Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Lovely Trip To The Seaside with Ibis

A couple of weekends back, the lovely Katy asked me if I'd like to go to Brighton with her for a quick break away. She'd been invited by Ibis hotels to head down for the weekend, stay in their Brighton hotel, and attend a fun screening of Dirty Dancing at the city's open air screen.

Originally she had planned to attend with another dear friend, Jaye, but when life conspired to change those plans (thinking of you, sweet girl) I was more than happy to sub in for a little time away by the sea. Having grown up near the seaside for so much of my life, I love to get to the sea and smell the tang of the seasalt in the breeze.


After a swift journey south from London on a very comfy train (thankfully our travel was not affected by the Southern chaos that has been blighting the route - so frustrating for so many people!), we found our hotel very quickly....as it's mere steps from the station. We checked in and took the lift to check out our digs. The team had left the sweetest card and some on-brand sweet treats in the room - such a gorgeous little touch!


We shared a lovely double room which was neat, clean and containing a very comfy bed (vital). This is the best shot of the room on my camera, so you get a bonus Katy as well! The room was great, plenty of space, a good shower and everything working and easy to fathom (the more I travel and stay in hotels, the more I know this isn't always the case!).


The pristine white sheets provided some excellent flatlay moments....love a good flatlay!


After settling in and charging up our phones, as well as catching up with the world on the free wifi, we ventured downstairs and out into the city. The bar on the ground floor is open 24 hours and is also where the (delicious) breakfast buffet is served in the morning - Katy and I both loved the spread available, so many delicious options!


The Saturday was a little gloomy and cool (ah, British summer), but we had a whale of a time strolling down to the seafront and breaking out our beloved Olympus PENs for pictures!


When airborne the seagulls were pretty darn terrifying as they dive-bombed tourists for fish and chips. But when they were still they gave the camera some very impressive looks!


The music and hubbub from the pier floated hither and thither on the slightly wintry (for June) breeze. It was so nice to be away from London for a little time!


On the way to the screening, we passed this crazy golf area. Doesn't it look awesome?


As we were guests of Ibis, we got to watch the movie from the comfort of these fabulous beds! It was so fun to be tucked up watching the movie, sipping wine and eating popcorn. It's truly the only time I've ever watched a movie, on a beach, from a bed!


Katy and I arrived over an hour early (such keen beans) and got settled in before the movie. There was live music, food stands, and even a few adorable doggies to watch scamper around. The movie was lovely and reminded me just how much I like Dirty Dancing!

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We decided to make the most of our Sunday, so after refuelling with a lovely breakfast at the Ibis and leaving our big bags in the lugagge room (so handy!) we headed in to town to meet up with the lovely Aisling, a blogger who lives in Brighton. It was a much sunnier day so it was lovely to do some exploring.


Aisling took us to the sweetest little cafe called The Blackbird Tea Rooms, where we enjoyed an array of beverages and baked goods. The whole place is styled with the most lovely vintage furniture, decor and knick-knacks - it felt like we were dining in the 1940s!


Lovely refreshments...



...and delightful company!

After our snacks we went for a good long walk, complete with lots of dog-spotting (Brighton is a real hub of pups!), and then headed back to catch our train to the big smoke!

Thank you to Ibis for hosting us so generously, and thank you to Katy for a funfilled weekend of silliness, dancing, DOGS and laughter. We laugh a lot!





Disclaimer: Katy and I were hosted by Ibis, receiving a complimetary stay and being hosted at the event.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sofa.com comes to Islington

A couple of weeks ago I was invited along to the opening of the new Sofa.com store in Islington. As someone who is never happier than when browsing in a furniture store and daydreaming about futrue house plans, this was just my kind of invite.


Housed in the Tramshed building in Angel, it's a great space for a showroom - light and airy, spacious yet intimate. I especially loved the acoustics, which meant you could have conversations in relative privacy without echoing across the floor - no mean feat in a space this large!


I loved the range of sofas and furniture on display - I'm saving up for a new sofa so was thrilled to feel so inspired. Poppet cat would be all over this fabulous, slouchy brown sofa, I'm sure.


As I was given the tour I was so impressed with how many of the beds were sofa beds, or which offered storage space in a variety of ingenious ways - draws, trapdoors, and a fascinating contraption that looked like a footstool but was actually a 'bed in a box'! Storage space is king in the London market.
 

As ever, #Ihavethisthingwithstripes - this bed was a real favourite. I was interested to learn about all the things sofa.com do besides sofas. I hadn't grasped how many cushions they make and sell, but next time we need some I'll certainly be popping in for a browse - there were hundreds of designs, colours and sizes for every sort of home.


I loved the 'kids' corner' for small folk to enjoy while parents shopped. Everything about the store seems to have been designed to make the experience calm and relaxed as you make your purchase.


How adorable is this cat wigwam? I can think of three small cats who would love this!


The showroom is split over two levels, with a bar on the lower level for refreshments and recaffeination. As a coffee feind this please me no end!


In the foreground is one of the newer additions to the sofa.com range, a gorgeous wooden dining table. This can be mix-and-matched with a wide range of benches, chairs, and stools. The stools in the shot were originally put together for showrooms, but when customers started asking to purchase them they were added to the stock list, and can be made with different fabrics and finishes to compliment your home.

In the background was a touch I really enjoyed - there are swatches available of every fabric so you can take them home and see which ones work in your space. As well as these small, standard swatches, there are also larger ones you can borrow to see what the pattern or material looks like over a wide space. I think that is so clever - a bold pattern can work brilliantly on a sofa, but it's great to get a sense of it over a large space before committing to a purchase.


Sofa.com love to work with designers on special fabrics. I loved chatting with Anna Glover, the designer who came up with the fabrics you see above. The Paradise (available in the mineral you see on the sofa, or in basalt) was lovely, but my especial favourite had to be the pattern festooned with raindrops you can see on the ottoman - how apt for a British summer!


Blues and yellows forever.


I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Sofa.com showroom, and think it'll be a great resource for people making what is a big investment for their homes that they want to last for years. If and when my little savings pot is ready, I'll hope to return to buy a sofa of my own, and will probably be back for some cushions (or a cat wigwam!) before then.

Many thanks to Sofa.com for hosting me at their press event.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A very musical weekend

A couple of weekends ago (life has been busy so I'm catching up on posts a bit!) I was lucky enough to have a very musical weekend, with two days filled with music, fun and friends. On the Saturday of the weekend I got to go to Capital's Summertime Ball; on the Sunday I got to take in the delights of Field Day.


I hadn't been anticipating being able to attend the Summertime Ball, but I was lucky enough to win a competition on twitter run by Hospitality Finder. Just by being the lucky retweeter (is that a word?) I was given two VIP tickets to go to the gig, with great seats in the Club Wembley area.


It was a truly amazing gig with so many great acts from the pop, dance, R 'n' B and hiphop worlds. Favourites of mine were Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah, and Flo Rida, and it was great fun to see Craig David doing his thing and throwing back to some of the songs of my youth during his set!


The arena was full to the brim and the crowd was so good-natured and fun. One of the things I really enjoyed about the Summer Time Ball was the length of the sets - by having each act do a handful or a half-dozen numbers everything kept moving and there was always something new and exciting on the horizon. I also enjoyed the sinaglong karaoke between acts - great fun for a dance and a sing!


Thank you so much to Hospitality Finder for my prize, and thank you to Kaz for coming along and being such great company!


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On the Sunday after the Summertime Ball I had to shake out my weary bones (we danced a lot) and get ready for another day of musical fun, this time with the lovely Erica. Erica had been invited along by the team at I heart wines, and she was kind enough to invite me along to enjoy a day at the festival with her. Erica would be taking over their instagram for the day, and we'd be able to take pictures, enjoy the music, and sip a few complimentary wines, too.

On board.



I like to call this look 'festival clothing is hard, yo'. Due to the fact that it had been raining all weekend the ground was a quagmire; add in the fact our washing machine had been out of order for a good two weeks, and you have an ensemble like this. Much chic, very fashion.


 Before hitting the wine and the music, we took a good look around the awesome food offerings. From bao, to pizza, to stir fries, to all cheese everything, we were truly spoiled for choice. I'm so glad we were doing plenty of walking and dancing, because the calorie intake was serious....


How sweet is the I heart wines wine truck? I'm a sucker for a VW van (we even had one at our wedding as the photobooth), so I adored this cute little vintage delight. And the complimentary glasses of delicious fizz, too... As well as rocking up to Field Day, you can also find the I heart wines van at Boardmasters festival in August, and at Truck festival next month too!


As well as getting to hang out with Erica, the wonderful Charley was in attendance too, with her boyfriend and a gaggle of friends. It was such fun to dance and catch up and enjoy the delights of the festival together. Watching Temper Trap together was a real highlight - the crowd were so up for dancing and having a great time, despite the rain!


Love that this is technically a picture of our trio - Erica is reflected in Charley's shades!


While we were milling around the festival Erica and I leapt on the chance to make our own gif - how cute is this? Erica, thank you so much for inviting me along, and I heart wines, thank you so much for your hospitality. The whole weekend did this music fan good!








Disclaimer: I was hosted at Field Day by I Heart Wines, as stated. Transparency, baby. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I Love Your Blog: Poppy Loves


This series is just such a favourite of mine - there are so many great bloggers I get to read and enjoy and I love inviting them to take part in a little intereview here. Today's 'I Love Your Blog' participant is the lovely Poppy, of Poppy Loves. I've been reading her darling blog for ages and simply adore her take on London, lifestyle, travel and culture, so I was delighted when she agreed to take part. Take it away, Poppy....


All pictures used in this post are taken from Poppy's wonderful instagram :). With permission, of course!


1.      How long have you been blogging?

Seven years. (SEVEN YEARS!) I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for seven years.

2.      What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media / digital career), or is it more a record of your life?

My blog is a lifestyle blog with London as a central theme. I love my city, so being able to cover all aspects of it - food, music, fashion, new business etc - is a real treat for me. I also cover goings on in the UK and travel has become a stronger theme in the last couple of years as well...


3.      What is your favourite thing about blogging?

I love that I am entirely in control of it. I can write about something and in the next second it is live for anyone around the world to see… amazing. I love how every day is different, how I meet new people all the time and being able to travel and see the world is a bit of a dream come true...

4.      What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

Don’t shoot - I don’t have one. I actually really enjoy every single bit of it!


5.      Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?

A little while ago I found a lump in my breast and I documented my (thankfully very short) journey on my blog. I had never written anything like it before, but felt that it was important to share. The response was overwhelming and I am so pleased I wrote it. I also wrote a popular piece on 13 amazing things you might not know about London… you won’t believe some of them!


6.      Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :) 

Two wonderful pals I have made on this blogging journey are StyloNylon and Life of Yablon - I love reading their blogs as I love them!


7.      I love that yours is a true lifestyle blog, with a broad remit covering lots of topics. Have you ever been tempted to become more 'niche' and follow a more narrow path?

I really love the variation that writing a Lifestyle blog brings, so I’d have to say no… I’m very happy being a Lifestyle lady ;)

8.    Apart from London, which other cities are your favourites to visit and write about? Are there any places you're dying to try but haven't made it to yet?

I loved writing about Paris and Havana… such gorgeous, special cities with wonderful sights, sounds and explosions for the senses... I always feel so lucky when I’m travelling with the blog… such unexpected opportunity and excitement…


9.      What hopes and dreams do you have for your blog going forward?

I love how my book club (Poppy Loves Book Club) is growing around the world, from starting on my blog… my dream is to reach a million members. Do you think I can do it? ;) It’s very magical indeed...

10.  What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs?

Exactly that - nurture it. Don’t let it sit like a weight around your neck and blog only if it pleases you. Blogging is something that we choose to do and the only person in charge is you! That means you can have as many tea breaks as you like, eat as much cake (research) as you like and write as often as you desire. I give everyone full permission to fall in love with their blogs and enjoy them at their pace… in the way you might savour a pink lemonade on a hazy Summer’s day. Blogging is romantic. And I am completely in love.


Thank you so much for taking part, Poppy - I totally agree on the cake-as-research element.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book review: Nina Is Not Okay


One of the passions of my life is reading. I've been a total bookworm since I can remember, and Matthew has long ago got used to the fact that our home is destined to be filled with shelves of books. I like to read widely, from the classics to the cheesiest chicklit available, from children's books to non-fiction, and one of the nicest parts of my recent journey into writing and blogging more has been having the chance to review an ever increasing list of books

Earlier this month the lovely folk at Ebury sent me a copy of the debut novel by Shappi Khorsandi. Having enjoyed her memoir A Beginners Guide to Acting English and having seen her comedy routine a few times (ah, Edinburgh), I was excited to read her first foray into fiction and intrigued by the premise of the book. I'll talk about it in the review but will try not to give the game away!

Nina, our central character, is a girl in her late teens - aiming for university and growing up in London. As the story unfolds we learn about her hidden depths, her struggles and her demons in no uncertain terms as the events of one awful night set her on a path to self-destruction. 

This is a challenging, thought-provoking and vivid story. Khorsandi puts you right in the centre of things - she is clear and unerring about what she writes, and in moments of horror or anguish no punches are pulled. Nina, the protagonist of the novel, is a brilliantly flawed, challenging narrator. At points I wanted to slap her, at others give her the biggest hug! 

Reading this book filled me with unease - it's an uncomfortable read, because it has to be. The subjects covered here - consent, or lack of it; the power of social media to shame and destroy; the machinations and horrors of teen friendships; alcohol & alcoholism; loss - are not those that lend themselves to prose of the 'rainbows and butterflies' ilk.

I can say I enjoyed this book because it's important, because of the light it shines on what judgement (particularly the particularly vicious judgement that occurs online) and shame can do to someone. It's important because we live in a time when a student can sexually assault an unconcious woman and his family and the judge in the case seemingly expect us to care more about his predicament than that of his victim. It's important because the topography of growing up has changed so much in a generation - Nina and her peers have smartphones, the internet, social media to contend with. Once again I found myself so, so grateful for teenage mishaps that took place far away from the the all seeing eye of social media (nothing like the awfulness that Nina endures and/or does, thank heavens) - a privelege and an experience not given to today's teens. My teenage crushes and bad outfits and silly opinions are consigned to history, deep in the nineties, in the fading memories of my friends, photos snapped with cheap and cheerful disposable cameras (the negatives long since lost) and a few scribbled notes and letters.

This book was hard going in places purely because Khorsandi writes so well - she puts you right in the scene and you have no real way to distance yourself from what's unfolding. This is a necessary evil, to move the story on and to make it seem all the more real, but man, at times I wanted to reach for the 'brain bleach', to coin a phrase from the internet forums of the noughties.

I'd give this books four out of five - it's a worthwhile read and is brilliantly real and very timely. I was advise against it if anything in my review is a trigger for you, as there are dark moments aplenty. That being said, I enjoyed the book, was pleased with the denouement, and think it's an important novel which shines a light on what a lot of our young people are dealing with (man, typing that made me feel ancient!) while going through the messy business of growing up in today's world.




Disclaimer: I was kindly sent a copy of 'Nina Is Not Okay' by Ebury to review.  Opinions all mine, as ever!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ten Things



It's been a busy wee fortnight here, full of fun. And work. And stress. And excitement. And relaxation. Isn't life grand.

*starts humming Circle of Life*

As is my wont, I thought I'd do a quick little round up of a few of the things that have been keeping me occupied.  Here we go!

1. The great study project continues. We are now at the OH MY GOODNESS THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF EVERYWHERE stage. All caps required, for sure!



2. On Saturday Katy and I are off to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I am beyond excited, and all ready to rock my Hufflepuff teeshirt with pride! Huge thanks to the babe that is Ashleigh-Jayne for helping to sort our tickets.

3. Last weekend I got to attend not one, but two musical events. I won VIP tickets to Capital's Summertime Ball on the Saturday, and Kaz and I had a marvellous time bopping along to Flo Rida, Craig David, Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah and many more. On the Sunday, Erica and I went along to Field Day in East London, where we were kindly hosted by I Heart Wines (great company name, right?). Full post of musical adventures (and wine) to follow.


4. My competition to win a copy of The World of The Happy Pear* came to a close and I'm looking forward to mailing out the package to the winner, Tracy, in the next few days. I'm loving the cookbook!

5. I am getting very in to my social media, and loving learning more about the platforms and how I want to use them. Twitter is for chatting and sharing; facebook is for comment, crowdsourcing and kitty/puppy videos; instagram is for beautiful images and inspiration; pinterest is for collecting ideas and planning meals/holidays/presents; and snapchat? Well that's like my own little mini-vlog. I'm cmclaire12 over there if you'd like to follow along!


6. On Wednesday of last week Matthew and I went along to Royal Ascot as guests of Appletiser. We had a lovely day out together (even if the rain did try to dampen spirits!) and it was the perfect taster before we return to the course next month with the in-laws.

7. Speaking of Katy (see point 2), this weekend just past I had the most fun with her in Brighton. She was kindly invited to town by Ibis for a break by the sea, and a big screen viewing of Dirty Dancing, and I was thrilled to be her plus-one. Full post to follow, of course, but the whole visit made me so smiley it had to make this list.



8. This mad weather has really had me guessing, and I've got drenched at least twice, and sunburned once. Pick a route, British weather!

9. For the past almost year or so, Matthew and I have been watching the boxset of Parks and Recreation, and last week we finished the final, seventh season. How am I going to cope without my Knope?


10. After the weeks and months of discussions, on Thursday it's time to vote on whether we leave the EU or not. Whatever the nation decides there will be bumps in the road ahead, but whatever decision we wake up to on June 24th I hope we can band together to support the majority's choice, however hard that may be to swallow. As I write this most polls have the two campaigns exactly level, so I think whichever way the referendum goes we are in for choppy seas ahead. However you feel about it, I hope you'll be voting - it's a pretty momentous choice.


Monday, June 20, 2016

I Love Your Blog: Lucy Loves To Eat


I will never not love doing this series - the chance to shine a wee spotlight on the many lovely writers and bloggers who I adore is a constant treat and I always find the interviews so informative and inspiring. I hope you do too!

Today's guest is the adorable Lucy from Lucy Loves To Eat. I've been lucky enough to attend several food blogging events with Lucy and I love her intelligence, her humour and her mad culinary skills. I hope you enjoy her answers below.

Tha lady herself! All pictures in this post kindly provided by Lucy.

1.      How long have you been blogging?

I've been blogging for 2 years now, but wanted to start about 5 years ago. My husband promised he would design me a snazzy blog... 3 years later and still waiting, I eventually just got onto Blogger and set it up myself. I haven't looked back since!

2.      What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media / digital career), or is it more a record of your life? 


My passion is food, so from recipes to travel eats to sharing my favourite restaurants, I cannot stop babbling about food! I also love home decors and interiors and take great pleasure in sharing my home decor posts on my blog. I hope to document all my favourite recipes on my blog, have a collection of favourite restaurants which I can refer friends and family to when they ask for recommendations and just share things in my life that I am passionate about.

3.      What is your favourite thing about blogging?


Writing and creating a post is my absolute favourite thing about blogging. Whether it's writing up about my travel adventures, eating some incredible food or just showing off pictures of my baking, I find great satisfaction in sharing it all. And then there are the lovely blog comments which always make my day. Meeting like-minded bloggers and foodies at blog events are another awesome part of blogging, and I'm delighted to say I've met some amazing bloggers whom I'm now firm friends with. There's nothing quite like hitting it off with like-minded people (such as Claire!) to give you a huge endorphin rush!  

4.      What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

Promoting my blog posts. I love writing a blog post but the promotional side of things is such a chore. I know I need to do it though to help with blog traffic and just getting my post out there, but I wish I could just pay someone to do this! Saying that, I've learnt so much from blogging/promoting, and they are genuinely great skills to have.

5.      Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?



Without a doubt, it has to be my Japan Honeymoon series. We had an adventure of a lifetime in Japan and it was the best 2 weeks of our lives. I haven't actually finished writing it up yet, so there are more posts to come. Hong Kong, being my second home, is another favourite of mine to write about and share with those who are about to travel there. My beginners guide to using a DSLR camera + how to shoot in low light  has been hugely popular and it acts as a reminder for myself too since I'm very new to using a DSLR.

6.      Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :) 

I have soooo many favourite blogs but sadly I don't have much time to keep up with them since starting my own blog. However, one that I never miss is B-Kyu, an Australian blog. I love keeping up with their travel adventures and their writing style always has me in stitches. A Pair and A Spare  is hugely inspirational as is Cupcakes and Cashmere. I also love reading both of my friends lifestyle blogs, One Slice of Lemon and Hanhabelle.

7.     I adore your food posts - where do you think your passion for all things foodie stems from?


I have loved food ever since I can remember! This has to be down to my dad who is an amazing chef. He loved to take us out for good food too and trained my taste buds by explaining how dishes were cooked and which ingredients made it so good. Once I got older and started to explore other cuisines and started traveling, I discovered so many incredible foods and have been hooked to all food things since.  

8.    Apart from London, which other cities are your favourites to visit and write about? Are there any places you're dying to try but haven't made it to yet?

I visited Taiwan in December and had some incredible food, so I'll be blogging about that soon. Hong Kong is another place I'll never get tired of writing about and since I go back every year, there's always new things to blog about. I wish I could go back to Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan for more eating - whilst I've been to all 3 before, I don't think I could ever get bored of the food there. Plus the shopping there is just ace. You can see how I love Asia!  

9.      What hopes and dreams do you have for your blog going forward?


I want to start sharing my dad's traditional Chinese recipes but I made a promise that until my photography was up to scratch, I didn't want to do any injustice to them. I have so many things waiting to be blogged about but it's just finding the time to do it. For the rest of this year, I'm going to try and focus on finishing my Japan Honeymoon series, travel adventures in Taiwan, more of my home decor posts and some seriously drool-inducing restaurants I've eaten at in recent months.

10.  What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs? 

Write about topics you are truly passionate about and work on a blog voice that is your own. Photography is important, as is the layout and look of your blog, but content is what connects you with your readers. And do not forget to promote your blog posts!

Thank you for such a fab interview Lucy, and all the best with your upcoming adventure!

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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