Late night shopping at Petersham Nurseries

There are certain things that I must do in December. Its my rule.  Nothing to do with shopping really but getting into the festive spirit which I admit I sometimes find it hard to find when I’m staring at a list of things to get done.  Do you do the same?  But this is a good list.  I don’t even need to write them down.  I have to go to Harrods, I have to see the lights in Oxford and Regents Streets, walk from Knightsbridge to Sloane Square and visit Barnes late night shopping event and the late night shopping event at Petersham Nurseries.  I am certain that after I do any of the things on my invisible list that I gain more of my festive cheer.  I love having little rituals at this time of year.  Slowly I’m laying down traditions and there is a nice feeling in doing that.

Despite Petersham Nurseries being so close by, I hadn’t been since last December, but it’s most certainly my favourite time to visit and I wonder if I visited more whether it would be so special. Mum met me from work and wrapped up in hats, scarves and wearing gloves we walked through town and passed the fancy hotels until we arrived at a tiny road which you could easily miss, where gas torches lit the way to two of the three greenhouses festooned with fairy lights and thousands of baubles hanging from the ceilings.

20111207-204736.jpg

20111207-204813.jpg

Mum and I didn’t buy much, but a friend will be receiving a succulent plant in a very pretty pot. We enjoyed hot chocolate and the prettiness everywhere we looked.

20111207-204846.jpg

There were some stunning baubles ranging from tiny to large in the most beautiful colours, my favourite bring the green but mum preferred the orange ones.

If your diary is empty next Wednesday then they are holding another event from 6pm. It’s worth visiting just to feel a little bit more festive.

What holiday traditions do you have?  I’d love to know. 

~ Pru

Advertisements

My Favourite Stores

I’ve decided to leave you with some great ideas for where to get some presents from.  I did a quick glance at the calendar last night and thought that everything was hunky-dorey, only to find that actually, I have a lot of stuff to get done.  Mum and I are off to Brussels on Friday for a long weekend, and there is so much to be done before then.  I’m also taking part in Karen’s Christmas Pledge, which means that I am trying to get everything pretty much finished b the end of November!  Arrgh!

I have already been shopping at a few of my favourite online shops, and I hope you will too, they offer a really good service.

Sweet Auburn

Leigh Ann works for Erika over at Urban Grace Interiors.  She sells such pretty jewellery on her site.  I bought a couple of pairs of earrings from her in the summer and I wear them all the time and continue to receive comments on them all the time too.

Currently I have this bracelet being shipped to me for a friend.

Bits and Pieces by Ashley Delaney

Last year the girls at week each received a calendar.  I printed them, cut them and put little bull-dog clips on the top and then wrapped them in cellophane bags with ribbon and a bauble.  They were cute and cheap.  Already I am thinking about doing this for friends again.  And the calendar has been lovely all year long.

jaC Jewellery

Yep, I love Etsy!  jaC Jewellery has such a great shops.  I’m always keen to find small and light presents to send abroad, and I am so pleased when friends are so happy with their gifts.  I sent these earrings to a friend last year, and she still talks about them now.

There is nothing better than supporting small businesses, and I highly recommend these sites.

See you next week, when I am sure turkey will be mentioned once or twice (wish me luck!)

~ Pru

Sea Salt Caramels

You know, I’m pretty nosey and I know its not a good trait, but I like to think of it as being inquisitive than sticking my nose into things that don’t concern me.  Sometimes, for example, I see someone’s tweet and I have to find out what they are replying to. This is how I found myself checking a friend’s tweets the other day and a reply mentioned Ina Garten’s Fleur de Sel Caramels and how great they were.

That was it.  Off I went in search of fleur de sel.  But I couldn’t find a packet called ‘fleur de sel’ and the only flaked salt in the supermarket was Cornish Sea Salt.  I think my local Waitrose store is getting worse.  But it turns out that the lack of other salt was probably a very good thing, this salt is wonderful.

Caramels are easy to make, but need about 20 to 30 minutes of your undivided attention.  But the ingredients are very simple – sugar, corn syrup, butter and cream, and of course sea salt.  When the mixture was boiling away, the house smelt gorgeous, like we were living in the Werthers Original factory.

The full recipe is here.  If you see the Cornwall Sea Salt, then give it a go – I think it will be making great additions to dishes in my home from now on.

I’m adding these caramels to my list of gifts to make for friends for Christmas.

Thanks Ina and Twitter!

~ Pru

Cologne

This time last week mum and I were all packed for our overnight stay in Cologne.  Our mission: to visit the Christmas markets.  Cologne has four markets within the small city and I am pleased to say that we visited them all – one of them twice. 

It was a first for us to fly out with British Airways from the new terminal five building at Heathrow.  We treated ourselves to lunch of coffees and pastries at Gordon Ramsey, which was good fun but in all honesty not worth the £14 it cost.

Our flight took us to Dusseldorf and we then caught the train to Cologne.  The train was quick and efficient and drops you right into the centre of Cologne.  If the tickets are cheaper to fly into Dusseldorf (like it was for us) then I certainly recommend this way of travelling.  And it was only €9.80 for a single ticket which was incredibly cheap.

Cologne was cold but thankfully without snow and we were well prepared and wrapped up warmly for this weather. 

Our hotel was great.  10 minutes from the cathedral meant that we were far enough out not to be with all the other tourists but close enough to walk back in the evening.  The streets were clean and we both felt safe all of the time.  We stayed at the Renaissance Koln which is part of the Marriot group and were drawn to it due to the good Expedia offer but I would stay here again most certainly.

Cologne was decked out ready for Christmas but in more of a cosy and individual way than London or New York are.  I was in love.  And the markets were wonderful, very busy and they all had a good mixture of German speaking and English speaking people which made things a lot easier (my high school German lessons fail me now).  I was less keen on the market next to the cathedral and instead I preferred the others, as they were less touristy.  The market stalls sold beautiful decorations, fantastic hot food, Gluhwein (mulled wine),  and the best biscuits ever.  We did lots of shopping including a pretty purple silk tablecloth which I will be using at Christmas, wooden salad servers and of course, plenty of biscuits. 

Our time went quickly in Cologne but we were up early to cross the bridge to get a good view of the cathedral.  We had come over this bridge on the way into Cologne and I had been mesmerised by the padlocks attached to the metal bridge.  According to staff at the hotel, the padlocks started a few years ago when a couple would write their name on the padlock and then lock it and throw the key into the Rhein.  There were so many padlocks on the bridge and I loved looking at some of them and their names and dates of love. 

I’m not usually one for Cathedrals but the Dom was spectacular.  Make sure you visit the Treasury if you visit.  The treasures are breathtaking.  And no visit would be complete without viewing the remains of the Three Magi (the Three Wise Men!)

Food was a big part of this holiday.  Don’t go if you are dieting – it would be a waste!

Cologne will stay in my heart along time.  This is the best trip that I have made in Europe in quite a while and sits up at the top with Florence.

Taking a Winter Break

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone is enjoying their day and having the most wonderful dinner and enjoying the company of friends and family today. 

 

I have been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving and I now wish that I had organised a Thanksgiving Dinner (maybe next year) to celebrate friends and family.  I have a lot to be grateful for.  This morning I sobbed at work and a friend was a wonderful comfort to me.  I am very thankful. 

 

I will be back on Tuesday after a weekend Christmas shopping in Cologne, Germany.  I cannot wait.  Hopefully WordPress won’t let me down and my Daring Bakers challenge and Martha Mondays task will both magically appear!

Harrods

For as long as I can remember I have always thought of Harrods as being the most luxurious shop.  I find that no store around the world has never come close to matching it.  When my sister and were little I cannot remember mum and dad taking us to Harrods, and sadly we never saw Santa in his grotto at Christmas.  I think the shop has changed over the years from being just for the rich and famous to be accessible to everyone now.  Even the dress code is more relaxed. 

Harrods came alive for me a few years back when I was helping a friend prepare for her wedding and visits to the departments in Harrods became quite frequent.  I now use Harrods quite often every couple of months I push the heavy doors and feel happy.  I never find myself getting bored of walking through the rooms and viewing all that the store has to offer.  In fact Harrods is one of my ‘calming places’ of which there are two – Waterstones at Piccadilly and Harrods.  If I get stressed or just need to calm down, you will find me wandering around either place and when I emerge I always feel so much better.

Recently I have started to use Urban Retreat, Harrods’ beauty spa on the fifth floor.  This is where ‘ladies who lunch’ can be found having their hair and manicures done before sipping coffee in one of the many restaurants either in Harrods or in Knightsbridge.  But don’t let that put you off.  Urban Retreat is modern, their service is wonderful, and most importantly their staff are superb. 

That’s the thing I like about Harrods the best – the service.  Never have I found that the staff turn down their noses when I look at the expensive jewellery and handbags, or even when mum and I were looking at a £51,000 bed the other day.

Harrods is a must for any tourist coming to London.  I suggest going either first thing in the morning or at about 6.00pm (my favourite time).  Make sure you have plenty of time to wander around the five floors, 330 departments and enjoy every minute of it.  Checking out some of the 30 restaurants and cafes dotted about to see what takes your fancy before sitting down is a good idea.  The Harrods’ Chocolate Bar on the second floor (near kitchenware) is always fun if you like chocolate fondue and anything chocolate, and Morelli’s for their fantastic range of ice creams in the foodhall  is lovely in the summer (apple ice cream is my favourite).

The Shoe Boudoir (1st floor) is beautiful and highlights creations by Christian Louboutain and René Caovilla where shoes sit on individual pedestals to be admired.  No visit, of course,  would be complete without a visit to the many rooms of the food hall.  The cakes are as good as they look and I recommend buying a cake/pastry and taking it into Hyde Park to enjoy.  And you should also buy a tin of shortbread to take home for friends and family, they will definitely be happy.

There are so many things to see in Harrods, the displays continually change, but the experience never gets boring. 

 

[Photo from www.thegirlinthecafe.com].

Martha Merchandise

A trip to New York and a morning spent seeing a live taping of the Martha show would not have been complete for me if I hadn’t bought lots of Martha products.  Apart from the magazines, Wedgwood collection and books (which I order on-line as book shops over here rarely have Martha books in stock) there are no other Martha products to be found.  I always hope that Martha will find a supplier over here to carry her products – Harrods would be ideal for me. 
So, mum and I took ourselves to Macy’s in New York.  Mum and I had both been to Macy’s years ago and never thought too highly of it then.  We still don’t.   I find the staff to be pretty rude, the building quite shabby and the products are never displayed greatly.  I think Martha could do with making a one of her staff from head office go in and neaten it all up (something that mum and I took to doing whilst we were in there).  We didn’t purchase bed linens (something that I had wanted to do) due to their price, which maybe if the pound had been stronger against the dollar I would have done.  We didn’t buy Christmas items either as there was very little displayed and I didn’t like the glittered seashells that they had in store.  However, I did find the Martha products for kitchenware to be in good order (I hate having to hunt around for products too much and as such am never a good shopper in the sales) and purchased a bowl for utensils, a cake tester, a recipe calculator (so clever – it divides the measures, multiplies them and triples them) and measuring cups.  Bearing in mind that we had our luggage allowance otherwise I would have been tempted to buy more.  A skillet was on my list but I never found one.  I had also wanted a Martha Stewart mug, with the logo but it seems that they didn’t do them.  Maybe they don’t do them at all.
On the day of the Martha show mum and I stood in line with our Martha merchandise order forms which a member of staff had been handing out and ordered two aprons (one for me one for mum, a tote bag and a hooded jumper).
We are both so pleased with our purchases.  I have used all of the items and they are great.  The measuring cups are especially great as you fill them to the top as opposed to the old ones I had (Nigella Lawson ones) which had the measure inside the cup.  The hooded jumper has proved to be warm and soft and although I do not usually wear clothing with names or logos on it, I am happy to have the logo of the show on my right arm.  The tote bag is sturdy and carried Christmas presents into work with ease. 
A trip to Kate’s Paperie also saw the purchase of Martha’s Crane & Co. Christmas cards which are beautifully designed and I will take great delight in sending these next year. 
The products we picked really were ‘good things’.