English Heritage Day Trip

Back in the autumn, I waxed lyrical about my English Heritage membership and all the historic sites across the country you can visit… Well, in the newsletter they email out, I learned Wrest Park¬†(Bedfordshire) was hosting the largest St. George’s Day festival in the country! For a nominal fee (on top of the membership fee), we could go and enjoy all sorts of activities over the weekend! Even better – if tickets were pre-purchased online, you could save an additional 10% – excellent.

So, what did we do? There were a tonne of “living history” re-enactments – everything from Vikings and Romans who lived in England long ago, to Medieval/Renaissance knights and folk, Crusaders, and 18th-century lords and ladies! Plenty of food choices (though an equal amount of people brought picnics as the weather turned nice), activities for kids of all ages, falconry demonstrations, the ability to enjoy the amazing grounds and gardens, and the house was open as well!

My dad really enjoyed it – he’s still talking about it! For Americans, since there’s no “national holiday” like we’re used to with 4th of July celebrations, this was a fun substitute. I even got a little St. George’s Cross flag for that patriotic vibe!

Overhearing a worker when I was having lunch, I learned Wrest Park was expecting 9,000 – 10,000 visitors over the 2-day event! Easily comparable to many of the Civil War or Revolutionary War re-enactment events you’ll find on the east coast of the US.

There are over 300 English Heritage sites to visit across the country – a membership can easily pay for itself in about 4-6 visits.

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Artist (not really)

So, remember how I went to Emma Bridgewater a few weeks ago with my mom and did the design your own mug? Well, 2 weeks later, guess what arrived at my door?

I’m not quitting my day job anytime soon ūüôā Nonetheless, I think my dad is secretly jealous he didn’t get a mug of his own.

Would we take the drive up to Stoke-on-Trent again and do another day at Emma Bridgewater? Absolutely!

Busy Week!

So, remember back in late February/early March where I decided on taking my mom to Emma Bridgewater for that themed Mother’s Day gift? Well, we did that and a few days earlier – that absolutely gorgeous 24c Sunday in London – we went and took a cookie decorating class at Biscuiteers in Notting Hill!

First, Biscuiteers… It had been several years since I’d been over to Notting Hill. Honestly, I don’t get to that part of town that often. Kensington, yes, but not that little smidge bit further. If you do go up to the shop, it’s easier to take Ladbroke Grove tube rather than Notting Hill Gate. We did the Faberge-egg themed chocolate cookies! The staff were really great in instructing us too and I picked up lots of techniques to use at Christmas.

The cost of the class included all supplies, a Biscuiteers apron to keep, and a themed tin to take your cookies home in! The price is a bit high, but I had a 2 for 1 offer I redeemed from January.

And on to Emma Bridgewater! We went the day before Good Friday, so lots of M1 and A50 traffic. Lots. Most accidents were the opposite direction we were headed, but it did make for a long drive home. Tour started at 11:30 and we learned about how they make the pottery – and impressively, how so much is sourced “locally” throughout England, how it is recycled and reused when possible, and the sheer amount of local people employed by the company who started as apprentices for a number of years. My mom loved it and we came home with several pieces.

And more pictures… We were not allowed to take pictures in the design studio itself as there were a number of new designs and commissioned pieces being worked on. The decorate your own pottery was fun – a 1/2 pint mug was included in our visit, but we could’ve “upgraded” to a number of other pieces if we wanted. It’s harder than you’d think – a steady hand certainly helps.

Preparing for Spring (and Mom)

It supposedly felt like spring today in parts of the country. Rumour had it there was bright sunshine in London. Trapped out in the shire, it was slightly overcast here, felt a bit damp, and was breezy. Maybe it would rain? The temperature would have easily reached the ever elusive 15c without the breeze. Needless to say, there are things in the shire springing about – which gives the dogs plenty to smell on their walks. There definitely were crocus – yellow crocus – attempting to peek out!

But now that February is basically gone, March is here and Mother’s Day is right around the corner (word to the wise, in the US, it’s in May and generally always fell right around my mom’s birthday, which often led to us forgetting one day or the other). Weirdly, I’ll type or write “mom” but when addressing her say “ma” – I think it’s a New York thing. English friends say “mum” and Irish friends say “mam.” Dialects…

So, I’m opting for a theme. Emma Bridgewater. Not the taste of everyone for sure, but my mom will love it because it’s pottery and crafts, and definitely English! Waitrose offers an exclusive pitcher with flowers for ¬£68 delivered. Done. They also have a wide range of other flowers and plants at varying prices – and I’ve used them before to send flowers down to Cornwall which arrived on time and just as I selected.

Continuing the Emma Bridgewater theme, I decided to book a day and take my mom/mum/mam up for a factory tour. But even better – they offer a full “factory experience” day where you not only get a tour¬†but have a nice tea and lunch, decorate some pottery¬†and receive a discount on any pottery purchased that day! ¬£30 per person isn’t bad at all considering a mug normally costs ¬£20 and lunch is around ¬£10 at a pub or anywhere out so… easy peasy! Bear in mind, I only live a short 2.5hr drive away, so depending on where you live in the country, your drive could be a bit longer and may involve a hotel stay, but if you planned with your mom/mum/mam or family, or group of friends, it may be a great day out! We’ve never been up to Stoke-on-Trent where all the pottery factories were located so this should be fun, right?

**All the photos in the above collage were taken from Emma Bridgewater’s Instagram page and the copyrights respectfully belong to them!**

 

This post was not sponsored in any way by Waitrose or Emma Bridgewater, but simply¬†products I like and event I will be participating in. That being said, I’ll post pictures and updates for you to see after the fact!

Collecting Europe

Here are the results from my sugar sculpting workshop at the V&A this weekend. It was done in part with Tasha Marks of AVMCuriosities and Jon Beck of Scan the World. Sugar sculpture was quite the art form beginning in the 16th century and was a way to show off enormous wealth and prosperity. Elaborate sugar displays often featured architecture and design elements with the pastry chefs showing off design skills, as many carved their own exclusive hardwood moulds. For the workshop, Tasha and Jon spent time taking photographs of objects around the museum to turn into 3D printed moulds for us to use (and with an approximate cost of £0.20 each, it was much less expensive than making moulds by hand)!

The basic recipe:

  • 454g icing (powdered sugar)
  • 28g gum tragacanth
  • 61ml water (or rosewater)

V&A Follow Up

So, I¬†did get to see Opus Angelicum this weekend. It was amazing. I am absolutely amazed people were able to create such things by hand in crap candle light. No pictures were allowed in the exhibit, but with my phone¬†and ridiculously low lighting, they would’ve just been a dark shadowy mess.

Today, the haute couture fashion houses today are the only ones who use such techniques on a regular basis. And after seeing all the embroidered copes in the exhibit, if you go upstairs to the 4th floor, there is an embroidered cope from the 1800s in the British rooms which looks so basic and pedestrian compared to those in the 1400s!

Here are a few pictures to tide you over from the Cast Courts (all the plaster casts made in the 1800s of other famous works of art) and the British rooms upstairs. There is some video on my Instagram stories of the Cast Courts too (@cindipatter).

The other exhibit I saw since I got in free (woot!) was¬†Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear. Surprisingly, it was more popular than the embroidery, but what do I know? I wouldn’t have necessarily gone to see this if I didn’t have a membership, but it was interesting nonetheless. Also, corsets look painful despite making your clothes look amazing.

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Corset, cotton, whalebone, about 1890. (From the signage in the exhibit, this gave the wearer a 47cm waist!) Photo courtesy and (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The other (tiny) perk of being a museum member – free coat check! I was totally prepared to pay (it was only ¬£1 per item) but hey, save ¬£2 and didn’t have to carry around my heavy coat and shopping¬†bag while there! About half way through my time there, I realised how cold it was in the museum and contemplated retrieving my coat anyway.

And finally, rather than having my tea and lunch in the main dining area (which has great cakes, scones, sandwiches, and hot food at reasonable prices), I had mine in the Member’s Room. The Member’s Room is tucked away in a corner of the 4th floor and almost hidden, but is a nice quiet¬†space when the museum is busy. The food choices are a bit more limited too, but still a varied selection of cakes and scones for your tea and coffee.

 

London

I spent the day in London with my mom (which is rare as she never takes time off work for anything frivolous, real or imagined). The plan was to attend the Bella Freud sample sale (seriously, it was good as I scored 75% off a cashmere sweater), then check out the Christmas offerings at Fortnum & Mason, St. James Square and that general area.

A word about sample sales if you’ve never been to one (most of this is commons sense, but always helpful to get some suggestions, right?):

  1. Get there first thing. If they announce 10am, be there at 945am!
  2. Wear layers (like a thin t-shirt or tank/vest top for shirts, or tights if you may purchase sweats/trousers, etc.). Depending on the designer, it makes it easier to try things on if you aren’t familiar with that designer’s particular sizing, or if you want to be 100% sure of a purchase, as all sales are final.
  3. Leave your kids at home. Unless it’s an event for children’s clothing, trust me, don’t bring them. Politely (or not) wrangling for something amongst 50+ other women doesn’t make it kid friendly.
  4. Set a budget. I’ve never been invited to a Gucci sale (I think you’d have to spend WAYYYYYYYY more than I do there to get that invite!), but you should have a reasonable idea of what the designer’s clothes normally cost. That being said, sample sale prices should be 60% off or more – giving you reasonable “spend” expectations.
  5. Know the style of what you may/not be looking for. Easy, right? But just remember, we all get sucked into the huge savings dilemma. If you know the designer does “fun” clothes and colours, no matter how good a deal it may be, do you really need the lime green and orange dot shirt for ¬£20 that’s regularly ¬£300 if you’ll never wear it¬†when you really wanted a plain white shirt?

For me personally, I got there about 10min later than I hoped due to some tube/train delays. Not a big deal, but there were easily already 50 women in the small conference room literally grabbing ARMLOADS of knits! And in that 10min, I missed out on the candle sets that would’ve made the best Christmas gifts for friends. Boo. I picked up a fun sweatshirt for the price of one at NEXT and a cashmere sweater that I should get lots of use out of!

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Poor lighting this morning, but this is really cobalt blue, with light blue and yellow accents

Plans, of course, went awry, when we had to go to the Apple Store to see about fixing a problem with her phone. Unable to get a set Genius Bar appointment, we (surprisingly) were able to get a “walk-in” appointment within about 3 hours (trust me this is a miracle in itself), but it also meant we couldn’t stray too far from the store as they could text at any time saying the appointment was imminent! So, pounding up and down Regent Street it was! And of course, the minute we finally decided to get lunch, they texted to say it was appointment time – resulting in a sprint back up Regent as it now or never, as there were no more appointments that day! Ugh. Kudos to Apple though as they fixed the problem!

We also escaped London by the skin of our teeth, as we grabbed the tube and train from Kings Cross before the massive tube and train shutdown that plagued the rest of the city about an hour later on Wednesday evening!