Spring Afternoon Tea with my Girlfriends

Spring afternoon tea
Spring afternoon tea
spring party
Spring afternoon tea

Something that doesn’t happen in London so much is spending time at friends homes.  For some reason it’s common to always meet at a cafe/bar/restaurant, which might be down to everyone living in different neighbourhoods, but I think it’s also down to the fact Londoners are social creatures, and we like to be out and about.

Spring afternoon tea

But sometimes I find it’s really nice to have friends over.  It’s more relaxed and personal, and I love to host anything from dinner parties to afternoon tea.  Which is exactly what I did recently, having my girlfriends over for a Spring Afternoon Tea.

spring party
spring party
spring party

I spent a bit of time scouring Pinterest and trying to get a plan together for the day, ahead of time.  Last minute stress does not look good on me!  Pinterest is such a lifesaver, and so full of inspiration.  In no time I’d come up with a vision for my Spring afternoon tea and got to work shopping, prepping and baking.

spring party

My menu consisted of teeny cutout round sandwiches I made using a cookie cutter, half filled with a dijon/mayo spread, ham and cheese, and the other filled with a cream cheese/honey spread, a basil leaf and topped with a prosciutto ‘rose’.  If you like the look of these, pop over to the Oh How Civilised website I got these ideas from, to follow the instructions.

Adding to the savoury side of things, I served spicy mini potatoes with a sour cream and chive dip, and added a little mug of dry roasted nuts to the table to snack on.

spring party
Spring afternoon tea
spring party

Those who know me, know I’m more of a sweet than savoury girl, so this part of the day I put most of my energy into.  I baked my favourite three layer Hummingbird Cake, essentially a banana cake that has pineapple, nuts and spices added to it, and is layered and smothered in cream cheese frosting.  I mean, what’s not to like?

I also added a jar of mini eggs for both decoration and snacking ;o)  and a few cute little bunny boxes I bought in Hema filled with Easter treats for the girls to take home.  We washed all of this down with rosé and champagne.

Spring afternoon tea

I’d imagined we’d have our Spring afternoon tea catch up and then head down the road for dinner, but what I’d forgotten is that when you get four girls together, particularly four chatty kiwi girls, we barely draw breath and never run out of conversation.  So I guess it was no surprise that my last guest walked out the door at midnight!

Spring afternoon tea
afternoon tea sandwiches
spring party

It was the perfect way to spend a sunny Spring afternoon.  I’m already planning my next little at home party for early Summer.  This one will consist of pimped up pizza (you’ll have to wait and see what that’s about) and Aperol Spritz, so keep an eye out for that!

Annmaree x

Spring Flower Arranging Class, London

spring bouquet london
spring bouquet london

When I’m doing something creative, I’m always in my happy place, unless it’s prepping for a dinner party and then I’m generally a complete stressed out psychopath, shouting ‘we should’ve cleaned the house and picked up the groceries YESTERDAY!’, but yeah aside from that, being creative makes my heart sing.

Spring bouquet
flower arranging class london
Donuts and Detours

I recently attended an amazing spring flower arranging class, taught by Laura, owner of the sweetest London based mobile florist, Gray & Greenery.  I’d attended Laura’s Christmas wreath making class last year, which made my heart so happy, therefore when I saw the spring flower arranging class advertised, it was a no brainer to sign up.

Donuts and Detours

Laura holds the classes in various locations in London, and luckily one of the classes is in my neighbourhood, at a great wine bar inside Tooting Market, aptly named Unwined.  A glass of wine is included in your ticket price too, could these classes get any better?!

Donuts and Detours
flower arranging class london
Donuts and Detours

Laura, who by the way is the loveliest person, and also short/blonde/chatty, so I guess we have those three things in common ;o) , takes you through the steps of choosing appropriate flowers, and teaches you how to arrange them so you end up with something that actually looks quite professional.

Donuts and Detours

I was sooo pleased with my arrangement, I felt the equivalent of a 4 year old coming home from nursery having painted a picture they can’t wait to show their parent.  I bounded out of Unwined with my arrangement, and felt pretty proud when a few people commented on it at the bus stop.  I followed Laura’s instructions to get the most out of the flowers, and my Spring bouquet took pride of place on our kitchen table for two whole weeks.

Spring bouquet
flower arranging class london
Spring bouquet

Keep an eye on her website or Instagram for upcoming classes.  They are truly such a fun way to spend an evening.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Annmaree x

Detour | My Venice Travel Guide

Venice Travel Guide
Venice Travel Guide

“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” – Alexander Herzen

Venice Travel Guide
Venice Travel Guide
Venice Travel Guide

I have a love so deep for Italy, that never wavers.  From the Amalfi Coast to Venice, I love the vibrance of the country, and of course the cheap prosecco and delicious gelato!  Visiting Venice for the third time last year, I naively thought that maybe I’d finally feel fulfilled and no longer have the desire to revisit.  How wrong could I be.  Every time I set foot on the cobbled streets of Venice, I discover new secret spots, making new happy memories, and my addiction grows deeper.

Venice Travel Guide

Like anywhere, tourists flock in the same areas, and often miss out on the magic of the place, that may be just an alleyway away.  I don’t want you to miss out on these jewels of Venice, and so I’ve created a mini Venice Travel Guide here for you, to avoid the tourist trap spots and make the most of your time in this magical city.

Burano
Burano
Burano

I’m not gonna lie, the majority of my trips overseas revolve around food.  So if you’re not passionate about eating well, then this might not be the guide for you.  But if you ARE like me, and you love great, local foodie spots, then keep reading!

Venice Travel Guide

GELATO:

Gelateria Suso – Calle della Bissa, 5453, 30124 San Marco, Venezia

This place! It deserves a shrine outside, so I can kneel and worship its existence.  Every flavour I’ve enjoyed here on multiple visits has been perfect.  That’s a big call, but trust me on this one.  And if you’re lucky enough to be there when they have their lemon and chocolate combo, order a scoop, it’s life changing in the best way.  PS for the gluten free lot, this place is brilliant, they have GF waffle cones which are wrapped separately, and they use separate gelato scoops when you order.

La Mela Verde – Castello, 4977, 30122 Venezia

I’d always had this place starred on my Google map, but never made it there until my last visit, when we just happened to stroll past.  It is SO.GOOD.   Delicious flavours and delicious creamy textured gelato!

Al Timon Venezia
Suso Gelato
Venezia

DINNER:

Al Timon – Cannaregio, Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2754, 30121 Venezia

This restaurant was a highlight of my visit last year.  Again, another place that was starred on my Google map but I’d not made it to.  A friend text me whilst in Venice last year telling me I had to go, and that it was amazing, so we did. It’s a 15-20 minute walk from San Marco, and what is so great is that there are hardly any tourists in this area, but a lot of locals, which is a win in my eyes.  Al Timon is situated on a lovely canal, and upon arrival you’ll see people spilled out onto the little street sipping prosecco (you can see me doing so, sat on the windowsill in the top left photo above), or for the lucky ones who got there early enough, sitting in a little boat moored next to the canal.  We were there for the steak, and it did not disappoint.  A shared platter of Fiorentina steak, fried potatoes and vegetables, it was honestly one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.  The atmosphere there is great too, being a tiny restaurant, there’s a buzz of chatter, whilst everyone tucks into great food and sips unbelievably well priced wine.

Oke Pizzeria Restaurant – Dosrsoduro 1414 – 30123 Venezia

I love this pizzeria for two reasons, the first being that it’s on a quiet side of Venice, looking out towards the Hilton Hotel on the island of Giudecca, so it’s less hustle and bustle, with outdoor seating for warm days.  The second reason is their great tasting gluten free pizza.  They even have a separate GF menu which makes life so much easier, and I’m a sucker for their gorgonzola pizza.

Venice
Venice Travel Guide
Venice

BARS:

Skyline Rooftop Bar – Hilton Molino Stucky, Giudecca 810, Venice

I feel very fortunate to have stayed at the Hilton on my last visit, and one of the perks was having the Skyline rooftop bar on the premises.  I’ll start out with saying that this bar is not cheap, so we chose to start our evening here with a pre-dinner drink whilst we watched the sun set over Venice.  It’s such a beautiful location, if you want a special place to toast your vacation whilst gazing out of at the Venice canal.

Taverna Al Remer – Sestiere Cannaregio 5701 Venezia

I have to be honest, I’m actually reluctant to share this place publicly, because it’s so lovely and special that I’d hate for it to become a tourist trap.  So I’m whispering it to you, just don’t tell anyone else okay?!  I found out about this fabulous restaurant and wine bar on a previous trip to Venice, when I got chatting to a British family.  They shared this secret and its location and we’ve since be there three times, to drink prosecco, eat delicious food and listen to live music, whilst gazing out the doors towards the Grand Canal.  It’s such a lovely little spot away from the busy streets.

Corner Pub – Calle della Chiesa, 684, 30123 Venezia

I don’t know what it is about this little ‘pub’ in Venice, but I find it the cutest thing!  There’s a tiny amount of indoor seating, however the best thing to do is to try andgrab a stool and prop yourself up at the outdoor bar, ordering wine, and sit there people watching (and believe me it’s a GOOD people watching spot).  It’s such a fun little place.  If you’re in this area, have a white wine or an Aperol Spritz for me!

Burano
Burano
Venice Travel Guide

TOURIST SPOTS:

Burano Island

Having finally made it to Burano Island last year for the first time, I can’t believe I’d not jumped on a ferry and visited this place before!  It’s magical, and oh so colourful.  Taking around 45 minutes by boat from Venice to Burano, from the moment you step onto this island you’ll be greeted with a rainbow of houses wherever you go, it’s soo so pretty, and I can’t tell you how many Instagrammer’s were there taking photos (yes I was one of them!).  There’s plenty of restaurants and shops, however I didn’t eat a thing, I was too busy making sure I had seen every single colourful home there was to see.  Definitely recommend for a half day/full day trip.

Libreria Acqua Alta Bookstore – Calle Longa S.M. Formosa 5176/b Venezia

This bookstore is like nothing you will have ever seen before.  A second hand bookstore, there are literally thousands of books, all stacked up in anything from a gondola to a bathtub, it’s the most fascinating place!  You don’t have to be a book lover to appreciate its quirkiness.  Make sure you get a photo on the stairs made out of books, outside the back of the store!

Venice Travel Guide

Mercato di Rialto (Rialto Market) – Calle de la Pescaria, 30122 Venezia

Okay, I know, I know, it’s a another food spot, but I did warn you at the beginning of this blog post ;o)  Rialto Market is a lovely place to wander, with vendors selling fresh seafood and produce.  This market started in 1097, I mean WHAT??! Open every day of the week except Sunday, get there early to enjoy the vibrance of the place and pick up some delicious things!

Venice Travel Guide
Venezia
Venice Travel Guide

There is so much more to Venice, but these are a handful of my favourite spots, and the rest I’ll leave for you to roam and discover.  Let me know if there’s anywhere you think I should know about.

Annmaree x

Keeping Fit with Esquared Fitness App

Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App

 

Fitness.  It’s a love/hate thing.  Some of us love it, some of us hate it.  Whatever camp you’re in, I think we can all agree that it’s necessary and an essential part of both our physical and mental wellbeing.

I started ballet when I was four years old and by age 17 I was training 6-7 days per week, finally finishing up just before my 18th birthday.  So you’d think based on that, I would’ve been a natural lover of fitness.  Wrong.  I hated PE class at school, I hated running, I pretty much hated anything that wasn’t dance based.

As soon as I finished ballet, I gained five kg in the space of about six months, a decent amount for someone who’s only 5ft 2.  I didn’t exercise again until I joined a gym aged 22, and shortly after I moved to London.  Once in London I belonged to various gyms, but my motivation was low, and my eating was terrible.  At my heaviest, I weighed 12 kg more than I currently do.  I went on diets, I even paid a clinic one time because I was desperate to lose some weight that definitely needed to be lost.  I didn’t like the skin I was in, I didn’t feel good about myself, physically or mentally, and I would think about it day in, day out.

The turning point for me was joining a local gym in Fulham.  The least fancy gym you could find, full of the least fancy members you could come across (except for Daniel Radcliffes parents, which made me love them even more, working out in a council run gym).  I knew how to work out properly, I had good technique, I just needed to be consistent, and most importantly watch my diet.  The members are what kept me going at this gym, I loved how down to earth it was, how I knew everyone there, and thankfully this was what kept me on track and got me back into a good space physically and mentally.

Esquared Fitness App

Over the years, cleaning up my diet helped any hard work I put in at the gym.  Once I saw the improvements, and I grew stronger with time, fitness became a regular part of my life.  I enjoy weight training the most, the results always spur me on to lift more, do more rep’s and in turn see the changes in my body.  I find the process fascinating.  For three years, I changed things up and did the ever popular Kayla Itsines workouts, six days per week.  I have never been more fit in my life, but it came at a price, and I ended up with a lot of hip and pelvis issues, which meant having X-rays and MRI’s to figure out what was going on.  Those issues really caused me to become slack with my gym training, and I lost a lot of motivation and determination.  It’s only been over the past six months that I’ve tried to dedicate more time to keeping my mind and body in a good place.

I knew I couldn’t go back to my Kayla workouts on a permanent basis, and whilst I love weight training, I’ve also felt lately that I wanted to try some other types of fitness training, so alongside some classes at my gym, I was recently given the opportunity to try the Esquared Fitness App.

The Esquared app allows its users to find premium two-hour gym sessions and one-off classes in London. What this means is you can try out a gym or one of their featured classes without taking up a membership.  I downloaded the app, which you can do via Google or Apple, and was able to search gyms by location, class type, date, time etc. I decided to try three different classes, which I’m sharing with you below, all were great in their own way, and I can honestly say I love the Esquared app, as it’s given me the opportunity to try new classes, in different locations, at a really great rate.

I’d love for you to try the Esquared Fitness app too, and let me know what you think.  Perhaps we can do a class together sometime!  And good news, if you sign up to the app and use the code ‘AB19531’ you’ll get £20 to do a workout or a class, yay!

My final word on fitness:  Don’t overthink it, don’t wait for motivation, just get up, show up and move your body.  You’ll never regret it.

Annmaree x

Please note: Whilst this was a collaborative post with Esquared, all views are 100% my own and 100% honest.  I highly recommend the app.

Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App

Powertone – Chelsea

My first class booked through Esquared was a power plate class at Power Tone on Kings Road in Chelsea.  I’d done power plate classes 10 years ago, and I remember leaving the studio after my very first class, which last 30 minutes, and my legs were like jelly.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous about my putting myself through a class again.

A maximum of four people are in each class, and on the day I booked, I was on my own, so it was like a PT session, which meant all eyes were on me from the trainer, and therefore zero cheating/resting!  Power plates provide multi-directional vibration through its platform, which gives your muscles an extremely intense workout!  Due to the high vibration on the base of the plate your body works 20-50% harder to perform an exercise – one squat on the power plate is almost equivalent to nine regular squats.

I was sweating within five minutes, which is always a good sign you’re working out properly, and my poor wee quads were hating on me as I pulsed in squat position with a kettle bell, whilst silently praying to move on to the upper body section before my legs gave way underneath me.  Don’t let that put you off though!  The trainer was encouraging and positive the whole way through, and the 30 minutes goes pretty quickly, leaving you feeling like you’ve really worked out your body in the best way.

Sweaty Betty
Sweaty Betty
Esquared Fitness App

Frame Quickie AbsSweaty Betty, Carnaby Street

My second class was a 30 minutes Quickie Abs class taken by a Frame fitness instructor at the underground studio in Sweaty Betty on Carnaby Street.  I was really looking forward to this class, because I love ab workouts, or more precisely, the results from working out your abs.

For those unfamiliar with Frame, it was started by two friends (one is a kiwi! #proud) and they’re motivation behind their classes is to make sure keeping fit and healthy never feels like a chore.   With studios dotted around London you can do anything from pilates to learning Beyonce’s Single Ladies dance routine.  For those unfamiliar with Sweaty Betty, opening in London as a women’s activewear store in 1998, the brand has grown globally, and alongside offering classes in-store, they also opened a studio at their Carnaby Street location, where fitness companies like Frame come and take classes.

So yeah, back to the studio and the class.  Firstly, the studio.  OMG, I thought I wasn’t that fussed about ‘nice gym spaces’, but I was SOLD as soon as I walked down the stairs at Sweaty Betty’s studio.  Every tiny detail has been thought out so carefully, from the lockers named after famous females, to all the fun neon signs.  The class was all-female, and again I was sweating within five minutes, as our high energy instructor put us through our paces and pushed us to do more and do better.  I really enjoyed this class, it was tough but also energising and I’d recommend trying this one, even if it’s just for the sneak peek around the studio!

Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App
Esquared Fitness App
Chelsea Health Club and Spa
Chelsea Health Club and Spa

Chelsea Health Club and Spa – Chelsea

My third class was a 45 minute Dance Fitness class at Chelsea Health Club and Spa, on Fulham Road, situated behind Chelsea Football Club.  The club itself is stunning, with facilities including exercise studios, a 25 metre ozone treated pool, an award-winning spa as well as cardio and weight training equipment.  There’s a club lounge and restaurant, you can even make use of a dry cleaning concierge service!

The dance fitness class took place in a large studio, and our male instructor was full of energy and amazing dance moves!  The class on that day focused on a lot of salsa, rumba and cha-cha moves, that got the heart rate moving and the legs working at double speed.

I love dance, it’s my favourite thing to do, give me a dance floor and I’m happy, and this class was no exception.  I found it a challenge, as those dance styles are so different to ballet, but I laughed my way through the majority of the class, and had so much fun.  The class consisted of women of all ages, which I found fantastic to see, and it felt warm and inclusive.  Definitely one I’d return to again, and I’d leave more space in my diary to enjoy all the facilities on my next visit.

Detour | Apple Picking in Surrey

apple picking surrey
apple picking surrey
Apple Picking
Apple orchard surrey
apple picking surrey
apple orchard
apple picking surrey
apple orchard
apple orchard

Aaaaah Autumn you perfect, cosy, not too hot, not too cold time of the year!  Without a doubt my favourite season.   After the first proper summer we’ve had in London for about 12 years, I’m now ready for the cooler weather, the chunky knit sweaters, pumpkin spice everything, and apple orchard visits.

For the last few years I’ve made a point of visiting Garsons Farm in Surrey to pick out Halloween pumpkins at their pumpkin patch, but this year I had my heart set on visiting their apple orchard.  I was dreaming of all the delicious apple desserts I could make, and I wanted to give apple cider a go, an American thing that doesn’t feature in the UK, but having seen it splashed over Instagram during the Autumn season, it looked like something I needed to collect apples for!

So I made plans with my friend Bryony, and we set off on a sunny Saturday for Surrey.  It took us forever, because train terminations interrupted what should have been a simple route to Garsons.  We eventually arrived, whizzed around the garden centre because the Christmas decorations were already up, and being the Christmas fanatic I am, I had to have a peek.

We ventured out to the farm, and located the apple orchard.  There’s loads of different types of apples to choose from, but we head straight for the ones that looked best in photos ;o)  Bryony is a photographer extraordinaire and we had a fun and funny time (some of the outtake photos are hilarious) snapping some Autumnal shots around the orchard.

Garsons is super easy to reach from London, via car or train (unless of course there’s a train termination), and it’s always so nice to get out of the big smoke for the day, into the fresh air and a slightly slower pace of life.  One day is enough though, I’m a city kinda gal ;o)

I hope you’re all enjoying Autumn, if that’s your current season, and embracing all the cosiness that it brings.

PS If you want Bryony to take lovely photos of you, you can contact her at hello@findmeintooting.com

Annmaree x

apple picking surrey
apple picking
apple orchard
apple orchard
apple picking surrey
apple orchard
apple orchard
apple picking surrey
LRM_EXPORT_957507133749577_20181003_214603789

Party Planning for my 40th Birthday

Turning 40
40th party planning

The most stressful part about turning 40?  Party planning for my birthday!  If you’re like me and a bit of a perfectionist and love planning parties that have lots of well thought out details, then you’ll likely understand the time and effort this sort of party takes.

When I decided on having a celebration for my 40th birthday, I was so excited about all the possibilities of a theme, colour scheme etc.  Then I went on Pinterest, and that excitement turned into overwhelm.  THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS!  One minute my heart was settled on a gold and pink theme, the next I was considering monochrome, and I became more and more confused as August ticked along.

party planning for my 40th
40th party planning
Turning 40
party planning for my 40th

Eventually, I created some ideas based on blogs I had read, images I’d saved over the years on Pinterest, and my own imagination.  So I wanted to create this post, in the hope that if you’re sat wondering what theme or colour scheme your party is going to be, that maybe you can use some of the ideas I put together, to help you with your planning.

Turning 40

Starting with drinks, I settled on San Pellegrino flavoured soda’s in a can for the non-drinkers, alongside Perrier sparkling water in a can because they look adorable ;o)  For the drinkers, I wanted my favourite summer drink, Aperol Spritz, so using a peg board, I created directions for making your own.  We also had bellini’s, champagne, white wine and rosé.

To add to the fun, I created my own wine labels, which I stuck on the white wine and rosé bottles.  Here’s some of the label captions I used (you’ll find plenty of ideas on Pinterest):

Someone needs to set a bad example.
F*ck it, it’s time for wine.
Pairs well with bad decisions.
Just add ice and whatever dignity you have left.
You’re gonna need a bigger glass.
You and I both know you’ll be crying later.

40th party planning
party planning for my 40th
40th party planning
Turning 40

For the food, I wanted a long platter full of delicious bites from prosciutto and salami, to olives, breadsticks, grapes, cheese and crackers.  We piled it high and it was the perfect snacking platter for my guests.  We also had platters of cheese and crackers, prosciutto and melon, and popcorn bags.

For the popcorn bags, I ordered paper bags online, and created a label that said ‘Pop it like it’s hot’, printing this directly onto the popcorn bags.  FYI this was a tricky process, as the bags kept slipping in the printer, so I advise you to either buy LOADS of bags to counteract the amount you’ll need to throw away when the printing smudges, or print onto sticky labels instead.

40th party planning

And of course, what’s a party without dessert?  I ordered a bunch of mini ice cream tubs in the most amazing flavours: Lavender, Raspberry Pavlova, Lucky Charms, Rose, Dulce De Leche, Peach, Nutella and Honey Halva.  Yum! (My go-to store for these ice creams made  by the Cream Lab, is The Hoarder in West Brompton – if you’re in London).  Alongside the ice cream I added some bellini and champagne alco ice pops to the mix, because, hey why not? ;o)

40th party planning

I decided to make my own sweet bags too, ordering huge tubs of sweets online and purchasing glassine bags to put them in.  To add to the fun, I created ‘I’ll take you to the candy shop’ stickers, printing onto sticky labels, to go on the front of the bags.

Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40

The colour scheme ended up being mostly black, white and yellow.  You’ll see from the images, I had yellow plates, black ‘pop fizz clink’ napkins, black and white straws and we scoured the internet for some amazing white polycarbonate wine glasses (similar ones here).  I purchased silver foiled balloon letters that read #YOUNGAF because I wanted all the details to be light hearted and fun, and this hung above the drinks table.

hangover kit
party planning for my 40th
hangover kit

I love a goody bag, and over the years when I’ve hosted parties and dinners I’ve often made goody bags for friends to take home.  So this birthday was no exception and I decided to hand out Hangover Kits to my guests.  The Hangover Kit contents included: Coffee, water, chocolate, vodka and spicy tomato juice to make a bloody mary.

I purchased brown paper bags and created the ‘Hangover Kit’ label, printing directly onto the bags.  I created a ‘F*cking Strong Coffee’ label and printed these on sticky labels, sticking them on glassine bags.  To put inside the coffee bag I purchased these instant coffee bags.

hangover kit
hangover kit
hangover kit
party planning for my 40th

I bought family sized Galaxy chocolate bars, removing the paper label so it just remained wrapped in foil, and then created and printed my own chocolate bar labels that read ‘Although you can party like an absolute rockstar, it appears you can’t recover like one’.

Making my own labels for the water bottles that read ‘H2Ooohhhh f*ck my head hurts’, I stuck these onto mini Evian bottles and for the bloody mary contents, I purchased Big Tom bloody mary mix in a can, and I also bought small glass bottles online, decanting vodka into them and created a label for the bottles reading ‘Hair of the Dog.  The one that bit you’.

Turning 40

The day before the party, the weather forecast confirmed torrential rain, so we made a dash to Ikea and purchased a marquee, alongside extra wine glasses, side tables, stools and other bit and pieces, so I recommend using Ikea for any party furniture!

Party planning is NO JOKE, it’s time consuming, so make sure you leave a few weeks to prepare.  It will always take longer than you think!  It’s worth it though, when it all comes together on the day!

Hope these ideas help you with any future parties you’re planning!

Annmaree x

Turning 40, Party Photos

Turning 40
40th birthday
40th birthday
40th birthday
40th birthday

 

Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
40th birthday
40th birthday
40th birthday
40th birthday
Turning 40

Finally sharing some photos from my 40th birthday!  Better late than never!  As some of you know it was the coldest, wettest day of summer in London.  What were the chances!  My dream of a lovely, outdoor summer courtyard party was quickly whipped out from under my feet, when the weather forecast didn’t change at all in the week leading up to turning 40.

We had to make a last minute dash to IKEA to purchase a marquee for the courtyard!  But sparing you all the details, and the fact we had to delay the party by an hour to get everything ready, it turned out pretty damn well!

I spent the best part of August coming up with a colour scheme, creating and printing everything from the popcorn bags, to the wine labels and creating hangover kits for all my guests to take home as goodie bags (I’ll do a separate post on that!).

I thought the party would start at home and end up in the pub later that evening, but the party remained in the kitchen until around 1am, with a lot of dancing, and a lot of wine!

I’ll let the pictures paint the picture of the evening.  I hope you enjoy them!

PS Some of the photos were taken by my fabulously talented friend Bryony who is available  to hire as a photographer for all sorts of things from events to product shots.  Go check out her Instagram to see her work: @findmeintooting

Annmaree x

Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
Turning 40
40th party planning
40th birthday
Turning 40
Turning 40
40th birthday
40th birthday
40th birthday
Turning 40

Detour | Locked Up in Alcotraz, London

Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London

I’ve been to Alcatraz in San Francisco.  Twice in fact.  It’s an amazing experience.  But I’m here today to tell you about somewhere with a similar name, but a different experience.  Welcome to Alcotraz.

Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London

When I found out about this immersive prison cocktail experience, I knew I had to go.  I put out a WhatsApp message to three of my girlfriends I knew would be up for it, tickets were booked and back in August we all congregated on Brick Lane at the entrance to Alcotraz.

Waiting outside, I glanced down to look at my phone, only to look back up and discover an Alcotraz security guard eyeballing me, asking in an American drawl ‘Are you doooone?’.  ‘Yes!’ I squeaked.

Alcotraz London

We were led inside and thrown an orange boiler suit each, told to put them on and then shouted at to ‘GET IN SINGLE FILE’.  These actors were taking their roles seriously, and it was equal amounts of terrifying and hilarious.

Put inside our cells, the prison warden then made his entrance to explain the rules.  No alcohol of course.  The security guard then handed out record card’s and we were instructed to fill these in with details of our crime.

Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London

As we settled into our cell, a prisoner arrived aka the cocktail guy, and smuggled our Bombay Sapphire to his bar prep area, creating cocktails throughout the evening.  Four cocktails each, all different, all delicious.

Alcotraz London

During the evening, which lasts 1 hour 45 minutes, the warden and security guards marched us out of our cell, demanding us to hand over our record cards.  They grilled us over the details, and to be honest I think they were finding it hard to keep a straight face, as they’d likely not experienced the sass of four kiwi girls.  The whole experience was laugh out loud funny, even though we were scared to laugh out loud for fear of what insult might be thrown our way.

Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London

I even made it down to ‘The Hole’ that evening.  I’m probably the only prisoner ever that jumped for joy when their prison number got called out, to be marched down to the hole with a few other inmates.  I won’t ruin the surprise of what happened down there, just in case you’re planning on going to Alcotraz, which you absolutely should do!

Alcotraz London

We spent the evening laughing our heads off, taking a million photos, and sipping cocktails – actually more like sucking them back, we’d barely finish one and another would arrive! (Word of warning: make sure you’ve lined your stomach with food before your visit, some of us had to live and learn! HA!).

Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London
Alcotraz London

If you like the idea of wearing an orange boiler suit and being shouted at whilst drinking cocktails then I suggest you book your ticket NOW!  Hahaha, my description sounds miserable, however this is one of my favourite experiences in my 17 years in London.  It is truly brilliant!  Trust this inmate, just go.

Alcotraz London

Detour | Goldfinch SW17 Cocktail Bar, Tooting

Goldfinch SW17
Goldfinch SW17

Happy Friday everyone! Not only is a Bank Holiday weekend about to begin here in the UK, it will also be my birthday on Sunday! The big 4-0, oh my goodness!

Goldfinch SW17
Goldfinch SW17

For those of you in London, with no plans, but loving the idea of a lie in on Monday, let me suggest you make the most of Sunday by visiting one of my new favourite local spots, Goldfinch Cocktail Bar.  I had an ‘Instagram blind date’ here a couple of weeks ago, no don’t go starting rumours, I was just meeting a lovely fellow kiwi girl, Bryony aka Find Me In Tooting, who also lives in Tooting, and whom I’d connected with via the powers of Instagram.

Goldfinch menu

We spent a couple of hours on a gloomy Thursday evening, sipping cocktails and sharing stories, whilst pottering around both snapping a gazillion photos to share with you all.  #instagramlife.

Cocktails London
Goldfinch SW17
Goldfinch SW17

The interior of Goldfinch is lovely.  Cosy, comfortable and chic.  Everything you want in a cocktail bar really.  PLUS there’s the added bonus of a secret little courtyard outside, which we’ve been told will be weatherproofed for winter, and I can only imagine how lovely that space will be on a cold winter’s day, with a delicious cocktail in hand to warm your toes.

Goldfinch Tooting

We tested out the Cracked Pepper and Strawberry Pina Colada consisting of rum, strawberry liqueur, pineapple juice, honey, strawberries and black pepper, and the Pineapple and Lavender Bees Knees made up of gin, pineapple juice, rosewater, honey, fresh lemon juice and lavender bitters.  Both were equally delicious and beautifully presented.  We also had a couple of sneaky gin and tonics, because hello Thursday, you’re almost the weekend ;o)

Goldfinch SW17
Goldfinch Tooting

Goldfinch Cocktail Bar, located at 145 Mitcham Rd, London SW17 9PE, is one to check out!  And there’s no better time to do so than this Sunday, August 26th, because they’re having a party.  You can have a couple of drinks for my birthday!  #anyexcuse.

Detour | Eat, See and Do in Shoreditch

Shoreditch
Shoreditch

Sometimes you just need to take a day off.  Forget work, forget all the life admin you’ve been jotting down on your to-do list in the Notes app of your iPhone.  Sometimes you just need to ask a friend if they’re free to spend the day with you, and go have some fun.

Last Friday I did exactly that, and spent the day in Shoreditch with my friend Jo.  For those that don’t know, Shoreditch is one of my all time favourite areas in London.  For years I used to tell everyone I was going to take a sabbatical from the leafy, quiet neighbourhood of Fulham, and go live it up in East London.  It never happened, but it’s a part of London I’ve returned to time and time again.

Ozone Coffee Roasters London
Ozone Coffee Roasters London
Ozone Coffee Roasters London

We met at Old Street Station mid-morning and walked down the road to Ozone Coffee Roasters.  I love this place and not just because it’s owned by kiwis.  The building is magnificent for a start.  I have regular monthly meetings here as part of the New Zealand Business Women’s Network I belong to in London, and it doesn’t matter how many times I walk through the doors, I’m always blown away by the amazing interior.  A mix of industrial and modern, to me it has a very New York feel, and I just love it!

Ozone Coffee Roasters London
Ozone Coffee Roasters London

Ozone is a roaster, coffee bar and eatery.  On Friday we had coffee only, however I need to recommend that you visit for a meal sometime and that you try the following: Braised wagyu mince on toast with Essex smoked cheddar & piccalilli (sorry Vegetarians!).  This dish is available from 7am-4pm and it is SO DAMN GOOD!  I know mince on toast might be a weird concept to some of you, but this is a completely normal meal to those of us from New Zealand, and I advise you not to knock it till you try it.  This is the best version of mince on toast I’ve ever eaten.  EVER.

Attendant Shoreditch

Drinks drunk, we wandered in the direction of popular Shoreditch cafe The Attendant.  Our stomach’s were rumbling, so it was time to eat something delicious.

Attendant Shoreditch
Attendant Shoreditch
Attendant Shoreditch

Another beautiful spot, The Attendant is a calm space amongst the edgier vibe you find outside on the streets of Shoreditch. The cafe has plants hanging everywhere, there’s even a living plant wall running the length of the cafe.

We sat down and looked over the menu, both settling on avocado smash with turmeric hummus, cinnamon toasted pumpkin seeds, watercress and red amaranth piled high on toast (gluten free toast is available, and it tasted good!).  The whole meal was delicious and felt like I was doing something good for my body.

Attendant Shoreditch
Attendant Shoreditch

Fuelled up with food, we paused for a little snap on their seats outside, which are also great for ordering a coffee and watching the world go by, and then we continued on our journey around Shoreditch.

shoreditch
Shoreditch
Shoreditch

The one thing Shoreditch is never short of is street art.  Some of the biggest names in the street art world have left their mark on walls and buildings in the neighbourhood, and every time I’m in the area I see something new and interesting.  For those of you that love street art, there are some great tours to sign up to online.

Softserve Society

We wandered along Redchurch Street, which is full of amazing boutiques, cafes and restaurants.  Some favourites being The Modern Society  – a boutique full of fashion, art, and a cute little coffee bar, Labour and Wait – a store selling wonderfully timeless goods from kitchenware to household accessories and stationery, Barber and Parlour – a very edgy looking building that houses a cinema, a cafe & bar, a beauty parlour and a hair salon.

We decided it was time for a little mid-afternoon pick-me-up and we beelined towards Soft Serve Society at Boxpark.

Softserve Society
Softserve Society

I’d seen these grey-black ice creams before on previous Shoreditch visits, but I was yet to try one.  Jo and I decided to live life on the edge and order a charcoal coconut soft serve each.  I mean, are these the most Instagrammable ice creams or what?!  And who knew, it actually tasted really good!  If charcoal coconut is pushing the boat out too far for you, there’s a bunch of other amazing flavours and you can surround your soft serve in a cloud of candy floss, top it with toasted marshmallows or have them sprinkle on popping candy.  The world is your sugary oyster at Soft Serve Society.

Dark Sugars Chocolate

On a sugar high, I knew just the place we needed to head to next.  Dark Sugars on Brick Lane.  If you love chocolate you’ll adore this store.  Full to the brim with the most eye catching chocolates, truffles, chocolate dipped fruits and other cocoa based goodies, it’s really hard to resist buying something.

Dark Sugars Chocolate
Dark Sugars Chocolate
Dark Sugars Chocolate

And we definitely didn’t resist.  We picked out some favourites to enjoy over the weekend.  My bag of treats was empty by midday Saturday ;o)  Side note: get the passionfruit chocolate when you visit.  It’s too good.

Ace Hotel Shoreditch

The late afternoon was upon us before we knew it, so we decided on one last stop for the day.  A drink at The Gallery Bar in the Ace Hotel.  I love the Ace.  As long as you are someone that doesn’t mind a swarm of Macbook Freelancers sitting in the lobby using the free Wifi, and you love a good design hotel, then you’ll like the Ace.  We sipped our drinks and discussed our weekend plans, before wandering slowly back to the tube station to head home.

Ace Hotel Shoreditch

There are soooo many fun, quirky and interesting things to do in Shoreditch.  From the food, to the shopping to the excellent people watching, I never get tired of the neighbourhood.  How could you?  It’s forever evolving and opening something new and hip that has me returning to discover.

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.