Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #15

It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. A cosy weekend


Lovely, tasty meals, good wine and chats

Poppet loves using me as a cushion/vantage point

Really enjoyed catching 'Addams Family Values' yesterday on Channel 4. I'm a total wuss so horror movies are off the table for me, so spooky family/kids films like The Addams Family ones or Hocus Pocus are as scary as it gets!

Around this point of the year, when the fireworks for Diwali and Guy Fawkes' Night are having their usual fortnight of loud bangs and flashes, we always book a couple of home weekends so we can be around for the katzen. As fun as travelling and socialising are, it's also nice to hibernate a little too. Good, wholesome food, lashings of red wine, napping and kitty cuddles...I feel replenished and ready for a busy week!

2. Side Show

Friday, October 28, 2016

I Love Your Blog: Bloody Hell Brennan

Katie Brennan is a flipping force of nature.

Actress, singer, writer, bon vivant and so much more, I've been reading her blog (Bloody Hell Brennan) for a good long while now and am extremely lucky to be able to call her a friend too. Whether it's watching her (award nominated, sellout) autobiographical stage show, bantering on WhatsApp or laughing at a well-told story at a Bangarang get-together, I never tire of her company, and her writing is a delight. I'm thrilled to host her here today for another round of 'I Love Your Blog'. Let's go, Brennan!

The lovely Miss B! All pictures kindly sent to me by the lady herself.

1.How long have you been blogging?

Since February 2013...so nearly four years! BLIMEY MATE that's gone quickly! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: The Year of Yes

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes


Every year, it seems the market is flooded with books by celebrities. Autobiographies, stories, cookbooks - there could be a whole section of the bookstore devoted to books by that guy from.../the lady who.../the star of.... as with any genre or group of books, it's a mixed bag of quality, but there are gems to be found, and I always sit up and take notice when an actor, singer, or other creative I admire releases a book (same goes for great sportspeople, journalists, bloggers, businesspeople, and chefs). Some of my favorite books of recent years have sprung from the pens (or perhaps the keyboards?) of folk I knew for something else entirely.

Aside: if you haven't yet read Bossypants or Yes Please, please considering doing so. Fey and Poehler both give *excellent* book.

But back to The Year of Yes. Shonda Rhimes is the uber-famous creator/showrunner of the Shondaland stable of programmes- Grey's Anatomy, How To Get Away With Murder, and my personal favourite, Scandal. Hugely professionally successful, she has a come to Jesus moment over just how she's living her life over thanksgiving meal prep with her sister. Spurred on by this, Shonda resolves to change things up and embrace the power of YES, and this book is all about this journey. 

And what a journey it is. Rhimes is a gifted writer, as her hugely successful TV career would suggest, but in this autobiographical setting it's a great tone she sets - charming, conversational, deep, with just enough silly to lighten the mood when necessary. This is a book about saying yes to yourself, yes to life, and Rhimes emerges happier, healthier, and more at peace with herself than ever.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: The Devil's Feast

The Devils Feast Book

The Devil's Feast is a dark, undulating tale of murder most murky. The third in the Avery & Blake series by M.J. Carter, following on from The Strangler Vine and The Infidel Stain, this book takes us to a gloomy underworld where the darkest facets of human nature are pulled sharply into view.

The novel is set in Victorian London, a world of strict hierarchies and social mores quite different to our own. There has been a mysterious death at the Reform, London's newest and grandest gentleman's club, and Captain Avery is approached to uncover the murderer using all his powers of deduction and discretion. He must also solve the crime under an unusual pressure as his usual partner, Blake, is missing. Like Sherlock without his Watson, Avery must solve the clues alone and try to fathom whether this murder is a gruesome one-off or the beginning of a far more grisly set of events...

This is a competent, entertaining thriller. It's not necessarily a genre I've read much in before, but the action moves along swiftly and the characters are convincing and the action thrilling - I loved trying to predict what twist or turn might emerge next! I also enjoyed learning a little more about London in 1842 (turns out celebrity chefs have been with us for a good long time!) and the various political and personal motivations of the cast of characters.

If you are looking for a good, pacey thriller with plenty to ponder (as well as the central whodunnit I enjoyed the mystery around Blakes whereabouts!), this is the perfect book to curl up with on a dark autumnal evening. I haven't read the first two books in the series but was still able to follow the action and proceedings happily, and very much enjoyed a glimpse of a London long gone.





Disclaimer: I was gifted a copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.

Let's Get Cosy


I love this season, and this part of the year. The nights are drawing in, it's cold and there's a nip in the air, and the city is a symphony of greys, oranges and browns. Even sniffling through the first cold of the season cannot dampen my spirits!

Part of what I love about this time of year is the compulsion to get cosy, to curl up, to slow down, and to get a little hygge (if you're feeling on-trend and Danish about it). It's the season of self-care, serenity and hibernation...

As I love it so much I thought I'd share a few tips on how to really embrace the cosy vibe.

1. Invest in some candles and little lights or lamps. I love the smell of candles, the twinkle of fairy lights and the comforting glow of lights piercing the autumnal darkness. After being out in the cold and the wet it's a great treat to be in a cosy house.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Theatre: Pride and Prejudice (with 2 actors)


Last Friday I was very kindly invited down to the Greenwich Theatre to watch a performance of Pride and Prejudice...with a difference.

Now, it is a truth universally acknowledged that Austen's most famous book is a fast favourite of mine (in fact, I last saw a production in the theatre a mere month ago!), and I love to see different versions put on of the show, whether it's on film, through a modernisation or an adaptation, or in the theatre. Friday's performance was truly a first, though...because the entire cast of the narrative was played by two actors.

Yes.

All the Bennetts, the Bingleys, the Lucases, the Gardiners and the many other players in the piece were all brought to life by two actors, the incredibly talented Joannah Tincey and Nick Underwood. When I first read about the production I had a few misgivings about the enterprise, but I'm delighted to have been proved wrong, and soundly - this is fast, nimble, interesting theatre. The production enlivened a text which I could probably quote huge passages from - the angle of the two actors meant that there was always a new innovation or delight to encounter.

Joannah Tincey's adaptation is a fond and fun one, with some great choices in tone and cutting of extraneous details in a judicious and intelligent manner. The use of narration keeps things moving along at a decent clip, and despite the small cast the detail of the story was never sacrificed. Both Tincey and Underwood give superb performances, full of charm, skill and some very good comedic timing. Through various accents, tonal differentiations and cunning costume additions and subtractions a cast of dozens in portrayed beautifully by this pair. The central duo of Lizzie and Darcy were very winningly acted and had that perfect mix of romance and frisson necessary for a good P&P, but countless other characters were brilliant as well. I especially enjoyed Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine, and Kitty - I won't spoil the play by suggesting which parts might be played by which party!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #14

It has been genuinely one of the most rollercoaster-y (NB I don't think that's a word....but it totally should be!) weeks in memory, but there's been so much good, too. So as I write this up, full of cold, still disappointed that the trains failed to get me to Bristol for my godson's christening (love you, little guy - will visit soon!), the overall mood is sunny (unlike the grey London skies today). Add in the fact that it's getting cooler and cooler, Halloween is just around the corner, and the diary is filling up with time with some gorgeous folk...and you have the perfect frame of mind for a Happy Monday post!

So....It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. I have a godson!

My darling friend Naomi was kind enough to ask me to be godmother to her and her husband's handsome and intelligent little guy (don't even try to argue with me, I am entirely biased in my godson's favour and he's clearly going to be one of the most amazing, clever, kind and talented humans ever). While Network Rail prevented me making the ceremony yesterday (note, a cold-ridden thirtysomething welling up on a train is never a good look) I am so excited to go visit him and his parents soon! Perhaps wearing my fairy godmother wings....

2. Baby shower fun

How sweet is this cake from Anges de Sucre?


Saturday, October 22, 2016

I Love Your Blog: Charlie, Distracted


In life I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by so many inspirational, wonderful women. In life, in work, in relationships, in blogging, in a thousand-and-one ways, I have a front row seat to observe so many people I adore absolutely crushing it. One such person is the divine Charlie, who I first met at a blog event a few years back, and who now is one of my dearest blog-friends here in London. She's clever, talented, oh-so-stylish and frequently makes me howl with laughter with a witty quip, a well-chosen gif, or a spot-on 'No Diggity' moment. The girl is gold, and I'm delighted to have her here on the blog today for an 'I Love Your Blog' feature. Take it away, Charlie! 


The lady herself! All pictures within the post are taken from Charlie's lovely blog, with her permission.

1. How long have you been blogging? 

About five years, but it was with a different domain name and nothing to do with what I write about now!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Food: Cafe Rouge St Paul's


I love the area of London around St Paul's. As it's a hop, skip and jump along the Central Line from our area of East London, it's a frequent choice for meals, drinks, or hanging out. As several of my friends work in the City, it's also a place I find myself many an evening, tucking into supper or meeting for cocktails.

A couple of weeks ago the lovely folk at Cafe Rouge asked me if I'd like to go and review their new Autumn/Winter menu, and when I had a little google adventure and spotted there was a Cafe Rouge mere metres from the hallowed dome of St Paul's, I knew exactly where I'd like to dine. As the picture above demonstrates, you get a heck of a view! Loving those moody skies.


The restaurant at St Paul's is large and light, with lots of big windows letting in as much daylight as possible. When we arrived for a late-ish lunch at 2pm it was really busy, full of families, couples and groups tucking into their Sunday lunch, but we were shown to a nice comfy table and given menus and a wine list swiftly.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #13

Good morning, lovelies! It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. Catch ups


Whether it's a meal and a movie with Hannah or a glass of wine and The Apprentice with Shona, it's been lovely to catch up with friends who I haven't seen in a while. Plans with other friends are in the diary too - after a travel heavy September and early-October, it's nice to be back in the London loop. 

2. Cold weather

I love it. I swear my outfits are 75% cuter once the mercury drops! I'm loving chilly mornings, curling up with a cup of tea after a bracing walk, and breaking out the slow cooker. Vehemently on board.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

London, Food: Pizza Club at Pizza Buzz


I've been so lucky to meet so many amazing people through blogging. Through enjoying what is after all a hobby, I've been able to meet dozens and dozens of talented folk, funny folk, inspiring folk, clever folk. The things I get to do and the people I get to spend time with through my writing are truly an amazing bonus to the whole blog thang!

This year blogging threw another fun element into my lap, as this year saw the advent of Pizza Club. One day Vicky, Connie and Emma were chatting all things pizza on twitter, I joined in, and in a matter of moments, Pizza Club was born. We've met up three times now at different pizza spots in town (and the club may well be expanding before long - and not just in a waistlines-post-pizza way) and I love our candid, laughter filled get-togethers over a yummy meal!

Last week we were kindly invited to try out the menu at Pizza Buzz, the new pizza spot in Shoreditch. With great, fresh ingredients, an interesting and innovative menu, and a build-your-own twist to proceedings, I was excited to get involved and enjoy some pizza!



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: The Goodness of Dogs, by India Knight


As the subtitle of this book would suggest, this book is a little-bit-of-everything read for the dog owner, wannabe dog owner (that would be me), or the dog lover in your life. And it's delightful.

When I first heard that India Knight was going to be writing a book all about dogs, my interest was immediately piqued. I'm a big fan of Knight's writing, both fiction and non-fiction, in books and in newspapers (and in tweet form, for that matter), and generally pick up whatever book her fine mind gifts us, but the thought of a book all about dogs sounded like a real treat. I am animal crackers and in this current season, where I really, really, really would like a dog but life prevents me getting one, all books on the subject are a good thing. Gimme those cute woofers.

Poppet-cat, if you're reading this, I am entirely devoted to the feline cause as ever, fear not. I'd just like a dog as well - think of it as another subject within your Poppet realm. 

The Goodness of Dogs is a fun, interesting book, with just the right balance of evidence and anecdote for me - I learned while reading but was also thoroughly entertained, and many of the chapters gave some really useful advice to the reader. The decision to adopt or buy a pet is never one that can be taken lightly and the thoughtfulness which Knight brought to the process of choosing a pet, bringing them home and training them permeates throughout those chapters. Humour and a little pop culture (I was pleased to see Best In Show get a shout out - love that movie!) help the book to steer clear of being too dry or heavy, and the narrative manages to walk a nice line between useful, actionable tips and fun, entertaining prose.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Love Your Blog

I really love this series. In a busy blogosphere, there are so many fantastic writers, photographers and storytellers sharing their view of the world, and I never fail to be inspired, educated or entertained by my fellow bloggers. In this feature I get to share about some favourites of mine - and here are my choices for this turnaround.  I've emailed all the bloggers involved and will hope to have some of them interviewed here soon, very busy schedules allowing :).

Bloody Hell Brennan


Whether she's taking the Fringe by storm, sipping a fabulous gin cocktail or kicking the butt of a goblin, Katie is a force of nature and her blog is funny, clever and moving. I adore both the woman and the blog, and am always excited to see a new post from the divine Miss Brennan.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #12

I'm back, you delightful folk!

Our trip to the US and Canada was amazing fun. We travelled and saw sights and ate great food and hung with lovely people and drank delicious cocktails and spent far too much too relaxing, sleeping, and talking. It was a luxurious, replenishing, wonderful break and I can't wait to share all about it here over the next few months - rather than dumping a glut of travel posts all in one I'll be weaving them in with food, book, culture and London posts, plus getting excited (as ever) for Christmas when that season is on the horizon (I've started doing some loose planning and pinning up a storm, naturally, but for me the main Christmas excitement is a November/December thing).

It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. Home

It's so, so good to be home. I love travelling, but it's always such a treat to get home to such a happy space. I love the little home we've built together, even when it's full of post-holiday laundry and ironing to tackle. It's also been so gorgeous to get back to the katzen. I've missed those furballs!

2. Book post




I love post and mail of all descriptions, but book post is an especial fave. Imagine my delight, then, when I got not one but two packages from the adorable Steph at Ebury? A nice juicy looking piece of fiction (The Bear and the Nightingale) and a lovely paper cutting book also - perfect for chilly autumn evenings. 

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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