then didn't really), I'll be back. When I have anything faintly interesting to say.

Friday, 11 January 2013


So I'm back from a fairly lengthy Christmas jaunt to England and the Netherlands, and without any decompression time I've been plunged straight back into the busiest couple of months of the year, work-wise.

A tiny part of me is regretting not giving myself very much lazy pyjama time when I was home. Now I'm battling a cough and a sore throat, working ridiculously long hours and thinking longingly of log fires, chocolate coins and spaniel snuggles.

On the other hand, this trip back was pretty freaking awesome, in all its craziness.

There were:

: : Eight different beds

: : Seven different cities

: : Two different countries

: : Two gorgeous babies

: : One spa trip

: : One game of Risk (victory is sweet)

: : Many games of Pointless

: : Three swanky Dutch bars

: : One night at the Suffolk pub I've been drinking at for over a decade

: : And lots and lots of great times with friends and family

It's possible I may have taken hundreds (really. Hundreds. Multiple hundreds) of pictures of New Year's shenanigans, and very few of anything else. But here are some of the ones I did manage to snap.



Dad almost setting himself alight

Marble cake amazingness

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen. And Noah

Breakfast of champions. (Not pictured, vat of champagne)

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

2012: A Year in Travel: Part 3

Oh. Hi.

Please excuse a slight lull in scheduled programming. Festive over-eating, champagne drinking and bed-hopping (in the least interesting sense of the word possible) may have gotten in the way...

So where were we?

I remember - October:

In which I was lucky enough to visit my newly-relocated, and newly married, friends in the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman, to be precise.

Despite the minor fact that Hurricane Sandy decided to start its progression through the Caribbean just as I arrived, it was a pretty freaking awesome week.

We ate, drank, played board games, swam and snorkelled our way around the entire island.

Oh. And we paid a little visit to Hell.

And did I mention there were cocktails?

November was largely spent watching Homeland, baking up a storm and fantasy trip planning

But in December I made another trip back across the Atlantic, to spend Christmas back in Suffolk with my family.

Not that I went straight there - en route from the airport I stopped in with my friend N and her adorable baby boy Noah. Then it was time for a belated 60th birthday present to my mum - a weekend spa-ing it up in Bath.

I finally got back to Suffolk just in time to hang with my favourite ladies, prop up the bar at my local pub, and learn some weapons-craft (more on that later...) before heading off to the Netherlands to see in 2013, Damnam Style (geddit? Yeah. Yeah. I know).

In case you ever wondered what the optimum number of people for a truly raucous dance party is, I can definitively provide that answer.


So that's 2012 all wrapped up. Bring on 2013!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Greetings from Amsterdam. I hope your New Year's Eve was as much fun as ours...

Happy 2013!