May 2016 Archives

The Dorchester hotel in London had an afternoon tea pop-up at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, but it was completely booked when I bought my tickets in January. Instead, I decided to go to their hotel on Park Lane where they were also serving RHS Chelsea Flower Show afternoon tea for the week. This was also on my "London Bucket List" because I've seen previous themed flower show teas, and they look so beautiful.


The Chelsea Flower Show champagne afternoon tea takes place in the hotel's restaurant The Promenade, a beautiful area of the hotel with high ceilings, statues, and carved ceiling and coving with gold-plated details. The hotel has been serving afternoon tea since 1931. The afternoon tea comes with Laurent-Perrier Brut or Cuvée Rosé Champagne.



For the event, floral designer Phillip Hammond has created the beautiful floral displays in the hotel.


First up, the champagne. I had the standard, and the bloke had the Rosé. The standard was the same that we had at the flower show.


Afternoon tea consisted of several 'courses'. The first 'course' was salmon with avocado and cavier on a biscuit base. An edible flower petal was presented on top in line with the theme.


Next up, we had a selection of sandwiches: egg, cucumber, chicken, salmon, and beef.


I opted for The Dorchester Blend afternoon tea, which is a standard black tea. The bloke wanted to try one of the Scottish teas, which has a surplus cost of £12.00. The Scottish teas had a smokey peat flavour/scent, and it reminded me of the flavour of whisky (minus the alcohol, of course). The tea was prepared differently from standard tea in that it was brewed in a glass pot. 


Our second 'course' consisted of a small pot of white chocolate mousse and strawberry jelly.


This was followed by scones, and we had the choice of clotted cream and blackcurrant or strawberry jam.


The pastries were then delivered. First up, a cheesecake was served with a candied edible flower. I dislike cheesecake, so the bloke had this one and he assured me that it was tasty.


I had the dark chocolate with salted caramel 'handbag'. This had a white chocolate ladybug and three sugared flowers. The chocolate and salted caramel was good quality.


We were told to eat the round pastry first, which we did, because it is meant to be enjoyed cold. It was a creamy peach mousse with a rice and chocolate base. This was my favourite of the pastries.


The butterfly pastry was a shortbread and lemon treat with a white chocolate butterfly and a slight caramel taste.


After we finished, we were brought the final 'course', which consisted of chocolate and almond cake and another type of cake. A pot of lemon curd was also provided to have with the cakes.


We enjoyed our afternoon tea, and I will highlight that the service was particularly good and our diertary needs were catered for.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

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I went to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show on Satrrday. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been on my "London Bucket List" for a few years now, and I can now tick that off my list. The show is a popular event in London's calendar because it gets a lot of press, and the Queen, royal family, and celebrities visit nearly every year. (They visit the day before it is open to the general public.) The show is only on for a few days at the end of May each year and is held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea near Sloane Square. The show gardens are created the weekend before, and it is open to the general public on Tuesday. The final day of the show is on the Saturday when all of the plants are auctioned off at 4:00.

Royal Hospital Chelsea

I got up very early so that I could queue for the show to get in before it got too busy. Having never been before, I read tips online that mentioned seeing the show gardens first as they get busy later on. The night before, I looked at the guide and map and decided on a plan of action for seeing the show gardens. I'm glad that I followed this tip as I scrambled to see the show gardens, which did get busier as the time progressed, but I was able to see all of them. I've heard that some people do not get to see all of them because they can be several people deep later in the day.

Below are my photographs of many of the gardens at the show, including the prize won by each garden. In the prize category, Gold is top place; silver-gilt is second, and silver is third. 

M&G Garden - (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden was inspired by the designer's memory of ancient oak woodlands in Exmoor National Park (England) and includes 'forest' trails, wildflowers, and a pool of water. This garden won the 'Best Construction Award'.

LG Smart Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

There were a couple of gardens that I loved, and this was one of them. This garden advertises smart home technology but also brings it to the garden as well. I loved the pastel colours of the flowers, the minimal interior of the home, and the difference in textures with the furry skins on the back of the chairs. This seems to combine the home and garden together. The purple, white and green colour scheme seems to be popular this year.


Watahan East & West Garden (Show Garden - Silver)

The Watahan East & West Garden is created by Japanese designer Tea Yano, and it combines English and Japanese styles and plants. I liked the reflections in the pool.

St. John Hospice - A Modern Apothecary (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was another one of my favourite gardens. This garden was inspired by doctors and care professionals when asked about improving health and the context of the healing power of plants based on the quote by Socrates "Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." Plants that are known for their health benefits are included in the garden as well as a bench where one can sit and take in the aroma of lavender and other plants and watch the small fountain of water. The garden contains red-leaved herbs (Atriplex, Beta and Brassica) which contain anthocyanidins are known to relieve oxidative stress (stresses from toxins). Several of the plants in the garden can also be eaten.

The way plants clear toxins and freshens the air is very important to me. Studies have been shown that certain plants purify the air and get rid of toxins, and this is why house plants are important to remove toxins in plastics, furniture, products that we use, and vehicles. Since moving into a house in October and having more room, I have researched different house plants to buy to purify the air and to remove toxins and fumes from car pollution. Note that a lot of plants can be posionous to animals if eaten (cats are attracted to plants), but they can be placed up high on shelving where the animals cannot access them.



The Chelsea Barracks Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden looks onto the Chelsea Barracks, so the garden was built to enhance the heritage and architecture of the building. Roses are prominent in the garden, and the bronze sculptures reference those who resided here.

Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden will be moved to the Great Ormond Street Hospital (a children's hospital) permanently after the show. It is a centrepiece for families and children to come to gather while the children have their treatment at the hospital. The building is inspired by Japanese architecture. I love the metalwork on the ceiling of the building, which reminds me of leaves and the reflections that this would create to feel outdoors around the foilage. White and pastel purple/blue flowers also feature in this garden.





Antithesis of Sarcophagi (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This granite cube has writing on one side and looks just like a solid cube of rock. However, there is a surprise inside. Visitors walk around the cube and discover small holes in the stone to look through. Inside the cube is a beautiful garden. This unique garden won the 'Best in Show' in the Fresh Garden category.


The 5000 Poppies Project

For Rememberance Day in Australia, 5000 poppies were knitted. It took three years to create the poppies, and many have been donated. This reminds me of the famous Poppies at the Tower exhibition in 2014. This is one of the most photographed pieces of the Flower Show this year, and it has received a lot of press.


Grand Mirror Form

This sculpture was inspired by folding paper several times to come up with different shapes and angular forms. 

The Husqvarna Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This Australian garden offers reflection and relaxation. The sunken lawn areas and layered hedges make the garden feel more private. The garden uses a lot of deep purple/pink/red shades of flowers along with sage-green leaves and red ferns.



Vestra Wealth's Garden of Mindful Living (Show Garden - Gold)

This is a modern garden for a busy client inspired by the Far East and yoga. It combines views of the city with a garden space to enhance life's balance.

Brewin Dolphin Garden - Forever Freefolk (Show Garden - Silver)

The message of this garden encourages people to think about natural resources and threats of the environment. This garden contains many brightly-coloured flowers and brightly-coloured gravel instead of following a limited colour scheme.




The Telegraph Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

This garden won 'Best in Show' this year, and it is inspired by the landscape with the slabs of bronze representing mountains. 


Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

Mathematical patterns help to describe beauty and is commonly used in design, art, and music for composition. 


Royal Bank of Canada Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden was inspired by a recent garden that the designer designed for the royal garden in Jordan. It contains scultped basalt pyramids and water reflections. The primary theme is the importance of water. The plants used are what can be found in Jordan and what suits the climate there.


L'Occitane Garden (Show Garden - Gold)

The brand is celebrating 40 years of its beauty and skincare products. The garden is inspired by its home in Provence, France and is made to look like the countryside of this area with lavender, cornflowers, poppies, and other flowers and plants found in this area.

Hartley Botanic Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden has a glass house sitting on the water. The glass house contains carniverous plants, but the outside is decorated with pastel plants.

Cloudy Bay Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This garden is simple, and the wooden frame suggests that there are no boundaries. 


God's Own Country - a Garden for Yorkshire (Show Garden - Silver)

This garden celebrates Yorkshire and its important gardens and heritage sites, including Yorkminster. The stained glass is a replica of Yorkminster, and it was created using methods from the 1400s. The garden contains flowers of multiple colours. Although I loved this garden and its multiple colours, I think it would have done better to plant flowers that complement the stained glass windows as I feel that they distract from it. There is a little too much going on. 

This garden won the BBC and RHS People's Choice award. 



Oh, and I noticed that these brown irises were in quite a few of the gardens on display. I've never seen a colour like this before.

The Harrods British Eccentrics Garden (Show Garden - Silver-gilt)

This was a very beautiful garden to photograph with a variety of beautiful flowers and hedges. It was inspired by the British eccentric with mechanisms engineered and inspired by the likes of the creations in Wallace and Gromit and others. This is also a memorable garden because the bay trees twirled, the garden boxes on the shed moved, and the roof on the shed lifted. Other hedges spun or lowered. 










The Modern Slavery Garden (Fresh Garden - Gold)

This garden also won the People's Choice award. It symbolises the hope for the end of slavery, but the bad still happens behind closed doors. The doors symbolise a way to open to freedoms.


Imperial Garden - Revive (Fresh Garden - Silver)

This garden is designed by a Ukranian designer and had lace-like elements that join the different elements together. It tries to redefine the world by removing politics in the world to create a harmony.

Pro Corda Trust - A Suffolk Retreat (Artisan Garden - Silver)

I loved this little garden, which contains a fountain, a summer house, and green and pale purple flowers. The garden is constructed as a retreat for young people with educational needs so that they could engage and create.


Senri-Sentei Garage Garden (Artisan Garden - Gold)

This garden is for a car enthusiast and complements the car as well as provides a relaxing garden space.


After visiting the show gardens, we went into the Great Pavilion. Inside are exhibitors and plant sellers as well as community/education exhibits. One of the displays featured the Queen's 90th birthday. We actually saw a few pay tribute to the Queen, and the show had an area with photographs over the ages.



The Olympics also played a part in a large and colourful exhibition. Around this exhibit were several microscopes where we could see work by Willard Wigan. He creates artwork that fits inside an eye of a needle, which is barely visible with the naked eye. Looking through the microscope allowed the pieces to be seen an admired. I was wowed with this. Painting and constructing these tiny artworks was impressive. My favourites were the Olympic torch and Olympic symbol (how did he do this?) and the four seasons with the changing trees.


Exhibitors tend to specialise in one plant area. There was an exhibit of orchids, roses, cacti, lillies, rhododendrons, peonies, carniverous plants, tulips, daffodils, irises, and other plants.


A special exhibition to the Queen was also created with multiple colours. The other side of the artwork contains a mock 'stand' with buckets of flowers similar to what may be discovered at a flower market. This celebrates New Covent Garden flower market.


A church frame was also created with beautiful pastel pink/purple, cream, and orange flowers.


I liked the colours of the beach huts with the different colours of the plants.


Before we wandered around the vendors, we bought a half bottle of champagne. The area was getting much busier, and we had seen nearly everything so decided to call it a day instead of waiting around for the auction. I did try to reserve a couple of plants in the Great Pavilion, but they were spoken for. This always happens to me, and I must have good taste.


My tips for visiting the RHS Chelsea Flower Show are to arrive early to beat the majority of the crowds and to see the show gardens before they get too busy. Get the guide beforehand and decide which route you want to take. Also, always have your guide with you and watch it carefully; I had someone walk off with mine. The sellers that sell the guides told me that people just try to take them for free. They are £10.00 a pop at the time of writing this, so I was down £10.00 when someone took mine. Also, the queues for the toilets can be very long, particularly around lunch time, so plan ahead if you need to go.

Food and drink can be purchased on site, but it is very expensive and the food that I had was not good quality. I went to Thames View for an early lunch at about 11:30 to avoid the crowds, and the service was also appalling. It was so appalling that different people in the queues around me (I had to go to two queues to get two different items) were joking about how bad it was and how some staff just stood around, would not make eye contact, and would ignore serving. Picnics can be brought, and there is ample space on the grass inside to eat for a fraction of the cost; you could even sit near the bandstand and listen to live music while eating.

If visiting on the Saturday, some of the exhibitors do reserve plants for the big sell off. Reserving seems to be quite popular, and if you really want something specific, it is the way to go. However, the best bargains are probably made when turning up for the auctions instead of making a reservation for something where the price is determined by the exhibitor.

If you have any additional tips, include them in the comments below.

Chelsea in Bloom 2016

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I have not been to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show yet, but I am going this year for the first time. During the Chelsea Flower Show each year, several shop and building fronts have their own gardens and floral displays. The tradition has been going on for 11 years now, and there are prizes for the best displays. This year, the Rio de Janeiro Carnival is the theme of the Chelsea in Bloom floral displays. I have taken photos of most of the displays for this year, and these can be seen below.


I started off in Sloane Square, where the middle of the square has been transformed into a brightly-coloured area. The tree trunks had been yarn-bombed and were covered with colourful knitting, and bunting cornered off a section of the square to make room for seating and a pop-up gin bar. Rickshaws were also covered in flowers, and visitors could take a rickshaw ride around the Chelsea in Bloom display or follow a trail on the website on foot. 



My first stop was to the Chelsea Flower Show so that I could purchase a guide to prepare me for my visit. The area was packed with people, and special buses have been put on to go to the flower show.



There is also a Rolling Stones exhibition taking place at the moment at Saatchi Gallery, so York Square has become home to a few sculptures of lips.


Link's of London won second place for the people's choice. I love the colourful Union Jack flags, which are made with traditional British flowers, and the colours keep with the carnival theme.


My personal favourite display was the beauty company Liz Earle shop in York Square, which has been turned into a merry-go-round with beautiful pink and purple flowers and merry-go-round horses created from moss. The shop front has been replaced with 'Carivearle' in turquoise and white stripes, which compliment the flowers. It won the People's Choice Award, and it is inspired by the British seaside Isle of Wight, where the Liz Earle company was established.


York Square also became home to a colourful parrot to advertise Chelsea in Bloom. It was especially popular with a group of tourists.


Dubarry of Ireland won bronze with their cart of flowers and boots. I do love the purple-blue colour.


The White Company used a baby elephant to promote its line of child clothing, and the elephant is made using tropical plants. It is a unique and eye-catching piece and won Silver.


Sarah Chapman, a skincare company, features a mask wearing a headdress and beautful arrangements of flowers in unique shapes that draw the viewer in. It won an Innovation award.


Moyses Stevens won silver with a green archway that has been designed to look like a headdress.



Smythson is a stationary company, and they won Gold with their display of purple orchids and (what looks like) orange tiger lillies.


Near by, Hackett won silver with their eye-catching orange and red display.


Rag and Bone (a restaurant on Sloane Square) won Silver with their green fern archway.



Last, but not least, are two window displays that I captured. My favourite piece for colour is the second image below, which is in the shop of Tom Davies Opticians near Sloane Square. This won Gold. I absolutely love the colours. It seems that bright multiple colours are in fashion right now (and have been since earlier this year). I love this combination of colour and think it works perfectly.


Have you been to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show or seen any of the shop fronts in Chelsea in Bloom? What is your favourite?

Photo of the Day: London Icon

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Today's photograph of the day is a photograph that I took a couple of years ago of Big Ben from the South Bank. The South Bank is one of my favourite places to walk. When I lived outside of London and came into Waterloo Station, I would walk to Borough Market and Tower Bridge along the South Bank. It's a pleasant walk. The weather this May has been all over the place, but we have had a few warm days. These are the best days to walk along the South Bank, catching street performers and avoiding tourists who have decided to visit the London Eye. (Remember when it was previously called the Millennium Wheel?)


The South Bank walk has many of my favourite views of London, and I am particularly fond of the view of Big Ben from South Bank (near Hungerford Bridge) and Waterloo station. Perhaps this is what the Kinks were thinking about when they sang "Waterloo Sunset"?

Italian street artist (originally covered here) recently painted the high profile wall at the corner of Brick Lane and Pedley Street. The artist is inspired by modern art, such as Picasso and the cubism style. Bright colours are often used with the shapes of faces and other body parts, and the work signifies relationships between people. I always enjoy seeing the artist's work as he is a regular street artist in London.


Unfortunately, part of the wall had been tagged over before I was able to get a photograph of the finished piece. This wall never lasts long before it is tagged over, and it's seen some brilliant pieces. Just before this piece, Jim Vision painted on the wall, but I was not even able to get a photograph of it before it was replaced.



It's been a little while since I've seen new street art by Mobstr in east London. Mobstr is an anonymous street artist from Newcastle who often enhances billboards and walls with a phrase or a word to sum up a statement or to make a point. I originally covered some of the artist's work here in early 2014. That same year, he hosted an exhibition. The most recent addition of Mobstr's work to the streets of London is a mirror with a quotation and a sign that appeared on Pedley Street off Brick Lane, and it hangs from a lamp post.


The sign is formed up of red letters that read "He left me hanging when I was alone and high". I visited the artwork very early in the morning, so the sun was just in the wrong direction to get a better photograph of the piece.


The piece, like the words it expresses, is alone and high and has been left. Or, could it have a different meaning about this little nook off of Brick Lane? 


The other piece is a mirror that reads "Yeah that's you, you c***". This one encouraged people to take their photograph with it.

This is just one example that when looking for street art, always look up and always look down.

An Afternoon in Rye (England)

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A couple of years ago at about this time of the year, the bloke and I visited Rye in southern England. Rye is a town popular with tourists and has many gift shops, souvenir shops, pubs, hotels, and tea rooms. The town has a rich history. It is located on the coast and The Mermaid Inn and The Olde Bell Inn were both used by smugglers. Many of the buildings date to the middle ages, and The Mermaid Inn dates to the mid-1100s. I enjoyed wandering around this town and getting photographs. It is a picturesque town with some beautiful buildings, but I regret that we could not spend a little longer here. I would have loved to have had a drink in one of the old pubs.



Much of the town is built on the hill. At the bottom of the hill is the dock area. 

The Old Bell pub

Bell at The Old Bell


Beautiful carved detail on side of building





Many of the names of houses or streets refer to the sea or trading/smugglers. Trader's Passage is one place, and Watch Bell lane and Mermaid Street are others. Many buildings have their build date inscribed. "The House with the Seat" was another name for one of the houses here.

Trader's Passage and Oak Corner


The Mermaid Inn

The Mermaid Inn



Thomas House

We found ourselves at St. Mary's Church, which is one of the oldest buildings in the town. We had a peek inside before a wedding was due to take place.











We also had a visit to the castle, known as Ypres Tower.


At the end of our visit, it was time for a cup of tea and cake. We stopped off at Apothecary coffee shop on the way back to the car. It's a charming little shop on the corner of the High Street, and it's the perfect place to watch people. They have a large selection of cakes. I also loved the interior, which is made with old books, old card catalog cabinets and other chemistry or biology-related trinkets.


All cakes were presented in wonderful cake domes. It was a hard decision for me to decide which flavour of cake to have as they all looked delicious.


At the end, I had a bite to eat for lunch and this was followed by chocolate cake and tea, which was tasty.


Have you ever been to Rye? I recommend visiting it.

A Visit to Rye Castle (Ypres Tower)

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Rye Castle is also known as Ypres Tower, and it was built sometime in the 14th century. It was constructed at the same time as the old city wall and its purpose was to keep out the French who would raid the coast. It was also used as a prison, and this became a primary use of the building later on. A separate tower was also used for women prisoners. In the 1800s, it was used as a soup kitchen for the poor and as a mortuary. It was used as a mortuary until the end of the 1950s. Today, it is a museum and one of the oldest buildings in Rye.


The women's tower has information about women prisoners and the conditions. Outside this tower and in the grounds of the castle is a medieval herb garden.


One of the exhibitions is located in a cell where murderer John Breads was kept. He was a butcher who was cheating people because he was deliberately using false weights to measure meat. He had a grudge against the judge and attempted to murder him later on. He wanted revenge and ended up mistakenly murdering the wrong man, so he was imprisoned in the tower before he was hanged. His body was put into a gibbet and displayed. A replica of this gibbet and a skeleton is on display in the cell. (The original gibbet and the remaining skull are in the town hall.)


From the tower, there are views over the countryside. The tower is on one edge of the city and on a hill, so there are views from the top.


The Rye coat of arms is located in many places in the city.


Have you visited Rye Castle / Ypres Tower?

This month, the So Susan Lip Love subscription comes in a bag that contains a quotation by Audrey Hepburn - "The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters." It is decorated with many miniature Russian dolls. Keep reading below to see what I received in the May 2016 edition of the So Susan Lip Love bag.


The contents of the bag are pictured below.


Light Pulse by Jelly Pong Pong: This is a lightening crayon that helps achieve the 'glow'. This can be used to highlight the cheekbones, nose, above the eyes, and anywhere else to blend to create a glow. I've tried this out, and it does give a subtle highlight or glow to where it has been applied.

So Susan Angled Eyeshadow Brush: I've received eyeshadow in previous bags, so I'm happy to receive a brush to apply it in this bag. I'm always on the look-out for more good brushes, and the angle on this one helps me to add the colour to my eye lids without too much effort or mistakes.


Trifle Cosmetics 'Creamsicle' in 'Gelato': 'Creamsicle' is the name of the liquid brush product, and the colour is 'Gelato'. It's an orange-pink colour, and it is creamy but leaves a subtle colour. 


So Susan Cashmere Blush: We received another blush product this month in the light pink powder shade, which is a nice colour that should compliement most people.

Reflect London @ Covent Garden

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A new art installation has been launched at Covent Garden this spring. The installation covers the façade of Covent Garden market with 32,000 square feet of mirrors. The mirrors are also functional in that they hide the building work currently taking place at the market, which will enable a new restaurant (SUSHISAMBA) opening up here. I am happy that they have opted for reflecting mirrors instead of covering the building in ugly scaffolding.


The installation, known as 'Reflect London', is brought to us by design agency Sculptivate and will be in place for eight months. Previously, Covent Garden hosted other popular art installations. Last summer, 'Heartbeat', a large cluster of balloons, was installed inside the market by Charles Pétillon. The summer before, we saw a floating building by Alex Chinnock





The installation is worth a visit and the perfect place to get photographs by using the mirrors to capture reflections and interesting profile pictures or selfies.

We've been going to the theatre quite a bit due to my partner's company giving out free tickets. The previous week, we went to see "Jersey Boys" (our second visit to that play having been several years ago now). This week, we received tickets to "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". Before the show, we ended up going into the newest branch of the restaurant chain Bodean's, which is located on Catherine Street in Covent Garden.


Bodean's has been a popular London restaurant for several years now. I've previously only been to the branch in Tower Hill (twice), but there's other locations throughout the city serving up American-inspired food such as pulled pork, burgers, cornbread, and barbequed food. Soho was the first branch, and it opened 15 years ago.


The Covent Garden branch of Bodean's is inspired particularly by Kansas City barbeque, and the team made a visit to Kansas City in January to try some of the best barbeques before bringing them to its newest restaurant.

The bloke had a burger, and I had the barbeque chicken. Both mains came with chips, and I received cornbread in substitution for coleslaw. (I dislike mayonnaise and hence dislike coleslaw.) We received excellent service here, and it's rare to get such great service in London. So, we will return.


After we ate, we walked around the block to Drury Lane where Aldwych Theatre is located in order to see "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". I actually had not heard of the play before, but it has been showing in London since last February. The play is about the life of Carole King as a song-writer and later as a singer. It was very good, and I encourage you to see it. I am sure that you know some of the songs she wrote or performed herself. Many of them were sang by The Shirelles, The Monkees, Bobby Vee, Little Eva, The Drifters, and others. 

UK 2016 Birchbox Reviews: April

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April's UK Birchbox (Bloomin' Marvelous) was a collaboration with Rifle Paper Company, and subscribers could choose which box design that they wanted from a choice of two designs: the herb garden design or the floral garden design. I choose the herb garden design. For those who do not know, Birchbox is a monthly beauty and skincare subscription box, and each subscriber receives around five sample (or sometimes full-size) products in each box.


This month, a product from cosmetics company Benefit was promised with each box. I received the following items in my box:

So Susan Lip Dome in 'blackcurrant' - Two shades were up for grabs this month, and I received the darker shade called 'blackcurrant'. The product is not clumpy and it leaves a tint of the colour on the lips.

Balance Me Tinted Wonder Eye Cream (x2): Okay, I've previously received this same product in one of the first Birchboxes that I had received, and I don't use this type of product. Also, I never noticed any difference when using it (or not using it). Others received the Cynthia Rowley eye liner pencil, and I loved this product and would not have minded a repeat of it.

Parlor Detangling leave-in conditioner: I've also previously used this product before and think I must have received a sample size in a previous box. The product seemed to do as it claimed and smelled pleasant.


Benefit 'Dew the Hoola' bronzing powder: I received the bronzer, and it's not a product that I've tried before. I was really impressed with this bronzing liquid. It bronzed and highlighted my skin tone slightly. I would purchase this.

Kueshi Foot Care Cream: As a reminder that summer will be with us soon, it appears that every subscriber received this foot cream in order to give their feet a little after-winter TLC. This product does not have the best scent. I don't tend to use foot creams, but I did use this product but did not have a sudden change to start using foot creams regularly.

What did you think of April's Birchbox?

Last weekend, the annual Ruislip Woods and Ruislip Lido Railway open day festival took place. We had amazing weather, and Ruislip Lido beach attracted many people, which resulted in traffic and parking problems in the area. This was our first visit to Ruislip Lido since we moved into the area in October last year. Ruislip Lido has a sandy beach, woodland centre, cafes, pub, and Ruislip Lido Railway.


Each year in early May is the Ruislip Woods festival. This brings many attractions and a festival to the banks of the lake at Ruislip Lido. Attractions include many stands for organisations and clubs in the area (including walks and charities), ferret racing, bird of prey shows, ducks and other animals, Morris dancers, an outdoor cinema showing historical videos of the local community, and the Ruislip Lido Railway open day.


First, we checked out the lake Ruislip Lido. We could see the beach from the other side and noticed how busy it was.


We had a wander around the green area where the festival was taking place and had a look in the pub The Water's Edge, which is a carvery. We ended up getting a bite to eat here before leaving, and it was packed because children can eat for free. 


We made our way to the small train station Willow Lawn. We were in time to take a ride on the only steam engine that the railway owns, known as 'Mad Bess' after a local woodland area. The other trains that they own are diesel trains. We had a drink in the Turntable Tea Rooms while we waited for the train, but we were the first in the queue and it was not too busy.


We got a few photographs of 'Mad Bess' steam engine as she turned around on the turntable to get into the position to take us back the other way.



Finally, we were off. We were sat in the first carriage and enjoyed woodland views as we wound our way around the lake.







Eventually, we arrived at Woody Bay station, the main station where the beach is located and where we could see the trains and train workshop for the Ruislip Lido Railway open day.



We could sit in the trains, and the controls were explained.


And we could blow the whistle and see the working steam engine.



We also had a walk around the workshop.



After we had seen enough trains, we walked back around the lake. The beach was so busy. It was too busy.






At some point, we will visit Ruislip Lido again and hopefully be able to take advantage of the beach if it's not too busy. It was the warmest day by far last Sunday, and so many people were out at the lake to take advantage of it. Have you made a visit to Ruislip Lido?

I've been wanting to try 'The Lemon Tree' for a couple of years now. The small pub is near the Strand on the north side (near Charing Cross) and a stone's throw from Covent Garden. The pub (known as 'The Lemon Tree' has a Thai restaurant inside, and this restaurant is located upstairs in a tiny room above the pub. I had the excuse to go recently as the bloke had two free tickets to see "Jersey Boys" at Piccadilly Theatre.


First up, the restaurant. We were lucky to get a seat in the small room upstairs. We actually both got out of work at a decent time, and it was not long before a family of tourists 'camped' out in the room. They were using is as a rest-stop but did not order any food, which we thought was a little rude in case there were others who wished to dine.

Drinks for the meal could be ordered from the pub, but the waiting staff take orders for the food. The pub downstairs pours a good pint, and my pint of soft fizzy drink was good; many pubs water it down too much. We ordered starters and main meals. I had the vegetarian spring rolls, and the bloke had fish cakes. For mains, we both had the same stir fry dish except I ordered chicken and the bloke ordered beef. The food was good, and I would visit again.


After the meal, we did wander around Covent Garden and went to Whole Foods. Okay, I may have had a snack of a pizza slice at Whole Foods. The pizza slice, cooked in the little bakery there, was absolutely delicious.

Now, on to the play. We had both previously seen "Jersey Boys" when it was at Prince Edward Theatre near Tottenham Court Road, but this was several years ago now. We've since seen the film. On our second visit, we were equally impressed with the play even though we'd been before, and we got amazing seats in the stalls and were only about 7 rows back and in the middle.

"Jersey Boys" is a play based on the true story of the members of the 1960s band "Franki Valli and the Four Seasons", and they have quite a few songs that I enjoy. I've always enjoyed the music from the band, but it seems 'cool' today to admit that you like it than it did when I was growing up.

Have you seen "Jersey Boys"? What did you think?

So Susan is a cruelty-free beauty brand who have been on the beauty subscription box service for their product (LipLove) for a short while now. I signed up at the end of last month and received a second subscription bag from a previous month with my first order. I received January 2016's bag, so I will be reviewing both of those here. My first impressions on the products are good, although they are more expensive than many of the traditional beauty subscription boxes (such as Birchbox and Glossybox) on offer. 


Above is the contents of the March 2016 box that I received. From what I can gather, all products are the same for each subscriber. I'm not how good that is for different complexions and colours, but perhaps the colours of the products are trialled to fit more of a global fit for all subscribers.


Lip Parfait in 'Exotic Fruits' by Trifle Cosmetics was the first product, and i was drawn to the cute fruit illustrations on the tube. It's a pale shade and has a creamy texture, but I was not wowed away by the colour.


The Muse Palette by So Susan is a trio of universal eye shadows (in tan and medium brown shades and a metallic brown shade). I was really excited about receiving this product, but the little plastic case that it comes in is cheaply-made and I struggled to open it and ended up sticking my finger in the product as I pried it open. 


So Susan Powder Primer promises to minimise the appearance of pores, protect the skin with its sub-block formula, and moisturise the skin without clogging pores. 


Jelly Pong's Malibu Melt is a blusher and lip colour in stick form, making it easy to blend on cheeks and apply to lips. The product has a gorgeous fruity smell, and it's a nice earthy orange shade.

Next up is the contents of the January 2016 subscription box, which I received as the extra box as a bonus.


The first product to review is All Over Glow by Jelly Pong Pong. I've previously tried this product in another subscription box and still own the product, so this is just extra for me. It's best described as a shimmery highlighter to add a subtle glow to the skin.


So Susan Liquid Powder Shadow Palette in 'Sumptuous Smoke' is an eyeshadow palette with eight earth tones. I was excited to receive this product will easy-to-wear shades.


The So Susan Jello Shot Cheek & Lip Tint comes in an attractive and bright red-orange little tube that reminds me of the colour of Jello. I love the packaging for this. When applied, the colour is not as red-orange as it appears. It's a perfect multi-purpose product.


Really appealing and cute with a pug dog on the packaging, the Lip Parfait in 'Guilty Pug' by Trifle Cosmetics was one of the first products to catch my eye. The lipstick is a dark brownish-orange colour, and I've never owned a lipstick this colour before. It is also a creamy consistency, and I've enjoyed using it.


I will be receiving the next two months of the 'So Susan' beauty subscription, so stop by later this month for my review of May's. 

Earlier this week, Krispy Kreme and Nutella combined forces with a clever marketing campaign to alert fans who had signed up to its newsletter about its new range of doughnut filled with Nutella. The marketing campaign came in the form of a 'recalled' email message from Krispy Kreme's marketing director with a typical 'confidential and for internal use only' company clause. At first, I believed that it was a genuine mistake and someone did unintentionally email the wrong list and recalled the email. But, it was part of the marketing plan.


On Monay, the Krispy Kreme shop outside of Holborn station in London became a vending machine. (Okay, so it's a human-operated vending machine as there is a human behind the window stocking them.) The hashtag #HoleInTheWall was used. 

The machine simply takes a contactless card and charges two pounds. In return of successful payment, the screen lifts to reveal a doughnut in a small box placed on a red cushion. This can then be taken away and consumed.

I was at Holborn station yesterday evening, so I went to check it out. The Nutella doughnut was delicious, and it was fresh.

The Krispy Kreme Nutella doughnut vending machine is a pop-up that is only available at the Holborn branch (whilst the remainder of the store is under re-development). It is open from 8:00am to 8:00pm, and it is open until 21st May. Doughnuts cost two pounds each and only a contactless card is accepted. The proceeds go to Teenage Cancer Trust.

London Pubs - Who Drinks Where

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If you have ever wondered which pubs are more popular with certain types of people, then the map and comments on the following website should be of help: In each place that I have worked, we always have a couple of pubs that are frequented by staff of that company.


When I worked on Brick Lane, the frequented pubs included:

The Carpenter's Arms: A small pub with a tiny garden at the back. The Kray Twins, notorious gangsters of the 1970s, hung out here.

The Pride of Spitalfields: A small traditional pub with a local clientele and seems to be a favourite of locals. It's the type of place where a lot of people know everyone else. We had drink evenings here and could stand on the corner and drink. (,-0.0730122,17z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xd8771d658c29baed)

The Waterpoet: A stone's throw from Spitalfields market, it is a larger pub which is always busy but has a large courtyard area inside it. It's also restaurant with sit-down tables and it's always busy. (,-0.0782264,17z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xaf06273feb7af850)

The Well & Bucket: Located on Bethnal Green Road, this is a more trendy pub with a small selection of trendy food presented in a trendy manner. It's a place where you can see hipsters. It was visited a few times but not a firm favourite. (,-0.0746537,17z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xb0f0da2641965c56)

When I worked on Dowgate Hill, near Cannon Street, there were a lack of pubs and all restaurants and pubs were always so busy; the pubs frequented included:

The Banker: A pub that is always busy with city workers. It's located along the Thames and there's a footpath down to the river here. A lot of people always went here. (,-0.0930827,17z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xd479645de658527a)

The Loose Cannon: A large pub frequented with city workers. (,-0.0930827,17z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xef29250689b51a3c)

The Green Man: A Wetherspoons. It's a huge place but always busy, although you're more likely to get a table here than in another place. (,-0.0923478,18z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x92aa3777d4ca5378)

When I worked in Holborn (for a couple of months), the pubs included:

The Old Nick: A larger pub which we often stood outside and drinked at. A lot of staff from our office were always here. (,-0.1182191,18z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xa2b2338803f09eb1)

When I worked in Great Portland Street, finding a decent pub was difficult and everything is always busy; the pubs included:

The Green Man: We frequented this traditional pub at lunch for drinks and good food. (,-0.1290779,18z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xa2b2338803f09eb1)

A notable mention is the Fitzroy Tavern (,-0.1182191,18z/data=!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x48761cb640ab7f25:0xe1078eb9c803248e!2sBrick+Ln,+London!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xa2b2338803f09eb1). This pub has a monthly meet for Doctor Who fans and writers. (I used to date one of the writers, and I've been here a few times during the monthly meet in the summer of 2000 and chatted with some of the well-known writers from film and television, who also diversed into writing other programmes such as the new 'Sherlock Holmes'.)

Which pubs do you like to frequent?

London-based luxury biscuit (cookie) company Biscuiteers are currently selling iced biscuits to celebrate the royal birthday. Queen Elizabeth II was born on April 21, 1926, and this is her 90th year. Biscuiteers launched the royal-inspired biscuits in a celebratory tin box. I've been working so hard that I decided to treat myself to these. I've been wanting to try Biscuiteers' biscuits for awhile now. They look so good; they look too good to eat really. (I've since had some of them, and they are as good as they look.)


The biscuits are all iced by hand and came in the following shapes: royal guards (x2), Royal 90th birthday cake, royal carriage, royal crowns (x2), Buckingham Palace, handbag, hat, corgi (x2), royal coat of arms, royal carriage, small Union Jack flags (x4).








In addition to the above biscuits, six cupcakes were also on offer. The cupcakes are vanilla flavour and decorated with Union Jack flags. They remind me of the cupcakes I had made for my wedding. 


Biscuiteers often do discounts and have a loyalty scheme. There's always a discount for the first order, and they also had a special discount for the queen's birthday.

Earlier last month, the bloke's parents came for a visit to see the new house. Well, we had some sad news on Easter day as the bloke's grandfather died, so his parents (who live far away) came to visit at the same time as the funeral. We went to the funeral on the south coast and then drove back up to London. We gave them the grand tour and then went out for a meal at The Coy Carp in Harefield (Middlesex), a nice pub that was recommended to me by a friend who used to work in this area. The bloke and I had previously been on a work night to try it out, and despite slow service, we enjoyed it.


The Coy Carp is a pub near Harefield in Middlesex. It's approximately a twenty-minute drive from us in Ruislip. The pub sits in between the canal and a pond/river, and it's a huge building with river views and outdoor seating. Because it's between the lake/river/canals, we passed a couple of brave ducks on our way out of the pub. These ducks were wandering around the outdoor seating, and I expect that they get a lot of attention and food from visitors.


I love tomato soup, so I ordered that to start. However, it was a different 'take' on the traditional tomato soup, and I did not enjoy it much. The waitress described it as 'sweet tomato soup', but when we asked her what that meant, she could not describe it. So, we all assumed it was just a fancy way of saying 'tomato soup'. Instead of puree, it was more watery. It tasted slightly spicey, or I could see where someone would say it is spicey and not sweet. It was a disappointment.



Then, we had the mains. The bloke had steak, and I had roast chicken. I could not fault the main. It was very tasty.



We also opted for desserts, and these included treacle with ice cream (which I had on my previous visit and was good), ice creams, and I had the chocolate brownie.



The Coy Carp is from the Vintage Inns chain and serves traditional British food with a modern twist, and the food is of good quality. Despite the service being a little slow and servicing staff hiding from the restaurant floor, we had a good visit and would return. I suggest the servicing staff receive more experience and managers encourage social skills.

Inflated Deflated sell balloons with wording drawn or printed on them. The quotes are heartfelt messages/feelings or humorous sayings. When the balloons are inflated, the words can be read, and they take on a different meaning when deflated. The creators of this include three people from Chicago, Illinois (Jillian, Kady, and Lauren). They also have a shop selling their balloons. Quotes include: "I need something new", "I'm not like them", "I stopped caring a long time ago", "Mother raised a fighter" and "I stopped caring a long time ago".


For more information, visit their official website at:

Leake Street tunnels underneath Waterloo train station's railway is a designated street art area in London, and it's always busy with street artists. Earlier this year, it also houses immersive theatre and games. The work here constantly changes, and it does not last long. Earlier this year, I was in the area and stopped by to see the new work. Of course, I took a lot of photographs, but I will only be displaying a tiny selection of work.


First up is a portrait of a woman wearing a mask. This is Zabou, a street artist who has been very busy in London earlier this year. (To see more of her work, read my post Recent Street Art by Zabou.)


The photographs do not do it justice, but this is a very large scale piece filling the ceiling of the tunnel. The above photograph is looking from the other end.


Next up, we have a nice portrait by Elno. 



Hannah Adamszek is the next artist to feature with an equally large portrait of a woman. (I snapped her painting of a peacock collaboration with Zimmermann last summer.)



Cityzen Kane's work features next, and his work has been increasing in scale recenty. This time, his bugs are colourful and crawling along the top of the tunnel. He also pasted up more sculptures on Sclater Street earlier in the year. Again, my photographs do not do this justice as the work is huge.


Last up, HNRX painted their massive piece on the ceiling. They painted in several areas throughout London toward the end of last year, and I covered their work here. Next weekend, Femme Fierce will complete their annual paint jam in the Leake Street tunnels. Femme Fierce is comprised of all-girl street artists, and it's a large event in the street art calendar each year.

Urchfont Scarecrow Festival

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On Saturday, I went to Urchfont in Wiltshire to see the Scarecrow Festival. The Scarecrow Festival is held each year on the first May Day Bank Holiday weekend. Each year, there is a themed scarecrow trail. This year's theme was historical people. Previous years seemed to focus on celebrities or films. When walking around the trail, you are meant to get a trail map and guide and write down the number of the scarecrow and the name of the person against a clue. It took us nearly three hours to get around to see all fifty-seven scarecrows, but the trail was well-planned and food and drink was available along the trail.


I will not give away who the scarecrows are meant to represent in my photographs, but many of these were very well done with the clothing matching the time period, and the scarecrows (in some cases) did look like who they were trying to represent. Some of the scarecrows had subtle clues around them too. We were confident that we got two-thirds of the answers correct and matched up all of the numbers, though I suspect we had a couple in the wrong order. Although severed scarecrow heads seemed to feature a lot in some of them. Sometimes it was difficult to remember the name of the person too, and some of them were very obscure. (I did well on some of the history but I am clueless about any of the sport-related ones.)











Have you ever been to Urchfont Scarecrow Festival?

I discovered some new street monsters paste-ups from street artist Bortusk Leer a couple of weeks ago. The last time that I saw the artist's work in east London was in the summer of 2014 when he pasted up a lot of work around Blackall Street. I previously covered the artist's work in 2013 here, and he returned later in 2013 to paste up new pieces that same year. This time, the majority of his work featured on Brick Lane. This may be due to his work being shown in Brick Lane Gallery or because Blackall Street is being torn up, and I'm not sure what will happen to this area once the new buildings have been constructed.


Bortusk Leer's work consists of comical and colourful monster creatures. In his most recent edition, some of the monsters hold signs with messages to the viewer. In addition to pasting them on Brick Lane, other paste-ups were located around Shoreditch as well.


Blackall Street did contain some monsters, including a ruder one. 


Have you seen the artist's work recently? I've photographed as many pieces as I could find. For more information about the artist and to see more of his work, visit his official website at


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