Thursday 22 December 2016

22nd December: Chirstmas Album Pocket Page

Today I'm sharing a pocket page to accompany the scrapbook page I made about an indulgent Christmas breakfast a Selfridges (link here).  This post has been a little while in the coming: my aim of blogging every day in advent was brought to a crashing halt when and external wiring fault took down our internet over a week ago.  It's still not back. Which is very frustrating as anyone who streams all their music, TV and films will attest. It also meant no uploading photos and no blogging.  Thanks internet.

But I am now working on borrowed wifi and thought I'd see if I can blog a couple of the posts I had intended to write over the past week, starting with the divided page protector you find here today.

As this pocket page is intended to accompany the Breakfast at Selfridges layout in my Christmas album, I stuck to similar colours and themes.  As with other divided pages I made, most of the pockets include extra photos and journalling; a great opportunity to include everything I want to without feeling the need to clutter up the original page.

For the first time in this pocket page, I decided to fill the empty pockets with vellum.  Previously I have left them completely transparent, adding a few embellishments or sequins.  However, the advantage of vellum is that I could adhere things to it to keep them in place, instead of sliding around in the pocket.  It also maintains its translucence so I can still peek through to get a sense of what's coming next in the album.

ON each of the pieces of vellum, I repeated a little layered motif, drawing from icons on the main page,  This draws the layout and the pocket page into a cohesive whole: the postage stamp, the string of hearts and the snowflake icon all appear on the 12x12 page. Using this element three times through the pocket page is pleasing to the eye and reinforces the idea, but I varied them slightly to add interest, punching the stamp shape from different patterned papers, and topping them with different words, The little snowflakes are made of wood, creating dimension.

The pocket page will sit next to the layout in my album like this.  However, the pocket page is double-sided...

On reverse of the pocket page, I kept to the same style.  I know I keep saying this, but more than anything, I love how easy it is to include as much journalling as I like when I make a pocket page to match a layout. I simply wrote on both sides of the white cardstock and instantly had a double-sided element for this page. Winning!

  I repeated the camera-and-star idea on this side of the page as well, but with a different style of camera chipboard sticker. But the layered elements are basically the same, partly to emphasise that this page belongs with the previous one, but also because the velum is translucent and so the shape of the embellishment shows through from the other side. Matching the same shapes on the back of the vellum immediately takes care of that issue!

While I used the same style in the layered embellishments, I replaced the wooden snowflakes with flat sequins.  I love a bit of dimension, but I don't want the page to buckle or be too bulky. I finished the page by adding some loose star sequins into the vellum pockets.  I did allow these to move freely, as I like the effect, and the stars are another good link to the 12x12 layout. Some stars are in front of the vellum and some are behind. I like the two-toned effect of seeing the gold through the vellum, and it also shows that there isn't a "right" or "wrong" side of the pocket page.  Both sides are important.

I've now made a few of these pocket pages to hold extra pictures and journalling, and it's a technique I am going to try and extend into all my scrapbooking, not just my Christmas album.  They're comparatively quick to assemble, being mostly photos and the rest of my writing, and the embellishment can be done with leftover bits and bobs from the main page. Happy days!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday 15 December 2016

15th December: Scrapbooking a Perfect Festive Day

Today I have a little more Christmas scrapbooking to share as I have put together another layout for my Journal Your Christmas album. This page documents a day I gave to myself a couple years ago; I blogged about it here. I had kept the whole day free on purpose so I think I could have a Christmassy day in old London Town, and I went for breakfast at Selfridges (alcoholic hot chocolate and cake is a completely legitimate breakfast) and spent some time admiring the lights and the shopping displays before treating myself to a show in the West End.  It was pretty perfect!
Anyway, as usual with my Christmas scrapbooking, I am blogging the things from this year, to keep up with photos and storytelling, but scrapbooking things from previous years.  It works great for me as I have already printed all my photos, the stories are written and recorded right here on the blog and so I can focus purely on pretty, crafty items!

For this page, I wanted to create a clean, basic design and then top it with little scatters of festive embellishments.  I included three blocks in a row for this layout: one for journaling, the central spot for a photo and the final one for a title.  I layered each of these with different patterned papers and vellum to create texture, and I added a white cardstock frame to the photograph to highlight it.
I ended up making the title quite small; I felt something bigger would overwhelm the other details of the page.  Writing it in black pen creates balance in the design, drawing together the journaling, the title and the little date block further down the page.

The main design feature of this page is the banner of stars, and I confess that I absolutely LOVE how this turned out. I made a template first by doodling lots of stars in a row, making sure they overlapped.  I cut out my template and then drew round it onto white card with a faint grid pattern. I used a slight pattern to differentiate it slightly and lift it from the white background. The final stage was to cut out the design using a craft knife.  As an embellishment, the trail of stars is lacy and delicate and adds a little bit of sophistication to the page.

I raised the stars on little foam squares so that they seem to float along the bottom of the patterned paper; the slight shadow they case creates a sense of dimension, adding another texture to the page.
I added one or two other touches of embellishment here and there to complement the main block of patterned paper and soften some of the straight edges.  Repeating a little pink heart icon in several pages makes the layout more cohesive, and flowers fussy cut from patterned paper frame either end of the layered section.

To balance the page, I repeated some of the same elements lower down the page: the little hearts, flowers from patterned paper, black handwriting and a postage stamp punched out of yellow. The final touch was a sprinkling of tiny golden stars lending a little bit of Christmas sparkle. 

I think this is one of my favourite pages I have ever made.  There's something very satisfying about taking a simple design and making it magical with handmade details and intricate flourishes.  This is my favourite kind of scrapbooking, and I will definitely aim to make more pages like this.
Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday 14 December 2016

14th December: Crafting Christmas Crackers

From time to time I pick up an issue of Mollie Makes magazine because it's pretty and has a good dose of crafty inspiration.  When I saw the Christmas issue, I couldn't resist as it came with a few sheets of patterned paper and a template to make your own crackers. 
Obviously, this is what I needed to do. With a weekend with friends on the horizon, I also had the perfect cracker-worthy event.
I will admit that it would have been better if I had made them a bit in advance instead of staying up until half past one after Guides on a Friday night, but the telly kept me company and I enjoyed myself.  Actually staying up way past sensible bedtime feels deliciously naughty, and then midnight snacks become legitimate and you can sneak some cheese and crackers and have innumerable cups of tea, smuggled under a cosy pile of blankets on the sofa with sparkly, crafty fripperies scattered around.
The crackers were delightfully simple to make, and worked like a charm.  I'd never made any before and so I had no idea if the template would work.  But for a free gift with a magazine, this was a real treat! I traced around the template onto each sheet of paper and then scored all the places the folds should go with a pair of scissors. To complete the nets, I used a craft knife to cut out the little diamonds.
I used double sided tape as a mess-free adhesive to stick my crackers together, and the very act of tying the twine around the ends made the folds all pop into place and the crackers morphed into their traditional shape.  Easy!
The kit came with a little bit of twine and confetti, but I found I needed more and so dug out some of my own twine to tie neat bows at the ends.

Next came filling them: the ends of each cracker are slightly open, so I added a bit of tissue paper into the end to stop anything from falling out, before topping up with gold star-shaped sequins, a little gift and another piece of tissue paper on top.  All the remained was to tie the second end closed.
Boom! Cracker complete.

So what did I put in them?  Mushrooms.

I'll be honest: when I was looking for something to go inside the crackers, I wasn't sure how big they'd come out so I knew it had to be something pretty small.  I popped into Paperchase thinking they'd have something that would fit the bill, and sure enough, I found little red mushrooms.  On sticks.

I'm still not sure what they're for.  The box just says that they're not for eating, so not much of a clue.  Mainly I bought them because I thought they were funny. Anyway, I plonked a couple of mushrooms inside each one, and figured I was good to go.

I duly took them round to a friend's on Sunday, where a whole group of us assembled for a lovely meal.  We pulled the crackers and they came apart very effectively: one end would come off as it is supposed to, which I wasn't sure would happen. I was worried they might just tear.  But nope, they were pretty darn good; I will certainly make them again next year as now I have the template.  I may even put bangs in for next time.

The mushrooms fell out causing both amusement and confusion, until one friend had the realisation that they might be for wreath making, which is why their little sticks are bendy. I have pretty smart friends.

Although we ignored that suggestion and stuck them in some stollen.  Classic.
So there we are: my first proper batch of crackers. Excellent work for a free gift. Bring on the festivities!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday 13 December 2016

13th December: Christmas Catch-Up in Windsor

One of the things I love most about Christmas is the opportunity to catch up with friends. It's the thing that is most worth taking time for, and when it's these lovely ladies, that's even truer! At the end of November, I met up with the other members of Girlguiding GOLD Team Cambodia: a group of us who travelled to Cambodia together in 2013 to run a volunteer project in partnership with the Girl Guide association over there. Before the project started, we had never met.  And now we are the firmest of friends, and I LOVE every chance I get to meet up with these women.  We are spread out across the country, and indeed the continent, and while we weren't all able to meet up for this particular weekend, it was so wonderful that a few of us could make it. Spending time with them is a breath of fresh air: we always have tons to catch up on and yet it always feels as though no time has passed.  They are warm, intelligent, funny, brilliant and enthusiastic women and hanging out together is truly inspiring.

We decided to meet up in Windsor and have a lovely indulgent weekend.  We had booked a spa package, including a treatment, spa use, dinner, breakfast and a night at the hotel, at the lovely Harte and Garter hotel, and arrived grinning and shrieking at each other in the hushed spa. Oops. We were quite long enough to have a treatment each - I opted for a massage which was just lovely - and then we had the afternoon to splash around, play in the pools, sweat in the sauna and relax in the relaxation room.

Actually, it was meant to be only two people at a time being quiet in the relaxation room, but we all four piled in and giggled and gossiped and caught up on life in general.

Spa time accomplished, we checked into our rooms, which were huge and very comfortable, and then all piled onto one bed with champagne and prosecco to toast the evening away. We were also able to Skype with our other team member in Poland which was lovely.  Somehow before long, the champagne was gone, the prosecco bottle empty and it was time to head downstairs to the hotel restaurant.
We had a lovely table in the window where we could relax and continue our breakneck pace of conversation amid the twinkle of Christmas decorations.  A nice contrast to the cold, dark night without. I ordered sea bream which was so delicious, and we polished off a bottle of wine alongside the three courses.

After dinner we had time for a round in the pub before heading back to our rooms for a final natter, and then bed.  I fell asleep grinning at the prospect of more fun on the morrow, and the possibility of hash browns for breakfast.

When breakfast did roll around, it did not disappoint, with a hot and cold buffet which did indeed feature hash browns.  I had two servings and numerous cups of tea, and it was so lovely to have a leisurely breakfast with such good company.  Hotels do provide a great way to have breakfast out without actually having to make the effort to go out.  Perfectly cosy.

To make the most of our day, we visited Windsor Castle.  I had never visited Windsor before and now I'm confused as to why: it's a beautiful little town and all dressed up for Christmas it was remarkably picture postcard. Then the crowning glory of the castle makes it seem very stately indeed and we approached the gates impressed by the grounds before us.

The castle was decorated for Christmas and the interiors in particular looked wonderful; my favourite was a long gallery into which light simply poured, and at the end of which was poised a magnificent tree decked out in red and gold.  Alas, no photos were allowed in the interiors, which is why I am contenting myself with outdoor shots, but I would I have loved to photograph the sumptuous state rooms. I definitely need to return to Windsor and delve more deeply into both the town and
the castle history.

Windsor castle is jam-packed full of gift shops with many a royal-themed gift on offer and they were pretty much exclusively out of my price range.  But it was fun to experiment, nonetheless.
We ended our weekend by meeting Jenny's husband and baby son for lunch.  He was an absolute treasure, giggling, doing his best to walk, smiling in a lovely sunny way at everyone and generally seeming to enjoy himself. It was such a treat for us, as we hadn't had the opportunity to meet him yet. I very much hope we can have more cuddles soon!
With lunch finished, we departed to go our separate ways.  But one thing is for sure: I am always going to make time for these women.  Roll on the next meet-up!

Kisses xxx
P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!

Monday 12 December 2016

12th December: Scrapbooking Secrets

For the last two years, the Man and I have been out for some Secret Christmas Fun.  This mini tradition started last year, with Secret Christmas Day of Fun (which you can read about here), and continued this year with Secret Christmas Weekend of Fun.  Or SCWoF. Which I blogged about yesterday here and which took place just over a week ago.  This is something I have planned for the two of us, keeping the details secret from the Man, so that we get some quality time together during the festive season, which is important as he travels a lot with work.
With this year's SCWoF journaled and photographed, it made me want to scrap about it.  My approach to Christmas scrapbooking is to not worry about trying to scrap anything from this December.  My memory-keeping goals are simply to record the photos and journaling of festive happenings, and keep it all here on the blog, which I have done for the past couple of years. This is ideal for me, as there's simply not time for me to scrapbook these memories each day; to much fun to be had and life to be lived! 
However, I have all my photos printed from last year so that when a little window of scrapbook time does make itself available, I have pictures, and the accompanying journaling I blogged, all ready to go.  Christmas scrapbooking is ready for action! I have had the pleasure of documenting this year's Secret Christmas, and now I can create a layout about last year's.

The main focus of this layout is the journaling. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I had such a lot I wanted to write that it seemed obvious to make the journaling the focus of the page.  So I wrote out my full story on a sheet of white 12 x 12 cardstock.  With that ready and complete, I laid a 12 x 12 clear transparency over the top, and made my layout on top of that.  The journaling is therefore both a handwriting-style design in the background, but the layout can also be lifted off should anyone wish to read the full story.

I took hardly any photos on our day out, mainly because most places were in inside and dark, and I knew they weren't going to be great.  So in the end, I just printed two pictures; slightly silly portraits of each of us while we were at brunch, and I made them little Instax-style reminders of our day together.  At the end of the day, the lack of photos doesn't really matter as the story here is key.

I laid out my design in a grid shape: the two pictures forming two of the blocks, and turning the other two into little spots for embellishment.  I layered up scraps of patterned paper which would match the photos, and used a camera icon (something I think works for basically ANY layout as I love photography and there are pictures) and an ampersand (to represent him and me) to complete the blocks.

All that remained was to complete add a title, and I decided to go big with this one and create another layer to go along with the page. I made a template, drawing out my words and doodling until I was happy with the design, and then tracing it out onto white cardstock and cutting it out with a craft knife. I can lay the title over the top of the who page, or just underneath the transparency.  And actually I think that's the effect I prefer as it's another secret underneath the layout!

And there we have it: another complete page added to my Christmas album!
Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!

Sunday 11 December 2016

11th December: Secret Christmas Weekend of Fun

Last year the Man and I embarked on a Secret Christmas Day of Fun. You can read about it at length here.  It was great, and very much does what it says on the tin.  The idea was to give us some time to spend together during the busy month of December, as the Man often works away from home. It was indeed lots of fun, but also pretty manic as we crammed a lot into one day. This year, the Man is once again abroad for a whole chunk of December in the lead up to Christmas. So I decided that Christmas Fun needed to make a reappearance, but that this year, it would be spread over a slightly more leisurely weekend.  So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I bring you: Secret Christmas Weekend of Fun.
Or, rather unfortunately in my opinion: SCWoF
First and foremost, I should point out that as the planner and instigator of SCWoF, that it actually isn't a secret to me.  If it was, I think we would be both wondering aimlessly around in the big city waiting for something to happen. Nope, I am a planner and proud, and so SCWoF was arranged, in deepest, murkiest secrecy until the morning of Saturday 3rd December rolled around.

I got up to make the morning coffee and tea, and returned to bed with not only hot beverages, but the Man's clues to Part I of SCWoF. I had lined up three events for Saturday, and decided to give the Man only approximate timings and a slightly cryptic clue for each element of the proceedings.  Then I summarised as follows:

Element 1: Wild
Element 2: Calamity
Element 3: Prohibitive
We upped and left to catch the tube into London and I invited the man to guess where we were going. The clue Wild had confused him; he had thought it was something outdoors but I told him that each element of the weekend was indoors (December weather being too unpredictable to hope for a nice day). And while I said we would have to go outside to get between elements, everything else was inside.
At which point he wanted to know if there were tunnels we could use to get between things and thus avoid outside altogether. Actually, there are but they're full of trains, and we still had to go outside to get to the tunnels which would then take us outside again to get the inside. Obviously.
We changed tubes and this gave the man more of clue; as we were heading west, he guessed that element one was the Natural History museum. It was, and more specifically, it was the Wildlife Photographer of the year exhibition. I had been a previous exhibition a couple of years ago, but this was brand new to the Man.
The queue for the museum was ENORMOUS but thankfully a timed ticket meant we strolled in, spent ten minutes being lost in the Earth zone, and then eventually found the right gallery.
The Wildlife Photographer Exhibition was nothing short of marvellous: the photographs were stunning, thoughtfully and carefully mounted and the information available was terrific. Not only did they give information about the subject, such as the species, habitat and behaviour of the wildlife depicted, but there was also an explanation of how the shot had been captured and, to my delight as a camera junkie, the technical details of camera and equipment, and settings such as focal length, aperture and shutter speed. It was lovely to imagine the photographers setting up and waiting for their shot, for hours or even days at a time.
The photos themselves were astonishing. Orangutans high in the trees; a killer whale nosing the bottom of a fishing boat; a lion playing with a balled-up pangolin; an urban fox poking his nose over a wall. The categories were varied, showing the natural wonders of the world in glorious and magnificent technicolour, which contrasted sharply with the destruction and malaise levelled at the world by humankind.
We spent about an hour and a half enjoying the exhibition, before exiting via the gift shop where I was suckered into buying postcards of my favourite photographs. And then that gift shop exited into another gift shop where we played with the dinosaur tat for a bit and I bemoaned the fact that you couldn't buy dinosaur themed Christmas decorations. I would have happily invested in a dinobauble.
We took the tube swiftly back into Old London Town and grabbed a burrito for lunch. The man was invited to put forward his best guess for Element 2: Calamity. He ascertained that it was within walking distance and then cocked his head to one side and asked if there was a specific start time. There was: 2:30. Then he asked if Peter Pan Goes Wrong was still playing and he had indeed guessed it.
However, there was still an hour before curtain up so we strolled to Covent Garden where the Man treated us to a large mulled wine each (deliciously warming on such a clear, crisp day) and I enjoyed seeing the decorations; large silver baubles and enormous fronds of mistletoe adorned the ceiling.

Covent-Garden-Mulled-Wine-Selfie seemed appropriate, and so I employed the helpfully scattered about mirrors which are some sort of art installation going on at the moment. Art installation or not, they are excellent selfie assistants. 

Although it may have taken a few goes for me to get it right.
Come 2:15, our mulled wine had been consumed and we were firmly ensconced in the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue.

We have been to see The Play that Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, both plays from the same theatre company whose speciality is slick, perfect, marvellous chaos. And calamity. And each production has been nothing short of eye-wateringly hilarious.
Spoilers follow, so if you don't want to know about the play, stop reading.  And then go and see it immediately.
The action actually started before curtain up, with an ongoing drama on stage and members of the cast wandering the auditorium. In fact the character of the Narrator was up in the Grand circle with us, performing magic tricks and scolding a party of women in front of us who were making beautifully lewd innuendos.
Once the play began in earnest, it was madcap chaos, gloriously whirlwind and hysterically funny. The supposed director and assistant director gave a little speech to start with, explaining this would be much better than their seriously underfunded production of Jack and Bean from last year. Perfect deadpan. The assistant said it was going to be a nice festive panto at which point the director said that no it wasn't: it is actually a classical Christmas vignette.

This became something of a running theme throughout, with Captain Hook (played by the director) becoming increasingly annoyed that while looking for Peter Pan, his audience was cheerfully informing him that "He's behind you!!!"

Captain Hook eventually lost it, telling the audience "you have to let me find him" before having a strop, telling everyone to shut up and stomping off stage.

Also, an amusing sequence in the dark involving a long, luminous pink fish and two little jellyfish made everyone snigger into their Christmas jumpers. The production had a carry-on element at times that ensured that while it was a family show at heart, there was definitely room for a good helping of double entendre.

The final scenes where a whirl, quite literally as the stage revolve broke and each of the three sets flew past at ever faster speeds as the cast careered around, crashing between scenes to try and land in the right place.

It's the kind of play you emerge from breathless, from both holding your breath and laughing so hard it hurts. The time flew by and we LOVED it.

We emerged into evening about five which was of course completely dark and meandered down to the south bank to grab a quick cup of tea. While sipping our warming beverages, the Man guessed that Element 3: Prohibitive involved cocktails. He was right, and I had made us a booking at my favourite bar, which would have been challenging for him to guess as he's never been there.
Nightjar is a bar where you basically have to have a reservation or you will likely find that they are full. It's table service only which I like very much as there's no loitering about at the bar, and the atmosphere is cosy and dark and very prohibition-era. The drinks are wonderful: complicated, strong and imaginative and with more than a splash of good liquor. It's a place to go for special drinks, not a quick one after work, and it was exciting to settle into our little table and start choosing from the lengthy menu.
We ordered a couple each, starting with a Metaxa for me and a Name of the Samurai for the Man. I had slight cocktail envy: mine was delicious and the hibiscus powder coating the outside of the glass was a nice sharp counterpoint to the sweetly sour concoction within, but his was on fire! Not metaphorically: I mean literal flames! Served in a little cup perched over a smoking nest, it was really tasty and a little bit smokey, a flavour I particularly enjoy. I will be ordering that next time I visit.

For our second round (and trust me, two is enough at Nightjar) we first consulted the menu, and then threw ourselves of the mercy of the waiting staff, who know the drinks inside out always offer great suggestions.
I said that I like things that are sour and smokey, but not too bitter, and an Inca cocktail was recommended. I looked at the ingredients.

So to clarify, I checked that worms meant actual worms, and that it's not really cocktail slang for something else, such as delicious chocolate?
Nope, it means actual worms.
I must have made a suspicious face, because the waitress kindly then suggested an alternative with a similar pallette. But on reflection, I decided that, in for a penny, in for a pound, and I ordered the worms.
And the rest of the cocktail.
The man was recommended a Hong Kong punch which was refreshing and fruity and very drinkable.

Mine arrived served in a skull, crushed ice erupting from the open head, and a little cone full of tiny, crispy fried worms slotted in the top. The waiter who brought them suggested trying them first and then sprinkling them over the drink if I liked them. They were crispy and tasted validly savoury, like popcorn or cereal. Rice crispies maybe. So I cheerfully scattered them into my drink, immediately completing the worms-eating-brain look of the cocktail. How delightfully Inca, and frankly delicious. My favourite cocktail of the night.
Two cocktails being as full of hard liquor as they are, we exited gracefully and made the journey home to collapse on the sofa around nine. SCWoF part one complete.
 Part two of SCWoF required no formal getting up time, and after a lie in and a morning potter around the flat, I presented the Man with his final two clues for the day.
Element 4: Chinoiserie
Element 5: Sentimental
We had to depart at 1:00pm to partake of Element 4, and then return to our flat for Element 5.  He did a pretty good job of guessing, having assumed that Element 4 would be a meal (although he wrongly suspected we might be going for a Sunday roast) and managing to work out that Element 5 consisted of watching Love Actually on the sofa with mulled wine.
We left at the appointed time, but the clue Chinoiserie baffled the Man.  We had some debate as to what a good meal might consist of, and his guesses of McDonald's, Burger King and sitting on some steps outside with a pasty all proved wrong for this particular occasion.
This particular restaurant had been recommended to me from a number of sources, both on the internet and by word of mouth.  The Man and I are both keen on Chinese food and so our Christmas weekend seemed like the perfect time to treat ourselves to a bit of fine dining. Hakkasan do a Sunday Dim Sum tasting menu which is a bit steep at £58 but I will also say that I feel we really got value for money, and it is quite possibly the best meal I have ever had.

The d├ęcor is a mix of traditional Chinese carved screens and with modern, moody lighting, and an electric soundtrack provided some mellow background beats.  We were invited to wait for our table at the bar and selected a cocktail each, before being shown to our seats. I had booked us in to dine at 2:00pm, and it was bustling and alive; clearly very popular. The Sunday Dim Sum menu includes two cocktails each, a bottle of champagne between two and 4 courses; it was the fact that the drinks were included in the price, and the quality and plentiful nature of the food, that makes me convinced that this is a good-value way of trying some pretty fancy food.
I sipped my winter sour cocktail as the first course arrived at our table: a crispy duck salad which was nothing short of divine.  So flavoursome, the meat was both tender and moist while the coating retained its crunch, and it was tossed in salad for us at the table before being served onto our plates.  The salad was a perfect complement, adding texture and freshness and the whole dish was so perfectly seasoned, I was sorry to finish it. Indeed, the waiter commented that he would serve the whole salad out between us instead of leaving any to share, so that we didn't fight over it.

It would have been worth fighting for.
The next course was my favourite, and my motivation for booking Hakkasan: the dim sum.  We had 8 different pieces to try each: 4 steamed and 4 baked.  We started in on the steamed selection of prawn, scallop, crab and duck, and each seemed more delicious than the last.  If I had to pick a favourite, it would be a tie between the crab and the duck, which was interesting as neither duck or crab would feature on a list of favourites for me.  But on reflection, I think I would just refuse to pick a favourite if asked and yell "I LOVE THEM ALL".

The next four were little works of art that made my heart sing.  We sampled venison, lobster and cream cheese, crab and a phenomenal duck and pumpkin concoction that was even shaped into a perfect little pumpkin shape with two delicate green leaves sprouting from the top. The dim sum all told was astonishingly good and I could happily have worked my way through three more rounds of such perfection.

The main was a selection of sharing plates: stir-fried black pepper beef in merlot, a vegetable stir fry of sugar snaps, peppers and water chestnuts and a bowl of egg fried rice to accompany the dishes.  It was wonderful, packed full of flavour and the crisp freshness of the vegetables was a great accompaniment to the sticky depth of the beef.

The meal ended with a dessert (our champagne somehow getting consumed along the way), and while the man ordered the beautifully prepared plum compote above, served with a pretty little madeleine, I opted for a chocolate bomb: praline ice cream encased in a ball of crispy rice and dripping lavishly with chocolate sauce.  Very satisfying indeed!

Our final dessert cocktails disappeared the same way as the desserts, mine being a hot toddy that was indeed very warming and packed a kick. The Man ordered the cocktail that paired with his dessert; I had as well, but the waitress warned that it was pretty strong and I backed down. I thought my toddy was pretty powerful, so goodness only know how much liquor they cram into the strong ones. And thus we came to the end of our meal. Absolutely superb. 

Actually, we were allowed to loiter at our table which was nice, as upon booking, I was told we could have the table for two and a half hours and no longer. Fair enough given how busy the restaurant was, but when five o'clock rolled round, we were still happily ensconced and things had calmed down a bit in the lull between the end of the Sunday Dim Sum menu and the start of evening service.

We wandered home after that, indulging in a cab from the tube station to the flat, and snuggled on the sofa with Love Actually.  We have watched this film for the last two Christmasses in different pop-up cinema locations and I feel like it's becoming a bit of tradition.  Watching at home this year, it was so nice to curl up with the Man and a blanket, and wrap my fingers around a mug of hot, spiced wine, anticipating well-loved moments of laughter and sentiment.

My favourite bit? When the security chappie joins Hugh Grant in singing Good King Wenceslas. It's priceless! The Man is happy to watch Love Actually too, even though it wouldn't normally be his cup of tea. Even if he does pretend to be a bit grinchy I can tell he likes it really, as he chuckles along, although he says once a year is enough for him,

Not to worry: it will be 2017 in only a few weeks!

Kisses xxx

P.S. This post is one of my December series inspired by Shimelle’s scrapbooking class Journal Your Christmas.  My aim is to blog every day throughout the month to document all the little moments that make the most wonderful time of the year.  Merry Christmas!