Saturday, 30 April 2011

The last day of April

On a sunny Saturday morning, on the last day of April I'm off in search of a suitable something or someone to make use of the sugared almond wisteria background for the last time.
I spotted 90 year old (it was her birthday yesterday, she told me) Eileen strolling along Upper Street, arm in arm with her son. I've seen quite a few senior citizens dressed up in all their finery in the last 24 hours and to me she was better put-together than any of them. I was nervous about asking a stranger if it was OK to take their picture but she was a perfect, gentle introduction to snapping a passersby and was delighted that her beautifully styled outfit hadn't gone unnoticed.

We were about to head off to Paddington to pick up Ed after a few days in Cornwall but he texted to say the train had been delayed so Brian, the whippets and I had to kill an hour having lunch in the sunshine at a pretty gingham covered table outside the Elk in the Woods in the blissfully car-free Camden Passage. I was suprised that broad bean pate was on the menu! (maybe they'd been reading this blog haha) so I ordered it to see how it compared. They had mixed feta cheese with the beans and mint, which worked really well, although it was a bit richer than my version - I'll try it at home with an icy glass of wine one evening.

and they do great chips...

An almost faultless day, flawed only by getting home at 6.20 to find Joe still in bed eating biscuits instead of doing homework, and overhearing the sycophantic BBC wedding commentary as Ed settles down for the evening to catch up with yesterdays outfits.

Bye sunny April, bye wisteria, and by the way... why are those Maples and Hornbeams (which looked stunning in Westminster Abbey) being carted off to Highgrove and not Hackney? Are they short of trees on Prince Charles's estate?

Friday, 29 April 2011

Friday morning

OK, I've succumbed to royal wedding hype and been tempted with these pretty blue eggs stamped with a crown from Whole Foods on Church street (they sell them 365 days a year). Am going to scramble them, then go back under the duvet for the rest of the day...


Thursday, 28 April 2011

A few days in Holland

I know everything's a bit flowery at the moment what with pansies and wisteria everywhere - but things aren't always quite so sweet and innocent at HC. We have just taken delivery of a parrot chair (1970s Swedish hanging thing) which looks unnervingly cage like and would be quite at home in a dungeon. Catering to Lads' Mags and pop videos is a big part of our business and so we're always on the look out for groovy props to keep Nuts and the like coming back for more.... 

me relaxing at home lol

Anyway, more about that next week but at the moment my head is still full of pretty things having just come back from a few days in Holland - more specifically Eftelinga magical theme park, set in a 150 acre forest. First opened in the 1950s it has a wonderful European fairy-tale atmosphere - nothing like Disney. Efteling has been a constant source of inspiration to me and you can't really go far wrong using the 'Efteling approach' as a starting point for all your interior design projects.

Villa Volta
Hackney Chateau

Villa Volta, the amazing, topsy-turvy chateau, stuffed full of gilded mirrors, chandeliers and candelabras isn't far off our front room and the Arabian Nights - a boat ride through an automaton populated mysterious East, with sultan's harems, bejewelled life-sized tigers and the scent of roses pumped into the air is a fun theme for any dinner party. 

This palace houses the Arabian Nights ride

Dream flight is my absolute favourite ride: built in 1993 at a cost of £12.5 million, you travel through incredible, enchanted woodlands, carpeted with perfumed flowers and inhabited by fairies and elves; drift past twinkling planets and sparkling palaces, floating in a star-lit sky; then descend through a canopy of trees, beside a waterfall to watch goblins splashing in a secret pool. I stole the idea of fake flowers for my 40th birthday. At the end of the coldest June on record not a single flower had bothered to bloom in the garden so Brian and I filled the back of the Volvo with artificial ones from a stall on Chapel Street Market and wired them all-over the bushes. A few strings of outdoor fairy lights and a couple of glasses of champagne and whoaa - our very own Dream Flight.
There are loads of other rides including a few white-knuckle ones for the boys and the recently built Flying Dutchman which is a mixture of magic and thrill. You start the voyage at  the bustling, jolly docks but after being securely fastened into your seat you head into the gloom and fog of the harbour where seagulls screech and your little boat is dwarfed by the hulls of spooky ships with ghostly figureheads. After a bone-shaking ride, you're suddenly shot out into the daylight, high up above the park where you hurtle along a spiralling track into the lake. You'll love it! There's something for everyone and even if you don't fancy the Flying Dutchman ;) you can just wander round and admire the beautifully landscaped grounds or take a boat out into the lake.

Hansel & Gretels House

The wizard tree - the ground trembles when the thunder rolls....

I thought you said you'd strapped him in!

This year we tried a new hotel - it turned out to be really good. I was worried as it looked a bit old folks home on the website but is set in a lovely spot with a terrace by the lake, nice bar, decent rooms an indoor pool, four different types of sauna and.... wait for it.. the whole Arsenal football team stayed there in 1997 so the boys were over the moon.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A Walk in the Park

The 'Mother of the Bride' shoot is into day two and there is much excitement this morning as, apparently, The Queen has made it known that her subjects lining the wedding route on Friday should, wherever possible wear hats.....and I don't think she has in mind the kind of hat that Joe might wear - a baseball cap with fluffy, drop-down ear-flaps. The M o B company make and sell pastel, net-covered, flowery numbers of exactly the style that The Queen would approve. They are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of big sales in the next few days. I'm not really a hat (or wedding) person but listen politely then scurry downstairs with the brown, padded package that has arrived and feels like the bag I ordered from a great site that sells vintage accessories. In the basement, my tiny office has been taken over. John is having a 2 hour maths lesson in a desperate attempt to pull his grade at  A level up from a predicted U to a B by 23rd May. The atmosphere down there isn't great so Brian and I escape for a dog walk in Clissold Park to get lost in the cow parsley. 

And this is the bag..... 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Weekend

In keeping with tradition, the Bank Holiday weekend was mostly taken up with DIY. There's not much opportunity for decorating when the house is busy with shoots and the wooden floorboards are long overdue a repaint. They have been the same (perfect) shade of grey since the beginning of time but when we walked the dogs round to the paint shop (J's Decor8) to get the friendly owner to blend us our usual recipe we found the EEC have decreed that we can't have that colour anymore..... some hours and two extremely bored whippets later we struggled home with 10 litres of the closest match we could get, after J obligingly decanted half of our first attempt into a bucket and added a gallon more white to the mixture.

The reception rooms have 1000 square feet of floor to paint so that kept Brian busy while I messed about with the new camera and loaded the images onto the computer. Dragging the useless ones into the trash has taken way longer than taking the pictures in the first place but one or two are worth keeping. I think I need to slow down and read the booklet but I'm in a panic... the wisteria is dripping in delicate, lilac flowers which is a sure sign that gale force winds and heavy rain are on the way, giving me only a matter of hours to capture the tantalising blooms. 
Brian and I spend Saturday night drinking wine and composing clues for the egg hunt - making life difficult for ourselves by setting a 'musicals' theme to hopefully give Ed (full-time pupil at Italia Conti Academy for Performing Arts) a chance to get some before the 15 and 18 year olds steam through the house. There was no rush. Joe (15) texted me from his bed on Sunday afternoon to say his girlfriend Phoebe would be joining us and could I 'go shops and get lint bunny'.
Dog walking in Clissold Park is a stressful, unpleasant and potentially dangerous pastime in
hot weather when the grass is littered with picnickers. For some reason not everyone is enchanted when a refined whippet elegantly removes a half-eaten sandwich from their toddlers grasp so we decided to take a stroll down Church Street in search of a Lindt chocolate rabbit instead. I was rewarded in an unexpected way as outside Whole Foods Store was the cutest thing imaginable. A dazzling Mini Cooper covered in mirror mosaic. I loved it and immediately began mentally scrolling through my possessions to find a suitable object for the mirror-ball treatment. A 1998 Volvo estate wouldn't quite have the same cute factor... would be funny though.  

In much the same way as I like to slip a new toothbrush into the boys Christmas socks (to a. make me feel better about the packets of Haribos stuffed into the foot, and b. annoy them) I like the idea of hiding some nice healthy fruit in the garden as well as chocolate. As luck would have it I found a giant papaya in Wholefoods that would be perfect for Joe but got a shock at checkout as I thought the price was per papaya and not per kilo - it weighed several and cost more than some fancy egg with his name iced on. A coconut for Ed, a grapefruit for Phoebe and a sensibly priced apple for John. We hid them in the bush planted in the flying saucer (seating from Frankfurt airport circa 1960) in the garden. (clue:huge and white, clean and bright.)

... and here's the flying saucer.

By Monday evening I'd had enough chocolate and rich food. (Gordon and Lee had come for dinner on Sunday and I made paella followed by apple crumble with the last of the apples from the tree that have been in the freezer since the autumn. Anyway, there wasn't much food in the house but I'd found a pack of frozen broad beans while rummaging for the apples and we had broad bean pate on toast. I would like to pretend I'm organised and thrifty and thinly slice any uneaten French bread and freeze it in sandwich bags but actually the bread was left over from a shoot and someone else had thoughtfully left it in the freezer all ready to go under the grill for a few minutes. So, to make the pate bring a medium pan of water to the boil and empty a 750g back of broad beans into the boiling water. Bring back to the boil then strain and rinse under the cold tap. These beans were really tiny so I only bothered to take the tougher outer skin of a few of the larger ones. It's easily done by slitting a small opening with your thumb nail and squeezing the bright green inner bean out. I certainly wouldn't bother to skin a broad bean for a whippet.

With a handheld blender, smooth together the beans with a bunch of mint, the juice of a lime, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper and a couple of spoonfuls of natural yogurt.

Last night was spent putting furniture back and picking up chocolate wrappers ready for today. We have a 'Mother-of the Bride' style fashion shoot going on. Lots of pastel dresses and pretty hats. Joe and Ed have texted to say they're on their way down in search of food and are about to barge right through it - better go!