Saturday, 26 January 2013

Afternoon Tea at The British Museum

Did you know you could have afternoon tea at the British Museum?  A couple of friends celebrated their birthdays in very civilised style here last weekend.  I was previously unaware that upstairs at the Court Restaurant between three o'clock and five thirty they serve afternoon tea daily - cream tea with scones and jam, petit fours, afternoon blend, beautiful chinaware, pretty cake caddies... the works!  Even vegans and the gluten intolerant were catered for with a fruit platter and chocolate fondue option as well as a selection of vegan and gluten free cakes.

I have to say that I was very impressed with the food and service.  The last time I went to afternoon tea in London was at the Wolsely where we were surprised to find that we were not permitted to take photographs.  No such stuffiness at the Court Restaurant! The charming waiter obliging took photos of our group and I could snap away at my food to my heart's content.

In addition when we were kept waiting too long for our scones we were given a graceful apology and free top ups of our teapots. When our chocolate fondue had become cold and solid (it was minus one degree outside!) it was replaced on request without quibbling.  While at the Wolsely I found the petit fours selection extremely sweet, the Court Restaurant got the balance of sugar in their selection just right for me, just sweet enough without being cloying.  The chocolate fondue in particular was amazing!

The tea party participants had expressed an intention that they would get dressed up for the event so I was determined to wear a dress.  It was however an extremely cold day and snowing quite heavily in London so my determination to wear a dress was briefly threatened by the sub zero temperature outside.  But wear a dress I did, albeit over some serious layers of wool in the form of a turtle neck and tights.  I just couldn't bear the thought of bare arms and legs in this kind of weather.  It was that or let the snow defeat me back into sensible but dull wool trousers!

This is a dress by Carven which I have been stalking all season and which, lucky for me, I managed to find on sale at eighty percent off!  The Carven Autumn/Winter collection was one of my favourites this season.  This dress is made out of navy lace overlaying a nude lining and the design was apparently inspired by the intricate designs of stained glass windows.  I might have the central keyhole split stitched up a little more as this detail makes the dress very revealing and far less wearable otherwise.

The pattern of the lace reminded me of the spectacular design of the glass ceiling in the British Museum entrance with it's grand spirals of triangular glass panes, so it was only fitting I wore it to tea there.  However I am looking forward to warmer weather so I can wear this dress without butchering it's aesthetics by wearing all those layers of wool underneath!  We have definite plans to return to have afternoon tea at the Court Restaurant.  Maybe in the Spring!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The British Museum

As a Londoner I do not get out to the British Museum enough.  In all the years I've lived here I think I've been about four times.  This must be rectified!  There is just no excuse not to visit this place regularly if you are lucky enough to live in London.  It's free entry to most of the permanent exhibitions (you are invited to make a donation - how very politely British!) and there is so much to see.  I was just here for afternoon tea but I've made a mental note that I have to come back and work my way through some of the exhibitions - maybe just choose a theme and spend an afternoon just looking at that.

These shots as well as those in the last post were taken with my new camera. It's a Canon Powershot G15 and I can't recommend it enough.  It is one of the new range of bridge cameras coming out that sit between a small point and shoot and the all-singing-all-dancing larger SLRs.  I dropped my SLR while on holiday in Australia and it is going to be a while before it gets repaired (groan!), so I decided to get a more travel friendly replacement in the meantime. 

I prefer to be able to slip a camera in my bag rather than take a separate camera case or having it hanging around my neck all day.  The problem is the bulk and weight of an SLR gets pretty cumbersome to lug around.  I also find that having to drag out a big camera with a huge lens can put me off taking photos in some situations.  So often in London there are places where the on site security or staff will swoop on you and insist you put the camera away.  Meanwhile another person nearby snapping away with their little point and shoot or mobile phone often escapes without hassle.  I've also been wanting to take more outdoor photos for the blog for a while but that meant somehow dealing with the low light conditions we always struggle with here. 

So I made the decision to buy a new, smaller, point and shoot camera to take out and about with me on a daily basis.  The beauty of a bridge camera like this is that it offers very high quality digital photos (getting pretty near the quality I get out of my Nikon 5100 SLR) in a far less conspicuous compact point and shoot form.

I'll just point out that I'm not being paid or asked to review this camera but if like me, you enjoy taking photos to put on a blog and struggle to get good images because of a lack of good light, then the Canon G15 really is a gem.  All of these shots were taken without the flash in very low light conditions, (it was actually pretty dark by then) and I've done next to nothing in terms of post production editing, a real time saver if you want to do a blog post quickly.  This model certainly doesn't come cheap but was still less than some of the larger SLRs, and it is packed with features to adjust the settings for different kinds of backgrounds.  The snow shots I took were on a special snow setting (indicated by a little snowman icon!).  The range of special effects and filters you can apply directly when taking photos is pretty impressive as well.  I'm looking forward to trying them out!

Monday, 21 January 2013

As White as Snow, As Red as Blood


Who is the fairest in the land?  London City that's who.  With all the snow that's been falling for the last few days London is currently enjoying the most magical seasonal makeover which has turned this grey gritty metropolis into the scene of a fairytale right now.

Since this morning there has been a persistent soft sprinkling of snowflakes and fallen snow has settled to a height of ten centimetres in some places.  Right now, despite the cold, it is lovely to be out and about in this winter wonderland.  Fresh dry powdery snow on the pavements glitters in the soft and muted glow of late afternoon daylight and makes a satisfying crunching sound underfoot.  There is a strange quietness, as if the sounds of this normally cacophonous city are being muffled by a giant soft pillow.  Whilst walking through the city on my way to the British Museum to have afternoon tea I was treated to heart warming scenes of people in the small park squares along the way, building snowmen and having snowball fights, adults and children alike.  The snow brings out the child in all of us.

I was determined not to wear all black today and went out in mostly navy and a bit of leopard.  I have actually been thinking a lot about the colour red lately and that I could do with more of in my winter wardrobe.  Quite taken by the idea of a bright red coat at the moment but, in the absence of one to hand, I put on my favourite red lipstick instead.

Here are two good examples of where fellow bloggers have been having an influence on me!  Firstly there was the recommendation over at Thriftmystyle to embrace a pop of red for winter in the form of a red bag.  That planted a little seed of desire to be wearing something scarlet to brighten up the weary winter months.  I've also been following Courtney's challenge to wear red lipstick every day for a month over at Those Graces, a challenge that took her out of her comfort zone with regard to her appearance.  The impact it had on her makes a fascinating read and for lovers of red lipstick it is a must read.  Here's a quote from her as a teaser:
"What started off as a fun challenge turned into an enlightening experience of bravery, boldness and self confidence. I didn’t expect that from a simple tube of red lipstick."
I own a lot of red lipstick but have lapsed into only wearing it for shows and special occasions.  Thanks to Courtney I've been making an effort to wear it more often.  It is the perfect pop of red for winter, especially against the bright white of a snowy backdrop, and it went down well with the girls I met for afternoon tea.  And just look at the example set by Snow White London with her little red pops of colour.  Isn't she beautiful?  London is a gal who loves her red lippie too!

Feeling visible in red lipstick?  You bet!  Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Lipstick: Ruby Woo by Mac; Navy Coat: Kaylee Tankus; Leopard Print Scarf: Warehouse; Leopard Print Umbrella: Britt; Navy Lace Dress: Carven; Wedge Heel Shearling Boots: Ugg; Bag: Michael by Michael Kors

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Pool Antics

Writing from snowy London with the temperature hovering below freezing, it's amazing to think that I spent most of Christmas Day in a bikini.  If you grew up in the Northern Hemisphere then suffering through sweltering heat on Christmas Day is probably as alien a concept to you as spending Christmas Day in a swimming pool might be.  These are indeed photos from Christmas Day on which the mercury hit forty degrees and our family Christmas celebrations involved a pool party at my sister's place.  Having grown up with Christmas and New Year falling in summer I always associate this season with swimming, the smell of sun cream, the aroma of meat sizzling on the barbeque, icy cold drinks and jumping in and out of the pool to check on how Australia is doing in the cricket.

Although the heat wave we had over there was described as record breaking, this was Christmas as I remember it.  It has only been in recent years that December in Perth has served up relatively mild weather.  My memories of growing up in Perth is the month of December being full of sun scorched days when it often remained hot enough at night to go the beach and indulge in some night swimming to cool off.

This Christmas it was one of those kind of days.  Searing heat for which only immersion in cool water for long periods at a time can bring relief. It was so hot that even the dogs were eager to get in on the pool action...

My childhood memories of summer revolve around pools.  For years we had a sparkling swimming pool at the end of our back garden that would beckon enticingly on hot summer days and provide my siblings and I with hours of free fun.  No iPads, smart phones or social media to entertain you in those days! We entertained ourselves with races, competitions to see who could hold their breath underwater longest or do the most somersaults, as well as inventing a series of tournaments conducted while mounted on daft looking inflatable pool toys.

One Christmas we were given pool ponies, large jelly bean shaped things in garishly bright colours with cartoon like grins and googly eyes painted on as faces.  You straddled the dip in the centre and had to remain upright and afloat, then kicked your legs and paddled with your hands to move.  No mean feat!  But once you got the hang of it there were endless pool pony races to be had.  We came up with a type of pool pony jousting competition where each contestant would start from the opposite corner of the pool, make their way into the centre and then, on getting close enough, proceed to try and shove the other person off their pool pony into the water by whatever dastardly means possible.

Happily adulthood has not dampened the affection my siblings and I harbour for blobbing around in pools on floating pool toys.  Although the tournaments these days have become slightly more civilised - pool pony battles have been replaced with poolside margarita drinking, wine tasting and oyster eating competitions (fiercely competitive mind you - snooze and you lose in my family when it comes to shellfish!)

These days there are also some high tech toys to be had alongside the humble inflatable pool toy. Namely waterproof digital cameras! Hours of fun to be had photographing pointless silliness underwater...

This was a Panasonic camera my brother brought along and I'm quite tempted to get one for my next summer holiday!  Mr V might have won the most somersaults underwater competition but I think I won spookiest underwater hair.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone! Sorry if you thought I had fallen off the end of the earth with the radio silence.  Well almost! Australia is not quite at the end of the earth, but possibly getting close.  Will be trying to get around to say hi to everyone eventually on your blogs.  Since getting back to London 2013 is already proving to be an insanely busy year for me and it seems like every time I've sat down to do some blog related things I've got to attend to something else!

Here are some photos of my New Year's Eve, spent in the city I pretty much grew up in - Perth, Western Australia.  We had a little family gathering on the balcony of a flat on the South Perth foreshore to eat, drink and be merry and were treated to a rather spectacular sky show.  First there was a giant golden moon rising serenely above the Burswood Casino bathing the river and the foreshore in its glow, and then when the clock struck midnight there was a fantastic fireworks display that set the night sky ablaze with colour.

These photos by the way, have been taken by my irritatingly talented younger brother (who makes taking photos of fireworks look deceptively easy).  Unfortunately shortly after Christmas I dropped my own camera while on holiday and it stopped working! Thank God for travel insurance....

We endured a record breaking heatwave while we were visiting with more than a week of forty degree days.  The last sequence of four photos were taken by lil' bro a couple of days before New Year's Eve, just as a storm was rolling into Perth, bringing with it the promise of rain and relief from the heat.  We sat on the balcony and watched the changing colours of the sunset with the rumble and crackle of thunder and lightning over the Perth skyline wishing hard for rain.  Well the rain never came - a cool breeze graced us with it's presence for a while, but all too soon it returned to being still, hot and dry.  All the same, sunset on a hot summer's night over the Perth skyline is a marvellous thing.  Throw in a thunderstorm and it becomes something truly magical.

Has anyone made any New Year's resolutions?  Or dare I ask - even broken them already?  I'm not usually one for making them but on perusing the online sales I came across some fairly compelling wardrobe related ones on the Browns Fashion site.  The first one was "Wear More Colour".

This is something I've been trying to do since the summer and while I was in Oz I did pretty well.  I only packed a handful of black items in my suitcase, most of which was underwear.  The rest was colour-tastic.  However on touching down in dark, cold, grey London the first thing I did was revert to my usual uniform of black, navy and grey for work.  After spending this short second summer in the southern hemisphere wearing lots of bright colour, it was more than a bit of a let down.  So I think I need to be more mindful of how to wear more colour even when I'm not in a hot country.  But you know - I say this every year.  Maybe "Wear More Colour" should be less New Year resolution and more mantra I repeat daily to invoke a sea change!

One thing I love about Perth is the light there and the way colour appears to be almost hyper real - I keep looking back at my brother's photos of the city - the glittering fireworks against an inky sky, the vibrant colours of the sunset bleeding into one another, from the iridescent pinks to the deepening blues, that colourful rainbow of twinkling jewel tones from the city lights reflected in the Swan River at night.  My home city seems to have kindly provided me with perfect mood board material to serve as a source of inspiration for a New Year's wardrobe resolution!

Any wardrobe related resolutions for 2013 you'd care to share?

V wears
Dress: Mary Katrantzou; Jade pendant: Shu Han of London; Amethyst and Aventurine earrings: V&A Museum
Mr V wears
Shirt: Full Circle; Jeans: Uniqlo


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