Sunday, 27 July 2014

time for tea

Pretty wildflowers in jars added the perfect decoration to a friend's wedding, and guests were encouraged to take them home!

It's the summer holiday! And my goodness, I have such a lot to share.  July has been a whirlwind month with the scramble to get everything done at school, 2 hen parties and 2 weddings (one as photographer, and one as a bridesmaid in Poland), films, theatre, visits to the Ritz and the seaside, having the family to stay and TONS of pictures taken.

Sorry, I've started wittering already.  Do have a cup of tea; I'll make a pot as it will last a bit longer.  Then I'll start at the beginning and try and tell things in the right order. Can I tempt you with a chocolate?  I've been very kindly given a number of boxes by students for the end of the year! There were some home-made biscuits but...um...well, they've all gone. Oops.

The embroidered world map is now nearly complete; just the top of Canada left.

The end of this school year was unlike any I've had so far, as in September I will not be going back.  In January, I got a job at a different school as after 5 years, it seems like time to move on.  So it wasn't just goodbye for the summer, it was goodbye.  I will be sad to lose such lovely colleagues and such entertaining pupils and they gave me some lovely cards and gifts which I will really treasure.

It doesn't quite seem real though.  End of term always seems to happen at such a manic pace, and there are such  lot of exciting things to look forward to in the summer that I'm not sure it will seem real until the end of the holiday when I find myself standing in an entirely new classroom, wondering where the pens are and how to find the staffroom.

2 handstitched patchwork pillows complete (one final hem notwithstanding) and a knitting project started

What are your plans for the summer; have you got some time off?  Do you enjoy the warmer weather?  I love to be outside when it's nice, but I do hope that there will be the occasional rainy day so that I can sit inside and craft.  It seems silly not to take advantage of the little bit of summer we do get when it's here.

I'm not going to share all my plans for summer now as I'm working on my summer photography challenge.  500 Snaps of Summer is really motivating me to take more pictures and to blog and write more about my experiences.  I love having the camera about and capturing bits and pieces, so if you want to find out what I'm doing, you'll have to be patient!  And even though it may seem that with only 76 blogged, I'm not going to make it, I actually have another 50 or so waiting in the wings.  Now that it's the holiday, there's even more time to take photos! Are you planning to get the camera out over the summer?

The yarn is lovely; made from wool and cashmere and knits into beautiful, soft, lacy designs

Well that's the end of the pot, but I'm going to make another one; we're not in a hurry and I want to hear about your plans.  Have you got any projects on the go?  Any summer goals you want to achieve?  I feel inspired when the sun shines and I want to hear all about your plans!

If you want to share a cup of virtual tea with other corners of the internet, head over to Abi at Creating Paper Dreams.  The tea posts were her lovely idea and you can find lots of bloggers to sit down with.

Kisses xxx

P.S. Actually with another 6 pictures accounted for, I'm now up to 82 of my #500snapsofsummer taken with a mere 418 left to go!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

puttin on the Ritz


One of my things to do on my list of goals was to have Afternoon Tea at the Ritz.  And believe me, the capital letters are warranted.  A little before my 27th birthday, my Mum called and asked if there was anything I wanted in particular.  There wasn't.  And so she mentioned that she'd seen my list of things to do on my blog, and wondered if I might like to go for a spot of tea a the aforementioned luxury establishment.  

Um. Yes.  Yes I think I would rather.  BEST IDEA EVER THANKYOU!!!!


So July and the end of term pottered round, and my parents and brother came to stay with me in London town.  We dressed for the occasion - you have to, it wasn't just for fun! - and headed down to the Ritz.  We were booking in for 3:30 and wandered through the opulent lobby looking for the famous Palm Court.  We were directed to our table and took our seats.



On the table were menus (I pinched one) listing the types of tea available.  Then the waiter explained when he had our tea order, he would bring us our stand of sandwiches and cakes. Yum. Yes please.  The other three Smith family members opted for the Ritz Royal Blend, but I enjoyed a pot of Russian Caravan.  Or in fact, most of a pot, as the waiter came to refresh all the tea after a bit.  Y'know, because sometimes if can get a little over-steeped and that don't stand for that sort of thing at the Ritz.



Tea drinking commenced.  And it was delicious.  I reckoned anything not nailed to the table was fair game to take home as a souvenir, but my family disagreed. Fair enough I suppose, and a solid, heavy silver tea strainer would have been a pain to carry home.



And so we arrive at the food.  Two tiers of goodies, starting with a range of sandwiches each.  Cheese and pickle, ham and mustard, roast chicken and horseradish, smoked salmon and lemon butter, egg mayonnaise with shallots and cress and cucumber, cream cheese and dill.  A variety of breads and each delicately flavoured and entirely too moreish.  I hadn't had any lunch for space-saving reasons (it's important to leave plenty of room for afternoon tea) so it was very gratifying to discover that you can have as many sandwiches that take your fancy. The waiters were happy to top them up for as long as you were prepared to munch them.  I may have had 14.  They were really good.

Then to the little cakes.  A vanilla slice for Dad - his favourite - a chocolatey slice thing for my brother and a second for the rest of us to sample, an amazing salted caramel and chocolate macaroon and my own personal favourite: a passionfruit cream.  I've never had anything like it before, but it was creamy and delicious and it was a shame to have to split it four ways.  But once again, the waiters came to the rescue and valiantly offered to replenish the cakes.  Um.  Yes please.  Smug expression.



You might well be thinking: "Why are there no scones?  Scones are the foundation upon which the whole concept of Afternoon Tea is constructed!" and you would be right.  But don't worry.  To ensure the scones are warm when you eat them, they don't bring out the scones at the Ritz until you are ready for them.  Then the two tier cake stand becomes three, and there are scones for all.  Two each, to be precise.


So having consumed a sandwich course, a cake course and a scones course, it was natually time for a dessert course.  A trolley came round and we were offered a choice of lemon drizzle cake or sticky toffee pudding.  Lemon drizzle please.


No trip to any fancy place is complete without a trip to the bathroom as these are invariably fancy and you get to have a bit of a poke around.  Hence the 'Powder Room Selfie'.  On my way, the pianist who had been tinkling the ivories during our tea asked if there was anything I would like him to play.  I had a bit of a think and in the end requested 'Puttin' on the Ritz' because while it's a classic they always play, I hadn't yet heard it that afternoon.  I couldn't leave without hearing it!

The whole afternoon was absolutely wonderful and we had a brilliant time.  It was formal and luxurious but surprisingly unstuffy.  The waiters were attentive but didn't look down their noses (I thought they might) and they not only allowed photos to be taken, but were happy to down trays and take a snap for you.  Plus when my Dad asked, they brought my Mum and me a souvenir menu and a couple of free postcards.  So I hadn't needed to pinch one at all.  I suppose the clientele is composed almost entirely of tourists treating themselves on a very special occasion rather than the rich and famous, and so they must be used to people trying to wring every drop out of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They were lovely and helpful and the atmosphere was great. Viewed from another way, you could say it's a very posh way to serve an all-you-can-eat buffet.  I really had eaten all I could eat and we had to saunter slowly - very slowly - through the park for an hour afterwards to let it all go down.


A truly wonderful afternoon, and a doorman in full tails and uniform took this picture for us on our way out.

Kisses xxx

P.S. And with another 16 photos snapped, my total for #500snapsofsummer is brought bang up to 76, leaving me with only 424 to go...

Thursday, 24 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: canary wharf


Canary Wharf is a strange place.  Hoards of tall, impersonal, shiny office blocks crowd in ordered, artificial rows.  It's not like a real place, and suited commuters swarm through it.  But at night when the offices stand empty and the lights twinkle in the watery docks, it has its own charm.  After watching the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, we hunted for a bar in the area to have an quiet evening drink


I took this lying on the grass in the little park.  The skyscrapers lean in from every angle and looking straight upwards, you wouldn't know it was a park.  I think the contrast between night and day is quite striking.  In my opinion, Canary Wharf by night is by far preferable.



To the pub, he declared.  Dictatorial much, but it was a good idea and as long as everyone was prepared to stop for photos, I was happy too.  I enjoyed trying to capture the DLR trains running past on their raised tracks.  They don't have drivers and seem to almost glide through the air mysteriously.



I will admit that the second shot is flawed in that I missed the heads, but the long exposure gave me brilliant colour for a dark night and I love the train in the background.


Kisses xxx

P.S. It's now the summer holiday.  YAY!!! So that means much more time to catch lots of pictures. And these take me up to 60 which means I only have 440 photos left to take for #500snapsofsummer

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

london love: a midsummer night


Last week I persuaded (bullied) a number of my acquaintances to come out and play with me on Monday night. Not for frivolous reasons of fun but for intellectual purposes. And character strengthening.  Plus it is impossible to say no to free outdoor theatre.  So Monday evening found a colleague and I dodging out of work as soon as humanly possible (once various school faffing and coach duties were complete). We sped to the tube, acquiring a picnic on the way, and landed on the grass in Canary Wharf, a long way from work and just as the commuters were starting to do their thing.  We were here to see A Midsummer Night's Dream (one of my top two favourite Shakespeares) and the only instructions were "It's free, you don't need a ticket, but turn up early to get a good spot and bring a picnic".  Being teachers we know all about following instructions and so we did indeed have a good spot and a picnic.  The grass was damp and slightly muddy, but my trusty picnic blanket has a plastic underside and was unfazed.  It's from Marks and Spencers' after all...


Once the next of our merry band arrived, we felt almost obliged to begin picnicking.  Three being the critical mass that starts any good picnic going.  It's also a good point to disturb your neighbours perched on other local picnic blankets and get them to take your photo.


It was warm and sunny and yes, a bit damp, but this is England.  And, y'know, plastic undersides.  It's not just a picnic blanket.  It's an M&S picnic blanket.  


In the interests of gender balance, it only made sense to have a chap come along.  There were also lots of other people there too, but as I didn't ask them along, I felt no compulsion to share our picnic. I was glad we had secured our perch nice and early though as it was pretty packed about 20 minutes after we arrived.


Gender balance appropriately accounted for, we tucked into our food and our little band of six enjoyed a really wonderful performance.


The actors were fantastic - a cast of six managing all the roles - and there was a lot of highly entertaining double entendre. They would take a little wander through the audience every so often, playing their tunes and stealing picnic items where they could.  But I suppose as the show was free, they've got to eat somehow.  Having said that, I would happily have paid as the production was excellent.   Witty, well-paced and with whip-smart improv at times it was altogether a great way to bring Shakespeare to life.


A little toast helped to smooth along the interval.  But we didn't actually have toast.  Just wine.


The evening cooled a little as we embarked upon the next act, but I had my trusty camp blanket stashed in my bag which caused embarrassment in some quarters but as I was neither embarrassed nor cold, I didn't really mind.  And if Girlguiding gets a little free advertising, why not?


We sniggered and chuckled and laughed our way through to the end of the play.  And as the fairies flitted away, dusk drew around Canary Wharf.  It's a strange place: a little patch of green nestled among towering, glass-fronted monoliths.  It doesn't quite seem like the real world.  But it is beautiful in its own way, when the waters are still and the lights twinkle.  And it's also clearly a good time to pop to a bar.  But that's another post for another time.

Kisses xxx

P.S. The #500snapsofsummer picture count now stands at 52 with only 448 still to go.  That's over 10% complete!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: portraits


I love to take portraits.  In fact, photographing people is a big part of what makes photography special in my opinion.  Lovely landscapes are photographed over and over, and will be there for may years and will populate pictures that are very likely better than mine.  But with people, I am the only person there licking the camera at that moment.  I am the only one who can catch that smile or expression.  I particularly enjoy filling the frame with faces and getting close up.  I took a series of portraits at the hen party ( this is the final post on that, I promise!) and I printed them up for the bride so she had a decent picture of everyone there.  Each one is posed, but I don't mind that.  Because I think the smiles are genuine, that everyone was happy and that by having a giggle with the photographer makes people relaxed and the photos look natural even when people are grinning into the lens.  So long live portraits!








Kisses xxx

P.S. I appreciate that this may be a tedious post if you don't know any of the people involved, but each one of these counts towards my #500snapsofsummer total.  Which now stands at 42 photos taken and 458 still to go.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: hen party photo shoot


A hen do is, in my opinion, a perfect photoshoot opportunity.  And as I just happened to have my camera on hand, and as I just happened to drag the whole party to the Royal Albert Hall to pose on the steps, it seemed silly not to exploit the opportunity.  I had provided the Bride with a disposable 'Bride Cam' to use up the for the day, challenging her to use it wisely. As I know she love snapping away and posing as much as I do, I also issued a few photo-based challenges.  She had to arrange everyone into a group shot - an awesome group shot - in order to complete her goal. While we began with some lacklustre jazz hands, the group soon warmed up and did indeed get some awesome group shots!  Challenge very much complete!


 
 
 
Kisses xxx
 
P.S. The total for #500snapsofsummer keeps going up and up!  This takes me to 34 taken with 466 still to go.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

500 snaps of summer: afternoon tea


I promised that I would share a little more about the lovely afternoon tea we had at the hen party.  She chose to go to Bea's of Bloomsbury, and the spread they laid on was really wonderful!  Instead of the usual finger sandwiches, we had tiny baguettes of delicious, crusty bread and a variety of fillings.  The cake selection speaks for itself!


While they did not actually provide umbrellas, they were fortunately in the guests' goody bags and we were able to improvise. We kept up appearances by drinking the tea with pinkies properly extended (another wedding challenge) and there were teapots of every hue for us to play and pose with!



Delicious, a lovely place and a great way to pass an afternoon!
 
Kisses xxx
 
P.S. With 5 more pictures for #500snapsofsummer, I have now taken 28 and so have 472 to go...