Hustle and Bustle on the Baker-loo Line

After a day of glorious autumnal sunshine came a day of drizzle. My umbrella was whipped out of my satchel and had to report for duty as I traipsed the wet and foggy streets of London – however, the day didn’t remain too dark for very long as I soon found myself surrounded by THE FIRST FESTIVE LIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS. More on that later.

I spent the morning working out my interview route, which involved a stop at Finchley Road station. It’s a small but quirky stop that has a friendly cobbler and a mini fruit market stationed just outside. Once I’d successfully completed my ‘test commute’ I hopped back on to the tube and headed off to Baker Street in Marylebone.

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This street is most famous for being the residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous fictional character, Detective Sherlock Holmes, who according to the books, lived at 221B Baker Street. 221B Baker Street used to be a fictional address as the Baker Street addresses only used to go up to number 100, however the address now belongs to ‘The Sherlock Holmes Museum’. Sherlock Holmes is an iconic character from British literature and I loved seeing the influence that his creation has had upon the street itself – from kitsch cameos of his face adorning the tiled walls in the underground, to Sherlock themed memorabilia shops on the street itself.

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Several actors have portrayed the character of Sherlock Holmes over the years – from Basil Rathbone, who inspired the 1986 Disney classic “Basil the great Mouse Detective” ( a childhood favourite of mine, although the film had some terrifying characters. The peg legged bat and the fat cat haunted several of my nightmares) to the most recent Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, a British actor who has sparked the internet meme “Otters that look like Benedict Cumberbatch” and has achieved an impressive cult following… getting both otters and Sherlock Holmes trending worldwide.

Image(The picture is taken from The Huffington Post and is originally credited as Red Scharlach/Daily Otter) 

There is a new series of ‘Sherlock’ starting on January 1st 2014 with a mini episode previewing on Christmas Day, so if you’re in the London area, why not mosey on down to Baker Street and get yourself warmed up for some festive ‘Sherlock’ viewing!

Baker Street is also a short walk away from the world famous waxwork museum, Madame Tussauds, which is situated on Marylebone Road. I didn’t go into the museum as I think it’s probably an activity best enjoyed with friends or family… It’s recommended to take a camera with you to make the most of numerous photo opportunities with the famous waxworks. Remember – I was ‘the lone ranger’ at this point – I didn’t fancy being ‘that tourist’ taking selfies in the corner with a waxen Kate Middleton. The entry price is steep at around £30 a ticket, however the long queues and positive reviews speak for themselves. You can often save a few pounds by buying a ticket for Madame Tussauds in combination with tickets for other attractions (i.e. otherwise known as a *drumroll*… combination ticket). Definitely an attraction that I will try in future.

Onwards and upwards from Baker Street, my next destination was Oxford Circus. And here is where the bright lights come in! Oxford Street was full of  festive cheer and christmas light garlands – I popped into the Disney Store (those famous words, I can’t ever walk past without going in for a gander) where all the new merchandise for Disney’s new christmas release “Frozen” was on display. The Disney Store on Oxford Street is the largest in Europe – and of course was decked out accordingly for the Christmas season.

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The main aim of going to Oxford Street was to track down an elusive pair of Forever21 ‘Off Roading wedge booties’ (that name doesn’t sound convoluted in the slightest). It took me a while to find Forever21 (because I had been going along the street in the wrong direction, standard) but I got there eventually and made a beeline straight for the shoe section, WHERE ONE SOLE PAIR OF THOSE BURGUNDY WEDGES WERE ON THE SHELF. It was a ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail ‘moment, I was a bedraggled knight (without coconut shells) and those wedges were the Grail. All I had to do was pounce on them before anyone else could – shoes in hand, I was told by a shop assistant that they were indeed the very last pair on Oxford Street. It was clearly fate. Prancing around the shop floor like a show pony*, I knew that we were meant to be… they were even the right size…

*Or a duck. My 15 year old brother likes to say that I walk like a duck in heels. He’s started playing a ringtone of ducks quacking if I even dare wear them in his presence. Teenagers are so sensitive these days. He’s also a great fan of showing me the video clip below.

Slight digression there. I do apologise. Back to the Oxford Street story. Clutching my Forever21 bag contentedly in hand, I spent a good 45 minutes being entranced by the glitzy window displays of both Selfridges and Marks and Spencer. Fairytales and children’s classics are obviously a big trend this Winter when it comes to department store christmas displays. Selfridges have placed giant versions of iconic gifts being skied and clambered on by miniature snow people and the odd miniature reindeer in their displays. The objects vary from luxury items (such as Charlotte Olympia glittery cat ballet flats) to classic childhood toys (a vat of oversized bright pink play-dough, anyone?),  giving the Selfridges windows a ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ vibe.

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Marks and Spencer, meanwhile,  has been attracting a lot of attention with their Christmas advert starring the gorgeous Rosie Huntingdon Whitely.  If you haven’t seen the advert yet, then you can watch it outside Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street, as it is being played on a loop on a giant screen in one of their windows. Throughout the course of the advert, Rosie transforms from Alice (in Wonderland) to Dorothy, looking fantastic from head to toe, clad in her Marks and Spencer glad rags, naturally. The windows of Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street are clearly inspired by ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and feature a decadent Mad Hatter’s tea party, complete with Alice (aka. Rosie), the  Mad Hatter (ie. the dashing David Gandy) and the other usual suspects…

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 I snapped out of my trance/alice in wonderland reverie when I realised that I had to go and buy my Eurostar ticket for my trip to Paris before the price increased threefold. Arriving at St Pancras International, I was immediately awestruck with the beauty and grandeur of the station… so awestruck that I walked straight past the Eurostar ticket desk and went to the check in instead. Whoops… The queue for the Eurostar ticket desk was quite fraught with tension and melodrama, with several passengers being teary-eyed about missing journeys or having to pay large price differences on their tickets. It didn’t put me at ease …. After half an hour in the queue I was imagining being stranded in London and actually having to live out of my suitcase or on top of the St Pancras street piano. But, I managed to get a relatively cheap ticket for the Saturday, thanks to a lovely member of Eurostar Staff who had the patience of a saint and helped me at the ticket desk. After making my purchase, I decided to buy Ellie some roses and headed back to East Croydon, Eurostar ticket tucked safely away in my satchel, tired but with a big smile on my face.

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Pimp my Pumpkin!

This week I gave myself a Halloween mission to locate some pumpkins and slice them up. Sounds simple enough. However, whilst I like arts and crafts in that I like doodling and throwing glitter around, this task was a dubious one at the beginning. I do not really trust myself not to leave destruction or carnage in my wake at the best of times (ie. when selecting an outfit to wear for the day) Factor in wielding a knife and having to stab into a large orange fleshy object, the potential for a messy situation is increased significantly . Regardless of my passion for Tim Burton, when you put a knife into my hands and direct me to some vegetables, the aftermath is less Edward Scissorhands, more Chainsaw Massacre. I can cut a straight line, and on a good day, a paper snowflake but this was a whole different ballgame. I was already having premonitions of having to have my fingers reattached in Accident and Emergency before I even bought the pumpkins. (Me, melodramatic? What gave you that impression?)

Anyway, off I ambled to the supermarket to purchase some pumpkins. I went to the Alliance, which in spite of its futuristic scifi sounding name, is in actual fact, a horrifically ugly and outdated corrugated iron warehouse style building. However, I always think of it fondly and with affection as it is a sort of Aladdin’s cave and contains every kind of product that you could ever need (often in industrial sizes – think along the lines of vats of mayonnaise, marmalade and strawberry bonbons). At the Alliance, I purchased two medium sized pumpkin beasts and then decided to chance the hedge veg stalls of St Sampsons to see if there was anything smaller lurking on the shelves. I was feeling enthused by this point and decided that I wanted a panoply of pumpkins. In Guernsey, you can often find wooden boxes on the hedges filled with locally grown produce. You drive up, select your wares and then place money in an ‘honesty box’. Small town living. Forget Mcdonalds, in Guernsey, if you want fast food then you’ll have to settle for a punnet of blackberries fresh off the hedge.

A 15 minute walk down my road revealed a little nook (in someone’s driveway, casual, I had to lean precariously over a flowerbed in order to access it) selling small pumpkins for £1.00 each (bargain). I placed two one pound notes in the box and bought two small ‘uns which I then placed on the palm of each of my hands. Walking past the pub, a stone’s throw away from the hedge veg boutique, a Guernsey grower with a van full of Guernsey toms (that’s tomatoes for you sophisticated townies) stopped me by leaning out the window, guffawing and telling me I was mishandling my pumpkins.

Is there a correct way to handle a pumpkin? You tell me.


A little illustration of the scenario. I should also probably point out that I was wearing wedged shoe boots, perhaps not the most appropriate footwear to go a pumpkin foraging. However, not as outlandish as the shoes that Courtney Stodden  would wear to a pumpkin patch photo shoot.


Earlier in the morning, some flowers that i had ordered for my mum online arrived from bunches.co.uk (in less than 24 hours, impressive)  The bouquet had an autumnal theme, and incorporated some mini pumpkins. As I mentioned in my previous Halloween blog post, I just love novelty things. I couldn’t resist ordering a bouquet with miniature pumpkins in it. You can see from the picture above that Chino, the house rabbit, was rather intrigued by this floral arrangement, most probably because he wanted to eat the roses. Alas, it was not to be for Chino, who later disdainfully turned up his nose (…or twitched it) when offered a piece of pumpkin. (Rabbits can eat pumpkin in moderation however Chino does not like it, will not eat it, and tends to only be enthusiastic about bananas). With the arrival of the pumpkin flowers and the pumpkins themselves, the house was suddenly bedecked with orange, and I was feeling inspired. After having a bit of an Instagram/Pinterest lurk, I decided that I would pimp my pumpkin (leaving one for my brother to work his artistic magic on) by turning it into… a princess carriage! A carriage missing its Cinderella, but a princess carriage none the less. It is perhaps not the most conventionally ‘spooky’ of ideas but one that would allow me to keep the knife action to a minimum and also give me an opportunity to glitz it up.

The pumpkin family. I attacked the biggest, deciding to save the pumpkin goop from the middle for cupcakes. Very experimental. I also put the seeds aside to roast later.


With the first part of the pumpkin all carved out, I turned my attention to the experimental baking. I roughly followed a Martha Stewart pumpkin cupcake recipe online, although I cut down the amount of sugar (for fear of an overdose) and stewed the pumpkin goop for about forty minutes until it was purée. I then mixed the purée with the other ingredients, fearing a Bridget Jonesesque cooking disaster, and spooned the mixture into muffin cases and one big foil case. The cakes baked for twenty minutes and I later frosted them with cream cheese frosting and pecans. THEY WOULD TURN OUT TO BE DELICIOUS. Pumpkins, you are a revelation.


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Putting cupcakes in treat bags with ribbons and handmade labels is a sweet halloween activity and make for a good little gift… 😀

Back to the Pumpkin pimping. Using a household paint brush , I coated the outside of the pumpkin with orange glitter glue. Hello fire hazard. I then used some old strass/diamanté/beads that I had lying around in my room to decorate around the ‘windows’ and ‘door’. The little orange curtains are made from organza, which originally came from a flower bouquet. (I buy all the flower bouquets) The purple ribbons and bows cost about £1.50 from a local craft shop. All the material and bows were pinned on. This carriage concept is a great activity to carry out with little girls (or boys who want to turn their halloween pumpkin into a death wagon) however it’s imperative to make sure that children are supervised around flames and pins. Because nobody wants a paint splattered screaming child with a pin through their eye and a flaming hand. It’s also best to let an adult do the carving. You get the picture.

IT’S SO GLITTERY.

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And here is the finished result. I added an old glittery tiara from Claire’s Accessories on top (originally from a cheerleading gypsy wedding social) and used two smaller pumpkins for the wheels – they’re not overly sophisticated, I may alter them. The large pumpkin is actually supported underneath by a bowl which has been covered in the glittery orange organza.

I really enjoyed the carving (surprisingly therapeutic) and decorating… and there is one large pumpkin left. Watch this space! If you have any Halloween decor ideas or recipes, then please feel free to comment below! 😀 Coming up…. my verdict on roasted pumpkin seeds and some costume ideas!

“Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

The motivation for this post comes from Dr Seuss’ book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” – if you’re feeling a little hazy, unsure of where your life is taking you or like you need some guidance, pick up this book and have a peruse. It’s a book aimed towards children, however underneath the bright colours and wacky drawings, the words contain Dr Seuss’ famous wit – a wit that knows no age boundaries. It’s not a book that I came across during my childhood but I think reading it as an adult is quite enriching and uplifting – as Dr Seuss says himself, “Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (98¾% guaranteed.)”

So, where do I want to travel and what paths am I going to take? I’m still unsure. There are so many places I want to go, and sometimes I just want to be in a million different places all at once. I want to inhale floral air on hawaiian beaches, take the tram in San Francisco, explore the graveyards, vampire tours and jazz culture of New Orleans, drink butterscotch milkshakes from Zak’s Diner in Ottawa, dance on tables in Konstanz, live in Disneyland Paris and discover countless other countries. As I’m writing this, a Disney animated short springs to mind – have you ever seen “The Three Caballeros”? It’s an old classic from 1944, (including a cigar smoking parrot, ah what you could show in the old days*) where Donald Duck goes on a tour of South America and encounters various different characters along his way, including Pablo the penguin… who is a penguin (no way, Sherlock) who despairs of the prospect of spending all his days in the cold and dreams of living on a warm tropical island.

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When he gets to the island, he kicks back, has a mojito or three (ok, no cocktails are actually specified but you get all inclusive holidays these days so I’m sure he would have indulged a little) and after a while the glow of the tropics starts to wear off and poor Pablo starts to miss the South Pole… the moral of the story being enjoy what you have, live in the moment, as the grass is always greener on the other side!

I have big dreams, that’s for sure, dreams of exploring, meeting new people and living in hot climates. But I’m also grateful for the present and need to make the most of every day, wherever I may be! 

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*Check out this French bear. He loves his tobacco.

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I used to watch this programme when I was small, (random fact coming up) and the voice reminds me of my French grandfather! 

When everyone sleeps…

It’s twenty to three in the morning. I’m sat cross-legged on my bed with a mint hot chocolate in an Aristocats mug. It has the diva kitten Marie on it and was purchased in February. Did I need another mug? No. But I can never deny my inner child a visit into the lair of the Disney Store, what is more, I always want to leave clutching something, and who can turn down Marie?

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“The Aristocats”, or “Les Aristochats” as my mum calls it, is one of my all time favourite films. When I was younger, we used to watch it together, and our favourite part to this day remains the instrumental accompanying alcoholic goose Uncle Waldo… and his nieces Amelia and Abigail. I think the film has wonderful songs and vocals throughout -who can fail to be roused by “Everybody wants to be a cat”, or charmed by the silky smooth voice of Duchess, voiced by Eva Gabor (who also provided the voice for another sophisticated lady, Miss Bianca from “The Rescuers”, another childhood favourite of mine)


I think out of all the characters, I probably identify the most with… *drumroll* precocious Marie and artistic Toulouse…
The sequences with the kittens around the piano always makes me laugh – Toulouse, in creating his masterpieces, gets paint everywhere. I’m no Picasso but I am also guilty of this crime, as my family would be able to ascertain to you!  I get paint absolutely everywhere!  Including on the walls, my face, my clothes and this one time the inside of a freezer, but that is a story I won’t elaborate upon today…

 

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Do you have a favourite film from your childhood that you still like to watch today? I am definitely guilty of overindulging in classic Disney films – there is an entrancing beauty in the animation of their hand drawn art.

I’ll leave you with a picture of another (much earlier) Disney Store cat purchase – Clarence the cheshire cat, posing with some macarons from Guernsey!
(With regards to identifying with this character…well I guess we share bizarre sleep patterns and big eyebrows!)
Ciao!

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(a gratuitous inclusion of my face, including aforementioned cheshire cat eyebrows and an outfit I enjoy)