Bucket List No 20. Watch a film outdoors / No 959. Watch a film al fresco

12 Oct

There is something unfailingly optimistic about my attitude to summer. I’ve lived here for about 33 years so you would think I’d have a more realistic approach, but no.

Here’s just one example – every year I convince myself that August is always sunny in England. Amaya’s birthday is in August and both years I’ve planned an outside party with no back up plan.

We're here!

We’re here!

So it was with this sunny attitude that I booked a ticket with Luna Cinema to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel in Dulwich Park. The day before we went, it rained non-stop. I’m not exaggerating even a tiny bit. It didn’t stop raining for a single second all day. So I was a bit anxious but Saturday came and…it was sunny! Not particularly warm but dry and sunny!

We booked the ticket with extras so we had seats and food and there was no need to cart around chairs. Although we did take a much needed blanket along.

Our VIP seat

Our VIP seat

I kept forgetting we were sitting outside until I felt my husband’s ice cold arm (he never feels the cold) or saw a plane flying overhead.

Dulwich Park is a beautiful setting too and the Grand Budapest Hotel is well worth watching. It’s slightly surreal, really colourful and while a lot of open air cinemas only show old classics (think Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Ghostbusters), this film is relatively new. Having a baby hasn’t changed things as much as I had expected but cinema outings are definitely something that has fallen by the wayside, so it was lovely watching something we hadn’t seen before.

Next time I would go better prepared – which basically means I’d take a lot more food and drink. Partly because I’m greedy. and partly because the choice of snacks to buy once you’re in is quite limited, but there are no restrictions on taking in whatever you want. People were turning up with massive wicker baskets of food and bottles of bubbles.

One lucky couple won the raffle to watch the film in a king size bed, complete with pillows and duvet. I’d take one of those in if they’d let me.

Waiting for the film to start...

Waiting for the film to start…

Whether you are a regular cinema goer or it’s a rare treat, the novelty of watching a film outdoors is brilliant and I’d love to try a more dramatic setting next. Top of my husband’s list was Brockwell Lido but I really want to do the hot tub cinema. At least that way, I wouldn’t need to worry so much about our unpredictable English summers.

Bucket List No 2. Enjoy a 5 star afternoon tea / No 676. Enjoy a hotel tea

5 Oct

Afternoon tea is brilliant.  You get to eat all that stuff that’s not so good for you, but it’s served up so daintily that you really don’t care. Mostly though, it’s the whole ceremony of making time with people and spoiling yourself which is so much fun.

Apparently, afternoon tea came about in the early 1800’s. Traditionally, two main meals were eaten – an early breakfast and an evening dinner. How did people cope?! Well Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, couldn’t and started having tea and a snack in the afternoon to keep her going. At first secretly, but then word spread and well to do friends started joining her and so the afternoon tea tradition was born.

Afternoon tea

Girl’s day out

If you’re going to do this, you need to spoil yourself. I took my mum to the Dorchester and we absolutely loved it. Partly because it all felt so decadent – the staff are lovely, the room where tea is served is stunning with a live pianist, but also because it is one of the first girl’s dates we’ve had in a very long time.

Swit swoo!

Swit swoo!

After some wise advice from a friend at work, we paced ourselves. The regular process of afternoon tea is sandwiches, followed by scones and finishing off with cakes and pastries. It’s the scones that will take you down, especially when served with clotted cream, so go easy on them and save some space for the end.

Less scones = more of these

Less scones = more of these

We even got an extra little something of white chocolate, pear sauce and a sliver of gold before the scones. The Dorchester, unsurprisingly, know how to do a cracking afternoon tea.

This is the perfect girlie day out so take your besties, your sister, your mum or all of them and book yourself a swanky afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea at the Dorchester from £45


Bucket List No 1. Visit my nephews in Denver & Bucket List No 4. Visit 3 different countries

15 Jun

When I became a mum, my biggest fear was that it would change parts of our lives that we love and one of these was travel. In reality, the fact that our daughter could fly for free until the age of two meant that we have packed in as many holidays as we can before she hits that age. This year, we managed to get to Marrakech, USA (New York and Denver) and I squeezed in a trip to Scotland with work. 3 countries done! Marrakech was amazing and I highly recommend it. It’s only a three and a half hour flight but it feels like a world away, it’s cheap once you get there and we stayed in a Riyadh which just made the whole Moroccan experience. Wandering through the souks and getting lost is part of the fun, the food is delicious and you can pick up great quality and reasonably priced leather (we bought five bags!).

Our Riyadh

Our Riyadh

Next was Edinburgh. As someone who has lived abroad for several years, I find it a bit embarrassing that I’ve never been to Scotland or Ireland. What a mistake that was. Edinburgh is beautiful. I was there for one night for work so there was very little time to look around but I did stay on a lovely cobbled street and manage to walk up to the castle. I’ll definitely be back with the family.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Finally was the States. I’ve been to New York before for a couple of nights. It’s the only place I’ve been on holiday alone but seeing it with my family was something else. It’s so easy to get everywhere on foot which I love because it meant that in 4 nights, we managed to see pretty much everything we wanted to. The ferry around the Statue of Liberty, Rockerfeller Centre, Central Park, shopping on 5th Avenue, pizza in Little Italy, Times Square during the day and at night, 9/11 memorial and eating in a proper American diner.

View from Rockerfeller

View from Rockerfeller



The icing on the cake was a trip to Denver to see my sisters and their families and the absolute highlight was my crazy three nephews and Amaya hanging out together and bonding. I won’t mention the weather in Denver because they always tell me it famously has 335 days of sunshine a year and we managed to fit a week of that into our ten days! But family time is always special and being together is what makes it, especially as got to celebrate my youngest nephew’s first birthday.

Cousins reunited

Cousins reunited

Much to my husband’s annoyance and amusement, I’m now looking at beach holidays for October. We may have had a few holidays but we haven’t had a beach trip yet. That’s my argument anyway.

Bucket List No 18. Get a bright red manicure

24 Apr

In the first few weeks of my new job, I noticed a couple of the girls had beautifully painted nails. I always admire pretty nails because I am so clumsy at applying polish, that I can only use clear varnish so I love bright red, pink, deep maroon and rainbow colour nails. When I complimented the girls, they told me they paid £7 to get their nails done. £7!!!

Admittedly, they went to those slightly scary looking nail bars which are dotted all over London. I don’t know why I thought they were scary looking. I used to get regular manis and pedis when I was living abroad, but those salons places were always very shiny looking with inviting reception areas and glossy walls. London prices are way too high for it to be more than an occasional treat. The last time I had my nails done was when I had huge pregnant feet because I couldn’t reach my toes – that was almost two years ago.

When I did finally set foot in one of the nail places on my local high street, my first thought was “this isn’t as bad as it looks from the outside”. I paid £10 for a full manicure (including cuticle tidying and all that). I made the mistake of getting my daughter to meet me there who charmed all the staff and then grabbed hold of my brightly coloured nails and smudged one of them. But apart from that it was a really lovely mini treat and I felt very glam for the 5 days it took before it started chipping.

I always feel a bit guilty spending loads of money on myself. I don’t know where it comes from but I find it really hard to splurge, but at £10 a pop this is a guilt free bit of pampering. Now which colour to get next…

Shiny red nails

Shiny red nails


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