Friday, 29 April 2016

Book Love - April

The book challenge continued in April, this month saw another 8 books read whilst on my commute in and out of London.
This months reads took on a darker edge with me discovering a new detective murder series which I have loved and a political thriller. Light relief was provided via the mishaps and fun across the worlds of journalism, house selling, coffee shops and chapters of fun in a toy store.
* Dead Wrong ~ Helen H Durrant - Dead wrong is the 1st book in the series of D.I Calladine & D.S Ruth Bayliss, set in the fictional town of Leesdon in the north of England. Calladine is a divorced 51 years old married to his job, Bayliss is mid 30's She uses her demanding workload as an excuse not to try too hard with the men she meets. 
Early one morning in a child's playground on the outskirts of the Hobfield housing estate a bag of severed fingers is found. This starts an investigation which feels like the killer is always one step ahead of the police in both the investigation and forensics. Juggling the investigation and his personal life Calladine continues to hunt the serial killer as more body parts appear across the estate. I was gripped with this book from the start which culminated in me reading 3 of the series within the month. Fans of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne will love Tom Calladine as much.
Finding Home ~ Lauren Westwood - Amy Wood finds herself temping in an estate agents and living back at her parents, a far cry from her perfect job, boyfriend and life in London. Broken hearted and jobless she is now entrusted to help sell a crumbling mansion Rosemont Hall, riddled with dry rot and secrets. Can Amy save it from the developers, bull dozers and her greedy boss and can a crumbling mansion heal a broken heart? - this was a lovely debut novel, good characters, feel good fun and entertaining read. 
Prime Deception ~ Carys Jones John Quinn, an investigative journalist on England’s biggest-selling and most notorious tabloid newspaper, is about to write the story of his life – a kiss-and-tell with one of the country’s most powerful men at its heart. But the story dies when Lorna Thomas, the kiss in his kiss-and-tell, kills herself on a quiet country road. Unable to accept her twin’s suicide, Laurie Thomas follows in her sister’s footsteps to London and to the heart of government. And as she becomes more involved in Lorna’s world, she grows more convinced than ever that Lorna did not take her own life. - This is a great political thriller that has front page headlines written all over it, great twists and surprises, perfect for anyone that loves the intrigue of downing street.
Mishaps in Millrise ~ Tilly Tennant - Phoebe's life was a mess; her boyfriend was killed in an accident and she lost her job. When she wishes for a new start she meets Jack and his adorable little girl, 5 months on and life is looking up. She's still with Jack, has landed a dream job in a toy store and Jack's little girl adores her. Phoebe is convinced that her happiness cant last; with Jacks mum on a vendetta against Phoebe, His brother Archie causing trouble, the toy-store going into financial decline and the boss's son hitting on Phoebe, life suddenly becomes complicated for her. This was a fun read, Phoebe is a sweet character and the supporting cast are a great ensemble, a fun read.
Dead Silent ~ Helen H Durrant A body is found in a car crash, but the victim was already dead . . . Women are going missing and no-one has noticed; Police partners, D.I. Calladine and D.S. Ruth Bayliss race against time to catch a vicious serial killer.  Calladine's personal life has got a little more complicated and this along with female university students going missing adds to his stress levels. This was a thrilling read and as enjoyable as the 1st book, great characters and plot if not a little disturbing.
The Last Word ~ A.L.Michael Tabby Riley’s online life was a roaring success. Her blog had hundreds of followers, and legions of young fans ardently awaited her every Tweet. Her real life was a bit more of a disappointment. Living in a shared flat in North London, scratching a living writing magazine articles on ‘How To Please Your Man in Bed’ wasn't where she thought she’d be at twenty-six – especially when there was a serious lack of action in her own bedroom.Although that might all be about to change when she’s offered a position at online newspaper The Type as a real journalist – and gains a sexy new editor, Harry Shulman, to work with. Harry’s confident, smooth talking, and completely aware that he drives Tabby mad. Which is fine, because Tabby’s dated an editor before, and it’s never happening again. Ever. But as her reputation at the paper grows, Tabby has to wonder: is it time to get out from behind the screen and live her life in the real world? - Tabby is a dream character, funny, a little bit of a clutz and lacking confidence in her real life the complete opposite of Harry; who is just is delicious, confident and a little naughty!. I really enjoyed this book and have already downloaded another of her books.
Catch a Falling Star ~ Emily Harvale   - Catch a falling star is the 2nd book in the Hideaway series and features Laurel. She’s young, free and single; she owns The Coffee Hideaway, lives in the prettiest village in East Sussex and is surrounded by friends… she may also be a suffering from some unrequited love with her friend Ned; Jamie McDay is miserable. Hollywood has become a gilded cage. The paparazzi are snapping at his heels, and since he dumped his co-star girlfriend in a spectacularly stupid public display, he’s been dropped from the Vampire series that made him a heart-throb, movie star. Visiting his friend, Gabriel Hardwick will cheer him up. Hideaway Down may be a bit ‘twee’ but local stunner, Ivy Gilroy could definitely put a permanent smile on Jamie’s face. That’s if he can persuade her to dump her boyfriend, Ned. This was a welcome return to Hideaway and its villagers, Laurel finds herself the attention of a movie star and his attempts to befriend her. Its a fun light hearted read and a perfect pick you up for a miserable commute.
Dead List ~ Helen H Durrant - the 3rd book in the Calladine series and this one features a killer that seems to have a 'kill' list. With no apparent connections to the victims or methodology of death, the only thing linking the deaths are 'tarot' cards left with the bodies. Calladine is perplexed and with 2 small girls missing and a new and upcoming DI from a neighbouring station stepping on his toes he has a host of things to deal with at both home and at the station. A great read, book 4 is on my To read list for May!.
Thank you authors for 8 fantastic reads, I've loved the thrills, fun & mystery from this months reads... I am now 28 books in of my 75 book reading challenge; here's the previous 20 from 2016.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

DC for the Day ... Monuments & Memorials.

My next part of my Washington adventure was to explore the monuments, parks and memorials within the national parks.
 I started at the Washington memorial, which was built as a tribute to America's first president, it wasn't completed until the 21st president was in office. Plans to build the monument were put in place before Washington was commander-in-chief of the American Army, he scrapped the plans as federal government funds were tight and didn't want to use public money for the project. After Washington died the plans were resurrected to build the monument in his honour. 100 years after the original plan President Grant authorized federal funds to start the build, the construction was built across 2 phases and was halted for 2 decades (this explains the variances of quarry stone as they couldn’t be matched) The monument stands 555 feet tall and contains 50 flights of stairs. 
The monument has survived an earthquake, hostage situation and is seen as a pivotal part of the Washington landscape.
 Two memorials flank either end of the Lincoln memorial reflective pool, the one that sits between the Washington and Lincoln is the National WW11 memorial. 
This is a beautiful tribute and I spent a long time walking around reading the dedications and plaques around the pool area. It honours the 16 million that served in the armed forces of the US and the 400,000 that lost their life fighting within the conflict. 
The memorial sits on 17th street between Independence and Constitution Avenues. It contains 56 columns, symbolizing unity among the 48 states, 7 territories and the district of Columbia.
The Freedom wall is littered with 4,048 gold stars, each star paying tribute to 100 lives lost. Either side of the  pool are 2 large structures which highlight the victories on the Atlantic and Pacific seas. This is a stunning memorial, one of my favourite points are the 24 bronze relief panels depicting life home and away during the years of conflict. As with all WW2 memorials, it was difficult not to become emotional as thoughts led to me grandparents and the stories that they told from their experiences during this time. This is a fitting tribute to a war that spanned years, countries and religions.
Continuing down the park alongside the reflecting pool, its hard not to walk this space without thinking of all the political and military movies and TV shows that have been filmed around this area. Favourites include; Forrest Gump, The American President,  A Few Good Men, St Elmo's Fire, White House Down, State of Play, The West Wing, and Scandal.
The Lincoln memorial is colossal, an icon sitting facing the Washington memorial President Lincoln was the 16th president of the US. At the time that the memorial was dedicated the US was in the middle of Civil war between the North and South, the dedication ceremony unified a number of people and it is this that has resonated with many ever since; There are few that don't associate this memorial with the legendary civil rights speech of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
I was lucky when visiting all the sites that the areas were relatively tourist free, a party of collage kids were having much fun with selfies on the steps!
Either side of the Lincoln memorial sit 2 gardens and memorial sites dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam wars, both are beautiful in there own way and are lovely tributes to those fallen.
The Vietnam memorial wall has 72 panels on 2 walls which detail 58,307 names lost within the conflict. The 3 serviceman statue is a bronze tribute representing European, Hispanic and African American soldiers.
The Korean memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War. The war was one of the most hard fought in our history. During its relatively short duration from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 36,574 Americans died in hostile actions in the Korean War theatre. Of these, 8,200 are listed as missing in action or lost or buried at sea. In addition 103,284 were wounded during the conflict. As with the WW11 memorial they are humbling and an opportunity for quite reflection to honour the lives lost.
Its hard to come to Washington and avoid any military or political sights, the whole of the centre of Dc is steeped in political and military history and non more so than Arlington cemetery. This was my next stop after Lincoln Memorial and a brisk walk across the Potomac river to one of the most recognised and iconic cemeteries in the world.
The space is peaceful, incredibly humbling and steeped with history; from the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, to the graveside of J.F.Kennedy the cemetery is full of white headstones lined up in military precision.
After a good couple hours of quiet contemplation along the Mall and within the cemetery it was time to jump on a bus and head to Georgetown for a cupcake and coffee and some sightseeing in this area.... pop back later this week when I share more adventures from my day in DC.


Monday, 18 April 2016

DC for the Day .... Avenues & Houses

Of all the fabulous things that I did on my NY trip at the end of 2015, my day trip (yes day trip!) to Washington was one of my favourites. It was also one of the most planned days I had as I wanted to maximise the most of my time in the city. Catching the early train helped as I arrived into the DC at 9.30. I stopped at Shake Shack in the station for a Shack breakfast (blog post to follow) and a refuel of sumpton coffee!
I had a long list of things I wanted to do including;
·    Pennsylvania Avenue & The White House, Smithsonian & Constitution avenue, Arlington memorial and Georgetown. – My Scandal moments would include some of these: The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Potomac River, travel on the Subway and drink red wine.!
There are a number of avenues leading off from Union station and I headed down the one that would take me towards the FBI building. One of the big things that I noticed about Washington from my previous visit was the heightened security measures in and around all of the city. One of the parks that I walked past was a memorial garden for police officers that have lost their lives on duty or active service.... lots to gun crime and some only months into their service. 
On my previous visit I went inside the FBI building on a guided tour which was fascinating, now you can't get near the building for concrete planters and bollards. It was still great to walk around and see some of the legal buildings around this area. The old post office tower was also a great way to see the city from a height, this has now closed and is being converted to a Trump hotel! (he is definitely moving into the district one way or another!)
Continuing down Pennsylvania avenue I came across the most famous house on this street…. The White House ( again somewhere that you can no longer visit) but still can view from afar. It’s a gorgeous Georgian building and I am completely fascinated by it, those walls of that building house so many secrets!. The last time I was there Marine One landed on the lawn and President Clinton ran out from the White House and boarded it to fly somewhere. No Marine One landing on the lawn this time, but there were lots of FBI agents around as the national tree lighting event was taking place later that evening.
As I stood facing the White House and thought of the presidents past and present, fact and fiction; Kennedy, Clinton, Obama, Bartlett & Grant (West Wing & Scandal!) I wondered who would be the next President to grace the Oval office... would it  be another Clinton or a Trump?!! with campaigning now in full presidential glory I am following avidly until the big night in November.
My next stop was back across the avenue into the Smithsonian Museum of American History – I could have easily lost half a day here and had planned to if the weather had been wet/cold. My one stop within here was to see Julia Childs kitchen – Julia Childs is one of America's most famous chefs and bought cooking to life on the screens of US networks. Her love of cooking started when she met her husband Paul and thought she should learn to cook whilst stationed in Paris. She enrolled in the Cordon Bleau school  and went on to publish her own Mastering the Art of French Cookery. On returning to the US, her husband built her kitchen to accommodate her 6ft 2" frame and it is this that now resides in the Smithsonian from her home in Massachusetts. The kitchen was delightful and I had complete book envy within the bookshelves.
Leaving the Smithsonian I headed across the gardens to the Washington memorial to start the iconic walk down towards the Lincoln memorial. Its hard to walk this space without thinking of all the famous movie moments that have been filmed here…… pop back tomorrow when I relive my Forest Gump moment and honour some heroes.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

DC for the Day.... Amtrak adventures

Time to share some more of my New York adventures from late last year, the rate that I am going I will still be blogging about it Christmas 2016 instead of Christmas 2015!.. when I started planning my trip last year I wanted to do things that I hadn't done before as well as some old favourites.
One of the things that I started to research was the option of travelling to Washington for the day and exploring some of the capital city. I visited Washington 18 years ago and looked forward to a return visit (especially with my current Scandal obsession!) I knew that I would have to plan my day well, but was confident to see some of the capitals landmarks.
After the idea took root, it was quite easy to plan the rest; the Amtrak train line from Penn Station was the route to take and I booked a return journey for $65. As an early riser I booked a 6am train arriving in DC at 9.30am.
Penn station was a short taxi ride from my hotel and like all mainline stations was still a hive of activity even at that early hour. I stopped at Zaro's; one of New York's famous bakeries for coffee, and breakfast muffin for the journey.
With multiple stops on route the train was busy, but with a reserved seat, and leg room and seats bigger than flying I was pleasantly surprised on the amenities on offer on the train; including complimentary wifi (which didn't dip for the entire journey) and power.
Leaving New York whilst still dark, one of the treats of the journey was tracking the images shot out of the window and watching the sunrise as we approached Philadelphia.
The sunrise was stunning. I loved watching the towns and cities begin to wake up as we sped along the tracks.


I arrived in DC at 9.30 into a stunning classical station, built in 1907 it is a beautiful building filled with arches and light.
The day was glorious and with beautiful blue skies as a backdrop to some of the worlds most iconic buildings; I set off to explore this political famous city.
Pop back tomorrow for more adventures.... featuring lincoln, landmarks, cupcakes and presidents!


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Don't Rain on my Parade....

This week, previews of Funny Girl started at The Savoy Theatre beginning its West End run after a successful staging at The Menier Chocolate Factory in South London.

It is here that I saw this fabulous musical at the end of last year, which sold out its run within hours.
Funny Girl is the biographical story of film star and comedian  Fanny Bryce and her tumultuous relationship with entrepreneur Nicky Arnstein. The film of the story was made world famous by Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif and the characters have been owned by these since. It is hard to imagine that anyone else can step into Streisand's shoes and own this role as well as her, but there may after 50 years be a successor!... Sheridan Smith has taken this role and made it her own.
Those not familiar with the plot, Brice rises from the chorus line of the Broadway musical and vaudeville line after being discovered. Briefly she meets Arnstein after her debut performance and their paths cross as Fanny's success grows and their romance flourishes. Fanny and Arnstein marry after he wins a fortune in a poker tournament. They move into a mansion, and Fanny takes a lead role at the Follies, returning to Ziegfeld who made her a star. Arnstein's various business interests fail and he refuses to take any of his wife's monies, involving himself in a bonds scam which leads to him being jailed for embezzlement.
Sheridan is supported with a fabulous cast and Arnstein is played by Darius Campbell. This musical is fabulous, Sheridan Smith is a Star; if you have a ticket to see this then you are in for an evening of sheer entertainment. With songs as legendary as the stars; People, Don't rain on my parade and Funny Girl it is a treat for every musical fan.
 I am booked to see this again at The Savoy and I can't wait.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Fitness & Well-being...

I don't blog lots about work but today the home of Mr Selfridge expanded its retail space by an additional 37,000 sq ft. The Body Studio opened today embracing fitness, well-being, lingerie, lounge-wear and hosiery all under one roof and what an impressive roof it is. Flooded with natural light from skylights and courtyard windows, the body studio is stunning.
With fitness and healthy eating part of my new lifestyle, this space is the perfect motivation to keep me focused on my SW journey.
The activewear space is full of fabulous fit wear, tech and equipment perfect for any activity. I love the boxing bags hanging from the steel beams, creating theatre and great visuals.
Its hard to visualise as I walk around this space that 15 months ago this was my old office and desk area. The Body Studio also houses the biggest collection of lingerie along with the most gorgeous fitting room spaces.
Aside from the gorgeous apparel, Body Studio also houses a Daniel Galvin studio, perfect for every hair. Adjacent to the hair salon is the cutest healthy cafe that you will see. The Hemsley sisters in partnership with Selfridges have opened a bistro cafe with a menu straight out of their healthy lifestyle cook books.
Yesterday I was lucky to sample lunch and also get to talk to the girls who were present. Both are trilled to be part of this new space and the opening of their first cafe. All this and the launch of their new TV series in a couple of weeks. All ingredients are sourced from amazing suppliers who absolutely compliment the sisters ethos of eating and lifestyle.
Lunch yesterday was a Bacon and Spinach quiche with almond flour, dressed side salad of rocket, coriander & cucumber and home-made tomato sauce. The flavours were amazing and the quiche just melted in the mouth. Accompanied by the most perfect little pot of mint tea.
 Dessert was a flour-less, beetroot & chocolate cupcake with yoghurt frosting. Dense chocolate flavour, the cupcake was moist and delicious.
The cafe is bijou, and tables can't be booked, but don't panic the queuing system is great and allows you to browse the store whilst waiting for your table They message your phone when the table is available.(so much better than waiting about in a Q!)
I know that this visit wont be last to Hemsley + Hemsley and look forward to trying the breakfast menu over the next few weeks.
Thanks to Jasmine & Melissa for stopping to chat, good luck with the new venture and a big well done to all the team involved in the Body Studio... it really is a gorgeous space.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Hello April.....

Its lovely to see April arrive with some sunshine, March blew away amongst a spring storm and heavy showers. I definitely feel like I am beginning to awake from my winter hibernation and I am looking forward to a brighter April. As you can see the blog has had a makeover and we embracing spring with some yellow and gold hues, saying goodbye to the March greens.
* April has started beautifully and I captured this sunrise on my walk to the station through the park.
* I have set myself some goals for April on my SW journey, one of which is to move more!.. my walk to the station is 2km so I am aiming to walk 4k 3 times a week.
 * I have a couple of lovely things planned for April; Dinner at Koffmans at The Berkeley followed by a very guilty pleasure evening at the Albert Hall with Michael Bolton - a birthday treat for a special friend *
I am enjoying all the gorgeous daffodils around by me and in the window boxes in London. They make everywhere seem so much more colourful and that spring is here.
I cant believe that we are a quarter of our way through 2016 and looking back over the 1st 3 months, even though it feels like I have been hibernating, I've still managed to do quite a few things!
I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend and look forward to catching up with blogs and seeing what everyone has planned for April.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Goodbye March...

Farewell March.... wow a quarter of the way through 2016, where did that go? March was a mixed bag for me.
My month was busy with work, having a little fun and catching up with loved ones.
With Mothers day falling early in the month and Easter falling late it gave me plenty of opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

  • March saw the nights begin to get lighter which lent for some spectacular sunsets captured as I left work and on the train. 
  • March also say me say Hello to Adele and Goodbye to James Martin when I sent 2 evenings in both their company at their stage tours in the Uk.
  • Easter and Mothers day were filled with flowers and treats.
  • In between the spring storms and cold mornings, London did shine with some beautiful sunshine which showcased it off gorgeously. From my trip to the Sky Garden, walks through Manchester square to work and of course the home of Mr Selfridge himself.

March also saw me starting to move more, stepping up my walking and changing my route to work to for a longer walk and enjoy the outdoors when the weather was good.
March saw another 8 books ticked off my 75 reads from my 2016 list. I also binge watched The Night Manager on Tv which was just fabulous and I got a little excited also when I saw the new Bridget Jones trailer.... overall a good month and I hoping for even more fun in April.


Friday, 29 April 2016

Book Love - April

The book challenge continued in April, this month saw another 8 books read whilst on my commute in and out of London.
This months reads took on a darker edge with me discovering a new detective murder series which I have loved and a political thriller. Light relief was provided via the mishaps and fun across the worlds of journalism, house selling, coffee shops and chapters of fun in a toy store.
* Dead Wrong ~ Helen H Durrant - Dead wrong is the 1st book in the series of D.I Calladine & D.S Ruth Bayliss, set in the fictional town of Leesdon in the north of England. Calladine is a divorced 51 years old married to his job, Bayliss is mid 30's She uses her demanding workload as an excuse not to try too hard with the men she meets. 
Early one morning in a child's playground on the outskirts of the Hobfield housing estate a bag of severed fingers is found. This starts an investigation which feels like the killer is always one step ahead of the police in both the investigation and forensics. Juggling the investigation and his personal life Calladine continues to hunt the serial killer as more body parts appear across the estate. I was gripped with this book from the start which culminated in me reading 3 of the series within the month. Fans of Mark Billingham's Tom Thorne will love Tom Calladine as much.
Finding Home ~ Lauren Westwood - Amy Wood finds herself temping in an estate agents and living back at her parents, a far cry from her perfect job, boyfriend and life in London. Broken hearted and jobless she is now entrusted to help sell a crumbling mansion Rosemont Hall, riddled with dry rot and secrets. Can Amy save it from the developers, bull dozers and her greedy boss and can a crumbling mansion heal a broken heart? - this was a lovely debut novel, good characters, feel good fun and entertaining read. 
Prime Deception ~ Carys Jones John Quinn, an investigative journalist on England’s biggest-selling and most notorious tabloid newspaper, is about to write the story of his life – a kiss-and-tell with one of the country’s most powerful men at its heart. But the story dies when Lorna Thomas, the kiss in his kiss-and-tell, kills herself on a quiet country road. Unable to accept her twin’s suicide, Laurie Thomas follows in her sister’s footsteps to London and to the heart of government. And as she becomes more involved in Lorna’s world, she grows more convinced than ever that Lorna did not take her own life. - This is a great political thriller that has front page headlines written all over it, great twists and surprises, perfect for anyone that loves the intrigue of downing street.
Mishaps in Millrise ~ Tilly Tennant - Phoebe's life was a mess; her boyfriend was killed in an accident and she lost her job. When she wishes for a new start she meets Jack and his adorable little girl, 5 months on and life is looking up. She's still with Jack, has landed a dream job in a toy store and Jack's little girl adores her. Phoebe is convinced that her happiness cant last; with Jacks mum on a vendetta against Phoebe, His brother Archie causing trouble, the toy-store going into financial decline and the boss's son hitting on Phoebe, life suddenly becomes complicated for her. This was a fun read, Phoebe is a sweet character and the supporting cast are a great ensemble, a fun read.
Dead Silent ~ Helen H Durrant A body is found in a car crash, but the victim was already dead . . . Women are going missing and no-one has noticed; Police partners, D.I. Calladine and D.S. Ruth Bayliss race against time to catch a vicious serial killer.  Calladine's personal life has got a little more complicated and this along with female university students going missing adds to his stress levels. This was a thrilling read and as enjoyable as the 1st book, great characters and plot if not a little disturbing.
The Last Word ~ A.L.Michael Tabby Riley’s online life was a roaring success. Her blog had hundreds of followers, and legions of young fans ardently awaited her every Tweet. Her real life was a bit more of a disappointment. Living in a shared flat in North London, scratching a living writing magazine articles on ‘How To Please Your Man in Bed’ wasn't where she thought she’d be at twenty-six – especially when there was a serious lack of action in her own bedroom.Although that might all be about to change when she’s offered a position at online newspaper The Type as a real journalist – and gains a sexy new editor, Harry Shulman, to work with. Harry’s confident, smooth talking, and completely aware that he drives Tabby mad. Which is fine, because Tabby’s dated an editor before, and it’s never happening again. Ever. But as her reputation at the paper grows, Tabby has to wonder: is it time to get out from behind the screen and live her life in the real world? - Tabby is a dream character, funny, a little bit of a clutz and lacking confidence in her real life the complete opposite of Harry; who is just is delicious, confident and a little naughty!. I really enjoyed this book and have already downloaded another of her books.
Catch a Falling Star ~ Emily Harvale   - Catch a falling star is the 2nd book in the Hideaway series and features Laurel. She’s young, free and single; she owns The Coffee Hideaway, lives in the prettiest village in East Sussex and is surrounded by friends… she may also be a suffering from some unrequited love with her friend Ned; Jamie McDay is miserable. Hollywood has become a gilded cage. The paparazzi are snapping at his heels, and since he dumped his co-star girlfriend in a spectacularly stupid public display, he’s been dropped from the Vampire series that made him a heart-throb, movie star. Visiting his friend, Gabriel Hardwick will cheer him up. Hideaway Down may be a bit ‘twee’ but local stunner, Ivy Gilroy could definitely put a permanent smile on Jamie’s face. That’s if he can persuade her to dump her boyfriend, Ned. This was a welcome return to Hideaway and its villagers, Laurel finds herself the attention of a movie star and his attempts to befriend her. Its a fun light hearted read and a perfect pick you up for a miserable commute.
Dead List ~ Helen H Durrant - the 3rd book in the Calladine series and this one features a killer that seems to have a 'kill' list. With no apparent connections to the victims or methodology of death, the only thing linking the deaths are 'tarot' cards left with the bodies. Calladine is perplexed and with 2 small girls missing and a new and upcoming DI from a neighbouring station stepping on his toes he has a host of things to deal with at both home and at the station. A great read, book 4 is on my To read list for May!.
Thank you authors for 8 fantastic reads, I've loved the thrills, fun & mystery from this months reads... I am now 28 books in of my 75 book reading challenge; here's the previous 20 from 2016.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

DC for the Day ... Monuments & Memorials.

My next part of my Washington adventure was to explore the monuments, parks and memorials within the national parks.
 I started at the Washington memorial, which was built as a tribute to America's first president, it wasn't completed until the 21st president was in office. Plans to build the monument were put in place before Washington was commander-in-chief of the American Army, he scrapped the plans as federal government funds were tight and didn't want to use public money for the project. After Washington died the plans were resurrected to build the monument in his honour. 100 years after the original plan President Grant authorized federal funds to start the build, the construction was built across 2 phases and was halted for 2 decades (this explains the variances of quarry stone as they couldn’t be matched) The monument stands 555 feet tall and contains 50 flights of stairs. 
The monument has survived an earthquake, hostage situation and is seen as a pivotal part of the Washington landscape.
 Two memorials flank either end of the Lincoln memorial reflective pool, the one that sits between the Washington and Lincoln is the National WW11 memorial. 
This is a beautiful tribute and I spent a long time walking around reading the dedications and plaques around the pool area. It honours the 16 million that served in the armed forces of the US and the 400,000 that lost their life fighting within the conflict. 
The memorial sits on 17th street between Independence and Constitution Avenues. It contains 56 columns, symbolizing unity among the 48 states, 7 territories and the district of Columbia.
The Freedom wall is littered with 4,048 gold stars, each star paying tribute to 100 lives lost. Either side of the  pool are 2 large structures which highlight the victories on the Atlantic and Pacific seas. This is a stunning memorial, one of my favourite points are the 24 bronze relief panels depicting life home and away during the years of conflict. As with all WW2 memorials, it was difficult not to become emotional as thoughts led to me grandparents and the stories that they told from their experiences during this time. This is a fitting tribute to a war that spanned years, countries and religions.
Continuing down the park alongside the reflecting pool, its hard not to walk this space without thinking of all the political and military movies and TV shows that have been filmed around this area. Favourites include; Forrest Gump, The American President,  A Few Good Men, St Elmo's Fire, White House Down, State of Play, The West Wing, and Scandal.
The Lincoln memorial is colossal, an icon sitting facing the Washington memorial President Lincoln was the 16th president of the US. At the time that the memorial was dedicated the US was in the middle of Civil war between the North and South, the dedication ceremony unified a number of people and it is this that has resonated with many ever since; There are few that don't associate this memorial with the legendary civil rights speech of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
I was lucky when visiting all the sites that the areas were relatively tourist free, a party of collage kids were having much fun with selfies on the steps!
Either side of the Lincoln memorial sit 2 gardens and memorial sites dedicated to the Korean and Vietnam wars, both are beautiful in there own way and are lovely tributes to those fallen.
The Vietnam memorial wall has 72 panels on 2 walls which detail 58,307 names lost within the conflict. The 3 serviceman statue is a bronze tribute representing European, Hispanic and African American soldiers.
The Korean memorial commemorates the sacrifices of the 5.8 million Americans who served in the U.S. armed services during the three-year period of the Korean War. The war was one of the most hard fought in our history. During its relatively short duration from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, 36,574 Americans died in hostile actions in the Korean War theatre. Of these, 8,200 are listed as missing in action or lost or buried at sea. In addition 103,284 were wounded during the conflict. As with the WW11 memorial they are humbling and an opportunity for quite reflection to honour the lives lost.
Its hard to come to Washington and avoid any military or political sights, the whole of the centre of Dc is steeped in political and military history and non more so than Arlington cemetery. This was my next stop after Lincoln Memorial and a brisk walk across the Potomac river to one of the most recognised and iconic cemeteries in the world.
The space is peaceful, incredibly humbling and steeped with history; from the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, to the graveside of J.F.Kennedy the cemetery is full of white headstones lined up in military precision.
After a good couple hours of quiet contemplation along the Mall and within the cemetery it was time to jump on a bus and head to Georgetown for a cupcake and coffee and some sightseeing in this area.... pop back later this week when I share more adventures from my day in DC.


Monday, 18 April 2016

DC for the Day .... Avenues & Houses

Of all the fabulous things that I did on my NY trip at the end of 2015, my day trip (yes day trip!) to Washington was one of my favourites. It was also one of the most planned days I had as I wanted to maximise the most of my time in the city. Catching the early train helped as I arrived into the DC at 9.30. I stopped at Shake Shack in the station for a Shack breakfast (blog post to follow) and a refuel of sumpton coffee!
I had a long list of things I wanted to do including;
·    Pennsylvania Avenue & The White House, Smithsonian & Constitution avenue, Arlington memorial and Georgetown. – My Scandal moments would include some of these: The White House, Lincoln Memorial, Potomac River, travel on the Subway and drink red wine.!
There are a number of avenues leading off from Union station and I headed down the one that would take me towards the FBI building. One of the big things that I noticed about Washington from my previous visit was the heightened security measures in and around all of the city. One of the parks that I walked past was a memorial garden for police officers that have lost their lives on duty or active service.... lots to gun crime and some only months into their service. 
On my previous visit I went inside the FBI building on a guided tour which was fascinating, now you can't get near the building for concrete planters and bollards. It was still great to walk around and see some of the legal buildings around this area. The old post office tower was also a great way to see the city from a height, this has now closed and is being converted to a Trump hotel! (he is definitely moving into the district one way or another!)
Continuing down Pennsylvania avenue I came across the most famous house on this street…. The White House ( again somewhere that you can no longer visit) but still can view from afar. It’s a gorgeous Georgian building and I am completely fascinated by it, those walls of that building house so many secrets!. The last time I was there Marine One landed on the lawn and President Clinton ran out from the White House and boarded it to fly somewhere. No Marine One landing on the lawn this time, but there were lots of FBI agents around as the national tree lighting event was taking place later that evening.
As I stood facing the White House and thought of the presidents past and present, fact and fiction; Kennedy, Clinton, Obama, Bartlett & Grant (West Wing & Scandal!) I wondered who would be the next President to grace the Oval office... would it  be another Clinton or a Trump?!! with campaigning now in full presidential glory I am following avidly until the big night in November.
My next stop was back across the avenue into the Smithsonian Museum of American History – I could have easily lost half a day here and had planned to if the weather had been wet/cold. My one stop within here was to see Julia Childs kitchen – Julia Childs is one of America's most famous chefs and bought cooking to life on the screens of US networks. Her love of cooking started when she met her husband Paul and thought she should learn to cook whilst stationed in Paris. She enrolled in the Cordon Bleau school  and went on to publish her own Mastering the Art of French Cookery. On returning to the US, her husband built her kitchen to accommodate her 6ft 2" frame and it is this that now resides in the Smithsonian from her home in Massachusetts. The kitchen was delightful and I had complete book envy within the bookshelves.
Leaving the Smithsonian I headed across the gardens to the Washington memorial to start the iconic walk down towards the Lincoln memorial. Its hard to walk this space without thinking of all the famous movie moments that have been filmed here…… pop back tomorrow when I relive my Forest Gump moment and honour some heroes.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

DC for the Day.... Amtrak adventures

Time to share some more of my New York adventures from late last year, the rate that I am going I will still be blogging about it Christmas 2016 instead of Christmas 2015!.. when I started planning my trip last year I wanted to do things that I hadn't done before as well as some old favourites.
One of the things that I started to research was the option of travelling to Washington for the day and exploring some of the capital city. I visited Washington 18 years ago and looked forward to a return visit (especially with my current Scandal obsession!) I knew that I would have to plan my day well, but was confident to see some of the capitals landmarks.
After the idea took root, it was quite easy to plan the rest; the Amtrak train line from Penn Station was the route to take and I booked a return journey for $65. As an early riser I booked a 6am train arriving in DC at 9.30am.
Penn station was a short taxi ride from my hotel and like all mainline stations was still a hive of activity even at that early hour. I stopped at Zaro's; one of New York's famous bakeries for coffee, and breakfast muffin for the journey.
With multiple stops on route the train was busy, but with a reserved seat, and leg room and seats bigger than flying I was pleasantly surprised on the amenities on offer on the train; including complimentary wifi (which didn't dip for the entire journey) and power.
Leaving New York whilst still dark, one of the treats of the journey was tracking the images shot out of the window and watching the sunrise as we approached Philadelphia.
The sunrise was stunning. I loved watching the towns and cities begin to wake up as we sped along the tracks.


I arrived in DC at 9.30 into a stunning classical station, built in 1907 it is a beautiful building filled with arches and light.
The day was glorious and with beautiful blue skies as a backdrop to some of the worlds most iconic buildings; I set off to explore this political famous city.
Pop back tomorrow for more adventures.... featuring lincoln, landmarks, cupcakes and presidents!


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Don't Rain on my Parade....

This week, previews of Funny Girl started at The Savoy Theatre beginning its West End run after a successful staging at The Menier Chocolate Factory in South London.

It is here that I saw this fabulous musical at the end of last year, which sold out its run within hours.
Funny Girl is the biographical story of film star and comedian  Fanny Bryce and her tumultuous relationship with entrepreneur Nicky Arnstein. The film of the story was made world famous by Barbara Streisand and Omar Sharif and the characters have been owned by these since. It is hard to imagine that anyone else can step into Streisand's shoes and own this role as well as her, but there may after 50 years be a successor!... Sheridan Smith has taken this role and made it her own.
Those not familiar with the plot, Brice rises from the chorus line of the Broadway musical and vaudeville line after being discovered. Briefly she meets Arnstein after her debut performance and their paths cross as Fanny's success grows and their romance flourishes. Fanny and Arnstein marry after he wins a fortune in a poker tournament. They move into a mansion, and Fanny takes a lead role at the Follies, returning to Ziegfeld who made her a star. Arnstein's various business interests fail and he refuses to take any of his wife's monies, involving himself in a bonds scam which leads to him being jailed for embezzlement.
Sheridan is supported with a fabulous cast and Arnstein is played by Darius Campbell. This musical is fabulous, Sheridan Smith is a Star; if you have a ticket to see this then you are in for an evening of sheer entertainment. With songs as legendary as the stars; People, Don't rain on my parade and Funny Girl it is a treat for every musical fan.
 I am booked to see this again at The Savoy and I can't wait.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Fitness & Well-being...

I don't blog lots about work but today the home of Mr Selfridge expanded its retail space by an additional 37,000 sq ft. The Body Studio opened today embracing fitness, well-being, lingerie, lounge-wear and hosiery all under one roof and what an impressive roof it is. Flooded with natural light from skylights and courtyard windows, the body studio is stunning.
With fitness and healthy eating part of my new lifestyle, this space is the perfect motivation to keep me focused on my SW journey.
The activewear space is full of fabulous fit wear, tech and equipment perfect for any activity. I love the boxing bags hanging from the steel beams, creating theatre and great visuals.
Its hard to visualise as I walk around this space that 15 months ago this was my old office and desk area. The Body Studio also houses the biggest collection of lingerie along with the most gorgeous fitting room spaces.
Aside from the gorgeous apparel, Body Studio also houses a Daniel Galvin studio, perfect for every hair. Adjacent to the hair salon is the cutest healthy cafe that you will see. The Hemsley sisters in partnership with Selfridges have opened a bistro cafe with a menu straight out of their healthy lifestyle cook books.
Yesterday I was lucky to sample lunch and also get to talk to the girls who were present. Both are trilled to be part of this new space and the opening of their first cafe. All this and the launch of their new TV series in a couple of weeks. All ingredients are sourced from amazing suppliers who absolutely compliment the sisters ethos of eating and lifestyle.
Lunch yesterday was a Bacon and Spinach quiche with almond flour, dressed side salad of rocket, coriander & cucumber and home-made tomato sauce. The flavours were amazing and the quiche just melted in the mouth. Accompanied by the most perfect little pot of mint tea.
 Dessert was a flour-less, beetroot & chocolate cupcake with yoghurt frosting. Dense chocolate flavour, the cupcake was moist and delicious.
The cafe is bijou, and tables can't be booked, but don't panic the queuing system is great and allows you to browse the store whilst waiting for your table They message your phone when the table is available.(so much better than waiting about in a Q!)
I know that this visit wont be last to Hemsley + Hemsley and look forward to trying the breakfast menu over the next few weeks.
Thanks to Jasmine & Melissa for stopping to chat, good luck with the new venture and a big well done to all the team involved in the Body Studio... it really is a gorgeous space.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Hello April.....

Its lovely to see April arrive with some sunshine, March blew away amongst a spring storm and heavy showers. I definitely feel like I am beginning to awake from my winter hibernation and I am looking forward to a brighter April. As you can see the blog has had a makeover and we embracing spring with some yellow and gold hues, saying goodbye to the March greens.
* April has started beautifully and I captured this sunrise on my walk to the station through the park.
* I have set myself some goals for April on my SW journey, one of which is to move more!.. my walk to the station is 2km so I am aiming to walk 4k 3 times a week.
 * I have a couple of lovely things planned for April; Dinner at Koffmans at The Berkeley followed by a very guilty pleasure evening at the Albert Hall with Michael Bolton - a birthday treat for a special friend *
I am enjoying all the gorgeous daffodils around by me and in the window boxes in London. They make everywhere seem so much more colourful and that spring is here.
I cant believe that we are a quarter of our way through 2016 and looking back over the 1st 3 months, even though it feels like I have been hibernating, I've still managed to do quite a few things!
I hope that everyone has a lovely weekend and look forward to catching up with blogs and seeing what everyone has planned for April.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Goodbye March...

Farewell March.... wow a quarter of the way through 2016, where did that go? March was a mixed bag for me.
My month was busy with work, having a little fun and catching up with loved ones.
With Mothers day falling early in the month and Easter falling late it gave me plenty of opportunity to spend time with family and friends.

  • March saw the nights begin to get lighter which lent for some spectacular sunsets captured as I left work and on the train. 
  • March also say me say Hello to Adele and Goodbye to James Martin when I sent 2 evenings in both their company at their stage tours in the Uk.
  • Easter and Mothers day were filled with flowers and treats.
  • In between the spring storms and cold mornings, London did shine with some beautiful sunshine which showcased it off gorgeously. From my trip to the Sky Garden, walks through Manchester square to work and of course the home of Mr Selfridge himself.

March also saw me starting to move more, stepping up my walking and changing my route to work to for a longer walk and enjoy the outdoors when the weather was good.
March saw another 8 books ticked off my 75 reads from my 2016 list. I also binge watched The Night Manager on Tv which was just fabulous and I got a little excited also when I saw the new Bridget Jones trailer.... overall a good month and I hoping for even more fun in April.