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Afternoon tea with Truly

Tea at The Capital

Picking special presents year after year can be a bit of a pain, especially when you’re like us and have no room left in your flat for any more physical objects! That’s why I love giving and receiving ‘experiences’ instead: dinner, cooking classes, something that you can enjoy and/or learn from rather than accumulating more stuff. So when Truly contacted me I was pretty excited. Their premise is great: you pick from a fantastic range of do-able gifts – especially strong on restaurants and food experiences but there are spa days, city breaks and outdoor activities too. Put in your recipient’s address and they get a lovely smart box in the post with a simple number/email to contact Truly’s concierge and make the reservation. No messing around booking something and hoping they are free on the date (or ruining the surprise by asking), but you can still pick out something personal.

Tea at The Capital

Truly kindly gave me the chance to try one of their experiences out, and I opted for Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Capital Hotel. I invited my wonderful mum along because she’s a little envious of all the nice things Josh and I do in London, so it was great to be able to share something with her. She was delighted to get the box in the post and phoned me immediately to say thank you! She was down in London last weekend so we got the chance to book it up.

Tea at The Capital

The Capital hotel is literally around the corner from Harrods. I’d never ever been in Harrods before, so a nose round the food hall was mandatory (wow, it’s busy in there). Tea is served in a pretty and cosy sitting room – with wallpaper and books lining the walls and a window open to the pleasant day outside it was a lovely place to spend the afternoon. We started with a glass of champagne while browsing the extensive tea menu.

Tea at The Capital

Before long a tiered stand laden with goodies arrived. Delicate finger sandwiches on the bottom and a whole plate of sweet things for each of us – treacle tart, passion fruit tart, lemon sponge, baby trifle and a hibiscus maracon. They were all delicious – the moist sponge and creamy tart especially. If you run out or particularly enjoyed anything, the waiters will gladly restock it for you.

Tea at The Capital

There was only one vegetarian sandwich but I didn’t even think to ask for a replacement; I’m sure they would have switched one of the others for a veggie option if requested. Never mind, more room for cake!

Tea at The Capital

Just when we were reaching peak cake, freshly baked scones arrived with cream and jam. They were so buttery and flaky – my Devon-raised mum approved. You can even pack up anything you don’t eat into takeout boxes.

Tea at The Capital

One happy mum and some serious daughter points for me! This was a great experience and my mum really appreciated it. Truly have this and loads of other luxurious gift experiences on their site including lots of Michelin-starred restaurants like The Square, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (which I reviewed here), Hakkasan and La Manoir. Any would do for my birthday present, in case you’re wondering. Thanks, Truly! Anyone else love to give or receive foody gifts?

Truly supplied my afternoon tea experience for review; views are my own

The Bathory custom bath soak: review & giveaway

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What do craft beer, Instagram-printed marshmallows and luxury bath soak have in common? They’re all startups from the clever folks at Mint Digital. Check out DeskBeers and Boomf at your leisure, but today we’re talking bathtime with The Bathory and their custom-made, hand-blended bath soaks.

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The Bathory invited me to have a go at making my own soak a little while ago. It’s a pleasure to browse the lovely site and choose the perfect ingredients for your very own bath-time invention. First you pick a base of salts, either designed to soothe, detox or just bask.

bathorysoothe

Then you can layer on three essential oils: information is given about the properties and effects of each fragrance so you can pick ones that revive, relax or inspire you. Pop your choices in the basket and a few days later a beautifully-designed little bag lands on your doorstep.

Bathory

You can clearly smell the fragrant oils even from outside the packaging! I couldn’t wait to give it a go. The jar is pretty enough to display on the shelf all the time and is enough for several happy bathtimes.

Bathory

I went for a detox base with grapefruit, bergamot and rosemary oils, and it smelled absolutely amazing. You need to add quite a lot to get a truly scented bath, but my favourite way to use it is in the shower: mixed with a little olive oil it’s a dreamy shower scrub. It made my skin really soft and the scent lasted after I dried off. I’ll definitely be replacing my jar when it runs out – the question is do I stick with my current blend or  try a new one…?

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The competition is now closed. Congrats to the winner, Louise and thanks for all your entries.

Thanks to The Bathory for giving me a soak to review and one to give away.

Makin’ cider

Cider making

Ugh, autumn is truly here isn’t it? I swear it got dark at 3pm yesterday, so miserable. In my mind the only good things about the gloomy seasons are of the edible and quaffable varieties: a few months of soups, stews and mulled things make it all bearable. So I was happy to get an email from Garden Trading asking if I’d like to try out an apple press from their range of harvest season products. If you haven’t heard of Garden Trading yet, they make timeless and practical homewares that look equally at home in a country cottage or a more modern setting: I’ve got their enamelled metal lightshades in both my bedroom and kitchen.

Cider making

Here’s the sweet little apple press they sent me. Crafted from solid wood and pretty sage green painted cast iron, it feels solid and well made. It’s nice and petite so fits onto the kitchen worktop easily.

Cider making

It comes ready to roll, complete with a mesh pulping bag, pressing blocks and simple instructions.

Cider making
Cider making

To give it a whirl, I bought a lovely range of apples from my local greengrocer: a mix of eating apples like Granny Smith and Gala for sweetness mixed with cooking varieties like Bramley for sharpness. Don’t they look pretty? The 9kg I bought yielded about 6 litres of juice.

Cider making
Cider making

The process is pretty simple, though you need a bit of elbow grease and be prepared to get pulpy and sticky! First wash and roughly chop the apples: I did this by hand but for a larger batch you’d probably want to use something more mechanised. Then you need to roughen/pulp them up a bit: we used a stick blender but a bowl food processor would have been quicker and cleaner. Give them a good whiz so they’re broken down but not entirely mush.

Cider making

Load the mesh bag into the barrel and fill with the pulpy apple goop. (This photo shows our first try where we hadn’t whizzed them up enough and they would not press: the right consistency looks more pulpy than this.)

Cider making

Pop the pressing blocks on top and start turning. Ta-da, out pours lovely apple juice! Of course you can just drink it right away, but I really fancied trying to make cider from it, with a little help from the live-in brewer boyfriend. It just requires a couple of extra supplies and ingredients – cider yeast, Campden tablets and PET bottles, all which I got from Brew UK – as well as the fermentation bottle and airlock which Josh already had from beer brewing.

Cider making

The Campden tablet stops any wild yeasts or bacteria from mucking up the fermentation, as well as lightening the colour. After 24-48 hours the cider yeast is added, then it needs to be tucked away away under the stairs for a couple of months, so it should be ready just in time for Christmas. Can’t wait to try it!

Cider making

We also had a bit leftover to drink straight away, to which I added some of this Morris Kitchen ginger syrup I got in Brooklyn. Delicious. The juice can be frozen too, which would be handy if you’re lucky enough to have a glut of apples to use up. All in all, top autumnal fun.

Apple press supplied for review by Garden Trading – thank you!

Vintage trinkets in my Etsy shop

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Just a quick one to say that I’ve added a new section to my Etsy shop with some midcentury, vintage and antique bits and bobs. My collection is just getting too big and some has to go!

Head over here to take a look, before I change my mind and keep it all.

Brooklyn shopping

Brooklyn Flea Market
Brooklyn Flea Market
Brooklyn Flea Market
Brooklyn Flea Market

We went to the famous Brooklyn Flea, but to the Saturday one at Fort Greene, not the main Williamsburg one. It was pretty good – quite small (I guess the main one is bigger) and a lot of vendors selling new stuff but a few gem stalls with that awesome Americana I was hoping to find. Sadly the crates at $25-40 each were never going fit into my suitcase home…

Brooklyn Flea Market
Brooklyn Flea Market
Brooklyn Flea Market

But I did pick up a little 50s wooden K from a guy with a fantastic stall with little collections of just about everything: shoe lasts, baseball cards, gumball toys and so on. I fancied one of the big metal letters too, but again with the suitcase space.

Junk, Brooklyn
Junk, Brooklyn
Junk, Brooklyn
Junk, Brooklyn

Back in Williamsburg near our apartment on Driggs & Bedford was a big old emporium full of wonderful old junk – I think the store actually is called Junk from a bit of google research, and most reviews I found say it’s overpriced tat. It actually seemed fairly reasonably priced to me given that mason jars were selling at the flea for $25 each and they were $5 a go here. Old soda bottles and medicine bottles were $3-4 each too. I made away with a sweet grey and yellow bowl and some old cotton reels. Very sad the amazing huge lamp at the left of the last photo couldn’t come home with me too.

Bit of a tangential story here, but I love the NYC weekend stoop/yard sale culture so very much and this explains why. Sunday was a 30-degree day where we’d walked a hell of a lot and my poor swollen feet were completely clapped out from my shoes rubbing like crazy. I sat on a bench to recover a bit opposite a lady doing a yard sale, and she offered me some sandals she was selling for $3. Turns out they were nearly new Aerosoles and when I slipped my foot in it was like the heavens opened. No pain any more! I skipped down the street and that’s when I found some free mason jars.

Brooklyn Flea Market

They were laying outside someone’s house in a box on the street saying FREE on it, so I helped myself to a few. I guess they were used for someone’s wedding since they had ribbons on and a little candle wax left in the bottom. Love me some free street treasure. Best Day Ever.

Madewell, NYC

It wasn’t all cheapskatery. I had a proper shop over in Manhattan at Madwell. Damn I love that store, please come to the UK? The aesthetic’s so very me and the clothes really feel very nicely made. I got a colourblocked sweater, nice rust-coloured trousers and a speckle grey cardigan – good autumn basics. I also bought a knit biker jacket from Anthropologie: it’s a bit cheaper over there.

Brooklyn shops
Brooklyn shops
Brooklyn shops

The hipster grocery stores are a real treat to browse. Who knew $26 artisanal bitters could be so enticing?

Shops, NYC

Did a bit of interior store window shopping too: CB2, Jonathan Adler, West Elm (who I’m excited are opening up in London very soon), Paper Source. Sadly I didn’t make it to a Williams Sonoma this time, perhaps my favourite store discovery in San Francisco, but as they own West Elm too I am hopeful they might make an appearance on these shores sometime too.