Sunday, January 29, 2012

You Just Never Know

We've had some beautiful weather days in London lately, and when you set off for your daily "adventure," you just never know what will catch your eye along the way. This time, I was headed to the Museum of London, another one of my favorite museums in London, for a special exhibit on Charles Dickens in honor of his 200th birthday. London is celebrating him in a big way this year, as if we didn't already have enough reasons to celebrate with the Summer Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee Year.

Taking the bus to get to the museum, we stepped off at St.Paul's Cathedral, which was sparkling in the winter sun,

and crossed the street to the One New Change retail complex which has recently opened in the shadow of the cathedral. Restaurants and shopping--we could have easily been sidetracked for more than just lunch, but we were looking forward to getting a bit of culture!

The One New Change modernist building has 6,500 glass panes of varying shades, and creates a surprising optical illusion that caught us off guard.

The day before while strolling around, we passed by the Horse Guard parade, in the midst of a changing of the guard,

we circled by the pond at St. James Park where the resident pelican was preening her feathers, gazing at her own reflection,

but the most amazing serendipity of our winter walk home was the remarkable view we got when passing by Big Ben, as the afternoon sun spotlighted the clock tower and a rainbow popped into the sky reminding us to always look up, always look around. There are treasures to be found at every turn.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday Stroll

Typically, a Sunday in January could be drizzly, frigid, grey and unpredictable, but not this week. London has been experiencing a fairly mild winter, and this past Sunday was lovely. I headed out early in the morning, and took time to notice a few things along the way.

The cherry trees have been tricked into blossoming early,

and the tulips at the flower stall were exceptionally vibrant.

My day was off to a great start with an uplifting worship time,

and just steps away from church, the doors of Harrod's pulled me in for the final day of their annual January "There is Only One" sale. In and right back out--what crowds!

Then a subliminal message lured me in for lunch:

my favorite tuna and cheese melt from EAT, and a good book.

Almost next door, I found the newly opened National Geographic store, and I was reminded of my sweet daddy who spent so many years of his life collecting a complete set of National Geographics from its inception as his hobby. The store is a fascinating concept with books, magazines, travel guides, toys and speakers coming in for special events.

It even features a cute café which I'll have to try out soon. Really unique--maybe I'll go back and spotlight it here someday.

Heading back towards home, I found this lilac colored car parked in front of a matching lilac colored mews house. Sweet!

Cocomaya was sure drawing me in with its pastries, but I stayed on the "safe" side of the glass window.

Getting closer to home now,  I had to peek in the new shop on Kings Road-the one I was most excited about.

Amorino, one of my favorite Italian gelato shops that I first discovered in Paris, has opened

with its tantalizing assortment of Italian gelato

and Italian chocolates. I will be indulging soon--it's so, so close to our house. Dangerously close!

And after a long Sunday stroll, I ended up back home where I watched the Livestream of our Southeast church services back in Houston. Felt just like I was there!

"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So how did you spend your Sunday?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Girls' Trip to Stoke on Trent

Time for the annual American Women's Club outing to what is officially called the Ceramic Capital of the World, or more often, The Potteries--the town of Stoke-on-Trent.  Since the early 17th century, the area has been known for its pottery production due to its abundance of clay and coal, and then once china clay was imported in, the manufacture of bone china also began and has carried on to this day.

Today--it's all about the factory shops and bargains galore!

Our first stop was to the Leeds shop, or Royal Creamware, where the beautiful piercings of many of the pieces distinguish the look of its openwork.

Moving down the street, we visited the factory shop of Aynsley, a prominent maker of bone china,

where there were still remnants of Royal Wedding china.

At the time of the Royal Wedding, Aynsley was known as the china maker who had used an unflattering photo of Kate Middleton. Doesn't even begin to show how beautiful she really is.

Since 2012 is the year of the Queen's Jubilee, celebrating her 60th year of being queen, the first of the commemorative pieces are beginning to roll out of production.

One of my favorite stops is always at Burleigh pottery,

where its chintz-look delighted us, and its prices pleased us.

Every piece of Burleigh is made in their authentic Victorian pottery using the original machinery and process.

The blue pottery is a crowd favorite,

but a lot of us were selecting some of the black,

and red, my personal favorite.

My purchases included a couple of bowls and a creamer to add to my collection.

Back on the bus, where we gobbled down a quick sandwich, and continued on our way. Next stop was the Wedgewood Outlet, which also carries Royal Doulton, Minton and Waterford.

I couldn't pass on this Wedgewood china--the plates were marked down from £32.50 ($50) to £5 ($8,)
so ten of them went home with me.

Next, on to Portmeirion, who also now owns Spode and Royal Worcester.

Stacks and stacks of traditional patterns to choose from,

making decisions of how much we could carry home an issue!

Some were drawn to the traditional Spode Blue Italian

or the ever popular Pimpernel place-mats,

but I was searching the Pomona pattern to add to my collection,

this time buying some soup bowls for just £3 or $4.60 each and a pretty tray.
Deals and steals!

Finally, how much we LOVE thee, Emma Bridgewater!

Your ♥'s

your polka dots,

and your bold classic Black Toast pattern thrill us, especially at Factory Shop prices.

And with great JOY, I found another JOY bowl to add to my Christmas cake stand I bought this year.

JOY--found in simple places and definitely in Stoke-on-Trent!

Friday, January 13, 2012

American Girl--There's a New Kid on the Block

Well, move over American Girl, there's a new gal in town. In London, that is. A new shop featuring dolls and clothing, very much along the line of the successful American Girl company, has opened shop in Westfield Mall.

Yes, you too can make a match made in heaven with your little sweetheart and her own new doll which might even look a bit like her!

Situated in a posh shop in the busy Westfield Mall, the store is so much fun to browse, even if it makes you want to borrow a little girl to accompany you.

Currently, there are 7 dolls to choose from, in a range of different skin tones, eye color, hair color and styles.  Meet Amy, Bella, Grace, Lulu, Olivia, Pippa (of course) and Zoe.

May I introduce Amy?

I think this is Olivia--she didn't have her name tag. I think she looks a lot like another little girl at our church. Any of you church gals see a resemblance?

Here's Olivia again in her My London Girl shirt and hoodie.

Another little brunette--maybe Amy again, with her curly hair?

Definitely sweet Grace.

My guess is Lulu

and curly hair Bella.

Plenty of matching party dresses for little girls, size 3-12, and their dolls.

How would one choose?

Handbags, shoes and accessories too.

And to pretend, a Marie Antoinette dress!!
It's calling my pocketbook!

Along with plenty other fairy and ballet ensembles.

Of course, every little girl and her doll needs party goods and frivolities.

And here's my favorite of all--the coat that is. Isn't this adorable? The website here says a sale is going on. Time to do a little shopping--maybe there's one left with a cheaper more special price tag just for one special American Girl I happen to adore!