Ring a Ring o’ Roses

Hey chicas! It has been a long time since I’ve blogged.  Since starting work full-time it has not been easy to keep up, especially as when I’m on my few days off I’m always ticking off things to do on my long list of chores, and I just never get around to writing a blog post.  I have so many ideas in the pipeline for my next few blog posts, including lovely things I’ve bought in the last few months, but for now I’d like to share this little gem that I’ve been wearing every day for the last month.

Some weeks ago I was staying in Angel for my hubby’s cousin’s wedding (and that was a blast!) and discovered a part of London I now really, really like.  As per usual I was on the lookout for new retail experiences, and Angel had lots to offer, not being the typical high street that we all know.   On the morning of the wedding, we took a left from our hotel for a leisurely stroll and came upon a wonderful treasure trove of a shop.

After Noah is a real curiosity.  It is equal parts retro toy shop, gift shop and vintage furniture seller, and manages to marry all these elements together successfully.  On entering one notices how much stuff there is in the shop, but unlike other antique shops I’ve been to, where I’ve struggled to focus on any one thing for all the clutter there is, the product collections here are beautifully curated and fascinating to look at.

There were so many things to covet.  There is a fantastic range of vintage and contemporary furniture, and I had my eye on this super-duper couch, which looks so cool yet comfortable!

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Whilst browsing the toy shop, I came across this cute origami fox lamp, intended as a night light for kids.  Who is to stop me from getting one though?

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I got my sister this dinky little walrus toy, which I knew would make her laugh.

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Whilst down in the basement, which was chock full of yet more cool furniture, I tried on an exquisite bowler hat for fun!  I actually think this could be a look for me, though you may disagree…

Bowler hat

Last but not least, After Noah sell a lovely range of jewellery, and being the magpie that I am, I could not resist this beautiful sterling silver ring with its rose of rose-gold.  I’m in love with delicate banded rings at the moment, especially those with a hammered effect, and this one with its faceted band fits the brief.  It is great on its own or stacked with other slim bands.  I’ve worn it every day since I got it.

Rose gold ring

 

The New Orleans Crescent Meter Box

You will realise the appeal of a lowly water meter cover when you visit New Orleans.  Yes, it is just a water cover at the end of the day, but this beautiful lid is unlike any other water cover.  Adorned with the crescent moon and a burst of stars, it has become a historical and cultural symbol of New Orleans.

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The crescent meter cover was made by the Ford Meter Box Company, hailing from Wabash, Indiana.  Edwin Ford filed a patent application for the Ford Meter Box in 1898, a method of preventing customers from wasting water in Hartford City, Indiana.  The meter box is essentially a pit containing the water meter, outside the house, and is covered with a metal lid.  Ford gradually began supplying meters for other cities, including New Orleans, and after visiting the Crescent City, came up with the famous crescent moon and stars design for the lid covering the meter in 1921.

Traditionally found covering water box meters in the ground throughout New Orleans, the Crescent Meter Cover gradually became rarer as they were coveted and then stolen by many people.  Over time, due to the extensive and notorious theft of these beautiful lids, the New Orleans Water Board replaced these covers with plain ones, so that now it is quite a feat to find any of the original covers within the city.

Today the design is used in other forms – in jewellery, art and ceramics.  I was very much taken with this unique design and bought this design in various souvenir types.

This cute sterling silver ring from Sterling Silvia is just so cool and unique.

This lovely ceramic clock from Derby Pottery will be great for the kitchen or the bathroom due to its deep aqua tones and watery associations!DSC_0018

We got two trivets – one for my dad from Sterling Silvia on French Market and one for my brother-in-law from the Roux Royale shop.  They have a hook in the back so can be hung on the wall, as well as being used for hot things in the kitchen.

I was fortunate enough to find and photograph these water covers in situ – the photo at the start of this post as well as this one near the Lafayette Cemetery.

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My trip to the Crescent City – Part 2

New Orleans is heaven for foodies.  The cuisine is a melting pot of French, Spanish, African, Creole and Cajun influences so there’s plenty of spice and richness.  So what better way to experience traditional cuisine than to embark on a food tour?

We booked our food tour with Destination Kitchen and opted for the 6-hour walking tour, the NOLA Foodie for “A” Day.  With our lovely friends from Atlanta, who came to see us specially, our guide Mary Eshenour led us through the sights of the historic French Quarter, providing an educational and culinary commentary.  Along the way we stopped off at various points for little bites to eat.  Some of my faves include eating a delicious Italian sandwich called a ‘muffuletta’ in the French Market, and settling down to a bowl of home-cooked gumbo at the New Orleans School of Cooking as well as enjoying the delights of a refreshing Pimm’s cup.

We dined at some remarkable places in between, such as Restaurant R’evolution, Cafe Amelie for its fantastic ambience, and Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar for spicy oysters.

The legendary French Quarter is worth a big mention for its historic architecture, party atmosphere and jazz bars.   Swamped with vibrant local art and talented street musicians, its not uncommon to pick up the party buzz with a cocktail in your hand as you walk the streets, bar-hopping and browsing eclectic boutiques.  There’s the French Market for scrummy eats and bric-a-brac souvenirs, and the neighbouring Cafe du Monde for sugary beignets.

We headed to the infamous Bourbon Street within the French Quarter.  Love it or hate it, you can’t miss the 24/7 party here, with its bars, neon lights and sleaze.  We enjoyed a snack of breaded shrimp and fries with a tasty cocktail at the Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon Street.

You can’t visit New Orleans without heading to a jazz bar.   Frenchmen Street is where its at, musically, and so we got our fill at Rare Form.   When we got hungry and headed to Dat Dog for hot dogs Jazz in Frenchmen Street, we were treated to a real blast of a brass street band, who literally blew us away with their bravado and force.

Our final stopping point of the trip was a visit to the famous New Orleans Cemeteries, distinguished by their above-ground crypts and mausoleums (to solve the problems of burial on swampy land).

 

My trip to the Crescent City – Part 1

Last month I took a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana.  My husband was privileged to be speaking at one of the biggest cancer conferences in the world, the American Association for Cancer Research, hosted in New Orleans this year, and I tagged along for the ride.  This was our first trip away together since we got married and so it was a special one for us.

Whilst 20,000 conference delegates from around the world descended on New Orleans, I vacationed it up, enjoying the long walks, the historic architecture, the scrumptious food and cocktails, the quirky shops, the music and the bonhomie of NOLA’s lovely residents.   If cities were soulmates, then New Orleans would be mine without a doubt.  This city is so vibrant, beautiful and sultry, with a rich history and cultural tradition, and despite the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina it has managed to pick itself up and march on ahead.  The positivity and generosity of the place was so infectious that I came away happier. Truly!

After a 10-hour flight, with a quick stop off in Atlanta, we were exhausted but happy to be checked in to the Marriott Hotel on Canal Street, bordering the famous (and infamous!) French Quarter.  The long day of travelling (and some cocktails! I was on holiday after all!) took its toll on me, and all I was craving a comfy bed and a cup of tea!

The first few days we were so jetlagged (New Orleans is 6 hours behind London during Daylight Saving Time) so after a non-existent night’s sleep, we headed out to the super-popular Ruby Slipper Café at 200 Magazine Street for a good breakfast pick-me-up.  And it did just that! They do great Eggs Benedict in various configurations so I got the one with beef plus a delicious Bloody Mary.  Head there early as it is only open for breakfast and brunch.

The other great NOLA go-to for breakfast and brunch is Daisy Dukes on 121 Chartres Street,  a guilty pleasure of mine.  On one early morning (6.30 am to be precise!), we headed out to this 24/7 café, where I shamelessly took full advantage of the unlimited refills of Bloody Mary cocktails.  By 7.30 am I was on my third cocktail and they even gave me a cup ‘to go’! Nowhere else in the world could this happen, but it felt so right here!  The omelettes were heaven, too.

Aside from scrummy brunches and Bloody Mary cocktails, we visited the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.  This wonderful museum, housed in the old US Customs Building, has a great collection of live and preserved specimens of a variety of insects.  My favourite bit was the walk through the humid Butterfly Gardens, where tropical butterflies flitter from leaf to leaf and butterflies can be seen hatching from pupae.

When my husband was at conference I took the opportunity to take a long, long walk down Magazine Street, the location of many wonderful independent boutiques, art shops and antiques shops.  It is a shopper’s heaven.  Vintage clothing is really big here, and there were so many boutiques selling exquisite vintage designer pieces as well as retro-inspired clothing.   If I could, I would have bought the contents of the shops Century Girl Vintage and Trashy Diva combined!  Grandmother’s Buttons also caught my eye – I really coveted their beautiful antique button necklaces.

There were also lots of lovely gift shops, including the treasure trove of Sterling Silvia, a magpie’s haven for sterling silver jewellery and Peony New Orleans, for beautiful gifts and soft, floaty clothing.   There are lots of art and antique shops on Magazine Street, selling local artists’ works.  Derby Pottery & Tile make beautiful New Orleans-inspired pieces in aqua colours, such as the Water Meter Clocks.

For music lovers, there’s the epic Peaches Records, where the shop assistants were ever so friendly and even offered me a free root beer to drink whilst I browsed at leisure.  It was perhaps one of my favourite moments of the whole trip – the warm buzz of root beer, riffling through a vast record collection, and good cheer.

This good atmosphere extended to the whole of Magazine Street, where every shopkeeper exuded warmth and took the time to chat to me for ages, without once pushing me to buy anything.  Of course, it worked because I bought a hell of a lot that day!

Magazine street is very long, as I think I’ve emphasized already, about six miles in total, and interspersed between the stretches of shops are residential streets, of unique wooden-panelled French-influenced architecture and bright colours.

I’m going to take a breather here – I have so much more to tell you about the fantastic French Quarter, including a NOLA food tour and the jazz clubs of Frenchmen Street in my next post, plus the big shopping haul from my Magazine Street trip!

 

Designspiration (Take 2)

I’ve been away from this blog for quite a while now – things have been so busy what with me being away in New Orleans for a week! I’m planning a blog post on my trip to the Crescent City – I’ve taken lots of photos, done a ton of shopping and eaten my weight in food so I hope to have something up soon about this wonderful place!

In the meantime, I leave you with some more designspiration!

This miscellany of pics covers some fantastic window displays from the High Street.  Note the luscious tropical foliage of John Lewis, the kooky vintage frames of TM Lewin and the spring blues of Whittard – although many of you in the UK will, like me, be asking the very question ‘What is this ‘Spring’ they talk of?’ whilst you’re pelted with wintery showers!

An MOT garage is the most unlikely place to gather inspiration and yet I did, from AutoKare in Cambridge, which provided a superbly professional service as well as keeping me entertained with its cool décor of model cars and trucks, plus free tea and coffee, whilst I waited for my car to undergo its MOT (which thankfully it passed!)

Last but not least – my mother is a keen and talented gardener, and here are some shots from her early spring garden.  She got these fantastic flower hanging bags online and planted these pansies in gradations of mauves and purples.

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She’s also been quite keen to plant different varieties of daffodils and these are her pride and joy at the moment – the deep orange trumpet and the pale cream of the outer petals reminds me happily of a creme egg!